The spirit of giving back and helping the community has always been integral to Western culture, And the slew of Western-oriented charities is evidence. From American Cowboy’s Feb/March 2012 issue, heres a look at five prominent organizations that work to spread goodwill and good ol American values.

By Lindsay Affleck

Cowboying is a tough go. And despite their independent, can-do nature, cowboys have always gained strength from within tight-knit communities. Though these communities were often spread across great distances, Western settlers would gather for barn raisings, round ups, and social events. This communal tradition continues in everyday cowboy life and has spilled over to the formation of Western-themed charitable organizations across the nation. The strongest faith and values come from within, and long before Gene Autry put it into words, the Cowboy Code and the Christian sentiments that inform its core saw expression in everyday survival in the lawless West. Its just the ranchers way to be grateful for what is, to acknowledge those less fortunate, and to bring awareness to important causes. None of the hard-working and generous people profiled here were philanthropists to begin with. They each had breakthrough experiences that sparked an idea for something greater. Follow their lead to make a positive difference in someones life.

Tough Enough To Wear Pink – Hughson, Calif.

Terry Wheatley, then an executive with Sutter Home Winery, attended the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in 2004 to watch her son, a roper, compete on rodeos main stage. A breast cancer survivor, Wheatley asked her son if he would wear pink in support of breast-cancer awareness and to ask other cowboys to do the same. The response was overwhelming, and Wrangler solved the lack of pink shirts with a special FedEx delivery.

We challenged the cowboys if they were tough enough to wear pink, says Wheatley, who is married to Jim Wheatley, a six-time NFR roper. That first event, every single cowboy wore pink (with the exception of two, who weren6t allowed to because of their sponsors).

She went on to found Tough Enough To Wear Pink (TETWP) in 2004, which has raised more than $10 million for local and national breast-cancer causes. Anyone who wants to host an event can contact TETWP for permission to use the slogan.

I attribute almost all the success to the fact that the funds are kept locally,says Wheatley. The events are created by the independent rodeo committees and some of these folks are quite creative in how they motivate their community to wear pink or support pink during the lead up to their rodeo.

While the individual events decide which breast-cancer initiatives to support, TETWP asks that they report how much was raised and to whom they donated it. Participants have done everything from raffling off pink-painted tractors to dying their hair pink to hosting Pink Glove Dances.

While Wheatley may have passed on day-to-day TETWP operations to her daughter and daughter-in-law (and has since moved on from Sutter Home), she started Purple Cowboy winery, which donates 10 percent of its profits to TETWP.

It proudly states on the back of each label that we support Tough Enough To Wear Pink and the fight against breast cancer, she says.

Wheatley also believes that TETWP plays an important role in highlighting the softer and caring side of the rodeo community – something that can be overlooked during all of the action and excitement at performances. Even though cowboys are known for being macho, they will gladly let their guard down for the well-being of the women in their lives.

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