Riding down a busy highway lined with traffic lights is not the usual route most trail riders take, but for Arkansas cowboy Tye Sturgeon, it’s the perfect path.
Sturgeon, 20, and his 12-year-old horse, Edward, are trekking through 48 states to increase visibility and raise funds for Western Wishes, a nonprofit organization that has worked since 1994 to turn dreams into lasting memories for children faced with adversity, who love the Western way of life.
Starting out in Batesville, Ark., March 15, Sturgeon and Ed have covered about 600 miles, passing through the eastern corner of Missouri, enduring almost the entire length of the state of Illinois and are currently roaming through Wisconsin.
“Everybody is called to do something, and I feel like this is what I was called to do,” Sturgeon said. “Western Wishes hits it from so many different angles. That’s the reason why I chose this charity to do this ride for. It connects with so many families. There was no way I was going to say no to it.”
With help from sponsors and strangers funding his mission and donating to Western Wishes, Sturgeon and Ed travel about 10 to 15 miles each day. Living on three shirts, two pairs of jeans, four pairs of socks, undergarments and a jacket, – braving the wind, rain and fluctuating temperatures – the former bull and bronc rider often camps. Every week, he takes a day or two off to rest his horse.
“This is a real cowboy ride, and that’s what separates it from others,” he said. “I could have gotten eight or nine states by now, but to me, it’s not about getting the states, it’s about playing it smart and going as far north as possible to spread the word about Western Wishes.”
Along the way, the two have been able to meet up with other horsemen and women who offer a stall for Ed and a place for Sturgeon to stay the night. He also hooks up with local farriers to be sure his steed has a fresh set of shoes. The duo turn heads in towns when riding through restaurant drive-throughs and browsing menus on the lawn at diners.
“It is rough at times, but, for the most part, I have a lot of fun,” Sturgeon said. “I get to ride my horse everyday. I camp a little bit; I stay in barns a little bit. Sometimes, people give me a place to stay in the house.”
“I think it’s a great cause,” Funk said. “I think it kind of reminds people that there is a bigger picture out there. For such a young guy to give up his career and everything to do this selflessly, to help for a good cause, I think it’s really important because I don’t think enough people slow down to help other people. How many 20-year-olds do you know that would drop everything to help out sick kids?”
Funk saddled up her horse, Sam, and rode along the busy Route 47 with Sturgeon. The riders made their way through Woodstock, passing traffic lights, taking on the train bridge by McConnell Road, riding through the on-and-off rain and stopping off at the McHenry County fairgrounds for a break. Funk accompanied the cowboy to his next stop in Harvard at Allegiant Farm. From Harvard, Sturgeon headed to Walworth, Wis., and is making his way to Minnesota.
For Sturgeon, the ride has been a bonding time with his horse.
“I have best friends back home, but I’ll never have a relationship with anyone like I have with that horse,” he said. “I have a connection with him. I could be laying in bed in the house and if he would run out of food, I would know it. That’s just because I’ve spent so much time with him I can read him and he could read me.”
Sturgeon’s journey has also given him a chance to fuel his passion for horses and share the same joy with the children he hopes to help through his fundraising.
“Before this ride, I was a horse rider and I knew a lot about horses, but I didn’t know as much as I needed to know,” he said. I kept my eyes open and I’ve kept my ears open so I could listen and I’ve learned a lot so far. That’s the type of person you have to be if you’re a horse person. I’m trying to be better at it everyday.”
For more information about Western Wishes or to make a donation, visit westernwishes.org. Follow Sturgeon on Facebook and check on his route at americanwishride.com.
For more information about Western Wishes or to make a donation, visitwesternwishes.org. Follow Sturgeon on Facebook and check on his route atamericanwishride.com.
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