A little more than 10 years ago, equestrian Betsy Fishback passed away after battling breast cancer with the same tenacity, grace and wit that was her trademark in all other areas of her life. It was an inspirational battle.
Though it was a heartbreaking loss for so very many in the Lexington community and the equine world, an amazing (but not surprising) thing has occurred since her January 2009 passing: Each September, several hundred people gather at the Kentucky Horse Park for the The Betsy Gala and Grand Prix – a fundraising event named in her honor and attended by area philanthropists, civic leaders and people who admired Betsy. And they are all there with two specific purposes – to celebrate Betsy’s zestful life, and to support breast cancer research at the Markey Cancer Center.
The idea for The Betsy was born at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, where her husband, William D. Fishback, has been a veterinarian since 1975. But more than simply creating the concept, Hagyard works diligently each year to ensure the event is a financial success and (equally important) a fun, festive experience that brings people back.
The 11th annual Betsy Gala is this Friday evening. Money raised by this year’s event will bring the gala’s 11-year total to about $1 million. It’s an amazing gift that funds work related to breast-cancer prevention, early detection, treatment and research. As Dr. Ed Romond, a long-serving physician-scientist at Markey Cancer Center says: “The best hope for any cancer patient is good research.”
Cutting-edge research drives advanced care, helps saves lives, and keeps families together, Philanthropic support – through such celebrations as The Betsy Gala and through contributions by individuals, foundations and corporations – is a difference-maker in cancer research. Such support is an investment in the future health of Kentucky, a state with the most cancer-ridden population in the nation. And it’s an investment in Kentucky’s only National Cancer Institute designated cancer center.
Those who support the Foundation – including those who will attend the gala Friday night – know Markey Cancer Center is where Kentucky comes to beat cancer.
It is remarkable how Hagyard and the region’s horse industry have pulled together to ensure Betsy’s legacy lives on. She touched thousands of lives. She was a driving force behind the creation of Midway College’s equestrian program. She coached University of Kentucky’s Intercollegiate Horse Show riding team. And she gave riding lessons to hundreds of young people, some of whom had very little previous exposure to horses and the equine world.
On behalf of the thousands of individuals and families who benefit from the money raised at this philanthropic event, I want to express our sincere appreciation to Hagyard and to every person who has helped make The Betsy Gala and Grand Prix an 11-year success with an eye to the future.
Michael Delzotti is the president and CEO of the Markey Cancer Foundation.