you tough enough to wear pink, cowboy?
By Michelle Johnson
December 12, 2008 | Pink isn't exactly a color that
is usually associated with strength, yet the question
has been raised, are you tough enough to wear pink?
Cowboys and cowgirls throughout the United States have
set out to prove that they are tough enough to wear
pink by showing their support to find the cure for breast
Terry Wheatley, an entrepreneur, cowgirl, and breast
cancer survivor, came from a long line of breast cancer
victims. She lost her grandmother to the disease, her
mother had a double mastectomy before the age of 40,
and her daughter had undergone two surgical biopsies
before she was 20. Wheatley was not the only one in
the western industry directly affected by the cancer.
Karl Stressman was the Director of Special Events for
Wrangler and a close business associate of Wheatley.
Stressman's wife was also fighting breast cancer. Wheatley
said, "It seemed as if everyone I knew was affected.
I felt a very strong need to somehow take action." That
is how the Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign was born
Wheatley couldn't think of any way to make a bigger
statement than to have the competitors and fans to wear
pink during one of the ten rounds of the Wrangler National
Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nev., the most prestigious
rodeo in the world. With only three weeks to get things
in order, two obstacles stood in the way: not knowing
if the contestants of the rough sport could be convinced
to wear pink shirts, and how to make the pink cowboy
shirts available. Whether or not the cowboys and cowgirls
would wear the shirts would remain a question until
the night of the event, but Stressman just happened
to have the connections to find shirts. Wrangler had
pink shirts in production for the spring of 2005 but
they weren't supposed to be delivered until after the
new year. After a few phone calls, Stressman had 200
pink shirts in rush production and then air-freighted
directly to Las Vegas just in time for the rodeo.
When the night of the Tough Enough to Wear Pink performance
finally came, Wheatley was extremely nervous. She wondered
if it was possible to persuade rodeo's toughest competitors
to wear such a feminine color on one of the biggest
nights of their careers. Her nerves were soon laid to
rest when pink flooded into the Thomas and Mack Center
as spectators took their seats and contestants rode
into the arena. Wheatley described the overwhelming
sight as a "sea of pink in the Thomas and Mack Arena."
The Tough Enough to Wear Pink performance at the 2004
Wrangler National Finals Rodeo received media attention
beyond what anybody expected and spread breast cancer
awareness even further than Wheatley had hoped for.
The Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign grew into a program
raising more than awareness, though. Soon Wrangler was
joined in their efforts by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys
Association and several other major rodeo sponsors as
well as the entire western industry and funds were being
raised for research, awareness, education, screening
and treatment of breast cancer for the millions of American
victims affected by the disease.
During the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2006
Terry Wheatley accepted a check for $1 million from
Wrangler on behalf of the breast cancer research community.
That money was a result of combined efforts of the entire
western industry, generous donors, and rodeos held throughout
the United States. Humbled by the response to her hope
to simply raise awareness for breast cancer Wheatley
said, "There is so much support, we can barely keep
up. It is uplifting to witness the efforts of this collaboration
reach $1 million in donations and see how our hard work
is paying off."
That amount has continued to increase and rodeo fans
anxiously await the unveiling of the amount totaled
for 2008. This year's Tough Enough to Wear Pink performance
at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo was Wednesday.
Wheatley hoped the amount of money raised will continue
to grow along with the number of successful outcomes
for those who have or will be diagnosed with breast
Efforts haven't stopped there, though. Not only has
such a great amount of money been raised on a national
level, but smaller rodeos across the United States have
done their part to make a difference as well. Tough
Enough to Wear Pink performances are becoming more common
at local rodeos to benefit local charities or victims.
"The great thing about Tough Enough to Wear Pink is
that we're raising money not only for renowned national
organizations such as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer
Foundation, but we're also raising money on a local
level to benefit community-based charities," said Stressman.
"Because of the 'every little bit helps' attitude of
small towns across the country who are doing anything
and everything they can to help, Tough Enough to Wear
Pink has taken off in ways we only hoped for when we
launched this program."
To show that you are tough enough to wear pink and
to help raise funds and awareness for breast cancer
you can purchase Tough Enough to Wear Pink merchandise
at any western apparel store or learn more by visiting