The BIG Benefits and Who They Benefit

Written by Victoria Peace

It’s that time of year again in Middleburg — the hunting season is just around the corner and the first tantalizing signs of fall have

started to appear. However, for Hunt Country residents, September is also significant for another reason: it marks a month of charitable giving to local organizations doing incredible work in the community. Read on to learn more about four of the biggest local benefits of 202l, which organizations host them, and most importantly, what the funds they raise are put toward.


The Sprout DREAM BIG Black-Tie Gala will be held on Saturday, September 25, celebrating the Sprout Therapeutic Riding & Education Center’s 10th anniversary. According to founder and executive director Brooke Waldron, the gala is truly a “celebration of impact” and “deeply rooted in its mission of service, being held in the barn where lives are changed every day.” Sprout’s mission is to provide hope, healing, empowerment, and recovery through partnerships with horses.

The money raised at the DREAM BIG Gala subsidizes every hour of service by offsetting necessary expenses. These expenses include the maintenance of a 27-acre farm, caring for 19 horses, individualized lesson materials and adaptive equipment, and rider scholarships. These re- sources allow Sprout to serve approximately 150 students per week, totaling up to 4,000 hours per year. In addition, the funds raised are often used to perform maintenance and upgrades to the farm’s facilities. In the past, money from the gala has been used to add critical infrastructure to the facility and staffing. This year, Sprout hopes to utilize a portion of the funds raised to purchase new footing for the arenas and launch a paddock fencing repair project.

Each year, Sprout chooses a horse to honor at the gala. This year’s horse is Duke, a 16.2 hand 26-year-old Clydesdale Thoroughbred Cross.

According to Waldron, “he’s the best partner because he’s able to do it all — from riding to driving, wheelchair mounts, and ground-based programming — he serves a wide range of people, and his presence makes each person so special.” He is a favorite among military members and is the guardian of the herd, keeping the younger horses in line. The name “DREAM BIG” was chosen with Duke in mind, because he is the largest horse in the barn. Waldron emphasized that “we always use [the gala] to appreciate the horses that serve alongside us” because they are such a central part of Sprout’s mission and purpose.

The decor for the gala will be themed to look like an enchanted forest. Director of Philanthropy Timothy Mooney remarked that “the transformation from a working barn into an elegant black-tie fundraiser is like nothing I’ve ever seen.” Chandeliers, plants, and flowering trees will be brought in to create a truly awe-inspiring event space. Waldron noted that the transformation is especially impressive considering that Sprout runs lessons leading up to the gala and immediately resumes them the week after. However, for Waldron, the gala must be held at Sprout because it “brings people to the barn to experience our mission, meet our horses and riders and see the true impact of their kindness.”

Waldron concluded by emphasizing the therapeutic benefits of horses. “The horse as a partner is a game-changer for so many. They are honest, they accept folks as they are, and continually challenge them to grow. They inspire people to dream big and live without boundaries. They change lives.”


The National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) will be hosting their annual Polo Classic on Sunday, September 12 at Great Meadow. The NSLM was founded in 1954 and is dedicated to preserving, promoting, and sharing the literature, art, and culture of equestrian, angling, and other field sports, in addition to advocating for conservation of the open space and waterways crucial to these sports.

“One of the things that I love about the Polo Classic is that it’s a really fun way for people to engage in our mission in a firsthand, relaxed environment,” Reid O’Connor, the director of development, said. The event will feature two fast-paced polo matches with top-tier players, in addition to a parade of the Orange County Hounds.

The funds raised from the Polo Classic will go toward supporting the NSLM’s crucial operating needs including support for exhibitions, public educational programs, free community events, children’s programs, and the general care and maintenance of the collections. According to O’Connor, “[the Classic] covers the behind-the-scenes costs that not everyone is aware of,” including the services required to maintain the museum’s six-acre campus in the heart of Middleburg. In 2020, the Classic raised over $250,000 for the museum. It is the only annual fundraiser that the NSLM hosts, so this money makes up a significant portion of their budget.

O’Connor shared that in 2020, the NSLM donated $10,000 of the proceeds from the Polo Classic to local food banks. She emphasized that “although this event is our only fundraiser, we wanted to show support for our community members who have suffered loss and hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic.” This year, the NSLM will be continuing the tradition. A portion of the proceeds from the event will be split between local food banks and Work to Ride, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community-based prevention program that aids disadvantaged urban youth through constructive activities centered on horsemanship, equine sports, and education.


The Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program (NVTRP) is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit focused on helping each individual realize their highest potential by providing equine-assisted activities to people with disabilities, youth-at-risk, recovering military personnel,

and others in need of an in- inclusive, community setting. Founded in 1980, NVTRP operates out of a 17-acre farm in Clifton, Virginia, with the help of 15 dedicated staff members and 20 equine partners.

The NVTRP will host its Polo Classic at Great Meadow on Saturday, September 25. Held annually for the past 15 years, the event features an opening ceremony with a color guard and NVTRP military clients, a competitive polo match, a silent and live auction, a therapeutic riding demonstration with children from NVTRP’s program, and an award ceremony.

The NVTRP Classic brings in approximately $225,000 between sponsor guests, general admission guests, and auction proceeds. These funds go entirely to NVTRP’s operating costs and make up a large part of the organization’s annual budget. According to program director Tessa Hassett, “it pays for everything — providing lessons for our weekly clients, feeding the horses, paying our staff, and keeping the lights on.”

In an exciting new development this year, Sheila Johnson, CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, has been named the event’s honorary chair. The event is co-hosted by Will Thomas, NVTRP board member and realtor at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, and Sherrie Beckstead, partner, at Liljenquist & Beckstead Jewelers.

According to Thomas, “It’s always an exciting day when guests from the city and the country come together for a chic and sophisticated day of polo to support NVTRP. There is no shortage of worthy nonprofits trying to engage many of the same donors and partners, so we work hard to create a memorable afternoon with a served gourmet luncheon, designer tablescapes, live auction, and thrilling arena polo. As Maya Angelou said, ‘They may not remember what you said but they never forget how you made them feel.’”


After years of putting on a tournament called the Cultural Polo Cup, polo players and friends Dario Sotomayor and Nicolas Baca co-founded The District Cup in 2013. According to Nico, their original mission, which still holds today, is to “promote the beautiful sport of polo, the rock stars of the sport (the horses, of course) and to create an event in a historic location where people from all parts of the world, walks of life and interests can come together to celebrate the great game of polo and the beautiful horses that make this dream a reality.” Each year, four polo teams composed of both local and international players compete at the National Mall’s “West Potomac Polo Park” for the title. This year, the event will be held on Saturday, September 11.

Nico explained that “the polo field on the National Mall has been a popular site for polo matches since the early 1900s. During World War II, members of the military, including General George S. Patton, used the field for intramural games.” The first game of polo on the National Mall was reported to have been played in 1920, which would have made last year the 100th anniversary of the tradition. Even though COVID delayed the ability to celebrate this century anniversary, Nico emphasized that “we are back and ready to celebrate the 2021 District Cup, 100 Years of Polo on The Mall. We’ve got exciting surprises for our guests, a new luxury box experience, and entertaining polo games creating a unique social experience in our nation’s capital.”

The District Cup does not have a formal agreement with a charitable organization, but its goal has always been to raise awareness for and contribute to the National Park Stables Project through the Trust for the National Mall. The National Park Stables Project aims to build a new Horse Stables and Education Center that will replace and improve the current facilities used by the U.S. Park Police’s Horse Mounted Patrol. Both the National Mall and the “West Potomac Polo Park” are maintained by the Park Service.

According to Nico, “The District Cup is still a young organization working extremely hard to promote charitable causes, their missions, and awareness. We’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way and feel like we are just starting to hit our stride (horse pun intended!).” In the future, the organization looks forward to growing and making an increasingly more significant impact in its charitable contributions.

“Thanks to this overwhelming support and trust, The District Cup has become a must-attend event each year, and we are proud to be able to work hard to put this event on, now in its third edition on The National Mall. We are constantly looking to add safe, unique, and wonderful experiences for our guests and hope to be able to continue to provide them at The District Cup for years to come,” Nico added. ML

The benefits outlined in this article were all thoughtfully designed to raise awareness and funds for their respective organizations, while also offering attendees a fun and memorable outing. If you are interested in purchasing tickets to any of the benefits listed above, or simply learning more about each organization’s mission, please visit the links listed below.

This article first appeared in the September 2021 Issue.