DADE CITY — Horse enthusiasts trotted their animals out of trailers and onto the flowing landscape of Diamond B Ranch on Saturday to raise funds for Gulfside Regional Hospice.
The idea for the Ride for Hospice came from two horse enthusiasts who became members of the Pasco Sheriff's Mounted Posse, Kym Corkum and Judy Tyler. The two have been friends for several years, and after attending a planning meeting for the annual Hike for Hospice, they decided they didn't want to walk. They wanted to ride.
"We knew we wanted to do something, but I really hate to walk," Tyler said. "We were at this luncheon they had for Hike for Hospice and I thought, 'I'll ride my horse any time, especially since it's for a good cause, but I don't want to walk.' That's when we decided that no matter what, we were going to make it happen."
After taking Corkum's granddaughter to a horseback riding event at Diamond B Ranch, the pair met the third person necessary to make the event possible: Margaret Bushell of the Pasco Sheriff's Mounted Posse. The posse is a nonprofit group of volunteers who help on horseback with search and rescue operations, as well as numerous special events. Soon Corkum and Tyler joined the posse, and the three women began designing a three-hour ride through the hills of Dade City to benefit the hospice.
In the first event in 2009, the ride generated $7,000 for the hospice, followed by $10,000 the next year. This year's event had a goal of $15,000 and likely surpassed that. Organizers are still waiting on some pledges and sponsorship money to arrive, but Bushell estimated the total could reach $17,000.
With numbers like that, the ride has developed into a successful supplement to Gulfside's marquee fundraiser, the Hike for Hospice held every November. Gulfside president and CEO Linda Ward is delighted with the way the ride has developed and what it has been able to contribute.
"It's become a really significant event for us," Ward said. "Kym and Judy put the whole thing together and brought us a check. It's been great because I haven't even had to do much. The posse does so many events throughout the year, and we've been very fortunate that they've dedicated this one specifically to us."
The posse's relationship to Bushell opened the gates to Diamond B Ranch. Bushell serves as the posse's training officer and liaison to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office — and she is the owner of the ranch.
"She's the posse's mentor," Corkum said. "Without her, we couldn't do this. She's a great organizer and it's very gracious of her to open the gates of this beautiful ranch. We're privileged to be able to ride on such a beautiful landscape and all the landowners around the ranch have opened their gates to allow this ride to take place. It's really an amazing ride."
The ride is a community event in every sense. Hayrides were available for children while volunteer bands performed for the rest of the crowd. For the posse, the Ride for Hospice is a day that provides its members an opportunity to give back and a way to get the word out that the Pasco Sheriff's Mounted Posse exists.
"This is another great opportunity for us to give back to the community and let people know we're here," Posse member Bridgette Crews said. "It means so much to me when we do some of these events and you see kids who have never petted a horse before have their first interaction with the animal. It's such a neat experience to be able to share with children and it shows a softer side of the Sheriff's Office."
Contact David Rice at email@example.com.