Harness Helps Alberta

Published: May 20, 2018 10:36 am EDT

After what seemed like a never-ending winter, spring has finally sprung in Alberta. The birds are singing, the sun is shining, and the season of harness racing is well underway at Century Downs in Balzac, just outside of Calgary.

The backstretch is buzzing with the start of stakes season and the return of many horses who spent the winter away in either California or British Columbia. Despite this, there is one topic that remains constant through all the chatter — how can we give back?

Between the long days, constant hustle, and never ending to do list that’s a trademark of the industry, there are a number of upcoming events that have been organized — all in the name of giving back to the communities these horsemen call home.

First up is Pacing For Charity, to be held May 27 at Century Downs and spearheaded by the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association. For the third year in a row, not only are they bringing out three top Canadian drivers to catch drive for that day’s race card, but the drivers are donating their income (and time) from that day to support some amazing causes. Jody Jamieson is a familiar face in the world of harness racing as a two-time winner of the World Driving Championships as well as the North American Cup. Jamieson will be racing in support of Autism Canada – a hub of knowledge understanding about Autism Spectrum Disorder since its inception in 1976. Joining Jody will be 2017 Driver of the Year Doug McNair, who will race in support of Perky In Pink for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, along with James MacDonald, who won the 2017 World Driving Championship on home soil in PEI last summer, racing on behalf of JDRF Canada. Post time is 1:15 p.m. (MDT), and will be a great opportunity to watch some of Canada’s top talent compete to raise funds for the three deserving charities.

Next month, driver-trainer Kelly Hoerdt and his team at Bedrock Farms will open their doors and team up with Nitza’s Pizza for the fourth annual Family Picnic Fundraiser to benefit the Stollery Children’s Hospital. In exchange for a small monetary donation, families and fans alike are welcome to come and enjoy a number of great events including an inflatable obstacle course, pony rides, balloon artists, face painting, and even a ride on a cart behind a real race horse! Nitza’s Pizza is catering the event, alongside a silent auction, live music, and a 50/50 draw. All donations, as well as proceeds from the event, will be given to the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation. Since the event’s creation, the team at Bedrock & Nitza’s has raised over $62,000 for their cause. This year’s event runs on Sunday, June 10 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. There will be donation boxes available on site. Location details (including a map) can be found at www.bedrockfarms.ca.

Come July 22, the community will once again join together for Meridian Farms KidSport Day! KidSport is a national non-profit organization that provides support to children in order to remove financial barriers that prevent them from playing organized sport. Since 1995, KidSport has distributed over $15.9 million to over 80,900 children and youth throughout Alberta. This is an all-ages, family-oriented event, so be ready! In addition to the regular horse racing fair, there will also be an ice cream truck, colouring contest, and more for the kids! KidSport Ambassador and driver-trainer Dave Kelly will be on hand to meet fans, and is donating a portion of his earnings to the cause from now until the time of the event. Post time is 1:15 p.m.

It’s shaping up to be a beautiful summer for harness racing in Alberta, complete with plenty of opportunity to take in a day at the races (maybe for the first time!) and support some great causes at the same time.

(with files from ASHA)

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