Ropin’ Rascals brings special needs kids to the ranch |

Ropin’ Rascals brings special needs kids to the ranch

Denver Broncos player Dalton Risner and John James at the charity portion of the event.
Photo courtesy Taleen Vick

Tonya Huwa, of Keenesburg, Colo., said she and her family thought it would be fun to bring special needs students to their ranch to learn about horses, rodeo and agriculture in an event designed just for the kids.

Three years ago, they hosted their first Ropin’ Rascals event and she said they were practically begging kids to attend. Now in its third year, over 100 volunteers from all over the U.S. and Canada attended, along with 90 kids.

The Huwas open the gates to the ranch each year and special needs kids from Colorado have the opportunity to ride therapy horses, take tractor rides, rope roping dummies, ride in the stick horse barrel racing, view and learn about baby livestock, ride inflatable bucking bulls, take stagecoach rides, use a photo booth, and take John Deere Gator rides. Participants also receive a Ropin’ Rascals belt buckle and a belt, custom sized for them by Texas Saddlery.

Evening activities include an auction, dinner, and concert to raise money for charity. Last year, the event raised over $100,000. Horse football is one of the favorite events, similar to tackle football with ropes, and features an all-star lineup of professional cowboys and cowgirls as well as athletes. Dalton Risner, a newly minted Denver Broncos player from the area also joined the event. Funds raised are donated to Make a Wish Colorado and the Colorado Sun Super Nova cheerleading squad for special needs athletes, as well as the schools that participated.

“This is close to home with Kylie, having a special needs child,” Tonya Huwa said. “There’s just not a lot of functions they can participate in and have this type of experience.”

Huwa said she works to create an event that is inclusive, exposes them to ranch life they’re unfamiliar with, at a level they can understand and appreciate. Her family, she said, has worked hard to include Kylie and help her find her own strengths and talents, something not all special needs kids are afforded.

Participants also had the opportunity to earn a Gator license and have their photo taken against a backdrop for the license. Many of the participants, she said, won’t have the opportunity to have a driver’s license and this is a fun alternative.

Volunteers are primarily young people, many of whom come from the local high school and FFA chapter. During the time spent one on one with participants, they take the opportunity to talk about safety on the farm and ranch with animals and equipment.

“The kids who come and participate look forward to it every year and it’s impactful to them, but it’s just as impactful to the volunteers who get to be with the kids and go away with a new perspective. It makes an impact on everybody.”​ ❖

— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at or (970) 392-4410.

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