It was with many smiles and laughs (and maybe even a tear) that I bid a very fond farewell to the Smith family today. Coming to us all the way from Springhill, Nova Scotia, the Smith’s arrived in Calgary on Monday, July 3 and made their Stampede debut on Thursday evening for Sneak-A-Peek! The Smith family’s trip to visit us is an incredible story of triumph that will certainly melt some hearts!

Brian Smith, a 16-year-old basketball playing, horse riding, rodeo loving, hay-cutting, all around awesome dude, was diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma in January 2016. After extensive treatment, Brian showed incredible courage and strength and, as of February of this year, his cancer is in remission. With Brian in recovery, The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada reached out about having a wish of his granted. And what was Brian’s wish? To come and see firsthand the excitement and entertainment of the Calgary Stampede! So Brian, along with his brother Bradley, sister Brandi and parents Jeanie and Randy, boarded a plane and followed the old proverb: go west young man.

Brian gets some tips on how to handle a chuck team!

Brian and his family are no city-sleeker, urban cowboys; they come from rural Nova Scotia where they ride horses, harvest berries and live the real country lifestyle. They even took a week off during hay season to be here! It was a truly eye-opening and exciting experience to take a family around Stampede Park who understand and appreciate the traditional agricultural aspects we stand for. During hay season last year, Brian would even come in from the fields to catch the GMC Rangeland Derby each night! So this trip was a dream come true to feel the thunder of the hooves in person.

The Smith’s on an exclusive behind-the-chutes tour

Highlights of Brian’s visit included: attending the President’s Breakfast before watching the Parade from exclusive seats, enjoying a delicious meal in Ranahans, getting a lesson on chuck racing from legend Rick Fraser, going on a guided chute tour during the Stampede Rodeo, meeting the lovely Barrel Racing ladies and receiving a signed Back Number from them, catching the Evening Show from the Eye-in-the-Sky box, and most importantly seeing the GMC Rangeland Derby right next to the track! The original itinerary for the Smith’s included seeing the Rodeo and Rangeland Derby only once, but they were so enthusiastic about these events that we managed to take them to these events three days in a row! When I warned them that seeing all of these events could be pretty tiring, they told me “We have plenty of time to sleep when we get home.”

Brian and the lovely barrel racers

That was the attitude of the family during their trip; see as much as possible and enjoy the heck out of every moment! Their fun-loving and hilarious attitudes were contagious, and hosting these fine folks made this Stampede definitely a highlight of my time with the Calgary Stampede. Seeing how much they loved the events, and hearing them talk about how awesome the Rodeo and chucks were gave me a new appreciation of what we do here at the Stampede.

Hosting the Smith’s also gave me a new appreciation of our saying “We’re Greatest Together”. So many people were involved in providing Brian with a truly spectacular trip, and his incredible experience would not have been possible without the generosity and work of so many fellow employees and volunteers.

Highlight of the night: Smiles and laughs at the GMC Rangeland Derby

Here’s to Brian and his family! A truly inspiring kid with an awesome wish I was honoured to be a part of.