Equestrians gather to fight domestic violence

WELLINGTON, Fla. - For one night, two disparate worlds -- well-heeled equestrians and victims of domestic violence -- will come together for a worthy cause.

Later this month, the 2nd annual Jump For HomeSafe event will be held during the Nespresso Battle of the Sexes competition at the Winter Equestrian Festival, running through April 1 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

All money raised will be used to help support HomeSafe, a non-profit group in Lake Worth that helps families who have been victims of domestic violence and child abuse.

"This is a good way for us to get the word out about our agency and the things that we're doing," said Matthew Ladika, HomeSafe's CEO. "Hopefully it'll increase awareness."

Each year, HomeSafe said it serves more than 15,000 infants, children and families in Palm Beach County and South Florida. The organization, for instance, helps at-risk youth prepare to become self-sufficient by age 18 and it also provides abused children with therapeutic services to treat severe trauma.

Ladika said last year's event raised $36,000 and attracted about 125 people. This year HomeSafe hopes to raise twice that amount and is expecting 150 people to attend.

In a belt-tightening economy where HomeSafe has seen its $240,000 operating budget cut, Ladika said events such as Jump for HomeSafe have become essential.

"We're suffering too much of a loss," Ladika said.

The three-hour event, scheduled for Jan. 28, will be held at the newly expanded Wellington Club at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. They'll be hors d'oeuvres, an open bar, a silent auction, entertainment and reserved outdoor seating to watch the Nespresso Battle of the Sexes and the horseless jumping competition for children.

Paige Johnson, a philanthropist and avid equestrian, is the event's chairperson. Johnson, who has been riding for 14 years, hopes to use her philanthropic connections to get a good turnout.

"There are so many children out there who come from terrible situations and there just aren't enough charities out there to help." Johnson said. "Any kind of charity that's giving back and giving these kids hope needs to be supported."

The idea for the event was the brainchild of Cherie Copenhaver, HomeSafe's board president. At first, Copenhaver acknowledged the idea was a tough sell.

"People who were not familiar with horses wanted to know how this was going to be of interest to them," she said. "This wasn't going to be an event in some dusty field. It's a lovely night under the stars."

Now in its second year, Copenhaver hopes Jump for HomeSafe will be around for years to come.

"People will walk away with a really fun, family experience," Copenhaver said. "And it's important for us to teach our children to give back."


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