9/26/2013 4:30:00 PM Four-legged fundraiser marks 10th year
Five-year-old Lana Houck
Left to right: Jax Kryzer (boy on pony) Pete Houck (infront with sunglasses), Lana Houck (girl holding Coco the pony), Andrea Kryzer (lady in tank-top), Dan Kryzer (in wheelchair), Ella Kryzer (on white pony Luke), Jill Houck (holding the pony Luke).
by DENISE MARTIN
Bring people together doing something they enjoy and there’s no end to the good that can come of it. A good example of this is the annual Benefit Barrel Race at Houck Horse Company. The horse farm sells horses, offers lessons and provides a facility for equestrian events. This is the 10th year the facility, west of the freeway outside of North Branch, has been host to a day of fun, auctions, food/ games and barrel races as a fundraiser for ALS research and for monetary support for families with cancer struggles.
The Houck ranch is run by Jill and Pete Houck, assisted by 5-year old Lana and baby Clayton. The Houcks said the typical benefit barrel race day begins at 9 a.m. and there’s something going on all day. Cowgirl Tuff, a clothing line based in Litchfield, MN sends “seconds” which are a popular auction opportunity for event-goers. Pigs are roasted and supper trimmings are made available. A live auction has brought in anywhere from $10,000 to $12,000 for items like an autographed Kent Hrbek bat in a display case made by Pete’s father.
There might be gift certificates, handmade furniture, sporting event tickets, and there’s certainly lots of horse related goods in the benefit auction. Kids even get in the act and sell their own stuff. Jill added, “I’m talking 5 to 10 year old kids,” and during this month’s event collected about $500. Jill and Pete said the barrel race circuit won’t even schedule another event the same weekend as theirs. The benefit held earlier this month (it’s always the weekend after Labor Day) generated $12,500 for the ALS Association.
When Jill presented the funds to the organization she learned it was the largest third party donation of the year. Jill has been living with a neuromuscular challenge of her own. She had a diagnosis of PLS, or a sclerosis that affects the upper motor neurons. The medical research is unclear if PLS is a different entity from ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which affects lower neurons. Movement is affected by PLS which shows up in nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement. She’s been pursuing some “natural” treatments, is “doing great” her husband said, and is determined to not allow the condition to deteriorate.
The Horse Farm benefit also sends proceeds to a family in need and this year $12,500 went to a Ramsey MN household, with both ALS disease and cancer affecting the breadwinners of the family. The family was able to spend part of the day at the Houck Horse Company grounds and their children rode on the Houcks’ daughter’s pony. She led them on horseback through the barrels course and they got ribbons, “They had a blast,” said Jill. One of the youngsters whose family benefitted from last year’s fundraiser was in attendance to help out this month and that’s always a special experience.
There have been six children, younger than age 10 who have cancer, who have been recipients of the barrel race proceeds, and four of the six have died, the Houcks said. “Unfortunately we don’t have to look very far to find a family in need,” she observed. The Houcks are “completely amazed” at how this event has taken hold and grown; they say people come from hundreds of miles away to compete or to drop off stuff or volunteer time.