A year and four days after departing Prudhoe Bay, Alaska on horseback, Orillia’s Pastor Len Crow arrived in Guadalajara, Mexico to a king’s welcome.
Locals rolled out their version of the red carpet for the Stetson-wearing Canadian whose recent trek had rustled up about $150,000 for orphanages in five countries.
“They had a police escort and the children from the orphanage where I was stopping were there with banners and singing,” Crow said in a telephone interview from Mexico this week.
Members of the local cattleman’s association joined in as he completed the final moments of a 9,000-kilometer journey, dubbed the ‘Pony Express For Orphans’.
“It was mixed feelings,” Crow says of the now completed fund-raising mission. “It was exciting, but at the same time we start looking at the next step.”
Crow was accompanied by his wife, Nancy who led the way in a truck and trailer.
This was their sixth fund-raising mission since 1996, with supporters invited to contribute a nickel, quarter or penny online for each kilometer travelled.
Over 12 months the latest ride would take them through blinding snowstorms, rain and searing heat.
“Desert riding is a whole lot different than mountain riding in the northern range,” he says. “Everything is sharp and poisonous down here and very hot.”
When distance and fatigue took a toll on a horse, it was left to rest and replaced with another ¬– at least one of which was donated by an owner taken by the cause.
Crow will reclaim the animals en route to Orillia, where he is founding pastor of North Country Baptist Church.
Donations collected over the past year will go toward renovations and improvements to orphanages in Mexico, India, the Philippines, Guatemala, and Cambodia.
“We will probably be home for two weeks and then I leave for Cambodia,” Crow adds. “We run our own orphanage there and we have had it for eight years.”
An orphanage in Mexico has two buildings, “and neither one are complete.
“They are living in both of them, but one doesn’t even have a roof on it,” Crow says. “We are hoping to put a roof on it, do some exterior work and put plumbing in it because there is no running water in that building and bring it up to usable standards.”
The Cambodia orphanage requires showers, bathrooms and an exterior canopy, he adds.
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