Day At The Track

Helping kids comes first for Saratoga drivers

04:32 PM 22 Aug 2011 NZST
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For the third year in a row, harness racing drivers from the Harness Track at Saratoga Casino and Raceway (SCR) have chosen Franklin Community Center (FCC) as the recipient of their generosity for 'Project Lift', donating their driver's fees for an entire day to the Center and proving that giving back to the local community is just as important as the race to the finish line.

On August 30, the FCC’s "Project Lift" will benefit from this year’s donation of $6,000. That donation consists of the $3,000 in driver’s fees which are voluntarily given up by the drivers and then matched by Saratoga Casino and Raceway. Raceway officials say the drivers are so passionate about the cause, that they are the ones who spearhead the annual effort to make this donation happen.

"We are extremely pleased to partner with the Saratoga Harness Horsemen’s Association (SHHA) and the drivers at SCR to support "Project Lift". SHHA President Barry Segel and all the drivers at SCR value the many community based programs administered by the FCC and are proud to make a donation to this very deserving organization which touches the lives of so many Saratogians," said Skip Carlson, Vice President of External Affairs at the casino.

Franklin Community Center’s programs have been hit particularly hard over the past year with funding cuts, especially Project Lift, their after-school prevention program for at-risk youth in grades 1-5. Serving 75 children and their families in the Saratoga Springs City School District each year, it’s one of the Center’s most important programs, leaving FCC staff to find supplemental income to ensure the same level of service that has been provided for nearly 30 years.

Services to Project Lift families stretch much farther than a basic after school program; offering a safe, caring and structured environment, Project Lift’s unique approach heightens children’s social and emotional competence, improves decision-making skills, offers lessons on the prevention of tobacco, drugs, alcohol and bullying, boosts self-esteem and helps strengthen the bond between child, family, school and community. All of the families enrolled in the program utilize the agency’s ancillary services, including food, clothing, school supplies for the entire family, holiday assistance and Christmas gifts, summer camp scholarships, winter gear and much more.

The staff at FCC says the program is too important to too many families to see it dwindle, and the donation from the drivers couldn’t come at a better time. Executive Director, Kari Cushing, said, "It’s donations like this one that are going to help keep Project Lift going. We need to keep making up for losses so we can ensure these families don’t have to go without. The drivers really understand the impact of Project Lift, and we are so grateful to them and SCR."

The Saratoga Casino and Raceway relationship with Franklin Community Center has been flourishing for the past seven years. As one of the agency’s biggest donors throughout the year, FCC says it means even more receiving from a business whose entire staff stands behind their mission.

"This is what helps keep us going every day. We are so lucky to have such generous people supporting us that are willing to sacrifice their own wages to ensure that others have what they need. It’s paying it forward in the best way possible," said Coordinator of Development, Bo Goliber.

Crystal BEAUCHEMIN

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