Promises to Keep
By Geraldine Mathias
When Larry Cudmore makes a promise, by golly, he keeps it—in a big way. Larry is an Idaho transplant, originally from North Dakota, and although he has lived in Idaho for more thirty years, his speech still retains a slight hint of that Dakota accent. I met him through a mutual friend, Karole Honas, whom many eastern Idahoans would recognize as a longtime local news anchor. Retired now, Karole has time to help Larry keep his promise. She told me about his untiring commitment to Champ’s Heart, a project he founded. I spent a cool April morning visiting with him and some of his volunteer staff at the organization’s indoor arena in Ammon, on the eastern outskirts of Idaho Falls.
In late December 2016, Larry was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer and told he might live for only another year-and-a-half. For thirty-nine years, he had served in several Idaho places as a Lutheran pastor, but he retired and went to Utah for treatment. Once he was feeling up to it, he was asked to look in at the children’s facility there, where he met Emily Braun, an eighteen-year-old from Ashton, who also was being treated for an aggressive cancer. He promised Emily that when she was better he and his horse, Champ, would take her for a buggy ride, which he had done for children in his pastorate who had emotional, physical, or cognitive challenges. He gave Emily two photographs, one of Champ harnessed to a buggy and another of him hitched to a sleigh, which she kept by her bedside. Champ and another horse named Slick were gifts to Larry from his friend and fellow trail rider, Michael Bargelski, a renowned regional western artist who later died of cancer.
Sadly, Emily did not survive, and Champ died soon after Larry finished his own treatment. But Larry did not forget his promise. Those losses reminded him of the joy experienced by children in his pastorate when they rode Champ. He wanted to honor both Emily’s and Champ’s memory by providing other children with horse rides. The result was Champ’s Heart.