A few months before the doors opened for the inaugural Breeders’ Cup at Hollywood Park on November 10, 1984, the doors opened for Winners Foundation which, like the Breeders’ Cup, continues working uninterrupted to this day. But unlike the Breeders’ Cup, which celebrates two days a year, the work of the Winners Foundation is largely uncelebrated 365 days a year, often 24 hours a day as the Foundation continually assists those who work with and care for the horses and the racetracks.
The Winners Foundation provides a vital service to the California horse racing community, with a large referral base and relationships with a myriad of mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities – both in and out patient, city and county services, sober living environments and mental health practitioners. All arrangements and referrals made by Winners are at no cost to the employee or his/her family member, and confidentiality is paramount.
“The racing community has always been about taking care of its own and Winners Foundation is blessed to be allowed to offer and support second chances for those employees who have life style struggles” says Bob Fletcher, Executive Director of the Foundation.
In 1984, Lou Rowan, one of the original founders of the Oak Tree Racing Association, enlisted several other prominent horsemen including Gino Roncelli, Herman Smith, Jr., and Joe McAnally to develop a service to help and heal those with these afflictions. From that mission statement, Winners Foundation was established. From the backstretch to the Front Office, Winners Foundation has expanded its reach to help more employees and their families get a second chance at life and at work.
“There is little room for error on the track and in the barns when dealing with the power of a race horse,” said one noted Thoroughbred trainer in support of employees helped by Winners Foundation. “We need everyone sharp-eyed and clear-headed when handling these beautiful horses. In this industry, we take care of our own. Good talent is hard to come by. Winners Foundation has counseled several of our employees back to a sense of fulfillment, peace of mind, and a productive life. We want to continue this legacy of taking care of our horses and our workers. Winners Foundation helps us get there.”
“Having Winners Foundation and their services available provides an enormous value to the racing industry,” said one California race track executive. “Their referral services, programs and ongoing support allow us to help all our valued employees return to a normal life and regular employment. The return of a renewed employee outweighs the economic cost to us every time.”