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This weekend, as longtime equestrian Liz Strauss displays her vaulting skills, she'll support a cause that helps women like her mother, who underwent breast cancer treatment.
Strauss, 25, of Annandale, is one of 34 riders performing in the tenth annual Potomac Valley Dressage Association's Ride for Life, an event benefiting John Hopkins' Avon Foundation Breast Center in Baltimore.
This year's event will be at the Prince George's Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, Md., on Saturday and Sunday. It is expected to draw more than 6,000 visitors.
Organizers said they were able to raise more than $75,000 last year and about $500,000 during the past nine years.
Strauss will be part of the Great Falls Vaulters, a group of champion riders from Virginia and Maryland.
“My mother is now a two-time breast cancer survivor,” said Strauss, a 2007 graduate of Woodson High School. “She was diagnosed around 2002, when I was in the eighth grade. ... Only about a year or a year and a half ago, she was diagnosed again,” Strauss said.
Strauss graduated with a degree in fashion design from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011. She began vaulting on horseback at 5 years old.
Her mother, Kay Strauss, began vaulting about five years ago, between her two diagnoses.
Liz said her mother inspires her.
“My mom had a different kind of breast cancer this time. The chemo[therapy] was a lot harder on her. But she's still remained active,” she said.
Kay Strauss is now clear of cancer.
The event this weekend is an opportunity for the mother and daughter to share a bond and celebrate each other.
“It's a chance for us to share two things,” Liz Strauss said. “Working with horses is really healing. ... I think Ride for Life is a lot about that.”
“It's always fun, as a parent, to have your child participate in something,” Kay Strauss said, “but when it's for something like this ... it's a really great feeling.”
Liz Strass is designing the costumes for her vaulting team.
The Ride for Life event was started by breast cancer survivor and equestrian Patricia Artimovich.
“It was very healing for her to get back on a horse,” event coordinator Jeannette Bair said.
Since its founding, the event has grown in participation, visitors and donations raised, she said.
This year's event includes 15 acts, from freestyle riding to vaulting to dancing and a drill team.
Activities run throughout both days, with dressage shows beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Children's activities such as pony rides, face painting, and arts and crafts will be held Saturday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission is a $25 suggested donation. Children 10 and younger can enter for free.
“This [fundraising] touches people very closely,” Bair said. “[Hopkins] runs retreats for people with Stage Four metastatic cancer. These are people who won't survive.”
The retreats offer patients an opportunity to talk about their experiences while getting help. They also get advice on how to talk with family about their cancer and preparing final arrangements.
Liz Strauss will perform in front of a crowd that includes her mother and father.
“[W]hen you've had it and you see people out there fundraising ... it really touches you,” Kay Strauss said.
Learn more about the Ride for Life at www.pvdarideforlife.org.