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How one Rotary club used the Kentucky Derby to raise $100K for Forsyth County groups
Down & Derby 8 050819 web
More than 500 people attended the Rotary Club of Lanier-Forsyth’s 2019 Down & Derby fundraising event on Saturday, May 4, at the home of Dr. Michael Hogan, a local orthopedic surgeon. - photo by Ben Hendren

The only hitch at the Rotary Club of Lanier-Forsyth’s “Down & Derby” fundraising event won’t come as a surprise to those who watched the 2019 Kentucky Derby.

It was soon after the immediate conclusion of the nation’s premiere horse race on Saturday, May 4, when organizers went to pull a ticket from a bucket with the names of the top three finishers in the race for a prize.

Tom Burgess, the Rotary Club’s president and owner of Christian Brothers Automotive, was about to pull the ticket when somebody stopped him.

“Somebody said, ‘You know, [the winner has] been disqualified,’” Burgess said.

Otherwise, the organization’s annual event that raises money for local charities, organizations and programs was a resounding success, Burgess said. The Rotary Club sold 620 tickets, he said, and about 550 attended at the home of Dr. Michael Hogan, a local orthopedic surgeon, in their best Kentucky Derby attire despite the weather.

The Rotary was still collecting donated funds, but the total collected so far seems on track to meet the organization’s goal of netting more than $100,000 to give back to the community, Burgess said.

“I think it was an incredible success,” Burgess said.

The largest portion of the funds will go to L.E.A.D.E.R., an organization founded in 2000 by Rotary Club of Lanier-Forsyth members that provides an integrated program of classroom training and driving simulators for Forsyth County Schools.

Other funds will be distributed to a host of local charities and organizations who submitted requests, Burgess said. In past years, funds have been distributed to Bald Ridge Lodge, CASA of Forsyth County, Family Haven, Family Promise of Forsyth County, Mentor Me North Georgia and the YMCA as well as local veterans’ groups.

Attendees enjoyed a day of Southern revelry, from a pellet gun rifle range to a hole in one competition and wine ring toss.

But Burgess was most impressed by the community’s generosity. Food was sponsored by Northside Hospital Forsyth, while the tents and drinks were donated too. Bartenders donated their time for the event, and Hogan donated the use of his house for the event, as he does every year, Burgess said.

“We love this community,” Burgess said.