Contact: Andy Belfiore FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NYTHA Executive Director Sept. 1, 2017
CHAPLAIN HUMBERTO CHAVEZ TO BE HONORED AS 2017 NYTHA “EQUISTAR”
Chaplain Humberto Chavez, a beloved member of the racetrack community for nearly half his life, will be honored with the 2017 NYTHA “EquiStar Award” for his inspiring dedication to New York’s backstretch workers. The EquiStar Award was created by the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association to recognize an individual or organization that, through compassion, hard work and generosity, enrich the New York Thoroughbred industry. Chaplain Chavez will be honored during a ceremony at the annual NYTHA PAC Golf Tournament at Rockville Links in Rockville Centre, NY, on Tuesday, Sept. 26.
Award Will Be Presented at NYTHA’s Annual Golf Tournament Sept. 26
“At any hour, every day, the Chaplain is on call for the people of the backstretch,” NYTHA President Rick Violette Jr. said. “No matter a person’s station in life, or what faith they might follow, he is there to listen and to help. There is no one more deserving of this small token of our deep appreciation for all that he does.”
NYTHA Trainer/Director Rick Schosberg, who chairs the Backstretch Committee, said, “Chaplain Humberto's unwavering passion and his complete understanding of the needs of our backstretch community are a true gift. Working closely with him has been an absolute privilege.”
Originally from Mexico, Chaplain Chavez came to the U.S. when he was nine years old, and was raised on Long Island by a single mom who worked two jobs to provide for her son.
“That was tough, by all means,” the Chaplain admitted. “There was an extreme learning curve for both of us back then. We didn’t speak English, we moved from Florida to Manhattan before we finally settled in Hempstead. I’ve called Nassau County my home ever since.”
His childhood parallels that of the sons and daughters of many of the workers he now ministers to.
“I see my life every year played out in the lives of these people,” the Chaplain said. “I see the same struggles I had. The child goes to school, the child learns English before the parents and becomes the voice of the family, whether it is paying bills or during doctor’s visits. You grow up very quickly.”
He did not know how well his experience would serve him in the future.
After graduating from Mineola High School, the Chaplain worked in construction and was trained as a carpenter. By his early 20s, he was in business for himself. But a chain of events would change his life.
The Chaplain has always been spiritual. A youth pastor, he became an associate pastor a year after his marriage to wife Karen. As it happened, his new brother-in-law was a clergyman serving the community near Belmont Park. Chaplain Chavez completed his seminary training, and, after a time helping out at the church just outside the track, he stepped onto the backstretch and found his calling. He began assisting Reverend James Watson, who headed up the New York division of the Race Track Chaplaincy of America at the NYRA tracks.
The pivotal moment came in 2003.
“Chaplain Watson came to me and told me he was retiring,” the Chaplain recalled. “He said, ‘I feel in my heart that you should apply for the job.’ I was at an intersection, a fork in the road. Did I want to be a business owner, or did I want to help my community, and give the people on the backstretch more of a voice?”
He decided to apply for the position. Everyone asked the same question: “Are you sure?” But he knew the answer.
“I had many obligations at the time. But I knew this drive to give back, it was a passion,” the Chaplain said. “It was a God thing. I took the responsibility, and Karen and I, we have never looked back.”
In addition to attending to the spiritual needs of the backstretch community, the RTCA also administers the Backstretch Recreation Program, which is funded by the NYTHA. The Chaplaincy offers holiday dinners and parties, citizenship classes, back-to-school programs, to name just a few of their efforts to improve the quality of life for the backstretch.
“No one works more tirelessly for the happiness, health and religious welfare of our backstretch workers,” NYTHA Vice President Pat Kelly remarked. “The time and effort he devotes to the workers are truly appreciated by those of us who rely on these good people to take care of our wonderful equine athletes. The Chaplain never says no to a request for assistance of any kind. He is a true asset to the NYRA tracks. Congratulations on a job well done!”
NYTHA Owner/Director Mike Shanley added, "Chaplain Chavez exemplifies everything that is good about New York racing. He is a friend to all and we are truly blessed to have him as our Chaplain."
The EquiStar Award ceremony will take place during a cocktail reception following the annual NYTHA PAC Golf Tournament on Tuesday, Sept. 26, in the Rockville Links Clubhouse, Rockville Centre, NY. Click here for more information. You can also go to https://birdeasepro.com/NYTHAGolf, call the NYTHA Office at (516) 488-2337, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for registration and sponsorship opportunities.