The Iroquois Steeplechase is run by the nonprofit, 501c3 organization The Volunteer State Horsemen's Foundation who manages and produces a world-class event and promotes the sport and the spirit of steeplechasing throughout the community. Through its work and the Iroquois Steeplechase, the foundation also supports several local organizations by way of race proceeds.

Since being designated as one of our primary beneficiaries in 1981, Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt has received more than $10 million from The Volunteer State Horsemen's Foundation (VSHF) proceeds. The Iroquois Steeplechase staff, as well as the VSHF board, are involved with the hospital year-round--contributing time, supporting endowments and continuing the long-standing association of the event and the children. Learn more about the impact of the VSHF on the hospital in the 2017 Impact Report  here.

In addition, our organization supports other deserving non-profits and charities, such as Friends of Warner Parks. The VSHF pays special attention to the preservation of the Percy Warner Park grounds, and all improvements to the Iroquois Steeplechase grounds are paid for by the foundation from race proceeds. That maintenance provides year-round benefits and enhancements for the Equestrian Center at Percy Warner Park. For more details, please read the Friends of Warner Park Impact Report here.

The VSHF and its members are also deeply involved in the local community, chamber of commerce organizations and local and national sports organizations.

77th Iroquois Steeplechase Child Ambassador

Brooks Russell headshot color.jpeg

When new parents Cody and Kari Russell brought their son Brooks home from the hospital, he was a completely healthy and happy baby boy. Brooks continued to grow healthy and strong until he was about 2 years old, and his mother noticed that his gait was off when he ran. His parents figured this was something that would correct itself in time, so they dismissed it at first. As time went on, Brooks continued to have trouble running and bending correctly. When it came time for his 3-year-old checkup, his pediatrician agreed that something was off.

Over the next year, Brooks underwent test after test and saw numerous doctors, including Jeffrey E. Martus, M.D., at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, who ordered an MRI. Just one day after his fourth birthday, Brooks’ family received the news that his scan revealed a pilocytic astrocytoma, a brain tumor growing on his spinal cord.

At just 4 years old, Brooks bravely underwent a 10-hour-long surgery in hopes of removing the entire tumor. But unfortunately the tumor had grown to be so large that it had spread into healthy tissue and could only be partially removed. When Brooks woke up from surgery, he was paralyzed from the waist down. And although he still can’t feel his legs, he persevered and did learn to walk again after six weeks.

Brooks is a fighter, and he has been through a great deal in his young life. He underwent a year of chemotherapy following the surgery and then an additional round after the tumor had grown again. To date, Brooks has had over 30 sedated MRI scans since his diagnosis. He’s gone through five surgeries, endured countless blood draws, received too many medications to name and logged more hours at Children’s Hospital than some staff members.

Through it all, he has faced every appointment and challenge that comes his way with strength and courage. “He walks into Children’s Hospital knowing his nurses better than some family members,” his mother said. “He knows they take excellent care of him, all while cracking jokes and even running across the hospital just to get him an Icee to drink when he wakes up from his MRI.”

Currently, Brooks’ tumor is stable. And although it is monitored closely, it certainly isn’t slowing him down. Brooks is now in third grade and plays baseball, basketball and flag football. He’s a big brother to two younger sisters, a huge fan of Spiderman and a mashed potato connoisseur.

Brooks’ parents say that while their son having a brain tumor wasn’t on their roadmap, they are thankful the compassionate, expert team at Children’s Hospital was a detour on their journey.


Children's Hospital Fact Sheet


Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt


Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, a freestanding 267-bed facility dedicated to serving only children, is nationally recognized as a leading provider of pediatric health care services. Experts treat and work to prevent all health issues ranging from common childhood conditions to serious, advanced diseases. Featuring Centers of Excellence for the treatment of diabetes and congenital heart disorders, Children’s Hospital also operates the region’s only level 1 pediatric trauma unit and a neonatal intensive care unit with the highest designated level of care. In addition, Children’s Hospital is a top-level teaching and research facility. As a nonprofit organization, the hospital cares for children of Tennessee and surrounding states regardless of their ability to pay.

Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt is again named among the top pediatric health care hospitals in U.S. News & World Report magazine's annual Best Children's Hospitals rankings. Children’s Hospital has been ranked every year by U.S. News since the inception of the publication’s pediatric rankings, now in its tenth year. Learn more on the hospital's website here, or download their fact sheet here.