Program wants to put kids back on track But state says it can't afford it

HORSE RACING Notebook

October 04, 1992|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

The Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Cub Hill was in the news last month when 21 teen-age residents escaped from the grounds in a two-week period.

Now, the Hickey School stands to lose a $250,000 gift from segments of the horse racing industry who say they want to establish a beneficial program to help those troubled youths.

Monique Koehler, president of the New York-based Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, wants to duplicate at the Hickey School the same kind of horse-care facility that TRF created at the Wallkill State Prison in Wallkill, N.Y. to help rehabilitate criminals.

The project, in its 10th year, has been a notable success. Retired racehorses, many of them famous stakes winners who have been crippled by injuries, are donated to the program. The prisoners care for the animals in an organized vocational curriculum that has been acclaimed for it's therapeutic as well as practical qualities.

But the state of Maryland, through it's Juvenile Services Department, has nixed Koehler's plans.

Jacqueline Lampell, spokeswoman for the department, said FTC Friday that agency-wide budget cuts prevent the state from participating in the project.

"I don't want to characterize the program as 'dead'," Lampell said. "Maybe at some future time it can be discussed. I know this is hard [for the TRF people] to understand, but we are in very difficult times."

Koehler, however, said the budgetary cuts are just a scapegoat. "They are just throwing away an opportunity to help these kids," Koehler said.

Under her plan, the state would be required to kick in $5,000 to $10,000 annually to help pay for liability insurance, assistance in maintaining barns, fencing and classroom facilities that TRF would build on the state-owned property. The approximately $250,000 in construction costs would be donated by a horse owner.

Rebound Corp. Inc., a Denver-based company that runs the Hickey School, is cooperating with Koehler and has said it will pay part of the insurance and classroom costs.

"But I need the state's commitment as a partner," she said. "I need assurances from them that if for some reason Rebound left as the school's operator, TRF wouldn't have to renegotiate every time a new operator came in."

Koehler said it is the same deal TRF has with the state of New York to operate the Wallkill facility.

"Somehow there is a magical connection between horses and people," Koehler said. "Some of these kids have never had to care for or been loved by another living thing. Horses break down walls. Caring for them teaches respect and the work ethic. I can't believe the state of Maryland is going to throw all of these things away from a group of kids that need them the most."

Koehler said that TRF can sponsor only one other program and that if Maryland is unable to complete the arrangement the New Jersey and Delaware juvenile services departments are interested in implementing the project.

Infield Entertaining

Those agency-wide state budget cuts apparently prevented the Department of Economic and Employment Development from pitching their entertainment tent in the infield for last weekend's Maryland Million. It also marked the first time in seven runnings that Gov. William Donald Schaefer did not attend the event.

Meanwhile a U.S. Senate subcommittee investigating the activities of Blue Cross-Blue Shield noted that the medical care company spent more than $65,000 for entertaining in the infield at this year's Preakness, including a $24,000 catering fee for the day's events.

Let's Commingle

Rosecroft Raceway's initial experiment of simulcasting 12- and 14-race cards from Garden State Park during it's own nightly program has been a success, said track publicist Jerry Connors.

During the first two nights (Thursday and Friday of last week), Rosecroft and Delmarva fans bet more than $250,000 on the Garden State races. If such success continues, Rosecroft, which shut down for the month of January last year, might ask the state racing commission for permission to open earlier in 1993. The track will want to simulcast whole cards from The Meadowlands harness meet.

The commission convenes at Timonium next week to allot racing dates for the 1993 season.

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