LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It’s a moment that touches nearly every family and every race fan on Oaks Day -- when the Churchill Downs track is covered in pink and cancer survivors make their trip around the racetrack.
In 2018, Shantel Lanerie, the wife of jockey Corey Lanerie, was among them. Just weeks later, she died.
Family and friends say Shantel was playing tennis a week before she died. That’s why her passing came as such a shock.
They knew the only way to pay tribute to her properly would be to keep her good work for others going.
A few days ago at Keeneland Race Course, race fans were decked out in pink as the track celebrated cancer survivors.
Alongside friend Shea Leparoux, 11-year-old Brittlyn Lanerie sang the National Anthem in honor of her mother Shantel and all the fighters still out there.
“She’s strong, she’s a tough little girl,” Corey Lanerie said of his daughter.
On Oaks Day in 2018, Brittlyn walked with her mother Shantel as they led 144 survivors around the Churchill track.
Fellow riders and horsemen came out to support Corey.
“We never, ever dreamed it would be us and then the next moment we were in that situation,” Corey said. “She was getting through it, everything was good we thought.”
June 22, Shantel died at age 42 of stage 1 breast cancer after complications from chemotherapy.
“We miss her every day, we miss her every day,” said longtime family friend Rick Mocklin.
Mocklin said Shantel was the glue of the family -- funny, genuine, bright and beautiful.
“Oh my God, she was just a wonderful person,” Mocklin remembered.
Shantel’s parents, Katie and Riley Abar, said their daughter would have continued to work for survivors.
“She always did believe in helping other people too,” Riley Abar said.
Thanks to all of them, she is.
Last fall, Mocklin and his wife Jeanette started the Shantel Lanerie Breast Cancer Foundation, a non-profit raising money and awareness.
The foundation helps cancer patients and their families with basic needs -- things like meals, transportation and even paying bills.
During the fundraiser at Keeneland, thousands of dollars were raised as family and friends promised to keep up the fight.
As for Brittlyn, she’s staying strong like her mother.
“She was an awesome mom and whatever she could do to help she would do.” Brittlyn said. “I would love to sing (the National Anthem) again and do whatever I can to help.”
The foundation is gaining momentum with big events like those at Keeneland and here in Louisville.
For more information and to see personal stories from other families, visit the foundation’s website or find the Shantel Lanerie Breast Cancer Foundation on Facebook.