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Service projects added to Kentucky Derby festivities

LOUISVILLE — The mayor of Louisville said the festivities leading up to the Kentucky Derby will now include service projects.

Mayor Greg Fischer said the city is urging neighborhood groups, non-profits and others to participate in a week of service projects in the spring and fall. The "Give a Day" weeks will be official Kentucky Derby Festival-sanctioned events. The volunteer projects will be coordinated with help from the Metro United Way.

Fischer said his hope is to make Louisville a more compassionate place. He said volunteering for service projects is one way to compensate for "not having all the money in the world to solve problems and to help our neighbors. We want to start a brush fire of compassion and have a lot of fun" doing it.

He said the plan would promote a goal of his administration to make the city more welcoming, which is reflected in the hospitality shown to visitors and in the care shown to neighbors. The administration's other goals are to make Louisville smarter and healthier.

The spring event is set for April 15-22 and will end the day after the Thunder Over Louisville fireworks and air show

The Kentucky Derby Festival will promote and help coordinate the volunteer projects, said Mike Berry, festival president and chief executive officer.

He said the festival usually has more than 4,000 volunteers to help with events leading up to the Derby. Many of those volunteers also could participate in the Give a Day program. The festival will also help with another service project week in October.

Fischer said he hopes the week in the fall will help launch the week in the spring.

Some companies have already signed on to help out, including UPS and the Louisville-based Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain.