CJP Raises Funds and SpiritsBy Paula Parisi May 23, 2013
Portia de Rossi moved the crowd at the Compton Jr. Posse’s annual fundraiser speaking about her how horses have helped her move forward with her life. Speaking in front of a group of close to 500 people at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center on May 18, de Rossi, a devoted rider who was honored with the CJP’s Equine Excellence Award, told how horses helped her over the years.
“It was very emotional, how she shared her personal story about how horses helped her through her eating disorder and struggle with sexual orientation. She didn’t have to do that, but she laid it all out there for us,” said Will Simpson, the evening’s auctioneer and a member of the Gold medal-winning 2008 U.S. Olympic Show Jumping team. “She was so touched by the Posse and the woman who founded it, Mayisha Akbar, and in turn she touched us.”
In accepting her award from Akbar, de Rossi also offered some lighthearted insights from the stage. “I couldn’t resist the chance to get an award for Equestrian Excellence, because when I think back on my career competing in adult/amateur hunter/jumper divisions, and the vast array of very pretty pink ribbons and brown ribbons, I’m pretty sure this is the only award I will ever receive that combines the words ‘equestrian’ and ‘excellence,’” she said, evoking waves of laughter (pink ribbons are for 5th place, brown for 8th).
The actress―who earned fame on “Ally McBeal” and went on to roles in “Nip Tuck” and many feature films will next be seen in the original Netflix relaunch of “Arrested Development” ― concluded with the observation that “really, we should be honoring Mayisha and celebrating her work.”
Akbar, a former realtor, founded the CJP in 1988 after discovering the Richland Farms area of Compton, which is zoned for horses and has many backyard barns. Seeing how horses could serve as a bridge between the inner-city and a broader world of nature, a more traditional type of sportsmanship and expanded social strata, Akbar dove in and with her own three children began a neighborhood outreach program that has since grown to a small herd of donated horses and hundreds of members.
Having operated and expanded the organization single-handedly and with the help of dedicated volunteers over the past 25 years, Akbar is now seeking “sustainability” through the addition of “a paid staff that will allow us to have a shot at the larger grants. We’ve been volunteer all these years, and while we love our volunteers, and could not have gotten where we are without them, we need to step it up to the next level.”
That’s where the celebrities come in, helping to generate attention beyond the world of die-hard horse enthusiasts to a broader public and donors that support education advocacy (to be a CJP member, kids must maintain good grades in school.)
To that end, this 6th Annual Fundraiser, themed “Horses in Hollywood,” was the group’s most successful ever. In addition to de Rossi, actress Patricia Heaton lent her support, and was honored with the Community Visionary Award (accepting as Patricia Heaton Hunt). Heaton first became aware of the CJP when she attended last year’s fundraiser, and was so moved by the CJP story that she has jumped in with both feet donating scholarships, new computers, and this year bringing out 50+ of her friends and family to support this years’ gala.
Heaton admitted she is no doting equestrienne. “I ride about as much as I golf. If it has a cute outfit to go with the sport, I’ll try it at least once as an excuse to buy the clothes,” she said with a chuckle. But she takes her role as a CJP ambassador very seriously and is committed to helping the group achieve sustainability and develop into a premier youth leadership program in Los Angeles County.
Both Heaton and de Rossi were preceded to the stage by films created by Amy d’Allessandro, CEO, Bella Nova Pictures. While de Rossi’s was heartfelt and straightforward as she toured the grounds of the CJP barn in Compton, Heaton’s clip was a hoot, portraying her as a sheriff-wannabe in search of a posse. Set to strains of Ennio Morricone’s tune from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, it plays like a hilarious capsule pilot. (Heaton pals at Disney, ABC and CAA, take note!)
De Rossi, who is married to actress and TV host Ellen De Generes, played her clip on a May 22 appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” In keeping with the theme of Hollywood and Horses, The Equestrian News asked Di Rossi to share her favorite horse movie. Her answer (ours, too!) The Black Stallion, directed by Carol Ballard. “How can you beat that movie?”
The actress has worked with some of the renown hunter-equitation trainers in Los Angeles, including Nancy Beals, Joe Thorpe and Archie Cox. She is currently studying dressage with Sabina Baron-Wright.
Live performances by the CJP dancers and operatic singers Qaasimah Alexis Lang and Qaisera Alexis were highlights of an evening that also included appearances by actor Oscar Nunez (“The Office”), who served as master of ceremonies, KNBC news anchor Kathy Vara, who introduced Heaton, and Amy Bolker-Stabler, who welcomed de Rossi to the stage. Live jazz music was courtesy of the well-received Man2theFuture.
Akbar made an impassioned plea for support and inspired the audience to “stand up with the stars” and pledge donations to ensure the CJP can continue to grow and provide service county-wide for generations to come.
She extended a special thanks to her board of savvy fundraising advisors, including producer/writer -Medora Heilbron, “Family Guy” executive producer Kara Vallow, Malibu Valley Farms’ Mia Boudreau and Beth Kaltman and Valerie Chamberlain. The many dedicated committee-members and those who donated items for the silent and live auction were also singled out for special praise.
The biggest money-generator was Will Simpson, whose ultra A-list barbecues Southside Chicago-flavored barbecues went to two lucky bidders, bringing in $24,000. From the Palos Verdes Penninsula (shall we call it the new Gold Coast?) Nicole McTeague nabbed one, and upped her bid for the addition of a riding clinic that she gifted to her trainer, Erin Isam of Palos Verdes Stables and friend Alden Giacopuzzi.
Simpson’s heart is as big as his Olympic mount Carlsson vom Dach’s as he not only runs his Simpson Show Jumping business out of Hidden Valley with wife Nicole, but gives generously of his time to raise funds and actively mentor Compton Jr. Posse riders. “I get back from them so much more than I give,” said Simpson (who for the second year running doubled his services to satisfy the demands of two determined bidders!)
A Corum watch was the top-earning individual item, at $13,000. (Ellen DeGeneres bought it, then turned around and immediately sent it up again, to see it snapped up by Jami von Heidegger. (The watch was generously donated by the Change A Life Foundation.) Hollywood producer Seth McFarlane was represented on-site by producer Vallow; the “Family Guy” rolled out the red carpet with a VIP visit to a table reading that von Heidegger also won (daughters Hannah and Nicoletta are in for a treat! And she can send them off with a well-stocked wine cellar! Word is, the premiere patroness of this worthy Compton cause won that too!)
For an indepth perspective on the organization, read this profile by The Awesome Foundation.
To see Portia de Rossi’s clip from the CJP Horses In Hollywood dinner, click here.
To see Patricia Heaton’s take on the Western genre, click here.
You can view The Equestrian News’ photo album of the Sixth Annual CJP Fundraiser at www.Facebook.com/TheEquestrianNews. (Please “like” us while you’re there!)
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