April 12, 2008 -- Hundreds of people attended a fundraiser April 2 in Tallahassee, Fla., for critically injured Olympic event rider Darren Chiacchia. Well-wishers not only raised funds, but gave much needed support to Darren's family who flew in from Buffalo, N.Y., for the event that featured a video tribute, silent auction and a musical freestyle performed by Robert Dover on Chiacchia's Pan American Games gold medal partner Windfall.
In addition to the fundraiser orchestrated by Carol Dover at her WC Dover Farm, more than 400 contributions have been made to the emergency fund designated for Chiacchia at the Equestrian Aid Foundation (EAF).
"As a community, we are taking care of our own during a time of need," said EAF President R. Scot Evans. "The outpouring of donations and well-wishes demonstrates the generosity of the equestrian community and shows the necessity for an organization like the EAF." All of the donations received by the EAF on Chiacchia's behalf go directly to him.
Evans continued, "The EAF works not only to distribute funds for medical expenses, but also living expenses, which is absolutely critical during a crisis such as this. During a tragic or life changing event, people with passion truly come together and make a difference."
One of those passionate people, Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, revealed what can be accomplished with energy and enthusiasm for a heartfelt project. In no time at all, Dover devised a fundraiser that included state senators, equestrians from around the country and local business people.
Evans and the EAF team were impressed with the support of the local, non-horsey community. "They wanted to help since this tragedy occurred in their community and they know how important [the Red Hills Horse Trials] are to their community," he said.
Dover, a longtime friend of Chiacchia's, has been involved in numerous fundraisers in her career, but felt that this event was incredibly special. "I'm not sure I've been involved in any fundraising event that has made more of imprint on my life than this one has," she recalls. "We had people from as far away as California, hunter/jumper, dressage and even reining folks, that came together for Darren."
EAF Director of Grant Recipients Janise Gray was humbled by the support. "I'm overwhelmed by the responses and contributions for Darren," she said.
The Pan American Games gold medalist was injured cross-country on March 15, 2008 at the Red Hills Horse Trials. After several weeks in the intensive care unit at a Florida hospital, Chiacchia was moved to a rehabilitation center near his home in Buffalo. Not only has he been a tremendous athlete, he has also been a member of the Board of Governors of the Equestrian Aid Foundation for several years and serves on the Ambassador Committee. His great energy and ideas have been of tremendous value to the EAF and equestrian sports in general.
You can make donations to Chiacchia on a secure link on the EAF website, www.equestrianaidfoundation.org, or send checks and well wishes to EQUESTRIAN AID FOUNDATION, c/o Janise Gray, 228 Phillips Terrace, Union, NJ 07083. Please indicate Chiacchia's name in the memo section of your check. The EAF will forward all well wishes to him and his family. In addition to making donations for Chiacchia, you can join the Ride for Hope through a variety of membership options. This is a simple way to help provide assistance to other equestrians in need as well as to support the mission of the organization.
The EAF will post updates online as they become available. You may also go to Darren's website, www.eventrider.com and to the United States Eventing Association's website at www.useventing.com for updates.