California Riding Magazine • November, 2012

Much to Celebrate!
Shea Center celebrates its riders and families at $500,000 fundraiser.

photos by Brian Carter - PixelThat! Photography

The J. F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center's Annual BBQ & Family Faire on Sept. 22 was a comfortable end-of-summer evening of delicious food, good company, rider demonstrations, country music dancing, laughter and tears of joy. It was the renowned riding center's yearly celebration and fundraising event to benefit children and adults with special needs who participate in The Shea Center's therapeutic
equestrian programs.

The fundraising affair, held at The Shea Center's seven-acre facility in Capistrano Valley, attracted over 1500-plus supporters and the most sponsors in the BBQ's history. The event generated well over $500,000 net, which directly supports the nonprofit center's therapeutic riding programs.

Danielle Guiol and Courtney Yacovone perform a pas de deux.

In her post-event thank you to the BBQ Team, Sponsor Team, Board of Directors and Shea Center staff, executive director Dana Butler-Moburg reflected on the BBQ, calling it "spectacular in its execution, happiness, generosity and its celebration of the Center's riders and families." The BBQ's VIP Sponsor Section was sold out; the general admission area was standing room only.

The evening included a "Parade of Stars," where special needs riders demonstrated how therapeutic riding builds strength, balance, coordination and helps develop social skills and self esteem. One of the highlights was a dual dressage performance (pas de deux) by Courtney Yacovone and Danielle Guiol, both age 15. Expert riders as well as attendees in the crowd were noticeably moved by the girls' performance.

Danielle Guiol on Oscar.

Another highlight came as the evening's grand finale when all of Shea's riders paraded through the dining area, wearing white cowboy hats, as supporters gave them a prolonged and boisterous standing ovation. "It was a great illustration of the village involved in helping these students and the extent to which their successes are shared and celebrated by so many," observed California Riding Magazine's Kim Miller.

Courtney Yacovone on Annie.

Kelli and Tres Heald, parents of Lauren, age 9, spoke of their family's experience with a child diagnosed with Down syndrome. They concluded their stories of success by saying, "We want to thank you, and everyone who has ever supported The Shea Center, for giving our family and our community such a wonderful venue. This place is making a difference!"

Presenting sponsors for the BBQ were Jenny and Bill Klein and the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo. The event sponsor was the Thomas J. and Erma Jean Tracy Family Foundation, and the entertainment sponsor was the O'Connell Family Foundation Trust.

High energy L.A. radio personality Shawn Parr from Go Country 105 FM emceed during the evening and live auctions, which included highly sought for VIP seats for the finale of the American Idol season 12 telecast. Other auction favorites included a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner for 12 prepared by renowned chef Azmin Ghahreman at Sapphire Laguna. Nick's Restaurants in Laguna Beach and San Clemente sponsored the VIP Saloon, and for the second year, Montage Laguna's "Hearts of Montage" volunteer group helped serve the evenings' 800+ VIP guests. Swing Shift provided country music for dancing.

For more information call 949-240-8441 x109 or visit