By Tiffany Williams
Kids love to have fun and they like to do that by getting involved in rodeo starting at a young age. For some children picking up a rope or riding maybe more of a challenge than other kids but there is a solution. At the ninth annual Ponoka Stampede Rodeo Challenge 29 kids who had a physical or emotional problem took centre stage for their own rodeo.
Marjorie and Ken Krossa and Lynden and Diane Vold put the Rodeo Challenge together with more than 75 volunteers helping at the Stampede Grounds on June 28. The children had an hour to participate in different events including carriage rides by Fleck/Prediger carriages, hand pulled chuckwagon racing, roping a pretend calf, bucking horse and bull (hand operated like a teeter totter), horse rides and lots of animals to get up close and personal with.
Six and a half year old Anna-Louise O’Muir was very excited before the event and was looking forward to riding a horse because she had never done it before. Anna-Louise who has Spina Bifida and is a wheelchair had her chance to ride her horse. However, when the time came she didn’t want to get on, that is until her cowboy buddy, Josh Carothers stepped in and offered to go on the horse with her.
“We had a great time. You couldn’t ask for more. The volunteers were great as well,” said Anna-Louise’s mother Sheri, who heard about the event from one of her daughter’s teachers in Lacombe. “I think it’s a great idea. It gives kids a chance to do something that they might otherwise not do. It’s nice because they miss out on so much and they get to do this.”
Carothers has been helping out for three years at the challenge and is a cowboy on the amateur circuit in calf and team roping.
“I just think it is wonderful that the kids who don’t get to experience everything get to participate,” he said. “They have fun and I let her do whatever she wants because it is all about the kids.”
Craig Steinwand, 16 years old from Camrose who has cerebral palsy, was attending his second Rodeo Challenge and especially likes the chuckwagons.
“It’s great and it is neat to see these kids have some fun like regular kids,” said his mother Marla. “The organizing committee is awesome. They do a very good job of organizing the event.”
Craig requested to buddy up with his partner from his first challenge World Professional Cchuckwagon driver Doug Irvine.
“It made my day that Craig had requested to have me. It really means a lot when they come back and request you,” said Irvine. “I just like to see them smile and laugh. It’s a really good event.”
One of the most energetic contestants was nine year-old Brett Altheim who was jumping up and down after he got down and worked on tying his calf. He liked riding the bucking bull, calf roping and getting on the ground in the dirt. He was paired up with WPCA driver Leo Tournier who has been volunteering at the challenge for three years.
“The best part is seeing them smile. Brett is very energetic and it made my day being around him,” said Tournier.
Other volunteers helping out included other WPCA drivers, outriders, Battle River high school cowboys and cowgirls and people from all over town.
All of the organizers were very happy with the event at the end of the day.
“It went excellent,” said Lynden. “We had enough cowboys and we were on time too.”
Diana’s favourite part of the day was watching the kids having so much fun and the smiles on their faces were the best.
“It really opens people’s eyes because there are kids like this who are challenged and they need to have fun,” said Lyden. “There’s more kids like this out there than people realize. It is important that they get their own special time in the arena.”
As the 2008 Rodeo Challenge came to an end with a hot dog lunch, signed posters from the chuckwagon drivers and face paint, the kids were off to watch the professional rodeo action with tickets from the Ponoka Stampede Association. The smiles stayed on their faces and plans are under way for 2009 with the tenth anniversary of one of the highlights of the Ponoka Stampede continues.