Kiss the Horse campaign gains $17K+ for Marion County Literacy Council

Members of the Marion County Literacy Council Youth Board, from left: Emma Joyner, Kaylie Saez, Alex Rudnianyn, Madison Dixon, Candice Martin and Daisy Jones, kiss Wesley, a Quarter Horse, who was the Marion Therapeutic Riding Association’s 2022 Horse of the Year, during the 13th annual Kiss The Horse at the Juniper General Store on U.S. Highway 27 in Ocala, Fla. on Thursday, May 25, 2023. The Youth Board were the winners of this year’s Kiss The Horse contest for raising $6,200 and have raised $60,000 for the Marion County Literacy Council over the past 5 years. This year, the Marion County Literacy Council raised $17,507 through their Kiss The Horse contest and 10 percent was donated to the Marion Therapeutic Riding Association. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2023.

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Posted May 25, 2023 | By Susan Smiley-Height/Ocala Gazette
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

Wesley, the Marion Therapeutic Riding Association’s (MTRA) 2022 Horse of the Year, got more than one smooch at the culmination of the Marion Literacy Council Inc.’s (MCLC) annual Kiss the Horse fundraiser.

The 13th annual Kiss the Horse Winner’s Circle event took place Thursday, May 25 at The Juniper General Store on Highway 27 just west of Ocala. The winning team was the council’s own Youth Board, whose members Alex Rudnianyn, Madi Dixon, Candice Martin, Emma Joyner, Daisy Jones and Kaylie Saez.

The Youth Board members raised $6,200 for this year’s campaign and have raised $60,000 for the MCLC over the past five years.

The other fundraising candidates were Alan Keesee, Chief Executive Officer of HCA Florida Ocala Hospital; Samantha Dailey, Showcase Properties of Central Florida; and Leonardo Valdivieso-Torres and Mara Huston, USA Scientific.

Over the 10 days of the campaign, the candidates raised a total of $17,507 for the council. Ten percent of the proceeds were donated to the Marion Therapeutic Riding Association.

R.J. Jenkins, the volunteer executive director of the council, remarked on social media after the event: “Thank you to all of our contestants, sponsors, and donors! Without you we wouldn’t be able to continue to do what we do here at the Marion County Literacy Council, Inc.

The nonprofit MCLC helps students learn to read, pass the GED test, and teaches English to speakers of other languages. The council also offers basic computer, citizenship, financial literacy and health literacy classes. To learn more, go to

The MTRA provides therapeutic horseback riding and equine assisted learning activities for children and adults living with physical, emotional and cognitive challenges. For more information, go to


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