Blazin’ Trails Cowboy Church will be having its third annual Brooke’s Roundup this Saturday. This all-inclusive fall festival for families with children and adults who have disabilities was visualized by Pastor Harvey Gates and other church members during a hay ride at a fall festival at their church three years ago. Sometimes this simple activity can be taken for granted.
One of the cowboy church members, Brooklyn "Brooke” Cockerline, who was confined to a wheelchair, really wanted to go on that hay ride. It took removing a few hay bales to make room for the wheelchair and a few men to lift it up on the wagon, but Brooke got her ride. It was during this ride that Gates said that his eyes were opened up to an unfulfilled need in the community.
Brooke and her parents, Alicia and Jason, were members of the church. Brooke was born with congenital cytomegalovirus and was nonverbal and wheelchair bound. While she was on the hayride, every time the wagon hit a bump, she started laughing. She laughed so much the alarm on her ventilator started going off.
“I could hear Brooklyn giggling, even with the tractor running,” Gates said. “I’ve never heard her laugh that much. I hit every bump that I could hit to make her laugh. She had the time of her life.”
As Gates was helping Brooke off, he realized that they were doing something wrong and needed to change the direction of their future fall festivals.
“I realized we were just having a festival that all of us take for granted,” he said. “We decided to have a special needs event to show them the love of Christ.”
Unfortunately, Brooke passed away in March 2017 and wasn’t able to attend the inaugural festival which was named “Brooke’s Roundup” in her honor. It has become an annual event ever since and Brooke’s memory lives on.
“The Bible tells us to be a servant but that’s not why we do it,” Gates said. “When I saw the joy it brought to Brooklyn, I thought to myself, I take getting on a horse for granted. I saw one person last year take an apple and feed a horse. They never got on the horse but they wanted to feed it an apple. They get to do things that they may have never been able to do before. They’re so precious and mean so much to our society. They’re sometimes looked at for what they can’t do instead of what they can. It just fills up my heart and brings joy.”
Carmen Sumner came to the first Brooke's Roundup and then came to the second as both a participant and volunteer.
"Having developed juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at age five, I cannot recall ever having the ability to run,” she said. “The experience at Brooke's Roundup gave me a gift I never thought possible. With just a simple ride on a horse, I felt the freedom and exhilaration of what it must be like to run. I was simply a girl on a horse and not someone with physical differences or special needs. For once in my life, I was like everyone else. It was a miraculous feeling and I will never forget it.”
All of the proceeds from the rodeo that the church holds in the spring go toward organizing this event.
“These people are special and sometimes they have special needs but if we can get them on a horse, we give them a ride,” Gates said. “We do face painting, games, a mechanical bull, a petting zoo and all sorts of other things for them. We do it on the weekend so parents and siblings can come along with them. Everything is free.”
New this year is a concert by Alvarado Road Show at 2 p.m.
While any child or adult with disabilities is welcome to attend with their family, the organizers ask that parents pre-register either online at https://blazintrailscc.org/event-items/brookes-roundup/, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (704) 460-3440. Brooke’s Roundup will be held this Saturday, Sept. 28 from
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ponderosa, 1222 Ponderosa Road in Lincolnton.