April 3, 2008

Injured event rider Darren Chiacchia is back in New York and preparing to undergo rehabilitation. He was flown from Florida to Buffalo yesterday, where he will begin rehabilitation at the Erie County Medical Center.

Chiacchia was critically injured in a cross-country fall at the Red Hills Horse Truals on March 15.

He continues to show progress with his cognitive deficits, but his walking is still limited to very short distances with the assistance of a therapy aid on each arm, his family said.

During their time at the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, the Chiacchia family said hospitality extended by the local community was overwhelming, and they were sad to leave their many new friends, including their adopted family of Walt and Carol Dover. The Dovers provided lodging, vehicles, and daily care packages of food. "Special heartfelt appreciation is extended to Carol Dover for her Herculean efforts in organizing and running this truly amazing fundraising success with less than nine days notice," the family said.

Wednesday night's fundraiser at the WC Dover Farm was hugely successful, with estimates of the total raised at $200,000. It was attended by more than 500 people, from as far away as California, including several members of the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital staff.

The event featured six time Olympian Robert Dover riding Darren's prized mount Windfall in a dressage display. Silent auction items included an offspring of Windfall which sold for $20,000. Another highlight of the evening was a video tribute to Darren accompanied by a cleverly adapted version of "My Way" sung by Walt Dover with such emotion that many were reduced to tears. Videotaped offers of support were also provided by Tallahassee Mayor Marks, Darren's Olympic coach Mark Phillips, and many past and prospective members of the US Equestrian team.

Janise Gray and Scott Evans of the Equestrian Aid Foundation were on hand, lending their administrative skills to the event. Other distinguished guests included State Senator Steve Oelrich, USEA President Jo Whitehouse, and equestrian photographer Mary Phelps. Sales of custom tee-shirts and hats were brisk.