Founded in 2009, Riley's Place serves about 1,200 children a year, according to Executive Director Wendy Mattes. She oversees a collection of miniature horses, goats, rabbits, guinea pigs and a cat stabled in the rear of the National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy at 880 Runnymede Road in Woodside.
Year-round, children who are challenged by major illnesses, disabilities, homelessness and domestic violence are invited to come interact with the animals in their hilly rural setting. Hens and roosters strut around the barn, and specially trained therapy dogs and NCEFT horses join in at times.
When volunteers take the animals offsite to see children at Ronald McDonald House at Stanford or Shelter Network's Haven Family House in Menlo Park, some sheep and chickens might come along, too.
As a nonprofit, Riley's Place depends on sponsors and outside support. The third annual benefit dinner and concert will take place on Saturday, May 19, at the Elks Lodge in Palo Alto from 5:30 to 9 p.m.
Humorist Michael Pritchard will emcee the presentation, which will include some children speaking, a video, and silent and live auctions. Mr. Esposito will then serenade the guests with songs ranging from opera to contemporary.
Originally from Naples, the singer now lives in San Jose, where Mrs. Mattes says he has developed a loyal following. Those fans showed up at last year's Italian dinner gala and she expects them to be back dancing at this year's event, too.
Tickets are $100 each. The deadline for ordering is May 12. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (650) 703-5199.