Ranch rodeo event raises money for area foster children

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – The holiday season may place a burden on some families to put presents under the tree, but one student organization is galloping in to help. The ASU Social Work Organization held a benefit Saturday so that area foster children can have their Christmas wishes granted.

"To get to this day, it's a lot of work, and it can be stressful," April Murphy said. "But it all is worth it."

Murphy organized the Saving Christmas Cowboy-Style event five years ago when she received an assignment to make a difference in a child's life.

"We're having a ranch rodeo to raise money to purchase Christmas gifts for foster kids in Northeast Arkansas," Murphy said.

ASU students in the social work program have saddled up the past five years to put on the event. Last year, their philanthropic organization raised $6,500 to fulfill the Christmas wishes of more than 60 foster kids.

"It is such a rewarding thing because last year we got to go to Wal-Mart, and we bought all these kids their presents," said Jody Whitaker, the Social Work Organization president. "It's like being Santa Claus and not spending your own money."

About 20 cowboys took part in the rodeo events this year. The organization also asked people to open their hearts and their wallets at the live auction. Members say the more money raised, the more they can provide for foster kids and their families at Christmas.

"The economy's bad, and it's really hard to try to make ends meet. Foster parents, the board payment that they get for kids, it's not a lot, so it's really helpful," said Donna Parker, the organization's faculty sponsor.

Murphy, though, says she's just thankful the community keeps giving.

"If we can make a difference on Christmas morning, that's a really good feeling," Murphy said.

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