Central Wyoming Senior Services

Central Wyoming Senior Services, (aka CWSS or The Casper Senior Center) was in need of a large, annual fundraising event. One that the folks of Natrona County would look forward to every year!

Jennifer Rohrer, who serves as the chair of the Future Planning Committee, came up with the idea after visiting her father out of state. He told her about a social event that the retirement community he lives in puts on that involves horse racing. When brainstorming with the CWSS board for an annual fundraiser, she mentioned the concept and how it could become a fundraiser.

And so, “A Night at the Races” was born.

On Saturday, May 6, 2023, Central Wyoming Senior Services presented the Third Annual “A Night at the Races,” and it was a roaring (neighing?) success.

The mission of Central Wyoming Senior Services is “to assist individuals aged 60 and older in Natrona County by providing or accessing community services and resources to maintain their dignity and independence, using qualified and trained staff to help them meet their nutritional, educational, social, emotional, financial, and recreational needs.”

“Our main goal of the Senior Center is to keep people active enough that they can stay in their homes as long as possible,” said Aimee Ottley-Fleming, the Executive Director of Central Wyoming Senior Services. “We provide nutrition and for many of the people that come here — that’s the only meal they’re going to get that day. Staying active is also a large part of our mission. We are proud of the ways we meet the needs of our members. We offer classes to stay active and facilitate monthly presentations to educate seniors about better ways to take care of themselves. We are more than just a place to get a meal; we are a social center providing safe physical activities, daily sustenance, and companionship for the 60+ community of Natrona County and the surrounding areas.”

While Ottley-Fleming recognizes the importance and the need for nursing homes, she also believes that people, regardless of age, are happiest when they are at home.

That is what CWSS strives to be — a home away from home. But they can’t be that sanctuary by themselves. They need support from the community. And that’s exactly what they received from “A Night at the Races.”

“Five years ago, we discussed implementing an annual fundraiser to help with things needed around the center,” said Jennifer Rohrer. “As you know, costs continue to rise, while funding continues to decline. We wanted to come up with an idea that would be unique to us.”

Natrona County is home to some pretty incredible fundraisers. Events like Bubbles, Baubles, and Beans benefiting Natrona County Meals On Wheels, or The Reverse Raffle and Auction benefiting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming give the community a fun, interactive way to help support those organizations.

Central Wyoming Senior Services wanted their own signature event — something they could say, “This is us; this is ours.”

So, that’s exactly what they did. However, it was not without its challenges.

“The first year, we were in the process of planning, and we had to cancel it due to the pandemic,” Rohrer reflected.

Like the rest of the world, CWSS canceled any and all events and activities that weren’t
absolutely mandatory. It was an arduous start to what would become a yearly event, but Rohrer and the rest of the CWSS Board of Directors would not be deterred. They revisited the idea in 2021 and put on their first event. In 2022, they continued with the event; and in 2023 it came back bigger and better than ever.

This year’s event featured a sit-down dinner, featuring Chicken Cordon Bleu as its main course.

Before dinner was a cocktail hour and a brief speech to acknowledge all of those who made the event possible.

Then, the real fun began.

The event featured four races sponsored by various organizations. These sponsors were the McMurry Foundation, Frontier Eye Care, Hilltop Bank and Natrona County Meals on Wheels. Additional major sponsors included Black Hills Energy and Banner Health Wyoming Medical Center. Each of these sponsors is directly responsible for the event’s success.

“Most of these sponsors have supported the event since the very beginning, we could not have done it without their partnership and trust in our endeavors,” Ottley-Fleming said.

Each of the races consisted of “jockeys,” who are members from around the community, that donned costumes to “ride” stick horses. 

Each “race” consisted of six horses. There were four races, meaning 24 different horses were “competing.” Supporters of the Senior Center sponsored the horses that raced. The actual “race” consisted of a track that was broken down into six-lane columns, with 12 rows. Volunteers would roll two dice — one with numbers and one with colors. The jockey who was “riding” the horse with the corresponding color on the die would get to move however many spaces the numbered die rolled.

Event attendees purchased “betting bucks” to bet on the horses, and those who bet on the
winning horses won raffle tickets to be entered into a drawing. Raffle prizes included a myriad of different baskets featuring various items and experiences, such as a guided fly-fishing trip, date night packages, a 65-inch TV and many more. Those prize baskets were put together as a result of countless incredible donors.

It was a fun, unique, hilarious way to raise money for a very important cause.

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