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Riders advocate for organ donation

Photo courtesy Trails4Transplants Trails4Transplants, an organ donation advocacy group, is in the midst of an horse ride across North Dakota and Minnesota to raise money and promote awareness for eye, tissue and organ donation. A stop in Appleton, Minn., is shown Wednesday. Riders are expected to stop Thursday in Granite Falls and Friday in Renville. The last stop is Bird Island, where a celebration is set Saturday.

WILLMAR — Trails4Transplants, an organ donation advocacy group, is in the midst of an horse ride across North Dakota and Minnesota to raise money and promote awareness for eye, tissue and organ donation.

Riders have arrived in western Minnesota, and overnight stops are planned Thursday near Granite Falls and riders are expected Friday in Renville.

Their finale celebration will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Renville County Fairgrounds in Bird Island, the final stop of what was expected to be a 320-mile ride.

"A lot of people will ride for two days or one week or a weekend or something like that," said Roger Hille, a rider with the group who spoke to the West Central Tribune from the back of his horse. "We have people coming and going along the trail all the time."

At each stop, they camp for the night and go to events where they promote awareness for eye, organ and tissue donation, as well as collect monetary donations to support the cause.

According to the group, some 124,000 people are in need of organs, tissue or eyes, including children. Dozens die every day because they do not receive donations in time.

"(We're) a group of very very committed folks that want to make sure that people understand that registering to be a donor is so much easier when you're healthy than if you got caught up in a car accident or something, and you've got your family around and they're not sure what your wishes are," Hille said. "That's probably our biggest thing is to raise awareness so that if you have organs that are transplantable and your family doesn't know about it all the sudden you don't have that gift of life."

The ride is in its fifth year of a six-year trek to cover 2,000 miles. Each year the riders do a two-week ride covering about 330 miles. This year, the ride started in Edgeley, North Dakota.

The celebration event to end the ride Saturday in Bird Island will include food vendors, bouncy houses, horse rides, helicopter tours and beer gardens. Admission is a freewill donation.

The riders' progress can be followed on the Trails4Transplants Facebook page.

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