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Minnesota girl on trek across state to raise funds for a unique ranch for returning troops

PAYNESVILLE, Minn. -- One girl. One ride. One seriously huge undertaking.

Twelve-year-old E'leese Madgett-Manrique of Plymouth, mom Kerry Madgett and their 16-year-old Arabian gelding "Chip" weren't horsing around Wednesday when they rode through Paynesville with a $16 million dream.

This passionate pre-teen's planned 860-mile journey began with a dream to "serve our soldiers as they serve our country," by building a resort-like ranch to offer relief and relaxation to returning veterans through equine therapy.

After 54 days on the open road, the trio's spirits remained high that their goal will be achieved.

Requesting a $3 donation from each of Minnesota's 4.8 million residents, Madgett said 100 percent of the funds raised by this nonprofit venture -- the 501(c)(3) tax certification is pending -- will go toward building The Ranch.

"For the cost of a latte or lunch, you can do the right thing by helping us support our troops," Madgett said Wednesday while sipping a root beer float, courtesy of the Paynesville Dairy Queen.

Chip and his soon-to-be seventh-grade rider first hit the road June 7 in Buffalo. They will complete their tour of duty Aug. 31 with a closing ceremony at the State Capitol officiated by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

Traveling an average of 18 miles a day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., they are currently ahead of schedule with 590 miles of Minnesota roads already under their belt.

Chip and E'leese were escorted Wednesday by members of the Stearns County Sheriff's Posse Arnie and Cheryl Veldkamp as they passed through Paynesville. With an ever watchful eye, Madgett coasted behind at a snail's pace of 4 mph.

While in the west central area, the three were also housed for the night by the Veldkamps, who live just west of town.

Madgett-Manrique complains little, though her back is aching and she's a far cry from the world of Hannah Montana, makeovers and middle-school politics.

With no family members in the military and a million other things that could occupy her adolescent mind, one wonders -- why is she doing this?

"Because it's the right thing to do," she said. "I have a horse and I'm free and I have an obligation to thank our soldiers. It's that simple."

In a nod to the personal sacrifices made by deployed servicemen and women, the mother/daughter duo has opted not to take off weekends nor see family for the duration of the ride.

And like the beloved buzz cuts of the military, the two gals hacked off a total of 11.5 inches of hair between them before their journey began, which was donated to Locks of Love, a program providing wigs for children suffering hair loss due to medical issues.

Much thought has already been given to the design and construction of The Ranch, mostly on the part of the 12-year-old. They hope to erect 50 cabins -- one for each state -- with a dining hall, located somewhere near state or federal land, starting September of this year. No location has yet been designated.

For more information on OneGirloneRide's mission, visit http://, call 763-222-5656 or mail P.O. Box 46513, Plymouth, MN 55446.