Luke Mezich Memorial Roping

The 23rd annual Luke Mezich Memorial Roping event to raise money for families with a child in need begins on Friday at the Kittitas Valley Event Center.

Part of the make-up of the American West is making something good out of something bad and the Mezich family is riding that spirit into a new frontier with the 23rd annual Luke Mezich Memorial Roping event at the Kittitas Valley Event Center in Ellensburg.

Organizers expect 150 teams of team ropers and 80 barrel racers for the event, which has raised around $500,000 for the youth-based charity the Sparrow Clubs based out of Bend, Ore., to help provide financial support for families of ill children.

It’s a hell of a deal when your boy dies before you do, but Luke’s father Steve said raising money for families in need has helped keep his family together, and it’s something Luke would have gave a tipped of the hat to.

“This will be the 23rd year we’ve been doing this event, since we lost Luke (in the car accident),” Steve Mezich said. “Personally, this is one of the most important things our family has ever done. Luke was a good son, brother, uncle, and this has kept our family together.

“Doing something to benefit others and passing something forward in the name of our son means the world to us. Luke is with us every day and he’s the inspiration to this event. We have a ton of sponsors in the Pacific Northwest and we’re just very, very lucky. I think he would approve.”

In the past, The Luke Mezich Memorial Roping has been a major fundraiser for the Northwest-based Sparrow Clubs. Founded in 1995, Sparrow Clubs is a youth-based charity which not only helps provide financial support for families of ill children, but it also encourages and empowers kids to help kids. A handful of “Sparrows” and their families here in the Kittitas Valley have benefited from the support and compassion of Sparrow Clubs.

Steve said now that the Sparrow Clubs has a sound financial base of operations, they are now spreading the love to Central Washington and the Spirit Therapeutic Riding Center. They hope to raise $25,000 for the cause with the three-day event which concludes on Father’s Day.

“This is the third year now we’ve been generating funding for children’s medical causes right here in Ellensburg,” he said. “They in turn will be providing scholarships to therapeutic riding centers in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. It’s a wonderful example of paying it forward.”

The first event was held in Woodinville at Jim Bergevin’s ranch where it continued until Bergevin moved to Ellensburg. Tom Luft and Scott Repp invited Mezich to bring the memorial roping to Ellensburg, which has grown.

It’s turned into a major event and will showcase the roping talents of 150 teams and some 80 of the best barrel racers in the Pacific Northwest Circuit and PRCA ranks. Ellensburg’s a rodeo town and they know how to bring it. This Father’s Day weekend roping fans will not only be able to keep alive the memory of a young man who left this world at the age of 22, they will see some great roping and barrel racing.

But maybe more importantly, they can help the Mezich family pass it forward and help some other family in the spirit of Luke and the American West he loved from the saddle with a rope in his teeth.

Action kicks off Friday with barrel racing. Barrel racers can sign up starting at 5 p.m. at the rodeo arena and practice from 5:30-7:30 p.m. with the racing starting at 8 p.m. Team roping events start at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free for the viewing public.

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