Women in greyhound racing will be the theme throughout the National Greyhound Association’s fall meet this week.
Races for the biannual event start Monday at the NGA track just west of Abilene off Old Highway 40. Activities and races will be held throughout the week and conclude on Saturday.
This fall, as a result of efforts of a number of people, the finals will feature a $1,000 Women in Greyhound Racing sponsorship, a $500 award to the female with the fastest time and donations to breast cancer research.
“The idea was originally formed when a group of greyhound enthusiasts were discussing on how to support the racing industry,” said Leslie Csokasy, one of the organizers. “We concluded that a series of sponsorships for the stakes races at the meets could be a good venue for illustrating support.
“During the ongoing discussions, I shared how impressed I was with the work that women do, often behind the scenes,” she said. “The women of the greyhound racing community not only do the work associated with the dogs, which can be long days but they also are trainers, breeders, authors, photographers, office workers, adoption representatives, farmers and fans. We decided to honor these women who contribute a tremendous amount of energy to the sport.”
Donations were solicited online via Facebook and through the American Greyhound Forum.
The group offered several vials of stud services of dogs owned by Dean Miner, Ed Gardner and Norm Rader for a mini online auction.
“This really kicked the sponsorship into a new scope of excitement,” Csokasy said. “We realized that we were going to not only meet our sponsorship minimum but have a surplus.
“I had received several messages that breast cancer had touched many women and families in the racing community. Sadly, it seemed to be a common theme. We decided that any surplus would be donated to a breast cancer awareness nonprofit,” she added.
The artwork for the buttons, which will be distributed, was by adoption advocate Teddy Palmer, a 30-plus year survivor of breast cancer. The art was originally created for Palmer’s adoption group but Teddy shared the art because she believes in the cause.
“In 1981, not too many women made it,” Palmer told Csokasy. “So many positive and life-saving treatments are there for the women today facing the battle.”
She said also adding a $500 purse to the fastest female dog running at the meet was to excite other breeders/owners to run hounds that they normally would not have run through the meet. The fastest female of the meet will also be awarded a stakes blanket donated by Gregory Deuel from Racine, Wis.
“I have heard there are a couple new people running dogs through this meet and have received messages that they have included a few extra girl dogs in hopes of having the best girl on the oval,” she said.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month and the group intends to make a donation to a charity that makes a supports the resilience and strength of women.
Donations are being made for the buttons. So far $2,335 has been raised.
Also, the NGA’s banquet honoree is Karen Keelan, a popular track operator from New England. This will mark only the third time since the inception of the banquets in 1970 that a woman or women have been honored. The previous three times were with the McCurdy Sisters (Linda Jones and Andi Collette) in 2005, Kay Smith in 2000 and Lena Benson in 1972.
Another interesting milestone having to do with the ladies is the fact that, for the first time in the history of NGA meets in Abilene dating back 70 years, a woman will be performing the duties as paddock judge for the meet. Abilene’s own Gina Dalton (wife of NGA member Kevin Dalton and daughter of NGA veteran member Wayne Strong) will be tackling the paddock task of checking in the entries for the Track Stakes throughout Meet Week.