OK, saddle up, babes! I am going to attempt to tell you how this scarf actually came to be. The story itself is utterly serendipitous…
It all started when one of my best friends, Elise (from The Elise scarf), asked me if I would be interested in donating something for the silent auction at the Heart Ball in Louisville, KY, this year. The Heart Ball is a yearly event to raise money and awareness for the American Heart Association. Elise's sister, Audrey, is one of the chairs of the event, and it is a cause that is very dear to their family as they lost their father to heart disease. Last year I donated scarves to the silent auction, but this year I decided to up the ante and donate something a little more substantial as the Heart Association is close to - no pun intended - my heart too, as both my father and stepfather are living with heart disease. So, I decided to try something new for this auction and donated the chance to customize a CB Grey scarf!
Fast forward to the Heart Ball itself...
I attended with Elise, her two sisters, and their husbands this year. It was such a fantastic night, and I was honored to have been able to attend and to be a part of raising money and awareness for such a great cause. The silent auction went live during the event, and Elise's younger sister, Katie, was determined to win the CB Grey custom scarf! I was convinced that she would have been the only one to bid on it because I wasn't sure anyone else truly understood the concept lol. As the night went on, we all kept laughing at Katie's frustration as she continued to get outbid - all the way until the very end.
A few weeks later, I got an email from Melanie O'Leary letting me know that she was the one that won the custom scarf from the Heart Ball and that she and her 3 very artistic daughters were thrilled to get started. We set up a zoom call to meet and discuss the process. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about this whole thing at first. Of course, I always work with women to design scarves, but they are the women I hand-pick. This was a total stranger, and I had no clue what she had in mind.
Now let me stop to tell you the description of the item Melanie bid on at the Heart Ball was this: "Bid on a chance to customize a CB Grey scarf plus 10 silk scarves with your customized design". When I originally had the idea to donate this experience, I thought I would simply let the winner change the colors of a design that already existed and maybe add 1-2 unique elements. Something quick and simple but that would still be unique and special. I am aware now that I did not do the best job of conveying that in the description for the auction, but I figured I would just lead the call and explain to Melanie what I had in mind. Well, boy, was I wrong about that lol.
Melanie and Meghan (her oldest daughter) came out of the gates on fire! They had done their CB Grey research and had already planned their scarf's theme, colors, and name - I was instantly impressed and knew my original idea for this auction item had to go right out the window!
Melanie and I just clicked. We chatted until the zoom ran out of time, and we had to start another. Within 20 minutes of hearing their ideas, I knew this had to be something bigger than just a design for them. I had to share their story and the stories of the women in their lives. We came up with a game plan, and all got to work immediately. I started the initial layout, and the girls went to work on their sketches. This was on a Thursday. The following Monday, the design was complete.
When something is truly meant to be, the pieces simply fall into place.
My mind is truly blown by the events and connections that have transpired in the past 5 days since our first zoom call. As I hit the iPad to design, Melanie hit the phones. She contacted Churchill Downs, The Derby Museum, and Thoroughbred Retirement Farm (TRF) - the charity to which her 3 girls decided we should donate a portion of the proceeds, as well as countless other friends and family to share what we were doing together. The response from everyone has been overwhelming.
I don't think I can really convey the depth of my excitement, surprise, and gratitude for meeting these amazing O'Leary women. I am so thrilled to see the future of The Penny scarf, the places she will go, and the lives she will touch. Read below to hear the real meaning behind the design from Melanie, but to me, this design represents the power of women coming together. The amazingness that can come only from our collaborative spirit and the things women accomplish purely out of that selfless desire to want to help one another. This, right here, is the soul of CB Grey and the reason I started this crazy silky business.
xx - Courtney
From: Melanie O'Leary
It is so hard to pick only one woman's name for the inspiration behind the scarf, but in the spirit of the 50th anniversary of Secretariat, the name has to be the Penny scarf.
If it weren't for Penny and her love for horses, her dreams, and her unbreakable spirit, there would be no secretariat or the 50th anniversary of Secretariat winning the Triple Crown. There would be no record-breaking unbeatable superhorse and inspiration for moms that never give up!
Penny is just the beginning.
Then there is Mary, who takes care of everyone around her and is the most giving person you'll ever meet. The pink and blue racing colors are her horse farm at Willow Lake farm. The gray horse is the horse that was born on this farm, and her husband proposed to her in front of.
In addition to the royal blue and pink being willow lake colors, the blue is in honor of Secretariat, his racing color legend, and the pink is in honor of all the breast cancer survivors listed below and everywhere.
[CUE RECORD SCRATCH - Courtney here again...
So, Melanie did not know it at the time of writing this, but that my mama is also a breast cancer survivor. So, Mama, this one is for you, too! I know it has not been easy, but watching you become the best version of yourself during your journey has been life changing for me. Your bravery, strength and tenacity inspire me everyday to be a better mom and to want to fight to be the best version of me that I can be. Love you and so proud to be your baby girl.]
Then there is my mom, Kaye, who inspired my original love of horses, got me my first horse, and gave me the drive to make a difference in this world and the compassion to care.
Then there are Aunt Roberta and Cousin Jennifer, two horse lovers who make the world much brighter and happier and have the biggest hearts. I wouldn't want to go to a derby without them!
Then there is Kim the wonderful woman we met at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, (TRF), which is celebrating its fortieth anniversary in 2023. Penny Chenery was a founding board member of the TRF and now Kim is following her life's passion at the TRF by ensuring that retired racehorses are given dignified, healthy happy lives when their racing careers are over. She introduced us to a dozen beautiful horses from the TRF herd at the TRF Sanctuary Farm at Chestnut Hall. It was there that my girls were inspired to give back to these beautiful animals. Not only does the TRF give these horses a new lease on life, but the TRF Second Chances program also provides a new start for the people who train and care for them. 10% of the proceeds from any of The Penny styles will support the work of the TRF.
Then there's the next generation of horse lovers, Meghan, Maddie, and Mollie O'Leary, who were so inspired when they toured the retirement farm in Oldham County, Kentucky, that they wanted to find a way to give back. Inspired by the opportunity to make money for these horses, they co-designed this scarf with CB Grey, who transformed their original artwork into this beautiful creation. They all love riding English, eventing, jumping, and horse vaulting.
Then there is Emy and Charlotte Fitzgerald, our best friends who genuinely have the unbridled spirit of Kentucky. They are the most fun, kindest, and most adventurous horse-loving girls. They ride western and love barrel racing.
Then there is Mary's mom, Carole, who is always there for you when you need her. Her specialty is teaching all the baby foals how to eat carrots, so if you ever visit the farm, you can thank her for all the happy horses that greet you at the fence to say hello.
Then there are Mary's aunts. The most loving, dependable group of sisters that would never miss a horse race or a chance to be there for the family. Full of joy and love, I call them family as well.
Then there is Courtney from CB Grey, with whom we recently met but became instant friends. She had an idea and a vision for a derby start long before we met, and our combined energy and love created this masterpiece. She was such an inspiration to my girls through the design process. You will never meet a more delightful person!!
Then there is me, Melanie, who could just plain loves horses and everyone she meets.
We really hope you love our scarf as much as we do. Thank you for proudly wearing your support for retired racehorses and amazing women!!
"This is not about going back. This is about life being ahead of you, and you run at it! Because you never know how far you can run unless you run."
- Penny Chenery
Above is the original art from Molly (9), Maddie (11), and Meghan (13).
Watch the video below to see how Courtney transformed their beautiful sketches into the elements you see on the scarf!