Adopting a backstretch family for Christmas

Over the next few weeks, this space will be filled with holiday spirit: racetrack initiatives offering ways to help; retirement and rescue organizations doing fund-raisers; suggestions for gifts for the racing lover in your life.

Last week we kicked off with the annual Belmont Child Care Association holiday party; I spent my Black Friday shopping with my family for gifts that children of the backstretch workers can give their families for Christmas. Click the top right photo here for more information on how you, too, can help bring Christmas to backstretch families.

The New York Race Track Chaplaincy is offering an “Adopt A Family” program this year, to provide food and gifts to backstretch families during the Christmas season.

According to the Chaplaincy, 75 families on the backstretch are in real need or experiencing crisis: financial hardships, single-parent households, illness and other struggles.  To help bring Christmas to these families, the Chaplaincy is asking for sponsors to provide clothing or a toy for each child in the family and a grocery store gift card that the family can use to purchase Christmas dinner.  The Chaplaincy estimates the cost of adopting a family to range from $60 to $100.

Those interested in helping – and families can be shared, if you’d like to join with a friend – can contact the Chaplaincy by phone or through Facebook. Let the Chaplaincy know how many families you’d like to sponsor, and you’ll receive information about a family that will include the number of family members and the age, sex, and size of each child.

Your job then is to go shopping – and isn’t it fun when shopping is an obligation?  Purchase a gift for each child and a grocery store gift card for the family, wrapping all the gifts and clearly marking each one with the name of the recipient.

To make for easy delivery, you can place all your items in a box or bag marked with the family’s name; larger items can be identified with a tag. Donations can be dropped off during the first two weeks in December at the Chaplaincy office near Gate 6 on the Belmont backstretch.

For more information, you can contact the Chaplaincy’s family coordinator at 516 488 6000, extension 4036 during regular business hours.  The Chaplaincy is happy to provide receipts for tax purposes upon request. If you’re not from the area and can’t deliver gifts, the Chaplaincy can assign you a family for which you can buy gift cards to mail in lieu of presents.

Last Friday, following General Maximus’s fatal breakdown in Thursday’s Fall Highweight at Aqueduct, the DRF’s David Grening visited the barn of John Terranova, General Maximus’s trainer. Sadness pervaded the barn, but Terranova noted in particular the grief of General Maximus’s groom.

Terranova…said he was at his barn around 9:30 p.m. Thursday night and saw one of his employees, Arturo Lopez Perez, the groom of General Maximus, crying inside the stall.

In working and living conditions that few of us would find acceptable, the men and women on the backstretch give their hearts, their minds, and their bodies to the care of the animals that bring us so much joy. The BCCA and the Chaplaincy offer us the opportunity to let them know that we notice and we care, and to thank them, in some small way, for what they give us every racing day.

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