Hitting the trail for a great cause

By Geoff Lee

April 13, 2017 12:00 AM

ON THE TRAIL Takes place on May 13 along the Iron Horse Trail from Lindbergh to Elk Point. The 12 mile ride on horseback and wagon raises funds and awareness for organ and tissue donors. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Riding to raise awareness for organ and tissue donations

Morris Irvine from Lindbergh, Alberta got a second chance at life with a double lung transplant in 2011 and has been giving back every since.
Irvin and his wife, Fae, are the founders and lead organizers of the 2nd Chance Trail Ride to raise funds and awareness for organ and tissue donations.
The 6th annual event will take place on May 13 along the Iron Horse Trail from Lindbergh to Elk Point this year instead of Heinsburg since its arena is undergoing upgrades.
Morris said he and his committee expect an even larger turnout than last year when 270 horseback and wagon passengers helped raise $70,000 for the cause.
“It grows every year,” said the 70 year old.
This year’s fundraising goal is $100,000, but Morris said getting it depends on the economy.
It’s a cause close to the hearts of Morris and committee members such as Tom Matthews, Gary Heffner, and Harvey Nelson,  who are living donor recipients.
“It’s very important to me because I’m able to help people that don’t have the funds to go through this operation,” said Morris.
“It costs a lot of money to stay in Edmonton and to look after the home too.”
About 50 per cent of the funds support the GoodHearts Foundation that rents apartments near the University of Alberta for people going through the transplant process.
Some of the funds are used for a signage campaign to raise awareness about the importance of organ and tissue donation and to assist patients and their families with transplant living costs.
Morris got the idea for a trail ride at the end of his post op recovery in hospital where he met Nelson who was going in for a transplant.
“Me and my wife were sitting in the physio room when I asked her how can I give back,” said Morris.
He noted they’ve always been horse people and did trail rides and covered wagon rides and stuff like that with his kids when they were young.
“She said ‘why don’t we have a small trail ride’ so that’s what we started out with,” he said.
People come from all over Western Canada to take part in the ride bringing their own horses or to ride on wagons including a stagecoach from St. Paul.
It’s a 12 mile journey along the railway bed that includes a pit stop for a barbecue with overnight camping available in Elk Point.
Tickets for the ride are $30 each.
The ride is followed by a $25 per person catered meal, a live and silent auction and a dance with DJ music at the C.G. Baker Memorial Arena in Elk Point.
The event has literally breathed new life into Morris who says he can pretty well do everything that he wants to with his new lungs.
The semi retiree drives a crew bus in the wintertime for B & R Eckels and pilot trucks in the summer.
As a former farmer, Morris likes to pitch in to help his son-in-laws who farm and fittingly, he calls himself a wheelwright.
“I fix wheels and repair wooden wheels for wagons and chuck wagons and stuff,” he said.
He also relishes being his own wagon master who can haul about 14 people on the trail ride that gives him and others a second chance at life.
Morris was reborn on March 13, 2011 with a transplant of his ruined lungs after a life of smoking and working around dust.
“I am one of the lucky ones,” he said, noting committee member Matthews was his transplant mentor.
“He was the one who mentored me because he already had his transplant,” he said.
The idea of the ride, said he and Fae,  is to give it back.
Fae said she’s signed her online donor card and they have three great reasons for people to take part in the ride each year.
The first one, she said, is to celebrate life after a transplant.
The second goal is to give thanks to the living donors that are still alive and donor families that donated their loved ones’ organs.
Lastly, the event aims to promote more organ and tissue donation.
Representatives from the Canadian Transplant Association will be on hand with donor forms required for Saskatchewan residents to fill out in order to apply an orange donor sticker to their health cards.

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