A network of volunteers established over 50 years ago, The Pony Express Riders of Iowa is an organization which hosts fundraisers throughout the year in order to benefit Easterseals Iowa’s Camp Sunnyside.

This camp, which is just one of the many programs hosted by Easterseals Iowa, helps to ensure that all people with disabilities or special needs and their families have an equal opportunity to live, work, learn and play within their community.

“The Pony Express Riders of Iowa are the longest standing group of supporters for Easterseals Iowa. In their 51-year history, they have raised more than $10 million to support our mission,” Easterseals Director of Marketing and Communications Jessica Brown said.

The Pony Express Riders of Iowa are known for putting on events all across the state — such as dances, horse rides, motorcycle rides, golf tournaments and more as a way to fundraise for the Easterseals of Iowa. But most recently, this organization has taken its fundraising efforts to a whole new level by joining up with the North Polk High School FFA students to create 2018’s Fall Family Fun Night.

“To have the North Polk FFA planning and supporting this event and learning about our mission is incredibly important as we connect with the next generation of leaders in our community,” Brown said.

This partnership began when FFA students and the Pony Express Riders of Iowa crossed paths at this past summer’s Iowa State Fair.

“This was an idea that the president of our organization had to look at new events and ways of raising funds. We were down at the fair and talked with the students and asked if they were interested in partnering with us. They thought it was a great idea, and it blossomed into what I think will be a very successful event,” Pony Express Riders of Iowa State Coordinator Charley Scarlett said.

From there, the members of the North Polk agricultural business class and the Pony Express Riders worked together to plan, create marketing and recruit sponsors for the event.

“We planned out what we are going to do and also had to create posters and talk to sponsors because we want to make as much money as we can to help with Easterseals,” North Polk FFA student Ellie Owen said.

“As an educator, an activity that allows students to connect what they are learning to real life adds that much more value to what they are learning. We are excited to give back to Easterseals in partnership with the Pony Express Riders of Iowa,” North Polk High School Agriculture Education Teacher Jessica Hebert added.

The event will feature a variety of activities for families of all ages. With an entry fee of $50 per family or $20 per person, each purchased ticket comes with a BBQ pork dinner, pumpkin painting, horse-drawn hay rides and more.

“I can’t say enough about how energetic it is to have these young people, who really may or may not be aware of what people with disabilities go through, jump in and be eager to help out and raise money to help this project keep going,” Scarlett said.

The Fall Family Fun Night will take place on Oct. 20, from 4 to 7 p.m., at Camp Sunnyside in Des Moines.