23rd annual ‘Heart of the West’ to benefit special needs therapy programs

Hundreds of attendees look on as Sebastian Velona demonstrates his riding skills on Annabelle at the 19th Annual Heart of the West, "Home at Last" event held at Carousel Ranch in Santa Clarita on Aug. 29, 2015. Dan Watson/The Signal

Carousel Ranch, a nonprofit that offers equestrian therapy and vocational training for children and young adults with disabilities, is expecting a sellout crowd for their 23rd annual Heart of the West event Saturday, Aug. 24.

Although the event’s invitations are only beginning to be released this week, organizers have confirmed that the event is already two-thirds full with more than 430 of the maximum 650 seats reserved to date.

“It is both amazing and overwhelming how this event has grown to what it has become today, and especially for the support we receive from the community for our kids and the work that we do,” said Executive Director Denise Redmond.

The event, presented by the Princess Cruises Community Foundation, will be held at Carousel Ranch and is expected to begin with four student horseback demonstrations in the ranch’s outside arena, which Redmond said is always one of the highlights of the night because it shows guests “what they’re there for and what it is they’re supporting.”

“The camaraderie of the people who attend creates a unique opportunity for the community to gather, witness firsthand the transformative potential of equestrian therapy, and empower guests with the capacity to open their hearts to the children of Carousel Ranch,” said Marianne Cederlind, board president.

The demonstration will be followed by a gourmet dinner catered by Salt Creek Grille, a live auction with more than 40 items, as well as a silent auction with more than 250 available items, according to Redmond.

“Since we moved it (to the ranch), it changed the event in such an amazing way, and we’ve sold out every year,” Redmond said. “I think there’s a deeper connection with people who attend, and we’ve certainly seen the results of that. It really brought it home and makes an amazing connection between the people who come and what we do. I won’t be surprised if we sell out in July.”

After the auction, guests will then be able to experience “Heart of the West After Dark” in the ranch’s western town with a live band, dancing and casino games, according to Redmond.

All the proceeds from the event will go directly toward the services provided at the ranch, both for equine therapy with 80 children in sessions per week and Ready to Work, their vocational work training program, according to Redmond.

“We appreciate how this community comes together for our kids every year,” Redmond said. “It’s crucial for us that this event is a success. It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year and we usually raise over a third of our operating budget.”

Tickets for the event are $100 for general seating and $200 for VIP.

Heart of the West is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on on Saturday, Aug. 24, on the grounds of Carousel Ranch, located at 34289 Rocking Horse Road in Agua Dulce.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit carouselranch.org or call 661-268-8010.

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