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franklin county times

County hosts Saddle up for St. Jude

By Staff
Melissa Cason
Franklin County Times
ATWOOD – Thousands of dollars are being raised for cancer patients in the unlikeliest of places.
Hundreds of riders converged on the small Franklin County community of Atwood Saturday to raise money during the Bear Creek Trailriders' annual "Saddle up for St. Jude Ride."
Benefit organizers Larry Witt and his wife, Barbara, began raising money for St. Jude Children's Hospital in 1996 when their 16-year-old son, Jason, was diagnosed with Leukemia.
Barbara said that Jason was first sent to a pediatric cardiologist and was found to be healthy but overweight. As the symptoms progressed, the Witts sought a second opinion for their son.
"We found out there was a tumor that was filling up Jason's chest," Barbara said. "They started treatment on him that night, and he was admitted into the ICU there at St. Jude's."
Jason was diagnosed in August and by late September, doctors told the Witts that their son had gone into remission, but chemotherapy treatment had to continue.
"We went from ICU to a hotel for one month, and then we spent another month at the Ronald McDonald House in Memphis," Barbara said.
After returning home, Jason's chemotherapy continued for two and half years.
"We went once a week for two and half years," Barbara said. "You think that it would be a sad place, but it's not. They [St. Jude's staff] just wrap their arms around you and take care of you."
The Witts held their first ride to benefit St. Jude in October 1996 – just a few months after Jason's diagnosis.
The Witts brought the ride to Franklin County several years after founding it. Currently the Bear Creek Trailriders – a horse-riding club with 14 members located in the Atwood community – host the event with more than 100 riders attending each year. Each rider pays a fee and collects money for St Jude prior to the event, and there is also a lunch and an auction during the event.
"All of the items we auction off are donated," Larry said.
This year's ride raked in approximately $14,500, every penny of which goes to benefit St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. The ride is held each year on the first Saturday in November. For more information about the event, call 662-454-7131, 662-676-2547 or 662-454-7540.