In just a little over a week Riverbend Ranch will be transformed from the everyday chaos and homestead of Eric and Lisa Kjeldgaard and their family of eight children as they open the property to the community for the Eighth Annual Riverbend Ranch Charity Carnival.
The event will be hosted at Riverbend Ranch, 4500 River Road, Oakdale on Saturday, June 27 between the hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is open to the public.
A fundraising effort, it was first started in 2007 when the husband-wife team brainstormed for a practical way for their children to learn to help those in need. The initial focus of the carnival was to raise funds for orphans and widows around the world.
The efforts of the first year event yielded over $8,000 which was donated to Acres of Hope, an orphanage in Monrovia, Liberia. Since that time additional groups, families and non-profits have benefitted from the family’s efforts.
“This year proceeds will be split between Agape Children’s Ministry and Without Permission,” Lisa Kjelgaard stated. “Our hearts have been with Agape for a long time. Beyond that, I’m thrilled to be raising funds for Without Permission for the first time. WP is working to fight human trafficking right here in the Central Valley and I’m excited our family has the opportunity to help them keep fighting.”
The family also brings in friends to help put on the carnival, which draws attendees from through the valley.
“We got involved with Agape after we supported them for the carnival and the directors invited us to visit them in Kenya,” Kjelgaard continued. “The year we spent in Kenya convinced us that Agape was doing incredible work and we came home more determined than ever to help support their work.”
According to the event website www.carnivalforcharity.com, Biblical verse James 1:27 is the guiding verse for the event, stating, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the word.”
“Aside from raising money for worthwhile charities, the carnival desires to create a day of old fashioned fun in a safe, God honoring environment,” the site further states.
Planning for the event begins around early April. The family solicits and secures donations for the raffle, getting raffle tickets to volunteers, as well as getting volunteer commitments.
“A crazy amount of work goes into the carnival and each year I wonder why we do this?” Kjelgaard confessed. “But there are a few moments that make it completely worth it. Standing in front of the nearly 100 volunteers before the carnival opens each year always brings me to tears. To have so many people join in on our vision to help these ministries and to generously give their money, just because we’ve asked them to is incredibly humbling.”
Each year over 100 volunteers return to help the family execute the fundraising carnival. Kjelgaard shared they range in age from as young as five years to up to 70. Businesses also make generous donations to the ministries the family has chosen to support each year.
First time visitors to the event might be surprised to find this to be more than a simple small event being hosted at a private home. There are over 20 old fashioned game booths, horse rides, multiple bounce houses, an oversized inflatable slip-n-slide, dunk tank, cake walk, food and a variety of other activities.
“First time visitors to the carnival are surprised that it’s a “big deal”,” Kjelgaard admitted. “It’s a beautiful surrounding nestled among the walnut trees of our ranch. We are truly blessed to live where we do and love that we can open our ranch to the community each year.”
Every dollar spent at the carnival and on raffle items goes directly to the ministries. Riverbend Ranch is owned by Lisa’s parents, who cover all expenses so that as much as possible may be donated to the event.
“I love just walking through the crowd and listening to the fun children are having with their parents,” she said. “I love that we can provide a safe day for our community.”