Saddle Up for St. Jude fundraiser begins push

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Mavericks 4-H Club member Cole Masterson is organizing a trail ride to help raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, a not-for-profit hospital specializing in the research and treatment of childhood cancer and other serious diseases.

Founded by late entertainer Danny Thomas and based in Memphis, Tenn., St. Jude is the only pediatric cancer research center where families never have to pay for treatments not covered by insurance. St. Jude is financially supported by fundraising.

"Cole Masterson, who is 10 years old, is doing a Saddle Up for St. Jude event as a 4-H community service project," Mavericks 4-H Club adult leader Christina Romero said. 4-H members who organize such projects are eligible for a $250 scholarship to the annual New Mexico horse school held in Albuquerque every June, said Socorro County 4-H coordinator Deana Tafoya.

According to the St. Jude Hospital website, Saddle Up for St. Jude is a volunteer-based fundraising event featuring horseback riding to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

People sponsor riders by pledging donations in person or online at www.stjude.org. Click on the "Saddle Up for St. Jude link," and search for the Romero event in San Antonio, N.M. After the event, the riders will contact people to collect their pledged donations. Every person who rides in the event has to have at least one pledge.

Last year, the event was held at the El Camino Real Heritage Museum. This year, the Armijo and Pound families have offered to have the ride on their properties west of Socorro. The April 13 ride will be a six-mile loop starting and ending at the Box Canyon recreation site. 4-H families will cook a lunch for all the riders who participate in the event.

Already 30 4-H riders have signed up for the fundraiser, Tafoya said. People who want to pledge a donation in person can stop by the county extension office or call Tafoya at 835-0610.

"This will be the third year in a row that 4-H members have worked hard to keep this wonderful charity fundraiser going to help this wonderful cause," Romero said. "Two years ago Saddle Up for St. Jude trail ride started as a community service project through 4-H, and it has been nice that someone else has been willing to take it over this year."

Last year, Romero's daughter Senaida was the event organizer; the year before, her sister Nadya held the event at San Lorenzo Canyon. Together, the two girls raised more than $3,000 in donations for the hospital.

Cole Masterson doesn't have any personal experience with cancer or cancer victims, but he is pleased to be a part of the effort to help victims and find a cure.

"I like that I can help St. Jude," he said.