One of the city’s most charitable souls, Sherrie Beckstead, talks about her involvement with the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program.
Anyone who has witnessed the work of Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program (nvtrp.org) knows it performs little miracles every day. Sherrie Beckstead, who, along with her late husband, Sid, has been a shining star in local philanthropy for years, talking about her involvement in this incredible organization—a nonprofit that helps individuals with disabilities, youth-at-risk, recovering military personnel and others in need realize their highest potential by providing equine-assisted activities. The inclusive, community setting has an endless track record of success.
On Saturday, Sept. 25, NVTRP will host its largest fundraiser of the year, The Ride to Thrive Polo Classic, at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va. Sponsorship opportunities are currently available and include reserved tent or box seating. The organization also offers a limited number of general admission tickets. Beckstead, the driving force behind renowned jeweler Liljenquist & Beckstead (liljenquistbeckstead.com), sat down with us to discuss NVTRP and the big fundraiser later this month.
How did you get involved in NVTRP, and can you give us a quick overview of the organization?
I was very honored to be invited to an event planning meeting by NVTRP Board member, Will Thomas, three years ago. I met the team members, board members and those who have committed their time, talent and treasure to this amazing organization. I was so impressed with the mission, vision and the people involved in this nonprofit. My heart aligned with every aspect of the programming in this equine-assisted community.
Have you seen, first hand, the wonderful work the organization does?
It's so very humbling to witness how therapeutic riding can change lives. One of my favorite stories is about Rachel. Rachel has been riding at NVTRP for more than years, having started when she was just 4.
Rachel developed typically until she was about 18 months old, when she started manifesting low muscle tone. Her mom wasn't initially worried, and, at her doctor's suggestion, started Rachel in physical therapy, thinking the issue would resolve itself. Over time, they learned that Rachel has Rett syndrome, a rare, commonly misdiagnosed genetic disorder that affects brain development. As is common with Rett syndrome, Rachel first lost use of her hands, and then the ability to walk or speak.
Rachel's mom speaks poignantly about how riding at NVTRP positively impacts everything for her daughter. Riding helps keep Rachel's muscles stronger and looser, which impacts all her daily activity, including things like getting her in the shower. Most of all, though, Rachel's mom talks about how riding is Rachel's ‘thing,’ and how much joy and contentment Rachel gets from her weekly riding. It's so moving to hear how much it has meant to Rachel and her family to keep riding throughout so many years. Riding is Rachel's happy place and that makes a world of difference in her life.
What should our readers know about the Polo Classic?
First, it’s one of our community's most beautiful outdoor tented events. I like to mention that co-chair Will Thomas, honorary chair Sheila Johnson and our entire team have the safety of our guests per the CDC as our priority.
The afternoon on the exquisite grounds of Great Meadows, in The Plains, is filled with comradery, the elegance of polo, a delectable lunch, an exciting auction and the unity of new and former sponsors that we are so pleased to welcome. One of my favorite parts of the day is the exhibition—rider demonstration—which is an opportunity for everyone to see the diverse instruction, riding skills, exercises and the monumental benefits of therapeutic riding. NVTRP is accredited and nationally recognized by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.
Please tell us a little about the fundraiser/auction?
Some of our most popular auction items have included an overnight package at Salamander Resort & Spa, including the use of an Aston Martin or Bentley, donated by Exclusive Automotive Group, an international wine club membership at WineLair, private travel accommodations in Paris, wine tastings at the many amazing wineries in our region, golf outings to the Army Navy Country Club and Robert Trent Jones Golf Club and beautiful themed baskets donated by our volunteers and families.
What's this year’s fundraising goal, and what major projects will the proceeds benefit?
The income goal is $235,000, which is roughly 25% of NVTRP's total income budget for the year. The funds raised at the Polo Classic are what makes it possible to offer our core services—to pay instructors, care for our herd of 20 horses and maintain our 17-acre property. Given the opening of our beautiful new Jean Edelman Indoor Riding Arena just weeks ago, allowing clients the chance to ride year-round, regardless of the weather, the proceeds of this year's event will have an especially big impact on the people who depend on our services.
Any other important details about NVTRP and the Polo Classic that our readers should know?
As is the case for organizations throughout the DMV, COVID has provided a host of unique challenges and opportunities for NVTRP. Given NVTRP's outdoor, socially distant operating environment, the organization was able to reopen on a phased, safe basis starting in June 2020, and now has almost all clients back to in-person services.
Parents have been very vocal in sharing with staff that virtually all other in-person services were shifted to a virtual environment, making NVTRP more important than ever. Interestingly, the organization also saw a surge in demand for services from recovering service members and veterans, almost all of whom have PTSD, who also shared about the difficulty in finding in-person services, and how grateful they were to be able to attend NVTRP in-person. The proceeds from the Polo Classic will help ensure that each of these people can continue to recover and reach their fullest potential.
Sherrie Beckstead (right) visits the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program
Photography by: Courtesy of NVTRP; Sherrie Beckstead