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By Frank Thomas Croisdale

Life is going to hand you some awful times, that's for sure. An old axiom goes: There are two types of people in the world -- the humble and the soon-to-be humbled. Sometimes it seems as if the pain of life comes at you all at once with a relentless force that is designed somewhere south of the deepest depths of hell.

In those moments, when the only possession you own that has any worth is the one known as faith, it may help to cast your gaze outward and drink in a cocktail prescription that's made of 1 part inspiration, 2 parts hope and 1 part sheer will of determination. To see the glass half full when everyone else swears that the town pump hasn't drawn up a drop in the lifetime of anyone still served with the task of tilling the land and planting the crop.

It may come as comfort to know that Dorothy Gale was a sage, indeed. Sure the animals in the holy trinity have changed over the decades, but the magic in their utterance remains. So grab the hand of the nearest scarecrow, pull the straps on your ruby slippers tight and accompany me down the yellow brick road to learn the significance of horses and pit bulls and bears, oh my.

Let's take them in reverse order, shall we? William "The Refrigerator" Perry was, at one time, the most famous bear in the world. As a rookie defensive lineman (and occasional fullback) for the 1985 Chicago Bears, the "Fridge" captivated folks of all ages with his sheer exuberance in playing a game as a professional with the glee of a child at recess.

His Bears team shuffled its way to Super Bowl XX during his rookie year and the Fridge scored a touchdown in the big game. Perry was the biggest thing, both literally and figuratively, in the NFL in 1985 and he translated that fame to appearances on TV shows such as "The A-Team" and "According to Jim."

In recent years, the Fridge's weight ballooned to more than 400 pounds and he developed a serious drinking problem. He was also diagnosed with Guillain-BarrŽ Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that can often lead to paralysis.

Recently, 10-year-old Cliff Forrest Jr. was in NYC having lunch at Mickey Mantle's restaurant with his father. The Pittsburgh-area boy spotted what was advertised as Perry's Super Bowl ring for sale and dipped into his college fund to the tune of $8,500 to purchase the size 25 hunk of metal and gems. Perry had sold his ring in 2007 in a time of need.

Now, I know what you're thinking. That kid is a shrewd sports memorabilia collector and he was hedging his college fund against the bet that the ring would skyrocket in value should the ill Perry pass away, right?


Young Cliff went to great lengths to find the Fridge and give him his ring back. "He only played in one Super Bowl. I thought he would want it more than I did," Cliff told ESPN.

It was later believed that the ring was a replica. To the Fridge, who thanked Cliff and gave him some signed jerseys in return, it should not matter. He may have won the Super Bowl as a rookie, but it wasn't until a 10-year-old with a heart of gold came along that he struck it rich in the lottery known as "kindness from strangers."

Pit bulls get a bad rap in America. Because of severely-flawed human beings like Michael Vick, who fight them for blood sport and kill them when they are no longer able to perform in the ring, the pit bull is regarded as some sort of a rogue beast.

The truth is that pit bulls are not unlike most domesticated dogs -- they are loyal, loving and adopt the traits of the owners they serve. Sometimes those owners are something more described as subhuman, say like Kisha Curtis. Ms. Curtis is accused of chaining her 1-year-old pit bull to a banister inside her apartment and leaving him without food or water for a full week while she left town. Upon returning, it is alleged that Curtis placed the malnourished, dehydrated 20-pound what was left of a dog into a trash bag and shoved him down a garbage chute.

Now, the will to live is the strongest will in the universe. That pit bull, since named Patrick because he was rescued near St. Patty's Day, fought with all he had and has touched the hearts of Americans everywhere by showing steady progress and weight gain while being cared for at an animal rescue center in Newark, N.J.

Curtis has admitted to starving Patrick, but denies throwing him down the chute. I trust in the good dispensers of justice for the state of New Jersey to send her away for as long as the law allows.

As for Patrick, by all accounts his increase in weight corresponds with a corresponding increase in his capacity to give humankind another chance and to trust and love again. Someday soon, he will be placed in a new home and the people that claim him will be lucky indeed -- call it the luck of the Irish.

Take it from someone who knows, owning a horse isn't cheap. There's boarding costs, feed, medicine, vet costs, shoeing and tack. But, for a horse lover the money is well-spent in return for the connection of man with one of nature's most fluid beasts.

There is a way to "own" a horse for what amounts to a song and to help in the effort to save Niagara Falls for our children's children all in one fell swoop. On April 30, Niagara Rises Inc. will hold its 2nd Annual "Kentucky Derby at Niagara Falls" event at Antonio's Banquet Hall on Niagara Falls Boulevard.

The "first call to the riders" is at 6 p.m. and six races will be run over the evening. In addition, the Dennis "Quizmaster" George Trivia Show will entertain between races. The $25 admission ticket gets "track-goers" a full meal, free virgin mint juleps, betting "money" and the chance to win a plethora of gifts and prizes. There's even a Derby Hat contest for the ladies who like to style and profile in the winner's circle.

But, why just attend when you can "own" a horse for just $100? Horse ownership also comes with two admission tickets. When you buy a horse you get to name it, name your jockey and watch it make a "run for the roses" on the huge flat-screen video board while you yell and scream as your steed barrels down the backstretch.

Better yet, your $100 is a tax-deductible donation, 100 percent of which will go toward helping Niagara Rises Inc. to complete its mission of combating poverty and juvenile delinquency in Niagara Falls.

In the interest of full disclosure I need to tell you that I am the president of Niagara Rises Inc. That also makes me uniquely qualified to say that this is our organization's only major fundraiser and that monies are desperately needed to continue the very important work of our all-volunteer organization.

I will also say that the attendees of last year's event all had a great time and this year's "Nite at the Races" is going to be even better.

To buy a ticket or sponsor a horse please call 550-2403. Deadline for horse sponsorship is April 19, so don't delay. Buy a horse -- save a city!

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com April 12, 2011