Tough Enough to Wear Pink provides a nationally-recognized campaign and framework for rodeos and western events to help them promote breast cancer awareness and fundraising to benefit their local communities.
Tough Enough to Wear Pink Background Release
(866) 910-PINK (7465)
Are you Tough Enough to Wear Pink?
Tough Enough to Wear Pink was created by entrepreneur and breast cancer survivor Terry Wheatley in 2004 with Karl Stressman, former director of special events for Wrangler and former commissioner of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PCRA) to bring the sport of professional rodeo and the western community together to rally against breast cancer. Wrangler is the title sponsor of Tough Enough To Wear Pink.
Since its inception in 2004, TETWP has empowered rodeos and western events in the U.S. and Canada to focus attention on the need for a cure. To date, the campaign has raised over $35 million dollars for breast cancer charities, much of which stays right in the community. The grassroots movement has inspired other sports communities to mount their own TETWP campaigns, spreading a message of hope and support that reaches beyond the rodeo arena to competitors, families and fans across America.
How it all began
In 2004, Terry was looking forward to attending the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas as she had for many years. Her son Wade Wheatley was a consistent WNFR finalist in team roping (header) and her husband Jim had been a six-time WNFR team roping qualifier himself. Terry was a senior executive at a major wine company sponsoring the WNFR telecast.
But Terry had recently undergone breast cancer surgery and, although things looked positive, it was on her mind. She had lost her grandmother to breast cancer, her mother had a double mastectomy before the age of 40 and her daughter Katie had undergone two surgical biopsies before the age of 20.
“It seemed as if everyone I knew was affected” recalls Terry. “I felt a very strong need to somehow take action.”
Terry realized from her own situation that early diagnosis and treatment was key to a successful outcome. She toyed with some ideas to rally the rodeo and western community to get that message across. And then the big one hit. What if, on one night of rodeo’s greatest spectacle, the competitors could be convinced to wear pink shirts? Not a color normally associated with rugged events such as bull riding and steer wrestling, but that was the point. That was how to make a statement. Broadcast on national television, no less. All she had to do was make it happen. In three weeks.
Rodeo world to the rescue
Finding pink cowboy shirts proved to be the next challenge. Enter Karl Stressman and Wrangler who just happened to have pink shirts in production for the spring, 2005 line. Problem was they weren’t scheduled to be delivered until the new year. With a few strategically placed phone calls, Karl arranged a special rush production of 200 shirts to be air-freighted directly to Las Vegas just in time for the rodeo.
Terry needed to get the challenge out to the cowboys – and fast. The Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association (PRCA) jumped in to help, disseminating information about the pink shirt campaign to the finalists. Son Wade his part too, spreading the world to his fellow cowboys and cowgirls.
“I gladly accepted the challenge in support of my mom, but I sure couldn’t predict what the others would do. After all, it was a pink shirt” explained Wade.
And he might very well have been the only cowboy wearing one that night. Wade wasn’t sure – nobody was – if the world’s toughest cowboys would rally to the cause. Would they be Tough Enough to Wear Pink?
That question was answered once and for all as the competitors and spectators turned the Thomas & Mack Arena into a sea of pink that night. To the thrill of Terry, Karl and everybody who helped make it happen, one after another pink-shirted cowboys and cowgirls galloped into the arena sporting the color of breast cancer awareness. The campaign received plenty of media attention, spreading the word even further.
Bigger and better
The campaign is now in its fifteenth year and continues to grow.
A notable example of the grassroots efforts is the #1 PRCA rodeo fundraiser, Cattlemen’s Days Rodeo in Gunnison, Colo. A long-time Top Five Wrangler TETWP fundraiser, the Gunnison western community has raised more than $4 million over the years to support the fight against breast cancer in their hometown.
Wrangler continues to be the campaign’s title sponsor. Additional partner support comes from Purple Cowboy Wines, Montana Silversmiths, Twisted X Boots, the PRCA, Las Vegas Events, Cinch and many others in the western industry.
A percentage of profits from TETWP endorsed products supports breast cancer charities. The national TETWP campaign “charity of choice” is Breast Cancer Research Foundation – www.bcrfcure.org.
Lacey Wheatley, Terry Wheatley’s daughter-in-law, is the Director of Wrangler TETWP and coordinates with rodeos and other non-rodeo organizations to create the pink-themed fundraisers.