Slick William
Slick William in the Wasabi Venture Stable silks. Photo by Christie Lane Craven.

Across the nation, communities have grappled with how to ensure that all community members have access to the internet and computers in order to complete schooling and access vital resources. In Louisville, over 20% of families lacked access to internet, including many of the workers and their families who work at Churchill Downs and surrounding racetracks.  Now, due to a generous donation to the Backside Learning Center from Wasabi Venture Stables Club members, many backside families will move closer towards digital equity.

One-third of the contributions came from members living in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, with additional support from a Marylander who matched all club member donations. Wasabi races all around the Mid-Atlantic.

The Backside Learning Center (BLC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to building community and enriching the lives of equine workers and their families at Churchill Downs and surrounding racetracks. When the pandemic hit in March, the Backside Learning Center acted quickly to provide emergency food relief and start a digital inclusion project for families who were suddenly faced with the challenges of virtual learning.  The BLC repurposed donated computers and provided them to 20 backside families and worked with JCPS to secure laptops and hotspots.

When Jeff Musgrove, a horse owner and member of Wasabi Ventures Stables learned of the work of the Backside Learning Center from a national publication, he immediately felt a call to action. “When I saw what the BLC was doing, I knew that I had a unique opportunity to make an impact in the lives of the families that play such a critical role in our sport.”

Wasabi Ventures Stables reached out to its members to raise funds to strengthen the BLC’s work on digital inclusion with backside families.  Michele Pesula Kuegler, Director of Aftercare & Community explained: “Our club has a sense of generosity and caring that is unrivaled. With the opportunity to fundraise for the Backside Learning Center and support the community who cares for our horses, our members recognized the value in the BLC programming and gladly donated.” 

Funds will provide internet access, computers and digital skills training to backside families and will also strengthen technology for the BLC’s learning hub for students.    “The partnership with Wasabi Ventures Stables symbolizes the strength and interconnectedness of the horse racing community,” added Sherry Stanley, Executive Director of the Backside Learning Center.  “We are so grateful for these resources that will enable Backside families to thrive in this new digital world.” 

This initiative builds on the BLC’s efforts to connect horse owners more closely with the backside community.  In June, the BLC launched Purses for a Purpose, a program where owners can pledge a portion of their horse’s winnings to support programs for backside workers and their families.