Gift horse

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Dear Ace: The Foxfield Races designates a charitable organization to receive proceeds from its semiannual steeplechase races, but how much are the Foxfield folks actually giving to charities?—Horace O. Coors.

Horace: Boy, you’re even more cynical than Ace, huh? Still, Ace supposes you have some justification. Those white-glove-wearing, julep-sipping, portfolio-having derbyites over at Foxfield surely can’t be charitable, too, can they? It’s like if the bad guys in Revenge of the Nerds were nice philanthropists! It’s just not fair! Ace decided to do some digging to see if there’s something rotten lurking beneath Foxfield’s gleaming surface.

Ace first went to the source, speaking with Anne Susen, marketing director of the Foxfield Races. Susen tells Ace that over the past 30 years, Foxfield and its beneficiaries have raised more than $1.5 million for charities. But how do we know that Foxfield isn’t sneaking another $3 million under the table? Well, as it turns out, Foxfield doesn’t even touch the money. Susen explains that “although Foxfield used to host and run the Foxfield Ball each race meet, we have now turned that duty over to the charitable organization, with all the funds raised going directly to that organization.” Foxfield also throws some money the charity’s way, but that individual contribution makes up very little of the charity’s final take. But just to keep Foxfield honest, Ace put in some calls.

Ace spoke with Sibley Johns, executive director of the Music Resource Center, the designated beneficiary of Foxfield’s 2007 Spring Race. She told Ace, “The charity basically organizes the evening from soup to nuts. My understanding is that the charity that is selected is asked to organize a gala—dinner and dance.” So a charity lets Foxfield know it’s interested in running the ball, and if the organization gets picked as the beneficiary, it’s the organization’s duty to do just that. This also means that exact figures are hard to pin down. Johns explains that the organization has to pay for catering, the tent, port-a-potties, booze and advertising, and then gets to keep whatever’s left over. Despite the high maintenance, Johns reports that the Music Resource Center was overwhelmingly happy with how the whole thing turned out. So, according to a spokesperson, was Live Arts, co-beneficiary of last year’s event, along with its sister organizations, the Second Street Gallery and Light House.

So Horace, feel free to continue resenting Foxfield for sending a plague of startlingly drunk UVA frat dudes and sorority dudettes down Barracks each April. But if it’s embezzlement conspiracies you want, you’re just gonna have to look elsewhere.

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