Last Wednesday, the children and the teachers at Anna House celebrated Thanksgiving. Taking a break from their usual lessons and activities, they paused to give thanks, the day before most of us celebrated the holiday.
And on Thursday morning, as many of us slept late or cooked for our loved ones, Anna House opened at 5 am, as it does every single day of the year. Horses need to be fed and walked, even on holidays, so the backstretch workers at New York tracks got up and went to work, and their children went to Anna House.
Anna House was opened in 2002 to provide a safe, educational place for children of backstretch workers to go while their parents worked in the barns. If you’ve ever looked for childcare, you know the likelihood of finding a place that opens at 5 am (zero); add to that the need for reliable care on a backstretch worker’s salary, and it’s little surprise that before Anna House, many children spent the morning in tack rooms or their parents’ cars.
At Anna House, students learn English so that they’re bilingual when it’s time to go to kindergarten. They learn about nutrition, and they practice basic computer skills. And they learn that Christmas isn’t only about what Santa brings; they learn that it’s about what they can bring their families.
Thanks to the generosity of many donors, each December the Belmont Child Care Association holds a holiday shopping event at which the children of backstretch workers can choose gifts to give to their parents and siblings.
They choose jewelry and toys, footballs and bubble bath. They choose gloves and hats so that their parents stay warm during the cold winter morning hours with the horses. At the end of their “shopping trip,” the children can choose a toy for themselves.
Anna House volunteers serve as Christmas elves, escorting the children, helping them select gifts, and wrapping, tagging, and bagging the presents that will be placed under the Christmas trees in the homes of the people who take care of the horses every morning, 365 days a year.
The Belmont Child Care Association is accepting donations of cash, gifts, and gift cards to help stock our Santa’s workshop. To make a donation or to volunteer at the event, please contact the BCCA or me. To keep up with Anna House news and events, please visit our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.
I am proud to be a member of the BCCA board and grateful to the hundreds of people whose donations of time and money make it possible for parents to go to the barns each morning, knowing that their children are safe and cared for. Thanks especially to New York’s owners and trainers, who show up at fundraising events, who volunteer, and who donate. Thanks, too, to the New York Racing Association for its support and for providing space for this year’s event.
For some of us, it’s still a little early to start thinking about Christmas, but at Anna House, we thank all the elves who will help bring the holiday and the spirit of giving to the children this year.