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Today's word on journalism

January 13, 2009

Breakneck:

"I get the feeling that the 24-hour news networks are like the bus in the movie 'Speed.' If they stop talking for a second, they think they'll blow up."

--Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, 2008 (Thanks to alert WORDster Ross Martin)

Speak up! Comment on the WORD at

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Feedback and suggestions --printable and otherwise --always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Are 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 cancer.

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 in 2004.

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 cancer.

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 toughenoughtowearpink.com.

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