The moment Bing Crosby begins crooning holiday favorites on the radio, the Wembley Farm crew knows it’s time to start planning their annual pig roast. For the last 12 years the Dello Joio family—Norman, Jeanie, Nick and Daniela—has combined forces with friends Sean and Lauren Crooks of Crooks Show Jumping to mix some social fun with charitable giving, as the barbeque serves as a fundraiser for Toys for Tots.
“We’ve been doing it forever,” said Nick. “My parents and I started it a long time ago. Then we had the Crooks family, Sean and Lauren Crooks. Since then, their boyfriend and girlfriend for the last couple years have been involved—James Brennan and Alise Oken—and then my sister and her fiancé Henry Rauch. It’s kind of our close-knit family crew that does it.
“It’s a little more festive, and people get a little bit more involved,” Nick continued. “I think [people] have a lot of fun taking part in the whole party and then the whole toy shopping and fundraising. It’s also kids that don’t get gifts or don’t have a nice Christmas. It’s nice to help out in that way.”
Though COVID-19 prevented the party from happening this year, the Wellington, Florida, “Toys for Tots” equestrian crew felt extra desire to show up for the organization, as the economic downturn means more families are struggling. They set drop-off locations around town for people to send in gifts at their leisure while also setting up a GoFundMe account. And despite being apart this year, they raised over $14,000 for Toys for Tots.
“We worked a deal with Target, and instead of going in a Target, we bought everything online, and we spoke to the manager and said what we were doing,” said Nick. “They walked us through the best way to get the best bang for our buck. We got some great toys, and we had a whole trailer full. We had some more people that stopped and dropped off toys at our farm as well. It feels good—especially this year it’s a little extra special.”
Target employees brought out cart after cart filled with toys, and while Nick didn’t get a final count, Crooks Show Jumping’s trailer was filled to overflowing.
“A trailer full—from floor to ceiling, front and back. That plus another couple hundred from people dropping off toys,” said Nick. “It feels really good to do it, especially this year when things are tighter for a lot of people. We had more money than we thought we were going to get and more toys than we thought we were going to get. It speaks a lot for this year and for the people that helped donate; we thank them tremendously. We know we’re going to have a bunch of happy kids for it.”