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Szymanski: Team members, silent partners come together for Feather Fund at Horse World Expo

Ruth Perkins painted a saddle to be auctioned off at the Horse World Expo to raise money for the Feather Fund.
Ruth Perkins painted a saddle to be auctioned off at the Horse World Expo to raise money for the Feather Fund. (Submitted photo)

This week finds the Feather Fund team, and me, hitting the road. By the time you read this, we will be at the Horse World Expo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, inside the Farm Show Complex, working at the Feather Fund booth and participating in the Chincoteague Pony Breed demonstration daily.

The Horse World Expo has educational seminars, multiple breed demonstrations, a stallion avenue where folks can meet horses of many breeds, entertainment daily, and hundreds of vendors selling all sorts of horse products for all ages and every discipline. If anyone had told me how much work is involved in participating in something like this, I’m not sure I would have realized the true magnitude of it all. Preparing to welcome thousands of people takes a team, and thank heavens, we have an amazing team.

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From sewing 8-foot long booth curtains, to filling out paperwork and sending it in, to painting models of island ponies for the booth, and baking and cooking food to take for our team to eat, it has been a big undertaking. And at the same time that I am doing this, other members are getting their horses ready, clipping, grooming, packing tack boxes, submitting horse health paperwork and cleaning trailers. Still other members are preparing display racks, making sure we have change for buyers, making jewelry and other items to offer to those who make donations.

In the midst of all this activity, I am wondering about the most efficient way to get through it all. How do we make sure we don’t get to where we are going, only to realize we’ve forgotten something important?

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For me, preparation always includes a list that I can check off as I go. This year, I made a new list that we can use again next year. I did this after finding out very late into the game that we needed to fill out a document for the Pennsylvania tax office. That meant four calls to find the correct person, someone who knew the difference between the set-up of a nonprofit, in which no proceeds go to a business or an individual and all proceeds go to a federal nonprofit. The new list will remind me to where to make that call. It also tells me to: Submit form to reserve booth; submit booth agreement; reserve lodging; download exhibitor info; obtain insurance and submit; send Pennsylvania tax registration form; reserve horse stalls; order stall bedding; submit horse health paperwork; order badges; order worker passes; etc. Having a list for next year will keep us from scrambling around to figure out what we need to do and what order to do it in.

Preparing for a big event is always easier with a team. At team meetings, the friendship shared between our team members is a big bonus. It always makes the work seem more like fun. But there are silent members of every team, too.

In our case, silent team members are often the donors, those people who create Chincoteague Pony-themed items that we can sell or auction off. They may not think of themselves as team members, but we sure do. Without the work they do, we could not power forward. This year, one donor has blown the lid off things by sending us a donation for our summer auction that is so amazing that we are taking it to the Horse World Expo to display in our booth.

Horsewoman and children’s book illustrator, Ruth Perkins actually painted a saddle for us to auction off. When I say she painted it, you may picture a wild colored saddle, but it is more than that. It is an illustration come to life on the skin of a saddle. It’s not a leather bound book, but it is leather, and it truly tells a story.

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One side of this classic dressage saddle shows the iconic Assateague Lighthouse with ponies grazing under a tower of stripes. The water in front of the lighthouse dances with colors and inside those waves there are horses – spirit horses – reaching for the sky. The other side of the saddle shows a palomino mare and her Misty-colored pinto foal, staring out over the water, mesmerized by water-horses forms from seawater and magic. On the top of the saddle, Ruth has created a feathered seat. It is truly magical, one of a kind, the most unique donation ever and we are so grateful.

What would any nonprofit do without a team of willing, creative, giving members, and silent partners fit that bill, too. The Community Foundation of Carroll County is on our list, too. They get so little recognition, yet they not only manage our funds, they are there every time we need something. For a silent auction we held in a breezy park, they provided stacks of clipboards to hold down the bid sheets. Whenever I need to vent, or need someone to bounce ideas off, Executive Director Audrey Cimino is always willing to be that partner. For the expo, I reached out for a credit card reader and they provided that, too.

Heading out to the Horse World Expo, we were nervous with anticipation. We pack with care, pray for guidance and we check our lists, but we know that we will be OK, because we are a team, and having a team means always having someone you can count on.

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