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The Ugly Duckling meets Scooby Doo: British Olympians dress up for charity


  • Showjumping is often a very serious business but the annual Great Charity Challenge at the Winter Equestrian Festival is the perfect opportunity for riders to unleash their inner superhero, cartoon character or alter ego and raise astonishing sums of money for charity, and this year’s contest certainly didn’t disappoint.

    The theme for Saturday night’s (5 February) charity showjumping competition was favourite childhood story books and 33 teams of horses and riders entered the arena as everything from Scooby Doo (step forward Ben Maher, pictured below in his Shaggy costume) to The Ugly Duckling (Jessica Mendoza).

    Each team is made up of junior and amateur riders competing alongside top professionals including Olympians and medallists and the winning squad featured British Olympian Jessica Mendoza with her team-mates Caroline Mawhinney and Mia Albelo representing “The Ugly Duckling” story. The trio had the backing of team sponsor Sexton Engineering and corporate sponsor Triple M Farms and finished in a time of 93.779sec, winning $100,000 for their charity.

    GCC Charity Challenge at the 2022 Winter Equestrian Festival

    “It’s an incredible cause and it’s just amazing to be a part of it, especially with such a fun team,” said Jessica.

    Her 17-year-old team-mate Mia added: “It’s incredible to combine your passion of riding and to do something good in the world and our local community.”

    Another British rider, Grace Debney, was part of the second-placed team alongside Alexa Elle Lignelli and Evan Coluccio, who came home in 94.885sec to pocket $90,000 for their charity.

    The final spot on the podium went to Lindsay Tomeu, Olivia Sweetnam and Shane Sweetnam.

    A grand total of $1.7m was distributed to local Palm Beach non-profit organisations thanks to the Great Charity Challenge sponsored by Fidelity Investments.

    Charity Challenge at the Winter Equestrian Festival 2022

    Recognising that enjoying a story book is a luxury many of us take for granted, more than $70,000 was raised for a #BootsForBooks campaign and the funds will be distributed to organisations with a literacy-focused programming, placing books directly into the hands of adults and children to provide them with the support to learn, read and grow.

    The GCC has distributed $17.5m to 292 local non-profit organisations in the past 13 years.

    “Seeing how impactful a united community can be has been more than inspiring,” said GCC event and marketing co-ordinator, Kelly Arani. “It is an honor to be part of a movement with such generous donors who trust the GCC to direct their support to deserving organizations. Our dedicated charities, riders, and donors all have the same goal: empowering nonprofits. Seeing that goal become a reality on GCC night is just incredible.”

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