Nov 2, 2021
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NYRA Cares: NYRA continues its support for Hope For The Warriors


Connecting with the organization Hope For The Warriors was the link that U.S.M.C. Staff Sergeant Ryan Anderson used “to regain my freedom,” as he put it.

In 2006, Staff Sergeant Anderson was diagnosed with PTSD and a mild Traumatic Brain Injury after being subjected to seven improvised explosive devices (IEDs) within a three-day span in Iraq. The injuries affected his ability to speak and eventually left him nearly unable to walk.

Back home, Staff Sergeant Anderson connected with Hope For The Warriors in hopes of finding a way to remain active. Starting with a hand cycle donated by the organization and combined with intensive rehabilitation and the support of his family, Staff Sergeant Anderson is now a marathon runner and working toward a dual master’s degree in business administration and finance.

Welcome to another success story from Hope For The Warriors, the North Carolina-based organization that supports post 9/11 service members, veterans and military families in transitioning back to the civilian world. It’s because of the inspiring story of Staff Sergeant Anderson and hundreds of others that the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) is continuing its support of Hope For The Warriors.

To honor the organization and to commemorate Veterans Day, which is next Thursday, Nov. 11, NYRA and owner Harold Lerner are each donating $5,000 to Hope For The Warriors. The donations match those of previous years when NYRA and Mr. Lerner, a U.S. Army veteran, honored service members on Veterans Day.

“NYRA is proud to partner once again with Hope For The Warriors, an organization that provides much needed services to our veterans in the New York City area and around the country,” said NYRA’s Manager of Community Relations Vanessa Rodriguez Payne. “Their work is absolutely crucial to helping post-9/11 veterans and military families regain their footing and thrive.”

United by Honor and Sacrifice

Hope For The Warriors calls itself, “a family, united by our shared conviction of honor and sacrifice.” It was founded in 2006 by military families aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, who witnessed firsthand what war does to service members and their families. The organization offers comprehensive support, health and wellness programs as diverse as the people it serves.

Its Warrior’s Compass program provides comprehensive Transition Services for veterans starting new careers and opportunities for employers to find qualified candidates among service members, military spouses and veterans. That takes in everything from job training to candidate matching, mentoring, resume building and access to 1,500-plus companies looking to hire veterans.

The organization’s scholarship program provides aid in continuing education at accredited universities, colleges or trade schools. And in cases where a veteran or family member is hesitant to seek mental health care treatment within their community or from the VA, a clinical team from Hope For The Warriors team provides short-term, stop-gap supportive services that engage the veteran or family in seeking treatment close to home.

Elsewhere, Hope For The Warriors’ stability grant program provides short-term financial assistance when a veteran or service member is struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Still another program, Resilient Warrior, helps military members and families develop helpful coping tools to combat stress and become more resilient.

Staff Sergeant Anderson is thankful for those services. As a runner, the father of five now trains up to six days a week with an average of 18 to 20 miles, and has completed both the Boston and the Marine Corps marathons. And he is grateful that after his injury, he again has hope.

“It just means so much because Hope For The Warriors has given me so much after my injury,” Staff Sergeant Anderson said. “They’ve helped me get started from a hand cycle, all the way up to now I’m running marathons. I just couldn’t do it without them. This organization has helped me to feel normal again, and I cannot thank them enough for everything that they do.”

This month’s edition of five furlongs visits with Lt. Jesus Torres, a member of the NYRA Security team and a U.S. Army veteran, who takes a few moments to reflect on his military service and the importance of Veterans Day and honoring our vets. Veterans Day is Thursday, Nov. 11:.

I served from 1982 to 1986, which is a long time ago, so I don’t really think about it in the same way as I once did. But when I was in uniform, it meant a lot. At the time, there were still old-timers from the Vietnam era and I’d listen to their stories.

It’s still important to honor our veterans. It was an honor to put on the uniform. I was proud to serve – and I’m still proud that I did.

Why is it important to remember veterans?

My father was a U.S. Army veteran who served during World War II, so when he passed more than 25 years ago, there was a military ceremony at his burial. It just goes to show the importance we give to our vets many, many years after they served. And it goes to show that their service should not be forgotten.

How to do you assess your military career?

I look back with pride that I served. It was also a time when I came of age: I went in as a boy – I was 19 when I enlisted – and I became a man. And they really teach you discipline. 

What lessons did you learn in the U.S. Army that have helped you in your career?

The discipline I learned is something I apply all the time. You also learn how to follow through and how to accomplish tasks to meet your goals.  

What can the rest of us do to support veterans?

Thanking a vet or a service member is always a good thing. So is putting up a flag in front of your house on Veterans Day. I’d also add that if you can find a Veterans Day parade to attend, standing there and waving a flag to give thanks as the vets or soldiers march by is a great thing. It really makes those who served feel good.

Get ready for one of the most spectacular activities of the season: BCCA’s Annual Holiday Shopping for the Children of Backstretch Workers!

Set for Saturday, Dec. 4 at Belmont Park’s Belmont Café, this year’s event will feature more than 500 children from the backstretch families of Belmont Park and Aqueduct Racetrack lining up to “shop” for their perfect holiday gift.

Volunteer “elves” from the community will accompany the children as they select their presents. BCCA raises funds every year to purchase new items for everyone in the family so no money is exchanged as the children “shop.”

Parents will wait in the Sugar Plum Café as they select holiday treats to take home and Santa will be there to greet them and provide each family with a special gift for their home.

The BCCA extends a special thank you to these generous sponsors for helping to make this cherished annual event possible: America’s Pastime Stables, Bloom Racing Stable, Flying P Stable, Jay Gagliano, the New York Racing Association (NYRA), the National Charity League, Inc. (Garden City Chapter), P.C. Richard & Son., Spedale Family Racing, and the USMC Toys for Tots Foundation.

A helping hand…

Want to ensure backstretch families get to enjoy turkey and all the trimming this Thanksgiving?

Consider donating or volunteering for the New York Racetrack Chaplaincy’s annual Thanksgiving Food Assembly and Distribution in the Belmont Park Clubhouse.

In what has become a much anticipated annual event for backstretch families, the Chaplaincy again plans to prepare packages of food for 300 backstretch families.  Along with the turkeys and all the usual Thanksgiving fixings, families will receive additional grocery items to provide for a week's worth of food that includes selections for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

There are several ways to participate, all of them detailed at rtcany.org and by clicking the "Thanksgiving" tab. You can help by organizing a food drive with your school, church, or any group or individuals. You can also volunteer for a two-hour shift at 10 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 20 to help pack the food.

Contact Eleanor Poppe at [email protected] for more information.

About NYRA Cares 

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA), which holds the exclusive franchise to conduct thoroughbred racing at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course, sponsors its NYRA Cares initiative to support the charitable endeavors of industry-related non-profits, service providers and community groups.

In New York, NYRA has long provided sustaining financial contributions to deepen the impact of the Backstretch Employee Service Team (BEST), the Racetrack Chaplaincy of New York and the Belmont Child Care Association (BCCA). 

NYRA Cares partners with national organizations such as the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the American Red Cross, Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program among others. 

The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival is marked by a number of special events and community partnerships sponsored and supported by NYRA. These include the annual Belmont/Elmont Parade, the jockey visit to the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island and the Belmont Stakes Blue Ribbon Run for Prostate Cancer. 

Day 1 of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival is highlighted by NYRA 's annual "Community Day", which will take place in 2021 on June 3. Community Day shines a light on the mission and goals of regional non-profits and service providers who set up informational booths and participate in various activities designed to raise awareness and funding for their efforts.

At historic Saratoga Race Course, NYRA Cares’ signature initiative is the Community Outreach Booth, which each season highlights a total of 40 local and industry non-profit organizations by providing them with a unique platform to share information about their work and fundraising initiatives. One non-profit per day of the summer racing season receives the exclusive opportunity to interact with the thousands of guests who visit Saratoga Race Course. The Community Partner of the Day is also featured in the Post Parade racing program and on televisions throughout the venue. 

To learn more about NYRA Cares, visit: https://www.nyrainc.com/community.

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