Three Chimneys presents Good News Friday: A Lasting Pillar of Community
Our story begins in 1946, the year Assault won the Triple Crown. Radio listeners could hear new hit records from Perry Como, Nat King Cole and a young Frank Sinatra. America was recovering from a second World War.
Along the Jersey Shore, there hadn’t been horse racing for more than 50 years. But in June of 1946, the new Monmouth Park opened its doors to a crowd of nearly 19,000. The effort to rebuild the track was led by former General Motors vice president Amory Haskell and textile magnate Philip Iselin.
Shortly after racing resumed, Haskell and Iselin gathered 15 women together to brainstorm a way to thank the people of Monmouth County for making their dream of reviving racing a reality.
The group decided on a charity ball that would include dinner and dancing. The money raised would go back into the community. The Monmouth Park Charity Fund was born, and it still exists to this day.
Since the first Ball in 1947, the fund has distributed $8.7 million to more than 100 nonprofit organizations in the local community.
“A lot of them that we still fund today came from the original list in 1947,” said Mary Ann Martin, executive director of the Monmouth Park Charity Fund. “Of course, we’ve added new ones over the years.”
The groups benefiting from the fund’s assistance range from the local Red Cross to the Salvation Army, from child health care organizations to Interfaith Neighbors.
Patti Carlesimo is executive director of the LADACIN Network, an agency that provides support to people in Monmouth and Ocean counties that have cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities. Carlesimo’s husband, Charles “Buddy” Carlesimo Jr., is a long-time trainer at Monmouth Park.
“We were both born and raised in Monmouth County,” said Patti Carlesimo. “We appreciate the fund’s effort to make ours a better community. In these times, every dollar counts, and the fact that they continue to do this and share the money equally among so many charities, it’s just really, really special.”
While the Monmouth Park Charity Fund no longer holds a Ball, it still hosts a fashion show fundraiser each year, an event that has endured many decades of changes in apparel. The fund has also continued to exist despite the track’s change of ownership from private hands to the state in 1985 and this year, from the state to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.
“They’ve all been very supportive of this nonprofit organization, and we admire them for it. It’s been a wonderful relationship,” said Martin.
In recent years, the fund has added a Kentucky Derby day fundraiser and this year, for the first time, will hold a Twilight Cocktail Party to coincide with evening racing at Monmouth. Dennis Drazin and John Forbes, who led the effort to take over control of the racetrack, will be honored.
“We think this will be an exciting evening, and Dennis and John will be wonderful honorees for all they’ve done to preserve the track,” said Martin, who is the fund’s only employee. She works part-time.
“So nearly every dollar raised goes right back into the community to support the nonprofits,” Martin said.
The fund hosts an annual tea to recognize the recipients of each year’s financial awards. Martin said it’s often an emotional event, as representatives from each organization tell stories of how the fund’s assistance has helped people in need.
“It gets pretty teary-eyed,” Martin said. “There’s a deep appreciation for what we are doing. It makes it all worthwhile to see that we are truly making a difference in the community.”
Thanks to the generosity of Three Chimneys Farm, the sponsor of Good News Friday, a donation of $100 will be made in support of the Monmouth Park Charity Fund. Three Chimneys will be donating $100 each and every week we bring you a story of people or organizations making a positive difference in our world.