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This gala is off the bridle

Gala Chairpersons Gary Contessa (far right) and his wife Jennifer (center, seated) celebrating with friends during last year’s gala. Photo by Cathy Duffy and TR Laz.

Gala Chairpersons Gary Contessa (far right) and his wife Jennifer (center, seated) celebrating with friends during last year’s gala. Photo by Cathy Duffy and TR Laz.

— The start of track season in Saratoga Springs marks the start of weeks of merrymaking partying, and one local nonprofit is looking to harness that spirit for its own soiree.

The Community Action for Parents Teens and Interested Neighbors, or CAPTAIN for short, will again mark the opening of the track with a fundraising gala.

“Last year’s turnout was great. … It is our biggest fundraiser and supports all of our programs … and it continues to gain popularity,” said CAPTAIN Development and Marketing Coordinator Robin Matthias.

This year’s gala, An Unbridled Affair, builds on a racing theme that has been running for four years now. The event will honor thoroughbred champion Seattle Slew and will be held at the Gideon Putnam Resort on Friday, July 20, with festivities kicking off at 6:30 p.m. with hors d'oeuvres, cocktails and a silent auction. It’s also the same day the Saratoga Race Course opens for the season.

CAPTAIN, which is celebrating 35 years of service, was started to address issues affecting the adolescents of that era, including drug use, homelessness and teenage pregnancy — and it is still hard at work at that mission and others.

An Unbridled Affair is an idea born at least in part by famed horse trainer Gary Contessa, although he said he couldn’t take all of the credit in formulating the idea. He heard about CAPTAIN a few years ago through friends and sits on the organization’s board of directors.

“I brought in people from racing to the gala … Saratoga (and the racing season) is what late July and August are all about,” said Contessa.

He also said that he’s honored to be involved with CAPTAIN.

“I’ve seen firsthand how they’ve helped,” he said. “I couldn’t be prouder, it’s such a good organization and I wanted to be a part of it. There are a lot of families and children in crisis and what better organization to have to help them? Our children are our families of tomorrow.”

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