Area ranch set to host Ride for Life fundraiser

Courtesy photo Jatonna Hankins, left, the top fundraiser for last year’s Ride for Life, won a hand-tooled saddle presented by ride organizer Amber Workheiser. The event, scheduled for Saturday, raises about $20,000 for Relay for Life.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Fighting cancer is a lot less stressful on horseback.

That’s the theory that’s kept the Ride for Life going strong for a decade, as it changes leadership and location throughout the years.

Dozens of riders are set to descend on the Lazy L.B. Rancho south of San Jon.

Event coordinator Amber Workheiser said she’s hoping for more growth in her third year running the event. She said 30 riders took the trip in 2008 and the number bumped up to 35 last year.

The riders, before the event, ask friends, family and businesses for donations.

“The biggest (fundraiser) will receive a saddle and a buckle,” Workheiser said. “The four riders who bring in the next amounts down will win breast collars and buckles.”

The total amount gets turned in during Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society fundraiser held May 7-8 at Ned Houk Park.

Workheiser said her only involvement with the relay following the ride is when she turns the money in — an average of $20,000 for the last two years.

Previous versions were held at Ned Houk Park, but the event is rotating to area ranches for two reasons.

The first, Workheiser said, is that, “there are too many dirt bike riders at Ned Houk,” and the noise upsets the horses. While most of the riders are courteous at the park, Workheiser said, it only takes one who isn’t to complicate matters.

The second reason is riders get a chance to see different scenery, and Workheiser said many ranchers are extremely accommodating.

Most of the people riding know somebody who is going through cancer, or are cancer survivors themselves. That was the story in 2000, when Monte Graham first created the event.

His father came down with cancer and he wanted to find some way to honor him, and he enjoyed horseback riding.

“I thought it would be really neat if all the horse people that didn’t know anything about (Relay for Life) would ride,” said Graham, who had never heard of a similar event across the country. “I think what’s kept it going is there’s a large community that has horses and wants to participate.”

The ride, said Susan Elrod of Logan, is relaxing and helps her raise funds for research that may help the next person diagnosed with cancer. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer about 15 years ago.

“I like to ride horses,” Elrod said, “and it’s going for a good cause.”

Workheiser started doing the ride in 2007, shortly before her mother Shirley White succumbed to breast cancer. She took it over the following year to honor her mother, and Graham said she has taken it to a new level with her ability to draw sponsors and participating ranchers.