Saddle a horse and play poker this Sunday to benefit a worthy cause. Or stop by Greensfelder Park in Wildwood to have a donors' lunch and see the world's smallest horse.
The team at Wildwood-based will host a benefit on July 10 to raise funds for Missouri Emergency Response Service (MERS) Large Animal Rescue.
"Every dollar raised goes to MERS," said Shannon Davis, Fox Creek Veterinary receptionist.
MERS is a local, non-profit organization of well-trained individuals that rescue horses and other large animals in emergency situations, including large animals mired in mud, animals trapped in overturned trailers, as well as those needing rescue from water- or fire-related circumstances.
MERS founder and president Roger Vincent said there are less than a dozen such large animal rescue teams in the United States.
"We are first responders, just like the sheriff departments and emergency firefighters," said Vincent, who is quick to mention he is very proud of all the MERS volunteers who make such a huge commitment to animals.
Vincent said all MERS volunteers pay for their own fuel to drive to rescues and donate their time. "We all have other, real jobs, too, so we have to keep going after being up all night on a rescue call."
Proceeds from Sunday's upcoming event will go toward the fuel needed for the organization's rescue truck and some of the costs involved with monthly training for the group's members.
Vincent said only 18 percent of the recipients of their rescues, on average, donate money toward their animals' recoveries, although no financial compensation is required or demanded to receive their services.
The poker run will be held at 's Mustang Shelter on Allenton Road, which is located behind . The $20 fee includes the run and lunch. All horses must show a current, negative Coggins blood test check for Equine Infectious Anemia antibodies.
Registration begins at 7:30 a.m., with the first horse going out at 8 a.m. The last horse leaves at 9 a.m. Lunch will be served at 11 a.m., and prizes will be rewarded shortly thereafter.
The way the poker game works is the designated horse trail includes seven stations. At each station, riders and their horses will be asked to do a trick or activity to earn their envelope. Inside each envelope will be one playing card. The goal is to collect seven envelopes and return to the base camp to see who has the best collective poker hand.
Davis said prizes will be awarded for the first, second and third place poker hands.
Extra activities provide fun, including the world's wee horse
The Fox Creek Veterinary team also will conduct a "horse wash" for donations.
Those with no horses still can donate $8 to enjoy lunch with the group. Davis said it is a rain-or-shine event, and credit cards will be accepted.
The world's smallest horse, Thumbelina, will be present for photo opportunities between 11 a.m. and noon. Thumbelina is only 17 inches inches tall, and has made TV appearances, such as The Today Show, Good Morning America and Oprah.
The event also includes a bake sale, prizes, live band by the Fiddlers, silent auction, and a raffle.
About MERS and their results
MERS' members include two firefighter and emergency management technicians, four certified swift water rescue technicians, and four certified scuba dive technicians. Several members also have training and certification with FEMA. All of the non-profit's members also are ceritified in Advanced First Aid with CPR and AED through The American Heart Association.
Vincent said on Tuesday the group was just summoned to their 24th call so far this year to rescue a downed camel in DeSoto, MO. Volunteers were engaged from 12:06 a.m. until 5 a.m.
- MERS responded to 24 calls for rescues in 2008.
- MERS responded to 43 calls for rescues in 2009.
- MERS responded to 31 calls for rescues in 2010.
- MERS has responded to 172 emergency rescues since January 2006.
"When an animal is in trouble, MERS just goes; they never ask for money," said Davis. "We'd like to help them for how they are helping others."
Donations also can be sent to:
Missouri Emergency Response Service
4420 Allenton Road
Wildwood, MO 63069
Make checks payable to MERS. The group is a non-profit organization under the Internal Revenue Code Section 501c3 and, as such, donations may be tax deductible.
MERS has a PayPal account for secure online donations; click here.