Thursday of Round-Up week, cowboys and rodeo fans put on all the pink they have to help bring awareness and raise money in support of local breast cancer patients and survivors.
Terry Wheatley conceived Tough Enough to Wear Pink in 2004 after her battle with breast cancer. Not only that, but she had lost her grandmother to the disease, her mother underwent a double mastectomy and her daughter had two surgical biopsies. She felt that everyone around her was affected and was ready to do something.
Wheatley was an executive at a major California winery that sponsored the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Her son, Wade Wheatley, was a competitor at the event. She knew she had the perfect opportunity to promote her cause. When she asked her son to wear a pink shirt and ask his fellow competitors, he agreed. But he told her that he did not own a pink western shirt or have any idea where to find enough in time for the rodeo that began in a few weeks.
Terry approached Karl Stressman, Wrangler’s director of special events at the time. Stressman informed Terry that Wrangler had just started production of pink shirts, but they wouldn’t be ready until next year. Stressman got on the phone with Wrangler to rush out 200 shirts as fast as they could. They were delivered to Las Vegas in the nick of time.
The pink shirts were in town, but Terry had no idea if any of the other cowboys beside her son would wear them. She and Karl were elated to see hundreds of competitors, announcers, and spectators wearing pink that evening. After that first success, the idea spread to rodeos big and small across North America, including the Round-Up.
This year marks the 10-year anniversary of Tough Enough to Wear Pink at the Pendleton Round-Up. It started here when local nurse practitioner Rebecca Hawkins-Zollman saw breast cancer affect her sister-in-law, her mother, many of her patients and herself. She was ready to do something about it and heard about the success of Tough Enough to Wear Pink in Las Vegas.
“It has grown so much over the past 10 years,” she said. “The first year around 30 percent of the stadium was wearing pink and the last few years around 80 or 90 percent wore pink, it is really encouraging to see all the support.”
TETWP committee co-chair Jill Gregg said this year a one-of-a-kind commemorative belt buckle made by Montana Silversmiths will be raffled and a special pink cocktail will be sold in the Let ’er Buck Room, where all the tips will go to the fund.
Around 75 volunteers help out by giving away pink necklaces, selling raffle tickets and selling pink merchandise. The proceeds go to the fund.
“We raised over $26,000 last year, and are hoping to raise even more this year,” said Gregg.
A large group of cancer survivors will be in the Round-Up stadium on Thursday during the rodeo performance to raise awareness of the cause. All of the money raised goes into two local breast cancer organizations: The St. Anthony Special Needs Fund and Kick’n Cancer New Beginnings.
The Needs Fund provides prosthetics, wigs, mastectomy bras, funding and support to local breast cancer patients. The Kick’n Cancer Spirit program funds recovery programs for local cancer survivors.