Almost 10 per cent of a local charity’s annual budget walked into the barn doors on a recent Sunday afternoon, much to the glee and relief of organizers for a local horse charity.
Valley Therapeutic Equestrian Association (VTEA) held its annual open house at the Aldergrove stables on 256th Street just ahead of Christmas, and in addition to having numerous clients, volunteers, and sponsors on hand, multiple members from two supporting car organizations showed up.
The organization received a $12,344 cheque from the B.C. Hot Rod Association, and a further $10,000 from the Langley Good Times Cruise-In.
For years now, the two Langley-based car organizations have been major supporters, said VTEA secretary Brenda Singbeil.
Both the VTEA and the other major charity of choice – Langley Community Support Services – are “well underfunded,” and in need of help, said Riccardo Sestito, returning Cruise-In president.
The money goes to covering VTEA expenses for things such as feeding, caring for, and stabling the horses, he explained.
“[They] need our help, because they don’t receive any government funding. That’s why the car community really comes together and gets behind them to help out,” Sestito added.
He said the groups are always so sincerely appreciative of the aid.
Cruise-In has been assisting VTEA, Sestito estimated, for 10 to 15 years. Likewise, the 450-member hot rod organization has been fundraising for VTEA for more than two decades, said BCHRA president Keith Biddlecombe.
“And, we’re as committed to it now as we were then… We feel privileged to be able to help those who really need it, in a real and visible way,” he added.
The hot rodders are already planning its fundraising activities for 2020.
“In 1997, it was decided that we needed to find a way to help the younger generations following in our footsteps, particularly children in our community who have either physical or mental disabilities. Our membership decided to focus on this and dedicate our fundraising activities for the benefit of a local organization, and chose Valley Therapeutic Equestrian Association of Langley to be our ‘key’ charity, as we thought the funds raised would provide the most benefit. Children are ‘special,’ and some need specialized help in order to enable them to have a better quality of life,” Biddlecombe elaborated.
“We often laugh because, as car people, we dig horsepower in cars. The efforts of VTEA utilize horsepower to help children have a better quality of life. It doesn’t get any better than that,” he concluded.
How it all began
Since 1983, VTEA has provides medically approved therapeutic horseback riding and hippo-therapy treatments for children and adults of varying abilities.
At present, the organization has more than 100 riders of varying ages, a similar number of volunteers helping make it all happen (including about 60 regulars directly involved in assisting riders), and 10 horses.
Even though VTEA clocked almost 6,500 hours of volunteer time donated in the last fiscal year, the organization still has significant costs associated with operating the program that started 36 years ago.
It done on an annual budget of $310,000, and Singbeil said of the recently combined contributions of almost $24,000 will go a long ways towards helping cover some of the daily expenses.
“It’s essential,” to the organization, she added, especially noting the annual pub night fundraiser didn’t happen this year, and the directors are currently working to develop new and much needed events.
A gala in June, for instance, is a “very real” possibility, Singbeil said.
“If it wasn’t for people coming and donating, a lot of kids wouldn’t be here or wouldn’t be able to ride,” said Ledell Kendall, a mother of one young man who’s been riding with VTEA for more than a decade.
Kendall and her 17-year-old son Francis are regulars at VTEA, and Mom told the open house crowd how instrumental the hippo-therapy program has been in helping Francis – both physically and socially.
From a boy who was never expected to walk or talk, Francis defied all those odds – in large part due to VTEA, said Mom.
Francis climbed up the stars to the podium to explain just how much fun it’s been riding at Valley every week.
“I look forward to it every year,” he said.
“And I just want to thank everyone for donating the money to help us. Thank you so very much,” Francis shared.
Stroke survivors appreciative
Similarly, the Cruise-In team dropped in on the Langley Community Support’s Hope After Stroke group’s holiday party on Dec. 18 – again bringing with them an early Christmas present.
They delivered a $10,000 gift to an “appreciative” program organizer, Marilyn Piticco.
It was an early Christmas gift, indeed, she said, noting how imperative the Cruise-In contributions have been through the years in enabling her to keep the twice-weekly stroke support group running at Walnut Grove Community Centre.
“Today, we can easily say it was the best day of the year for all of us,” Piticco said.
The money, she explained, will be used to keep the program operating in the coming year.
“Without these funds, we literally would not be able to keep going,” Piticco said.
“Funding for our small non-profit society is a struggle every year. We are very blessed to have the support of this amazing group of people. They put their heart and soul, and many hours into putting on the amazing Cruise-In, and today there was a lot of love and appreciation in the air as they presented us with this cheque. What a Merry Christmas,” she said.
Charity car show keeps giving
In total, the Cruise-In donated back to the community a little more than $30,0000 from the September 2019 car show, Sestito said.
While VTEA and the Hope After Stroke group have remained the primary charities of choice through the years, there were about a dozen other groups that also benefitted directly from the charity car show.
Other groups receiving smaller contributions included Encompass Support Services Society, St. John Ambulance, Starfish Backpack Programs run by two of Langley’s Rotary Clubs, Trinity Western University Spartans, Fort Langley Paddle Pushers, D.W. Poppy girls volleyball, Langley U17 boys soccer, BC Cycling Club, Langley BMX club, and Soroptomists International of the Langleys..
The next Langley Good Times Cruise-In is set for Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020 – its fourth year in Aldergrove. And Sestito, in his capacity as the newly elected president, said a few changes are afoot – but they’ll be minor.
“We’re just going to be tweaking things a bit,” he said, pointing to a new venue for the swap meet and the revamping of a car staging area to ensure intake flows smoother in 2020.
Early in the year, the society’s board will meet and start planning for the next event, Sestito said. That will, invariably, also include a decision about which charities will be supported with the 2020 car show.
Is there more to this story?