Mary Lou Dondarski, whose unselfish work and donations over many years by supporting most every special event concerning Standardbreds in North America, ranging from rescue groups, charity auctions, museum events, fundraisers and more, has been selected by the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) president, Steven Wolf, as the recipient of the 2013 President's Award.
Dondarski, who resides in Jackson, NJ has been involved in harness racing for most of her life. The former Freehold Raceway race office manager, now operations manager for the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown for the past 20 years, Dondarski is an avid collector of harness racing memorabilia, a renowned equine artist, and a friend to many organizations in the industry.
For years she has gone out of her way to help with special events, often using her own money to purchase items and donate them to worthy causes. She was one of the first to come to major stakes events and provide the now popular bouquet of carrots for the winner of the race. She is an extensive harness racing antiques collector on ebay and at any and all antique shops, flea markets, yard sales, you name it that she can attend.
This past year she helped the Harness Racing Museum with their special exhibit entitled ”the Hambletonian, Its Trotters, their Connections and the Racing Event 1929-2009," celebrating the 75th anniversary of the prestigious race. That exhibit was made possible largely through items loaned by Dondarski, who proudly owns all but six of the Hambletonian race day programs.
"The exhibit featured a large array of trophies, poster, memorabilia and photographs,” explain Museum Executive Director Janet Terhune. "Most of the items belonged to Mary Lou and were superb. She has always been outstanding in helping out at the museum.”
When it comes to the United States Harness Writers Association, Dondarski holds nothing back. She always donates either to the silent or live auction. Last year her oil painting of Horse of the Year Chapter Seven brought $2,000 in the live auction. Even before she knew of her President's Award, she had already committed to donating a special display for the silent auction and two oil paintings for the live auction.
She is also one of the foremost authorities and historians on the great Standardbred trotter Greyhound and has one of the largest collections of Greyhound artwork and memorabilia in the world. She was also responsible for the design and production of the popular Hambletonian starter buttons. Hundreds are produced each year for the race and are distributed to the connections of each horse that is entered.
Dondarski will be honored on Sunday, Feb. 23, at the USHWA Dan Patch Awards Banquet, to be held at Dover Downs in Dover, Delaware. Further information about the banquet, hotel reservations and purchasing dinner tickets is available at http://www.ushwa.org/. (USHWA)