When one thinks of the Kentucky Derby, the imagery is of a rite of spring associated with a gala or bash under the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs.  Women and men dressed in fancy attire are sipping mint juleps and betting their money.

The Derby has an elegant character to it but there are other perspectives as well.  Louisville native Hunter S. Thompson in June 1970 penned “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” for Scanlan’s magazine, perhaps aptly describing the doings in the infield at Churchill Downs more so than the clubhouse or grandstand.

But the Kentucky Derby has an entirely different side that is mostly overlooked, having to do with charity and philanthropy.  Kentucky Derby parties are popular across the United States, and many of them are given for the purpose of raising money for good causes.

Recently, I came across a news item in a magazine about how the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese had held a Derby party on May 6, 2017 that attracted 170 people and raised $32,000.  In 2016, the Cleveland Society served 39,000 meals to poor people.

After reading the item, I recalled how two years in a row I attended a Kentucky Derby party fundraiser at a private school with the proceeds earmarked for scholarships for worthy students whose parents could not afford tuition.

An Internet search readily turned up plenty of items about Kentucky Derby party fundraisers, such as:

  • “Best 25 Kentucky Derby Fundraiser Ideas” on Pinterest
  • “Boys & Girls Club Fundraiser—Kentucky Derby Theme Party”
  • “Hats and Horses at United Way’s Kentucky Derby Fundraiser”

An article titled “Charity Fundraising Ideas that Rock,” said “…’Kentucky Derby Days’ is a fantastic way to put people in a light-hearted and giving mood.”

Another article pertaining to a 2015 Kentucky Derby-themed fundraiser in Frederick County, Maryland quoted the president of the Frederick County Commission for Women:

“It’s nice…to bring the Kentucky Derby to Frederick.  So what a great way to raise money for a good organization and have a wonderful time, get dressed up, and learn a little bit about the Kentucky Derby and take part in it.”

The Kentucky Derby yields lots of cash to Churchill Downs, Inc., but it also is a potent fundraiser for initiatives that benefit the less fortunate among us year around.  That is largely an untold story.

When the snowflakes fly and Churchill Downs is dormant, money raised from Kentucky Derby charitable events will still be helping needy folks.

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