Georgie Thorogood, Commercial Executive at Chelmsford City Racecourse talks about Chelmsford City’s Year of the Hero
Search for the Hero
I came up with the idea! We had been listening to all of the great Community Engagement initiatives at the RCA Showcase and we really wanted to put together a project that could involve as many members of the community as possible. There are so many people who act as carers, volunteers, guides etc out of the goodness of their hearts, but who rarely get recognised for their kindness, so we wanted to do what we could to thank these people.
The initiative involves the general public nominating their “Hero” according to whichever category they fit into. The nominations are received here at the racecourse and between us and the Essex Chronicle, we choose which one we think is the worthiest winner – it can be so difficult to decide! The winner is then invited to the racecourse for a race fixture where they can enjoy a meal in the restaurant with three guests, they have a named race and a racecard/big screen advert. They are then interviewed by the raceday presenter and invited to choose the best-turned out horse and present the prize to the winning connections.
A reluctant first winner
I think the most memorable winner so far was Tyler Hart, the first winner back in January. He is a 15-year-old who cares for his Grandmother each day. He initially didn’t want to have any fuss when he arrived at the course (I think he was a little concerned about his friends finding out). But once he got to the course and realised that we are very friendly and just wanted to thank him for what he did, he soon warmed up and had a brilliant evening with his family.
More in store for 2020
There are so many worthy causes and things we, and all courses, can do to help in our local communities that it is difficult to decide which direction would be most beneficial. We are planning a slightly different charity event next year, which should be a lot of fun. The idea is to support a local horse and pony protection society, so we are really looking forward to that.
We host numerous charity events here at the course, both on racedays and non-racedays. These range from our two family fun days (this year in support of Help for Heroes and Havens Hospice) to corporate dinners, balls and gift fairs. We have an allocation of tickets to donate to charities each month, and so far in 2019 we have given a total of 252 tickets to 116 individual charities, aside from the £19,550 we raised from our family fun days and the collections which always take place for the poppy appeal etc. We have been honoured to host the Mayor of Chelmsford’s charity fundraising dinner for the past three years, with three different Mayors in attendance. We regularly get involved in the Macmillan Bake Off (any excuse for extra cake!) and will always plan to do something for Racing Together Community Day in May.
Previously, we have volunteered at Havens Hospice, Sanctus (a local charity for the homeless). We did a Secret Santa for a local refuge and this year we had a team of people who went to work to clear and tidy a local churchyard. We followed this up with an afternoon at Broomfield Hospital in August when we painted all of their outdoor furniture for their dementia gardens – they rely heavily on volunteers to help with their grounds maintenance, and they are the first port of call for any injured jockeys from the course, as well as customers.
We are a relatively small team here at the racecourse, but we are conscious that we are in a position where we are able to help people, so this is what we try and do wherever possible!
Chelmsford working to be a key cog in the community
A lot of our staff and customers come from the local area and we strive to be an important part of the local social scene by putting on a variety of events, as well as racing. On an occasional basis, we do have to implement road closures etc which perhaps will slightly inconvenience our neighbours, so we want to do our best to make it up to them at other times of the year!
Year of the Hero – Winners to-date:
- January – Tyler Hart –”It was an honour to be awarded the January Hero Young Carer Award. Everybody I met was extremely kind and caring and I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at Chelmsford City Racecourse. I cannot thank everybody enough.”
- February – Christine Smith (The Wilderness Foundation) – Small charity located a couple of miles from the racecourse, harnessing the power of the wilderness to transform vulnerable lives and empowering people to conserve nature.
- March – Julia Jones – Founder and champion of John’s Campaign, a now national campaign to improve the hospital care for dementia patients. Julia reported an almost 10% spike in web traffic in the days corresponding to the Essex Live coverage.
- April – Michael Orr – Local policeman who went above and beyond the call of duty to apprehend some thieves whilst off duty. “I am shocked and over the moon by this recognition.”
- May – Nigel Seaman – Former soldier (Royal Anglian’s) diagnosed with PTSD following multiple tours of duty, has recently set up his own coffee business, Combat 2 Coffee. Help for Heroes Family Fun Day attendance of 2,812, helping to raise in excess of £13,000 for the charity.
- June – Louise Elton – Rainbow & Brownie leader who inspires young women throughout the guiding community. Celebrated on the same card as the Queen Charlotte Listed race
- July – Gaynor Wareham – Paramedic with the Essex & Herts Air Ambulance. Midweek attendance of 1065 guests, many of which congratulated Gaynor (who was still in uniform having arrived directly from her shift!).
- August – Paul Burder – Firefighter serving the local community for 25 years. “Thank you for a great night on Wednesday my Family and l really enjoyed the whole experience.” Paul enjoyed his experience so much he booked a Christmas party for 50 people on course.
- September – Ava Chapman & Family – Havens Hospice beneficiary.
- October – Jacob Rabi Ialeh – 8-year-old boy inspiring the Jacobs Back Pack Campaign to help and support homeless people in the winter months. Aiming to fill 1,000 backpacks before his 10th birthday!
- November – Richard Shepherd