Equestrians from around the world gathered Friday, Jan. 26, at Belle Herbe Farm in Wellington for JustWorld International’s most successful fundraiser in its history. The community came together to share their passion for educating children, raise funds for further work and celebrate their achievements toward building a better world.
In its 21st year, the JustWorld Gala raised record-breaking proceeds to serve children at JustWorld Global Projects in Cambodia, Guatemala, Honduras and the United States, thanks to the generosity of sponsors like Caryl Philips and Frank Zeiss, the Rein family, Belle Herbe Farm, Voltaire and hundreds of other equestrians.
The “Night in Paris” theme paid tribute to this year’s upcoming Olympic Games, where JustWorld ambassadors from dozens of countries will be vying to compete. Guests enjoyed dazzling Parisian dancers, exquisite French culinary delights catered by Palm Beach’s Laura Ashley, and live music transporting them to an enchanting evening among the sparkling avenues of the “City of Light.”
JustWorld founder Jessica Newman welcomed guests and thanked them for supporting the charity she created in 2003 “to help fracture the cycle of poverty through education, nutrition, vocational and leadership training in all the countries where we have our projects.”
Newman presented the 2024 Gala Honorees: Michael Lawrence, of Campbellville, Ontario, a member of the JustWorld Board of Directors and manager of the Ottawa International CSI; Matt Morrissey, of Wellington, a member of JustWorld’s Advisory Committee and manager of the Traverse City Horse Shows and Major League Show Jumping; Pedro Cebulka, of Invermere, British Columbia, a JustWorld ambassador and international ringmaster; and Corinne Sweeney, of Oyster Bay, New York, a JustWorld ambassador and University of Virginia student.
Other speakers included longtime JustWorld supporter and gala emcee Steven Wilde, who introduced FEI Vice President Mark Samuel. Samuel described the FEI’s partnership with JustWorld, the Honduras Equestrian Federation and the international equestrian community on a successful matching campaign in 2023 to expand the Education on Wheels program in Honduras. Young Professionals of JustWorld Chair Brianne Link explained how she became an ambassador at the age of 10 and how, at the age of 12, she raised funds for a roof on the school, Los Patojos, that JustWorld launched in Guatemala with CNN Hero Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes.
Videos highlighted the work being done at the JustWorld Global Projects and the equestrians who make it all possible before the action moved to the amazing experiences and unique items in the live auction. Justin Paul presided over the bidding for the one-of-a-kind items. In the middle of the auction, attention shifted to Kevin Babington, one of JustWorld’s original ambassadors, who spoke about his visit years ago to JustWorld’s project in Guatemala. “It takes so little to make a change in these kids’ lives,” he said.
The evening concluded with dancing, as supporters celebrated the generosity of the equestrian community, uniting to make a difference, raising funds to ensure that children have the healthcare, shelter and nourishment they need to learn and grow. Learn more at www.justworldinternational.org.