KATHY ANEY from The East Oregonian reports
Before Terry Wheatleys life became awash in pink she had a double mastectomy at the age of 48.
The founder of Tough Enough to Wear Pink had already lost her grandmother to breast cancer and watched her mother beat the disease.
Wheatley loves the National Finals Rodeo where her husband Jim and son Wade have made six trips apiece. Combining skills as a marketer her love of rodeo and a keen desire to focus attention on breast cancer she envisioned tough rodeo cowboys wearing pink at NFR.
Wheatley sat in the Pendleton Round-Ups west grandstands Thursday morning with her 11-month-old granddaughter asleep on her chest. As she watched ropers perform during slack she talked about the evolution of TETWP.
The wine company executive started small asking her son if he would be willing to wear a pink shirt during his appearance at the national rodeo.
Id wear a pink shirt if I had one he told her but Im not sure the other guys would do it.
She tapped Wranglers Karl Stressman to rush a shipment of pink shirts to Las Vegas for the rodeo. Stressman TETWP co-founder had the shirts air freighted. At the time the Wrangler execs wife Val was in the middle of fighting a battle with breast cancer.
Wheatley and Stressman sat back to see if the shirts they had procured would actually make it into the arena.
We went into the finals not really knowing if any of the guys would wear their pink shirts she said.
As the rodeo proceeded their smiles just got bigger.
Every single cowboy in the entire rodeo wore pink that night Wheatley said.
During that maiden pink campaign the crowd donated $50000 for breast cancer awareness. Since that TETWP has become a staple at rodeos around the nation and total earnings have grown to $7.5 million.
This year our goal is to reach the $9 million mark Wheatley said.
She thinks one reason the campaign caught fire is because the money collected stays local. In Pendleton for example TETWP supports the Breast Cancer Care Program at St. Anthony Hospital and the Cancer Community Renewal Project which pays for wellness activities such as yoga and massage.
Wheatley looked out into the arena where her son and other ropers sported pink.
Its a sign of solidarity by the cowboys Wheatley said. Most of them most everyone knows someone whos been affected by breast cancer.
Wheatley believes the pink campaign draws new fans into the grandstands.
It really does show the softer side of rodeo she said. Theres a halo effect from it.
This is only Wheatleys second trip to Pendleton but she said her husband and son come regularly.
This is their favorite rodeo in the nation she said. This is the rodeo that never lost the old rodeo ways.
Since launching TETWP the California businesswoman started her own wine company Purple Cowboy wines. The company donates a dollar to TETWP for every case of wine it sells.