By Arianna Delin
Imagine walking into a venue and seeing a sea of pink — pink clothing on all of the attendees, pink linens and even pink gift bags. Of course, this is a breast cancer event, but not just any event. As the horses and riders begin to enter the main arena, you realize that this is the Challenge of the Americas, one of the most well-attended events in Wellington, Florida, each year, created to raise money for breast cancer research.
Mary Ross started the event in 2002 in memory of her mother, Jean Cruse, who lost her battle with breast cancer. An avid dressage enthusiast, Mary wanted the event to take place in the equestrian world to spread awareness about the disease to a community she loved. “I knew the president of Play for P.I.N.K., a partner of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Both charities being top notch, I set up a meeting with Laura Lassman and the Challenge was soon underway.”
The Challenge of the Americas is an annual one-of-a-kind fundraiser, highlighting equestrian performances while helping in the fight against breast cancer. Top riders donate their time and horses to this wonderful cause that has evolved from a simple luncheon to an international gala.
The event beneficiary is Play for P.I.N.K, which donates 100 percent of all funds to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Stephanie Hamburger, the executive director, has been working with Mary since the start. “I’ve been to Challenge of the Americas every year except for two, and it’s amazing,” she said. “You have horses and riders that donate their time and the whole Wellington community comes out. It’s incredible.”
Since Mary started the event, the Challenge has raised over $3.2 million for breast cancer research.
“Mother and I battled her breast cancer together and although she lost her battle, she was a fighter,” Mary said. “She never gave up hope. This is what the Challenge of the Americas is all about: hope that through life-saving research and a commitment to the fight against breast cancer, a cure will be found. Each year in March, a wonderful and dedicated group — riders, horses, sponsors, committee members, volunteers and guests — join together at the Challenge to make a difference in the lives of those who have, or will have, breast cancer. It just doesn’t get any better than them!”
Since its start in 2002, the Challenge of the Americas has only grown in popularity and importance. The 2015 event, held at the International Polo Club, was the largest affair to date, and Mary hopes that in the coming years it will only continue to grow.
For more information, visit www.challengeoftheamericas.com.
Photos by Sue Stickle
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) advances the world’s most promising research to eradicate breast cancer. Founded by Evelyn H. Lauder in 1993, BCRF has raised more than $500 million to fuel discoveries in tumor biology, genetics, prevention, treatment, survivorship and metastasis, making it one of the largest non-governmental funders of breast cancer research in the world. This year, BCRF is investing $58.6 million in research, including $11.6 million to the international Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund focused on metastasis, to support more than 220 researchers at leading medical institutions across six continents. By spending 91 cents of every dollar on research and public awareness programs, BCRF remains one of the nation’s most fiscally responsible nonprofits. BCRF is the only breast cancer organization with an “A+” rating from CharityWatch, and has been awarded Charity Navigator’s highest rating of four stars 12 times since 2002. For more information, please visit: www.bcrfcure.org.
Play for P.I.N.K.
Play for P.I.N.K.®, (Prevention, Immediate Diagnosis, New Technology, Knowledge) is a 501 (c)(3) grassroots organization dedicated to raising funds to fight breast cancer through lifestyle and sporting events. Our commitment is to contribute 100 percent of all proceeds to our sole beneficiary, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation®, in order to fund the world’s top researchers. In 2014, PFP donated $4.5 million to BCRF for a cumulative total of $38.5 million. For more information, visit www.playforpink.org