Blessings in a Backpack Partners With Unbridled Charitable Foundation for Third Annual “Unbridled Afternoon” for Louisville Students

Blessings in a Backpack Partners With Unbridled Charitable Foundation for Third Annual “Unbridled Afternoon” for Louisville Students

Video courtesy of
Photos by Dan Dry, PriceWeber. 

Blessings in a Backpack and the Unbridled Charitable Foundation, Inc. partnered to bring the Derby experience to students at a local elementary school as part of their third annual “Unbridled Afternoon.” This year, the event was held for Camp Taylor Elementary School students, where 69% of the student population depends on the Blessings in a Backpack program.

“Today was a day where the kids at Camp Taylor Elementary could simply be kids and join in on the excitement of this season in our city,” said Nikki Grizzle, CMO, Blessings in a Backpack. “We cannot thank the Unbridled Charitable Foundation, Inc. and all our community partners who helped ensure this Derby-filled day was memorable for these deserving students – many of whom have never experienced Derby before.”

As an ode to the annual Unbridled Eve Gala that occurs the evening before the Kentucky Derby and fundraises to help several nonprofits, including Blessings in a Backpack, this kid-friendly event allowed students to experience their own Derby events. The two organizations began holding this event annually at different elementary schools in the Louisville area in 2022.

Unbridled Afternoon 2024 horse
Unbridled Afternoon 2024 celebrities
Unbridled Afternoon 2024 horse race

“Unbridled Afternoon” included a slew of Derby-related activities. When the students arrived at the event, held outside Camp Taylor Elementary School, they received the full celebrity treatment as if they were attending the actual Unbridled Eve Gala. They posed for pictures in front of a Blessings in a Backpack step-and-repeat and were interviewed and mingled with local celebrities.

Local celebrities in attendance included former 2022 American Humane National Hero Dog of the Year Ethan Almighty, 2021 Kentucky Derby Festival Queen and 2023 Miss Cosmos United States Gia Combs, former UofL basketball player Valerie Combs, retired Air Force fighter pilot and Thunderbird Rob Givens, 2000 Miss America Heather French Henry, University of Louisville basketball player Eseosa Imafidon, Bellarmine University women’s basketball assistant coach and former University of Louisville basketball player Monique Reid, Spectrum News 1 Kentucky anchors Mario Anderson and Kayla Moody, WLKY morning anchors, Alex Durham and Caray Grace, and more.

Additionally, students will interact with beloved local mascots, including Andy Armadillo from Texas Roadhouse in St. Matthews, Churchill Charlie from Churchill Downs, Tapper from the Louisville Water Company, and additional mascots from the Louisville League of Mascot – Jet Man from Jet’s Pizza, Max the balloon man from RE/MAX, Subman from Subway, and Sudz from Great Clips.

The Derby-themed fun continued for Camp Taylor students throughout the afternoon – they were able to visit a horse in a petting area, see a hot air balloon up close in honor of the Balloon Glow, and received a special treat courtesy of The Comfy Cow. Additionally, students also cheered on their teachers during a stick-horse race called by Louisville radio personalities Kelly K and Ben Davis of 99.7 DJX. All participating teachers were entered into a drawing to win two tickets to the Unbridled Eve Gala courtesy of the Unbridled Eve Foundation, Inc.

The Kentucky Derby Festival Royal Court (Paighton Brooks, Sarah Downs and Emma Rhodes) also attended “Unbridled Afternoon” and helped dismiss students at the end of the school day. Additionally, 25 Camp Taylor students were selected to join the Derby Festival Royal Court on Saturday, April 13, for The Children’s Tea with the Kentucky Derby Festival® Princesses annual event.

“Today’s ‘Unbridled Afternoon’ was a true celebration of joy and community for the children of Camp Taylor Elementary,” said Tonya York, co-founder of the Unbridled Charitable Foundation, Inc. “Witnessing their excitement and smiles reaffirms the importance of initiatives like this in our local community.”

This event was sponsored by RE/MAX Properties East/Keren Benabou, The Comfy Cow and WDJX.

Blessings in a Backpack has provided weekend meals to students at Camp Taylor Elementary School for nearly 10 years.

Blessings in a Backpack is the primary beneficiary of the annual Unbridled Eve Derby Gala, hosted by the Unbridled Eve Charitable Foundation. Over the years, this event has raised over $3.8 million for Blessings in a Backpack and other nonprofits!

This year’s event is May 3, 2024, the evening before the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby. The gala anticipates over 1,000 attendees, including notable celebrity guests, influencers, and VIPs from various industries. Click here to see who all will be at the the Unbridled Eve Derby Gala.

To learn more about the Unbridled Charitable Foundation’s Unbridled Eve, visit