Their 450-mile journey on horseback is nearing its end. But riding horses across Minnesota to raise funds and awareness for a special camp for grieving children has been an incredible experience for Art Dingmann, a funeral home director from Annandale, and Jerry Brown, an Ingomar, Mont., rancher and business owner.
The duo and their horses made a stop at the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds Saturday, one of 20 such stops. They began their trek on April 9 in Winona and plan to end their trip on Thursday when they reach Duluth. They have about five stops and about 100 miles left to go. Their trip has taken them through everything from rain, to a blizzard that had them riding horses in about 8 inches of snow and hot weather.
"It's been wonderful," said Dingmann. "It's kind of like a trip of a lifetime for me with lots of help along the way."
The Minnesota Foundation for Children was created by the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association in 2001 to help grieving children. Two years later, the foundation started Camp Amanda, weekend grief camps for children ages 6-18 who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, grandparent or significant person in their life. There is no cost to participating children and their families. Camp Amanda operates solely on donations and volunteers.
Since Camp Amanda was created four years ago, it has served more than 500 grieving children and youth from Minnesota.
Art Dingmann (left), of Annandale, and Jerry Brown (slightly hidden), of Ingomar, Mont., chatted with Jon Johnson, Wadena, Saturday afternoon at the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds while Megan Doran (front left), 9, and her sister, Abby, 6, sat on Brown's horse, Papoose. Dingmann and Brown are traveling 450 miles across the state on horseback to raise funds and awareness for Camp Amanda-Minnesota, a camp for grieving children. Johnson and about 12 other motorcyclists from Wadena met up with the horse riders on their bikes Saturday to also show their support for Camp Amanda. Brainerd Dispatch/ Jodie Tweed
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Dingmann and Brown, both foundation members, were talking last year about the possibility of a long ride through Montana. That idea evolved into this trek across Minnesota to help Camp Amanda. They've ridden through Rochester, Owatonna, Mankato, Glencoe, Cokato, Annandale, St. Cloud, Little Falls and Brainerd, ending their ride Saturday at Riverton where they planned to start off again on Sunday and head to Aitkin. They were to ride from Aitkin to McGregor Monday, McGregor to Cromwell Tuesday, Cromwell to Carlton Wednesday, ending in Duluth Thursday.
Jon Johnson, foundation vice-president and funeral director for the Johnson Memorial Home in Wadena, met the riders and their team of helpers Saturday afternoon at the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds. Instead of riding horses, Johnson and about 12 others rode their "hogs," or motorcycles, to Brainerd from Wadena. Hogs for Hope was a way to support Camp Amanda but also support Dingmann's and Brown's journey.
Dingmann said he and Brown averaged about 21 miles a day. They traveled with four horses, Cooley, Blue Duck, Crow and Papoose, switching horses to ride so the horses could rest. It was rough at first, spending about seven hours a day in the saddle, but Dingmann said he has grown used to it. They have been greeted by Camp Amanda supporters at each of their stops and have had other memorable experiences along the way.
On a gravel road just outside of Winstead, the men and their horses were greeted by a woman in a white van. She noticed the Horseback for Hope banner and wanted to know what they were doing. The groups gave her a brochure and she was on her way. A little while later, the women returned with her young son and handed the riders a $100 bill for Camp Amanda.
For more information on Horseback for Hope, to read the riders' blog about their trip or to donate online, visit www.horsebackforhope.org. For more information on Camp Amanda, visit the Web site, www.campamandaminn.com.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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