Of all the tough decisions John Greely IV has been faced with during his time in the Thoroughbred industry, one he made five years ago was a no-brainer.
After first participating in the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Greely — co-owner of Wintergreen Stallion Station in Midway — sought a way to get the rest of his Central Kentucky brethren involved in the nation's largest wish-granting charity.
The results of his efforts were on full display at Keeneland on Wednesday as nine local farms teamed up for the second annual Make-A-Wish Day at the track.
In addition to Wintergreen, Ashford Stud, Darley, Three Chimneys, Gainesway, Vinery, Shadwell, Lane's End, and Greystone farms all came together to sponsor the Make-A-Wish requests for nine Kentucky children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Along with providing the financial means necessary to make each child's wish happen, representatives of each farm were also on hand as Keeneland hosted a VIP afternoon that saw each child present the trophy for the race named for his/her sponsoring farm.
"(Make-A-Wish) asked me how we could get the whole Thoroughbred business involved," Greely said. "After brainstorming, we came up with having Make-A-Wish Day at Keeneland and ... it's been an easy sell.
"We have Central Kentucky farms helping Central Kentucky families, and Keeneland has gone above and beyond to make this happen. We plan to keep doing this every year, and we're hopefully going to take it to Del Mar (in California), too."
While Greely has had little trouble getting other farms on board, the Make-A-Wish children themselves have ultimately been his best salespeople.
Four-year-old Brian Wach, who had the left side of his brain removed due to complications from the rare neurological disorder Sturge-Weber syndrome, happily told all at his table about his day at the races — giving no indication that he began speaking only a year ago.
"He's impaired, but he doesn't know he's impaired," said Angie Wach, Brian's mother. "He's a miracle, and programs like this just mean the world."
Should the Make-A-Wish program continue to be a fixture at Keeneland and other tracks, many say the participation from members of the Thoroughbred community will continue to grow as well.
"A lot of the farms love getting involved with any of the charitable endeavors," said Jen Roytz, communications director for Three Chimneys. "We love supporting the community because the community does a really good job supporting us.
"This has really grown, and farms have been stepping up and doing a lot more than what is asked of them, and that's tremendous to see."