A Stampede tradition …
by Molly Johnson
Fence Post Intern
It’s truly amazing what the human spirit can conquer … like cancer that plagues young hearts. Hearts that should be carefree and full of life, but instead are not because of an awful disease. Most every family has dealt with the deadly disease that so often claims the lives of loved ones. So many have been lost to the losing battle against cancer.
While the Greeley Independence Stampede isn’t doing multi-million dollar research for a cure to cancer, they are giving local cancer victims a chance to experience a “behind the scenes” look at what really goes on at the Stampede. It’s become a tradition at the Stampede to host cancer kids from Colorado. Dick and Cheryl Lookhart host and plan the event. These kids have a special place in their hearts. Both Dick and Cheryl had daughters who had brain cancer. Unfortunately, Dick lost his daughter, but Katie Beets, Cheryl’s daughter, has survived her cancer.
Along with seven cancer kids, family members and Stampede staff set out for a day of fun at the Stampede. First, the cancer kids received straw cowboy hats from Fort Worth Hatters to shade them from the hot sun, and let me tell you, it was hot, a whoppin’ 106 degrees outside.
The kids also had their turn at riding Big Edd, the Giant Steer. They had to use a ladder to climb onto his back, but all seven fit up there. After visiting with Big Edd, the group headed over to meet Cairo the camel, the newest addition to the Stampede. Cairo gave all the cancer kids rides and posed for his picture with all the kids lined up on his back.
Ducks, rabbits, miniature horses and pigs scrambled around the arena as the cancer kids and their families decided which one to catch first in the petting zoo.
After a cool-down break in Gold Spur City, the kids headed out to the carnival, but not before they took a ride in a two-horse hitch driven by world famous Belgian horse driver, Dick Sparrow.
Sparrow, also a cancer victim, was suffering last year from Leukemia and was not able to attend Stampede.
However, after a long battle, he has conquered the disease and is now back to business ” driving his Belgians. Sparrow is known for driving a 40-horse hitch in the Milwaukee parade, his favorite memory of driving horses, he said.
Following their exciting day at the Stampede, the cancer kids were invited to ride in the rodeo as special guests. The kids drove around waving from the backs of Dodge pick-ups as a short personal story was told about each victim’s fight with cancer.
Their faces were beaming with smiles, though some of them were probably didn’t feel like smiling. Some of the kids had traveled to the Stampede that afternoon right after treatments, others were tired from the hot day full of activities, but nonetheless, their waving hands inspired the crowd to clap, for they knew these children have been through so much more than any other children their age.
For now, they are living life to the fullest in hope that each tomorrow will bring a new ray of hope in their fights against cancer.