The plight of veterans and abused children weigh on the hearts of many; however, many forget that wounded veterans and struggling children live in our own communities. They can be neighbors, friends, co-workers, and community members who are hurting in our own backyard: Ocala. These two causes hit close to home for the local realtor association, Ocala Marion County Association of Realtors (OMCAR).
For the past six years, OMCAR’s Realtor/Affiliate Subcommittee has raised over $100,000, or about $15,000 a year for six years benefitting local charities. Using the word charity as its inspiration, the subcommittee created its annual fundraising event, the Chair-ity Event-emphasis on the Chair. With the support of local businesses, leaders, artisans and citizens, OMCAR auctioned off artistic, fun, unique, and whimsical chairs to benefit its two selected charities. The event also boasted a premier silent auction, other local vendors and amazing food.
This year’s event boasted an attendance of about 300 people and some of the most unique, outlandish and outrageous chairs. Always to be expected is the unexpected: full grilling tents, thrones, rockers overflowing with goodies, chairs stocked with wine, benches and beyond. And chairs, doesn’t just mean chairs. Most are full packages. For example, Southern Charm Realty donated a patio living room set complete with rug, room divider, art, throw pillows and magazines. In the end, the Chair-ity Event raised over $31,000!
“This labor of love is worth every ounce of hard work and dedication when you get to give to wonderful charities over $15,000 each,” exclaimed R. Susan Smith, subcommittee co-chair. “We can’t wait to hear all the good they do with the money we’ve raised for them.”
For its 7th Annual Chair-ity Event, Kids Central and the Marion Therapeutic Riding Association were chosen as the event’s beneficiaries. Kids Central is the local nonprofit charged with preventing and treating child abuse in Marion, Citrus, Hernando, Lake and Sumter Counties. They serve over 20,000 children a year in its prevention programs alone. The Marion Therapeutic Riding Association delivers its Freedom Reins program which offers equine-assisted activities and horseback riding for veterans and their families in Marion County. Each charity received a check for half of the proceeds on October 15th at OMCAR.
“Without the support of community events like this, Marion Therapeutic Riding Association would not be able to continue its Veteran program, which provides services at no cost to the veteran. Giving back to those who have served our country is very important to MTRA,” said MTRA Executive Director Leslie Gettys.
“This funding is an incredible blessing to Kids Central,” explained Kids Central CEO John Cooper. “Due to our funding structure, we can only purchase the necessities associated with food, shelter and treatment for abused, neglected and abandoned children. Donated funds like these allow us to meet additional necessities like senior year related expenses, purchasing technology, stocking our food pantry and buying much needed beds, since adequate sleeping space is what’s necessary to keep many families together. $15,000 will go a long way to help care for the vulnerable families we serve,” Cooper concluded.
Kids Central is the local nonprofit charged with preventing and treating child abuse and is selected by the State of Florida to coordinate child protection services in Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit- Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter Counties. Kids Central focuses on the prevention and diversion of families from the child welfare system, the care of children in foster care and strengthening families in the community.
The Marion Therapeutic Riding Association brings the miraculous benefits of therapeutic horseback riding to persons of all ages and capabilities that are physically, mentally or emotionally challenged. Serving the heart of Florida since 1985, Marion Therapeutic Riding Association (MTRA) is a PATH Premier Accredited organization.