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Cowboys for Cures

Duo rides horses to raise money for chaarity

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A couple of cowboys riding along U.S. 80 Wednesday weren't just out for a trail ride. Father and son team Ernest and Whittel Nunely, decked out in leather dusters and cowboy hats, were riding for a cause.
    The two formed "Cowboys for Cures, Inc.," an effort to raise money for research to cure diseases, especially those affecting children. They are riding from Savannah to Tallapoosa, Ga., hoping to raise as much money and support as  possible, before taking to the trails again across country all the way out West to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
    The money they raise, after expenses, will be split between St. Jude Children's Hospital and the Children's Hospital in Atlanta.
    The nonprofit organization supports all children regardless of race, said Whittel Nunely.
    The 18-year-old knows what it is like being hospitalized. He is back riding again after a serious automobile accident in which he broke his neck. Shortly after his recovery, Ernest found himself in  the hospital, and both realized the challenge of meeting hospital bills when there wasn't much money.
    Ernest Nunely's wife encouraged him to seek disability benefits after he was told he could not return to work at full capacity, but he refused. "I'm bent, not broke," he said.
    When the idea of working to help families of children with diseases came about, both father and son were eager to saddle up.
    In addition to their own challenges, four family members succumbed to cancer before reaching adulthood, Ernest said.  Hoping to help raise money to fund research to cure cancer and other diseases, the two took to the trail.
    This ride began Nov. 7 after a stop at Tybee Island. Due to dangerous conditions, they trailered four horses to Pooler, where they mounted up and began riding.
    On Wednesday, their second day of riding, Ernest Nunely was mounted on an albino Quarter Horse/Arabian mare named Snowy, whose ice blue eyes glinted as she pawed with impatience while Ernest talked.
    Whittel rode a buckskin paint gelding named Mississippi, but their partner Frank McIntire hauled two other horses along as well - a strawberry roan Appaloosa named Buzz and a blonde Belgian gelding named Tinny - pronounced "tiny," he said.
    The pair plan to ride to Possum Snout Arena in Tallapoosa.
    The Nunelys hope people will see their efforts and donate money, but they also hope to raise awareness. The horses certainly draw attention, they said.
    "I don't think there is anything better than animals to teach (children) responsibility and respect for other creatures, and I don't think there is a more noble animal than a horse," Ernest Whittel said.
    The two spend about eight hours a day in the saddle, then they met up with Frank, who scouts ahead and finds locations where they can camp.
    They cover an average of 21 miles a day, Ernest said.
    So far the ride has been safe, and the two hope it stays that way.
    "People honk their horns," which is not wise to do around horses, although the four horses the Nunelys use in the rides are well-broken.
    "We have gotten a really good response from people so far," Ernest said.
    McIntire, who travels with an eight-week-old beagle/Jack Russell terrier puppy named Freckles,  met the two Wednesday afternoon at a location near Statesboro to load the horses up so he could take them to the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds, where they camped overnight.
    Calling himself the "chief pooper scooper and cook," he handles media requests as well as overnight accommodations, which can sometimes be a little tricky, he said.
    He said anyone wishing to donate to Cowboys for Cures, Inc. can send donations to "Cowboys for Cures, Inc.,  2571 Cashtown Road, Bremen, Ga. 30110.
    Donors can also call 1-770-537-8687 to reach the office, or can go online to the Internet web site:  cowboys
    The web site is " a work in progress," Whittel Nunely warned.
    The ride is expected to end Nov. 23.
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