Trainers, jockeys, backstretch workers, and fans at Thistledown near Cleveland, Ohio, have raised $6,000 to help a groom who being is treated for cancer.
According to Thistledown spokeswoman Sherry Pinson, it all began in early May when stablehand Janet Duhon went to her doctor complaining of a stomach ache. What was to be a a routine appointment turned into hospitalization, major surgery for cancer, and complications that kept her in intensive care for weeks, Pinson said in a press release.
Duhon, from Ravenna, Ohio, has been a groom for trainer Rodney Faulkner for about five years and previously groomed horses for Faulkner’s father, “Papa Joe” Faulkner. On days when the Faulkner barn wasn’t busy, Duhon also worked for veterinarian Dr. Karen Longo.
To assist Duhon, trainer Robin Schuster, Rodney Faulkner’s wife, Peggy, veterinarian Longo, and Renee Gonzalez, wife of jockey Luis Gonzalez, initiated a July 7 fundraising effort that brought $6,000.
“We started out small with ideas like a bake sale, and then word got around and people on the backside just started bringing things,” said Schuster, “so we started thinking bigger.”
The fundraiser included a silent auction and a 50/50 raffle, where half the money was intended for the fund and half for the person who bought the winning ticket. The winner was Tommy Jones, another groom who works for Rodney Faulkner. Jones donated all the money to Duhon.
“It was huge,” Schuster said. “I am so proud of our horsemen and the track patrons who came and put in bids. The Thistledown horsemen were phenomenal.”
Duhon was released from the hospital in mid-July and is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“We don’t know when she’ll be back,” said Rodney Faulkner, “but she’ll always have a job with me if she wants it.”