Children with special needs had their sights on great things as a special rodeo challenge brought cowboys and events to them.
With an especially sunny day Saturday, July 2, the Rodeo Challenge saw 25 children with special needs come into the Ponoka Stampede infield for a morning of modified rodeo events such as bull riding, tie down roping, horseback rides and even milking a cow. Keeping the kids company was a parent and cowboys with the World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WPCA) who showed them the ropes all morning.
WPCA president Ed Wittchen said outriders, drivers and family members have been big supporters of the event from the first challenge held 17 years ago. “What I say to people is, everyone of us, no matter who we are in life, knows a special needs kid.”
“They (WPCA members) think this is one of the single most important things we do all year,” he added.
Mayor Rick Bonnett said of the events during the Ponoka Stampede week the challenge is one of his favourites. “The smiles on the faces of the families and the kids is something that you never forget once you see it.”
In talking with the parents and guardians, the joy on their children’s faces makes the challenge worthwhile.
This is the second year Greg Hodges brought his grandson, Aiden, to the challenge. “He likes the events. He has a lot of fun,” said Hodges with camera in tow.
“He talks about it for a week before and for a few weeks afterwards,” he said. “He’s got a trophy and he’s got his hat.”
Aiden is diagnosed with Hurler syndrome, a rare disease negatively affecting the enzymes the body produces. Hodges said a bone marrow transplant has helped with improving the condition.
But for Aiden, it’s the Rodeo Challenge that he enjoys the most and for weeks the cowboys and rides are the only things he can talk about.
Heather Reynolds brought her son for a second year in a row. “It’s been the highlight of his summer.”
“We couldn’t tell him until yesterday,” she said of his excitement. “Or he would not sleep.”
She enjoys seeing Jacob, who is diagnosed with hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, able to try new things and new events. It also gave him an opportunity to see friends from his community.
Spokesperson for the challenge, Ken Krossa, was pleased with the warm weather and the strong turnout. “Lots of help from the WPCA and of course the Stampede association. We couldn’t do it without them.”
The main goal: “To make a very special day for some kids that generally don’t have a special day for themselves.”
Stampede president Mike Stretch praised organizers Ken and Marjorie Krossa and Lynden and Diane Vold for their initiative in bringing the challenge to Ponoka. He enjoys seeing happy faces on all family members and the strong volunteer support from ride support to photographers.