Atlanta, GA,
11:05 AM

They Had a Barrel of Fun

It’s not uncommon for State Farm® agents to get unusual questions from customers. Teresa Grubbs knew there had to be an interesting story behind the inquiry she received last October.

“A customer called my office and asked if I had any pull with the State Farm Arena in Atlanta,” Teresa chuckles,” to which I replied ‘Uh, no, not at all.’”

The customer is the founder of the Dei Gratia International Training Center in Spalding County, Ga. The center helps international riders come to the U.S. to compete in National Barrel Horse Association racing competitions.

They had recently hosted Filip, their first rider from Slovakia and their first rider with Down syndrome. He started riding horses 10 years ago as therapy. Filip didn’t travel with his own horse, so trainers at the center provided horses for him to choose from to ride in the competition.

“Filip has won numerous awards and medals in barrel racing,” Teresa says of the 20-year old. “He won the gold and silver medals in the Special Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Calif., in 2015, and in 2017 he won the Handicap Barrel Race World Championship.”

Filip came to the U.S. with his father and a film crew from a program called “V Siedmom Nebi,” which translates to “Seventh Heaven.” It’s a program that grants wishes to those with serious illnesses or physical challenges.

Besides riding in the barrel racing competition, one of Filip’s wishes was to go to an Atlanta Hawks basketball game.

“The program sponsor had purchased tickets to a Hawks game, but something got lost in translation,” explains the 30-year agent from Griffin, Ga. “They purchased the tickets for the wrong night and missed the game. He was only in the country about a week and this was the last thing on his wish list.”

That’s where Teresa came in.

“The customer, who had helped them with the barrel competition, asked if I would call State Farm Arena, explain the mistake and have the group’s tickets changed,” she says. “I didn’t have any way to do that, so I decided I would buy them tickets to the next home game.”

While attempting to help Filip and his group get tickets, Teresa spoke with Terrell, an associate at the arena. She told him about Filip and the special situation.

“He must have contacted someone at the facility who was associated with the Hawks because when Filip and the group arrived at the arena, they were treated to a meet and greet with current and former players, including Vince Carter and Dominique Wilkins.”

Filip had quite an ending to his Seventh Heaven trip to the U.S.

Teresa is a proponent for those who have physical or mental challenges.

“My husband was the executive director of the Griffin Area Resources Center for 22 years,” adds Teresa. “The center provides people with mental health challenges vocational training, employment, residential services and family outreach services.

“I never got to meet Filip, but I’m glad I could help him check off the final wish on his list.”

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