Saratoga WarHorse Blue Spangled Gala

by Emily Marcason-Tolmie

Paul Oreffice, the retired chairman and CEO of DOW Chemical, knows all about hard work and taking chances. His journey started in Italy where he was an avid horseman. He learned to ride horses before walking. “I have a tremendous love of horses,” he said. “They are incredible animals. They are much smarter than people give them credit for.” As for taking chances, Oreffice immigrated with his family to the United States from Ecuador in 1945 just days after World War II ended. He was 17 and barely spoke any English. This didn’t stop Oreffice. He enrolled at Purdue University and he graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Paul authored a book, Only in America, in which he shares his inspiring and fascinating journey of immigrating to America.

Oreffice’s hard work and love for horses came full circle more than 30 years ago. He has owned a number of racehorses, including a Belmont winner in 2013. His affection for horses also led to a partnership and friendship with Cot and Anne Campbell, owners of the prominent Dogwood Stables in South Carolina. In a twist of fate, Anne was involved with an organization called Saratoga WarHorse. When Oreffice learned from Anne all the good the organization does for military veterans he didn’t think twice when she asked him to join the volunteer ranks of the organization. “At the first board meeting I was elected the chairman,” he said with chuckle. “The dedication of the board is the same as all those involved with Saratoga WarHorse: to help veterans as people and not numbers one person at a time.”

Oreffice, who has handed over the reins of Saratoga WarHorse to current board chairman Brian Spearman, strongly believes in the mission of Saratoga WarHorse. He stresses Saratoga WarHorse is not providing medical care for veterans, but rather a healing experience. “Sometimes things happen to those serving this country that we can’t even begin to understand. A man will come home from war and wonder why he survived but his friend serving with him didn’t,” Oreffice said. “Why not me? He will ask himself. He will become depressed. He will become withdrawn. He may try to commit suicide. Saratoga WarHorse can provide him with an experience that can change his whole life.”

On August 13, 2018, Saratoga WarHorse will celebrate the milestone of serving 1,000 veterans at its annual gala at the Hall of Springs in Saratoga Springs, NY from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Entertainment includes viral sensation and live auction partner, Joe Everson, along with Doc Scanlon’s Rhythm Boys, featuring vocalist Colleen Pratt. According to Saratoga WarHorse Executive Director Allison Cherkosly, a veteran herself having served in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, this year’s gala will feature veteran speakers who have graduated from the program and eager to share their experiences and stories. “This gala is about more than acknowledging Saratoga WarHorse’s accomplishments of serving 1,000 veterans,” she said. “It’s about sharing our vision for serving 1,000 more veterans-in-need, and recognizing our incredibly generous supporters who want to help turn this vision into a reality.”

Oreffice, a summer resident of Saratoga Springs for over 20 years, acknowledges Saratoga Springs offers a plethora of galas this time of year. “All the galas in the city are raising money for worthy causes,” he said. “Saratoga WarHorse is different.” A major difference is the Saratoga WarHorse gala wraps up by 9:30 in the evening. “I admit I go to a lot of summer events and they run so late into the night,” he said. “It’s refreshing to support a worthy cause while getting home at a reasonable time.” The early departure time doesn’t mean the gala will lack in entertainment, auction items, or food and open bar. “The gala is a wonderfully planned and really fun evening,” Oreffice said. “It will not disappoint.”

Oreffice is involved with other nonprofit organizations and he has served on numerous boards, including Coca Cola. Yet, he is passionate about Saratoga WarHorse. “I’ve lived a beautiful life,” he says. “Everyone can live their beautiful life. Some just need a little help getting there.”

For more information about the Saratoga WarHorse Blue Spangled Banner Gala, including ticket purchase, please contact Kristen Handler at 518-886-8131 x105 or email her at kristen@nullsaratogawarhorse.org. For more information on Saratoga WarHorse, please visit: www.saratogawarhorse.org.

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