Offering A Leg Up, One Last Time: Charity Spotlight Presented By Avion Law

There are very few words that get the adrenaline pumping and heart pounding like “Riders up!”

That’s when all eyes are on the trainer, giving a leg up to the jockey, putting the hopes and dreams of trainers, owners, handicappers, and horse racing fans everywhere on the shoulders of the demure, colorful shoulders sitting aboard a rocket ready to explode. Once the ride is over, the jockey suits up for another round. Each time, he or she puts their trust into several other horses and jockeys, the track, and the horse to make it to the end of the day…just so they can do it all over again tomorrow.

But what happens when the unthinkable happens, and the rider is injured in a race, or even in a morning workout? For most, riding racehorses is all they know, and if they can’t return to the saddle, so much depends on that weekly or daily paycheck. Losing the ability to ride prevents the injured jockey to provide for his or her family, or even return to be near the animal they have grown to love.

Enter the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF). Launched at the 2006 Preakness Stakes, the PDJF is an independent charitable organization that provides financial assistance to jockeys (within the Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred industries) who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries. When created it was a collaborative effort of leaders that represent racetracks across the country, jockeys, horsemen’s groups, and others.

While the PDJF is able to distribute stipends to nearly 60 jockeys every month, averaging $1,000, there’s still so much more the organization can do, if only they had the dependable assistance.

“One thing our board strives for is financial stability,” says Nancy LaSala, president of the PDJF. “We rely on donations because there’s no permanent funding mechanism that comes from horse racing to support the PDJF, so we’re always looking for fundraising ideas, which is always a challenge.

“As proud as I am that we’ve been active and helped so many riders since 2006, I’m somewhat disappointed and frustrated that we haven’t been able to increase the monthly stipend because we have not seen the contributions increase or established a reliable revenue stream.”

Michael Straight and John Velazquez pose with a PDJF magazine

The PDJF is always looking for initiatives that can become those revenue streams, and while LaSala stresses they’re not in the business of event planning, it’s those events that seem to be the biggest draw for money. The PDJF has established an endowment, however each month it’s difficult to add to that endowment due to the lack of income. While the group’s main goal is establishing permanent, consistent funding, the second is to build the endowment to a level to which it can support not only an increase of the monthly stipend to the jockeys but also to be self-sustaining.

“Absent reliable revenue streams, events are necessary,” said LaSala, “Event fundraising was not the primary source of annual funding for the PDJF. The original funding model of the PDJF was industry proposed model whereby racetracks and horsemen’s groups would give a percentage every year and that would be the basis for what the initial monthly stipends were approved for. Then the board was tasked to come up with ways to build the endowment and build revenue streams. It became apparent that we were going to have to become a fundraising machine early on when the original funding model did not take seed by all of its participants, and we were faced with not having sufficient funds to make the next month’s disbursement to our recipients. Awareness of the PDJF through fundraising became critical to continue the mission set out. As well the industry does not have a national database tracking injuries the only way to reach riders who were catastrophically injured was through events, media, and word of mouth.”

One new initiative of the PDJF Board is a program called “Riders Up” which has been presented and received well by the national industry organizations. Riders Up is a way for a horse owner to donate to the PDJF through their winning purse. Instead of there being a fee for each entry, which is a needed source of revenue for other industry organizations, and the PDJF wants to be sensitive to the costs for owners.  This would be done where the winning owner of the race can contribute based on the purse level. The contribution would be one-half of 1 percent of the winning purse, with a cap of $200.

“We have canvassed with many horse owners around the country and received favorable responses from horse owners,” says LaSala. “As well, this is not intended to be a mandatory program and each owner would be able to privately opt out. We are now working out the elements for implementation of this program at the local track levels with each horsemen group and are thankful to InCompass and The Jockey Club for making the software upgrade for this implementation at no cost to the users.”

The PDJF was originally created to provide these men and women with financial assistance, raise awareness of their needs, promote medical research, and support safety initiatives dedicated to reducing catastrophic injuries. The one benefit organizers say they did not foresee at the PDJF’s creation was the community we would be creating for these men and women that did not exist. This community has had such a positive impact on so many of their lives, through the friendships they have formed, their involvement at PDJF events as spokespersons of the PDJF to being for each other in good times and in bad.

“We are blessed with the support we have received, we thank the Paulick Report for their support and the times that Ray and Brad’s raised funds during the Breeders Cup of Bust walk from Lexington to Churchill and their drive to California for Breeders Cup,” added LaSala. “A special thank you to Avion Law for the platform they have provided PDJF and other industry charities by sponsoring these articles.”

To learn more about the PDJF, visit their website:

The post Offering A Leg Up, One Last Time: Charity Spotlight Presented By Avion Law appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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