Chaplaincy Launches Disaster-Aid Response Program

The Racetrack Chaplaincy of America has launched "White Horse Riders," a group of specially trained RTCA chaplains who will deploy to assist racing-related victims during disasters in areas where racing workers and racetracks are adversely affected.

The program was unveiled Dec. 14 at Fair Grounds in Louisiana, a state hit by two hurricanes in 2005.

"From tornados in Central Kentucky to Gulf Coast hurricanes, massive barn fires, and even plane crashes, racing industry workers and their families have suffered through a variety of disasters in recent years," RTCA executive director Dr. Enrique Torres said.

"In this post 9/11 world, we want to be alongside other first responders during a disaster of any kind that affects racetracks and racing workers."

RTCA president Edward Smith leveraged his position as a trained disaster response chaplain and leader with the Dallas-based Victim Relief Ministries to have RTCA chaplains trained by Victim Relief, a faith-based organization that dispatches chaplains to aid the victims of disasters.

To date 11 RTCA chaplains or horse industry personnel have received critical intervention training in coordinating chaplains' efforts with other first responders including police, fire, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Homeland Security to produce a continuum of care and safety for disaster victims.

The president's vision and plans call for another 30 chaplains to be trained by the end of March 2007, and RTCA hopes to have equipped White Horse Rider mobile units in place and ready to deploy by next summer.

Chaplains typically assist in death notifications, aid families during body identification, and provide other forms of crisis and grief counseling.

Smith noted it was appropriate to announce the White Horse Riders in New Orleans. Several RTCA chaplains and officials, including Smith and chaplain Waverly Parsons, worked in New Orleans for many months following Hurricane Katrina.

Smith was the Katrina Team project director for Victim Relief Ministries, and Parsons worked at the city morgue, helping the coroner's office calm families seeking to claim the remains of lost loved ones or learn of their death.

Pat Day, who retired in 2005 as the world's leading jockey in purses won to become RTCA industry spokesperson, made the announcement to a group of 40 persons "It's our responsibility as Christians to love our neighbor as ourselves," he said.

"This is just another way that we climb into the racing's trenches and show the love of Christ in action, something the RTCA is all about."

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