LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – With exactly a week until the Kentucky Derby, a group of foster children had the chance to meet some horses that will be racing in the run for the roses.

It was an early Saturday morning on the backside of Churchill Downs, but the day brought smiles as wide as could be to a group of about 15 foster children.

The children and their foster families had an exclusive chance to see horses, including some Oaks and Derby contenders, training on the track. They even got up close and personal with some of them thanks to Operation Open Arms.

The organization places children of women who are behind bars in safe and nurturing homes.

“We wanted to try and be as effective as we could to change children's lives so they don't repeat the same pattern or cycle of their parents, which 9 times out of 10 will happen,” said Operation Open Arms founder Cathy Bailey.

The idea for Operation Open Arms came as a result of the Derby several years ago after talking with a colleague who was going off to work for the Department of Justice. Cathy and her husband Irv Bailey remember him saying this.

“He said, ‘You know, one thing I really need help on is I have 100,000 kids across this country who have either a mom or dad behind bars,’” Cathy Bailey recalled.

Close to 20 years later, 17 families are providing care to about 40 children.

“They are healthy, they are thriving and it's just so fitting to be out here today because really this is how we all began, the weekend of the Kentucky Derby,” Cathy Bailey said.

“Well I'm looking forward to seeing some horses racing,” said one little boy.

In anticipation of the big race, the kids spent time with trainer Dale Romans around his barn and learned about the day in the life of a race horse.

“It's been an experience of their lifetimes and I don't think they're going to forget it,” Irv Bailey said.

“You just have to use your potential, whether you're a four legged animal, whether you're a human being, just work to the best of your ability. If it requires a lot of training to get there so be it, but the message he (Dale Romans) gave these children this morning will live with them for a very long time,” Cathy Bailey said.

Operation Open Arms is always looking for foster families. More information can be found here.

The organization is also having a benefit Friday night called Silks in the Bluegrass. Details can be found here.

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