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Rodeo tickled pink to fight cancer

Pink is a traditionally feminine color, one that a man may have to provide an excuse for wearing. But at next week’s Kitsap County Rodeo and Stampede, many of the toughest guys in attendance will proudly add the shade to their regular ensemble.

The second annual “Tough Enough to Wear Pink?” campaign represents a joint effort between the county, Wrangler jeans and several local sponsors to raise money to fight cancer.

The program is part of a national campaign in which communities use rodeos as a gathering place in order to conduct the fundraising effort.

The Kitsap Event will take place as part of the rodeo performance at 7 p.m. on Aug. 24 at the Kitsap Fairgrounds and Events Center.

Contributions will be collected at that time, while all attendees are encouraged to wear pink.

“We’re asking people to wear pink to show their support,” said Parks and Recreation Director Chip Faver. “Although we know that it’s not the favored clothing color for the men from 18 to 35 who usually attend rodeos, this is an opportunity to do something different and unique and has the advantage of helping to protect women’s health.

“One of the neatest things they have done here is taking the Marlboro man into the new century,” Faver said. “The guy who was once selling cigarettes is now the same person who is wearing a pink shirt. They’ve changed the perspective entirely.”

While each fundraising campaign follows a similar theme — which mostly involves cowboys and rodeo spectators wearing the color — money raised by each event stays in the community.

Last year, the inaugural campaign raised $6,000, which was donated to the Susan G. Komen foundation. This year the goal increases two and a half times.

Sponsors are hoping to raise $15,000, with the proceeds earmarked locally to improve ancillary treatment at Harrison Medical Center’s Oncology Services.

“The beauty of the program is the ability to keep the money local,” said program coordinator Julie Johnson. “The communities can support any program they want.”

Johnson said the money raised will be used to provide hand massage, guided imagery, music therapy, aromatherapy, a meditation area and a family area.

Amish Touch furniture, with a store in Silverdale, is a primary sponsor, along with the Stampede itself.

The Wrangler company, which is marketing an ornate pink cowboy shirt, is the national sponsor. The idea for the national campaign originated in 2004 from Terry Wheatley, a California entrepreneur and breast cancer survivor, who thought of

the unlikely juxtaposition between cowboys and pink shirts as an attention-getting device.

Wheatley contacted a friend at Wrangler, which had coincidentally planned to produce a pink shirt for the next season. Combined efforts shook 200 shirts loose for the first event, and the garments have become an emblem for the event ever since (and are available at Charly Boots in Silverdale).

The merchandising efforts have grown to include bracelets, pins, bandannas and T-shirts. All will be available at two merchandising points during the fair. Additionally, attendees can purchase tickets that could win them a pair of pink cowboy boots (which were won but never claimed last year by then-Central Kitsap Commissioner Patty Lent).

While eradicating breast cancer seems like an impossible task, Johnson is urging people to get involved — especially since the money raised benefits the local community.

“It’s good to have a goal and a vision,” she said. “It’s what we need to get things started and create some awareness.”

Prevention, she said, is the key. Monthly self-checkups can detect a lump while there is still time to treat the disease, and a healthy diet is also a preventive measure.

And while it is not so common, men can also get breast cancer.

Faver thinks that the county’s involvement in the event benefits all sides.

“This gives us the opportunity to participate in a national referendum against a public enemy,” he said. “There are a lot of different initiatives out there, but this is a way for us to raise people’s awareness through a real simple method that ties to a specific event.”

For more information, go online to www.kitsaprodeo.com, or call (360) 373-9861.

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