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Rodeo held in honor of local girl

Brooke Cockerline and her father, Jason, ride Tarzan. In her memory, “Brooke’s Round-up,” a rodeo for children and adults with special needs, will be held at the Ponderosa in Lincolnton on Saturday.

MICHELLE T. BERNARD
Staff Writer

Like many churches, Blazin’ Trails Cowboy Church holds a fall festival every year. This past year, however, Pastor Harvey Gates said that his eyes were opened up to an unfulfilled need in the community. Brooke Cockerline and her parents, Alicia and Jason, were members of the church. Brooke was born with congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) and was nonverbal and wheelchair-bound. While Brooke was on the hayride at the festival, she was having such a good time, she started laughing, so much so that the alarm on her ventilator started going off. As Gates was helping Brooke off, he realized that they were doing something wrong and needed to change the direction of their fall festival.

“We needed to do something for people with disabilities and not just give away candy and have a good time,” he said. “We need to give back to them and we have the perfect facility to do it at.”

“Brooke’s Round-up” was visualized after that moment and is planned to be an annual event going forward. All of the proceeds from the rodeo that the church held back in April went toward organizing this rodeo for children and adults with disabilities, which will be held Saturday at the Ponderosa in Lincolnton from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Allen’s Place Therapeutic Riding Center will be bringing horses and animals for a petting zoo. There will also be a mechanical bull provided by Chuck Morris, face painting and balloon animals, snow cones and other food, music and games. Everything is provided without cost to the children and adults who attend. Every participant will also receive a cowboy hat, a bandana and a sheriff’s badge.

“What has been so amazing is how the community has reached around us,” said Kim Gates, Harvey Gates’ wife. “The parents that I’ve talked to as they registered have been so appreciative. I have been humbled speaking to them. We wanted to be a blessing to them but I think Blazin’ Trails Cowboy Church is who will be blessed by this.”

Sadly, Brooke will not be able to attend the event. She passed away in March. Her parents helped plan the rodeo and will be at the event to tell her story.

“She always had a smile on her face, showed a lot of love and loved to be loved on,” Alicia Cockerline said. “That’s why we’re doing this event for special needs adults and kids because there’s not a lot out there for them. There were a lot of things that we didn’t go to because Brooke couldn’t go.”

Formed in memory of Allen Bowman in 2011, Allen’s Place Therapeutic Riding Center is located in Maiden. Allen, who was autistic, passed away from a rare form of cancer at the age of 20.

“Animal-assisted therapy offers a lot of benefits outside of regular therapy,” Allen’s Place co-founder Jennifer Bowman said. “An animal, especially a horse, is a nonjudgmental creature. They can read emotion better than any other animal so for a kid to come out that’s scared, fearful, nervous or angry, the horse can read that a lot quicker than we as humans can. They then form a nonjudgmental bond that sometimes humans can’t break through because of the fear and distrust.”

Bowman can also incorporate speech, physical therapy and occupational therapy all in one session. Riding a horse exercises every muscle in the body. Of course, the horses that are used in therapeutic riding programs are very well trained with appropriate temperaments. Bowman plans to bring at least nine horses to Brooke’s Round-up. For more information on Allen’s Place visit http://www.allensplace.org.

Any child or adult with disabilities is welcome to attend with their family but the organizers ask that parents pre-register either online at https://blazintrailscc.org/event-items/brookes-roundup/ or by emailing greenkimberly11@yahoo.com or calling (704) 460-3440. Brooke’s Round-up will be held from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Ponderosa, located at 1222 Ponderosa Road in Lincolnton.

Image courtesy of Contributed

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