Under the beating sun, country music wafted through the air as a young woman weaved purple ribbons into a horse’s mane at the Blue Ridge Riding Club in Boonsboro. Another horse had purple glitter sprinkled on its back.
And next to a dirt arena, where riders and their horses rushed around barrels, was a pile of purple barrels with “#Love4Jami” in hot pink painted on them.
Dozens of people flocked to Boonsboro on Sunday for Chasin’ Cans 4 Cornell, a benefit barrel racing event organized by the Maryland International Barrel Racing Association to raise money for Jami Cornell, a barrel racer from Monrovia who was knocked down by a vehicle in July and suffered serious injuries.
Barrel racing is a sport on horseback — traditionally an event for female riders, according to the International Barrel Racing Association’s website — where the rider and his horse are expected to ride a winding path around three barrels. The person with the fastest time wins.
Cornell is one of the fastest runners, if not the fastest runner, in her division, Sherry Olden said. Olden is the director of IBRA Maryland and one of the organizers of the benefit.
Purple is one of Jami’s competition colors, which is why it was so important on the upside.
But Cornell wasn’t riding on Sunday; Cornell was seriously injured on July 14 after being hit by a vehicle believed to have been driven by Chelsea Kendall, 38, of Union Bridge. The alleged incident happened at Union Bridge.
According to the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, Kendall had fled the scene but was arrested and charged with one count of first- and second-degree assault, and charges related to fleeing a scene. after hurting someone.
Kendall’s next court date is August 26.
After the incident, Cornell underwent emergency brain surgery. As of Friday, she could no longer speak or move the left side of her body, her mother, Fran Cornell, said in an interview. She also has trouble swallowing and moving part of the left side of her face, she said.
“She’s going to have a long recovery,” Fran said. “She’s going to need physical therapy, a lot.”
All proceeds from the benefit go towards Jami’s medical bills, Fran said. Insurance won’t cover Jami’s treatment, which shocked her.
And that shocked a lot of people who know the Cornell family. Over the course of three weeks, people held an event with items donated for a silent auction, tie-dye shirts in purple, pink and teal for sale, and cash on loan, all for Jami.
There was also a 50/50 raffle, with half of the prize money going to the winner and the other half to Jami.
“When we all heard what happened, it was obvious,” said Paula Stapleton, one of Jami’s sponsors. “The phones started ringing, people just started talking, and it was like, ‘What are we going to do?'”
Stapleton and his daughter run The Wicked Pony, a tack and western clothing store.
Mary Beth Davis, a longtime friend of Jami, rode one of Jami’s former horses, Dash, to advantage. She traveled from Fairfield, Pennsylvania in an effort to raise a lot of money for Jami.
“Jami is a great rider, she’s super brave and just a real firecracker,” Davis said.
Levi Leach, 49, came from York Springs, Pennsylvania to support Jami. She has known Jami for about 20 years, she said, and Jami sometimes refers to Leach as her mentor.
Leach noted how the turnout for the benefit event was indicative of how the barrel racing community is not just a team but a family.
“What it’s all about here is family,” Leach said. “There are people who don’t even know Jami who still support her because what happened to her should never have happened. That’s what this community does.
And Jami was the perfect embodiment of support, said a group of Jami’s friends. Leach, along with Chelsea Magaha, Samantha King and Morgan Whitacre sought shelter from the sun in a tent as they shared stories about Jami.
One of the women grabbed a handkerchief for Leach from a nearby stand.
During a division competition, the women remember, Jami had won a new saddle, but since she had won one before, she gave it to another girl who needed a new saddle. She was always ready to give, King said.
“It was a brand new saddle, never ridden. I had three horses I had to race and only one saddle, and she was like, ‘Take it,'” Whitacre said.
At another competition, Jami led with one of the fastest times and always encouraged the girls to beat her. That’s what true sportsmanship is, Leach said.
Denise Bost, 66, rode one of Jami’s current horses, Finn, to the advantage. She was amazed at how many people showed up for her friend.
“She was always the most supportive person. No matter who you are, she will support you,” Bost said.
Allison Kraynak, 27, also rode Jami’s horse, Sue, to the advantage. Jami is the person who got Kraynak into barrel racing in the first place, she said. Receiving Jami’s blessing to ride Sue was a great honor, she said.
Tears threatened to flow as she recalled how Jami loaned her gear and let her sleep in his trailer during competitions when she first started. She was comforted by all the people who came to pick up Jami.
“I was really excited for this event because Jami would give away his jersey to anyone who needed it,” Kraynak said.