Wellington, Fla. - February 6, 2014 - The action-packed FTI Consulting Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments® (FTI GCC) raised more than $2.25 million for local charities Saturday at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, smashing a fundraising record for the event and topping last year's amount of $1.5 million. One-hundred per cent of the proceeds will be distributed to Palm Beach County charities, impacting many thousands of lives. The equestrian team riding on behalf of Speak Up For Kids jumped its way to first place, earning the top prize of $150,000. The team included 10-time Olympian Ian Millar, with amateur riders Kelly Soleau and Emily Kinch.
"This amount is double what we typically raise in an entire year," said Speak Up For Kids treasurer Gregg Weiss. "It's going to go a long way to help many, many children in our area."
Following the awards ceremony, four-time Grammy nominee and country music superstar Hunter Hayes dazzled the crowd with his concert, which included one never-before-heard song that will be featured on his upcoming tour and album.
"I love being a part of an event that does so much good for so many non-profits," said Hayes, whose charity of choice, MusiCares, came in third place and received a $125,000 donation. "The sheer number of charities and important causes that receive funding through the FTI Consulting Great Charity Challenge is unmatched, and it's very meaningful to me to be able to add music and entertainment to the event."
The MusiCares team was represented by Olympic Brazilian rider Doda de Miranda along with Paige Bellissimo and Alex Crown in the show ring, proudly sponsored by families in the dressage community.
"This unique and entertaining event was created to help community charities who are struggling to raise money during these difficult financial times get the resources they need to fulfill their important missions," said Mark Bellissimo, who founded the event in 2010 with his daughter, Paige. "The Wellington Equestrian Community stepped up in a big way to support this effort, and I am confident these grants will touch tens of thousands of lives over the next few months."
"We thank all of the riders, horse owners and the amazing sponsors who contributed to this important effort," added Paige Bellissimo. "Thanks to the support of this community, we have raised nearly $6.4 million over the last five years."
Junior rider Hannah Patten rode on a team to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Palm beach County. She noted, "This is my favorite night of the entire year. It's a night where I feel like what I'm doing actually makes a difference in someone else's life. For some of the kids in Boys and Girls Club, this is the first time they've ever seen a horse. Seeing the smiles on their faces makes all the early mornings and long days of practice worth it."
The tagline for this year's event was 'Giving Inspires Giving,' and donors demonstrated unprecedented generosity.
"Elizabeth Freed's unsolicited gift of $50,000 from her family foundation pushed the fundraising over the $2 million level," said FTI GCC Executive Director Anne Caroline Valtin. "Dan and Ellen Crown matched their prize money for Wounded Warriors of South Florida and added $25,500 to the totals. Eight equestrian families each made an additional $25,000 donation towards anti-bullying efforts in Palm Beach County."
Among those donors were Roger Smith, Bruce Duchossois, Howard Dvorkin, Greg Hymowitz, Diana Mercer, Susan Goldstein, and Suhail Rizvi, along with the Bellissimo family. The initiative was inspired by Hunter Hayes' newly released anti-bullying anthem, 'Invisible.'
"Together with a $100,000 grant from the FTI GCC, we will soon be launching a minimum of a $300,000 initiative towards anti-bullying efforts in Palm Beach County," Bellissimo said. "Cyber bullying is a national epidemic that is destroying the confidence of our children, and at times even contributing to suicide. An effort must be mounted to reverse these trends."
The FTI GCC has raised and distributed more than $6.4 million to over 100 nonprofits in Palm Beach County over the last five years. This year, more than 400 local charities applied for a chance to be one of the 34 lucky participants in the competition-all of which were guaranteed a minimum prize of $15,000. Thirty-two charities were selected by random drawing prior to Saturday's event while two wild cards, Take Stock in Children and Wayside House Inc., were drawn on site. There was $175,000 in grant money handed out to more than 15 local non-profits and little league sports teams via random drawings during Saturday night's competition.
"Almost 50 local groups will walk away from the FTI GCC with thousands of dollars, and 100% of that money stays right here in Palm Beach County," said Dennis Shaughnessy, Retired Executive Chairman of the Board of FTI Consulting. "I can't think of another event that has such a far-reaching positive influence, and I'm proud that my company was able to contribute significantly to this year's allocations."
FTI Consulting also sponsored a $50,000 Online Voting Challenge that allowed the supporters of each charity to vote for them in the two weeks leading up to the FTI GCC. The top three fan favorite charities were awarded a donation. The winners were: first place: Big Dog Ranch Rescue ($25,000), second place: Horse Healing Therapy Center ($12,500), third place: Danny and Ron's Rescue ($12,500).
For a full list of charities that benefitted from the 2014 FTI Consulting Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments®, head tohttp://www.ftigreatcharitychallenge.com/home/charities.