D.J. and Barb Hladik are cancer warriors, which is to say that they fight for those impacted by one of the world's most pernicious diseases. The American Cancer Society figures that newly diagnosed cancer cases will exceed 1.7 million in 2018 and the society estimates that as many as 609,640 cancer patients will die this year -- a figure that exceeds the entire population of Baltimore, Md. Those are staggering numbers but the dedicated couple, who own and operate The Pondy in downtown Cedaredge, take a focused approach.
They deal with cancer one person at a time.
Over the last three years, with the help of a core group of good people plus a lot of volunteers, events sponsored by The Pondy have raised over $50,000 for cancer patients. This year they are helping six-year-old Quinten Christian who has been diagnosed with neuroblastoma. That's a fancy name for a very rare type of cancerous tumor that attacks the nerve cells, mostly in young children. It's aggressive and painful. Treatment is intense and expensive.
The Hladiks have partnered with Quinten's family to raise funds to help with the cost of treatment. Their plan involves three events. First a benefit Mexican food meal was held at The Pondy on Thursday, June 29. Next "A Day for Quinten" is scheduled for this coming Saturday on Grand Mesa. And a final event will take place on Aug. 4 during the Celebrate Cedaredge event held in town park.
The July 14 fundraiser invites lovers of the Grand Mesa to register at 9 a.m. at a location on the northern reaches of Surface Creek Road. Follow the signs from town or these directions: From the stop light in Cedaredge, travel north on Highway 65 3.5 miles to Ute Trail. Turn right, traveling 1.6 miles to Surface Creek. Turn left and it's 3.9 miles to the event location.
Registering individuals pay $20 for a chance to win prizes in a poker draw to be held at 4 p.m. that same day. While awaiting the draw, donors are invited to leave their vehicles in a secure parking location and enjoy the mesa by hiking, biking or fishing. Upon returning, registrants will draw for the best poker hand. A barbecue will be served beginning at 4 p.m., with all proceeds going to the fundraiser. The cost is $10 per plate and $6 for 12 and under.
The final event in the Pondy's benefit series, "A Walk for Quinten," will take place on Saturday, Aug. 4, as part of the Celebrate Cedaredge event in town park. The August fund-raiser involves sponsored walkers and a silent auction. Details of this event can be obtained at The Pondy during regular business hours or at its booth in the park in August.
The Pondy has been a Cedaredge institution since 1984 when D.J. and Barb opened the establishment as "The Ponderosa." Later, when the couple received their by-the-drink license, they re-christened it "The New Ponderosa." For a while, the couple leased the place to others who re-named it "The Blue Sky." Then D.J. and Barb returned as owners and settled on "The Pondy," a customer nickname that prevailed even when the sign outside on Main Street declared the full "Ponderosa" title.
There have been changes over the years. The old 45-rpm jukebox has been replaced by a new state-of-the-art touch-tunes machine. The pool tables have been upgraded along with the dartboards. And, in 1987, the couple purchased the building next door and remodeled it into a second bar, dance hall, and performance space.
"This used to be a lot of things," said Barb as she conducted a tour of the dance hall. "Most recently it was a feed and grain store. Now we hold periodic entertainments here and every month we host the Delta County veterans' coffee."
The Pondy has teamed up with its neighbor business, Stacy's on Main to provide free treats and coffee for military veterans who meet in the dance hall on the third Tuesday of every month from 10 a.m. to noon. "We love the veterans," said Barb, "And they seem to enjoy gathering in a welcoming place."
Barb has done her best to make the dance hall unique. A skilled stained glass artist, she has inlaid the dance hall bar with sparkling shards which depict outdoor scenes and critters. There's a huge trout rising to strike at a lure made from a beer bottle cap and a whimsical bear paddling a canoe.
The tour of the dance hall ended and the cancer warriors, Barb and D.J. returned to their hosting duties as they greeted a pair of town visitors. While they exchanged pleasantries with the new arrivals it was easy to see how The Pondy got its philosophical motto which is displayed prominently on its Main Street sign. It reads: "You are a stranger here but once."
The Pondy at 220 West Main Street is open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. For information about the business or its work with cancer patients, call The Pondy at 970-856-3464.