Horse lovers to ride for a good cause

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 3, 2008

SEBRELL—As many as 200 horses and riders are expected at Bruce and Gayle Phillips’ farm in Sebrell on Saturday for a trail ride to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The event, sponsored by Mulholland Family Ranch in Suffolk and Phillips’ Raccoon Creek Sports, LLC, is expected to raise thousands of dollars to support the hospital, which provides pediatric treatment for a variety of life-threatening diseases and conditions at no cost to the patients’ families.

Mulholland Family Ranch has held the fundraisers for the past five years, according to Mike Mulholland. But this is the first time Saddle Up for St. Jude will come to Sebrell.

&uot;Bruce Phillips’ place is perfect&uot; for the event, Mulholland said this week, noting that its 1,800 acres provide three different trails, ample space for parking trailers and even camping opportunities for participants.

Former event locations in Gates County, N.C., and Whaleyville both had limitations that will be overcome at the new site, he said.

For Phillips, Saturday will be more than just the first time he has hosted a fundraiser for St. Jude’s. &uot;I’ve never been on a trail ride in my life,&uot; he said during a recent interview.

His interest in the event was piqued when he was giving a tour of his farm to an employee of BB&T who rides at the Mulholland ranch. She saw the layout of the Phillips farm, realized it would be perfect for the St. Jude event and asked Phillips if he would be willing to participate, he said.

Within a short time, the Mulhollands had contacted him and set up the fundraiser.

&uot;It’s a great event,&uot; Mulholland said, noting that friends of his family have had children treated at the St. Jude hospital in Memphis. One of those children, who needed surgery on a heart valve, owes her life to the work of doctors there, he said.

The local fundraisers have raised about $50,000 for the hospital, he said. Warm, sunny weather is predicted for Saturday, and word about the event has been spread to the foxhunting clubs that sometimes use Phillips’ farm for their own rides, so Mulholland is hopeful for a great fundraising effort this year.

He said he is expecting to bring along about 20 horses for 4-H members from Suffolk and other children who take riding lessons there. Others should bring their own horses and registration fees, as well as any pledges or donations from friends and relatives.

The $25 registration fee qualifies participants for lunch and a lapel pin.

Larger donations can earn riders T-shirts, sweatshirts, coolers and hats. Those with $500 in pledges will be entered into a drawing for a saddle package, and $1,000 in pledges earns riders a chance at $1,000 worth of hay, donated by the Suffolk 4-H Hoofbeats.

Mulholland said people seem to be eager to help out the cause. One Norfolk girl who takes classes at the ranch, for example, raised $1,100 in pledges before she even understood that the Mulhollands would be bringing along a horse for her to ride in the event.

For more information about the ride, call Connie or Mike Mulholland at 925-4232 or visit the event’s Web site at