First responders rodeo provides “adrenaline rush” and raises funds for charity

Raising money for charity while crossing off “bucket list adrenaline rushes” had a man with strong family ties to this area participating in rodeo bull riding earlier this summer.

Darrel Vallie, acting captain with the Edmonton fire department, participated in the Edmonton First Responders Rodeo in St. Albert on July 13, and his cousin, Barry Petruk of Togo, was front and centre providing moral support and cheering him on.

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What has been describes as “the toughest event in rodeo,”  an “eight-second ride on a bull that not only wants you off, but wants a piece of you when you land” was the event Vallie chose to showcase his first-ever attempt at rodeo competition.

“It was for a good cause,” Vallie said of his adventure in rodeo. “I’m planning to do it again next year.”

“Darrel ended up having the same bull for both rides in the rodeo,” said Petruk. “I was not thrilled with the animal which had a bad attitude even before leaving the gate, so I was apprehensive. Luckily, Darrel rode well and wasn’t injured. It was quite a show, considering the first responders have no rodeo training.”

Vallie is no stranger to participating in activities that provide an adrenaline rush, having begun driving race cars in the hobby stock class at age 19 to the present day.

If one were to Google “Star Racer reality TV series,” one would find that the Canadian reality TV show aired in 2006, with Darrel Vallie as one of the contestants.

The Edmonton First Responders Rodeo Association (EFRRA) was formed in 2017, with plans to host an annual amateur rodeo/recreational event for first responders and their families that promotes positive community interaction, functioning as a not for profit entity that raises funds for The Zebra Child Protection Centre for Child Protection and Legacy Place Society, mental health support for First Responders, and to promote and preserve the western lifestyle and heritage that rodeo represents, said information found on the Internet.

The annual EFRRA rodeo competition presents a unique opportunity for members of the First Responder community to interact with other first responders from all over the province of Alberta and the public on a personal level. It is also an excellent opportunity to promote inter-agency competition and build relationships through friendly competition while working together to raise funds for two charitable benefactors, it continued.

This year the event took place on July 13, a day that Cst. Mike Schnurer, rodeo organizer described as a “fun, action-packed day that gave first responders a chance to do something different while raising money to support good causes.

 “One of the charities is the Zebra Centre for Child Protection,” he said. “Obviously that’s a natural fit. They work with the police already to help protect abused children, and give them a voice and try to help them and their families out.

“And the other is the Legacy Place Society. What they do is post traumatic stress disorder awareness, counselling, treatment and education. They help first responders and their families who go through a traumatic event.  We think these two charities are very beneficial-to both sides.”

As for the rodeo itself, Schnurer said there were events one would normally find at a rodeo, but the event is geared for the first responders who just want to come out and “try their hand at it, maybe scratch something off their bucket list.”

Describing the animals featured in the rodeo, Schnurer said, “The stock that we’re getting isn’t even like amateur rodeo stock. We’ve asked for like high school level, beginner stuff, and then we’ve got a bunch of experienced cowboys there to coach and help guys out.”

One event included “playing poker with the bulls,” and other events, besides bull riding, included bareback, breakaway roping, chute dogging, junior barrel racing, ladies steer riding, mutton bustin’, peewee barrel racing, team roping and more. “With a kid’s area, food trucks, cold beverages and a barn dance to wrap up the day, you’ll certainly find this was worth your time in support of two great causes,” said Schnurer.

The gates opened at 11 a.m. at the Rainmaker rodeo grounds in St. Albert, and the event was described as “a tremendously successful rodeo, because of generous sponsors, volunteers, competitors and fans.”

Vallie’s wife and children, parents and extended relatives were in the stands cheering him on, along with Petruk.

 “The whole purpose of this event is for people to come out and see their First Responders competing in a fun atmosphere while still supporting others,” said information on the EFRRA’s website.” Come on out and meet your First Responders as they compete against each other in a friendly arena instead of against the traumatic incidents they’re normally dispatched to.”