Seeing the smiles and laughs from the kids is all that everyone wants to see.
That’s the true purpose behind the Rodeo Challenge at the Ponoka Stampede, where 25 kids from five up to 18 years old with special needs can get away from it all for a couple hours and enjoy the life of a rodeo cowboy or cowgirl.
Those with special physical, emotional or mental needs get to take part in a variety of rodeo events that come with modifications to fit the kids needs. The event is also a chance for the kids to socialized with others, including the many volunteers from the local area as well as some special guests — the drivers of the World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WCPA) and their families who love to come help out.
The group took over the Stampede infield for the morning of Canada Day (July 1) marking 18 straight years of the event, something that Ken Krossa couldn’t have imagined would last this long.
“It all started with our daughter going and participating at the Giddy Up Rodeo at the Calgary Stampede,” Krossa stated.
“After seeing what went on and how it was run, so when we finally got back I approached Diane Vold and she agreed we could do something like this.”
Next he know though, the idea was brought to the Stampede board of directors and they really loved it.
“They came back to me, said it was a great idea, then asked if I would run it,” he said with a bit of wry smile.
“I accepted and I’m still here.”
Last year saw 30 kids take part, but Krossa explained it was too busy and hectic for everyone, so the decision was made to cut it back to how it was previously with 25.
“It’s all for the kids and continues to be immensely popular, with a list that continues to grow,” he added.
“We have new kids each year, with trophies and awards to hand out. And the support we get from the WPCA and other volunteers is excellent. So long as there are kids coming, I think the support will be there.”
Along with the experience, the kids also get to take home some photos of themselves due to the generosity of several local photographers who lend their time and expertise to the event.