Backstretch Clubhouse Reopens
After an 18 month hiatus for reorganization, the childcare center located in the barn area at Emerald Downs has reopened! The enhanced name, Backstretch Clubhouse Learning Center, emphasizes a renewed mission of bringing quality affordable childcare in a structured educational environment to the racing community. The new logo, designed and donated by Kaitlin Draper of Centreville, Virginia, depicts the center's fun and enthusiastic atmosphere as well as the link to the horse racing industry.
The restructuring and search for a new director was the cooperative effort of Emerald Downs Vice President Jack Hodge, Horsemen’s Bookkeeper Jan Baze, and Washington HBPA Executive Director MaryAnn O’Connell. As directors of the 501(c)(3) non-profit’s Backstretch ClubHouse Board, the trio persevered over many financial and logistical hurdles in their efforts to reopen the Learning Center.
“In the midst of everything that is going on in racing, I’ll have to admit there were times we wanted to give up – and throw in the towel,” commented O’Connell. “Fortunately, it was never all three of us at once,” she lightheartedly added. “The kids were the motivation to keep pressing forward, and it is very rewarding to see the facility alive again.”
After an extensive search, in January, the Board hired Katie Yost as the new director of the Backstretch Clubhouse. Katie had the “4 E’s” for which the board was looking: enthusiasm, education, experience, and work ethic. Katie, in turn, wanted someone with similar qualities and hired Mackenzie O’Connell Noble as her assistant. Remarkably, on April 1st, the two had the center cleaned up, supplied, staffed, and ready to take enrollments. To date, there are 22 children enrolled, and in addition to racing industry families, the center continues to accept applications from the general public.
Founded in 1998, the Backstretch Clubhouse was the first childcare center located in an American racetrack stable area. Through the steadfast commitments of Washington Horse Racing Commission (WHRC) Steward Thelma Lynn and former Washington HBPA President Larry Hillis, who volunteered his time to construct the facility, the Backstretch Clubhouse was built entirely by donations of time, materials, and dollars.
Today, the corporation’s mission and ongoing objective remains the same as when the center was founded. The board’s ultimate objective is for the center to have the financial ability “to turn no child away because of the family’s inability to pay.” Fulfillment of that objective is via the “Scholarship Fund,” which provides tuition assistance to families in need. Donations and fundraisers are the primary sources of revenue for the scholarship program. Besides scholarship fund contributions, donations of supplies and educational materials are another way supporters can enhance the center’s developmental and multicultural educational programs.
Please contact Katie Yost at the Backstretch Clubhouse (253-804-6822) or MaryAnn O’Connell at the Washington HBPA for more information about enrollment or to learn how you can further assist helping children of the racing community.
The following is a list of items that are currently on the Backstretch ClubHouse Learning Center’s “Wish List”: