Give a Buck launches local chapter to benefit Vinceremos
Special to The Palm Beach Post
One dollar is barely enough to buy a candy bar, but Sissy DeMaria knows it only takes a dollar at a time to make a big difference in the lives of disabled or disadvantaged horseback riders. She started a nonprofit organization called Give a Buck (http://giveabuckeq.org) last spring. DeMaria, who co-owns a public relations firm in Miami, was inspired by a Realtor friend’s idea to have her clients donate a small sum to a homeless women’s shelter when closing on a home. DeMaria thought it would be simple for horse owners to donate a dollar (or more) along with their monthly stable rent to benefit local therapeutic riding programs. On Feb. 1, DeMaria started a new branch of Give a Buck in Palm Beach County to benefit Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Program (www.vinceremos.org) in Loxahatchee.
“If you have the luxury of owning a horse, you pay a hefty board fee every month,” DeMaria said. “I thought it would be easy to encourage people to make a small donation to therapeutic riding programs. I rallied some other horse owners at my barn and got some kids involved, and Give a Buck was born.”
DeMaria and her volunteers visit area stables and pass out stamped envelopes or pledge cards to boarders. Along with the donation program itself, DeMaria recruits Young Ambassadors to help raise awareness and encourage equestrians to donate. The ambassadors are often equestrians themselves, and many of them have ties to the therapeutic riding programs they’re helping support. Most of them juggle school, horse shows and philanthropy.
“The Young Ambassadors are the key to the program,” DeMaria said. “We ask them to write thank you notes when we get donations. That’s one of their responsibilities. They help raise money by manning tables at the horse shows. We started Pony Express Saturdays, which are the first Saturdays of every month. We go and visit barns and talk about what we do. When you have children go to a barn with a bag of carrots, they’re very disarming. There is something charming about children who want to help disabled children and adults.”
DeMaria also started a clothing line whose proceeds benefit the Give a Buck for Special Equestrians fund. The shirts and hats she designed are now for sale at select tack stores, including Tackeria in Wellington. She hopes to expand the line to include saddle pads and boots. Selling clothing adorned with the Give a Buck logo helps get the word out about the nonprofit. DeMaria focused on Wellington during the winter show season for the same reason. “Wellington is so critical to our success,” she said. “We hope that people who are down here for the winter go back to their cities and want to start chapters there. We have five chapters around the state of Florida. In April, we’re launching a program in North Carolina. If people are passionate about their horses, then they feel good about sharing that love with people that are less fortunate. It resonates with people.”