A band of horse riders hauled away about $80,000 out of the Simonette Valley this weekend, but it wasn't from a train robbery or stagecoach heist.
The group of about 186 horses and riders were raising money at Saturday's
fifth annual Simonette Valley MS Trail Ride at the Simonette Valley Ranch,
16 kilometres south of the DeBolt turnoff on Hwy. 43. The event raises
money for Multiple Sclerosis research and awareness programs.
Organizers had hoped to raise $75,000, to be divided evenly between local and national MS initiatives.
Instead, they came away with a little over $80,000.
"We were really surprised," said Sharon Nelson, an organizer and one of the owners of the ranch. "The economy is tighter this year, so we weren't really sure what we'd get, but we did better than last year." At the 1998 event, 119 riders raised about $69,000.
The ride took place on the banks of the Simonette River. Riders could choose between distances that took three or five hours to complete. Riders had to raise at least $125 in pledges to participate.
Top money-raiser this year was Clairmont's Vern Pillsworth, who raised about $3,900. He won a saddle for his efforts but donated back to the MS Society.
Lynn Hansen, also of Clairmont, collected 152 pledges, the most of any rider on the weekend.
The winner of the poker rally was Greg Stannard of Spirit River. He won a trip for two to the 1999 National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
Also noteworthy were the efforts of Sexsmith resident Doug Spry, who
rode his horse all the way from Whitecourt to the Simonette Valley to raise
awareness about the disease.