Cowboy church, pink night, memorial and Zip Gordon fund-raiser a part of rodeo’s finale
CLAREMORE, Okla. – A rodeo cowboy is the epitome of tough.
It takes a great level of toughness to ride bucking horses or wrestle steers. It takes a great level of toughness to drive hundreds of miles in a single stretch to get from one event to another.
But they have nothing on people battling cancer, and cowboys and cowgirls recognize that. That’s why most that make their living in rodeo support the Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign, which helps raise money and awareness in the fight against cancer. It also is why organizers of the Will Rogers Stampede are including a pink night during this year’s rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Friday, May 24-Sunday, May 26, at the Will Rogers Round Up Club Arena in Claremore.
“We’ve got a lot of things planned for our Sunday night performance, and we really wanted to include the Tough Enough to Wear Pink night into that great evening,” said David Petty, chairman of the volunteer rodeo committee. “We also want to honor cancer survivors in addition to raising awareness about the ways to fight the disease.”
It’s not the only disease the rodeo is hoping to battle. During the performance, volunteers also will be passing around pink boots to raise funds for the International Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressive Association. Zip Gordon is 5 years old, but he has been diagnosed with FOP; also known as stone man disease, the debilitating genetic disorder causes bone to form in muscle and connective tissue, potentially creating a second skeleton that severely restricts movement.
“FOP affects 1 in 2 million people,” said his mother, Amy Gordon. “They’re close to a cure. Until a cure is found, we will continue to raise money.”
The Gordons are conducting another fund-raiser in which they are drawing for a Jeep Wrangler, provided by Melton Motors.
“All of the funds from the Jeep will go toward research,” she said, noting that there are three cases of FOP in Oklahoma, including another in Rogers County. “The funds from the event and the auction items will go to IFOPA, because as a family, IFOPA is important to us. They do a fantastic job in what they do.
“Still, 85 percent of the money goes to research. Until a cure is found, we have to keep raising awareness.”
Of course, the Gordons have received great support from others in Claremore and Rogers County.
“The community has been there so many ways,” Amy Gordon said. “So many people want to be part of the community, but they don’t know how. This is something they can be involved with. It’s a little boy, and everybody can relate to a little boy.
“We have just been astounded as to how they stepped up. They look at this little guy as our guy, and we’re not going to go until we have a cure.”
More information can be found on a special website established for Zip, www.ZipperQ.com. They can also sign up for the Jeep drawing at the rodeo, and they need not be present to win. It’s just one way to celebrate a community that has reached out, but that’s what the rodeo is all about.
“Sunday night is also our Rogers County Memorial Night, and we will have a special tribute to three prominent individuals: Clem Rogers, Will Rogers and Clem McSpadden. I think the rodeo being on Memorial Day weekend fits right into this theme, and I believe we should honor those that have made our area what it is.”
It’s a great tie-in to the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore, which is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. every day of the year.
“This is the 75th anniversary of the Will Rogers Memorial,” said Steve Gragert, the museum’s director. “This tribute at the rodeo is a way to recognize individuals that were key to the museum and key to Oklahoma.
“The rodeo is representative of Will Rogers. The last day he spent in California before he left to Alaska, he was at a rodeo. They had competitions that he was involved in – roping competitions and cowboy competitions – and they were a key part of his life that would take him into the entertainment world. Rodeos were an important part of his life.”
But that’s just a small sampling of a bountiful evening of fellowship, entertainment and competition. A cowboy church service will take place inside the arena at 6:30 p.m., and all fans that arrive prior to 7 p.m. will be admitted for free.
“Our church service is sponsored by our Northeast Oklahoma Baptist Church Association, the Oklahoma Area of Cowboy Churches, Cowboy Gathering Church in Inola, Cowboy Junction in Vinita, Cowboy Capital Fellowship in Lenapah and Cowboy Up Cowboy Church in Owasso,” Petty said. “This is the fourth year of having a cowboy church service before our final performance, and I think it’s been a success. I think it’s good that we join our faith with our rodeo.”