Newport Beach teenage equestrian donates sales of her ‘Hooves and Hope’ necklaces to Feeding America
Newport Beach teenager Lauren O’Neill, a junior at Costa Mesa’s Waldorf School of Orange County, has been riding horses since she was 5 — and jumping and competing since she was 6.
But when she was 10, a horse kicked her in the face, her body went into shock and she was in a coma for a week.
“All I remember is going into the barn that day and then waking up in the hospital with a neck brace and tubes down my throat,” she said.
For O’Neill, her road to recovery and continued dedication to the sport — before COVID-19 related reductions and cancellations she rode six times a week, often in the early hours before school, and competed a couple of weekends a month — has become a symbol of grit, tenacity and the importance of working through challenging moments to continue doing what you love.
“It’s given me so much joy in life and also taught me so much about responsibility,” she said.
Responsibility not only includes caring for her horse Clapello, but also thinking about what kind of service she can provide to the community.
On April 5, after watching the devastating effects of the coronavirus, she launched her new necklace brand Hooves and Hope to raise money for Feeding America.
All of the proceeds go to the hunger-relief nonprofit and their network of 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people across the nation.
In just a few weeks, O’Neill has been able to donate 257 meals through her sales.
She chose two horseshoe designs because she not only wanted to connect her passion for riding with her passion for service, but also wanted something simple and versatile that anyone could wear.
The “hope necklace” is gold-plated and priced at $30 to provide 10 meals, and the smaller, daintier “hooves necklace,” priced at $24, provides eight meals.
Each comes in a pink suede case with a card designed by O’Neill with the tagline “To Live. To Dream. To Laugh. To Love.”
This is not O’Neill’s first project dedicated to helping her community. During her freshman year, she and her sister Kaitylyn started a nonprofit called Arte Para el Alma (which translates to “art for the soul”), where they recruited fellow student council members at Waldorf to teach art classes to at-risk youth in Orange County.
By her sophomore year, after learning about how much poverty there was in O.C., she started building Hooves and Hope and thinking about organizations she wanted to raise money for.
“I chose Feeding America because of its widespread network across the country, especially in underserved and remote areas,” she said. “So many people are going hungry in the wake of the coronavirus.”
She’s been overwhelmed by the positive response to Hooves and Hope from her friends and social media followers.
“I just wanted to inspire other people, especially my age, to think beyond themselves, especially during hard times like this, and to help others,” she said.
For more information, visit hoovesandhope.org and follow on Instagram @hoovesandhope.
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