Annual Sponsor-A-Family Program Highlights Holiday Season for NY Backstretch Community

Volunteers at the New York Race Track Chaplaincy's 2022 Christmas distribution | Chaplaincy photo

Of all the events, activities, programs, and services that the New York Race Track Chaplaincy provides to the backstretch communities at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course, the Christmas Sponsor-A-Family program closes out the year in a very special way that touches the hearts of donors and families alike.

Months of preparation culminate with the distribution of food, clothing, toys, and gifts for approximately 250 families just before Christmas each year. (This year, the distribution will take place at the new Chaplaincy Center at Belmont Park on Tuesday, December 19, 2023.)

“It is almost impossible to describe the joy and gratitude these recipients feel each year,” said Karen Chavez, the general manager of the New York Race Track Chaplaincy. “Virtually all of the recipients are spending the holidays thousands of miles away from their place or birth and their original home and the donations to this program help them enjoy the holidays in a way that they could not otherwise afford.”

Chavez often hears directly from donors and how it “puts them in the Christmas spirit and helps them enjoy the holiday season a lot more.”

“They are all very glad to pitch in and we are eternally grateful for their humanitarian spirit,” she said.

In the Saratoga area, Stephen Sullivan, the owner of the Olde Bryan Inn restaurant in Saratoga Springs, provides a delicious dinner free of charge to recipients of the gifts which makes for a very special evening.

West Point Thoroughbreds and The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation also serve as sponsors of the Sponsor-A-Family Program.

A year ago, the program was able to find sponsorship for every one of the families in need and Chavez said the Chaplaincy is striving to match that achievement in 2023.

Chaplaincy Photo

“It has been a challenging year in many ways, and we would love to bless all these families again this year,” she said.

Online donations for this program can be made on the Chaplaincy website at
To donate by check, please make checks payable to the NY Race Track Chaplaincy and mail to:
NY Race Track Chaplaincy, PO Box 37191, Elmont, NY 11003.

The chaplaincy ministers to the needs of the backstretch community at the NYRA racetracks (Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course) as well as surrounding farms through a wide variety of programs. They include enrichment programs for children, teen mentoring, women's enrichment, social service, and recreational programs, as well as educational opportunities, and non-denominational religious services.

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