And Theyre Off: – QNS.com

And Theyre Off:

When a horse called Sejm Boogie won the race for thoroughbreds ages 4 and over on Sunday, Blanche and Alvin Smith were there to watch him surge across the muddy, rain-soaked finish line at Belmont Park.
Their daughters, Carol Smith, Susan Gold and Laura Rosenberg, were also at the racetrack in Elmont, as they have been each year for the last 13 years, indulging a family passion and remembering the brother who no longer can.
Richard Mark Smith, 36, died of AIDS in 1990 after receiving a tainted blood transfusion while undergoing surgery for Crohns disease, a painful inflammatory bowel ailment.
The Annual Richard Mark Smith Day at the Races a buffet brunch that takes place on the first Sunday of every June was first held in 1989. Proceeds from it go to the Ambulatory Chemotherapy Transfusion Unit at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, where Richard Mark Smith was a patient.
"We were both horse racing devotees," said his father, Alvin Smith, 79.
"My brother loved the racetrack," said Rosenberg, 51, of Roslyn. "This is such a nice way to remember him."
The gray afternoon and on-and-off drizzle made the going sloppy for both the thoroughbreds and their riders, but failed to dampen the spirits of attendees who placed bets and watched through the window of a tiered dining room. Over 140 friends and family observed the races, which began at noon and ran about every hour until 5 p.m.
"Each year we think that attendance will go down," said Rosenberg, "but this is one of the biggest turnouts yet. Its a tribute to my brother. A lot of his friends are here."
Sejm Boogie won the second race, a memorial run dedicated to her brother. Afterward, the family presented jockey Roberto Arroyo Jr. with a special memorial plaque.
Each year money from tickets and outside donations is used to buy VCRs, videotape movies, magazine subscriptions and portable telephones for patients at the unit and their families.
"All of our efforts are directed towards making [them] feel more comfortable during their extended treatments," said Rosenberg. Blood transfusion and chemotherapy patients are at the constant mercy of loneliness, anxiety and boredom.
"These are quality-of-life items for cancer and AIDS patients," said Randee Bloch, associate director of the North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System. "[The items] have a very tangible effect." Many patients are appreciative enough after leaving the unit to make donations to the fund.
Established by the Smith family, the fund has also underwritten psychological counseling and renovation of the family room at the inpatient oncology unit.
"Contributions [were used] to purchase furniture, carpeting and wall covering," said the family in a written statement. "The [family] room is for families going through the difficult experience of caring for a loved one hospitalized for cancer."
This year $30,000 was raised and will pay for production of a patient education video, DVD players, nursing education, a social work program and complementary forms of medicine like "Reiki," which uses hands-on therapy for physical and emotional problems.
"It was good to raise money for this cause," said Rosenberg.
"This memorializes [Richard] in a way that is meaningful," said Bloch.
"But it was just good to sit back and remember my brother," said Rosenberg. "He is here in spirit."

More from Around New York