As the chair for the eighth annual Ride for Life — an equestrian event benefiting the Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center — Michele Wellman was tasked with a variety of responsibilities that kept the 32-year-old hopping as she tried to balance her full-time job with Northrop Grumman in Sykesville, her horse boarding company in Union Bridge, and her personal life.
Days before this weekend's event, Wellman was already amazed at the experience … and willing to tackle it again.
"I have met so many interesting and kind and beautiful people doing this and the event hasn't even happened yet," Wellman said earlier this week. "I really liked doing it. It's what I do."
The two-day event is taking place this weekend at the Prince George's (County) Equestrian Center, in Upper Marlboro, and raises money for breast cancer research for Hopkins' Avon Foundation.
The event, which features a Potomac Valley Dressage Association-sponsored dressage competition, a gala, a dancing horse show, silent auctions, children activities and more, has raised $320,000 over the last seven years.
"This year, we hope to raise $100,000," Wellman said. "I'm not sure we'll make it, but that's the goal."
That goal may be in reach, as this year is seeing a record turnout of participants. A fifth ring had to be added for the first time to accommodate the 200 riders competing, Wellman said.
Jeannette Bair, of Woodbine, has competed every year since the event's start, raising $5,000 in sponsorships each year.
"There are a lot of good people out there willing to help," Bair said of her sponsors. "It's amazing what people will do when asked."
Bair, who also serves as chairwoman for two committees, is all too familiar with breast cancer, as several of her good friends and her sister have battled it.
"It's what I can to do to help end this cancer in the future and to help support people going through it now," Bair said, of why she participates. "It's a wonderful event."
Wellman participated in the event for the first time last year as the assistant show manager for the horse show component. She was moved by the participants and those in attendance.
"I saw how much compassion people had and it was very moving," said Wellman, whose grandmother is a breast cancer survivor. "Everybody there has some connection to breast cancer."
Like Bair, Shari Glickman, of Mount Airy, has been involved with the event from its start. While she had always found the cause worthwhile, it became event more so when a good friend in 2006, and then her sister this past November, were diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I get a great deal of satisfaction being involved with it," Glickman said. "It feels very good to be a part of it."
The event couldn't happen without the many volunteers who help with the set-up, the running of the show, the benefit and then the clean-up, Wellman said.
"There is no way we could do it without them," Wellman said. "We are volunteer driven. We are completely a volunteer organization."
Despite all of her responsibilities as chair leading up to the Ride for Life — from arranging lodging for both riders and animals to overseeing all of the committees and chairs — Wellman has found time each evening to ride one or two of thehorses boarded at her farm, By Chance, in Union Bridge, and to work her full-time job.
Before this weekend is over, Wellman will leave on Sunday night on a business trip.
"It's a lot of work," Wellman said, of her duties to the charity event. Yet with a grandmother a breast cancer survivor, and her dad a survivor of a rare throat cancer, Wellman remains motivated.
"Anyone can get cancer," Wellman said. "I want this [the Ride] to be as good as it can be. All research into cancer can help."
The 2011 Ride for Life, benefiting the Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center, continues Sunday, June 26, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the dressage competition and other events, at the Prince George's Equestrian Center, 14900 Pennsylvania Ave., Upper Marlboro. For details, go to http://www.pvdarideforlife.org.