The 2020 U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Evening of Equestrians awards ceremony took time to recognize and celebrate the dedicated volunteers who serve our sport in a unique virtual presentation produced by Horse & Country TV, that aired on Saturday, Dec. 5, during the USHJA Annual Meeting.
Mary Babick, USHJA president, and Mike Lowry, Master of Ceremonies, presented awards to recipients, including the surprise Volunteer of the Year Award and President’s Distinguished Service Awards.
Fran Dotoli was named the 2020 Volunteer of the Year during the celebration. The Volunteer of the Year award is the highest USHJA honor awarded to a volunteer. Volunteers are reviewed on: new programs, continuing programs, the direction of our sport, volunteers behind the scenes who work the long hours with a passion for bringing our sport forward and providing a safe, fair and understandable sport for our fellow equestrians.
“There are times when you know exactly who the right person is to get a job done, and I mean the take-charge person, who will take ownership of a concept, redesign what was ineffective and outdated, and make it fresh, new and most importantly relevant,” Babick said. “I’m speaking of what Fran Dotoli has given of herself and to all of us as chair of USHJA Officials Education Committee.”
Babick commended Dotoli for her work to revise curriculum for licensed officials, make clinics fresh and exciting, work with clinicians on a consistent approach to education, and more. In addition to her licensed officials work, Dotoli also serves as chair of the Zone 1 Committee, where she has worked to create educational clinics and opportunities for members at various horse shows and barns throughout the zone.
“For this and all the many, many things you do we salute you, our USHJA Volunteer of the Year,” Babick said.
Babick also honored six individuals with the President’s Distinguished Service Awards this year. These awards recognize and honor the dedication and service by members to USHJA and our sport. The staff and president reviewed the programs of USHJA and the work involved in developing and implementing them and those individuals who have gone beyond the call of duty to bring our sport to a new level and to benefit our membership.
Patti Harnois was instrumental in the creation of the USHJA Feed Aid program, which raised more than $111,000 and fed more than 3,000 horses at 200 facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These horses are the foundation of equestrian sport, and they could have been the voiceless victims of the pandemic, until a member of the USHJA, Patti Harnois, had a novel idea to create Feed Aid,” Babick said. “This program far exceeded our goals and expectations. Congratulations, Patti, what a wonderful and worthwhile concept.”
When the discussion came up about how to adjust the USHJA Emerging Athletes Program this year, Anne Kursinski went above and beyond to make sure members would still have the valuable educational experience the program is known for.
“Anne knew that she would need to spend far more time, hours if not days longer reviewing video footage to complete her tasks,” Babick said. “Without hesitation, she committed to a new format for an extremely personalized clinic. Anne, you deserve the President’s Distinguished Service Award, and I would expect you would put it right next to your Olympic medals.”
With so many decisions to be made about events and competitions this year, Babick recognized two individuals for their roles in this process.
“The brunt of this fell on two extremely organized, attentive, thorough and professional sport volunteers, USHJA vice presidents and working group chairs Charlotte Skinner-Robson, who is chair of the Jumper Working Group, and Robin Rost Brown, who is chair of the Hunter Working Group. I lift my virtual glass to you to honor the leadership of Charlotte and Robin for the quality, quantity and speed of the work processed through each group’s task forces then onto the board.”
David Loman was recognized for his work as chair of the ad hoc committee that has become the USHJA Diversity and Inclusion Advocacy Committee, committed to reflecting upon past and present actions concerning diversity and making the equestrian sport more accessible and welcoming to all people.
“David Loman is just that courageous, introspective, respective and inclusive equestrian whose core values focus on the whole picture and the right next step to take,” Babick said. “A heartfelt thanks and congratulations go to David Loman.”
Britt McCormick was recognized for the many areas in which he has volunteered his time this year including his work on the planning committee, on the calendaring structure, the Hunter Working Group, the International Hunter Derby and Incentive Task Force, and the Budget and Finance Committee, to name a few.
“It is challenging for me to list all of the ways that this one volunteer contributes to our organization,” Babick said. “This leader never throws out a problem without having a workable solution in hand.”