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EquiFest perseveres despite weather

By Basil Gist

Staff Writer

The community got soggy for a good cause on Saturday during EquiHope’s first EquiFest event at its new home on Friendship Road.

Despite rain turning to downpour partway through, Kent Billiter estimated 150 people stayed through the squall to support the nonprofit.

“I am so thankful for this community,” Billiter said. “Pilot Point shows up. People could have gone home, chosen to do other things, but the fact people stood out in the rain just to listen to the stories and be there for the ribbon cutting is the reason we moved to this community.”

Though both EquiHope and its sister organization, EquiPoint, have been in the area a number of years, the event served as a reintroduction at a larger facility and now officially inside Pilot Point’s boundaries, complete with a ribbon cutting from the Pilot Point Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s a great opportunity to get the word out there—to get the word out about your organization,” Chamber President Jimerson Adkins said. “We’re really excited about the current showing and what EquiHope and EquiPoint are doing for the community.”

In further partnership with the city, Billiter and the EquiHope board joined Mayor Elisa Beasley in sponsoring two $6,000 scholarships awarded to Liam Rubio and the family of Joe Nunez to be used on EquiHope lessons.

EquiHope’s therapeutic riding program offers help through horses to all ages, from young people with disabilities to veterans with PTSD or individuals struggling with anxiety.

The program’s goal for the event, in addition to raising awareness, was to raise $50,000 for lessons. However, thanks, Billiter said, to the rain and more limited turnout, they raised $13,000.

“Fifty thousand dollars would have been around 200 supported riding lessons we could give back to the community,” Billiter said. “I, Marge Nicholson and Brandon Clinton personally fund any differences within what’s needed. Our goal is to leave no one unserved and to not have a waitlist, and we’ll do whatever we have to do to make that happen.”

He said one major reason for the event, complete with vendors, a rider showcase and a concert, is to keep raising awareness as most similar programs with large waitlists don’t refer their customers out even if they’re currently incapable of serving.

“We have to throw a concert and invite everyone for free just to say, hey, we have services to help you, your friends and your neighbors,” Billiter said. “For who came out and stayed, we are beyond impressed. Now questions like, ‘how can I get involved’ and ‘how can I help’ are being asked, and that’s what we really want.”

The headliner, Sadie Bass of The Voice fame, had to pivot off the stage and set up in a much more intimate setting to make good on her commitment to perform.

“I couldn’t be happier with the turnout,” Bass said. “People still came, they’re still raising money and I got to check playing in a horse stall in Texas off my bucket list. If the days are open, someone reaches out to me, and I can make it happen for a cause like this, we’ll put it on the calendar.”

After her appearance at EquiFest, her fourth concert in Texas, Bass is headed out on tour with Kid Rock this summer.

“For Sadie to be so gracious and pivot to an acoustic performance, that’s not going to happen again,” Billiter said. “That’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was such an incredible experience. Sadie was on Season 22 of The Voice, [and] she’s on a fishing and hunting show. She’s getting ready to explode, and we got to have that experience.”

Bass signed three guitars for the auction, which brought in over $6,000 between them.

The auction, sponsored by Pilot Point Neighborhood Events, featured two other guitars, each marked by a few other well-known artists.

“It’s easy to put this stuff together when you have a great cause behind it and a great community with generosity,” Katie Scott said. “It was a combination of having great partnerships through companies like Charity Auctions and also the community coming together for our local items.”

A guitar signed by Taylor Swift went for $2,800 while one signed by 19 country western legends including Dolly Parton, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Faith Hill, Willie Nelson, Shania Twain and George Strait brought in $4,800.

“We were able to raise 13k despite it being terrible weather, and we’re so grateful for that, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Billiter said. “There are ways [the community] can sign up to volunteer or donate to help with services.”

To get involved with EquiHope, visit


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