Mary Forney's Blog
I was recently honored to be appointed to the board of directors of Winners Foundation, a non-profit organization established to provide information, support and referral sources to employees and family members of the California horse racing community. Founded in 1984, its primary purpose is to assist men and women whose personal and professional lives, and those of their loved ones, are being adversely affected as a result of alcohol and/or substance abuse.
Also appointed was Michael Kilpack, Supervising Investigator, Southern Region, for the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB). Kilpack has been with the CHRB since 1984, and worked 20 years at Southern California Thoroughbred tracks. He is currently assigned to the Los Alamitos field office.
Completing the board are Thomas Capehart, Charles Dougherty, Jr., George Haines, Darrell Haire, Joseph Harper (Chair), James Henwood, Doris Johnson, Beverly Lewis, Donald Murray, George Nicholaw, Neil O’Dwyer, Gino Roncelli (President), Noble Threewitt, Peter Tunney, and Michael Ziegler.
Although I have long admired the work of Winners Foundation, and have volunteered to work at their annual charity golf tournaments for years, this week I made my first visit to its Santa Anita offices. I immediately felt immersed in an atmosphere of serenity.
“We say we’re like Switzerland,” said Executive Director, Bob Fletcher. “We provide a neutral place people can come and just hang out, feel safe, find respite from the things in their lives bothering them, and hopefully some solutions.”
At all Winners Foundation facilities, confidentiality laws are respected, and the organization is totally independent – meaning they are not mandated to answer to the California Horse Racing Board, track security, or track management.
“The nice thing about it is the racetracks respect that,” said Fletcher. “So, people can come by, sit on the couch, get a cup of coffee, maybe watch a race or two, air their grievances. We want this to be their clubhouse, their sanctuary. Then, when the trust is built, we have a better opportunity to help them."
Winners Foundation has skilled and caring representatives at each of the California primary tracks as well as each of the racing fairs. The Southern California staff includes senior case manager LeRoy Martinez and executive assistant Yolanda Pina. Nora Lee is the supervisor in Northern California, along with senior case manager Armando Calero.
Winners Foundation provides confidential assistance on a one-to-one basis to employees and family members seeking help, supplying simple information and direction to more formal recovery programs.
Any employee or family member of the California thoroughbred horse racing community, that is eligible, may seek assistance and referrals free of charge. This includes backstretch workers as well as frontside employees of Del Mar, Fairplex, Golden Gate Fields, Hollywood Park, Oak Tree, Santa Anita and the California Association of Racing Fairs.
I am truly honored to join such an esteemed group as a board member, and look forward to working with them for the betterment of the lives of the people of our great sport.