Cassidy Family Funds $20,000 to Care for Therapeutic Horses During COVID-19 Pandemic

The Giving Coast

Sherry Cassidy has fond memories of her time spent with horses. When she and her brother, Bruce Cassidy, Jr., were teens, they participated in 4-H and Quarter Horse shows throughout high school and college. Sherry enjoyed spending time in equestrian activities, and it helped her to overcome her shyness. It was a family affair that the entire family enjoyed, including her parents, Bruce Sr. and Cynthia Cassidy.

As time passed and the Cassidy’s settled in to the Bradenton/Sarasota area from Ohio, finding a horse-centered organization to give back to was an easy choice. The family was introduced to the Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy (SMART) in 2011 by the Manatee Community Foundation. They have been partnering with SMART for nearly a decade now, covering veterinary bills, adopting horses, and supporting programs. They even donated “Buddy Cassidy”, a beautiful Paint Horse that quickly became a favorite with SMART’s riders, children and adults with special needs who find connection and healing through these majestic animals.

SMART’s brand-new executive director, Rebecca Blitz, hasn’t met the Cassidy’s yet. In fact, she hasn’t met any of her donor partners or volunteers, but it’s not for a lack of desire. When she took the reins at SMART on April 1, it was more than two weeks into one of the most challenging periods of our lives—the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Having already canceled SMART’s major fundraiser of the year in March, Blitz has quickly found herself in need of some horse-loving angels who can help support the herd of fifteen animals who continue to need feed, care and veterinary services, even though the facility is closed to protect the health of students and volunteers.

Responding to the call for help was an easy choice for the Cassidy’s, whose Concession Charities 501(c)(3) organization had just come off of their successful Archie Griffin Celebrity Golf Classic fundraising event at The Concession Golf Club in early March to help organizations that support young people. Concession Charities last week provided SMART with a $20,000 check to help care for their horses, which will cover just about a month and a half of feed, boarding and veterinary services.

“Not knowing how long this situation will last is what’s most scary about what we’re facing,” Blitz explained. “This gift from Concession Charities gives us a bit more time to find additional support to care for our horses so that they can be ready to bring a sense of peace and normalcy to our students when they return to ride. We are truly grateful.”

Because their biggest fundraiser of the year was canceled in March, SMART could use more donations to help keep horses healthy and ensure that their programs are up and running as soon as possible once our community is safe. The organization could also benefit from additional volunteers when they reopen to help out around the barn to support those who currently give their time to care for the horses and may need to shelter at home for a bit more time once restrictions are lifted.

To keep up-to-date with videos on daily happenings at SMART, join Rebecca Blitz on their Facebook feed at Facebook.com/SmartRiders. For volunteer information, visit SmartRiders.org or call 941-322-2000. And consider making a donation from noon to noon, April 28 through April 29, at GivingPartnerChallenge.org, where The Patterson Foundation will be providing a 1:1 match for donations from $25 up to $100 per individual donor.

For more info on SMART.

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