by Keith McCalmont
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today announced a new charitable initiative designed to raise funds for the NYRA backstretch community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fans can support the effort by purchasing new t-shirts emblazoned with the inspirational messages “Belmont Tough” and “Saratoga Tough.” The t-shirts emphasize the strength and commitment of the men and women who have been working throughout the pandemic to provide essential care for the 1,500 horses stabled on the property.
The Belmont Tough t-shirt is available in steel grey and the Saratoga Tough t-shirt is offered in heather red. The limited-edition t-shirts are now available for sale by visiting https://shop.nyra.com/.
NYRA will donate all net proceeds from t-shirt sales in equal allotments to three non-profit organizations which serve the Belmont Park backstretch community: the Belmont Child Care Association (BCCA); the Backstretch Employee Service Team of New York (B.E.S.T.); and the New York Race Track Chaplaincy of America (NYRTCA).
“The backstretch workers are the unsung heroes of our sport,” said NYRA Chief Operating Officer Gordon Lavalette. “As we move toward the resumption of live racing, we encourage fans to support the men and women whose hard work and dedication have made that possible.”
The BCCA operates Anna House, a childcare and early-childhood education facility at Belmont Park for backstretch families, providing vital support to those who work in thoroughbred racing. Libby Imperio, a longtime owner on the NYRA circuit, is the president of the BCCA board and oversees the organization’s fundraising and outreach efforts.
Anna House was closed on March 17 consistent with Nassau County’s decision to close public schools to help limit the spread of the coronavirus, but the BCCA continues to work remotely to support the children of backstretch workers.
B.E.S.T. operates the B.E.S.T. Health Center located on the Belmont Park backstretch and maintains a staff of 15 full-time workers and numerous volunteers who are tasked with providing backstretch workers free health care, life insurance, drug and mental health counseling, food and clothing.
Led by Executive Director Paul Ruchames, B.E.S.T. operates on an annual budget in excess of $2.2 million which is funded mainly by NYRA and the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA), along with public donations and grants from private foundations.
The NYRTCA, led by Chaplain Humberto Chavez, ministers to the backstretch community with children’s enrichment, social services, recreational programs, educational opportunities and non-denominational religious services.
About the New York Racing Association
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) holds the exclusive franchise to conduct thoroughbred racing at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.
NYRA tracks are the cornerstone of New York State’s thoroughbred industry, which is responsible for 19,000 jobs and more than $3 billion in annual statewide economic impact.
Accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance, NYRA is a founding member of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition, a group of the nation’s leading racing organizations working collaboratively to advance safety reforms across the sport.