Aug 06, 2019

Todd Killalea: USEA's Volunteer of the Month Presented by Athletux

By Mikaela Kantorowski - Athletux Equine
Photo courtesy of Todd Killalea.

It always helps to see a warm and friendly face when heading to warm up for that all-important test or jump round. In this series, the United States Evening Association (USEA) is partnering with Athletux to feature those around us who help make these events happen, the volunteers. Without them horse shows and programs could not succeed, and these volunteers go above and beyond to make sure every rider feels comfortable and confident. Do you know a volunteer who should be nominated as Volunteer of the Month? We are looking for our next feature. Email your tips to [email protected].

For Todd Killalea, horses were not always a way of life. Growing up in San Diego, he spent most of his time on the water, fishing, surfing, and participating in any other water sport he could find. It wasn’t until later when his oldest daughter, Delaney, took a liking to horses at the age of three that he was introduced to the horse world. What began as a hunter/jumper adventure for Killalea, a construction worker, turned into a passion for eventing when they went to a show that just happened to have a cross-country course on the property when she was eight. Now, 12 years later, both of Killalea’s daughters' event - Delaney, now 20, and Kaelin, age 14. He has also notched more volunteer hours than almost everyone this year in Area VI. We are so excited to feature Killalea as this month’s Volunteer of the Month.

Killalea got his start volunteering like most do - an organizer reached out and said they needed help. Killalea gladly decided to volunteer and the rest, as they say, is history. That job just so happened to be ring stewarding, which meant Killalea got to spend his days talking to each competitor and getting to know the eventing community more and more, an opportunity he called, “100 percent amazing.” Killalea added, “It is amazing how there can be such a large group of people and everyone is equally amazing and welcoming.” Killalea felt right a home ring stewarding and what began as an opportunity to ring steward grew as a passion for the position and one he still has today.

Todd's oldest daughter, Delaney. Photo courtesy of Todd Killalea.

While his daughter Delaney credits Frankie Thieriot Stutes and her amazing horse Chatwin for inspiring her riding career as she continues to pursue her passion throughout college, Killalea credits longtime friend, the late Don Trotter, for inspiring him to volunteer more and more. “I met Don ring stewarding and we would often work together as he would ring steward for the upper levels and I would manage the lower level rings. We became good friends and he gave me one piece of advice, go be yourself and have fun. That’s what I did,” Killalea said.

Apart from the amazing friendships he developed, another special part of ring stewarding for Killalea is being able to watch the other riders, especially the young riders, progress and move up through the levels. “This year I watched some of the girls at NAYC whom I remember from their Beginner Novice days when I was ring stewarding. I distinctly remember telling everyone they were going to go on to do big things and look at them now. To be able to have just a very small part at these events and to be able to cheer everyone on, including my daughters, is just so special,” he added.

Todd's youngest daughter, Kaelin. Photo courtesy of Todd Killalea.

For Killalea, the eventing community is a second family and he now continues to volunteer up and down Area VI even when his daughters aren’t competing. While Copper Meadows is like a second home, he is quick to jump at the chance to help another event as well. “It’s one of the easiest things I do because it is so much fun. It isn’t work. You’re there so you might as well do it,” he said with a laugh. Killalea pointed out, “The eventing community is so welcoming and fantastic that anywhere I go, I feel like I am a part of the family. You don’t find that in other sports and it is just one of the amazing things about this sport that we all love.” Whenever you talk to Killalea, you can hear the passion and enthusiasm in his voice and it is very evident how much he loves the sport, the community, and volunteering.

His advice for other volunteers or those thinking about giving it a try? “I love it and I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to volunteer. I have seen a lot of sports and been a part of many different groups but this community is like no other and to be able to give back is truly special,” he said. And why he keeps coming back for more? It didn’t take him long to say, “It is the compassion and the responsibility these horses provide. It is just amazing and neat to see the relationship these people have with their horses. The community and the horses just make it all worthwhile.”

Now, Killalea wants to help continue to carry on Don Trotter’s legacy in whatever way he can by continuing to volunteer and of course, try and be half the ring steward Don was famous for. “It is impossible to ever fill his shoes but I want to try and always tell myself to do what Don did and always give back and volunteer. I could talk for hours about how amazing he was and I feel privileged to have had someone like Don as a friend. He made everyone feel so special and really embodied everything a volunteer should be,” he fondly said. Killalea encourages everyone to get out and volunteer to honor Don and celebrate everything he was so passionate about. We couldn’t think of a better way to join in with Killalea by honoring his good friend. Eventing wouldn’t be the same without our volunteers and if you see Killalea out by the ring in Area VI, be sure to give him a big thank you for all he does for the sport.

About the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program

Volunteers are the lifeblood of our sport, the unsung heroes, and the people who make it possible to keep the sport alive. In efforts to recognize the dedication, commitment, and hard work that volunteers put into eventing, USEA formed the Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP) in 2015. In 2017, an online management portal was designed for volunteers, organizers, and volunteer coordinators at EventingVolunteers.com (available as an app for iOS and Android).

Volunteer incentives include national and area recognition, year-end awards with ribbons, cash prizes, and trophies, a top ten USEA Volunteer leaderboard, and a Volunteer of the Year award which is given to the volunteer who tops the leaderboard by accumulating the most volunteer hours over the USEA competition year. Click here to learn more about the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program.

The USEA would like to thank Sunsprite Warmbloods for sponsoring the Volunteer Incentive Program.

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