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South Whidbey community rallies to help beloved local horseman

Cliff Hagglund rides during a Western Games Association event at the Island County Fairgrounds in Langley. The Clinton resident’s friends and fellow gamers are holding a benefit this weekend to help cover his medical bills after his recent heart attack. - Photo courtesy of Heather Kline
Cliff Hagglund rides during a Western Games Association event at the Island County Fairgrounds in Langley. The Clinton resident’s friends and fellow gamers are holding a benefit this weekend to help cover his medical bills after his recent heart attack.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Heather Kline

Friends of Cliff Hagglund want to see him back in the saddle again soon.

Hagglund, 48, suffered a massive heart attack Saturday, Sept. 3 and was rushed to the intensive care unit of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bellingham. He was released to the care of his family in Clinton on Wednesday.

At 10 a.m. today through 3 p.m. Sunday, the Western Games Association will hold a fundraising auction for Hagglund at the Island County Fairgrounds in Langley, behind the horse arena in the HOPE building during the regular Western Games event. The avid horseman has no medical insurance and the goal is to raise money to help soften the blow of Hagglund’s medical bills.

Fellow gamer Heather Kline has known Hagglund since she was a teenager and has met him in the horse arena numerous times.

“Cliff will help out whenever help is needed and will go beyond the call of duty for our club or even a friend,” Kline said.

“He is passionate about horses and has been breeding quarter horses and paints before I ever met him,” she said.

Kline said that Hagglund, who lives in Clinton, comes from a longtime Whidbey Island family and is well-known for his knowledge of horses. But he is also known for his sense of humor and love of people.

“This man loves life and tries to get along with everyone,” Kline said.

“If I’m having a bad day he will try his hardest to make me laugh and cheer me up. He always has something smart to say,” she added.

Marta Berry is another of Hagglund’s longtime friends and praised his never-ending help in and out of the horse arena.

“He is the kind of person that will help you out whenever and whatever you want to do,” Berry said.

“He will take your animals and feed them, rescue animals, do whatever he can to save an animal in need. He has a very giving heart.”

Joni Hanson, Hagglund’s employer at Joni’s Hair Design in Bayview, agrees with Kline’s assessment of his lust for life.

“Oh my goodness gracious he’s a character,” Hanson said. “It’s real quiet around here without him.”

Hagglund has been a hairdresser on the island for more than 30 years and has a large clientele at Joni’s, where he has been cutting hair for about four years.

“He’s always got everyone laughing; he’s talking all the time, telling stories. He’s just full of life,” Hanson said.

Hanson said everyone at the hair salon was shocked and saddened by the news of Hagglund’s heart attack. She said the doctor advised him to not work for at least one month.

Meanwhile, the folks at the Western Games Association are scrambling to collect items for the auction.

Any slightly used or brand-new items that anyone would like to donate are welcome. Monetary donations can also be made at Whidbey Island Bank and at Skagit Farmers Supply in Freeland. All money raised will go toward paying Hagglund’s expenses and medical bills.

Items are being donated from all over the island, including haircuts and color packages, dog accessories, horse tackle and services, makeup, food, and other items.

Handmade saddle blankets in a variety of colors will also be available for $20 during the horse show to raise money for Hagglund’s fund.

Kline said she misses Hagglund already and his ability to perk up her days.

“His posts on Facebook make my day,” Kline said of her friend.

“Off the wall things that have you rolling on the floor laughing. I just love that about him. I miss his posts so much since he has been hospitalized. I just can’t wait to hear the stories when he gets out,” she said.

Hagglund’s daughter, Jenna Berry, helped to get her father home from the hospital Wednesday and was encouraged by his spirits.

“He’s doing good and his memory is fine and everything,” Berry said.

“He’s on a defibrillator which is helping to keep his heart pumping and sustain him right now.”

Berry, the eldest of his three adult children, gave birth to Hagglund’s first grandchild just over a week ago and a visit from baby Callie Wednesday helped to make his day better.

“He’s already picked out what horse she’s going to ride,” Berry said.

There has been a general outpouring of love and support for the much admired Hagglund with lots of emails, phone calls and Facebook messages coming in.

Berry said that when her dad arrived at the hospital, staff asked about Hagglund’s shaved head. Berry explained that he had shaved it in solidarity for a fundraiser of a friend who is going through chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer.

“He’s a very funny kind of guy who would do anything for you. He’s just a very cool guy,” she added.

Questions about the auction or donations can be directed to Amanda Mosler at 360-346-0283 or Chelsea McHugh at 360-630-4506.

Donations can also be mailed to Whidbey Western Games Association, C/O Cliff Hagglund, PO Box 572, Freeland, WA 98249.

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