Celebrating 45 years of serving its clients through hippotherapy, adaptive riding lessons and more, the J.F. Shea Center is hosting its annual BBQ & Family Faire fundraiser on Sept. 23.
The event offers an opportunity for families to learn more about the Shea Center’s mission, tour its barn and enjoy the campus as it’s transformed into a carnival, Chief Development Officer Agnes McGlone Swanson explained.
“It’s our 45th year so that’s really exciting to have a milestone year here,” Swanson said. “It is a very unique event. It’s a time where you can be outside, experience our horses, experience our clients and have a very fine meal in our arenas, have your kids enjoy the carnival, petting zoo.”
“There’s libations for the adults, there’s fun for adults and fun for kids,” Swanson continued. “So there’s dancing and music and tours of our barn. This year, we’re having a special entertainment duo called Infinite Flow Dance.”
Infinite Flow Dance, a nonprofit and professional dance company, aims to “use dance as a catalyst to dismantle biases and foster inclusion,” and employs dancers both with and without disabilities.
The event will feature a silent and live auction, carnival games, a petting zoo, client demonstrations, barn tours, a barbeque dinner and annual Rider Parade of Stars.
“One of the most special parts of the evening is our Rider Parade of Stars,” Swanson said. “That’s really the pinnacle of the whole night where our clients line up in a parade fashion and parade through the area where everyone is seated for their dinner and they usually play some really powerful music.”
“They are walked through or they’re pushed through on wheelchairs, walking with their parents or caregivers and it’s a time for us to celebrate our clients and to honor our clients through that parade,” Swanson continued. “It’s a really special aspect of the evening that a lot of people look forward to every year.”
The silent auction will run online from Saturday, Sept. 16, at noon to Sept. 25 at noon.
“What’s cool about the silent auction is that it’s done online so anybody can participate in it even if they are not attending the event,” Swanson said. “So that’s a really special thing, even if you’re in New York, you can still bid on the silent auction.”
The online silent auction features more than 300 items, including line dancing lessons.
The house band, Swingshift will play live music throughout the evening.
The center expects to host about 1,500 guests during the Family Faire.
“It’s so much fun,” Swanson said. “We basically take our entire facility and transform it into a place where we can have a sit down dinner … we just take the whole place and completely transform it to serve this event and make this event just spectacular.”
“We’re very fortunate to have a facility this big where we can do this and it’s so much fun,” Swanson said. “It takes some time to set up and make it special but it’s just really an exciting, very special, extraordinary event.”
One of the Shea Center’s arenas is also transformed into a carnival, Swanson added, where families can play traditional carnival games and win prizes.
In addition to touring the therapeutic center’s barn, families can enjoy a petting zoo that the Shea Center will bring in, “so they can experience a full petting zoo in addition to meeting our horses,” Swanson said.
Through the fundraiser, the nonprofit aims to raise at least $1.2 million, Swanson said.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize that we are this premier center right in their backyard and last year we served 76 different diagnoses so we are really able to help so many different types of challenges that young people, adults face,” Swanson said. “So it’s great to be that service for families here in Orange County and beyond.”
Proceeds from the event help fund services and financial aid for the therapeutic riding center’s clients. The event offers attendees the chance to see the center’s impact on its clients, featuring horse-riding demonstrations by clients and barn tours to meet the therapy horses.
The event is mobility-device accessible and American Sign Language services will be provided.
More information about the event and purchasing a ticket can be found at sheacenter.org/bbq.