The Harness Horse Youth Foundation (HHYF) trustees recently elected four new individuals to its 15-member working board. Jennifer Connor, Suzanne D’Ambrose, John Reames, and Gabe Wand along with reelected incumbents Nicola Abrams, Tony Alagna, and Emily Gaskin will each dedicate their efforts to educating today’s youth about harness racing by actively working on various HHYF projects.
Jennifer Connor, Pine Bush, N.Y., comes from a family of horsemen who have volunteered on many occasions with HHYF activities. “My parents even trained Sweet Karen one year so I see how important HHYF work is. One big goal is to keep the kids involved after their camp experience. We need to find ways to give them more access and the ability to network,” sha said, Connor is an equine pharmaceutical representative, races under saddle, and is an owner and breeder.
Suzanne D’Ambrose, Neptune, N.J., is an enthusiastic Standardbred supporter in several capacities even before joining the HHYF board. A 4-H advisor and Corresponding Secretary for Standardbred Pleasure Horse Organization of New Jersey, she also retrains retired harness horse under saddle and, along with her equine sidekick Independent Act, participates in meet-and-greets at local events. “I have 26 years of teaching experience and we need to get kids excited about learning horsemanship. I want to help HHYF solidify its curriculum to make sure it is standardized in order to expand our reach and retain quality instructors,” she said.
John Reames, Dayton, Ohio, has been on the road as HHYF program assistant for the past two summers and prior to that both of his sons participated in the camps. “It’s a whole lot more than people realize; the logistics that go into running the camps are enormous. I am retired but my experience with structured companies, processes and procedures, how to get things done gives me a different perspective on how to help HHYF adapt going forward,” he said.
Gabe Wand, Dodgeville, Wisc. is an active owner, trainer, and driver as well as serving as Wisconsin Harness Horsemen’s Association President for the past 14 years (in a state with no pari-mutuel wagering) so he emphasizes the importance of creating new fans. “We have done many camps under HHYF guidance for years and introduced more than 1,000 kids to racing. We need to remember that we are not just looking to produce new drivers, trainers or caretakers – but also new enthusiasts…and that can be hard to measure in the long term,” he said.
At its annual meeting, HHYF also reelected its 2018 slate of officers: Ron Battoni – President; Adam Bowden – Vice President; Allison Conte – Secretary; Nicola Abrams – Treasurer.
The Harness Horse Youth Foundation is a charitable 501(c)3 organization dedicated to providing young people and their families educational opportunities with harness horses in order to foster the next generation of participants and fans. The Foundation has been making a difference in young people’s lives since 1976, and its programs include interactive learning experiences with harness horses, scholarship programs, and creation and distribution of educational materials. For more information on opportunities through HHYF, or to support its mission, go to www.hhyf.org.
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