After horseback rides to fight cancer, organizer faces own cancer battle

Jenny Schlecht
Forum News Service

HARWOOD, N.D. — Bruce Van Den Einde has helped raise more than $1 million to fight cancer from atop a horse. Now friends are looking to return the favor as Van Den Einde battles throat and tongue cancer.

A benefit dinner and silent auction for Van Den Einde is scheduled from 2-8 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Harwood Community Center. Those who can’t attend can visit

and search for Bruce Van Den Einde Benefit Fund. The Lend a Hand Up Program, guided by the Dakota Medical Foundation, will provide $5,000 of boost funding. Cash or checks payable to Bruce Van Den Einde Benefit Fund may be directed to Bell Bank at 3100 13th Ave. South, PO Box 10877, Fargo, N.D. 58103.

Bruce and his wife, Carol, both were raised with horses, and Bruce had a dream of riding a horse across North Dakota. In 2005, the Van Den Eindes, of Gardner, started a trail ride that became the Cowboy Up Ride Against Cancer. Over the years, the event has raised more than $800,000 for the Sanford Health Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo.

“It’s grown into this huge event,” says family friend Joan Steiner.

The Cowboy Up ride was the inspiration for a similar event, Trails to Treatment in Middle River, Minn., which started in 2008 and through 2019 had raised nearly $400,000 used to give grant money to cancer victims for help with expenses.

An Equine Wellness Center the Van Den Eindes held from 2009 to 2018, which would bring horse services to North Dakota State University, raised thousands each year for the Roger Maris Cancer Center.

In 2016, Bruce accomplished his initial goal of riding a horse across North Dakota to raise money. Steiner says people joined in for parts of the journey, and each night fundraisers were held in different communities along the path. Carol says the ride coincided with their 30th wedding anniversary.

“We both couldn’t think of anything better to do than to continue our efforts on the fight against cancer and still have a blast,” she says.

The 16-day journey from Moorhead, Minn., to the Montana border raised $16,000 for the Maris center

Bruce finds the thought of riding from South Dakota to Canada intriguing. But first, he has to get through his own cancer battle.

Raising money for a cancer center was something near and dear to the Van Den Eindes. Bruce says Carol has had cancer, as had her mother. A brother-in-law died of it.

“It’s a terrible disease with so many victims,” Bruce says.

When he had some throat swelling earlier this year, he didn’t think much of it. He went for a checkup, which became a whirlwind of diagnosis and treatment.

He had surgery to remove the tumor on his neck, the back of his tongue and both tonsils, followed by radiation and chemotherapy.

“I’m through all the hard parts,” he says.

He’s back to work part-time, and he won’t find out until December if the cancer is gone. But the experience has opened his eyes.

“I didn’t realize what the cancer patients actually go through,” he says. “There are some very tough days.”

Bruce says he’s grateful for the family and friends he has to support him.

“I’m on the other end of this trail ride now,” he says.

Carol and Bruce Van Den Einde have helped raise more than $1 million in the fight against cancer through equestrian events. Now Bruce is fighting cancer, and friends are organizing a benefit for him.