Riding, roping help fund fight against cancer

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published March 10, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated March 8, 2013 at 12:15 p.m.
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Amanda Batchelor, a nurse at Hot Spring County Medical Center, rides her barrel-racing horse, Topless Bar Leo, as a member of the hospital’s Relay for Life team. Batchelor and Leo were scheduled to take part in Saturday’s Turnin’ 3 for the Cure event. The medical center team raised more than $21,000 for the American Cancer Society in 2012.

Every spring, hundreds of people around the Tri-Lakes region volunteer, march and work in dozens of ways to raise funds for the national fight against cancer as part of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life events.

Beginning April 19 in Arkadelphia and running until May 31 in Hot Springs, there will be Relay for Life events in Clark, Garland, Grant, Hot Spring and Saline counties.

The events are designed to give everyone a chance to celebrate the personal victories against cancer that have occurred within the community and to help fund research and treatment to reduce the pain and loss from the disease.

Normally, the funds are raised as the society invites residents to walk for a period of time. Each walker pledges to raise funds for their time on the track. However, there are other ways to raise funds, and in Hot Spring County, two rodeo events are held by Relay for Life teams to add to the personal pledges they have collected.

“I got involved with the Hot Spring County Medical Center Team, and I was looking for a different way to raise funds,” said Toni Aldridge, a medical surgery nurse at the hospital in Malvern. “My husband, Bill, used to ride in the rodeo in his younger days, and I thought we could have a rodeo event to bring in money.”

The Aldridges and the rest of the hospital team hold Turnin’ 3 for the Cure, a barrel-racing event held at the Malvern Rodeo Area, behind the Hot Spring County Fairgrounds on U.S. 270 in Malvern.

This year’s event was held Saturday. The accounting for the event is unfinished, but Toni said she expects the totals to exceed last year’s event when 84 riders took part, raising around $3,500 for the team from Hot Spring County Medical Center.

In all, the team raised more than $21,000 for the county’s Relay for Life event that in total turned over more than $92,000 to the American Cancer Society.

“Last year was the biggest Relay for Life total from Hot Spring County ever,” said Nikki Ezell, district community representative from the American Cancer Society. “The two teams sponsoring the rodeo events were our top money raisers in the county.”

Barrel racing is a rodeo event primarily for women riders, although Bill said there were two men riders in the charity event in 2011. The rider and horse attempt to complete a clover-leaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time.

“There were four riders from Hot Spring County and representatives from almost every county in Arkansas, as well as riders from Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas,” Toni said.

Along with entry fees, sponsors contribute to the teams’ totals and help pay the prizes to the winners.

“We also contribute money from selling T-shirts and concessions,” Bill said. “Admission is free.”

Bill’s mother had cancer, and several of Toni’s family members have had cancer.

“A lot of the people who get involved have had cancer touch their lives, either personally or someone they know,” said Britney Puggle, who chairs the Hot Spring County Relay for Life. “I got involved when my mother was diagnosed with cancer.”

Another rodeo event benefiting Relay for Life is the annual Ropin’ for the Cause event scheduled for March 23 at the Rockin H Ranch near Malvern. This will be the third year for the event, which features team calf roping. The event is hosted by Gerald and Janet Harris of Malvern.

This event is a fundraiser for the Hot Springs team Brothers and Sisters, formed in 2009, said Kara Hyatt, a member of the team. Like the barrel-racing event, the team roping brought in more than $3,000 in the year’s first event in 2010 and has grown every year. Last year, the team brought in $15,000 to the county’s Relay for Life, Ezell said.

In a typical roping competition, a portion of the entry free goes to the host to cover the expenses for the event. However, the Harrises donate that portion of the fee to the Relay for Life team.

“Cancer is in both our families, and when you have a child lost to cancer, you want to do everything you can to see that other children and other families don’t have to go through that kind of loss,” Janet said. “That is why our heart is here.”

Even those who are not skilled ropers or barrel-racers can participate in the 2013 Hot Spring County Relay for Life. It is scheduled for April 26 at Malvern High School. For more information, call (501) 384-2712. To enter or pledge to other Relay for Life events in the region, call (501) 760-2195 or visit the American Cancer Society’s relay website, www.relayforlife.org.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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