Ponoka barrel racers raise thousands for lung disease research

A group of local barrel racers have helped raise $6,500 for lung health research to remember a passionate rodeo volunteer

Kaylee-Jo Henkelman and Shayna Dodds (left and right) present a cheque of $6

Kaylee-Jo Henkelman and Shayna Dodds (left and right) present a cheque of $6

Submitted

A group of local barrel racers have helped raise $6,500 for lung health research to remember a passionate rodeo volunteer who gave so much to the sport.

The group held the first ever Lyle Norn Memorial Barrel Race Series race on May 14 and held the event every Wednesday at the Ponoka Stampede Grounds for six straight weeks.

Funds raised from that series gave co-organizers Kaylee-Jo Henkelman and Shayna Dodds a chance to present a cheque to The Lung Association (TLA), Alberta and NWT Monday, Oct. 6 at the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre

Norn could always be found helping out at the Stampede Grounds and he died in February from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at the age of 67. In order to remember the well liked volunteer, Henkelman and Dodds started the barrel racing series as a way to remember him.

Money raised through door prizes and concession sales during each race will help pay for vital research programs that could help find a cure or a new treatment for lung diseases such as COPD — an illness that has killed more Canadian women than breast cancer since 2009.

“During our races, he was always there to help — he was always our tractor guy. He would drop anything to come and help you,” said Henkelman.

“He was such a family man and he supported young kids who were all involved in the rodeo,” she added.

Dodds said the series was the best way she could think of to remember Norn and to raise awareness for COPD. She hopes they can raise even more money next year.

“We want to exceed what we have done,” said Dodds.

Henkelman says the local barrel racing community will make the Lyle Norn Memorial Barrel Racing Series an annual tradition every spring.

“We are so thankful for the local barrel racing community to raise these funds that will be used to help advance research into lung disease because we are all powered by breathing,” said Kathleen Badry, development coordinator for TLA.

“This is such a great tribute to a beloved grandfather who gave so much to central Alberta’s rodeo community,” she added.

Gwen De Almeida was one of the people caring for Norn before he died. She is a respiratory therapist who found Norn to be a positive individual despite his health issues. “While he was in the hospital he struggled with the disease with quiet dignity.”

Planning is underway for next year’s series.