USET Foundation Raises $280,000 at "One Team, One Dream - A Salute to Hong Kong" Olympic Benefit
GLADSTONE, NJ - July 2, 2008 - The United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation announced today that "One Team, One Dream - A Salute to Hong Kong," an Olympic benefit held on June 28, 2008, at the Oaks Blenheim Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano, CA, raised $280,000 to benefit the U.S. equestrian team headed for the Olympic Games in Hong Kong.
"On behalf of the USET Foundation, I thank everyone who attended and all those who contributed so generously at this event," said USET Foundation Executive Director Bonnie B. Jenkins. "It was an extraordinary evening and the funds raised far exceeded our expectations. Our donors at 'One Team, One Dream - A Salute to Hong Kong' showed the depth of support our athletes have in the equestrian community and we are thrilled that we were able to present such a successful fundraiser and truly fun evening."
PHOTO CAPTION: Dressage Olympians Sue Blinks, Guenter Seidel, Steffen Peters, and Debbie McDonald encouraging bidders during the Live Auction at the USET Foundation Olympic benefit "One Team, One Dream - A Salute to Hong Kong." PHOTO CREDIT: Diana De Rosa. This photo may only be used in relation to this press release.
Approximately 275 guests attended the party and enjoyed the evening's entertainment, internationally themed dinner menu, extraordinary environs, and exciting live auction.
Upon arrival, guests walked down the red carpet lined with Chinese lanterns to the dramatic party tent entrance, which was flanked by Asian-costumed performers and two huge posters with Chinese opera images. Inside the massive tent, which was open on three sides, amazing Asian-themed red, black, and gold decor designed by Academy Award Nominee Jeffrey Beecroft awed guests and inspired everyone to get into the Hong Kong-themed mood of the night.
Starting at 7:00 pm, the party program kicked off with cocktails served outside around the dance floor, featuring a spectacular double ice bar sponsored by Ketel One Vodka. Beautifully costumed Chinese Ribbon Dancers performed. Guests also had the opportunity to have a fan hand-painted by a calligrapher with words of their own choosing.
USET Foundation President Jane Forbes Clark delivered welcoming remarks at the outdoor podium. "Tonight is a celebration of your support for our equestrian athletes as they prepare for the 29th Olympiad in Hong Kong this summer," said Clark. "Tonight is also an opportunity for the USET Foundation to recognize and honor our athletes and owners for their accomplishments and in their final selection for the 2008 Olympic Games." Clark invited the riders competing in the Olympic Selection Trials to join her at the podium to be honored by the appreciative crowd.
Clark also thanked the sponsors of the party who graciously contributed to the evening and helped the USET Foundation's efforts in making the benefit a success - Peggy Furth and Chalk Hill Vineyards for the evening's fine wines; Ketel One Vodka for the ice bar; Lillibeth Bishop and the Hong Kong Board of Tourism for the Chinese dancers and calligraphy fans; 1-800-flowers.com for the centerpieces and certificates in the guest gift bags; and Bill Reilly and Space Program for some of the decorations. Clark also recognized the auction donors for their generous contributions - Elma Garcia-Cannavino, Randee Crisman, Tami Hoag, Las Vegas Events, Sean O'Keefe, Sue Blinks, Debbie McDonald, Guenter Seidel, Steffen Peters, Elaine Palance, David Donaldson, Jeremy and Tracy Roenick, and Caesars Palace.
In a special recognition tribute, Clark called Elma Garcia-Cannavino to the podium to thank her for serving as Event Planner for the evening. Clark noted that at the 2004 Olympic Games benefit, Garcia was one of the three high bidders for the Debbie McDonald Training Package. "Since then Elma has truly become a part of the team," related Clark. "She has continued to support the USET Foundation through the creation of the magnificent Athlete Portrait Campaign that debuted at the 2007 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas and has been the enthusiastic leader and inspiration for putting together tonight's 'One Team, One Dream - A Salute to Hong Kong' Olympic benefit." Clark presented Garcia with an official USET Blanket Set and USA Flag Saddle Pad signed by the 2008 Dressage Olympic Candidates.
Holding the autographed saddle pad, Garcia-Cannavino beamed, "This is so cool!"
The program proceeded with Lillibeth Bishop, Publicity and Promotions Manager for the Hong Kong Board of Tourism, introducing the "Dotting of the Lion's Eye Ceremony." The Lion Dance is an important part of Chinese culture and tradition, symbolizing the bringing of good luck and prosperity. Steffen Peters and Debbie McDonald 'dotted the eye' of each 'tiger', awakening them to begin their dance performance.
Following cocktails, guests enjoyed the international dinner menu catered by BeachFire Bar and Grill set up at four different food tables. The wonderful variety included sashimi and sushi, a wok station, a Parisian bistro buffet, and a paella buffet. A dessert buffet and coffee service was also provided. Guests were encouraged to move around the beautiful environs of the tent and sample all of the food stations.
After dinner, guests viewed a spectacular USET Foundation "One Team, One Dream" video produced by Carr-Hughes Productions, which was showcased on two screens flanking the stage and featured equestrian Olympic highlights from Sydney and Athens. The video brought excited cheers whenever dressage riders were featured as all of those riders were in the audience. The soundtrack featuring "Born in the USA" and the images of the U.S. flag and athletes performing brought emotional tears to many eyes. Clark asked all the Olympians at the party to stand and be recognized as guests applauded them.
The program segued to the centerpiece of the evening - the Live Auction. The bidders were encouraged by USET Foundation President Jane Forbes Clark with Announcer Brian O'Connor acting as auctioneer, and Olympians Debbie McDonald, Robert Dover, Guenter Seidel, Sue Blinks, and Steffen Peters, who took to the stage and cajoled bidders in a variety of fun and entertaining ways to raise the bidding. The Live Auction segment of the party raised nearly $220,000.
One of the most hilarious and entertaining moments of the Live Auction occurred when, in a spectacular show of sportsmanship, Seidel and Dover agreed to show off their Olympic tattoos, sans shirts, for $40,000 as encouragement to bidders on the portrait session contributed by Elma Garcia-Cannavino. Three bidders tied at $40,000 each and Garcia-Cannavino agreed to do three portrait sessions, resulting in a whopping $120,000 for this auction item. Thunderous applause, cheers, and laughter accompanied the high bidding and athlete participation.
One other item had two high bidders locked in a tie at $17,500 each for the Custom Bronze sculpture and artist Randee Crisman generously agreed to do two sculptures.
The eight wonderful items up for bid and the lucky high bidders were:
Equine and Athlete Portrait Session with Elma Garcia donated by Elma Garcia and David Michaud. High Bidders: Jane Forbes Clark, Marta Kauffman, and Kristin Orr.
A Custom Bronze of Your Favorite Equine donated by Randee Crisman. High Bidders: Akiko Yamazaki and Jeff Fuqua.
World Cup Package donated by Las Vegas Events. High Bidder: Elma and Jim Cannavino.
Be a Character in a Tami Hoag Novel donated by Tami Hoag. High Bidder: Jane Thomas.
A Night of Olympic Memories with Olympic Athletes and Celebrity Chef donated by Sean O'Keefe, Debbie McDonald, Steffen Peters, Guenter Seidel, and Sue Blinks. High Bidder: Alanna Sellers.
Jack Palance Painting donated by Elaine Palance. High Bidder: Grainne Ward.
Dinner Party for Eight in Your Own Home Catered by BeachFire's own Chef Cathy McKnight donated by David Donaldson. High Bidder: Bruce Hlavacek.
Golf with Olympian and San Jose Star Hockey Player Jeremy Roenick in Las Vegas donated by Jeremy and Tracy Roenick and Caesars Palace. High Bidder: Stephen Cooper.
During the auction, Clark announced that the 20 huge 'One Team, One Dream' posters lining the back wall of the stage would be available for $1,000 each and would include the signatures of the 2008 Olympic Dressage Team and membership in the USET Foundation Gold Medal Club. By the end of the evening, all 20 posters were sold.
In high spirits after the exciting and fun-filled auction, guests headed for the outdoor dance floor and enjoyed dancing to a deejay under the California night skies.
As they departed "One Team, One Dream - A Salute to Hong Kong," guests received a complimentary gift bag, which included the USET Foundation's Olympic hat, a dressage athlete poster by Elma Garcia, brochures and a map of Hong Kong from the Hong Kong Tourism Board, and gift certificates for Plow & Hearth, 1-800-flowers.com, Samsonite, and Cheryl&Co.
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