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Dave and Christina Coldiron have hosted a Kentucky Derby party for close friends and family for 13 years. Originally intended as a means to gather with loved ones to watch the beloved horse race, it has turned into something far more meaningful than the Coldirons could have imagined. Now a charity event known as the Coldiron Derby Fundraiser, the event is open to the public and brings awareness to a neurological disorder called Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT).

A disorder that affects one in 2,500 people in the United States, CMT is a neurological disorder that causes nerve damage in the arms and legs, leading to loss of sensation, muscle contractions, and difficulty walking. Dave and Christina’s 9-year-old daughter Hazel was diagnosed with CMT when she was only 3 years old, so this cause is close to their hearts.

“We went all over the country searching for answers,” says Dave of the time immediately following Hazel’s diagnosis. “Everywhere we would go, I would ask the head nurse or physician, ‘Hey, I know you can’t give me anybody’s contact information, but if there’s anybody you think we should know, I would love for you to give them our contact information so we can connect with them.’”

Hazel Coldiron hugging her sister

The Coldiron Derby Fundraiser was created to raise awareness for Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a neurological disorder that affects thousands of people in the U.S., including 9-year-old Hazel Coldiron (pictured here on the left).

Coldiron family photo

Dave and Christina Coldiron have hosted a Kentucky Derby party for 13 years, which eventually transitioned into the fundraiser it is today.

Dave’s initiative to find additional support led him and his wife to Herb and Rachael Beron and the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association (CMTA). Herb is a member of the CMTA’s board of directors, so he and his wife called Dave and Christina to discuss their experience with having a daughter with CMT. “It’s like their story was our story, but they’re basically 15 years ahead of us,” says Dave. “They were a great help, and that’s how we got started with being involved with the CMTA. Then, I was eventually asked to be a board member.”

As a board member of the CMTA, Dave attends regular meetings and helps make decisions related to the organization. “They also want you to raise awareness and raise funds, and that’s what I want to do,” explains Dave. “I’m not going to be able to find a treatment or a cure, of course, so how can I help? Well, I can try to raise funds to help those who know how to try and do those things.”

It was a no-brainer for Dave and Christina to turn their annual Derby party into a charity event for the CMTA. Last year’s fundraiser was the inaugural event and was limited to friends and family. This year’s festivities, however, are open to the public, and anyone is encouraged to attend. Taking place at Sage Creek Farms in Fairview, TN, on Saturday, May 7, this is one fundraiser you don’t want to miss. “This is a fun event,” says Dave. “You don’t need to know somebody … to go. It’s a public event where, if you come, you’re going to have a good time.”

Attendees at the 2021 Coldiron Derby Fundraiser

The 2021 Coldiron Derby Fundraiser was a private event with limited capacity, but this year’s event is open to the public and is guaranteed to be chock-full of fun!

“It was just a group of friends at first — probably 15 or 20 people,” says Dave of previous Derby parties. “We never wanted it to be hundreds of people, but we ended up with anywhere between 75 and 100 people at our private event. When I joined the CMTA board, that’s when we thought, ‘Okay, we need to not only have friends and friends of friends, we need to try to grow this.’”

Dave and Christina work tirelessly to make attendees feel like they’re at Churchill Downs watching the Derby. Men wear sports coats while women wear elaborate hats and fancy dresses. The fundraiser also includes mint juleps and live music from the Americana band, The Reneaus. Dave adds that they also host a Calcutta auction, where attendees can place bets on Derby horses.

Man with elaborate Derby hat at Nashville fundraiser

The Coldiron Derby Fundraiser includes a ‘Best Hat’ competition, so be sure to bring your A-game!

Hors d'oeuvres at 2021 Coldiron Derby Fundraiser

No Derby day is complete without delicious hors d’oeuvres.

Dave is also a member of The Whiskey House, a Nashville nonprofit organization that works to raise funds for other local charities. For those who purchase a $50 ticket add-on, they have access to a bourbon bar from The Whiskey House’s founder, John “JB” Brittle. Dave adds that the organization often hosts master tasters and distillers and includes an extensive, privately-owned bourbon collection. “The Whiskey House has an exclusive feel in that you have to be invited to be a member. You also have to be invited to even step foot inside as a guest,” he tells us. “[This is] something that people can look forward to if they attend the event — they could have access to The Whiskey House.”

When it comes to the future of the fundraiser, Dave says he wants this to be a fun annual event people look forward to and want to attend. “I want it to be something people talk about and look forward to instead of feeling like it’s an obligation to [attend],” he says. “That’s how we can be the most successful … We can raise more money if it’s something people want to attend because the more folks we have showing up over the years, the more opportunities there are to raise funds.”

The 2022 Coldiron Derby Festival takes place at Sage Creek Farms on Saturday, May 7, at 2:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $125 and can be purchased HERE. If you’re unable to attend the event but wish to donate to the CMTA, you can do so directly HERE. To learn more about Hazel’s story and the Coldiron Derby Festival, visit coldironderbycmta.com.

All photography by Mackenzie LaRoe.

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