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Benalla Racing Club is hosting a Kids’ Race Day for Down Syndrome Victoria after general manager Bradley Thomas and his wife Brie’s son Lewis was diagnosed with Down syndrome this year.

MONIQUE FREER December 13, 2013 9:16am

Supporting special needs: Benalla Racing Club general manager Bradley Thomas and wife Brie with son Lewis, nine months.

When their son Lewis was diagnosed with Down syndrome days after he was born, Bradley and Brie Thomas were embraced by the Benalla and Down syndrome communities.

‘‘Benalla already has a very strong special needs support group, and Down syndrome is part of that, and we’ve been embraced into that community,’’ Mr Thomas said.

‘‘We didn’t realise how tight-knit the Down syndrome community is; a person with Down syndrome can spot another person with Down syndrome from a mile away.’’

While at a Down Syndrome Victoria first-time parents’ dinner, the Thomases heard about the association’s race day, which was formerly held at Moonee Valley.

After plans had fallen through for this year’s Moonee Valley meeting, Mr Thomas — Benalla Racing Club general manager — approached Down Syndrome Victoria with a proposal for a country race meeting, and the January racing event evolved.

‘‘It’s been great to develop a relationship between Benalla Racing Club and Down Syndrome Victoria,’’ Mr Thomas said.

‘‘DSV used to have the raceday at Moonee Valley but that was very much targeted at the adults, this is very much targeted at kids and families.’’

The race day will act as a fundraiser for Down Syndrome Victoria, with funds raised from ticket sales and auctions going towards educational support services.

‘‘The money that gets raised from the race day goes towards the people they have that go to schools and preschools to help the transition for kids, so that’s something that we’ll definitely need to use one day,’’ Mrs Thomas said.

Lewis, nine months, was diagnosed with Down syndrome one week after he was born, and Mr Thomas said one of the most challenging aspects he had to deal with was the reaction of others.

‘‘People don’t know within themselves how to react; do they apologise or do they congratulate you?’’ he said.

He said he hoped the race meeting would be another opportunity to increase people’s awareness of Down syndrome.

‘‘I think any awareness for anything helps. If you go back 20 years, something like Down syndrome was still taboo.

‘‘We’re hoping that this becomes an annual fixture in not only the DSV calendar, but the Benalla Racing Club calendar and community.

‘‘We’re going to be involved with DSV for a long time, no matter where we live or what we’re doing ... so I guess it just came about through that opportunity we saw open up and both parties embraced.’’


DSV Kids’ Race Day

The DSV Kids’ Race Day will be held on January 19 at Benalla Racing Club, with free kids’ activities operating all afternoon, including jumping castles, face painting and Kelly Sports activities.

Marquees will be available, visit for tickets and more information.

The racing also continues at Benalla Racing Club this weekend at the Christmas race meeting.

About 400 people are already booked in for Christmas parties, however there will also be a live band, free activities for children, and the Black Caviar print raffle drawn to keep keen racegoers of all ages entertained.

‘‘We hope it’s going to be another big day on Sunday and that people enjoy it as a bit of afternoon relaxation with family and friends,’’ Brad Thomas said.

The first of the seven races will begin at 1.20pm, and there will be a bus service running on the day.

The bus will leave Bridge St West (antique shop) at 11.30am, Bridge St West (opposite Shell service station) at 11.35am, Benalla Gardens at 11.40am, Bridge St East (Aldi) at 11.50am, Witt St (opposite Glider City Motel) at 11.55am and will arrive at the racecourse at noon. Groups (10 or more) can be picked up at requested locations during each route; for bookings phone Benalla Bus Lines on 5762 6566. 

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