Brighter Christmas for 500 Industry Children

Blue Grass Farms Charities' annual Christmas festival helps more than 210 families.

More than 210 families were treated to an early Christmas Dec. 15 at the Blue Grass Farms Charities’ annual Festival of Christmas celebration, which provides food, clothing, and gifts to lower-income families working in the Thoroughbred industry.

The event was held at Keeneland’s Keene Entertainment Center and run by a team of 40 volunteers.

"Our mission is to provide relevant services to our at-risk industry members," said Mary Lee-Butte, president and chief executive officer of Blue Grass Farms Charities. "In doing so, we free up precious resources for others in our community; and we earn a reputation of taking care of our own people. This is especially true at Christmas time.

"The industry pulls together to collect clothing, gloves, candy, and cash to help purchase toys, food and hams; and, the army of volunteers work day and night in the days leading up to the party and the party itself."

During the event, 200 hams or $10 gift cards to pick up a ham and 251 food baskets were given out along with 400 pairs of gloves donated by industry organizations and handed out by the University of Kentucky School of Dentistry, whose members also set up a number of appointments to see youngsters at their Twilight Clinic.

Children’s coats were desperately needed, according to Lee-Butte, so much so that more than 200 coats (including 100 new ones donated by Keeneland) quickly ran out. Besides the venue, Keeneland donated shirts to everyone and offered a ticket for one free item from the gift shop.

The event, which started eight years ago, has grown tremendously and this year helped more than 960 people, including more than 500 children whose parents work on the backside of racetracks, at training centers, farms, veterinary hospitals, or other ancillary businesses associated with horse racing.

Lee-Butte said there is still a need for gently used coats for babies, children of all ages, and adults. The charity also is in need of grocery store gift cards or cash donations for its "Tack Room," which is a pantry stocked with food, essential toiletries, laundry and household cleaning supplies, and clothing for families in need.

For more information or questions about the charity, Lee-Butte can be reached at (859) 219-0910 or at