A Novel Approach to Philanthropy

NYT Best Selling Author Mary Alice Monroe Unveils Equestrian Novel Drawing Attention to Brooke USA’s Mission to Improving Lives of Working Equines

By Rebecca Carr

In the shadow of the World Equestrian Games at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, equine enthusiasts recently gathered on the lush, rolling hillside farm of Cindy and John Boyle to raise money for horses.But not the type of elite horses competing at the games. In fact, they could not be more different.

John Boyle and his wife Cindy hosted the event.

The fundraiser was held to support Brooke USA, a Lexington, Kentucky-based non-profit and sister organization to Brooke, the largest international animal welfare charity that seeks to improve the care of working equines in poverty stricken communities around the world. Workers depend on horses, donkeys and mules to haul water from rivers, lug bricks from fiery kilns and harvest crops to provide their livelihoods. Without proper treatment and medical care, the equines, and the humans depending upon them, suffer.

Founded as a hospital for ex-warhorses in 1934, Brooke is the designated charity of the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018. The overarching theme of the equestrian games is “Celebrate the Horse, Celebrate the Sport: #Together,” commemorating the deep connection and interdependencies that exist between humans and equines. For much of the developed world, this relationship has become one of leisure and sport, but for over 600 million people, the relationship is still one of survival, according to Katherine Bellissimo, a founding partner of the Tryon International Equestrian Center and board member of Brooke USA, which raises and directs funding to support Brooke.

“The work that Brooke and Brooke USA do for both horses and humans around the world is incredibly admirable and it embodies our organization’s goal of celebrating the ways we depend on this beautiful creature through this event,” Bellissimo said.

Hurricane Winds Spawn Friendship and Novel

As Hurricane Florence pummeled the Carolinas, Monroe unveiled the first chapter of her upcoming novel, Summer Guests, at the Boyle’s party in an effort to bring attention to the plight of working equines and the importance of supporting Brooke USA.

Ironically, it was a hurricane last September that brought Bellissimo and Monroe together at the same farm. Their friendship with Cindy Boyle and Leslie Munsell, a fellow evacuee and founder of the cosmetics company Beauty for Real, and their experience during the evacuation spawned the idea for Summer Guests.

“What a difference a year makes…this time last year several of us were huddled together comfortably in this house waiting out the last hurricane,” Bellissimo said. “As it often happens when you combine inspirational women, creativity and great hearts something lasting and meaningful results.”

During the evacuation, Monroe, Bellissimo, Boyle and Munsell bonded over children, dogs, cooking, cleaning, wine, cheese and makeup—and not necessarily in that order. As they talked, the story of what people experience during evacuation starting to take hold in Monroe’s mind. Monroe, who is known for writing about endangered species like sea turtles, became inspired to write about horses and dogs while staying in guest apartment over the Boyle’s barn.

The original group of ladies that sheltered, cooked and laughed together during Hurricane Irma. This visit would inspire Mary Alice Monroe (far right) to write her latest novel, The Summer Guests. From left to right: Katherine Bellissimo, Laura Rombauer, Cindy Boyle, Leslie Munsell, and Mary Alice Monroe.

“Not only did we enjoy a lively discussion around Mary Alice’s forthcoming book, Summer Guests, but we were able to find a means to share with a greater community the powerful connection with the horse,” Bellissimo said. “In addition, we were able to connect this effort to our broader mission through Brooke USA to help those impoverished families and communities throughout the world that rely on their working equines for their basic sustenance.”

Natural disaster brings people from all walks of life together against the backdrop question of basic survival.  People’s lives are in upheaval as they cope with loss and whether they will find home when they return. Monroe’s new book raises the powerful question of what do you bring with you when you are forced to leave your home?

The characters in Summer Guests spend the weekend confronting personal truths, sacrifices and betrayals. Each must contend with unresolved issues they have within themselves, and with one another. At the end of the five days, strangers become friends, friendships are tested and lessons are learned.  When they leave the farm for home, each person comes to realize what, in truth, they do treasure.

“Think Big Chill with horses,” Monroe said. “When women band together, we are forces for good.”

Leslie Munsell, founder of Beauty for Real and Brooke ambassador, co-hosted the fundraiser. Her Lip Revival cosmetic line was created through collaboration with Brooke ambassadors and a portion of the proceeds go to the Foundation.

The party at the Boyles drew supporters of Brooke USA such as board members Jane Holderness-Roddam, a leading female equestrian and vice president of the British Horse Society and Laura Rombauer, of Rombauer Vineyards in California, as well as dressage star and Brooke USA Ambassador JJ Tate.

To end the lovely evening, Brooke USA Executive Director Emily Dulin shared the news that Brooke USA is building a commemorative walkway, the Brooke Breezeway, at the Tryon International Equestrian Center. The Breezeway features dedicated “Brooke Bricks” in honor of the 2018 World Equestrian Games and the important service provided by working equines around the world. The bricks can be personalized in dedication of a person, pet, anniversary, business, or organization.

Local culinary wizard Amanda Jones dished up peppered roast beef tenderloin with grilled vegetables, lobster salad rolls, jumbo crab cakes with spicy remoulade, brie muscadine puff topped with warm bacon and sweet potato latkes with lemon and cilantro. Richard and Cole Reutter donated an array of Caroline’s Cakes for dessert. All to shine the spotlight on Brooke’s work.

Through educational programs, Brooke reaches more than 2 million working equines a year in poverty-stricken communities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Brooke focuses on women because women are often the main caretakers of the animals working in poverty stricken pockets of the world.

Under the leadership of CEO Petra Ingram, Brooke has tripled the number of working equines that it reaches over the past decade. As Ingram sees it, the healthier the working equine is, the more economically stable the family will be.

“As one woman told me, without my donkey, I do not have a life,” Ingram told the gathering.

“Brooke is about the power of women helping women who are living in poverty around the globe,” said Cindy Boyle, who co-hosted the party with Munsell, who was a celebrity makeup artist before starting her cosmetics line. “This is about “girl power” where women help other women regardless of circumstances.”

ELYSIAN Inspiring Woman Lisa Lourie chats with ELYSIAN publisher Karen Floyd and Emily Marquez-Dulin, the Executive Director of Brooke USA.

ELYSIAN publisher Karen Floyd with author Mary Alice Monroe and Katherine Bellissimo, co-founder and managing partner of Tryon International Equestrian Center.