Derby comes to Suffolk

Published 8:58 pm Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Mint juleps, large hats and a blanket of roses symbolize the famous Kentucky Derby, and Suffolk residents have the opportunity to partake in Derby traditions and help raise money for Suffolk Project Lifesaver Search and Rescue.

Project Lifesaver is a free service offered to Suffolk citizens that provides personal transmitters to those who are likely to wander. The transmitters allow emergency response teams to locate the individual quickly.

In Suffolk, mostly children on the autism spectrum participate in the program, but elderly people with Alzheimer’s and those with wandering disorders also participate, according to Blair. The group has been in Suffolk since 2004.


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In order to offer the service for free, Project Lifesavers puts on fundraisers, and this year the organization will hold its second Kentucky Derby-themed fundraiser.

“We decided a Derby party would be great for a fundraiser,” board president Susan Blair said. “When we think about it, we think big hats and mint juleps, but there is nowhere to celebrate it in Suffolk. Last year was the first year, and it was a great success.”

The fundraiser offers the attendees the chance to watch the race, participate in live and silent auctions and “bet” on horses.

Project Lifesaver has a 50-50 raffle, and those who want to participate purchase raffle tickets and “bet” on a horse by placing it in the horse’s jar. Project Lifesaver will pull one ticket from the winning horse’s jar to pick a winner of the raffle.

It’s a way to make it feel like you’re gambling on the horses, Blair said.

“All proceeds go to Project Lifesaver so that they have money to serve the community. We currently have 65 clients in the project, and that is a recent count,” Blair said.

The biggest attraction in the auctions at the Derby party will be items from Lt. Joe Kenda. Kenda, who lives in Suffolk, is known as the “Homicide Hunter” from the television show on Investigation Discovery.

Items to be auctioned from Kenda will be a signed poster and the opportunity to have him record your voicemail message.

Not only will signed items be auctioned, but two couples have the opportunity to have a dinner with Kenda and his wife. Last year, the dinner was sold to two couples for $1,000.

“The people that see the show always want to pick his brain, and we thought it would be a great way for people to do that and raise money,” Blair said. “He is very gracious about the opportunity.”

Kenda will be in attendance at the Derby Party, so attendees will have the opportunity to speak with Kenda and have him sign books or posters. Attending the party gives citizens the opportunity to have a small conversation with Kenda.

Tickets are all-inclusive and cost $35. Anyone can purchase an entire table, which is 10 seats, for $500.

“Last year, we sold 76 tickets, and we want to sell at least 100 or more,” Blair said. “We never have a set amount to raise, but $10,000 to $15,000 would be great.”

Those who wish to purchase tickets can visit Suffolk Insurance, 202 Market St., and ask for Susan Blair, or visit Suffolk Fire Station 6, 300 King’s Fork Road.

Last year, the fundraiser brought in almost $10,000.

Project Lifesaver’s Derby Night will begin at 5:30 p.m. May 5, and it will be at The First Lady at Suffolk, 447 W. Washington St.