By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
Quintin Spalding was born to rope.
The 9-year-old Moorcroft boy wrangles anything he can get his rope on — from cattle, sheep and goats and sometimes his mother.
Today, less than six months after having a tumor removed from between his brain stem and cerebellum that resulted in the loss of three-quarters of his eyesight, his vision might be grossly impaired, but his spirit isn’t.
Last weekend, the community of Hulett came together to help raise funds for Quintin’s medical bills and show their support for the budding buckaroo by hosting the annual “Ride a Horse, Feed a Cowboy” fundraiser in his honor.
Not only were organizers able to raise more than $20,000 to help the Spalding family, but they also put on some great rodeo action and barbecue dinner for the community.
Supporting local families in need was the impetus to create the annual fundraiser according to founder Chanda Snook, who started the event over a decade ago.
“There’s always someone who needs help,” Snook said, noting that the event began as a community dinner and fundraiser but which, under the influence of her son Taylor, eventually morphed to include a rodeo featuring Taylor and his friends.
It’s very much a family and community event, Snook said, noting that she gets a lot of volunteer support and donations from the community and her family, including Taylor, her oldest son Austin and husband Clint, who handles all the math.
This year, along with raising funds for Quintin, organizers also helped out PRCA bareback riding champion Jeffery Zdziarski of Weston County, who turns up every year to ride in the RHFC but who fractured his pelvis in a rodeo this summer.
In an unfortunate twist, Snook said, the group is now also raising money for three of their bronc riders who were in a serious accident Sunday morning on their way home from the celebration.
Riley Simmons fell asleep behind the wheel of the trio’s car and it collided with a bus on Wyoming Highway 59. Simmons suffered a broken femur, broken hip and internal injuries. JW Meiers, who was also in the car, suffered a fractured vertebrae and broken ribs as well as an injury to his left ankle, resulting in a cut artery and tendons. Fellow passenger Kolt Ferguson was treated and released.
Simmons was undergoing a second surgery Wednesday and was expected to remain in ICU all week, while Meiers was released yesterday. Donations are being accepted on the group’s Facebook page.
Despite the mishaps, the event was a success, Snook said, and it continues to grow every year.
“It’s a good feeling to be able to help other people,” Snook said. “This event is my passion. We do it all as a family and community and have so many volunteers who we couldn’t do it without.”
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Road To Recovery
For his part, Quintin loved the rodeo – particularly the bull riding and saddle broncs – and was flattered that the event was held in his honor, according to mom Whitney.
“He’s very quiet and if you want anything out of him, you have to pry him open,” she said with a laugh. “We told him it was for him and he said ‘Well, that’s pretty cool.’ “
The little guy has been through a lot. In early March, Quintin had been out hauling hay with his dad Cody when Quintin lost all cognitive function and seemed to “zonk out.”
In a panic, his dad rushed him to the emergency room at the hospital in Rapid City, South Dakota, where Whitney met them.
Within 30 minutes of arriving, Quintin seemed to be just fine and had no recall of what happened. His parents, however, noted a distinct shift in his vision with one eye seeming to have lost focus.
This led to follow-up appointments with both a pediatrician and ophthalmologist in Spearfish, South Dakota, who suggested the 9-year-old get an MRI.
Whitney was able to line it up that same day, and on their way back to Moorcroft, they got a call from the boy’s pediatrician telling them to immediately get Quintin to the emergency room in Spearfish. From there, he was life-flighted to Denver.
After a fingernail-biting 7-hour surgery to remove the mass from in Quintin’s brain, he was doing well with just a slight impairment in his vision. A nerve had apparently been damaged as a result of the tumor and its removal, which left Quintin with limited depth perception, blurred vision and color blindness.
Subsequent chemotherapy left him largely unable to see, at which point his parents stopped that particular treatment, though he’s still taking three other chemo medications, and also went to see a naturopath for additional treatment that seems to be helping the impaired optic nerve, Whitney said.
With less than a quarter of his eyesight still intact, Quintin told his parents that he thinks his vision might be better than the doctors think. He can now see bullet holes in a target 20 feet away. This is his brain adjusting to his new limitations, his mother noted, but for Quintin it means great progress in his recovery.
More importantly, none of this seems to have affected his roping skills.
“He’s not as effective as before,” Whitney said, “but he’s still a lot better than I am and that’s saying something.”
During his time in the hospital and in between his many doctor appointments, he still carried his rope, Whitney said. He’d rope his mom and gently drag her to the door before putting it back in his back pocket.
Apart from thanking God for their blessings, Whitney and Cody say they feel blessed to be part of the community who have come out in droves to help them get through this.
“When your child gets a diagnosis like Quintin’s, you find yourself having to let go of all control, placing trust in God’s faithfulness,” she said. “His faithfulness was shown in part by our community, they’ve been more supportive than I’d ever imagined.”