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The Drive To Help Others

Published: December 3, 2020 12:01 pm ET

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Standardbred racing’s version of Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus are coming to town.

Although they won’t be wearing festive suits and making their way across the globe from the North Pole, driver Trevor Henry and his wife, trainer Shannon Henry, will be delivering plenty of good cheer and presents this holiday season.

“It’s nice to be in a position to help people, especially kids, at this time of the year,” said Trevor. “It’s been a tough year for horse racing and it’s been a tough year everywhere, really.”

Trevor is one of eight reinsmen taking part in The Raceway at the Western Fair District’s inaugural Holiday Drivers’ Challenge.

The event, slated for Dec. 20 at the London, Ont., oval, will see four drivers from Woodbine Mohawk Park, including Henry, join four drivers from The Raceway in an evening where all participants donate their driver earnings to Toys For Tots, a Canadian charity based on local partnerships between Canadian Armed Forces, businesses, and concerned citizenry whose sole focus is to provide toys for children who are in need.

Shannon Henry, who has 71 career training triumphs, including a career-best 20 wins in 2012, has been hard at work drumming up support for the event on her Facebook page.

Through her posts, she’s been encouraging people to donate toys at Woodbine Mohawk Park, presents the Henrys will bring with them to London on the day of the Drivers’ Holiday Challenge.

“When Greg [Gangle, raceway manager at Western Fair] asked me in October if Trevor would be interested in driving in the challenge, I jokingly said, ‘At Trevor’s age, if anybody wants him, he’s available.’ Greg used to own horses with us over the past few years, and we just started talking about the event. He mentioned doing a toy drive, which would all go to Toys For Tots, and asked me back in October if I could promote it when the time came. He’s just a very giving person, and I told him that I’d be glad to help him out. I also thought maybe Mohawk people could come together for the cause.”

And that’s exactly what they have done.

To date, over 60-plus gifts have been donated by horsepeople at Mohawk.

How they receive the toys has required some ingenuity – open doors and a few roadside pickups – on the Henrys’ part.

“There are good people at Mohawk,” said Shannon. “We’ve had such a wonderful response. People are being so generous and kind. We weren’t able to out a box in the paddock, understandably, due to the COVID-19 protocols in place, so Joanne Colville and J. Wade McCoy at Mohawk offered to accept gifts on our behalf if I wasn’t there to get them.

“Trevor just told them he’d leave the car open and they could put the gifts in there. That’s what people are doing. We’ve also had people meet Trevor on the side of the road outside of Mohawk to give gifts.”

Those donating to the cause also have a little extra incentive, specifically, a $100 gift card for The Keg restaurant.

“We just want to get as many people involved at Mohawk as we can,” started Shannon. “We asked people to pick the name of the Mohawk driver they think will win the challenge, and their name will go into a draw for the prize. If a Mohawk driver doesn’t win, everybody goes into the draw. We thought this could add to a little friendly competition between Mohawk and Western Fair.”

Now a member of the 7,000-win club, Henry, who has represented Ontario on three occasions at the National Driving Championship, has driven the winners of nearly $66 million over the course of his more than three-decade career.

He’s looking forward to adding to those totals in less than three weeks at Western Fair.

“It’s going to be fun,” said the driver who turned heads at Ontario's half-mile tracks like Western Fair and Grand River before making his mark on the WEG circuit and establishing himself as one of Canada’s top talents. “It’s always great to be able to go to London and drive. It’s just nice to be able to something for others. It’s been a crappy year, and there are probably a lot of kids who need toys this Holiday season, so it’s nice to help out.”

While Bob McClure has made a side wager with fellow Mohawk regular Doug McNair, Henry won’t be making any bets of his own ahead of the event.

Aside from making as much money as he can for Toys For Tots, his other goal has nothing to do with dollar signs.

“I’m just going to go there, mind my own business, and kick their butts,” laughed Henry, who has $4,778,370 in purse earnings in 2020, currently ranking him fourth overall in Canada.

Regardless of who earns bragging rights in the Mohawk drivers’ room, it’s people the Henrys will likely never cross paths with who are top of mind.

“Our kids are all grown up, so it’s nice to help other kids out,” said Trevor, whose career-best season for victories was 533 in 2012, while his highest earning season was $5.9 million in 2017. “Just knowing kids will have something at Christmastime is nice. That’s what it is really all about.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Shannon.

“You won’t know the ones who will receive the presents, but you hope that it puts a smile on some faces.”

Currently, there are no plans for Trevor to grow a Santa-type beard, or for Shannon to dress up in red and white for Dec. 20.

And although they won’t look the part, the husband and wife will undoubtedly be a perfect representation of Santa and Mrs. Claus that evening.

They’re grateful for their many helpers along the way.

“I’m really not surprised people at Mohawk have stepped up,” offered Shannon. “They have been great. Christmas isn’t what it usually is, so this just helps. Helping people in need is important, even more so at this time of the year, and with the crazy year everyone has experienced.”

It’s one of many reasons why the couple has had Dec. 20 circled in their calendars for a while.

“The challenge and the toy drive is something to look forward to,” said Shannon. “We’ve been fortunate that racing is still going. This is just one small way to help those that aren’t as fortunate. I think it’s something everyone can feel good about.”

(Ontario Racing)

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