Joyce DeVogel
September 14, 1996 ~ November 6, 2009

It is with a very heavy heart that I tell you, our Angel, Joyce DeVogel, passed in her sleep on Friday November 6,2009. I remember when I met Joyce, she looked so full of life and you would never think there was so much hurt and pain inside. My sincerest and deepest sympathies and condolences go out to Pecor and Jolanda and the family. I only hope the sun shines eternally on her face and the wind is at her back in the house of the Lord. Rest in Peace our sweet princess.
 

 

Two Heroes Named Alex

How much can a young girl with cancer have in common with a champion racehorse? A lot more than you might think.

BY: Martha Ainsworth

This is a story about a girl and a horse-two remarkable individuals who share the same name and a mystical connection that has inspired millions of people.

Two days before her first birthday, Alexandra ("Alex") Scott was diagnosed with an aggressive form of childhood cancer. Enduring chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, the little girl displayed courage and a positive outlook, captivating everyone around her. That alone would be an inspiring story. But that was not all that happened.

In 2000, when she was just four years old, Alex told her parents she wanted to raise money for cancer research. She chose a time-honored kid's project-a front-yard lemonade stand-but unlike most lemonade stands, she raised $2,000 in a single day. Soon, Alex's friends joined in to help, opening lemonade stands in her name. Word spread about Alex's dream of raising $1 million for pediatric cancer research. On June 12, 2004, she raised nearly $40,000 in three hours at her lemonade stand, while supporters nationwide raised $220,000 in one day at hundreds of Alex's Lemonade Stands nationwide. With additional donations from corporate sponsors, Alex was more than halfway to her goal of $1 million.

Just a few weeks later, on July 29, 2004, Alex's family gathered at her Philadelphia-area home to say goodbye. The eight-year-old girl had finally lost her heroic battle with cancer.

But even that was not the end of the story. Alex Scott was gone, but her lemonade stand and her dream lived on. Friends continued to work to achieve Alex's goal. And even as she was dying, another story was beginning, which will forever be linked to hers.

The same day, a young Thoroughbred horse won his first major race, the Sanford Stakes in Saratoga Springs, New York. His name was Alex, too: Afleet Alex. It was clear from his impressive victory that Afleet Alex was no ordinary racehorse, but a potential champion. Gifted with unusual stamina, intelligence, and athletic grace, the plucky little horse won races, a growing number of fans, and media attention.

Afleet Alex knew what it was like to fight for life. At birth, he was given little chance of survival when his mother was unable to produce milk, depriving him of critical colostrum needed to fight infection. For two weeks he was bottle-fed by breeder John Silvertand's 9-year-old daughter Lauren. Against the odds, Afleet Alex survived and grew strong. Overlooked by racing's elite,
he was purchased for a bargain price by a group of five Philadelphia friends buying their very first racehorse.

When Afleet Alex's career took off, no one was more excited than Silvertand. Diagnosed with colon cancer, and given only two months to live, Silvertand elected to discontinue chemotherapy and leave it "in God's hands" so that he could fully enjoy Afleet Alex's triumphs. "The horse keeps me going," Silvertand told the Associated Press. "I truly believe he's helping me in my battle." Silvertand has now survived nearly three years since his diagnosis.

That in itself would be an inspiring story. But the story did not end there.

When the owners of Afleet Alex heard about Alex Scott and her lemonade stand, they thought of their friend John Silvertand and his fight against cancer, and knew right away that they wanted to use the star colt's media power to benefit the cause of cancer research. Chuck Zacney, the managing partner, announced that every time Afleet Alex did well in a race, they would donate a portion of his earnings to Alex's Lemonade Stand. They also donated profits from the sale of Afleet Alex gear, and used the colt's popular website and media interviews to promote Alex's Lemonade Stand. They even convinced the racetracks where Afleet Alex was appearing to sponsor Alex's Lemonade Stands. The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes all featured Alex's Lemonade Stands, spotlighted by NBC and ESPN. On Belmont Stakes Day, 30 racetracks throughout the U.S. held stands in her name, raising tens of thousands of dollars.

Helped by Afleet Alex, Alex's Lemonade Stand for Pediatric Cancer Research has now raised more than $2 million and has funded dozens of research grants. But even that is not the end of the story.

In his racing career, Afleet Alex faced many obstacles. Two heart-breakingly narrow losses and a lung infection raised doubts about his future. But his team did not give up. Afleet Alex trained even harder, running more than twice as far every day as other racehorses. After he fought back to a stunning eight-length victory in the Arkansas Derby, Liz Scott, Alex Scott's mother, compared him to her daughter. "Alex was a fighter and determined," she said, "and watching this horse run definitely reminds me of her, with the same competitive, always-do-your-best attitude."

The public seemed to agree. Afleet Alex was the favorite for the historic Preakness Stakes. The race seemed to unfold perfectly. Jockey Jeremy Rose and Afleet Alex waited patiently toward the back of the pack, saving energy. Then with just a nudge from Rose, the colt unleashed a furious burst of speed at the top of the stretch. But just as Afleet Alex was sailing into the lead, another horse suddenly, unexpectedly shied outward, directly into Afleet Alex's path. His legs tangled with Afleet Alex, who tripped and went to his knees. The colt's nose was in the dirt, and Rose seemed about to pitch forward to the ground.

I was there, gasping in horror with millions of others. I had seen such accidents before: with the speeding horses behind him unable to swerve in time, Rose would surely be trampled; other equine and human bodies would be flying as they collided with the wreck, injuries and death almost certain. Oh no, no, no, I thought. Not Afleet Alex!

The potentially horrific scene seemed to play out in slow motion. Incredibly, Afleet Alex did not fall. In a remarkable feat of athleticism, he quickly pulled his half-ton frame upright. Then, to everyone's amazement, he recovered his stride and kept running. The astonished crowd roared as Afleet Alex, unhurt but clearly incensed, surged ahead and won the race by nearly five lengths. That moment will go down as one of the most remarkable in horse racing's history.

How did Afleet Alex get up? Liz Scott thought again of her daughter, Alex. "The way he stumbled and caught himself, that was her," she told USA Today. "That was the way she walked. How many times we thought she was going to fall and she popped up and kept going." How did Jeremy Rose not fall off? He said that an "angel" kept him safe. "There was someone up there who helped us," he said. "Little Alex (Scott) kept me on."

Three weeks later at the Belmont Stakes, along with tens of thousands of racing fans across the nation, I made a donation and enjoyed a glass of lemonade at Alex's Lemonade Stand. I could hardly wait to see what Afleet Alex would do next. He did not disappoint. I got goosebumps as Afleet Alex powered to the lead with a dramatic rush. As the courageous little horse sped past me on the way to a seven-length victory, I shouted, "Fly, Alex, fly!" I'm not sure which Alex I meant.
 

I cannot say whether Afleet Alex and Jeremy Rose are guided by the spirit of little Alex Scott. But I would have to say that I witnessed a miracle. That a four-year-old child dying of cancer started a charity that has now raised over $2 million, one cup of lemonade at a time, is a miracle. Afleet Alex is a miracle. "He has kept his dying breeder alive," wrote turf columnist Steve Haskin. "He has kept the mission and memory of a courageous young girl alive. He has kept the hopes of hundreds of seriously ill children alive. He has kept the great American dream of his workaday owners alive. And he kept himself and his jockey alive with one of the most remarkable feats of agility ever seen in any sport."

Alex Scott was loved by people everywhere, who were inspired by her courage and her will to live. Afleet Alex, too, is loved by people everywhere, who are inspired by his courage and his will to win. "I've received letters from people who say when they watch this horse run it literally brings tears to their eyes," says Ritchey. I am one of them. As the story continues, as Afleet Alex races on, and with every glass of lemonade I drink this summer, I know that I am participating in a miracle.

 

A side note as told by Mr. Robert Hutt, President of Fantasy Lane Stable.....
 

It was May of 2004. Fantasy Lane Stable was all done buying horses for this season. My phone rang and it was Clocker Gate. He said, "Bob, I am down here at Timonium attending the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic two-year old in training in sale. I have this colt that I absolutely love. Without question he is the BEST horse in this sale and I think he can be bought cheaply for under 100K and become any kind of horse. I had a client I was going to put into him but he backed out at the very last moment. Bob you have to buy this colt for Fantasy Lane Stable!"

Gate was pounding the table unlike I've ever seen him do. He is usually laid back. But not this time. I immediately got Alan on a conference call who said, "Gate, Bob & I can never get there in the time. We have no way of even vetting him out before he comes into the ring in just two hours. We believe you, but if there's a problem and we buy him, how can we ever explain it to the partners? I asked why he hadn't called the day before. At least then we could have jumped into the car and drove down. It was an impossible situation. We thanked him but had to decline and passed.

A few hours later, Afleet Alex sold to five guys owning their very first horse with their very last dollar for $75,000. The veteran Fantasy Lane Stable partners were advised of what had happened. We all added him to our stable mail to follow his career to see how it would turn out.

As they say, the rest is history as AA won two-thirds of The Triple Crown and was syndicated for $30,000,000. Now we've bought his daughter from his first crop of babies to hit the racetrack this summer.(2009)

 

At Fantasy Lane Stables, one of "the perks" of owning a quality Thoroughbred Race Horse, is that we, the partners get to name our horse. It is done by submission of a name you come up with and then voted on by popularity.

When Mr. Hutt presented us with the opportunity to name our new AfleetAlex filly, as always the names were nothing short of wonderful.

The AfleetAlex filly is out of a dam named Aim for the Moon. The names started to pour in. Afleet Alexis, To the Moon Alice, Fleeting Moonbeam to name just a few. Then Mr. Hutt received an email from fellow partner Chuck Fox, it read:
 

"Bob- While doing due diligence on the AA filly -found this story (above) on her sire, thought the partners may like a feel good story. Also it gave me a name idea- Afleet of Angels.

Thanks,

Chuck Fox"

The name Afleet of Angels hit the ground running, but there was a catch as always with the Jockey Club. The name was on reserve until May 15, 2009. Chief Steward for the Jockey Club, Rick Bailey was called by Mr. Hutt on the 15th, but was told to call back the next week to discuss the name. On the 19th Mr. Hutt called Rick back but he was unavailable, so he left him a message. Some things happen for a reason.

Later that day, Mr. Hutt got an email from a partner Ron Hershey in Idaho he had only spoke to once or twice in the past. The email reads:

Hi Bob,
Wanted to say thanks for all the updates, looks like it keeps you busy. The new colt looks nice, moves nice. How much do you have left of him?
The reason I was sending this email was about the name of the filly. I know there is a name that you are after, and need to wait to find out if you can get it.
If the name does not go, maybe you would want to think about something else. My wife is from Holland, all her family lives there, and some of her very best friends.
But her best friend has a daughter who is 12 years old, the same age as my son. and she is dying of cancer. They have done all they can do over the last couple of years, and at this time have stopped all treatment on her so she may live her last days ,weeks or months feeling as good as she can. Having a son and a daughter I can not even start to understand the pain they feel, to watch a child do this is so hard. We went to see them last year and she is truly an amazing girl.
My wife had cancer three years ago, the treatment can be very tough.
One reason we have not put more money into horses is we are trying to put the money together to fly her and her mom over to the states as it has always been a dream of hers. But we really want to bring the whole family which is 5 people. But we need to see if she can stand up to the travel.
But as I was sitting with my kids this morning I thought of the great fun we had watching afleet alex run, and how he was tied to a child with cancer, and what that meant to so many people.
So the name Joyce's Angel jumped into my head.
Maybe this is all way out of line to bring up. I have said nothing to my wife or any one else about me bringing this up to you.
It would put a smile on this child and her family, as they are all horse lovers.
I did not check if that name is taken, but really any name with joyce in it would have the same effect, and put a whole new meaning to supporting this filly and child.
I am sorry that this is not written better, but it is a very hard thing to talk about it, does not always come out they way I would like.
They say all things happen for a reason. Maybe it taking me a couple of years to find a racing partnership that I liked, and then that group buying buying a filly from alex, and maybe they fact that I was out of town when two horses were bought, and that when I got home the colt was sold out, but the filly had some shares left, and that filly was from a colt that carried a little girl with cancer on many of his rides. Maybe it has a reason it worked out that way, maybe it is just life, I don't know.
Thanks For Your time, Ron Hershey

As sad as the story is, how wonderful is it that after all these years Afleet Alex is still attached to fighting the good fight for these sick children? His progeny gets another chance to try to help little Joyce and maybe other children as well. Life is about second chances. Life is about paying it forward as well. So, on the 20th of May 2009, the Jockey Club approved the name and request of Mr. Hershey and our valiant friend Joyce de Vogel.

 

Joyce's Angel had an overwhelming amount of support and love for the name and the cause that she stands for. I can only speak for myself, but I am so proud that the most simple thing like a name has brought so much happiness to that little girl and the fact that all the partners are involved in trying to bring Joyce and her family to New Jersey and Monmouth Park for the biggest weekend in Jersey Racing. The $1,000,000 Haskell Invitational!

Joyce will be involved in a Trophy Presentation for one of the races that day and the Red Carpet will be rolled out for her. The excitement of the trip and having her namesake running for her this year has slowed her cancer and her hair is slowly coming back.

While all this was in the works, Mr. Bill Denver (Equiphoto), a great friend to Fantasy Lane Stable made a beautiful plaque for Joyce that will be presented to her when she arrives.

I spoke earlier about "paying it forward". Some times we lose focus on what is really important in life. But when you are involved in something that is so much bigger than you or anything you have going on in your life, you need to take notice of what is going on around you.

You need to count your blessings and think of the big picture. Humble as it is, I am promising Joyce to wear a pink hat I had made for her and myself with Joyce's Angel written on the back. I promise to wear that hat every time Joyce's Angel loads into the gate. So wherever Joyce is, I will be thinking about her and her bravery in her fight!

Beste Joyce,
Mijn naam is John. Ik ben een gedeeltelijke eigenaar van uw paard, Joyce's Angel. Ik wilde je vertellen hoe opgewonden, blij en vereerd ben ik betrokken worden bij dit mooie merrieveulen uit Afleet Alex. Ook wilde ik u vertellen hoe angstig ik ben, en de rest van de partners zijn, om eindelijk te ontmoeten u volgende maand bij aankomst in de Staten. Ook wilde ik u vertellen dat ik een cadeautje voor je. Ik had een hoed voor u gemaakt met Joyce's Angel geschreven op de achterkant voor je om te dragen en krijg ik een voor mezelf als goed. Ik wil dat je weet dat iedere keer dat Joyce's Angel stappen in de laden poort naar ras, ik zal het dragen van de hoed en routering voor u en het paard op hetzelfde moment. Everytime ze races, heb je veel mensen denken van je altijd. Wij wachten op uw aankomst snel!
Uw vriend Altijd!
John

Dear Joyce,
My name is John. I am a partial owner of your horse, Joyce's Angel. I wanted to tell you how excited, happy and honored I am to be involved in this beautiful filly from Afleet Alex. I also wanted to tell you how anxious I am, and the rest of the partners are, to finally meet you next month when you arrive in the States. I also wanted to tell you that I have a present for you. I had a hat made for you with Joyce's Angel written on the back for you to wear and I am getting one made for myself as well. I want you to know that everytime Joyce's Angel steps into the loading gate to race, I will be wearing the hat and routing for you and the horse at the same time. Everytime she races, you will have many people thinking of you always. We await your arrival soon!
Your friend Always!
John


We are all excited for Joyce's arrival! Check back for updates because this story is not over by any means. It has only just begun! God Bless and Keep Joyce for us! Keep fighting, you are not alone!


July 30, 2009: JOYCE ARRIVES IN THE U.S.A.!!!!


Joyce DeVogel arrives to a heroes welcome and begins her vacation in New Jersey. Joyce had quite a day at Monmouth Park on Friday the 31st. A race was named for her and she presented the winning connections the trophy and was presented a Joyce's Angel plaque from the partners of Fantasy Lane Stable. Joyce is a sweet child and we wish her a wonderful trip here.