Outreach Program For Backstretch Employees Expanding

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Keeneland Backstretch Workers

Keeneland and Blue Grass Farms Charities are partnering on a new initiative – the Backstretch CORE Program (Comprehensive Outreach and Enrichment) – to provide expanded services to the track’s backstretch employees.

Founded in 2003, BGFC (www.bgfcky.com) is a non-profit organization devoted to providing social services to people who work in the Thoroughbred industry in Central Kentucky.

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Last year, the organization assisted more than 2,300 people through its various programs.

The organization’s outreach has concentrated on employees at farms, but now is expanding to Keeneland and The Thoroughbred Center on Paris Pike.

“The industry cannot function without the people working on the backstretch and on farms,” said BGFC President Mary Lee-Butte. “They are the backbone of the industry.”

Chaplain Israel “Izzy” Avelar is the director of Backstretch CORE. He will be based at Keeneland and The Thoroughbred Center.

Backstretch CORE will offer free health clinics and referrals, recreation, Bible studies, counseling, a food and clothing pantry, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, recreational activities, and fellowship to enhance the quality of life on the backstretch.

One of its first events will be an ESL class that begins Sept. 23 at The Thoroughbred Center. A similar class will be held at Keeneland during the fall race meet in October. BGFC also will participate in the Horses and Hope health fair at Keeneland on Oct. 21.

“Keeneland is pleased to partner with Blue Grass Farms Charities to provide services that will enrich the lives of our backstretch workers,” said Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason. “They are vital members of the community at Keeneland and The Thoroughbred Center.”

BGFC’s other activities have included basketball and soccer tournaments; free summer camps for lower-income children of industry employees; a free Thanksgiving dinner; and an annual Christmas party at the Keeneland Entertainment Center called “Festival of Christmas” with gifts, clothing, and a hot meal for some 1,000 guests.

BGFC is supported by individuals, farms and organizations in the Thoroughbred industry, as well as by a number of area businesses, through sponsorships, donations and fundraisers. On Oct. 18, it will host the “Racino Rendezvous” fundraiser at the Marriott Griffin Gate in Lexington.

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.