Happy Trails4Transplants

Posted June 6, 2013 at 5:03 pm


Riders travel 311 miles to raise awareness and funds for organ and tissue donation

By Lindsie DeFrang


Around 2:30 PM, Monday, June 3, 24 horses and their riders made their way into Finley on a charity ride promoting organ and tissue donation awareness. Riders and horses set up camp in the new campground. The hockey rink was used as a corral for the horses.

The two-week first annual Trails4Transplants ride began May 31, in Warren, MN and will travel west to St. Anthony, ND by June 13 for a total of 311 miles.

Trails4Transplants co-chairman’s Roger Hille and Ashley Peterson, both of Warren, and a few other riders have plans to ride the entire 311 miles. And some riders join in for just a stretch at a time.

Ann Labelle and Sue Locking of Farmington, MN traveled almost six hours to get to the starting point in Warren.

They are riding for Ann’s grandniece, Natalie Jean, who is in need of a heart transplant.

The celebrity rider with them for a few days was 2013 Miss South Dakota Rodeo Queen, Kristina Maddox of Bel Fourche, SD and her mother Pam, of Hecla, SD.

Joining the riders for a 20-mile ride was the Holkesvig family of Portland. Justin, 13 and his father Jason rode their horses while his mother, Wendy drove the pickup with the horse trailer.

Justin was so excited to be a part of the ride; he ended up raising $200.

“As we rode along, I just kept thinking, I know this person who’s had a transplant, I know this person and this person,” said Jason.

After arriving to Finley, the Holkesvig’s had a bite to eat then loaded up their horses and turned in their donations received.

“It was an honor to ride next to you young man,” said Roger. “And it was an honor to ride next to you as well sir,” replied Justin.

“It’s hard for some people to get two weeks off of work so we invite anyone who wants to join the ride for only $1 per mile. All proceeds raised will be given to the Gift of Life Transplant House in Rochester to help offset the costs for those waiting for transplants,” said Ashley.

Her brother, Blake Johnson died of a head injury from an automobile accident at the age of 19.

“Blake was a registered organ donor and a generous giver, he was the 19th organ donor from North Dakota that year. Blake’s gift of his heart, liver, kidney and pancreas saved four lives,” smiled Ashley.

According to statistics on www.donatelife.net, every ten minutes a name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list and an average of 18 people die each day from the lack of available organs for transplant.

“Over 100,000 people are already waiting for a transplant and there’s millions of people that aren’t donors. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Doesn’t cost you anything to donate and you help save a life,” said Roger.

Roger’s son-in-law Dave received a liver transplant 12 years ago and stayed at the Gift of Life House when he was 26 years old. Since then Dave married Roger’s daughter and gave him two grandchildren.

“Without someone donating the gift the life, I wouldn’t have my grandchildren,” Roger added.

By day four of the ride, those riding had already put 100 miles behind them, and met many people along the way.

“It’s been somewhere between excellent and wonderful so far. We had some wet days to start and a few wet days ahead but it’s been great. There will be challenges along the trail but it couldn’t be any better than it is now,” Roger said as he watched his horses graze in the hockey rink.

“In other communities as well as Finley we have received so much support. We just want to let everyone know that it means a lot to us,” he added.

You can also follow the event and visit Trails4Transplants at www.facebook.com/trails4transplants.