Image by Davis Innovation

Donor Spotlight: Churchill Downs Recreation Center Donates Masks!

July 01, 2020

Thank you so much for making and donating masks, Churchill Downs Recreation Center!

Donor Spotlight: Mark Doll from Trikes for Tikes

June 30, 2020

Thank you so much to Mark Doll from Trikes for Tikes who donated over 45 children’s bikes and 38 helmets to us!

We’ve been able to make our first round of bicycle deliveries to our families this week! The children were ecstatic to start riding them right away! We look forward to making the rest of the donations later this week!

If you don’t know about Trikes For Tikes, they seek to enrich the lives of children, teens and adults through the restoration of donated and discarded bicycles.

You can learn more about them here:

TVG Features Purses for a Purpose

June 29, 2020

Thanks so much, TVG, for featuring us and Purses for a Purpose on your "Day Brightener" yesterday!


It was a wonderful feature and touched how we strive to build community and enrich the lives of backside workers and their families—year round and the past few months during COVID!

Spotlight: Arianna del Toro, Adult Education Coordinator

June 23, 2020

Arianna del Toro, Adult Education Coordinator, has been working tirelessly making sure our clients are provided for through direct services.

To properly maintain social distance, yet continue to serve our community, we meet clients at the walk-up windows. There, we get their information and what they need assistance with. Arianna then calls and schedules appointments with clients in need of assistance.

“It’s an effective system because it’s easier,” Arianna says. “It’s an easier, simpler system of streamlining client information to me. No one gets left behind, and everyone stays healthy when we talk on the phone.” We are grateful to be able to serve our clients to continue to build community and enrich the lives of backside workers during these times.

Seedling Distribution Made Possible By Louisville Agriculture Coalition

June 26, 2020

A special thank you to Louisville Agriculture Coalition for donating tomato, collard green and squash seedlings to us!

We’ve had a blast this week distributing the plants to our clients at both the backside of Churchill Downs AND at Trackside training center. Some clients began planting them right away, while many seedlings were given to us in containers big enough that they don’t need to be re-planted! Many of our clients live on the track, so that was very appreciated.

Partnering with such a great organization such as the Urban Agriculture Coalition helps us in the attempt to close the food security gap with our clients. This helps us continue our mission to enrich the lives of backside workers and their families!

MyRacehorse Donates Portion of May Earnings

June 24, 2020

In addition to Purses for Purpose, MyRaceHorse has graciously offered to donate a portion of May earnings to nonprofits supporting backstretch workers, including us at the Backside Learning Center!

“We knew we wanted to use our platform to raise funds to assist the backstretch workers during this difficult time, and by partnering with the three selected non-profits, we are thrilled to know the funds will be put in very capable hands and optimized to the fullest,” said My Racehorse founder Michael Behrens.

Thank you to MyRacehorse for supporting BLC clients and families who make horse racing possible.

Purses for a Purpose: Sense of Place Wins!

June 19, 2020

CONGRATULATIONS to Brook T. Smith Investments, LLC and Sense of Place for winning her first race today at Belterra Park!

A portion of her winnings will go to support programs serving equine workers and their families at the Backside Learning Center.

Donation Spotlight: Doctors for Healthy Communities

June 19, 2020

Thank you so much, Doctors for Healthy Communities, for donating another round of items of diapers, etc. to us so we can distribute to our families!

BLC Selected as Artemis Fund Grant Recipient

June 17, 2020

The Backside Learning Center is thrilled to have been selected for a grant from the Artemis Fund to support our activities with youth and families over the summer. The Artemis Fund is administered entirely by high school students who are enrolled in a philanthropy course at Kentucky Country Day School.


The Artemis Fund is a donor-advised fund with the Community Foundation of Louisville. The Fund awards grants to local organizations that support youth development in the community. Students in the course comprise the Board of Trustees and learn about effective philanthropy by experiencing firsthand the responsibility and challenges of making grant. The course is offered each spring, so there is a new Board of Trustees every year. Students learn about the history of philanthropy, review grant requests, organize site visits, and conduct interviews before making their final decisions.

Thanks to the 2020 Artemis Fund students! We cannot wait to host you on the backside on the other side of social distancing!

Serving the Backside Workers of Trackside Training Center

June 16, 2020

You may know our mission of building community and enriching the lives of backside workers and their families, but did you know we don’t exclusively help the backside workers of Churchill Downs racetrack?

We also serve clients at Trackside Training Center, which is an auxiliary Churchill Downs training facility 6 miles away, and is the home base of hundreds of additional equine workers and horses racing at Churchill Downs.

The past few weeks, we’ve been making our rounds visiting Trackside distributing masks, but also sharing information about our services that are available to workers at the Trackside too! This includes help with paperwork, mask distribution, direct services and produce.

We are proud to help the backside workers of nearby tracks, as well as workers here at Churchill Downs!

June Monthly Minute

June 15, 2020

Check out what we've been up to last month with our June Monthly Minute!

Click the link below if you're interested in subscribing to our email newsletters, updates and more!

Betting Windows Take On New Life!

June 12, 2020

Although races are happening without spectators in the stands, the backside of Churchill Downs is back in full swing with horses and workers! We are currently offering services through the betting windows that have been covered in plexi-glass to ensure a safe distance during consultations.  

Since the track reopened, we are still delivering boxes of food to families, but the number has decreased due to many of the workers returning to the track. We have used this opportunity to continue to serve the workers by distributing individual food boxes, toiletries and masks through our window services.

Through the betting windows, we're also offering help with paperwork and case management. In addition, we're connecting workers to tax assistance.

Thoroughbred Daily News Shares Purses for Purpose Launch

June 11, 2020

Thanks so much for sharing our news about launching Purses for Purpose, Thoroughbred Daily News!

Launching "Purses for a Purpose”

June 10, 2020

We are launching "Purses for a Purpose” to allow horse owners to pledge a portion of their horse’s earnings to benefit backside workers and their families. ⠀

Thoroughbred owners know more than the anyone how much those who care for their horses 365 days a year mean. Whether it’s feeding, grooming or exercising these equine athletes, the backside workers are vital to the health, safety and overall well being of animals in their charge. And now, owners have a great way to allow their horses to give back to those who take care of them.⠀

Horses who are a part of Purses for a Purpose will be featured on our website and in social media!

BLC Stands in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

May 05, 2020

At the Backside Learning Center, our mission is to build community and enrich the lives of equine workers and their families.

The Backside is, and has historically been a vibrant place where diverse people live and work alongside one another.

During this difficult time, our hearts are with all people of color and with our beloved city.

We remain committed to providing education and empowerment to contribute to a community based in respect, compassion and solidarity.

Congrats to Our Front Runners Grads: Evelyn, Vanessa & Alexis!

June 02, 2020

We are so proud of our Front Runners student Evelyn, who just graduated from Atherton High School last week! We wanted to throw her a little graduation party since an in-person graduation didn’t happen. So, we brought signs and goodies as a congrats! ⁣

Evelyn’s been with us since the very beginning. She began attending the Front Runners program when she was in 6th grade in September 2014. ⁣“The Backside Learning Center has helped me a lot,” Evelyn said. “You guys helped me get into Atherton, helped me get into UofL, helped me get scholarships. Anything that’s school related, you guys have been there.” ⁣

Her mother, Bertila, has worked at the backside of Churchill Downs for the past 13 years. Because of that, Evelyn has been connected with the backside of Churchill Downs for a lot of her life. ⁣“My favorite memories would be when we used to go to the little farm by Iroquois clinic,” Evelyn said. “That’s where most kids my age were and where we had the most space to play and run around.” ⁣

As far as future plans, Evelyn is going to attend the University of Louisville next year and wants to go premed. ⁣“I want to be a doctor,” Evelyn said. “I don’t know what kind of doctor, but I think I’m interested in that.” ⁣In terms of extra-curriculars, Evelyn was a member of National Honor Society, French Club and the track team. Lauren DeGeorge, the director of programs, used to help with rides.⁣ “Lauren helped me get to practice when I was a member of the Track team,” Evelyn said. “She also helped me with my resume.”⁣

We are so proud you, of Evelyn!



Up next, Vanessa!

Vanessa recently graduated from Doss High School. She wants to join the Marines to be able to continue her desire to be a nurse and an anesthesiologist assistant one day. Like Evelyn, Vanessa has also been with the BLC since the very beginning. She began as a 6th grader. Her mother, Martha, is a foreman here at the Backside.


“It’s inspirational, seeing Backside Learning Center grow,” says Vanessa. “It’s grown with the students, with technology, and opportunities offered. It’s emotional for me since I’ve been involved with it.”

Vanessa says she received a lot of help as a student of the Front Runner’s program, too. As a student, she most bonded with a tutor named Celeste Arnett. “Celeste and I got really close,” Vanessa stated. “She was the biggest motivator to keep me going. She kept me motivated to do my work.” She also gained a lot of life skills volunteering as a K-2 tutor, using her bilingualism to help explain things to younger students. “Working as a tutor helped me learn skills that I needed with how to communicate with others, to help provide for the whole community.”


We are so honored to have grown with you Vanessa. Congratulations! We are so excited to see all that you’re going to accomplish!



Our final 2020 high school graduate of our Backside Learning Center community is Alexis! Alexis graduated from Central High School a few weeks ago. Initially, Alexis struggled a bit academically. However, with a lot of hard work, he’s proud to celebrate his graduation as a first-generation graduate.

Alexis is the son of Silvia, one of our beloved students. Silvia works as a hotwalker and has been for the past 10 years. Alexis’s dad has worked at the backside for over 30 years. In short, Alexis’s upbringing has definitely revolved around the track.

Alexis is currently working as a hot walker on the backside at Churchill Downs. At first, he was interested in nursing, but is now considering many possible career paths. Currently, he is content working at the backside and is excited for his future—whatever his job may be.

Maria Del Cid Donates 100 Pizzas!

May 28, 2020

Thank so much to Maria Del Cid, who generously donated 100 boxes of pizza yesterday! While we were handing them out to backside workers, we met many new potential clients and shared information about our services. Not to mention, who can pass up a free pizza?

BLC Reaches Week 11 of Food Box Delieveries with Support of Donors

May 26, 2020

Since mid-March, we have been busy preparing boxes of food for backside workers and families as a response to COVID-19, and many of our families being without work due to track closure.

Dare to Care Food Bank, Blessings in a Backpack, Kentucky Race Track Chaplaincy and many generous donors and have donated canned goods, produce, meals, diapers, toiletries that we have packed into boxes to deliver to our families for 11 weeks now.

Since the track has reopened, we are still delivering boxes of food to families, but the number has decreased due to many of the workers returning to the track. We have used this opportunity to continue to serve the workers by distributing individual food boxes and masks.

Here are some statistics about our services the past couple of weeks:

• We received 1,491.62 lbs of produce from Dare to Care that we have packed in our boxes, on top of a truck-full of dried goods.

• We have distributed 83 individual food boxes to the backside workers and families containing snacks, dried goods, microwaveable meals and produce through the betting windows located at our center.

•In addition to those individual food boxes, we delivered 106 boxes two weeks ago, and 80 last week to families. The number has dwindled due to workers and families returning to work. We are still here supporting those who have not yet secured employment.

We are excited to continue to adapt to serve backside workers and their families!

Collaboration with Louisville Compost Co-Op

May 21, 2020

As we’ve gotten more donations through Dare to Care, the amount of waste we accrue has increased. Sean Raph from Louisville Compost Co-Op has worked with us in getting the size receptacles we need, and works around our schedule when we need to do container exchanges. We are able to recycle the rotten food into pink containers that they then pick up weekly to turn into a nutrient-rich soil called Humus.


"Sean and the Louisville Compost Co-op have been a great partnership since we began working with them in early March," said Program Director Lauren DeGeorge.

"They've been great communicators and supporters with limiting our food race through our expansion of our healthy food distribution program."

We are pleased to be able to help reduce the amount of produce in landfills, which then helps reduce the amount of methane released into the atmosphere. If you’d like to learn more about what Louisville Co-Op is about, or how you can set up your own pick up at home, please visit

The New York Times Features BLC & Our Work Against Digital Divide

May 20, 2020

Backside Learning Center Youth Development Coordinator Isai "Izzy" Sanchez was featured in the New York Times article this morning about the hurdles getting our families on free internet trials with Spectrum and AT&T, so they can continue their schoolwork with NTI through JCPS.


"Their stories highlight the way that the pandemic has stretched the gap between Americans who have easy access to the internet and those who do not, cutting the latter group off from venues for learning, work and play."


Thanks so much, The New York Times, for touching on the topic of how big the digital divide is in our country, especially during a pandemic when it's so needed for communication and learning. We are proud to have helped bridge the digital divide a little in our communities.

May Monthly Minute

May 19, 2020

Although Kentucky Gives Day has come and gone, we wanted to show what we've been up to by sharing our May Monthly Minute!

If you're interested in signing up for our newsletter, please click the link below!

BLC featured in Gov. Andy Beshear's COVID-19 Update

May 04, 2020

Honored to be featured in Gov. Andy Beshear's COVID-19 social media update today, as we assure our families are staying #healthyathome

#TeamKentucky #TogetherKY

Crushed Ice Catering donates 300+ Sandwich Boxes & Blessings in a Backpack donates Canned Goods

May 04, 2020

Amid COVID-19, we are grateful to be able to continue to serve backside workers and their families.

With our partnerships with Dare to Care Food BankKentucky Race Track Chaplaincy

and Americana Community Center, Inc., we have been able to deliver weekly boxes of food filled with produce, canned goods the past month and a half. In addition to the food, we’ve also been able to provide educational and recreational activities for children, toiletries, masks, meals in last week’s haul.

Also, we have been very fortunate to begin new partnerships with folks who have graciously added to our food box deliveries this past week. Blessings in a Backpack has begun giving us weekly donations of canned and dried goods. Crushed Ice Catering also graciously donated 300+ sandwich boxes to each individual member of all the families we are currently serving. In addition, we’ve had diapers generously donated to us by several volunteers and donors that we have then been able to distribute to our families with little ones.

Here are some more stats from last week:

• We delivered 1,156.54 lbs of produce donated by Dare to Care Food Bank, as well as some canned goods, to our families in need

• We delivered boxes to over 103 families of equine workers last week, up from 23 families when we began

Derby At Home

May 02, 2020

As we celebrate #KyDerbyAtHome we recognize and honor our backside workers, who as our


Board Member Carla Grego say, “are the heart and the backbone of the horseracing industry."

To learn more about our work, visit

Backside Learning Center receives Humana Foundation grant to help strengthen Louisville

April 28, 2020

Thank you so much to the Humana Foundation, and our former Americorps Vista—now Consumer Experience Professional with Humana Military—Emily Laybourne, for nominating us for the 2020 Community Partners Grant!

Food Boxes Feature Laptop Donations!

April 28, 2020

Last week, we delivered to a record 99 food boxes to backside workers and their families, including 201 children and 211 adults.

Dare to Care Food Bank donated 952 lbs last week, which was then distributed to families.

In addition to the food boxes, Izzy Sanchez was able to refurbish and deliver 7 donated, refurbished Chromebooks to students in the Front Runners program, so they can better complete their schoolwork. Many computers and tablets are in the works for another delivery, this week! This will help us bridge the digital divide with our clients.

Thoroughbred Daily News Spotlight

April 27, 2020

To think, Derby would normally be only a few days away!

Thank you so much, Thoroughbred Daily News, for spotlighting how we're continuing to serve backside workers and their families in these trying times.

Volunteer Spotlight: Adam Lipski Donates Laptops

April 24, 2020

Because it’s Volunteer Week, we wanted to give a quick thank you and shout out to Adam Lipinski, sophomore at Manual High School!

Adam distributed homemade flyers to over 100+ homes about how we were looking for used laptops to help bridge the digital divide—and was able to donate 10 tablets and computers to us this past week!

Thank you for helping us fulfill our mission of building community and enriching the lives of the families of backside workers, Adam. This helps our students stay on top of their school work for NTI!

Artist Kathy Sullivan Creates Piece to Benefit Backside Workers

April 21, 2020

Kathy Sullivan, a storied artist whose art has been featured on the Kentucky Derby Festival Poster, the Woodford Reserve Derby Bottle and displayed in Churchill Downs Race Track has created a piece of art entitled “We Will Sing One Song” to benefit workers on the backside. The art will help us continue to serve equine workers and their families, especially during the quarantine.

Posters, t shirts and stickers displaying the painting will be available here with all proceeds benefiting the Backside Learning Center.

The painting, “We Will Sing One Song,” features a jockey’s cap in the form of an American flag. As Kathy Sullivan explains: “The Kentucky Derby has always represented spring to me; the energy, the excitement, the frivolity, the athletes, the backside, those amazing two minutes... the strongest way for me to express myself and help those in need is through the gift of art. The Backside Learning Center has always been the supportive rock of the equine workers community. This image was created to represent strength in our solidarity, reminiscence through our memories, and hope for the amazing future that lies ahead. We Will Sing One Song.”

“We are incredibly humbled that Ms. Sullivan has chosen to honor backside workers and families with such a personal and meaningful gift that will go to support so many vulnerable individuals who serve as the backbone of the racing industry. Like so many industries, horse racing has been hit hard by this crisis, affecting the livelihoods of thousands and workers and their families. We feel very fortunate that the Backside Learning Center has been able to continue to provide vital support to this community,” said Sherry Stanley, Executive Director.

Record 99 Food Box Deliveries!

April 20, 2020

Last week, we hit a record with 99 FOOD BOX DELIVERIES to equine workers and families.

Mariah Garcia, our family resource coordinator, was also busy collecting educational materials, handouts, art supplies, jump ropes, National Geographic magazines, stickers, handwritten letters from volunteers, journals, etc. to distribute to our families in the food boxes this week. We think it’s important to give our kids resources to continue learning and reading. This helps us in our mission of building community and enriching the lives of backside workers and their families.

A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed and donated!

Suzy Houston

Paula Burke

Stephanie Bellot

Alexandra Wright

And many more.

Intern Spotlight: Josh Osbourne

April 15, 2020

Josh Osborne has been an intern at the Backside Learning Center since January 2020. He began originally helping out middle and high schoolers with English classes as an English instructor and tutor. He says it had been a very rewarding experience helping students with pronunciation.

“Putting in perspective and using a little bit of knowledge, that is easy for us, can go so much further for somebody that’s at a disadvantage because English isn’t their primary language.”

The BLC has greatly appreciated Josh’s assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Every week, Josh has been helping us pack and put together boxes of food to backside families. “I would be sitting at home right now, maybe doing a little homework,” Josh said. “Being able to come for a few hours during the week is rewarding because I can help people, and it gives me a reason to leave the house, also making a difference.“⁣

“Who would have thought that an organization that helps with English instruction could turn around in a pandemic like this and completely reorganize everything and try to help those families in another way,” Josh added.

We must add it wouldn’t be possible to continue to serve equine workers and their families without our interns. So, thank you for all you do, Josh!⁣

Weekly Food Boxes Continue

April 13, 2020

Amid COVID-19, we are grateful to be able to continue to serve backside workers and their families.

With our partnerships with Dare to Care Food Bank, Kentucky Race Track Chaplaincy and Americana Center, we have been able to deliver weekly boxes of food full of produce and canned goods to backside workers and their families the past month. In addition, we’ve had diapers generously donated to us by several volunteers and donors that we have then been able to distribute to our families with little ones.

Here are some stats from last week’s haul:

• We delivered over 892 lbs of produce donated by Dare to Care Food Bank, as well as some canned goods, to our families in need

• We delivered boxes to over 81 families of equine workers last week, up from 23 families over a month ago.

• We are currently serving over 100+ families consisting of over 194 adults, and 244 children.

• Over 1,816 diapers were delivered to our families who needed them the past few weeks

“This was so appreciated, thanks so much! My son, Brayan, loves the strawberries ! He ate them so fast I hardly had time to take the photo. Also, thanks so much for the avocados that you gave us. We were able to make guacamole,” said Angelica, one of the parents participating in the family program. "We really appreciate it, you are helping so much," said another parent.

Mariah Updates our Families

April 08, 2020

Mariah Levine Garcia is working closely with our families to ensure they have what they need as their children embark on their journey with Non Traditional Instruction amid COVID-19. She also talks about the importance to be calm during these times, have good communication with family members, and most of all—have patience with yourself! She even includes a meditation. 

Everyone can benefit from hearing these words of wisdom Mariah bestows on us today.

Internship Spotlight: Janet Dake

April 08, 2020

Janet Dake has been an intern at Backside Learning Center since January, 2019. What was originally an internship for class credit has turned into almost a year-and-a-half long relationship. Janet’s had a total of three different internships here at the Backside Learning Center. In addition to being the Front Runners program intern Spring 2019, she was also the Summer 2019 Youth Activities Americorps Vista, as well as beginning another internship as grant development intern this January.

In the beginning of Janet’s journey here at the BLC, she started as a Front Runners Program intern working with the middle and high school English Language Program. She also helped assemble the “Lo Que Hay en Mi Corazón” which was a collection of personal narratives and artwork created by our families.

“One of my favorite parts was getting to go to Front Runners program and working with the youth there.” Janet says. “I’ve known the kids for a year and a half now, and I’ve had the chance to form mentorship relationships with a lot of the kids. Plus the kids are hilarious and goofy,” Janet laughed.

However, her duties changed once the quarantine began for COVID-19. Since we’ve cancelled the Front Runners program and English classes, she’s been essential in supporting the Programming staff with a little bit of everything, especially with food distribution to equine workers and their families.

“It’s amazing how quickly and well the BLC has adapted to dramatically changing circumstances, ” Janet says. “I go through food we get every week and help weigh it. I help put together the boxes, and help update the master list.” Janet says there are so many families we’re working with right now, that it’s been a challenge.

Janet also talks about how happy she is to intern with us amid the quarantine.

“I’m really grateful that I’m part of an organization that is very much essential and operational, and be in a place where I can actually do something impactful.”

We’re so lucky to have Janet on our team to help us continue our mission of building community and enriching the lives of equine workers and their families!

BLC Included in Next Round of Ronprofits to Receive Money from the One Louisville Fund

April 07, 2020

We are so grateful to have received funding from the One Louisville Fund to continue to build community and support the needs of equine workers and their families during the COVID-19 crisis. Thank you to Community Foundation of Louisville,Metro United Way and Louisville Metro for ensuring that our services continue throughout this time, and thank you to all of the community members who have contributed to this fund. We will get through this, and our community will be even stronger.

COVID-19 Food Boxes: Partnering with Kentucky Race Track Chaplaincy and their food pantry, Dare to Care Food Bank and Americana Community Center

April 06, 2020

For those who may not know—when we received word from Churchill Downs that the opening of track was delayed because of COVID-19, and Family Program and English classes were cancelled, we knew we had to adapt to continue to build community and serve equine workers and their families.


Where do we start?

We began calling our clients and assessing their needs. The most common need is food assistance. Many families were concerned about not finding diapers because grocery stores didn’t have any.


We have been partnering with Kentucky Race Track Chaplaincy and their food pantry, Dare to Care Food Bank and @AmericanaCommunityCenter to make food boxes to deliver to our families in need.

“We pray to God that this passes, we depend on the track opening up again. If it doesn’t, where would we find work?” Maria, one of our English students, said.

“There are many things we aren’t able to get at the supermarket. Thanks to you guys, we have what we need. You guys bring us vegetables, which is important for my kids to stay healthy. Thank you,” Maria said.


Here are some stats from this week's haul:

* We delivered over 1,300 lbs of produce to our families last week

* We delivered boxes of food donations to over 66 families last week; up from 23 families in week 1!

* 1,168 diapers were delivered to our families who needed them the past two weeks

We feel honored to help so many equine workers and their families during this time.

BLC in Blue for National Child Abuse Prevention Month

April 04, 2020

Today, we asked staff and volunteers to wear blue in solidarity of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. We feel fortunate that we were able to take part in the Exploited Children's Help Organization's Darkness to Light training before quarantine earlier in March, so that we may better serve our children that may fall victim to abuse.

We are also very honored to partner with the Face It Movement, who ensures children are protected and safe through partnerships. We look forward to working with them to ensure our children are protected.

Changes and Updates Amidst COVID-19

April 02, 2020

Our Director of Programs, Lauren DeGeorge, speaks from home today about how we're adapting to serve our Backside community through distance learning, helping to get internet access in homes, and our food drive serving 60+ backside families.

April Monthly Minute: COVID-19 Edition

April 01, 2020

Read about what we were up to last month and how we've adapted amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in our April Monthly Minute.

Continuing Our Food Drive amidst COVID!

March 27, 2020

Whew! What a week we’ve had. This week we have been busier than ever with food drives.

A special thanks to Dare to Care Food Bank,  Americana Community Center, Inc. , and Kentucky Race Track Chaplaincy for your help in making our boxes. Here are some stats from this week’s haul!

* We delivered over 1,000 lbs of produce to our families.

* We delivered over 47 boxes of food donations this week to families

* We’ve added 24 more track families that were previously not enrolled in our programming, but have been added and provided for.

* 216 diapers were delivered to our families who needed them

* We added educational activities and books to this week’s delivery, thanks to Paula Burke, Suzy Houston and a few other volunteers!

A few direct quotes from some of our students, “There are many things we can’t find at the supermarket. Thanks to you guys, we have what we need.” One of the moms said, “Sahily says thank you!”

We feel so honored to help so many equine workers and their families during this time.

BLC COVID-19 Statement

March 25, 2020

Amidst the uncertainty we are all experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic, our Backside Learning Center family has a unique opportunity to rally around and empower Churchill Downs’ equine workers and their families. Hear from our Executive Director, Sherry Stanley, hear!

Remote Learning amidst COVID-19

March 23, 2020

With our digital learning infrastructure already set in place, it wasn’t difficult to add on our students from the Family Program’s English classes to our distance learning curriculum!

Arianna Del Toro has done a wonderful job conducting an English Program curriculum through Duolingo, staying connected to our students working in Arkansas, Florida and Louisiana during the winter.

Since we had to cancel our English Classes and the Family Program due to COVID-19, we’ve recently added 13 new students to the Duolingo digital classroom! Arianna monitors their progress and adjusts activities, and sets deadlines to encourage students keep practicing. There are 24 students currently participating in the curriculum.

“I think it's been easier than I thought it would be,” Arianna said. “Parents were willing to adapt quickly and as soon as I told them about this opportunity they said yes. I'm really proud of them because it shows how committed they are to learn English.”

We will send updates on how they’re doing, soon!

Our New Food Drive Initiative

March 20, 2020

Yesterday we donated 364 diapers and 23 families received boxes of food packed with breakfast and lunch meals for kids, fruit, vegetables, canned goods an information sheet on safe handling of food and how to properly disinfect.

Thanks to our partners Kentucky Race Track ChaplaincyDare to Care Food Bank, Americana Center for snack packs and lunch meals, and volunteer Mike Schoenman for the diapers—helping provide supplies to our food and essentials drop off to our clients!

"I Am / We Are" at KY Center for the Arts

March 09, 2020

Yesterday, some of our youth joined us at the event “I AM/WE ARE”, hosted by ArtsReach at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. Our Youth Development Coordinator here at the BLC, Isai “Izzy” Sanchez hosted and presented a poem. Our Youth Activities Leader, Merlin Cano, read her personal narrative from “Better Lucky than Good.” The event held such a great energy of diversity and talent. We were so thrilled to be there, and for our students to see different culture, as well! Thanks to volunteer ArtsReach Manager Cecilia Reyna for putting on the event! ArtsReach, a part of the Kentucky Performing Arts, which makes the arts accessible to the entire community by nurturing and developing diversity in the artists and audiences.

“I AM/ WE ARE celebrates through the performing arts the diversity and cultural arts of our community. This program showcases, through music, dance, storytelling, fashion, spoken word, and focal music, the indigenous roots and cultural art of eight countries including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala, India, Korea, Vietnam and the United States.”

Learning from a Distance

March 06, 2020

Henry has been a very dedicated student with us for several years. When he learned that the BLC was offering a distance learning curriculum through Duolingo, he was very excited. He is able to continue practicing English while he’s in Florida with his cell phone.

“It’s important for me because I feel like I’m taking classes, even though I’m far away.” Adult Education and Services Coordinator Arianna Del Toro includes lesson plans with each assignment, and requires the students to check in with her. Henry mentioned he’s doing activities based on vocabulary with greetings, travel, food, family, shopping, education, relatives, etc.

The fun aspect about setting up curriculum through Duolingo is that it can be competitive with the other students. “I like it a lot because it’s a challenge for me because I’m not the only one doing it. I’m trying to be the best.” He said that he’s in the "silver league" right now and in 4th place among his peers. “I need to practice more and more to get to first place.”

Henry has recommended distance learning to his friends. “I hope they see it the same way I do.” We remain connected with our students across the miles and cannot wait for them to return to English classes in the spring!

Front Runners Day at the Capitol

March 04, 2020

Exposing our youth to new experiences and growth is central to our Front Runners Program. Today a group of middle schoolers visited Frankfort to tour the Capitol and have a hands on civics lesson. We met with Governor Beshear, Mayor Fischer, Representative Kulkarni and Auditor Harmon, attended a House Judiciary Committee hearing and saw the Senate in session. Several of our youth are interested in serving as legislative pages and one declared that she wants to run for office!

March Monthy Minute

March 16, 2020

While we are ironing out details about how best to to serve our families amid the outbreak, we wanted to update you guys on what we were up to on February by posting a PDF version of the March Monthly Minute! Also included is our statement about how we will move forward.

Better Lucky Than Good

November 11, 2019

The Backside Learning Center was excited to join our partners at Louisville Story Program and all of the authors at the Kentucky Derby Museum on November 4th for the launch of “Better Lucky Than Good: Tall Tales and Straight Talk from the Backside of the Track.” BLC Youth Activities Coordinator Merlin Cano and Board Member Carla Grego were featured speakers, and BLC Executive Director Sherry Stanley was also present to autograph copies of the book.  Louisville Story Program Deputy Director Joe Manning and Merlin Cano were also featured on Great Day Live.  Copies of the book are available at the Backside Learning Center for $25, with half of the proceeds benefitting the BLC.

BLC Strategic Planning

April 08, 2019

Last week the Backside Learning Center staff and Board of Directors spent time devoted to the future of the BLC. With the help of the Community Foundation of Louisville, and consultants from Catapult Now LLC, the future vision of the learning center is exciting and bright! Thank you to Jess Amburgey for capturing our planning and hard work. 

English Students Treated to a Trip

June 20, 2018

June saw the completion of our first cycle of English classes! We ended our first six weeks with a potluck dinner where volunteers and students enjoyed a variety of delicious dishes. Certificates were also awarded to student while students with the highest attendance were treated to a trip to either the IMAX Theater or Climb Nulu! 

Volunteer Raises Funds for Student

May 16, 2018

When Antoni arrived at the BLC's Front Runners Program, he struggled to read. It was difficult for him to sound out single-syllable words.

Over the past year and a half, he's been working one-on-one with his Front Runners Program tutor Kevin McKinney where Antoni's reading ability has greatly improved.

Recently Kevin held his own fundraiser on Facebook to raise money for books so Antoni could continue to improve. After a short amount of time Kevin was able to raise $395 for Antoni's own home library!

We are so proud of the progress Antoni has made with his reading and so grateful to have incredible volunteers like Kevin who truly make a difference in the lives of our students!

English Classes Start Back Up

May 14, 2018

Following Derby we kicked off our English Language Program with a strong turnout of students eager to learn! Right now we are offering three levels of classes taught Monday-Wednesday by dedicated volunteers. 

Youth Group at Cinco de Mayo!

May 07, 2018

Even with our Family Program finished for the summer, BLC's youth group is still going strong! Taking advantage of 4th Street Live's Cinco de Mayo festival, they sold vintage Derby posters to raise money for future trips/activities this summer! 

BLC Bike Workshop Begins

April 27, 2018

With the help of incredible volunteers, Proclaim Roofing, and Window Ninjas, the BLC kicked off its Bike Repair Program on April 27th. The first workshop saw a great turnout. Bikes are a common form of transportation on the backside which led the BLC to develop a program to serve the growing population of bike owners in the community.

These monthly workshops will teach backside workers about basic bike repair and maintenance, while providing them with an area to work and borrow tools.

Final Family Program Fiesta

April 26, 2018

Our end-of-year Family Program Party was an amazing way to wrap up our Front Runners and Adult Education programs for the summer! 

The highlights included incredible food and music, a live performance by Kentucky Shakespeare, summer camp registration, certificate presentations to our adult English students, and a book give away! Thank you once again to all of our outstanding volunteers who make this program possible!

Girls' Night Out: Derby & Oaks Prep Party

April 23, 2018

This year's Girls' Night Out: Derby and Oaks Prep Party was hosted by Porcini Restaurant and gave the ladies in attendance a fun environment to kick off the Derby Season. The Handicapping presentation by Donna Brothers, Jennie Rees, and Mike Welsh gave the basics to betting and showed how to decipher racing programs.

Stoneware & Co. Starting Gate Social

April 12, 2018

On April 12th Stoneware & Co. held their first annual Starting Gate Social benefiting the BLC. The event showcased delicious appetizers from Farm to Fork Catering and bourbon tasting from Rabbit Hole Distilling.  

Wall Together Exhibit Reception

April 07, 2018

Friends and families from the backside gathered at the Speed Art Museum for the opening reception of the Wall Together: On The Backside exhibit! The exhibit features photos taken by backside workers and their children, and gives a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of equine workers and their families.


Over several months, participating artists of all ages used Holga cameras to document their lives in Louisville. The resulting photographs capture the daily life of these families, both on and off the racetrack.

Be sure to check out this incredible exhibit which will be on display at the Speed through September!

In Loving Memory of Anahi Mejia

April 05, 2018

Beloved BLC student and hotwalker, Anahi Mejia, passed away on March 7, 2018 at age 29. Originally from Mexico, she excelled in academics and won awards for high achievement in math. She dreamed of being a teacher but due to dangerous conditions in rural areas in her home state of Guerrero, she made the difficult decision to work in the U.S. and temporarily abandon her career plans. Anahi was an active participant in the BLC's English program until she became ill in 2013. Anahi leaves behind several family members who work on the backside, including her parents, two sisters and nieces and nephews who participate in our Family Program. All those that knew Anahi will miss her positive spirit and kind nature.

Congratulations Francisco!

April 05, 2018

Congratulations to BLC student and exercise rider Francisco for becoming a U.S. citizen this month. We are so proud of him and privileged to have played a role in helping him achieve his goal! His wife and hotwalker, Francisca and his daughter Jasmyn (above) participate in the BLC's Family Program.

A special thanks to volunteer Bart Whitehouse for his dedication to helping Francisco master the test questions!

Front Runners go to Frankfort

February 15, 2018

The BLC was proud to accompany Front Runners students to Frankfort for Refugee & Immigrant Day at the Capitol. Our young leaders, together with hundreds of Kentuckians from all over the state, had the opportunity to meet with representatives to discuss the important role that immigrants and refugees play in our state. Sixth grade Front Runners student, Jenesy, delivered letters from hundreds of Louisvillians, including backside workers and family members, to Governor Bevin's office.

Yoga at Front Runners

February 13, 2018

Our Front Runners Program is proud to be partnering with the Kentucky Yoga Initiative to provide monthly yoga classes to our young learners. These classes, which will introduce our students to basic poses, are designed to encourage physical activity, relaxation, and stress relief. 

It's our goal that each class, led by a KYI instructor, will aid in the emotional development of our students by allowing them to build confidence with their movements and find an avenue for personal reflection. 

Nutrition and Cooking Class at the Family Program

February 01, 2018

Front Runners has begun an 8-week nutrition course for adult students led by Omar Miralles-Perez from UK's Nutrition Education Program. The course has introduced students to the basics of nutrition and provide opportunities to prepare healthy meals with fresh ingredients. In addition to learning about nutrition students are being introduced to new foods that are not commonly used in their countries but regularly found here in the States. 

Pre-K and Early Elementary Music Show

January 31, 2018

The pre-K and early primary students enjoyed a live performance from bilingual Louisville based children's band Evan & Vanessa!

It was a great opportunity for our younger learners to experience live music,develop language skills in both English and Spanish, build self-esteem, improve creativity, and dance!

In Memory of Mike Hargrave

January 31, 2018

It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to a beloved member of the horse racing community. Mike Hargrave passed away January 13th at Jewish Hospital.

Mike was born on October 28, 1948 in Louisville, KY to Dorothy Eskridge Hargrave and the late Jesse Paul Hargrave.  Mike worked nearly 40 years at Churchill Downs as the Director of Stabling over the race track.  He was an avid golfer and a loving husband, father, grandfather, son and brother.  He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, and all of us here on the backside.


The Backside Learning Center is especially grateful to those who donated in memory of Mike Hargrave:

Buff and Kim Bradley                                              Tari Hendrickson
Chelsea Coady                                                       Lauren Baldwin
Maria Kabel                                                             Anderson Realty, LLC
Jo Lawson                                                               Laura Stallard
Ashley Bonno                                                          Pamela Blatz-Muff
Brook Ledge, Inc.                                                    Crowders Realty, LLC
Todd Pletcher                                                          William and Joan Hudgens
Craig Fravel                                                            Crowder's Pharmacy
Kerri Hall                                                                 Godolphin, LLC
Loren Hebel                                                            Paul McGee Racing Stables
Deborah Culver                                                       William and Sally Landes
The Keenland Association                                      Marcia Ann and Roger Dall
Jockeys' Guild                                                         Nafzger Family Foundation
Todd Pletcher
Amy Gregory

Celebrating Student Achievements

January 31, 2018

BLC student triumphs are what we work so hard to accomplish at the Learning Center. We are proud to celebrate the achievement of longtime BLC student, Eduviges Atempa who recently received her Kentucky driver's license! 

For many, receiving a driver's license may not be such a feat, but for non-native English speakers there are many hurdles in reaching this goal. Eduviges overcame the language barrier and successfully passed both the written and driving portions of the test! We are happy to have been a resource for Eduviges in helping her both practice her driving and learn the terminology for the test. 

For her a driver's license means independence and the ability to access resources and opportunities for herself and her three young girls. 

Holiday Open House at Jefferson Memorial Forest

December 21, 2017

Front Runners participants took a final holiday trip to Jefferson Memorial Forrest to enjoy their Holiday Open House. Participants took part in the winter scavenger hunt, story time, arts and crafts and hiking, and learned about different animals in the Education Center. It is always a pleasure to provide our participants the opportunity to learn and explore new subjects and enjoy their time with friends and family. 

Celebrating the Holidays at the Front Runners Program

December 15, 2017

We celebrated the holiday season and end of fall session at the Front Runners Program with a potluck and gifts donated by GE Appliances HR team, supporter Kelly Ramsey, Brown-Forman's COPA & Young Professionals groups, and Cathy Shircliff!

We are eternally grateful for the participation of our volunteers and corporate supporters in helping us make this event possible. The generosity and compassion of these individuals helped our families have a happy holiday season! 

Benefit for the Backside Success!

December 07, 2017

On Friday, November 17, the Backside Learning Center hosted its 11th annual fundraiser held at Millionaires Row at Churchill Downs. The event was attended by over 460 guests and raised $86,000 to directly support its programs. Benefit for the Backside included a large silent auction, a photography exhibition created by BLC students, a bourbon raffle and a wine pull.  


This event supports the Learning Center’s mission to provide educational and social services to equine workers and families at Churchill Downs. 


Benefit for the Backside is the most significant fundraiser for the Backside Learning Center. It generates crucial funding that allows the BLC to continue its current and future success. 


The generous support  from the BLC has helped to build a community in the backside of Churchill Downs by enriching the lives of equine workers and their families. 


We are grateful for all of the Benefit for the Backside 2017 event sponsors who helped make the fundraiser a success! 

Students Migrate to other Racetracks for the Winter

December 07, 2017

Our final cycle of English classes took place on November 9. Our students successfully completed another year of classes; we are proud of their dedication and progress in learning English.


With the end of the English program and the racing season at Churchill Downs many students headed south to work at tracks in Florida, Arkansas, and Louisiana for the winter. Our students will be away from friends and families until March of next year. They will all be greatly missed. We wish them safe travels and happy holidays! 

Front Runners Participants Recognized for Academic Success & Strong Character

December 07, 2017

Frontrunners participants are recognized at Frayser Elementary for academic achievement & strong character.


Twice a week families come to our Frontrunners program to empower themselves through their participation in our educational programs. Their resilient and driven spirit propels them forward in their efforts to access resources and provide their children with the opportunity to succeed. Second grader Julian and third grader Antoni, are testament to the hard work that takes place at the program. 


Julian Velasquez, received the Frayser Elementary’s Reaching Outstanding Academic Results award. Antoni Salazar, received Frayser Elementary’s R.O.A.R. (Respect, Ownership, Attitude & Responsibility) award.

ESL Program Celebration

August 31, 2017

This month, our ESL program celebrated the end of Cycle 2 and the beginning of Cycle 3!

Cycle 2 ended with 29 students receiving certificates of completion, and the recognition of 9 exceptional students who completed the cycle with outstanding attendance! 

To reward them for their hard work and dedication, we took a trip to the Big Four Bridge! The trip marked the first visit to the bridge and to Indiana for most of the group! 

We are so proud of our students, and we look forward to celebrating the end of cycle 3 with the same success! 

Bernheim Field Trip

July 31, 2017

Our Family Education Program youth traveled to the Bernheim Forest earlier this month to learn about nature! 

Our younger participants went on an Arts & Exploration tour in the forest and learned how art and nature can come together to create unique works of art. Our teens  explored Bernheim's ecosystems to learn about different plants and animals. 

A big thanks to Bernheim Forest for hosting the BLC Family Education Program and teaching our youth about art and nature!

In-Home Summer Tutoring

July 31, 2017

Throughout the summer, our Family Education Program youth have been paired with tutors who work with them individually to prepare for their upcoming school year. Tutors create educational activities and practice reading based on individual students' needs to set them up for a successful school year. Thanks to these dedicated volunteers our youth participants will be well-equipped for a successful 2017-18 school year!

Conversation Partners

July 24, 2017

We are happy to announce the start of our Conversation Partners Program! The program pairs non-native English- speaking students from the BLC with native English-speaking members of the Louisville community for one-on-one, informal conversation in both Spanish and English. 

It promotes and encourages cultural awareness and understanding, helps BLC students understand and adapt to U.S. culture, strengthens language skills, and provides both participants the opportunity to see the world from another perspective and create new friendships. 

Grant Award: Thoroughbred Charities of America

July 19, 2017

The Backside Learning Center was recently awarded funding by Thoroughbred Charities of America! Funding will be used to enhance our Volunteer Management Program and ensure our students receive quality programming! 


July 10, 2017

Louisville, KY -- July 7th, 2017 -- The Backside Learning Center received a $15,000 grant from The UPS Foundation, which drives global corporate citizenship and philanthropic programs for UPS (NYSE: UPS). 


The grant will be used toward their organizational development efforts. 


The Backside Learning Center at Churchill Downs is a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of equine workers and their families through educational programs and social services. Current programs include adult English as a Second Language courses, after school academic support for the children of equine workers, bike, art and music workshops and more. This grant is so important because it will ensure that these programs continue to run and that new programs can start successfully. 


Established in 1951 and based in Atlanta, Ga., The UPS Foundation identifies specific areas where its backing clearly impacts social issues. In support of this strategic approach, The UPS Foundation has identified the following focus areas for giving: volunteerism, diversity, community safety and the environment. 


In 2016, UPS and its employees, active and required, invested more than $116.6 million in charitable giving around the world. The UPS Foundation can be found on the web at To get news direct, visit 


"The UPS Foundation is honored to support The Backside Learning Center's efforts to educate the horse workers and their families, " said Eduardo Martinez, President of the UPS Foundation and chief diversity and inclusion officer at UPS. "Our goal is to fund powerful programs that make a lasting difference to the global community." 



Donation from Kentucky Thoroughbread Association

July 10, 2017

The Kentucky Thoroughbred Association collected over $9,000 in donations during the 2017 Kentucky Derby Trainer's Dinner to benefit the Backside Learning Center and The Healing Place. 

ESL Graduation Ceremony

July 10, 2017

BLC English students completed the first cycle of English classes! We had the pleasure of celebrating their achievement this month and recognizing their hard work and growth at our Graduation Ceremony!