An Iowa Easter tradition returns today when the Pony Express Riders saddle up in communities across the state for the annual horseback ride to Camp Sunnyside near Des Moines. Carol Bailey, the state coordinator for the event, says the first ride started with two horsemen in Spencer in 1968.
“They just decided to ride and collect funds and give it to charity,” Bailey says. “One of those charities was Easter Seals Camp Sunnyside.” The ride caught on and was joined by more and more people each year until it became the organization’s primary fundraiser, now with 11 main ride routes across Iowa and about 300 riders.
“It grew throughout the state as far as volunteers and participation,” Bailey says. “This is our 46th year and in the first 45 years, we have raised slightly over $9-million for Easter Seals Camp Sunnyside.” Last year, the riders brought in nearly 220-thousand dollars. Bailey says the riders will be gathering at the John Deere Works at Ankeny this afternoon where they’ll rendezvous for the final leg of the trek.
She says former Governor Robert Ray and current Governor Terry Branstad will be riding in the dignitary wagon for the last part of the ride. Later today, there will be a Victory Dance at the Lake Robbins Ballroom near Woodward. Located on 88 acres, Camp Sunnyside was designed, built and is staffed to meet the recreational needs of campers, children and adults, with all types of disabilities.
By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City