ELIZABETHTOWN — On Saturday, horse-loving folks from around the region gathered at Bladen Lakes State Forest for what was planned as an all-day event, the third annual Saddle Up for St. Jude Trail Ride to benefit St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
“It was wonderful,” said organizer Jo Ann Nunnery. “Everybody had a good time, and we got to meet a lot of new people that we hadn’t met before.”
The event was originally planned for May 21, but was postponed because forecasters seemed almost certain of bad weather that Saturday. The ride was rescheduled for May 28, which held problems of its own.
“A few people didn’t come because they were concerned about the weather, so we had fewer people than we’ve had in the past,” Nunnery explained. “The rain held off until just as we were breaking up for the day, though, so it was wonderful.”
Because of the weather, the 4.5-hour ride was shortened to 3 hours, but the 65 people who turned out with their horses, mules, and wagons didn’t let the weather dampen their spirits or their camaraderie.
“It’s just too much fun,” Nunnery said, “and it makes you feel too good not to have a good time, with the fellowship and the likemindedness.”
Attendees, gathered at the crossroads for the start of the ride, comprised what Nunnery called “a beautiful sight” — dozens of horses being saddled, wagons being hitched and loaded, and animals being watered. After the introduction of the trail boss and a prayer for blessing and safety, attendees settled in for a lazy ride through the park.
Despite the weather and the change of date possibly deterring guests, Nunnery reported an all-time high in giving.
“We’re getting really close to $3,500, and our goal was $3,200. We had fewer people than last year, but the people who were here were very generous,” she said, noting that people had given $60 or $80, for instance, for registration, instead of the required $25.
To add to the coffers, an auction was held, and it was, for Nunnery, one of the highlights of the day.
“People just kept giving and giving,” she said. “It was like they were determined to make a big donation and take something home with them.”
She added, “I think everybody was on the same page and had the right mindset.”
That mindset is one of determination, it seems — to knock out cancer.
“I don’t know many people who haven’t been impacted. The children that you see on St. Jude commercials are real, the threat is real, and the emotional toll and the financial toll it takes on families is real. Just dealing with the disease is bad enough, but the financial burden on top of that…” she said, trailing off. “I think people are touched, and they want to help.”
She added, “If we can give back a small fraction of what we’ve gained, it will make life so much richer.”
Next year’s trail ride is already being planned for the last Saturday in May.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.