By Francis LaBelle
Mary Boucher is only 14 years old, but she has already developed a keen sense of responsibility, compassion and humanity, not to mention her need to take action.
The daughter of thoroughbred horse trainer Lilith Boucher and steeplechase jockey William Boucher, Mary recently competed in the Miss Camden, SC Beauty Pageant. Contestants in the competition had to select a `platform,’ a worthy cause to talk about and to raise public awareness.
“For my platform, I wanted something that I was passionate about,” said Boucher, an eight-grader at Camden Middle School. “Everything in my life has been about racing and horses. I heard about the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, and then I researched it. I learned about the TRF’s Second Chances Program and how horses help people. I knew then that I wanted people to know about the TRF.”
The TRF’s Second Chances program uses former racehorses to teach equine care to inmates at various prisons throughout the country, including the one at Wateree River Correctional Facility in Rembert, SC. The horses get a decent home and excellent care, while the inmates not only learn a vocation, but also trust, responsibility and mutual respect.
“I had read one story about an inmate who graduated from the Second Chances program and found a new life,” Mary said. “A horse had become his best friend, and he was able to start all over again.”
So passionate was Mary about the TRF’s good work that that she decided to become more involved.
On April 1. at the annual Camden Cup steeplechase races at Springdale Race Course, Mary got her father and several other jockeys on board to help the TRF. For a $5 donation, fans could have their picture taken with their favorite jockey and proceeds went to Second Chances at Wateree. She raised $350 for the cause.
“We would take the pictures with the fans’ own smart phones,” said Mary, who did a similar fund-raiser earlier to benefit the Injured Jockeys Fund. “That way, the people had the photo right away and could share it with whoever they wanted.”
William Cox, chairman of the South Carolina TRF, was impressed by Mary’s energy and resourcefulness.
“We are amazed at her ingenuity to market something for sale that did not cost anything to buy in the first place,” Cox said. “The jockeys were willing to participate and glad to help. Mary had used this tactic in the past to raise money for the Injured Jockey Fund. She is a remarkable young lady and we truly appreciate her efforts.”
Mary has another beauty pageant scheduled for May 20, and at the Miss Darlington Pageant, she again plans to extol the virtues of the TRF and its Second Chances Program. Then, she will join her family in Unionville, Pa., where they will spend the next several months racing their horses on the Mid-Atlantic circuit.
“Mary will do anything to raise awareness for this cause,” said her mother, Lilith. “She knows how we handle our horses. We even find horses that we can train for a different life outside of racing and try to find homes for them.
“Mary said it best: if you are close to animals – horses, dogs, cats, whatever – and. if you come away untouched by their innocence, it is beyond shocking. And, in the case of the TRF, the horses not only touch these people, but give them a chance to turn their lives around.”