So it’s official: It’s holiday shopping season. Black Friday has come and gone; today is Cyber Monday, when, according to people who pay attention to such things, many, many work hours are lost by those taking advantage of their office computers to do a little online shopping.
You likely have plenty of gift options for the racing fans in your life—racing books, a generous voucher for the windows at their favorite track, perhaps even a share in a racehorse.
But if you’re interested in a gift that gives to not only your loved ones, you might consider giving back to those who make the sport possible. There are plenty of racing and animal charities out there that would benefit from your dollars this holiday season; here’s a list, in case you’d like to make a donation in the name of the racing fan(s) in your life.
I have checked out and donated to many of the organizations below, but you should do your own research before donating to any charitable organization. Guidestar and Charity Navigator provide useful information on the status of non-profits and the ways that organizations use their donations. Many of these organizations also have Twitter and Facebook presences, where you can find more information about them and get updates about their work.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand. In 2000, four year old cancer patient Alexandra Scott decided that she wanted to have a lemonade sale to raise money to help kids with cancer; for four years, until her death at age eight, Alex and her family held an annual lemonade sale to raise money for childhood cancer research. In 2005, the connections of Afleet Alex linked their star colt to this charity, bringing it to national attention when more than 1,100 Alex’s Lemonade Stands were put up on Belmont Stakes Day around the country.
At last year’s Lemon Ball in Philadelphia, Afleet Alex’s connections were honored for their commitment to this organization. Fans of the gutsy colt who won the Preakness and the Belmont have adopted this charity as their own, and now that Afleet Alex’s first foals have hit the track, it might be a good time to honor the legacy of his connections who helped bring Alex’s Lemonade Stand to prominence–especially if you’re one of those people, like me, in whose world Afleet Alex is the most recent Triple Crown winner.
CANTER, the Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses, has chapters in eight states and regions and works to find homes for Thoroughbreds when their racing careers are over. Not long ago I wrote about CANTER New England and the work of Jennifer Montfort at Suffolk Downs; she’s joined by volunteers in Kentucky, Illinois, California, Michigan, the Mid-Atlantic, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. They hit the backstretch every weekend, talking to trainers, matching buyers and sellers, so that horses who can’t or shouldn’t race any more have other career options. CANTER is currently accepting donations to honor Bobby Frankel’s memory.
The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation works to find homes and jobs for Thoroughbreds who come off the track. In addition to donating, you adopt, foster, or sponsor a horse through the TRF. Come on…you know you know someone who’d like to “own” a retired Thoroughbred, have his halter, have his picture…and get visiting rights!
Old Friends offers retired Thoroughbreds a safe, comfortable—even luxurious!—retirement on its Lexington farm. And now, northern Thoroughbreds will find a home at Old Friends at Cabin Creek: the Bobby Frankel Division. Its first resident arrives this week at the farm a short drive from Saratoga Race Course, and its grand opening will be next summer. If you’ve ever wanted to feed a carrot to a champion–or get bitten by one!–you need only head to Old Friends. We should all have such good retirements…
The Belmont Child Care Association offers very low cost child care to the children of the backstretch workers. Anna House opens at 5 a.m. 365 days a year, so that the people who take care of the horses can go to work knowing that their children are in good hands. At Anna House you’ll find newborns, toddlers, and pre-schoolers; they can stay until they enroll in kindergarten. In the afternoon, Anna House offers free tutoring to older children. The BCCA is currently accepting donations for its holiday party on December 12th, at which the children can pick out gifts to give to their families for Christmas.
Backstretch Employees Service Team (B.E.S.T.) offers a variety of services to New York backstretch workers, including health care, visa assistance, and translation. Housed on the Belmont backstretch, it assists workers at all three NYRA tracks and has an active presence at Saratoga during the summer.
ReRun is a Thoroughbred adoption program that helps ex-racehorses find a second career. After resting and being evaluated and rehabilitated as needed, Thoroughbreds are placed with qualified adopters to begin their chance at a second career. ReRun has farms in New York and New Jersey, and its Moneigh auction of equine art—that’s art BY horses, not OF horses!—began yesterday. Bid on paintings by Distorted Humor, Serena’s Song, Presious Passion, Midnight Lute, Funny Cide, Rags to Riches, and Cigar, among others.
This weekend at Aqueduct, the U.S. Marine Corps will set up its annual Toys for Tots donation center. Both Saturday and Sunday, you can bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate; the Marines will also accept cash donations. Gary Contessa is pledging 10% of whatever purse money his horses earn on December 5th, with a minimum donation of $1,500; owner Harold Lerner will donate $5,000. NYRA will match all financial donations, including Contessa’s and Lerner’s, for a minimum donation of $6,500. So if you’re heading to the Big A this weekend, make sure to bring your checkbook…and to donate BEFORE you head to the windows!