Out & About: 2023 Equest Blue Ribbon Ball

More than 550 helped raise $550,000+ at Equest’s annual Blue Ribbon Ball June 3.

The event was co-chaired by Lindsay Ballotta and Jenny Merkle, with Kristina and Phil Whitcomb serving as honorary chairs. 

Guests arrived to a blue carpet through the middle of the aisle of Equest’s horse barn. As they progressed to the Al Hill, Jr. Arena, attendees struck a pose with mini ambassadors Ranger and Dare in front of the step and repeat. AVSD Productions was on hand with a virtual reality experience of riding a horse in the Kentucky Derby or learning to fly, and Dallas Symphony Orchestra pianists Nick Luby and Susan Zhang performed during a cocktail hour.

Guests browsed a silent auction and raffle sale for chances to win one of five prizes; a vineyard getaway for five guests at 4R Ranch Vineyards & Winery; a 2024 Byron Nelson PGA Tournament package including six one-day passes; a private cooking class for 10 hosted at Vestals Catering; a private VIP brewery tour and complimentary tasting at Community Beer Co.; and six personalized dance lessons for a couple or single at Arthur Murray Dance Studio.

Emcee Jody Dean welcomed guests after they took their seats in the arena, followed by the color guard from American Legion Post 21 and a performance of “America the Beautiful” by Candy Williams. 

“My vision is that we truly soar to new heights together. The funds raised tonight directly support Equest’s equine-assisted programs, including our Physical and Occupational Therapy, Therapeutic Horsemanship, and Equine Facilitated Counseling. Thank you for continually helping to improve the lives of hundreds of children, adults, and veterans through the human-horse connection,” said Equest CEO Myrshem George. 

The chairs and honorary chairs took the stage and received gifts from clients Rebekah Vasquez, 2023 Adult Rider of the Year award recipient, and James Smith, Veteran Rider of the Year recipient. (Youth Rider of the Year recipient, Dahlia Arellano, could not attend).

Guests enjoyed a first course of arugula salad with peaches, roasted spiced pecans, cherry tomato, pickled red onion, and a honey Dijon vinaigrette, followed by an entrée of bistro filet of beef with onion and brandy peppercorn sauce and basil and garlic roast chicken with lemon butter sauce atop herbed orzo with grilled asparagus and charred red onion.

Dallas City Council member Jaime Resendez of District 5 presented the 2023 Citation Award to Nancy and Ron Natinsky. Given annually since 2019, the Citation Award is named after the thoroughbred horse Citation (1945-1970), who won 16 consecutive races in major stakes race competitions and is the first horse in history to win $1 million. Nancy served on Equest’s board of directors for two consecutive terms, as well as on multiple committees, and she and Ron supported the oversite of the construction of the Al Hill, Jr. Arena.

Equest’s co-founder, Susan Schwartz, followed to present the Founder’s Award to Lili Kellogg, who recently retired after a 28-year tenure. 

As dessert of vanilla cheesecake with lavender-peach compote and vanilla bean whipped cream was served, dancers from Arthur Murray, including co-founder Schwartz, performed in a gala tradition. 

Carry the Load co-founder Clint Bruce, a former Navy special warfare officer and the evening’s featured speaker, spoke about the challenges veterans face when they return home and how programs like Equest’s can help.

“There is a difference between being here and being home. Here is geography, but home is knowing why you are here and what your purpose is. That’s what Equest does,” Bruce said.

Following Bruce’s discussion, the live auction began, and Limelight performed until the event closed. 

For more information about Equest, visit their website.

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