TIEC to select remaining nonprofits for inaugural Great Charity Challenge

Published 11:17 pm Thursday, October 15, 2015

The next round of charity selections for Tryon International Equestrian Center’s Great Charity Challenge is set for Oct. 24. Fundraising target for the event is raised to $350,000.


As parachuters descended out of the sky earlier this spring to Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless the U.S.A.,” a crowd of more than 10,000 people witnessed the selection of the first 14 of the total 24 charities that will participate in the inaugural Great Charity Challenge of the Carolinas (GCC).

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The next round of six charity selections for this event will take place at TIEC’s last, fall “Saturday Night Lights” grand prix on Saturday, Oct. 24, from 6–9 p.m.  Of the remaining four slots out of the total 24, two wild cards will be chosen the day of the event in May, and a contest for one spot will be held during this winter. The final space is reserved for Polk County School System.


While the GCC of the Carolinas pro-am competition will take place in May 2016, organizers have added a bit of a twist to the fundraiser. The 20 charities selected as participants by Oct. 24 will have an opportunity to share in a $12,000 giveaway that night. Four randomly selected charities out of the 20 will walk away with cash prizes to build momentum for the GCC series. All selected charities will be paired with a grand prix rider that evening for an opportunity to win an initial cash prize based on final rider rankings. The first place rider will earn $5,000 for their paired charity with $3,500 awarded to second place, $2,500 going to third place and fourth place receiving $1,000.


“The date for the GCC finale has been extended to allow more time for fundraising, as well as to allow a greater opportunity to promote the selected charities,” said Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Tryon Equestrian Partners. “We look forward to awarding even more prize money to these deserving organizations in the spring and helping people understand their important missions.”


Out of the hundreds of applicants, two representatives from each qualifying charity will be invited to a special kickoff celebration in the white tent next to the George Morris Arena at TIEC from 5–9 p.m. during the Oct. 24 event.  For more information on this event, please email gcc@tryon.com or call 828-863-1000.


Like the first round of selections, a representative from each charity must be present on Oct. 24, 2015 to be chosen. Selected charities must check in with the GCC booth under the white tent within 30 minutes of being announced. The remaining charities will be selected prior to 6:30 p.m. and matched with a horse and rider for the 7 p.m. competition.


In the spring, the GCC finalists will each be paired with a pro-am equestrian team that will compete for a minimum purse of $350,000 during a grand prix competition. The GCC application cycle is expected to start over in July 2016 with the finale being held every spring.


Based on the founding event held annually in Wellington, Fla., GCC of the Carolinas is a relay style, equestrian jumping competition with teams consisting of two junior/amateur riders combined with one Olympic or world-class rider. Rider teams are randomly paired with charities. Some features of the GCC of the Carolinas event include: 100 percent of all proceeds go straight to benefit charities; The charity represented by the winning team of riders will be awarded a minimum of $50,000; There will be a sliding scale of winnings with every charity ensured a minimum award of $5,000.


Prize money for these lucky charities will range from $50,000 to $5,000 depending on the final rank of their rider team in the grand prix competition to be held in spring 2016. With no funding going toward administrative or overhead costs, the GCC event ensures that all funds raised are donated back into the communities and every charity chosen walks away with prize money.


The Great Charity Challenge in Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, founded in 2010 by Mark and Katherine Bellissimo of Equestrian Sport Productions and their daughter, Paige, has distributed close to $8 million from the equestrian community to over 100 nonprofits in Palm Beach County over the last six years.


Charities must have federal 501c3 status, two years of IRS federal tax filings and a $25,000 minimum operating budget. Nonprofit organizations in Polk, Rutherford, Henderson and Buncombe Counties in North Carolina, and Spartanburg and Greenville Counties in South Carolina were invited to apply. All participating charities are required to utilize 75 percent of their funds in the county they serve, so these donations directly impact the community.


Of the available spots, Polk County Schools is guaranteed annual placement in the Great Charity Challenge as part of TIEC’s commitment of giving back to its home county. Another spot is being reserved for a second county school system from the remaining five counties. Additional school systems can still make the final list in the random drawing.


TIEC reserves the right to choose a fixed percentage of nonprofit organizations from each county. Two wildcard charities will be chosen on the day of the Great Charity Challenge grand prix competition.


– Submitted by Michelle Yelton