Earlier this week, the Schenectady Gazette ran a story about the ways in which B.E.S.T. (Backstretch Employees Service Team) will work on behalf of the Saratoga backstretch workers this spring and summer (thanks, Equidaily, for the link to this story). B.E.S.T., located on the backstretch at Belmont, began as a drug and alcohol treatment program and has grown to offer a variety of care and support activities for backstretch workers, including transportation to medical appointments, translations, and help with official paperwork.
The Gazette story features three benefits that will be offered to Saratoga workers this summer: free phone calls home, a real bed (as opposed to a mattress or air mattress on the floor), and dental work. My hometown bank, Adirondack Trust, is sponsoring the initiative to build 800 bed frames that will furnish the workers’ living quarters, and area colleges are donating 300 beds. A “bed-building day” will be held this Saturday at Saratoga, and volunteers are needed. If you’re in the area and interested in helping, you can contact B.E.S.T. directly.
In another initiative, John Hendrickson, husband of Marylou Whitney, is sponsoring a weekly Sunday night “backstretch appreciation” dinner. Volunteers are also needed for these events.
Closer to Brooklyn, B.E.S.T. is holding a fundraiser on May 28th: “Simply the BEST
A Celebration of New York Racing.” The event will be held at Hempstead House in Sands Point, New York, and a special Lifetime Outstanding Trainer award will be presented to Allen Jerkens. More information is at the B.E.S.T. website.
In other backstretch news, Anna House at the Belmont Child Care Association is gearing up for two big events, the first of which is the Rags to Riches Belmont Charity Casino Night, Thursday, June 5th at Meadowbrook Pointe in Westbury, NY. The event will benefit the Belmont Child Care Association and the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, dedicated to improving the health and soundness of all breeds of horses.
The second event is the big Saratoga fundraiser, this year honoring Todd and Tracy Pletcher, taking place in Saratoga on August 20th. Even if you can’t attend this event, you can contribute/help in multiple ways. You can buy an ad in the benefit program (prices range from $100 to $600), or you can donate an auction item or service. Are you an artist or a jewelry maker? Could you donate a service or vacation item? How about theater tickets, hotel rooms, sports tickets? The BCCA is looking for items for their live and silent auction, and I’d be happy to provide more information for anyone who’s interested—please contact me at the e-mail address on the right. You can also donate American Express rewards points directly through American Express; last year, the BCCA used donated points to purchase airline tickets to Louisville as part of a Derby package that was auctioned.
I worked on and attended last summer’s event, and I’ve volunteered at Anna House on a number of occasions. It’s a terrific place, providing an invaluable and irreplaceable service to the backstretch workers. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’re interested in attending, volunteering, or contributing.