Shameless plug alert! But please, please keep reading…
Following my Monday post about the Women in Racing event, benefiting B.E.S.T. (Backstretch Employees Service Team), at Aqueduct this Sunday, I received a very nice e-mail from Cate Dolan, president of B.E.S.T. (Isn’t technology great? I post, she gets a Google alert, and presto! We’re in contact.)
In addition to registering for the brunch on Sunday, I was able to speak with Cate about B.E.S.T.’s work, and I publicize it both to make people aware of this organization and, yes, to help them raise funds. I know it’s the holidays and we’ve all got a lot to spend our money on, but perhaps, with a few extra dollars somewhere, you’ll be able to donate a little to take care of the people who take care of the horses, to B.E.S.T. or to the Belmont Child Care Association.
B.E.S.T. is a two-year-old organization whose mission is to provide backstretch workers with medical care, off-site treatment, and on-site counseling. Though the organization was initially primarily a drug/alcohol program, it’s grown to offer a variety of care and support activities that include transportation to medical appointments, translations, and help with official paperwork. B.E.S.T. operates two medical care facilities, one at Belmont and one at Saratoga, for the backstretch workers.
Sunday’s program is meant to raise awareness of B.E.S.T.’s work in the context of other elements of the sport of horseracing. The event is also a fundraiser, as the costs of B.E.S.T.’s programs have risen with their success in providing benefits for an increasing number of workers.
You might remember that B.E.S.T. was instrumental in raising money to help with Andrew Lakeman’s medical expenses following the accident last spring that left him paralyzed. B.E.S.T. will continue to accept donations for Andrew through the end of the year, and Cate told me that Andrew is doing very well, showing lots of “courage and character.”
New York racing recently got some bad press (now there’s a shocker) in the Albany Times-Union regarding a Thanksgiving dinner for the backstretch workers. While unable to pull it off this year for a variety of reasons (bad communication among them), B.E.S.T. will be holding a holiday dinner later this month, and donators can earmark their contributions for this—or any—cause if they’d like. Cate was also quick to tell me, unsolicited, what a generous support NYRA has been to B.E.S.T. since its inception.
As I have written here and elsewhere, it is the backstretch workers who have gotten lost in all of the conversations about the New York racing franchise. They are at the bottom of the ladder of racing’s workforce, and at this point, they have no idea whether they will be employed in five weeks’ time. As they think about preparing for the holidays and buying presents for their children, they must also think about the possibility that soon, their paychecks will end. It’s a disgrace, an utter disgrace, that the well-to-do politicians of our state are willing to wreak havoc with the well-being of people who work harder, for longer hours and less money, than most of them ever have.
If you can, please help, and I hope that I’ll see those of you in the New York area at the brunch on Sunday.