Rotary members in India selected a popular racecourse in Mumbai to promote Rotary to the tens of thousands of racing aficionados who gather there daily, raising more than $350,000 for club service projects in the process.

And between races, spectators at the Mahalaxmi Race Course were also treated to the Rotary members’ attempt at a Guinness World Record as 650 members, 75 of them dressed in white and 575 in black, formed the shape of a horse — with the Rotary wheel as its eye — on the lawn of the members’ area.

District leaders in western India chose the Mahalaxmi Race Course for their Race for Humanity event because it draws people from all segments of Indian society. They reached out to Gulam A. Vahanvaty, a member of the Rotary Club of Bombay who also is a member of a track committee, to facilitate a deal that enabled Rotary clubs to name seven of the eight races run on 23 November after their respective service projects.

Leading up to race day, each club had raised at least $50,000 for the projects, which support literacy, children’s health, and education, among other causes. Betting on the races was left up to the Rotary members but was not promoted as part of the event.

More than 6,000 Rotary members attended the Race for Humanity event, and club leaders distributed 1,500 membership kits to race goers. In addition, Rotary colors and flags lined the paths to the complex, banners hung in every available location, and a five-minute Rotary public service video was shown throughout the event as well as on video feeds to other racing sites throughout the country.

“This was a spectacular event for Rotary in terms of fellowship, bringing together Rotarians and their families in one grand open-air venue,” says Vahanvaty. “Rotary’s work was showcased across the racecourse through banners and audiovisuals. We also obtained immense public relations through newspapers, radio, and TV covering the event.”

Adds Ajay Gupta, governor of District 3140, “It was a delight to be with so many Rotary members and sing our national anthem and unfurl both our nation’s flag and the Rotary flag.” District 3140 spearheaded the event along with the Rotary Club of Bombay.

The day at the racecourse also included a fashion show, an art camp, a play area for kids, a DJ, and an organized cleanup activity inspired by a nationwide campaign to clean up India’s infrastructure.

“Truly, this has to be one of the most significant events that I have had the opportunity to witness in my 42 years in Rotary,” says past Rotary Foundation Trustee Ashok Mahajan. “The event not only helped raise funds for Rotary, strengthen district fellowship, and reinforce Rotary goodwill but it also highlighted Rotary’s reach and network in society.”

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