he Iroquois Steeplechase continued its tradition of recognizing Nashvillians who embody the annual event’s spirit of tradition and service, today naming Jennifer Najjar, MD, and Sara Jo and Don Gill as this year’s honorary co-chairs. The iconic Nashville sporting, social and philanthropic event, sponsored by Bank of America and benefiting Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, marks its 78th year on May 11.
“These chairpersons truly represent the best of what Steeplechase is about, a long and proud tradition of sportsmanship, all dedicated to the mission of supporting children and the physicians who serve them,” said Dwight Hall, chairman of the Iroquois Steeplechase Race Committee. “Sara Jo and Don’s legacy of commitment to the Steeplechase and to the sport spans decades, while Dr. Najjar has spent her entire professional life helping children.”
Dr. Najjar is Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, with a specialty in Pediatric and Adolescent Endocrinology and Diabetology. She has served Children’s Hospital patients for nearly four decades. Named a “Health Care Hero” by the Nashville Business Journal, Najjar has repeatedly been listed among the “Best Doctors in America” by the Nashville Business Journal and Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. She has received numerous honors from the American Diabetes Association for her service, including founding and directing Camp Sugar Falls, a day camp for children with diabetes.
"I am thrilled to be this year's honorary co-chair of the Iroquois Steeplechase representing Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt,”said Najjar. “Supporting our hospital through this annual event is so incredibly important. It is a real privilege to stand alongside other co-chairs whose lifelong efforts embody great community service.”
For Sara Jo, a Volunteer State Horseman’s Foundation trustee, and Don Gill, the Iroquois Steeplechase is family history. Not only has Sara Jo never missed a Steeplechase since the inaugural event, her family has led 48 of the event’s 78 years: her grandfather was the first chairman of the Steeplechase race committee, her father the second. “It was their gift to the community to bring the beauty of Steeplechase every year,” said Sara Jo. “I remember my first race at age four, hanging from the bars in the front-row boxes, watching my father ride, and being thrilled and scared all at the same time.” Don Gill has overseen the Steeplechase barns for 35 years, organizing and calming the trainers, riders and horses and getting everyone to the track on time. The Gills ride and train horses on their farm, Bright Hour, named for the horse Sara Jo’s father rode in the first Steeplechase.
About the Iroquois Steeplechase
The Iroquois Steeplechase is an iconic sporting event that has been Nashville's rite of spring since 1941. Held the second Saturday of each May at Percy Warner Park, the annual event attracts more than 25,000 spectators and is Music City's celebration of time-honored traditions, Tennessee hospitality and southern fashions. The event also supports several philanthropic causes and has donated more than $10 million to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt since 1981. To learn more about Steeplechase, visit www.iroquoissteeplechase.org.
About Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt is one of the nation's leading children's hospitals, treating and helping to prevent a full range of pediatric health issues from colds and broken bones to complex heart diseases and cancer. The Department of Pediatrics within the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is currently ranked fourth in the nation in the total receipt of research funding from the National Institutes of Health. Children’s Hospital’s physicians are nationally recognized innovators in their fields who are discovering new ways to cure and prevent a host of childhood diseases. Their work is preventing and finding new treatments for diseases such as premature birth, cancer, heart disease, spina bifida, trauma and many other conditions, and is an investment in the future. Achieving 10 out of 10 nationally ranked pediatric specialties in 2018, Children’s Hospital was again named among the nation’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” for the 12th consecutive year by U.S. News & World Report.
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, a nonprofit organization, opened in 2004, expanded its physical space in 2012, and is currently adding four new floors and 160,000 total sq. ft. The new expansion will help advance the size and scope of the hospital's mission.
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