Riders traveled from near and far to participate in the 31st annual Ride For Life at the Star City Ranch near Cassville on Saturday and Sunday.
The Ride For Life is held each year to raise funds for the National Kidney Foundation (NKF). Event participants are required to raise donations for the Foundation, which funds research related to the prevention of kidney and urinary tract diseases.
NKF also works to improve the health of individuals affected by kidney and urinary tract diseases and increase the availability of organs for transplantation.
This year, around 390 registered riders raised close to $30,000 for the Foundation, said Robert Presley, Ride For Life Committee chairman. Last year's event raised around $19,000.
Many area riders return to the Barry County Ride For Life each year, but Presley was impressed with the increased attendance the event attracted this year.
"It could be because of the drop in gas prices," said Presley. "Also the Springfield Ride closed last year so many people came here that were participating there."
This year's Ride For Life began with musical entertain-ment by Inside Exit on Friday night. Participants mounted their horses and wagons and hit the trail for an early morning ride on Saturday.
The Ride For Life Committee sponsored a benefit auction on Saturday evening, which raised over $2,500 for NKF.
Riders participated in a Sunday morning church service on Sept. 24. Gabe Pennell, of Purdy, conducted the services.
The second Ride For Life trail ride, which was scheduled for Sunday, was cancelled due to the rainy weather that moved into Barry County late in the weekend. Ride For Life awards were announced Sunday afternoon.
Chelsey Lutman, age 6, of Purdy, collected $1,650 and received the award for the most money collected by a rider under the age of 10. This is the third year Chelsey has won the award. Clifton Jones, of Fordland, received the award for most money collected overall. He gathered $2,025 for the NKF.
The rider with the most sponsors was Nancy Rainey, of Joplin. Rainey came to this year's event with 123 sponsors.
Riders who raise $1,200 or more will receive an American Saddle. This year's saddle winners were: Tom Woods, of Fordland; Morgan Jacobs, of Purdy; Dick Conway, of Monett; Chelsey Lutman, of Purdy; Destiny Trotter, of Cassville; Trey Sturgell, of Cassville; Clinton Jones, of Fordland; John Schnake, of Pierce City; and Rainey.
The Saddle Club that raised the most money was the Wheaton Saddle Club, which also won the award for the most sponsors for the second year. The group with the most riders was the Pierce City Saddle Club.
Dannel Comer, age 4, from Rogers, Ark., was the youngest rider, and Earl Schnake, of Pierce City, was the oldest rider. Morgan Lutman, age 2, from Purdy, was the youngest wagon rider, and Debra Raimer, 51, of Purdy, was the oldest wagon rider.
The individual who traveled the farthest distance to participate in the Ride For Life was James Hill, from Louisiana.
The National Kidney Foundation of Kansas and Western Missouri provides several programs and services for individuals affected by kidney or urinary tract diseases.
NKF programs include: camp scholarships; patient nutritional supplements and financial assistance; and organ donation awareness education.