|Thistledown's backside raised $6,000|
to help cover Janet Duhon's expenses
(Photo courtesy of Robin Schuster)
Members of the backstretch community at Thistledown Racetrack, in Ohio, recently raised $6,000 to help cover expenses for stablehand Janet Duhon, who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.
Duhon, a 26-year-old Ohio native, has been a groom for trainer Rodney Faulkner for five years, after previously working for his father. She also works for veterinarian Karen Longo. In May, Duhon visited a doctor complaining of a stomachache; she was diagnosed with cancer, which required major surgery. Complications left her in intensive care for several weeks.
Longo, Peggy Faulkner, Rodney's wife, trainer Robin Schuster, and Renee Gonzalez, wife of jockey Luis Gonzalez, launched a fundraising effort to help cover expenses for Duhon while she was unable to work. They planned to hold a fundraiser on July 7, the day Thistledown hosted the Ohio Derby (G3); the event quickly expanded to include a silent auction and 50-50 raffle.
"We started out small with ideas like a bake sale, and then word got around and people on the backside just started bringing things," Schuster said. "So we started thinking bigger."
Among items donated for a silent auction were a 50-inch flat screen TV, an XBox game system, an iPad, a laptop, and various gift cards. An original painting of millionaire Catlaunch, Ohio's reigning horse of the year, by Luis Gonzalez, ignited a bidding war that topped out at $185, purchased by fellow jockey Victor Urieta-Moran. Gonzalez also put his talents on the auction block for another item, a painting of any horse of the winning bidder's choice.
The fundraiser's 50-50 raffle was won by Tommy Jones, another groom at the Faulkner barn.
"Tommy told me, 'I don't want it. Give it all to Janet,'" Schuster said.
"It was huge," Schuster continued. "I am so proud of our horsemen and the track patrons who came and put in bids. The Thistledown horsemen were phenomenal. It's tough right now. [Race] purses are low and a lot of horsemen are struggling. It was so nice to forget about all of that for a day, to forget about competition. People who don't have much money gave money anyway. Some donated their time. I will never forget it how they came together as a family for Janet. It gives me goosebumps."
Duhon, who was released from the hospital in mid-July, visited Thistledown on Monday to watch her favorite horse from the Faulkner barn, Scottkeith'skitten, finish fourth in the sixth race. Ahead for her are chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
"We don't know when she'll be back," Faulkner said. "But she'll always have a job with me if she wants it."