Churchill Downs upholds a strong tradition of corporate social responsibility and is a committed community partner. As early as 1938, under the direction of Colonel Matt Winn (racetrack President from 1938-1949), the track took interest in donating a portion of its earnings to local charities. With the help of J. Graham Brown – a prominent Louisville horseman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist – the racetrack founded the Churchill Downs Foundation, a charitable organization which established a series of race dates, each fall, that were held for charitable purposes only. Within just a 10-year period, from 1940-1950, the Churchill Downs Foundation donated approximately $1.5 million to charity. Today, Churchill Downs Racetrack and the Churchill Downs Foundation continue a legacy of giving, and strive to nurture and mentor the Louisville community.
Churchill Downs is very active in serving the Louisville Community, with a primary focus towards its neighbors in Southern Louisville. The corporation comes together to better the neighborhood through many different events and activities:
- Churchill Downs partners with volunteers from The Lord’s Kitchen to serve nearly 600 needy families and neighbors with Thanksgiving dinner, during the annual Thanksgiving Family Food Box Giveaway
- Jockeys from Churchill Downs visit Kosair Children’s Hospital to meet young patients and deliver toys
- Churchill Downs hosts a Big Brothers/Big Sisters Bowl for Kids’ Sake event to raise funds and support the life-changing work of Big Brothers/Big Sisters
- Churchill Downs sponsors a Christmas Angel Tree, providing holiday gifts and needs for Maryhurst Alternative School and the Center for Women and Families
- Churchill Downs hosts the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk in the infield to raise funds for T1D research
- Christ Chapel, a non-denomination chapel located on the backside of Churchill Downs holds religious services to cater to the spiritual needs of backside workers and other visitors in the community
- The Churchill Downs Starting Gate Scholarship offers an exceptional student in the neighborhood adjoining Churchill Downs with the opportunity to obtain a two- or four-year college education
- Sheila Day fundraiser, formally known as Mom’s Closet, serves as a resource center for single moms who are struggling financially and emotionally. Churchill Downs hosts a yearly fundraiser in the trophy room the Wednesday before the Kentucky Derby donating all proceeds to the Sheila Day Fundraiser
Established in 2004, the Backside Learning Center serves as a comprehensive resource center to equine workers and their families. The center abides by three values - education, connection, and community. The Backside Learning Center offers:
- Classes to help equine workers learn English, pass their GED exams, and obtain U.S. citizenship
- Family education programs and after school activities to children that need extra academic support.
- Access to healthcare resources – onsite health screenings, aid in scheduling off-site doctor appointments, help in arranging transportation to and from off-site doctor appointments
- Backside Recreational Program, organizing sports leagues and holiday celebrations within the community
- Lifestyle programs and counseling helping those with substance abuse
The Backside Learning Center serves as a “home away from home” for equine workers, and Churchill Downs makes it a priority to give back to the workers who devote their time to better the sport of horse racing.
Through Community Relations and the CDI Foundation, now working as "Churchill Charities," up to $2 million in financial and in-kind contributions are annually directed toward nonprofit entities that assist our industry, public health and welfare, education and the arts programs benefiting our community. Here are a few programs Churchill Downs Racetrack organizes:
- Taste of Derby presented by Angry Orchard is an annual food and wine event hosted Derby week which raises funds and brings awareness for hunger relief organizations. To date, over $235,000 has been contributed to hunger relief locally and around the country in regions where participating chefs are located. Dare to Care Food Bank is one of the hunger relief organizations which receives a portion of ticket proceeds. Dare to Care Food Bank leads the Louisville community in feeding the hungry and conquering the cycle of need. Dare to Care fulfills that mission through innovative programs and by partnering with over 300 local agencies to distribute food to those who need it most. From their Kids Cafes, which provide nourishing meals and activities for children after school, to Mobile Pantries, which provide food for those without access to a traditional food pantry, Dare to Care is the leader in addressing the hunger needs in the Louisville community.
- Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA), is a non-profit organization that accredits and serves as a fundraising engine to support aftercare facilities for Thoroughbred race horses. Churchill Downs donates $5 to TAA for every horse that races at Churchill Downs Racetrack.
- Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) provides financial assistance to former jockeys who have suffered catastrophic injuries while on-track. Churchill Downs supports the "Fillies & Lilies Party" during Derby week to help collect funds for permanently disabled jockeys.
- Horses and Hope, a project of First Lady Jane Beshear, the Pink Stable, and the Kentucky Cancer Program, has a mission to increase breast cancer awareness among Kentucky’s horse industry workers and their families. Not only does Churchill Downs host an event each fall to raise funds for Horses and Hope, they also donate $1 of every Oaks lily drink sold on Kentucky Oaks Day to Horses and Hope, in honor breast cancer survivors.
- Churchill Downs partners with Kosair Children’s Hospital to host Family Adventure Day. The event provides interactive exhibits and educational activities, accompanied with live horse racing, so that the whole family can enjoy Churchill Downs. $1 of each Family Adventure Day ticket sold is donated to Kosair Children’s Hospital.
- Churchill Downs donated $20,000 to The V Foundation - $1 for each attendee of College Rivalry Night at Downs After Dark. The V Foundation (formed by ESPN and Jim Valvano, former college basketball coach and cancer patient) is a charitable organization dedicated to saving lives by helping to find a cure for cancer. The V Foundation seeks to make a difference by generating broad-based support for cancer research and by creating an urgent awareness among all Americans of the importance of the war against cancer. The Foundation performs these dual roles through advocacy, education, fundraising, and philanthropy. Locally, The V Foundation goals are to generate awareness and raise funds for cancer research.
For more information on Churchill Charities and the Churchill Downs Foundation, click here.
For more information on grant applications and how to request a donation from Churchill Downs, please submit the form below.