Three Chimneys presents Good News Friday: Horses, Healthcare and Hope
These days a positive story about horse racing is about as rare as one about health-care. Here we have a story that is a combination of both.
It’s about the California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Foundation and what it does to improve the lives of the state’s some 5,000 backstretch workers and family members in Thoroughbred racing.
The CTHF is a non-profit charity founded in 1983 by legendary trainer Noble Threewitt, who died in 2010 at the age of 99. It provides medical, dental and vision care and numerous social services.
The CTHF operates the Noble Threewitt Medical Clinic on the grounds at Santa Anita Park and a medical clinic at Golden Gate Fields. It also offers medical services at Del Mar, Hollywood Park, Pleasanton, the San Luis Rey Downs training center and racetracks on California’s Thoroughbred fair circuit.
What follows are just a few examples of what the CTHF has done to improve lives, and in some cases save lives.
Profiled are a 50-year-old woman who can now smile because of the dental work she received, two cancer survivors, a 52-year-old woman able to return to work following back surgery, and a 48-year-old groom learning English.
Margaret Levine, an assistant trainer for Jeff Metz, for years was afraid to smile. These days she is smiling a lot. She’s happier than she has been in a long time and she also has a smile worth showing off.
Margaret, for most of her adult life, was afraid to go to a dentist. When she and her husband Peter, who also trains horses, were living in New York, Margaret had a bad experience going to a dentist.
“I had a tooth pulled and infection set in,” she said. “Then I had a reaction to the antibiotic. Oh, it was just awful.”
Margaret was 25 at the time, and vowed she would never go back to a dentist. But when she turned 50 last October, she realized she had to do something about her teeth, even though she feared she could never afford all the work she needed.
“I wouldn’t smile because I didn’t want anyone to see my teeth,” she said. “They were in terrible shape. I was so embarrassed.”
That has all changed, thanks to the CTHF.
Scared to death, she went to the CTHF’s Noble Threewitt Medical Clinic at Santa Anita and explained her problem. She needed a lot of dental work, but was deathly afraid to sit in a dental chair.
Dr. Linda Roselle, CTHF’s resident dentist, explained to Margaret that she and her staff would help her get through it all.
On Nov. 1, the work began. It was concluded in late March. During the many visits to the clinic, dental assistant Yanira Posada stood by and held Margaret’s hand.
In all, Margaret had six root canals, six crowns, five fillings and partial dental plates, upper and lower.
Her total bill was $1,846, with CTHF’s clinic copays and negotiated rates with outside providers.
If she had gone to a dentist without CTHF’s assistance and without dental insurance, she would have ended up owing around $20,000.
“I can’t say enough about the clinic and the people there,” Margaret said. “They’re wonderful. It is really hard for me to put it into words.
“Doing this was the best decision I ever made. It changed my whole outlook on life. Before, I was afraid to smile. Now look at me,” she added – with a big smile.
Diane Contreras is lucky to be alive.
In 2000, she went into the Threewitt Clinic to have a mole removed and a tumor was discovered. A biopsy showed she had melanoma, or skin cancer. Within two weeks she was admitted to Arcadia Methodist Hospital for surgery and treatment.
“God and the CTHF saved my life,” said Contreras, 46, the wife of exercise rider Martin Contreras. “I’m so impressed with the CTHF, the way everybody there deals with issues right away. A few years after my surgery a CAT scan showed I had kidney stones. Again, they were on it with ultra-sound treatments.
“And the dental treatment – oh my gosh! My kids love Dr. Linda Roselle. They refuse to go to any other dentist.”
Tanya Garcia Leyva, a hot walker for trainer John Shirreffs, is also a cancer survivor. When asked what would have happened to her if not for the CTHF, Tanya, with CTHF office manager Angela Valverde serving as translator, said: “I would have died.”
An attractive 33-year-old whose husband Jorge works as a groom for trainer Neil Drysdale, Tanya is the mother of three boys and a girl. She came to the U.S. 11 years ago from Guatemala.
She came into the Threewitt Clinic in April 2011 for an eye exam. It was recommended that she also have a physical exam, and that led to the discovery she had breast cancer.
The CTHF arranged for the chemotherapy and radiation that saved her life.
Gregoria Ochoa was suffering horrific back pain for nearly eight years. Now, after getting the surgery she needed last October, she is back to work as a foreman for trainer Jerry Fanning.
Ochoa, 52, came to Southern California from Mexico 32 years ago with her husband Jose, now a retired groom.
Asked what the CTHF has meant to her, Ochoa, with her 22-year-old son Jesse beside her to help translate her comments, said: “I don’t know what I would have done. I could not do anything because of the pain.”
Then there are the social services provided by the CTHF.
Anastacia Arsiniega, a 48-year-old groom for trainer Jorge Gutierrez who came to the U.S. from Hidalgo, Mexico, in 2002, is among those who regularly attend English classes taught by Sister Soledad Hernandez at the clinic.
When interviewed for this story, she apologized for using a translator.
“In one year, I hope we can talk again in English,” she said through the translator.
Anastacia said she also gets a physical exam at the clinic once a year and has taken advantage of the dental services. She readily admits that, without the CTHF, “I wouldn’t be able to afford to see a doctor or dentist.”
Besides English classes, other social services provided by the CTHF include counseling, outreach programs and assistance in filling out government forms.
The CTHF for years has been mainly funded through money from unclaimed wagering tickets.
“But that money has been on the decline,” said Kevin Bolling, the CTHF’s executive director. “We are now depending more on donations from individuals, the racetracks, and partnerships with other foundations. It is very important that we are able to continue fulfilling our mission of bettering the quality of life for backstretch workers and their dependents.”
For further information, go to www.cthf.info.
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Thanks to the generosity of Three Chimneys Farm, the sponsor of Good News Friday, a donation of $100 will be made to California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Foundation. 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.