I don't want to give away her age, but I've got some shoes older than Claire Novak, a free-lance racing writer whose work can be seen at espn.com, ntra.com, bloodhorse.com, the Associated Press, and the Albany Times-Union.
That's encouraging to me, not because I've got some old shoes holding up well, but because young, bright and caring people are still attracted to horse racing journalism.
In fact, during my years at Blood-Horse Publications that's a question I would often ask someone fresh out of school and new to the job market: why in the world would you want to seek a career in journalism (a profession that ranks near used-car salesmen in credibility) and work in horse racing (a sport that has been trending in the wrong direction for a number of years)?
The answers were interesting, but they usually had something to do with the magic of the sport, the beauty of the horse, and the enthusiasm for writing.
Novak was hired at the Blood-Horse in 2007 and worked full-time until economic realities forced management to cut staff, and she was one of the victims a little more than a year later. She's landed on her feet, built up a network of free-lance clients, and has made a good name for herself.
But this isn't a story about an aspiring journalist who got a big break, suffered a setback, then made the most of it. It's about someone in our business who is trying to make the world a better place. And that's what Good News Friday is all about.
In the same year she lost her full-time employment, Novak established a 501(c)3 charitable organization, Hopeful Farm Foundation. It's something she'd been thinking about for years.
“When I was 12 years old, my brother Nicholas was born with a genetic disorder called Trisomy 13,” Novak said. “He lived for one week. That was a formative time for me, and ever since then I've had a heart for kids who had special needs.”
In high school while living in the Chicago suburbs, Novak volunteered with therapeutic riding schools, and later became a therapeutic riding instructor with the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association.
“When I was doing that, I saw the stress and pressure on families with kids who had special needs,” she said. “There's the social pressure of having to deal with kids that don't fit in, the financial pressure of bills for special equipment, plus the pressure of just taking care of a child, even one with moderate disabilities.”
What Novak wants the Hopeful Farm Foundation to create is a retreat center in or around Lexington, Ky., where families impacted by children with special needs can gather, build relationships, share experiences, and get a sense of renewal while getting away – if only briefly – from the pressures of their daily life.
“There are camps for kids with special needs, but I want to have a place for the whole family to come, to relax and know that their needs will be taken care of,” Novak said. “Lexington and the Bluegrass area is close to my heart, it provides a slower pace, and so many of the people are charity minded.”
Novak created the foundation when the global economy was entering a recession and charities of all kinds were struggling. She was not discouraged, though, and says she is in this for the long haul.
“I'm young, my foundation is young, and hopefully we'll both be around for a while,” she said.
To help kick off fund raising for the foundation, equine artist Rickelle Nelson has donated an original portrait of Blame, the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic winner and champion older male. The portrait, signed by jockey Garrett Gomez and trainer Al Stall Jr., will be raffled off on May 7 after this year's Kentucky Derby during the inaugural Night of Silk Derby Party to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
The portrait is on display today and tomorrow (April 15-16) at the Hilton Lexington Green at a trunk show of Kentucky Derby hats hosted by Carol Bader Design. It will then be displayed in Louisville. The Night of Silk Derby Party will be held at the Galt House Hotel.
Raffle tickets may be purchased online by clicking here. A portion of the proceeds from the raffle will also benefit the PDJF. The winner does not need to be present at the Derby night party, where the drawing takes place.
Thanks to the generosity of Three Chimneys Farm, the sponsor of Good News Friday, a donation of $100 will be sent to the Hopeful Farm Foundation. Three Chimneys will be donating that amount each and every week we bring you a story of people or organizations making a positive difference in our world.
Another $100 is being donated to these organizations each week by a Paulick Report reader who wishes to remain anonymous but who encourages all of our readers to open their hearts and pocketbooks for this good cause.
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