Chaplaincy Meeting Features Emergency-Response Training

Edited press release

The Race Track Chaplaincy of America celebrated its 35th birthday during its annual meeting March 14-21 in Louisville, Ky., with special training in responding to disasters that impact the horse racing community.

A record 145 persons, including a record 51 chaplains, came from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and Argentina to train on a variety of spiritual items as well as immigration issues and grief counseling. Twenty-seven chaplains stayed at Churchill Downs’ dorms March 22-23 and underwent two days of training in crisis response at the track’s new Christ Chapel.

Leading the training was Gene Grounds, executive director of the Richardson, Texas-based Victim Relief Ministries, which trains chaplains and senior church leaders to aid in disasters.

“The original vision is being completed,” RTCA president Rev. Edward Smith said. “We’re continuing to find more and better ways to be relevant to the global racing community.”

In all, 38 RTCA chaplains are now trained. Members of the “White Horse Riders” will deploy nationwide to work directly with first responders to aid horse racing-related victims of disasters. Former champion jockey and RTCA industry representative Pat Day, who completed the training, called the partnership between Victim Relief Ministries and RTCA “a match made in heaven.”

“The training fits because our chaplains work in traumatic situations at tracks every day, and they’re also strategically placed throughout the nation to work together with churches and first responders,” Day said. “I’m ready to go.”

Dan Fick, executive vice president and executive director of The Jockey Club, and William Gotwals, whose family owns and operates Brook Ledge Horse Transportation, were elected secretary and vice president, respectively. They replace Elliott Walden of WinStar Farm and Lone Star Park chaplain Sam Ed Spence,  whose term limits had expired.

 The RTCA executive committee appointed Dr. Karin Sowada, who lives in Sydney, Australia, and heads the Australian Racing Christian Chaplaincy, as international representative.

New regional directors include John Harris, California Horse Racing Board vice chairman; John Roark, former president of the Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association; Rick Hooper, chief counsel for the Georgia-based Shaw Industries Group; Tom Davis, a New Mexico racing secretary; former Kentucky trainer Bill Million; Prairie Meadows horsemen’s liaison Chuck Schott; Pennsylvania pastor Dr. J. Val Hastings Sr.; and Maine writer Laura Ricard.