Unique fundraiser in memory of Sydnie Quimby, a teenage shooting star who died skiing 

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor columnist

Published: 07-01-2023 6:27 PM

Judy Ellis knows the drill.

She’ll talk about her granddaughter, the late Sydnie Quimby, with a jovial tone filled with pride about her kindness mixed with her competitive spirit.

She’ll talk about members of the support group she’s found, called the Northeast 6 Shooters, who compete and promote horseback mounted shooting competitions and name those who did the heavy lifting to produce a tribute to Sydnie on Saturday in Allenstown.

When Ellis, however, delves too deeply into the past, crossing a certain line, crystallizing her visions of a girl everyone called Syd, she pauses, waits for the storm to pass, then responds a bit quieter.

“You have two choices, curl up under the kitchen table in the fetal position, or stand up and fight,” she said. “I have good days and bad days, good moments and bad ones.” 

She’s reaching out to the people who have helped her cope with the uncopable. Sydnie, a student at Gilford High School, died in a skiing accident last January at Gunstock Mountain Resort. She collided with a tree in icy conditions and suffered a head injury. She was 15.

The Sydnie Quimby Memorial Jackpot, a scholarship fund in Sydnie’s name, will begin its mounted shooting fundraiser Saturday at 10 a.m. and continue through the afternoon. Competitors will ride horses, looking for speed and accuracy as they shoot black powder at balloons along the course.

The event will be held at 334 Deerfield Road in Allenstown. The address happens to be for the Random Barrel Ranch, once called the Bear Brook Stables. Owners Pat and Robin Hayes volunteered to host the competition.

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Proceeds will go a scholarship fund established by Dina Driscoll, who contributed the first $500. The scholarship idea was hers, plus she lent Sydnie a horse named Ginny, one of her fastest. Driscoll saw a rising star.

“She was Syd’s idol,” Ellis said.

Meanwhile, Molly Slombo, a trainer and manager at the Red Iron Horse Farm in Alton, was one of the central coordinators for Saturday’s event. She’s been with the Six Shooters for 10 years, the past four as the secretary of their board of directors.

Slombo had heard of the tall, sleight teen who rode like the wind and could shoot well above what her age and skill level would suggest.

“She would come to practice and she came all the time last year,” Slombo said. “She went to all the shoots. She took to it very fast and she trained her own horse by herself, which is difficult and at her age was unusual.”

Sydnie entered the sport with a 10-year background in both skiing and riding. Then, two years before she died, Sydnie joined the Northeast Six Shooters and began competing.

Riders race over a course, trying to reach the finish line as quickly as possible. However, they also try to shoot and pop balloons, holding the reins in one hand and firing a pistol with the other. Times and popped balloons combine for an overall score, as competitors search for the right balance between speed and accuracy.

Ellis’s husband, Scott, delighted in taking his granddaughter to shooting events. He’d compete as well, in the senior men’s division, Sydnie in Ladies I. Judy and Scott played big roles in raising Sydnie, and the bond there was strong like iron.

Her horse was Mercy, his Jewell.

“They went to every event together,” Ellis said.

The action resembles the final scene of “True Grit,” when John Wayne squares off with four bandits in an open field and shoots them with both reins in his mouth, while twirling his rifle like a drum major’s baton to chamber another round.

She never did that, but Ellis said her granddaughter had “true grit.” She also had a nickname for Sydnie: “We called her badass.”

At the start, Ellis said she thought Sydnie would have trouble holding a gun with her tiny hand. They had to modify her holster belt, poking additional holes to tighten it and keep it from slipping down.

Yet in less than two years, Sydnie won the Massachusetts and New Hampshire state championships. Her family and friends said she was a fierce, fearless competitor, while hanging onto a soft spot that has been dearly missed the past 5½ months.

“She was great to animals,” Ellis said. “A very kind person.”

The family has three horses, plus chickens and dogs. Once, not too long ago, Sydnie rode Mercy, the horse she had trained alone. Essentially, they grew up together. That was evident in the ring. They were one, Mercy jet black, Sydnie in flowing western skirt and boots.

“They looked like they were dancing together,” Ellis said. “She was a beautiful rider and she was a kid.”

When Mercy grew too old to compete, Driscoll introduced her to Ginny. Ginny was fast, faster than Mercy. The partnership, the script read, would lead to further success for Sydnie, matched with a speedster to complement her skills, which were growing like weeds.

Sydnie died on Jan. 16, this year. She never got the chance to compete with Ginny.

That made Ellis pause for a few moments.

“They would have been a beautiful team,” she said, quietly. “They just never got to do it.”

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