TIEC to host $300,000 “Great Charity Challenge” Friday

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tryon International Equestrian Center will host its first “Great Charity Challenge of the Carolinas” on Friday, July 1, distributing approximately $300,000 to area charities during the event.

TIEC first announced the “GCCC” last year, inviting charities from six surrounding counties – Polk, Rutherford, Henderson, Buncombe, Spartanburg and Greenville – to apply. Each charity had to be a certified 501c3 organization and have at least two years of verifiable financial records.

As TIEC’s home-county school system, the Polk County School Foundation was automatically included. Twenty-five additional applicants were drawn at random during several TIEC events over the course of the year (see box).

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Competition to
Decide Donations

Each GCCC charity will be randomly matched with a riding team of one professional and one amateur. The teams will compete in a “show jumping relay” in TIEC’s George Morris Arena, with the amateurs doing a course of jumps set at 1.15 meter height (about 3’9”) and the professionals jumping a course at heights of 1.30 meters (about 4’ 3”). Both riders will enter the ring at the same time, the amateur will ride first, and as soon as that horse’s front feet touch the ground from the last jump, the pro can take off. The winning team is based on fastest combined time, with each rail down adding 2 seconds.

The winning team’s charity will receive a donation of $75,000, and all other charities will receive amounts based on their team’s placement. Every charity will receive at least $5,000.

The theme for the night is “Super Heroes” and both horses and riders will be costumed in the Super Heroes spirit. Each charity is expected to bring its own cheering section for their team, and Super Hero costumes or tee shirts are encouraged for audience members. The event will include costume contests for the riders and for kids in the audience.

100% to Charities

With all of the operating costs for the GCCC being covered by Tryon Equestrian Partners (TEP) families, 100 percent of the prize pool will go to the charities. The $300,000 prize pool was funded by donors sponsoring the riding teams, with those donors including the TEP families, TIEC contractors, sponsors, and other associates, and other companies, families, individuals and equestrian organizations in the area.

TIEC Managing Partner Mark Bellissimo credits his daughter, Paige, with developing the original GCC concept for the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida.  “During the recession, our family was talking together about how badly local charities had been affected by the economy,” Paige said. “Most had been losing donations and many had to close their doors. So we decided to do something there that would focus strictly on local charities. Then we had the competition idea, which provides a fun night out for the charity workers, their clients, and the community.”

The Wellington GCC has been held for the past seven years, with a total of $9.2 million being distributed to area charities during that time.

– article submitted
by By Judy Heinrich