By: Jennifer J.H. Pierce
Among the leadership success stories continuing to emerge in the wake of last year’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting is 19-year-old Nick Vaccarezza, who was sworn in on April 11, as one of the newest Board members of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA), a trade group representing over 6,000 active Thoroughbred racehorse owners and trainers statewide.
“We believe Nick is the youngest person ever to serve as an HBPA board member since the organization’s inception in 1940,” said FHBPA President Steve Screnci.
His father, Boca Raton Breeders’ Cup winner Carlo Vaccarezza, owner of “Frank and Dino’s” restaurant, was sworn in as a board member along with his son after the two were elected to their posts.
“I’m blessed to be 19,” Vaccarezza told the Daily Racing Form’s Jay Hovdey in his follow-up to the Parkland horror, where he revealed that his brother, Mike, was also at the school with him that tragic day. Vaccarezza was not in the school building where the killing took place. When the shots began, he became obsessed with finding his younger brother Mike where they both raced to safety at the far end of the property.
“Thank God I didn’t have to see everything. I just heard everything,” he said a week after the shooting. “Even that has me shook. The main thing is I made it out and my brother made it out, and God bless the 17 lives that were lost that day because of one kid’s demonic actions.”
Vaccarezza lost his close friend Joaquin “Guac” Oliver to the gunman. Another close friend, Sam Zeif, was an eyewitness to the bloodshed.
Since then, he has attacked his post-high school life with zeal, working for Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown and advancing his education at the University of Kentucky and now at Florida Atlantic University in Business Administration.
His plans for his Board position with the FHBPA is to include introducing more young people to the sport he loves so much. Fluent in Spanish and some Italian, he plans to focus on increased outreach to horse racing community.
Jennifer J.H. Pierce is a consultant for the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association
This article was first published in the FHBPA.