In June of 2018, 10-year-old Anna Donovan-Harris attended a routine optometry appointment, when her optometrist noticed that there was something not quite right with her left eye. Concerned, the optometrist sent Anna to see an Ophthalmologist, who sent her for an MRI. The MRI scan showed that there was a six cm tumour on Anna’s brain that was placing pressure on her eye. Fast forward a few days and Anna was sent into surgery to have the tumour removed.
Anna’s tumour was luckily benign, but all of the fun activities—including riding and showing horses—that she had planned to do over the summer were put on hold while she recovered.
That’s where the Calgary Stampede comes in. Children’s Wish granted Anna a wish, and as a huge fan of horses and anything that has to do with animals, Anna’s wish was to go to the 2019 Calgary Stampede with her family!
When the Stampede heard about Anna’s bravery and true cowgirl spirit, we knew we had to make her family’s visit to the Calgary Stampede one that they would never forget.
The family flew in to Calgary from their hometown of Moncton, New Brunswick, on July 2, where they were white-hatted at the airport and then spent a few days in Banff.
Their adventure at the Calgary Stampede began at the Bell Grandstand Show Preview event on Sneek-A-Peek, where the family was personally invited by Bell to see the show before it officially opened to the public on July 5.
On Parade Day, the family got the VIP treatment, enjoying the Stampede Parade in the Friends of Parade seating section. Anna also had the honour of helping Dave Kelly kick-off the Parade, with the official countdown to the fireworks.
Over the course of the first weekend, the family also enjoyed the Rodeo, GMC Rangeland Derby and fun on the Calgary Stampede Midway.
Anna had the opportunity to meet the Royal Trio, who gifted her a pair of Hillberg & Berk earrings, in appreciation of the courage and bravery she demonstrated through the recovery process after her brain surgery.
Other trip highlights included meeting with Barrel Racer, Jimmie Smith and her horse Lena (Anna is learning how to barrel race this summer!); getting outfitted by Lammle’s; meeting the 2019 Parade Marshal, Amber Marshall, and riding the Ferris Wheel with her; touring around Elbow River Camp; getting up-close and personal with some animals in the Agriculture Zone and meeting all of the competitors in the Monster Energy Compound, who signed cards and a pair of goggles for Anna and her nine-year-old brother, Will.
Over their four day visit, the family got to experience the Calgary Stampede to the fullest! Anna and her family had an amazing adventure with us and were sad to fly back home to Moncton, but left with a life-time worth of memories.