A longstanding tradition in the Brandywine Valley, this year marks the 87th running of the Radnor Hunt Races. Taking place on May 20, the event attracts over 20,000 steeplechase fans to the rolling hills of Malvern. More than an elite race, the event raises funds for the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art. The conservancy, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, has protected over 62,000 acres across the region.
“The Brandywine Conservancy is all about preserving the environment and a legacy for future generations,” says Lee Woolley, the Mid-Atlantic president of BNY Mellon Wealth Management, Radnor Hunt’s presenting sponsor. “In many respects that parallels the goals of BNY Mellon, whether [clients are] creating a legacy for their families or for philanthropy.”
BNY Mellon partnered with Radnor Hunt Races 33 years ago and has been a sponsor ever since, something Woolley says he’s very proud of. The company’s Mid-Atlantic region, headquartered in Philadelphia, has a track record of giving back to the community, with 92 percent of regional employees involved in charitable organizations in some capacity.
Radnor Hunt Races is among its most visible public efforts. “We are invested in our community, we’re invested in helping our community in ways like nature conservancy, work force development, education,” explains Woolley.
Later in the year, Radnor Hunt hosts a second, lesser-known race, for people. The Radnor Red Run 5K Steeplechase race allows runners to traverse some of the same tracks the horses stampede over in May, complete with horse jumps and water pits. This year’s event will take place on Aug. 20. It, too, gives back to the community, benefiting nonprofit Students Run Philly Style.
A competitive runner since high school, Woolley identifies with both events on a personal level. He says he tries to live by his college coach, Al Carius’ motto: “Run for fun and personal best.” “What it really means is strive to do your best in all that you do, but also enjoy the journey. I think that is really key whether you’re leading a team of wealth management professionals in the Mid-Atlantic region or leading a team and developing a horse to race in Radnor,” Woolley says. Not only will he attend this year’s Radnor Hunt Races, but he plans to compete in the 5K in August, as well.
Woolley says he’s looking forward to spending time at the races, taking in the atmosphere, as well as supporting the cause. This year’s event will pay tribute to Brandywine Conservancy founder Frolic Weymouth, who passed away last year. The tailgate picnic competition is themed “Frolic Along the Brandywine” for the man responsible for much of the region’s conservation efforts and who was a staple at steeplechase events across the Brandywine Valley.
At this year’s races, past and present will combine, while looking to the future. “Personally, what I enjoy best about the event is just the energy and the family atmosphere of the entire day,” says Woolley. “It’s really such a visceral experience to be down by the track and hear the pounding of the hooves and the breaths of the horses. The whole experience is just really awe inspiring.”