by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am


It is easy to become a skeptic in the business world when everywhere you look hardworking, loyal employees are being laid off by the thousands. One can't help but shake the thought our current economic downturn is sometimes used as an excuse to make otherwise unpopular and unwarranted decisions to trim staff. So when a corporation the size of Churchill Downs does right by its employees, attention must be paid.



Not even a year ago, Tricia Amburgey, coordinator of the Chief Party Officer and the new Infield Club, walked into her bathroom and felt like she had run into the door. Realizing she was clear of any structure, Tricia felt her chest and knew something was not right. After a visit to her doctor, she learned the sensation she felt was the onset of breast cancer.



“That was the moment the tumor broke through the breast wall,” explained Amburgey. What ensued was a series of chemotherapy treatments for her stage three condition, a serious but treatable stage of this disease that accounted for over 40,000 deaths in 2008.



For those who have not seen a loved one go through chemotherapy up close, it is a long and often torturous process causing dramatic swings in energy and stamina. When it comes to the workplace, this can become problematic. But that wasn't the case for Amburgey and Churchill Downs.



“I have heard some negative stories where other employers were not as understanding,” said Amburgey. “But not here. They've been just fantastic.”



The company has gone above and beyond in helping this 17-year veteran of all things Churchill Downs adjust to her new reality. When she is in the office, Tricia's co-workers are constantly checking in on her and insisting she go home whenever she needs to, almost to the point of being overbearing. They have even gone as far as to put a computer and printer in her home just in case this self described workaholic has to work from home.



That sort of awareness and accommodation is already considered a cut above the call of duty for most places of employment. However, the real magic here seems to have come from the spirit of Amburgey's co-workers.



At the beginning of her chemo treatments, the others in Tricia's small Entertainment Business Unit showed their support by wearing pink. As she continued to receive further treatment, this movement spread beyond their four-person unit and within a relatively short amount of time the entire company was expressing their support. This sisterhood of the traveling pinks has become so popular, Churchill has asked all in the crowd who attend Kentucky Oaks Day to Pink Out by wearing their favorite pink outfits in support of all breast cancer patients.



During this same timeframe, Amburgey's division at Churchill was continuing the work started last summer in trying to build the Kentucky Oaks brand. According to Casey Cook, Senior Director of Marketing and Licensing, it was important the Oaks took on principles that celebrated women's interests. Sisterhood, celebrity, fashion and charity became the core ideas behind this marketing strategy.



So when Cook and company started to look for a partner to help with this effort, Amburgey's relationship with the Susan G. Komen Foundation became a perfect moment of kismet. With one in eight women diagnosed with this disease, very few issues affect women like breast cancer. And with the Susan G. Komen international brand so synonymous with the cause, Tricia's setback became the impetus for a major fundraising initiative.



“I certainly don't want to take credit for this large idea,” said Amburgey. But when pressed further, she did confess it was her involvement that most likely led to the Komen affiliation.



For each Oaks ticket purchased, Churchill Downs will be donating $1 to Susan G. Komen to aid in research as they continue towards finding a cure. According to Cook, their goal is to raise $135,000 this year while still promoting a great day for all in attendance. “I think that's the beauty of the day. You can come out with your friends and family and know you are giving back, helping to fight breast cancer.”



And a worthy fight it is. When asked how Komen has helped her, Amburgey points to the strides taken in the medicine she takes to help nausea caused by her treatment. “I can't imagine what chemo must have been like 10-15 years ago.” Once she is finished with the chemotherapy, she will be able to plug into an immediate support system that she describes as a “sisterhood”.



That being said, this is one sisterhood Amdurgey would like to stop dead in its tracks.



“Because of what Komen has done, it isn't a death sentence anymore. Hopefully, we'll be able to find a cure so my eight year old daughter won't have to go through this.”



And because of the generosity Churchill has shown, we will be one step closer to that goal. A day at the races never had such high stakes.

Copyright © 2009, The Paulick Report

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