by nathan oster
United by their desire to “kick cancer to the curb,” Conga motorcyclists clad in pink and a group of nearly 80 Big Horn Basin bicyclists pedaling for the PEAKS to Conga cause converged in Shell Saturday for an afternoon of fundraising and socializing.
It was the fifth time that the Conga fundraiser came to Greybull and Shell.
Flo Fuhr, who has organized each of the rides from her home in Canada, acknowledged on her Facebook page that this year’s turnout was “a lot smaller” than past years, and while there were still many great donations, the live and silent auctions also fell short of matching those of previous years.
“We raised $2,000, with a little more coming in before the day was over,” Fuhr wrote on Saturday afternoon. “Thanks to everyone who participated in any way. Special thanks to Arlan (Howe), for letting us have his curly locks, which raised $650.
“Everyone is exhausted,” she wrote from the road. “Thanks for five great years in Shell and Greybull. There are some amazing folks here. Hoping for a reunion some year. Next year, it’s in Canada.”
The Conga girls raised money through car washes and hot dog sales on Friday and through the live and silent auctions at the Antler Inn of Shell.
The PEAKS fundraiser was even more successful. Lauritta Parker said an estimated $10,000 was generated. All of it will stay right here in the Bighorn Basin, she said, adding that people in Big Horn and Hot Springs counties, in particular, will be the biggest beneficiaries, since they have to travel the farthest to receive their cancer treatments.
PEAKS stands for People Everywhere Are Kind and Sharing — and Parker said she was overwhelmed by the response of the riders. While the Conga riders won’t be returning to Shell in the near future, Parker said the PEAKS ride will continue. And it will continue to be called “PEAKS to Conga” as a way of honoring the Conga organization.
“If it weren’t for Flo, none of this would have happened,” she said.
Karen Allen agrees. Fuhr has been the driving force behind the Conga rides. All the riders recognize her as leader of the pack. So it only made sense, Allen reasoned, that Fuhr should be the recipient of a plaque from the National Breast Cancer Foundation, celebrating the contributions of the Conga organization over the years.
Allen made the presentation to Fuhr on Saturday afternoon.
Fuhr in turn handed it to Al Martin, who personally and through his business, the Antler Inn, has been a big supporter of past Conga rides.
Allen said the Conga effort has generated more than $100,000 for breast cancer research in the past five years. Money has flowed in from generous donors in both the United States and Canada, where Fuhr resides.
“We had upwards of 40 in Cheyenne a few years ago, and I bet over the years, we’ve had 80 different women riders (participate in the Conga) … probably another 10 or so men who came along with us,” she said.
As for the years to come, Allen suggested that while you can take Conga out of Greybull and Shell, you won’t be able to take Greybull and Shell out of the Conga. The community and its generosity have left a lasting impression on the group.
“I’m jaded about the area — in the sense that I love Greybull and Shell,” said Allen. She has some personal ties to the community; her husband’s grandparents, Ruth and Lloyd Allen, lived here for 68 years.
“To me, personally, it’s like coming home, and I have heard a lot of comments from other Conga riders about their affection for this community. Words like ‘inclusive’ and ‘welcoming’ are frequently mentioned.”
Allen suggested that the ride is an attempt to “put the best foot forward. For most of us, it’s a long-distance ride. It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s hot, it can be windy on the road, and you deal with traffic and deer and everything else. But it comes down to faith and believing you can do it and that it’s for a good cause.
“The community there is phenomenal. Greybull and Shell won’t be abandoned by the Conga riders. We’ll be back. It feels like a big family reunion, every time we visit.”