American drivers Misdee and James Miller, Steve Wilson, and Laura Lee Brown are steering for the future with the “Driving Challenge” gift matching initiative.
Started in 2017, the United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation Driving Challenge aims to raise $1.2 million for the U.S. Equestrian High Performance Driving program. The U.S. driving team veterans are committed to closing in on that goal.
The donation matching initiative sees multi-year gift commitments of $20,000 or more matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000, by the Millers, Wilson, and Brown.
“We created the Challenge because driving, historically, is such a small discipline, and it hasn’t been able to be very well-funded,” said Misdee Miller. “Early on, we recognized that we not only needed to raise funds for our athletes traveling abroad, but most importantly, fund programs and drivers at home.”
To date, funds from the Driving Challenge have provided increased support for the Developing Athlete Program (DAP), paying for coaches running educational clinics across the country. An international working student program is also in development to provide drivers with first-hand experience competing in Europe.
“So far, the program has thrived and blossomed and has helped a lot of drivers,” continued Misdee Miller. “We’ve taken them from Preliminary all the way to becoming national champions. That’s the best way to recognize if a program has been successful or not.”
Dr. Jennifer Thompson is one such beneficiary of the program, rising through ranks from the Preliminary level all the way to 2019 USEF Advanced Single Horse Combined Driving National Champion.
“I look back to where my horse and I were and to where we are now, and I just think, ‘Wow, we’ve come a long way!’ I have to attribute the vast majority of my success to the opportunities I’ve gotten through the DAP,” said Thompson, who works as a full-time equine veterinarian in Wisconsin. “I’m so thankful to those who have contributed to this program because it has helped me get to where I am today.”
Nifty Hamilton, the highest placed U.S. Combined Driver at 2018 FEI World Driving Championships for Singles, also credits the program with her success.
“The High Performance Program has been the cornerstone to my development as a driver and the training of [my horse] Makari Design up through the levels,” said Hamilton. “The quality and variety of the clinicians, in both training and lectures, that the USEF has offered, continue to move me forward toward my goals.”
“We’re really hoping we can get people excited about funding new drivers,” concluded Misdee Miller. “It’s training and developing and supporting drivers on their pathways from the grassroots all the way to ‘pre-podium.’ If we realize our goals, we would raise over a million dollars for driving. That would be quite historic.”
To learn more about making a donation to the Driving Challenge, contact Bonnie B. Jenkins at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 908-234-1251