Marylou fell in love with Saratoga Springs, NY when C.V. Whitney first brought her there in the late 1950s. Ever since, she was instrumental in many philanthropic endeavors to support the community.
In 2015, Saratoga Hospital unveiled a beautiful state-of-the-art intensive care unit. Marylou was the first to contribute to the ICU project, and the Center was named in her honor as well as Dr. DelGiacco. The new ICU has 19 private beds with a lot of space, windows, HD televisions, couches, etc. to provide each patient and their family members with privacy and comfort throughout their stay. Each room is also equipped with the most advanced equipment to assist doctors and nurses in providing the most effective treatment of patients. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Marylou mentioned that after her experience staying in the ICU, she understood first hand how badly it needed renovations, and wanted to assist in making it a great facility for future patients.
Marylou and John have been very supportive of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, which is named in their honor. They have also donated $1 million to the Radiation Oncology Center.
The summer of 2013 marked the 150th Anniversary of horse racing in Saratoga. Marylou and her husband, John, were Honorary Chairs involved in creating various events to celebrate the sesquicentennial.
The Floral Fete was one event where seven flower-adorned antique carriages and other vehicles, bicycles, and wagons wrapped in flowers paraded down Broadway to Congress Park. Once the parade concluded, all members of the community were invited to join a community-wide ice cream social in the park. The Floral Fete took place the evening before the Whitney Handicap race, the official 150th Anniversary. Marylou explained in a 30-second video that this was “Saratoga’s biggest celebration in history” (see video below).
In addition to the Floral Fete, Marylou and John randomly chose five racing fans and gave them $15,000 each to make bets on five major races: the Whitney, Fourstardave, Alabama, Travers, and Woodward. As a result of these exciting bets, three of the five winners took home thousands of dollars in earnings.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF DANCE
As a founder of the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, Marylou helped raise over $1.5 million. Before the 1986 opening, the Hall of Fame was named after Marylou and C.V. Whitney. Marylou advocated for the Museum since its inception.
Marylou supported various organizations in Saratoga Springs and the surrounding area including:
- Saratoga YMCA (The Pool is named in her honor)
- Saratoga Race Course
- The Museum of Racing
- Automobile Museum
- Double H Hole in the Woods
- Special Olympics
- Skidmore College
- Bethesda Church
- Saratoga Bridges
- Renovations on “Spit & Spat” in Congress Park
- Carousel in Congress Park
- Teresian House in Albany, NY
- The Mental Health Foundation in Albany, NY
- Albany Medical Center
THE BACKSTRETCH APPRECIATION PROGRAM
In 2007, Marylou and her husband, John, created the Backstretch Appreciation Program to benefit the backstretch workers who work at Saratoga Race Course. Most backstretch workers live in dorms with no kitchens, and no convenient grocery store locations. Every night an activity (dinner, bingo, movie night, karaoke, and learn English night) is scheduled for all 2,000 employees. Marylou was often seen at these events sitting in the front of the tent, where she was easily accessible to all guests. Both Marylou and John have raised funds, and have donated a lot of time and resources to support the backstretch workers.
While visiting the Saratoga Race Track in August 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans to honor Marylou by constructing a new hospitality center for backstretch employees, which will be named the Marylou Whitney Pavilion. This facility will hold up to 400 people, and will provide a permanent space for the Backstretch Appreciation Program to continue hosting events.
SARATOGA RACE COURSE
In August 2019, to honor Marylou and her dedication to Saratoga Race Course, NYRA unveiled the renaming of the Clubhouse entrance to the “Marylou Whitney Entrance.” The two jockeys surrounding the entrance wear light blue and brown silks representing the Marylou Whitney Stables and to commemorate the 2004 victories of her horse, Birdstone. Also, fans were encouraged to wear pink at the Whitney Stakes Day, since it was her favorite color.
The Whitney Viewing Stand at the Oklahoma track was built to honor a prominent racing family. In 1901, William C. Whitney purchased the race course and later purchased the land, which is called the Oklahoma track. William C. Whitney is credited with the revitalization of the race track, which eventually led to the revitalization of the city. The Whitney Viewing Stand was revealed at the 150th Anniversary of horse racing in Saratoga and allows the public to view horses practicing every morning on the track.
Marylou was a founding member and Honorary Chair of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), and she helped underwrite the New York City Ballet’s summer residency at SPAC. Marylou was awarded the First Star on the Walk of Fame for her timeless efforts.
In the mid-1980s, Marylou wanted to provide a comfortable environment for the guests at her annual gala and support the Casino’s other fundraising events, weddings, and other activities that benefited the community. To accomplish this, she had C.V. Whitney install air conditioning in the Canfield Casino as a present for her birthday.
In 2015, Marylou and John built the Centennial Park on the 100th Anniversary of the city. The park is located at the end of Union Avenue and is connected to Congress Park. This beautiful park provides a welcoming entrance from the race course to downtown Saratoga. In 2019, the city renamed the park, Marylou Whitney Park.