by NYRA Press Office
The Belmont Child Care Association (BCCA), which operates a childcare and early-childhood education facility at Belmont Park for backstretch families, needs supplies for infants and toddlers.
The BCCA provides vital support to those who work in thoroughbred racing, but on March 17 they closed their facility, called Anna House, consistent with Nassau County's decision to close public schools to help limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Anna House was built in 2002 by BCCA board chairman Michael Dubb. Opened in January 2003, it continues to be the base of BCCA's operations. BCCA has served more than 1,000 students and has raised more than $10 million to cover tuition and operational expenses.
Dubb, a perennial leading owner on the NYRA circuit and a member of NYRA's Board of Directors, said it is important to support the backstretch community during this time of uncertainty.
"Anna House has been an integral part of the community, 365 days a year, since 2003 when we opened. This is the first time we've ever been closed," said Dubb. "The backstretch has always been one big family of hard working people and they are the unsung stars of the sport. We're extremely troubled to have had to close our doors because we know how much the families rely on us."
The BCCA is collecting donations of much-needed items including diapers, wipes, diaper cream, powered milk, and formula, among other items. (See below for a complete list.) If you wish to donate, go to www.belmontchildcare.org/blog for additional information.
Libby Imperio, a longtime horse owner on the NYRA circuit and president of the BCCA board, serves on all of the BCCA committees and oversees its fundraising and outreach efforts.
"Right now, what we need for the families are baby formula, diapers, Desitin diaper cream, juice boxes and any kind of art supplies or creative activities for young kids to work on at home. The need is real and continuous," said Imperio.
Anna House is an integral part of the New York racing community assisting young families - with children ranging from 6-weeks-old to 12-years-old - who work daily to tend to the needs of the equine athletes.
"We have about 60 children on a daily basis and with our school-age program, for children who have graduated Anna House and return on days off and weekends, we have about 100 children in need," said Imperio. "They are all children of the families of the backstretch - the hotwalkers, grooms, exercise riders, assistant trainers and more"
The BCCA is working with the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA), the New York Race Track Chaplaincy of America, and the Backstretch Employee Service Team (BEST) to coordinate accepting and distributing items to those in need.
"NYRA has been very supportive and working very closely with us, especially to coordinate pickups for the families," said BCCA Executive Director Joanne Adams, who works closely with a BCCA executive committee comprised of Dubb, Imperio, Donald Little, Jr., Laura Barillaro, and Patrick Mackay.
With live racing at Aqueduct Racetrack suspended until further notice due to changing circumstances in the racing community relative to the coronavirus, Imperio noted that the community is relying more than ever on the services of the BCCA.
"We are in need. We've had to cancel two of our fundraisers thus far and we will need both the physical and financial donations," said Imperio. "Right now, my immediate concern is for the families and we appreciate anyone who can help us out in any way. The people that take care of the animals have families and without racing they'll be in more need than ever."
Imperio said she is buoyed by the strong sense of family on the backstretch while navigating through the hardships caused by the coronavirus.
"Racing, as a community, is one big family," said Imperio. "We may race against each other in the afternoon, but we all come together in times of need. And right now, we all need to be there for each other."
Below is a list of items currently needed by BCCA:
For Infants and Toddlers