On Saturday, March 23, over 500 guests filled the Sixty Five Hundred event space for the sold-out Equest Presents Arabian Nights Gala. Co-Chairs Annie and Teal Griffeth and Honorary Co-Chairs Cindy Thomas and Bert Headden led the magical evening celebrating the achievements of Equest’s remarkable 38-year history of enhancing the quality of life for children and adults with diverse needs through the human-horse connection.
Upon entering, guests were taken half-way around the world to a land of mysticism and wonder with Arabian-inspired archways and rugs creating a welcoming entrance. Beats from DJ Lucy Wrubel set the tone for the cocktail reception as guests sipped the signature Wish Granter cocktail, presented by Reyka Vodka, perused the silent auction items, and got a glimpse into the future from tarot card readers. Equest Mini Ambassadors Cisco and Dare, two miniature horses under 36 inches tall, dressed in their finest Arabian-inspired costumes posed for portraits with guests at the step-and-repeat.
The talented Arthur Murray Dance Center dancers whisked attendees from the welcome reception to their tables, as if on a magic carpet ride. Guests enjoyed a delectable three-course dinner by Food Glorious Food Catering as Equest CEO Lili Kellogg joined the co-chairs in giving welcoming remarks. Emcee Sonia Azad, health and wellness reporter at WFAA Channel 8, guided the exciting program beginning with the presentation of two awards, the Citation Award and Founder’s Award.
For the first year Equest presented the Citation Award, named after the thoroughbred horse, Citation, who won 16 consecutive races in major stakes race competitions, to Connie and Denny Carreker who demonstrate the same spirit of excellence in support of Equest. Lili Kellogg explained that the gala was named Arabian Nights to honor the Citation Award winners who previously raised Arabian horses. Then Equest Co-Founder Susan Schwartz presented the Founder’s Award, Equest’s highest honor recognizing an individual who has gone above and beyond in support of Equest, to Louise Griffeth who launched the Equest Women’s Auxiliary 33 years ago and continues to be a major advocate and supporter of Equest.
Louise received a standing ovation as the award was presented by her son, Teal Griffeth, and daughter-in-law, Annie Griffeth. “I grew up watching you volunteer and help Equest, and through your inspiration, I hope that one day I can achieve the things you have done,” Teal said.
Next, Oscar Seung, Director of Music and Fine Arts at CSLDallas, sang You Raise Me Up throughout a powerfully emotional video showcasing the wonders of Equest’s therapy horses, clients, and staff, and concluding with six Equest clients holding signs that read: You Raise Us Up Thank You. Hearts were touched yet again when each was introduced and explained how Equest has made his or her life better, resulting in one more standing ovation.
Guests raised their paddles to donate at various levels – from $10,000 to $100 during the fund-a-mission. Generous giving continued as guests bid on stellar live auction items including a five-night vacation in Iceland for The Northern Lights; a New York City experience package; three-night stay in a luxury resort in the Bahamas and a gorgeous modern apartment in Florence, Italy for seven-nights. The magical evening concluded with the Taylor Pace Orchestra playing lively upbeat covers to everyone’s favorite hits as guests dance the night away.
Additional attendees included: Equest Chairman of the Board Lane Cates, Bill Noble, Melinda and Mark Knowles, Kristina and Phil Whitcomb, Katherine and Key Coker, Carolyn Anderson, Natalie Westbrook, Faith and Garrett Smith, and Maggie Kipp, among many others.
The gala was made possible by: Bert Headden and Cindy Thomas, Louise and Guy Griffeth, Susan Schwartz, Connie and Denny Carreker, Diane and Hal Brierley, Hopkins Commercial, Shirley and William McIntyre, Dolores Neustadt, Peggy and Carl Sewell, Sewell Automotive Group, Anna Lou Glass, Lydia and Bill Addy, Lane Cates and Brad McLain, Robyn and Don Conlon, Teresa and Tom Fishman, Annie and Teal Griffeth, Highland Capital Management, Elizabeth Murray, Nick Olenec and Susie Siller, Faith and Garrett Smith, Beth and Jay Staples, Thompson & Knight Foundation, Patty Decker and Mark Arneson, My Sweet Charity, Modern Luxury Dallas, Taylor Pace Orchestra, Arthur Murray Dance Center, William Noble Rare Jewels, William Grant & Sons – Fistful of Bourbon, Hendrick’s Gin, Milagro Tequila, Reyka Vodka, Tullamore D.E.W.
Founded in 1981, Equest provides equine assisted learning, therapies and counseling to children and adults with physical, cognitive, sensory, coping and learning disabilities and veterans with adjustment challenges. The services provided include physical and occupational therapy, equine facilitated counseling and equine assisted learning, therapeutic carriage driving, therapeutic horsemanship and competition. With the help of 30 therapy horses, eight instructors, four therapists, two counselors, and 400 volunteers, lives are changed for more than 2,000 served annually. Equest was the first PATH International Premier Accredited Center in Texas and remains one of the largest in the country. Equest offers an engaging volunteer program that provides 30,000 hours of direct program service opportunities each year. www.equest.org