Written by Shayda Windle
A Prince William County sheriff’s deputy is probably the last person you would envision creating a children’s storybook about steeplechasing. But T.C. “Reggie” Williams isn’t your typical sheriff. Growing up in Rappahannock County, he was an athlete from the get-go, and excelled so much in high school baseball that he received the nickname “Reggie” after Hall of Fame right fielder Reggie Jackson. In addition to his love of baseball, he became a fan of steeplechasing after being introduced to Pete Aylor, one of just two black trainers on the steeplechase circuit at the time. Aylor took Williams under his wing, escorting him behind the scenes at the Foxfield races near Charlottesville.
These early experiences taught Williams the importance of youth involvement in sports and the connection between these events and becoming a confident, resilient adult — one that would live a life free from crime and all that comes with it. Seeing so much tragedy as a law enforcement officer made Williams decide he wanted to make a difference in children’s lives and began mentoring youth.
“I wanted to help kids get out of that vicious cycle and find their way in life,” Williams says. He realized that a sturdy upbringing was critical to keeping at-risk youth away from criminal activity and downward spirals.
“All kids are at risk, it doesn’t matter your background,” he says. “Some, not all, are kids from broken homes, mostly boys, but not all … some black, but not all, many living with single moms who are trying to make it, working two, three jobs. These are kids with no positive male role model in their lives. I provide that stability, and I think it takes a man to raise a man.”
(Left: T.C. “Reggie” Williams. Photo by Joanne Maisano.)
In 2019, Williams decided to take things further by establishing T.C. Williams Youth Sports Camps, an international nonprofit for underprivileged children, designed “to discover the inner and outer strength you can get from playing sports.”
“We hold mini day camps to enable and foster this enhanced era of inclusion for all kids,” Williams says. “The mission is to build and fine tune skills, sportsmanship, character, confidence, resilience and community through sports, education and mentoring programs, which improves life skills and keeps kids out of trouble.”
Rekindling His Love of the Steeplechase
Virginia Racing Commission rules required a secure stable area for Gold Cup pari-mutuel meets. Four years ago, Great Meadow was looking for a stable superintendent, and they tapped Williams because of his unique skill set. With his background as a horseman, law enforcement officer, and youth volunteer, Williams was the natural choice. After beginning his work as a security officer at Great Meadow, Williams’ love of the steeplechase had been rekindled.
Then last summer, Williams was asked to attend a race in Saratoga Springs, New York. When the jockey, Michael Mitchell, hopped on the horse, “Fast Car,” who Williams said “needed constant attention, he noticed the jockey talking to it as if he was the horse.” Williams continued listening to this conversation between Michael and the horse, realizing how much it calmed the horse. It dawned on him that this conversation created a special connection between the two, and he felt as though a story had been born.
After the race, Williams spotted Michael in the barn area, and approached him about the idea of creating a story from the experiences that day. Williams wanted to create a book that would be for children about a steeplechase race “through the eyes of a horse.” Michael agreed to write the story and Williams would do the rest.
“Prava’s Steeplechase Adventure” is a positive story about a horse who is excited to attend the races with his “friends.” Although he doesn’t win the race, he exclaims how he was “so pleased with [his] efforts and very proud that my friend won. I was so happy!” The book exudes positive messages of sportsmanship and confidence in one’s own skills, something that every child should hear.
The book is cleverly illustrated by children involved in T.C. Williams Youth Sports Camp initiative, and includes images from kids all over the world. All book proceeds are split between T.C. Williams Youth Sports Camp and the National Steeplechase Foundation. The book can be purchased on Amazon.
When asked what’s in store for the future, Williams revealed that a sequel to “Prava’s Steeplechase Adventure” is slated for release in October. Williams loved the process so much that he’s working on another children’s storybook, “Capo Kane,” about a horse who overcame self-doubt during a horse race and went on to be a success. Both books will also include illustrations by children and will be available for purchase on Amazon. ML
Published in the April 2021 issue of Middleburg Life.