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Carousel Ranch's Heart of the West Presented by Mission Valley Bank
A Ten-Gallon Party with a Passion for Kids
August, 2006 - Issue #22
A starry night will reflect a generosity of both spirit and finances when donors, staff, clients and other guests unite to celebrate the many accomplishments of Carousel Ranch. A thousand supporters are expected to attend Heart of the West, the biggest annual fundraiser for Carousel Ranch, a therapeutic horseback riding organization for children with disabilities.

One of the few times "upscale" and "Western" occur in the same breath, it's a relaxed evening where some attendees will wear cowboy duds but enjoy top-of-the-line atmosphere and gourmet fixin's. The 10th annual gala will be held on August 26 at 5:30 p.m. at the sprawling ranch of the Blomgren family in Canyon Country. The event is a lively mixture of auctions, a casino and live music, all in the charming setting of a Western town. Guests describe the evening as "illuminating," but the beauty of the night sky is always eclipsed by the beaming faces of children who perform a horseback riding demonstration at the event.

"When the children perform for the crowd there's not a dry eye in the house," said Dr. Kent Robbins, a professor of medical genetics at California State University, Northridge, and a Carousel Ranch parent.

The riders are all children with various disabilities who train once a week, doing therapy on horseback. They will demonstrate acrobatic poses on their favorite horses while riding in the arena the night of the event.

"It's what touches people and motivates them to be there," said Rick Delia, the father of Carousel Ranch rider Cody, 8.

"While the night's demonstration offers just a slight picture of what the ranch does on a regular basis, the performance impacts both the adults present and the kids themselves. Kent Robbins' 5-year-old, Brendon, spoke his first words following Heart of the West last year."
While the night's demonstration offers just a slight picture of what the ranch does on a regular basis, the performance impacts both the adults present and the kids themselves. Robbins' 5-year-old, Brendon, spoke his first words following Heart of the West last year.

"He caught the vibe of the audience, of performing for them," said Robbins, whose son has an undiagnosable form of mental retardation and physical delays.

Other parents have had similar experiences when their children have performed at the event.

"When Danny was in the show, he bowed," said Deanne Barton of her 13-year-old who has autism. "He fully understood that he was in a big show."

Money raised at the event will support the operating expenses at the ranch. Heart of the West is largely responsible for the organization's ability to buy 10 acres in Agua Dulce last year.

"It's a beautiful property with everything we could ever want," said Denise Tomey, co-founder and executive director of Carousel Ranch. "It's perfect for us."

Currently, 84 children ride once a week, and all lessons are private. In addition to the 10 staff members, volunteers are important at the ranch.

"I love being a part of Carousel Ranch," said Jeanna Crawford, Heart of the West event chair. "I don't do horses. I don't do dirt. This is what I do."

Children with any disability can ride at the ranch, but the wait list is close to a year. Profits from the fundraiser are earmarked for expansion, a reduction in the waiting list and for payments on the land. Mission Valley Bank played a large part in acquisition of the land, enabling Carousel Ranch to finance it comfortably.

"It's a beautiful setting that will give them an opportunity to expand their program," said Mission Valley Bank President Tamara Gurney. "It will improve the quality of life for a lot more kids."

Mission Valley Bank is also the presenting sponsor of Heart of the West this year.

"It's a good opportunity to promote what they do," Gurney said. "We like what they're doing. We're very impressed, having met some of the kids in the program."

Last year's event raised more than $150,000 for the organization. More funds are generated at Heart of the West due to the generosity of several sponsors. Cooney Foods will provide all of the food for the event free of charge, and the "saloon" will be stocked by the generous donation of Vincent Hill Station. Star Power will make sure there is plenty of light and electricity for a successful evening outdoors.

Many local companies and individuals have also stepped up to support the children of Carousel Ranch. Dr. Irani of Valencia Dental Arts has donated an Invisalign procedure to the live auction, and Wilshire Home Entertainment has ponied up a top-of-the-line 42-inch plasma screen to coordinate with Auton Motorized System's donated plasma screen lift. Other unique live auction items include synthetic grass (say goodbye to mowing and fertilizing!) from So Cal Sports, the use of the Keyes Lexus Clippers basketball suite from Lexus of Valencia, and lots more.

Currently, sponsors, live and silent auction donors (I'm told all donations of new items are needed and greatly appreciated!) and volunteers are being actively sought.

"We are so lucky that people recognize the beauty in these children, and how therapy on horseback helps them and their families thrive," says Tomey.

The kids at Carousel hope to see you on August 26. As can imagine, the bigger the audience, the better - and for more than one reason.

"It's such a nice place to congregate, to be with other people who support the same cause as you do," Crawford says. "Once you go, you'll lose your heart there."

General admission tickets to Heart of the West are $75 and include a gourmet buffet. VIP tickets are $150 and include a gourmet seated meal and VIP gift.

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For tickets, volunteer, donation or sponsorship information for Heart of the West, call Carousel Ranch at 268-8010.
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