When Jon Hall, yearling manager at Taylor Made Farm, heard that his 38-year-old daughter Julie Rego had been diagnosed with breast cancer last September, instead of wallowing in grief, he decided to do something to fight the disease that was threatening her life.
After watching Rego endure a double mastectomy in October, as well as multiple chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Hall came across the perfect way to honor his daughter, as well as the thousands of other breast cancer victims across the United States.
“I’m originally from the Boston area, and we heard about the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer that was going on there May 16-17. My wife and I decided we would do it in honor of my daughter,” said Hall.
Over the next few months Hall and his wife, Devi, raised more than $10,000 for the cause by rallying support from the Thoroughbred industry and beyond. They also started an extensive training program that involved daily trips to the YMCA to get in shape to complete the 39-mile, two-day event, which took place Preakness weekend.
“It was good for me…it was the best condition I’ve been in for a long time,” said Hall, 67, who has been with the Taylor Made team since 1996. A second-generation horseman, he has more than 40 years of experience in the industry, from farm ownership and breaking and training, to mare management.
Rego, who helped her father in the industry while growing up, is now an engineer for a cellular company in Massachusetts. Hall’s other daughter, Amy Caraballo, trains horses at Delaware Park and is married to jockey Jose Caraballo, while Hall’s son, Joseph, is a former Thoroughbred owner living in New York City.
Hall hopes to involve his whole family in next year’s walk, which he called one of the best experiences of his life. On May 16, Hall and his wife walked for nine hours and covered 26.2 miles, the length of a full marathon. The next day they walked another four and a half hours and 13.1 miles to finish the event.
Hall reported that the more than 2,500 people participating in this year’s Boston Avon Walk raised in excess of $5 million for breast cancer research. The event takes place in nine cities annually.
“I sent out a letter to a few of our clients and some of my friends (asking for support), and I was amazed at the generosity of people’s involvement,” said Hall, who noted the Taylor family, who own Taylor Made near Nicholasville, Ky., were large contributors.
“Jon has a heart of gold, and he’s always trying to look out for the best for his fellow man, and he does that here at the farm, and he does it outside of the farm,” said Taylor Made president Duncan Taylor. “We were just trying to help him out.”
Hall said Rego’s medical progress since May has been very positive. She has finished her radiation treatments and still has to go through a reconstructive surgery, but her doctors are hopeful she will make a full recovery.
One of the most gratifying moments during Avon Walk for Hall was seeing his daughter at the finish line “with a huge smile on her face.
“That was the most rewarding part…to know what she had been through and how hard the treatment had been and how well she was doing when we were there. That was a thrill to get to spend some time with her.”
Even though his original mission to finish the walk is now complete, Hall is far from slowing down with the fight against breast cancer.
“We’re going to go back up next year and do it,” he said matter-of-factly. “My daughter is planning on doing it with us, and we’re going to get the whole family involved and walk as a team.”