If you saw last Saturday''s Illinois Derby, chances are you saw the horses and the jockeys and the on-air television staff for WGN or TVG or for Hawthorne Race Course. They're the people you see, be it a half-million dollar race on television or your average weekday claiming race.
But they aren't the only people you encounter at the track.
The attendant who guides your car to the parking space. The usher handing a program. The clerks ready to listen to your bet. The cook in the back making french fries. And on and on.
This post is about people you normally don't see.
They are racetrack chaplains. Given that sometimes itinerant lifestyle (for example, grooms and hotwalkers that follow a trainer that winters in Florida but races in Illinois in warm weather), chaplains can provide stability when your home may be Motel 6. Given that temptations (substance abuse, for one), chaplains can provide spiritual and personal guidance as needed. Given the economic struggles of some backstretch workers, chaplains can provide support here as well.
For Arlington Park, Hawthorne Race Course, and downstate Fairmount Park, the state chapter is the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America, Illinois Chapter. The mission of this group, RTCAIL, according to their website is
"To meet, with Excellence, The Spiritual, Emotional, Physical and Social/Educational needs of the work force in The Horse Racing Industry. Working in this worldwide village are track executives, horse trainers, hot walkers, barn crew members, security and concession workers and RTCA Chaplains strive to serve them all."
A not-for-profit group, RTCAIL relies on donations to further its cause. Details on donating are at the conclusion of this piece. In addition, you can show your support this weekend.
RTCAIL is also having a rummage sale on Saturday April 14. According to RTCAIL Director of Ministry Charmaine Arosen,
"This sale of gently used and new items will benefit the ministries of the race track chaplaincy and the community surrounding Hawthorne Race Course. We're extremely grateful to Hawthorne for supporting this initial event. In the future we'd like to operate an ongoing thrift shop where backstretch personnel can purchase any items they need at a greatly reduced cost."
The first sale will be held on Saturday, April 14, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. inside Iglesia Bautista Betel, 5318 West 25th Street in Cicero, about a mile north of Hawthorne.
A second, smaller sale will be held in Hawthorne's track kitchen on Tuesday, April 17 from 12 noon to 4 p.m. for those who were not able to shop at the church sale.
In summer, the chaplaincy will hold a similar sale to benefit the Arlington Park community. "We expect this to become a semiannual event to benefit residents near both (Chicagoland) tracks," Arosen says.
For those unable to attend the sales but still wish to donate, donations can be made to:
Racetrack Chaplaincy of America-IL
P.O Box 95583
Palatine, IL 60095
Donations can also be made at their website.
Disclaimer: The Author claims no affiliation to any explicit or implied religious views presented above.