Ponoka Stampede Rodeo Challenge gives back to families in a big way

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Wild West Willie has become a staple at the Ponoka Stampede Rodeo Challenge giving children a chance to ride around the arena.

CHARLES TWEED/Ponoka News

It’s one of the smallest events the Ponoka Stampede stages, it involves only 25 registrants, an equal number of cowboys and a few animals — it might also be the most important event the Stampede hosts.

The Rodeo Challenge provides a day of rodeo fun for children between the ages of five-18 with mental or physical challenges.

“There’s calf roping where they get help from their partner roping a calf. We have chuckwagon races which are hand pulled chuckwagons and flag picking where the kids get to ride a horse and if they are in a wheel chair their partner will usually get up and ride with them,” said Marg Krossa, who organizes the event.

The partners she is talking about are the cowboys and cowgirls who take time to teach the kids how to rodeo.

“The World Professional Chuckwagon Association is probably our biggest supporters for partners and they come, the drivers, the outriders and sometimes the wives will come and partner with a child and they are really great with getting to know the kids and sometime there are relationships that last forever,” explained Krossa.

The lifelong bond that can be formed is something Krossa and her daughter Skylar, who has Down Syndrome, have experienced firsthand.

After trying for four years to get Skylar into the “Giddy Up” rodeo in Calgary, she was finally able to secure a spot in 1999.

While there, Skylar teamed up with chuckwagon rider Sue Fraser.

“They’ve kept in touch and they send her a Christmas card every year and she looks forward to seeing them. There is just so many memories to be made,” said Krossa.

The Ponoka Stampede Rodeo Challenge is in its 12th-year of existence and Krossa said there were still a few openings available for kids to get a chance to rodeo.

“It is a day where the kids are the star. They don’t have to compete with brothers or sisters, it is just about them. You get to do some fun things and make a lot of memories,”

There is also a barbeque and the kids get a chance to stick around and watch the rodeo action throughout the day. If you’d like to sign up a loved one, visit www.ponokastampederodeochallenge.ca or call Krossa at 403-783-3507.

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