Freehold Raceway paddock judge Mike Fuschini is the winner of the 2012 January Davies Humanitarian of the Year Award, as selected by a blue-ribbon panel of members of the United States Harness Writers Association, for harness people involved in making outstanding contributions outside the harness racing community .
Fuschini has, for 18 years, led efforts at the track to raise both money and food donations for the Open Door Food Pantry in Freehold, NJ. Fuschini says he believes the amount of money and food raised for Open Door as a result of his efforts in the harness racing community is "easily” over 10 tons of food and $10,000 in donations.
Fuschini was quick to deflect praise for his actions. "It's the horsemen who have done everything,” he said. "Every day we're open, we collect any kind of non-perishable foodstuffs and donations in the paddock. We raffle bicycles, and a harness every week.
"When this started out, I saw a barrel over on the front side (of the track) with a couple cans and some leaves in it. I thought, ‘We can do better than this.' Never in my wildest dreams did I think this could mushroom this big. I get donations at Christmas time from our successful drivers of $500 and $1,000. I give them an addressed envelope and they send it right to the Food Bank. The generosity is unbelievable.
"When we had our drivers competition here a few weeks ago, all the drivers donated 10 percent of their earnings, starting with Cat Manzi,” says Fuschini. "These horsemen are unbelievable. I enjoy doing it. There are so many people in need, nowadays more than ever before. It makes a lot of difference. Someone gave me $1.50 and they said that is all the money they had today; that was still wonderful.”
Fuschini's leadership doesn't stop with collecting food items. "I have an owner who's connected in Atlantic City and he brings me five or six bags of the individual toiletries you get in hotel rooms. I take them to St Paul's Church and School in Princeton and the children there make up boxes for other children. That is my alma mater.”
Mike Fuschini will be honored on Sunday, March 3, the date of the Dan Patch Awards Banquet, the climatic event of Harness Congress VI weekend, to be held at the Westin Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale Fla. Further information about the banquet, the Congress, and related events is available at http://www.ushwa.org/. (USHWA)