Susan Cairns, the Langley School District Foundation executive director, mingled with guests at last years gala. (Langley Advance Times photo)

Langley’s Grand Prix Gala is right mix of horses, hors d’oeuvres and hats

Annual gala at an equestrian competition raises funds for the Langley School District Foundation.

Horses and riders from Spain, the United States, France and Mexico will be helping fill the tummies of local school children.

Thanks for the high-calibre competition that comes to Thunderbird Show Park for its final day of the Canadian Premier on Sunday, May 26, the Langley School District Foundation can fundraise for its programs, focusing on those that feed a need.

As horses and riders make their way around a challenging show jumping course on Sunday, those attending the 14th annual Grand Prix Gala will sip award-winning wines, and nibble on gourmet hors d’oeuvres, chef’s sandwiches, artisan cheeses, charcuterie and an array of desserts.

“This is an afternoon like no other,” said Susan Cairns, the foundation’s executive director.

In addition to being an important event in equestrian sporting circles, it’s vital for the foundation. This is year 14 for the foundation gala and the event will typically raise about $60,000.

“The gala raises funds to support a long list of essential programs including Food for Thought, summer school for vulnerable students, garden towers, wellness initiatives and much more – all for Langley students,” she said.

Food for Thought helps feed about 3,000 students within the Langley School District who come to school hungry, and even provides food for evenings and weekends to some students.

The garden towers allow students to learn to grow fresh fruits and vegetables that are served in the schools. It not only allows the students to enjoy more fresh food but also helps them understand from where the food comes.

“In talking to the teachers, the kids are eating lettuce,” she said. “They love the tasty tomatoes that they’ve grown. They love watching the garden towers grow.”

Cairns saw the towers last year and thanks to a grant, was able to get them into a few schools. They provided so popular that other schools were quickly added.

“Right now we have nine schools have the towers,” she said.

Towers will be installed at three more schools over summer and a few more in the coming months.

There’s also the foundation’s support of snack programs so students can power up during the day, breakfast clubs and lunch programs.

The focus on food comes after a 2014 survey that found an alarming number of students were hungry. The programs have had a positive impact, Cairns noted.

“It’s made a huge difference. The difference is in attendance, in behaviour and in their ability to learn, and just their overall well-being and contentment,” she said.

She said the feedback from schools is that the kids listen more and learn more.

“I can’t even imagine not having it now,” Cairns said of the food programs.

Tbird provides a covered patio area for the foundation event. The dress code is wide ranging from fancy fascinators to rural chic.

The foundation gala runs 1 to 4 p.m. and in addition to the competition and culinary treats, there’s a silent auction.

“Our theme is to offer experiences combined with unique product that will get our eager and discerning shoppers oohing and aahing over a diverse and sophisticated selection of never-before-seen wares,” she noted.

The big prize this year is an Okanagan wine-themed getaway where the winner stays at a vineyard and enjoys wine tastings, tours and more.

Gala tickets, $80 per person or $525 for a table of eight, can be purchased online at or by contacting Cairns at

She’s also the person to contact for anyone interested in sponsorship opportunities.

Tbird is at the corner of 248th Street and 72nd Avenue. The park is stroller and wheelchair accessible. Learn more at

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The 2018 Grand Prix Gala attracted many out on a sunny Sunday. (Langley Advance Times files)

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