Rossi, PeopleReady adds horsepower to animal rescue effort

Alexander Rossi has never met Debbie Gillis, but knows indirectly of her work at Leilani Mae Horse Rescue in Linden, North Carolina. So when it came time to pick a charity as part of the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge, Rossi sent her winnings her way.

As part of its commitment to being a force for good and giving back to the communities it serves, PeopleReady has awarded $10,000 to each winning NTT INDYCAR SERIES race driver in the 2022 season to be shared with their team and organization or charities of choice, with a total of $1,170,000 awarded. Rossi’s reward for winning the Gallagher Grand Prix, a July 30 road race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was donated to the Leilani Mae Horse Rescue and AutoNation’s Drive Pink campaign.

Today is National Day of Giving.

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Gillis said she opened her horse rescue in 2010 by accident. Her mother, Leilani Mae Lindgren, had been a horse lover, riding a black Percheron named Old Joe more than 2 miles to school in the fall and spring from their farm in East Grand Forks, Minnesota. Gillis said her mother, who died 10 days before her 56th birthday of complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, taught her to have compassion and respect for animals and nature.

“My mom never went through animal abuse or neglect and (she) took action,” Gillis said. “My mother had a hard life growing up, physically and mentally, but she always took care of the animals. He often talked to Old Joe; must have helped her as a child.”

Gillis retired from the military in 2007 and purchased 33 acres on which he hoped to establish some horses. When he learned about the process of early euthanasia of unwanted horses, he decided to start taking in such animals. Today, he cares about 42.

“They eat about a round bale of hay a day, and one of those is $65, and the grain is about $250, so the monthly budget is about $3,500 if we’re careful,” she said. “They are very well cared for and fed, that’s for sure, but we need all the help we can get.”

Rossi also grew up with horses, albeit in Northern California, and his mother was also passionate about them.

“I was telling a friend of mine in North Carolina about it, and she told me about Leilani Mae Horse Rescue and the wonderful work they do,” Rossi said. “Creating a better world for animals is something that has always meant a lot to me, so it was a perfect fit.”

Gillis appreciated Rossi’s gesture on several levels, but especially because he thought of horses when others did not.

“It’s hard to raise money for horses because not everyone has them like dogs and cats,” she said.

The PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge has committed $170,000 to the winners of the 17 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races this season, with a $1 million bonus for the first driver to win a race on all three types of tracks (ovals, street circuits and track roads).

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden earned the $1 million bonus after victories at the XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach and the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR. Newgarden won five races this year and selected SeriousFun Children’s Network and Wags & Walks Nashville to share the winnings.

Newgarden and Rossi were among nine drivers to win races in 2022. Other charities benefiting include Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Conquer Paralysis Now, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, Speedway Children’s Charities and The American Legion.

Winners of the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge

Josef Newgarden (5)

Race winnings: XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway, Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR, 250 at Iowa Speedway, Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline at World Wide Technology Raceway

First: 1 million dollars

Charities: SeriousFun, Wags & Walks Nashville Kids Network

Scott McLaughlin (3)

Race winnings: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding, Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by All-New Civic Type R 2023, Grand Prix of Portland

Charity: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Pato O’Ward (2)

Race winnings: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst at Barber Motorsports Park Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 at Iowa Speedway

Charity: Beat the paralysis now

Scott Dixon (2)

Race winnings: Honda Indy Toronto, Big Machine Music City Grand Prix

Charity: Children’s Research Hospital St. county

Colton Herta (1)

Win the Race: GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Charity: Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana

Marcus Ericsson (1)

Win the race: Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge

Charity: Children’s Research Hospital St. county

will power (1)

Win the race: Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear

Charity: Speedway Children’s Charities

Alexander Rossi (1)

Win the Race: Gallagher Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Charities: AutoNation Drive Pink Campaign/Leilani Mae Horse Rescue

Alex Palou (1)

Win the Race: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca

Charity: American Legion

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