Faces In The Crowd: Owen Ponto
A local student is being recognized for his efforts on raising funds for a devastating disease that has affected his family.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards has announced the top 2 state honorees for 2019, one of them is Rapid City student, Owen Ponto. It is the nation’s largest youth volunteer awards program honoring students in grades 5-12 for outstanding volunteer service, which is now in its 24th year.
Just months shy of a teenage, Owen Ponto attends Saint Thomas More Middle School as an active seventh-grader. Involved in many school sports and outdoor activities, you could say he’s a busy guy, but not too busy to think of others.
Two years ago while playing golf, he was reminded that his maternal grandfather also loved to play but couldn’t anymore because of a debilitating disease – Parkinson’s. That thought sparked an idea to host a fundraising event to raise money for the cause. Being on outdoorsy person, he thought a hike up M-Hill would be fun and the annual hill-climbing event “Owen’s Climb for a Cure” was born, complete with yard games, food, raffles and an auction afterwards. It’s a day for fun with the family.
He sought out donations of all kinds and invited everyone to this event to raise funds to find a cure for Parkinson’s, a disease which has affected both his maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother – a disease that has robbed his beloved grandparents of a fulfilling life.
Ponto says, “They can’t do what they used to be able to do because of the disease … it’s horrible to see them going through this stage, of not being able to do the things they love to do and talk to the people they want to and be with the family. So it pains my heart to see them like that.”
So far the climb has raised $17,000 for the cause. Money is raised through entry fees, t-shirt proceeds and many auction item from donors and sponsors.
The money goes to the Banner Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City, Arizona, where his grandfather with Parkinson’s lives. He hopes his efforts can make a difference for those who are suffering like his grandfather, a person he has always looked up to.
“You meet him he’s just says hi, he wants to be your friend – it’s hard for him to do that now. So I think it fills him with joy to see that someone is standing up for this disease and trying to help him and maybe not his lifetime, but he knows that somebody’s lifetime who has Parkinson’s; there will be a cure and they won’t have to go through that,” says Ponto.
Ponto plans on hosting the climb for as long as he can with a hope for a cure in the future.