Young leader raised $100,000 for Make A Wish Foundation

Young leader raised $100,000 for Make A Wish Foundation

American Junior Paint Horse Association president spent a year changing lives

FORT WORTH, Texas-American Junior Paint Horse Association (AjPHA) member and current Past-President Banks Ready recently completed the Association’s most successful Presidential Service Project to date. Through his project-Painting Dreams-Ready raised $100,000 to grant 19 wishes to benefit the Make-A-Wish FoundationR.

While the 19 wishes have been spread out among Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas, Ready of Hernando, Miss., recently granted a wish in the company of hundreds of AjPHA members and their families at the AjPHA Year-End Awards Banquet, held annually in Fort Worth, Texas, in conjunction with the Summer World Championship Paint Horse Show. The incoming Texas Tech freshman wanted to grant a wish during this event as a way to include the members from the Association nationwide who helped with the overwhelmingly successful project.

“It was important to me to include everyone because there were so many people in that room who had helped me and had been influential throughout the process. This was their opportunity to see their money go to a good cause,” said Ready. “And when Gabe’s mom took the stage, she touched everyone in that room.”

This wish was presented to a 4-year-old North Texas boy who was diagnosed with histiocytosis when he was only 18 months old. Ready beamed as he summarized the success of his project, thanked all those who contributed and announced that Gabriel Chavez is now in remission and will be traveling to Walt Disney WorldR later this month with his parents and two sisters to meet his favorite Disney character, Goofy. Surrounded by AjPHA and APHA Executive Committee members, Make-A-WishR representatives, Gabriel and his family, Ready presented young Gabriel with an armload of Disney memorabilia and an APHA Gist Silversmith’s belt buckle to commemorate his experience with AjPHA. In addition, Ready and APHA made another dream come true for Gabriel-the opportunity to ride an American Paint Horse. The Chavez family returned later in the show and Gabriel, along with his two sisters, were all smiles as they paraded around the arena.

Making Dreams Come True

Raising $100,000 to benefit any charity in only a year’s time is a tough feat for anyone. However, Ready enjoys facing challenges and rising to the top. After initially becoming involved with the Make-A-Wish FoundationR through his high school Key Club, as soon as Ready was elected AjPHA President he knew his Presidential Service Project would benefit the foundation he had come to know and love.

Never aiming for anything other than great success, Ready unveiled his project to AjPHA and APHA members who enthusiastically jumped aboard and began assisting Ready in implementing fundraising events.

If you had asked Ready a few months ago, he probably would have said he was more than thrilled with raising $70,000 as part of his project. With a kick-start of raising $20,000 in his home state of Mississippi, the success and support received during an event in Oklahoma was overwhelming. APHA members, trainers and supporters gathered for what was called a “Backwards Western Pleasure Calcutta Class” during a large Paint Horse show in Tulsa, Okla., and raised $50,000. In the class, several of the industry’s top halter trainers competed in Western Pleasure aboard world-class Paint Horses, while spectators bid on which trainer would ride away with the first-place title.

Not only did the $50,000 raised in Oklahoma seem unbelievable when added to the money already raised for a grand total of $70,000, but according to the Make-A-Wish FoundationR of Oklahoma, this particular event was the most successful one-time event ever held in Oklahoma.

Pushing the Bar

Toward the completion of his project, Ready presented a summary to a large group of APHA members and leaders during the Association’s annual Workshop event in Irving, Texas. During the presentation he highlighted the project’s success, shared stories of Wish kids and thanked all his contributors and supporters. As would be expected, at the end of his speech eyes were wet and listeners were touched by his efforts and stories. With that, Bob Cassata of Double C Acres in Morganton, N.C., approached Ready and pledged his support-bringing the grand total of money raised for Make-A-WishR to $100,000.

Over the past year, 15 wishes have been granted and an additional five are currently in the works, thanks to the Cassata family. While a trip to Disney World is the most popular wish, the money donated by the Cassatas will go to granting a variety a wishes, including a trip to a dude ranch, a shopping spree, a bedroom makeover, a Greek cruise and a Disney vacation.

“There were several reasons for my donation,” said Cassata. “I have strong feelings for seriously ill children and feel compelled to help. Secondly, I wanted to help Banks and support AjPHA. They are the future of our organization.”

Cassata, who also contributes to organizations such as Give Kids The World and Sipe’s Orphanage in North Carolina, has had first-hand experience with the toll cancer can take on a family. His wife, Joyce, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and had a reoccurrence in 2007, but she is now doing well.

“I’ve taken away so much from this project,” said Ready. “The biggest thing is probably that I proved anybody can do anything no matter what the circumstances are or how hard things get.”

More about AjPHA

The American Junior Paint Horse Association is home to more than 6,800 Paint Horse enthusiasts aged 18 and younger. The youth organization is part of the American Paint Horse Association, which registers and promotes the American Paint Horse.

To learn more about AjPHA, visit Or, contact the Director of Youth Activities by e-mail at or phone (817) 834-2742, extension 248.