When fancy hats return to mainstream fashion, a whole lot of local folks are all set.

They showed off their chapeaus during the Belmont Jewel, a fundraising event held at St. Clair Country Club on the day of the Belmont Stakes horse race.

While Essential Quality held off Hot Rod Charlie to win the final leg of racing’s Triple Crown, those in attendance had fun playing games, bidding on auction items and sampling some specialty beverages, all for the benefit of Horses With Hope.

The nonprofit therapeutic riding program is getting ready to start operations at Gilfillan Farm in Upper St. Clair, moving from Bethel Park. Founder Anne Davis’ first Horses With Hope location was on a farm near Washington.

Inspired by daughter Jamie Lynn, who was born with Down Syndrome, Davis left a 20-year career in the airline industry to follow what she considered to be her calling, despite being told by many people close to her the decision would be a mistake.

“‘You can’t just quit your job and go and do this,’” Davis recalled being told. “’You don’t even really have a plan.’ I did, and here we are, 14 years later.

We have 200 people a week who come through our organization, special-needs kids and adults,” she added. “All of you tonight are a part of that now. You are all helping Horses With Hope to continue to offer the high-quality programs that we do, to have sustainability, to increase the programs that we offer and to build our community.”

Davis evoked the Biblical account of Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.

“Nehemiah was told he couldn’t do it. It was way too big of a job that he was crazy for even wanting to try to do it,” she said. “Nehemiah did not say no to God. He went ahead and went forward with it, and he built those walls in 52 days. And this was no small feat.

“The story reminds me of Horses With Hope and how this organization, this ministry, started, as well.”

Accompanying her to the Belmont Jewel was Jamie Lynn, who was selected as having the best hat among those who adorned their heads for the occasion. The event, which returned this year after having to be canceled in 2021, featured entertainment by guitarist Bill Purse, and comedian-radio personality Jim Krenn served as master of ceremonies.

For more information about Horses With Hope, visit www.horseswithhope.org.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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