Nov. 23, 2005 -- Junior Rider Ambassador Natalie Johnson of Greenwich, Conn., has donated more than $38,000 so far this year to JustWorld International, a not-for-profit, humanitarian organization founded to work as a catalyst for positive change in the developing world by helping underprivileged children.
Johnson has donated 100% of her prize money earnings to JustWorld International since becoming a Junior Rider Ambassador in the spring of 2004. Following an incredibly successful 2005 season, her donations to date this year alone total more than $38,000.
JustWorld International will use Johnson's donations to help fund the building of a school and community center in the village of Tornabe on the north coast of Honduras. With approximately 2,500 residents, 800 of those being children, this underprivileged community has limited access to education.
In June of 2004, Johnson visited the JustWorld project site in Honduras and returned home determined to improve the conditions for thousands of impoverished children.
"When you visit a project site, you see first-hand the huge impact that even a small donation can make," said Johnson, a first year student at New York University where she continues her pursuit of social justice as a Martin Luther King Scholar. "I saw what a huge difference even a dollar can make in the everyday lives of these unfortunate kids, and I hope I will be able to inspire many other riders to join me in supporting the work of JustWorld International."
In October and November 2005 alone, Johnson gathered numerous top placings. At the CSI-W Syracuse International Sport Horse Tournament November 2-6 in Syracuse, N.Y., Johnson was double clear riding Lavaro to place third in the $40,000 Beacon Hill Junior/Amateur-Owner Grand Prix, winning $5,200 in the process. The following day, Johnson was clear riding Jeremy in the $15,000 Junior/Amateur Pro Speed Team Challenge, leading her team to the win with a purse of $1,875 per rider. Johnson was also among the 17 riders who made it to the final round of the ASPCA Maclay National Finals from a total of 148 competitors.
Johnson, who trains with Andre Dignelli and his team at Heritage Farm in New York, was crowned the Grand Junior Hunter Champion riding Moulin Rouge at the Washington International Horse Show in October. She also placed fourth overall in the Washington International Horse Show Equitation Classic Finals, second in the North American Equitation Championship and was a member of the silver medal team at the Prix de States Junior Championship.
"I am truly overwhelmed by Natalie's success this year and it greatly touches me that she chooses to donate 100% of her winnings to JustWorld International," said Jessica Newman, executive director of JustWorld International. "I first met Natalie two years ago, and she was interested in JustWorld right from the very beginning. Since then, her passion and dedication to JustWorld has grown and she has become a wonderful spokesperson, encouraging and inspiring so many other youth and equestrians to get involved."
Pierre and Martha Jolicoeur have donated a P.J. Saddle to the JustWorld Rider Representative who donates the most money to the organization in 2005, and Johnson has now surpassed Canada's Eric Lamaze as the largest donor to date. Rider Representatives still have until the end of the 2005 calendar year to submit their donations.
JustWorld International raises awareness and funds in the equestrian community to support humanitarian projects that benefit impoverished communities and children in the developing world. For more information visit www.justworldinternational.org.
Read Natalie Johnson's blog Inside the Maclay Finals for a behind-the-scenes look at the prestigious equitation championship.