Most teenagers imagine $14,000 in the form of a vehicle, college tuition or maybe a dream vacation with several of their closest friends, but young roper Garrett Stewart has a different perspective.
The 14-year-old knows $14,000 will grant four wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and his goal is to make that happen through his 2nd Annual "Ropin' For Wishes" team roping November 23-24 in South Jordan, Utah.
The West Jordan, Utah, teenager, who is a cancer survivor himself, decided to combine his two passions-team roping and Make-A-Wish-to do something good for the community and say thank you to Make-A-Wish for granting him a wish two years ago. As a result, the overly ambitious American Junior Paint Horse Association member hosted the inaugural event last year and well exceeded his expectations.
"Last year I just wanted to raise as much money as we could," Stewart said. "I was hoping for $5,000, but as long as we had something to present to Make-A-Wish I would have been satisfied. When I realized we raised $7,500 and had more than 700 teams compete, I was really excited and couldn't wait to do it again."
And he is doing just that. However, he has set his goals a little higher this year. Garrett is hoping to raise at least $14,000-enough money to grant four wishes. Each Make-A-Wish Foundation wish requires $3,500.
To prove how serious he is, Garrett has already garnered big name sponsors such as Logan Coach, Tod Slone Saddles, Wrangler and Load 'Em In The Dark Cattle Company.
"My favorite part about organizing the roping is getting all the prizes donated. I like seeing people help others out," said Garrett. "Logan Coach has stepped up and donated two trailers, Tod Slone is making four trophy saddles, Wrangler will be doing something pretty cool for us and Load 'Em In The Dark is donating all the steers."
Garrett was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor nearly eight years ago and went in for his first surgery on the first day of first grade. Since his initial surgery, he has been through treatment after treatment and hospital after hospital, but it never deterred him from riding and roping off his now 6-year-old gray solid Paint-bred mare Cowgirl Dusty Dee. In fact, when Garrett was asked by Make-A-Wish to request his "wish," he asked for a roping arena to be built in his back yard.
"This is so thrilling for him," said Laurie Stewart, Garrett's mom. "I think because of the way Garrett has been sick, he has learned at an early age how great it feels to give. After all the hospitals he's been through, he has realized there are kids sicker than he is and he wants to help them. This is his way of giving back. He will probably do it forever."
Agreeing with his mom, Garrett says he doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon and just hopes each year the roping continues to grow so more and more money can be donated to Make-A-Wish.
Anyone can contribute to Garrett's cause. Ropers can simply show up the morning of the competition to participate. The team roping will be held in the heated indoor arena at the Salt Lake County Equestrian Park in South Jordan.
If you don't swing a rope or can't make it out over the weekend, monetary donations can be sent to Make-A-Wish Foundation of Utah and placed in Garrett Stewart's fund, or items can be donated for a silent auction.
All donations can be mailed to Make-A-Wish of Utah at 771 East Winchester, Murray, Utah, 84107. All money raised will be used to grant children a wish of a lifetime.