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Smoky start, Western Spirit finish for 13th Annual 2nd Chance Trail Ride

Smoke from wildfires outside the area blanketed the Lindbergh valley on Saturday as 16 wagons, ranging in size from a full sized Conestoga covered wagon to a one-horse cart, headed west on the Iron Horse Trail.

LINDBERGH/ELK POINT – Smoke from wildfires outside the area blanketed the Lindbergh valley on Saturday as 16 wagons, ranging in size from a full sized Conestoga covered wagon to a one-horse cart headed west on the Iron Horse Trail from the Lindbergh Staging Area behind Morris Irvine and the 2nd Chance Trail Ride wagon, escorted by dozens of horseback riders.

The smoke would slowly disperse during their journey, as they stopped at the Muriel siding for a barbecue lunch once again provided by B&R Eckels and this time including musical entertainment, and arrived at the Elk Point staging area four hours later in bright sunshine. Wagons and riders then headed north up Main Street and turned right to their final destination at the Elk Point riding barn and the Allied Arts and Leisure Centre.

The crowd of more than 250 wagon drivers, their passengers and the horseback riders swelled to 350 before dinner time, as the visitors wrote down their first bids on approximately 75 silent auction items lining the hall, and took a close look at the array of live auction items ranging from an ornate handcrafted ‘ranch house for birds’ to saddles and an autographed Calgary Stampede Stetson hat donated by Rachel Homan and her World Women’s Curling championship team. 

Master of ceremonies Ed Cadieux welcomed the crowd, noting that among the day’s drivers and riders were those who were “Living proof that transplants work, We are so appreciative of those who rode and those who have come to dinner.” He called up auctioneer Miles Wowk, who auctioned off the opportunity to be the first table in the lineup for dinner, with two fierce competitors paying $500 each for that privilege.

Morris Irvine, the last surviving member of the five original transplant recipients to found 2nd Chance, came onstage after dinner, saying, “What a great day we had! There were great people on my wagon, and we had a great meal, thanks to Cathy (Ockerman), Lindon (Nelson) and those who helped them prepare it.”

Organ recipients in the audience were called on stage and given the opportunity to share their experiences, a group if 13 that included Spirit of the West radio show host Hugh McLennan and a woman who received a new heart 18 years ago. Next to come up and be introduced were three living donors, including BC radio personality Louis ‘Big Rig’ McIvor who donated one of his kidneys to McLennan, a woman who gave one of her kidneys to her husband and one who gave 20 per cent of her liver to her mother. Tribute was also paid to the late Christopher Cusack, whose donated organs and tissues helped to prolong the life of others.

Cadieux listed the many achievements that have come from the past 12 trail rides, including the opening and maintenance of apartments for recipients to use during their recovery, signage promoting signing up to become a donor, financial assistance for transplant recipients and the donation of treadmills to support transplant service. 2nd Chance has celebrated recipients in parades, shared their stories, and last year attended the St. Paul Firemen’s Ball and were offered help with fundraising.

The evening’s live auction conducted by Wowk was a tremendous fundraiser, with 18 items, one of them sold twice and one three times, adding just under $10,000 to the 2ne Chance coffers, the top selling item a 30:30 rifle going for $1,400.

With bidding continuing on the silent auction, Hugh McLennan, Mike Dygert, and Jim McLennan of the Western Spirit Band came onstage to entertain with old-time country music, some of it McLennan’s own interpretation of the classics and even a few sing-along numbers. 

First of all, though, McLennan said, “It’s important to me to let people know” about his transplant experience, when an enlarged prostate caused kidney failure. Lewis McIvor volunteered to be tested and when he was declared a match, offered McLennan one of his kidneys. “Two days later, we were pushing our IV poles around the hospital with our cowboy hats on.”

That successful procedure has enabled McLennan to resume his long radio and in person career of music and storytelling, as well as becoming a dedicated advocate for organ donation.

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