For Immediate Release

Wellington, FL – April 17, 2014 – A partnership was born in 2012 between Equestrian Sport Productions (ESP) and Wellington Public Schools. CEO and Managing Partners, Mark and Katherine Bellissimo, knew that the schools were key to get the local community involved so that the schools could also benefit from what was taking place right in their backyard.

The FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF) is the world’s largest and longest running equestrian competition and the main event managed by ESP. The 12-week circuit, which ran January 8 – March 30, is held every year at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL, and hosted different fundraising events for local schools each week.

To date, Wellington Schools have received close to $410,000 in total donations through different initiatives presented by ESP since 2012.

Amongst this year’s initiatives were on stage performances, National Anthem singers, baked good sales, field trips and art contests.

Panther Run Elementary's school chorus performed during FTI WEF 5. Photo © Lexey Hall.

The school chorus from Panther Run Elementary and Equestrian Trail Elementary performed during FTI WEF 5. Photo © Lexey Hall.

Each week of the FTI WEF featured a particular school where students, faculty and families were provided with free parking along with an area to call their own during the well-known “Saturday Night Lights” series. Being offered the opportunity to showcase their talent, each school was invited to perform an opening act on stage in front of thousands of spectators, followed by the performance of the National Anthem.

The level of talent showcased each week is beyond anything we had expected. We are honored to have them join us,” mentioned Katherine Bellissimo.

This year’s art project invited each school to decorate a bench (provided by ESP), to be featured throughout the PBIEC show grounds. Through this project, each school’s art department received a minimum of a $1,000 donation, with several being awarded between $1,500 and $2,000 for their artistic skills. A total of $16,000 was granted for this project.

Okeeheelee Middle School won the Best Overall prize for their art bench in 2014. Photo courtesy of ESP.

Okeeheelee Middle School won the Best Overall prize for their art bench in 2014. Photo courtesy of ESP.

The biggest highlight of the 2014 season came with the Wellington PTA/PTO/PTSA winning second place in the FTI Consulting Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments® (FTI GCC) which earned them a $125,000 paycheck. The Wellington PTA/PTO/PTSA had won first place back in 2012, taking home the grand prize of $150,000. ESP added another $35,499 in donations made directly to Wellington schools in 2012.

In 2013, the Wellington PTA/PTO/PTSA received $28,000 through the FTI GCC and another $41,635 was donated directly to Wellington schools, while in 2014, they won $125,000 from the FTI GCC and received $28,000 in direct donations.

It is crucial to make sure that schools receive the funding and support they need and deserve. We are thrilled to have them join us throughout the season and look forward to growing our partnership with the community in years to come,” stated Mark Bellissimo.

The Wellington PTO/PTA/PTSA in their second place presentation at the 2014 FTI GCC. Photo © Sportfot.

The Wellington PTO/PTA/PTSA in their second place presentation at the 2014 FTI GCC. Photo © Sportfot.

Some of the local schools reported how the support of ESP at PBIEC has helped their programs, including:

Binks Forest Elementary

“We are going to use the money to put more computers in our classrooms. We purchased a math program called Reflex Math (to help with math fluency) and need computers for the students to use. Our goal in the next year is to have four computers in every classroom for grades K-5.”

Michella Levy, Principal

Equestrian Trails Elementary

We are using the winnings from the Great Charity Challenge to continue to enhance our school cafeteria with local Florida landscapes and literary characters and enhance the exterior of our school with a vegetable garden, fruit trees and native plants. We are also sponsoring a Father/Daughter Dance and Mother/Son Game Night for our school’s parents and children.”

Michele Johnson, Principal


Okeeheelee Middle School

One-hundred percent of the funds are going to our PTSA to be used, according tour last meeting, to establish the Okeeheelee Warrior Foundation. The OWF will be a non-profit organization to raise funds for arts enhancement, cutting-edge technology, and improving sports facilities.”

David Samore, Prinicipal

Panther Run Elementary

Panther Run Elementary made great use of their money received through the Great Charity Challenge 2014! The Panther Run PTA, through matching grant funds and the money received from the Great Charity Challenge, purchased all new MOBI mobile interactive handheld instructional devices for the classrooms. These Mobi interactive whiteboards are designed to provide our teachers the mobility and flexibility to deliver engaging lessons from anywhere in the classroom. We’re really excited about the new technology to be used at Panther Run!

Our Art Department is also grateful for the additional funds received through the Great Charity Challenge art program! Our school will be using the much needed funds to purchase supplies that support our art educational program for all students at Panther Run!”

Amy Robert, PTA President

Polo Park Middle School

Polo Park is planning to use the funds in a variety of ways. A portion of the funding will go towards teacher classroom grants. These grants give teachers the funding they need to make a special project a reality, be it a special novel set, science materials or math manipulatives. Some funding will go towards tutorials to help our struggling students achieve mastery in math and reading, as these subjects are the foundation for success in all other subjects. Technology upgrades and campus beautification are two other areas where funding will be allocated.

Funds from the art project go directly to the art department. This year, we added a Photoshop class at Polo Park and the funds donated/won will help to assure that students have the materials needed to be creative and create.

We greatly appreciate the generosity of all those involved, as your generosity makes a big difference in the education of our students.”

Nora Bernstein, Library Media Specialist

Wellington Elementary

Wellington Elementary will be using the funds for the following: School-wide positive behavior support, Portable Piano for the music department, Head phones for the lab carts to assist with FCAT testing, Guidance materials, and poster board for the teachers. These are just some of the items we have approved, but I am sure we will have further at our next meeting. Thank you again for everything you all have done for us.”

Marisa Falci, PTO President

Wellington High School

At last night’s School Advisory Council meeting, the SAC agreed with my recommendation for the allocation of the proceeds from the FTI Consulting Great Charity Challenge. The distribution of funds is as follows: $5,000 for Project Graduation, $2,000 for our Fire Science Academy, $520 for our band, $ 520 for our chorus, $520 for our drama department, $520 for our dance program, and $520 for our debate team. We let our students and families know that this funding is available because of the generosity and support of the FTI Consulting Great Charity Challenge, Equestrian Sport Productions, and Mr. and Mrs. Bellissimo. A big thank you also goes to Anne Caroline Valtin, the ESP Community Relations Director, who has worked very closely with all of the Wellington schools.”

Mario Crocetti, Principal

Wellington Landings Middle School

WLMS is proposing to use our funds towards establishing a new computer lab. We are thrilled to be able to have this opportunity because as is, the students have to wait on a schedule in order to complete their testing since there are not enough computers for the students to use. We are extremely grateful!”

Berta Ebersole, PTO Business Partner Volunteer

The Wellington High School Marching Band performed during FTI WEF 8. Photo © Lexey Hall.

The Wellington High School Marching Band performed during FTI WEF 8. Photo © Lexey Hall.

Equestrian Sport Productions is proud to be a part of the Wellington community and help it grow and prosper. For more information on ESP, please visit