Aban­ner day: Horses and the Hand­i­capped new arena hosts Broward County Eques­trian Spe­cial Olympics

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Society Scene - Palm Beach - - On The Scene -

More than 250 peo­ple were on hand as Horses and the Hand­i­capped of South Florida cel­e­brated the grand open­ing of the cov­ered Vegso Fam­ily Arena and the re­turn of Broward County’s Eques­trian Spe­cial Olympics. “This truly was a mag­i­cal day,” said Chris Davell, chair­man of the board of Horses and the Hand­i­capped. “It was re­ally heart­warm­ing to see our young ath­letes beam­ing with pride as they rode in­side one of the few cov­ered are­nas in Broward County. This new arena gives us the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand our pro­gram by as much as 25 % and of­fer more stu­dents an op­por­tu­nity to ben­e­fit from ther­a­peu­tic rid­ing.”

Un­der construction since Fe­bru­ary, the new $550,000 arena at the Horses and the Hand­i­capped rid­ing cen­ter at Tradewinds Park in Co­conut Creek was funded through pri­vate do­na­tions, in­clud­ing large con­tri­bu­tions from the Vegso Fam­ily Foun­da­tion, The Wasie Foun­da­tion and Jim and Ma­rina Cheney. Sup­port for the project also came from the Ju­nior League of Boca Ra­ton, Craig and Lisa El­more of Hardrives and Mike Perkins of Ir­ri­ga­tion De­sign Group.

Prior to the Spe­cial Olympics open­ing cer­e­monies, Anne Vegso was joined at the en­trance to the arena for the cer­e­mo­nial rib­bon cut­ting by Linda Cooke and Jen Klaassens of the Wasie Foun­da­tion, Ron­ald McDon­ald whose Ron­ald McDon­ald House Char­i­ties do­nated to the schol­ar­ship fund and Chris Davell.

This year’s Eques­trian Spe­cial Olympics on Oc­to­ber 4, the first in Broward County in many years, fea­tured 18 ath­letes com­pet­ing in the Eques­trian and Trails com­pe­ti­tion. Ath­letes, who com­peted in groups based on skill lev­els, were judged on their abil­ity to per­form fun­da­men­tal rid­ing tech­niques and, in the Trails com­pe­ti­tion, on their abil­ity to nav­i­gate horse trails.

“It has been very grat­i­fy­ing to see how much ef­fort each stu­dent put into pre­par­ing for this event as well as their ex­cite­ment. I’m so proud to be a Spe­cial Olympics coach and in­struc­tor – th­ese ath­letes were in­spir­ing!” said Mandy DeBord, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Horses and the Hand­i­capped of South Florida.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.handhmagic.org.

Jen Klaassens, left, stu­dent Mariah Har­ris with Linda Cooke

Caro­line Wil­liams

Chris Davell, chair­man of the board of Horses and the Hand­i­capped and Anne Vegso of the Vegso Fam­ily Foun­da­tion

Ath­lete Cassidy Gior­danella

Scott Ru­bin, Spe­cial Olympics ath­lete and flag bearer

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