Carousel Ranch celebrated its 25th anniversary Saturday with a dinner, auction and demonstration of the local nonprofit’s work providing equestrian therapy to children with special needs during its Heart of the West fundraiser in Agua Dulce.
Denise Redmond, Carousel Ranch executive director, said the event, which was livestreamed on YouTube for the first time, was “an amazing, magical night.”
“People were more generous than I’ve ever seen in 25 years of doing this,” she said, noting she thinks the event will have brought in close to $500,000 when the online action ends Friday.
That amount makes it the most successful event Carousel Ranch has had to date.
The 500 in-person and approximately 400 virtual attendees were as enthusiastic as they were generous, according to Redmond, who helped found Carousel Ranch in 1997.
“I think people were so excited just to be here and be back together and see friends,” she said. “We did our very best to keep it really safe and we’re lucky because we have an outdoor environment.”
Redmond said this year’s event was special because it included riders from Carousel Ranch’s early days.
One such rider, she said, was there with her husband and daughter.
“Seeing that first generation now all grown up, right, and they’re there and they’re watching the kids of the next generation,” Redmond told The Signal. “It’s just, it’s pretty impactful.”
In the Crawford Family Areana at Carousel Ranch, demonstrations featuring four current students were among the evening’s highlights for Redmond.
“These kids you see riding today, it’s important,” she said. “But what it’s really about is how do we have a program like this have an effect on them and who they become in the future.”
The money raised Saturday night will go toward that future through training and retraining staff and bringing back students who were at Carousel Ranch in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic shook the world.
“We haven’t taken new kids in in a very long time because we couldn’t,” she said, noting the last 18 months have financially hit hard. “We couldn’t even get all of our regular kids back.”
Redmond said it will be a happy day when Carousel Ranch is able to take that first kid off of its wait list.
Now offering both equestrian therapy as well as a vocation training program to help kids as they grow up, Carousel Ranch has become more than what it was 25 years ago.
“Becky (Graham) and I started this program with one horse, one kid in her backyard 25 years ago. We never dreamt of any of this,” she said. “The kids have taught us along the way what they need and we’ve been able to respond to that.”
To participate in the silent auction by Sept. 3 at 5 p.m., visit carouselranch.org/heart-of-the-west/live.