How the West keeps winning: Urban children enjoy a taste of cowboy life | TheFencePost.com
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How the West keeps winning: Urban children enjoy a taste of cowboy life

Lincoln Rogers Parker, Colo.

Urban children don’t often experience the cowboy way of life, but smiles and laughter inside the National Western Complex at the end of April showed they enjoy it when they get a chance.

“Every single person who knew me, stopped me and said, ‘This is a fantastic idea!'” commented Mary Pilcher, program administrator for Whiz Kids Tutoring, a faith-based program aimed at increasing the reading and math skills of at-risk Denver area children.

Pilcher was describing the enthusiastic reaction to her organization’s first ever “Read-Eo,” a western-themed celebration put on for the almost 700 urban kids tutored by Whiz Kids volunteers. While the program holds a celebration for its children and volunteers on an annual basis, this was the first one with a cowboy flavor and, by all accounts, it was a rip-roaring success.

“I liked it better this year,” said one tutor, Kim Gordon, as she compared this party to last year’s. Gordon enjoyed seeing the smiles on every participant’s face during the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. festivities.

“The idea of having animals was great,” she enthused about the horses and goats brought in for children to ride and pet. “The kids really relate to the animals (and) it’s more hands on for them.”

The children’s opinions were similar, with smiles, nods, and one-syllable “Yes!” responses when asked if they were having a good time. While the western idea went over in a big way, it came close to never happening at all.

“It was somewhat accidental,” explained Pilcher about the idea to go cowboy for their big party. The 16-year-old Christian program typically holds its annual event at Denver’s City Park, but this year a decision was made to move the event indoors due to the unpredictable April weather in Colorado. Once they managed to secure the National Western Complex as a site, organization leaders preferred a country theme; they just had no idea how fast it would take on a life of its own.

“We knew we wanted to do a country-themed event, since it was in the National Western Complex,” Pilcher said of the 2006 party’s origin. “We had a friend of a friend who is a cowboy. We contacted that cowboy, and he contacted his cowboy friends. They came up with an idea and ran with it.”

That “friend of a friend” was Greg Dieker, a corporate director of business development who also happens to be a humble team roping cowboy and a rough stock rider in his early rodeo days. When Dieker learned about Whiz Kids and their need to organize something country oriented, he had just one thing to do before agreeing to help.

Pray.

“My friend asked me, ‘We’ve got an idea ” would you be willing to help us?'” recalled Dieker, speaking after the event was completed. “I prayed about it … and made the decision to jump in (and) go for it.”

Jump in, he did. With the Good Lord’s help, Dieker quickly sought the assistance of a rodeo buddy named Gerald Washington, and the pair came up with a plan and a list of events, along with recruiting about 35 salt-of-the-earth volunteers. All that was left was the important step of laying it out for approval in front of the Whiz Kids Board of Directors.

“They were very excited,” said Dieker of initial reaction to the idea of cowboys, cowgirls, horses, goats, ropes, and everything else buckaroo. “I think it was a combination of excitement and terror at the same time,” he corrected himself with a laugh.

It ended up all excitement and no terror for the 1,000 children, siblings, tutors, and parents who showed up to revel in the Saturday activities.

Urban children don’t often experience the cowboy way of life, but smiles and laughter inside the National Western Complex at the end of April showed they enjoy it when they get a chance.

“Every single person who knew me, stopped me and said, ‘This is a fantastic idea!'” commented Mary Pilcher, program administrator for Whiz Kids Tutoring, a faith-based program aimed at increasing the reading and math skills of at-risk Denver area children.

Pilcher was describing the enthusiastic reaction to her organization’s first ever “Read-Eo,” a western-themed celebration put on for the almost 700 urban kids tutored by Whiz Kids volunteers. While the program holds a celebration for its children and volunteers on an annual basis, this was the first one with a cowboy flavor and, by all accounts, it was a rip-roaring success.

“I liked it better this year,” said one tutor, Kim Gordon, as she compared this party to last year’s. Gordon enjoyed seeing the smiles on every participant’s face during the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. festivities.

“The idea of having animals was great,” she enthused about the horses and goats brought in for children to ride and pet. “The kids really relate to the animals (and) it’s more hands on for them.”

The children’s opinions were similar, with smiles, nods, and one-syllable “Yes!” responses when asked if they were having a good time. While the western idea went over in a big way, it came close to never happening at all.

“It was somewhat accidental,” explained Pilcher about the idea to go cowboy for their big party. The 16-year-old Christian program typically holds its annual event at Denver’s City Park, but this year a decision was made to move the event indoors due to the unpredictable April weather in Colorado. Once they managed to secure the National Western Complex as a site, organization leaders preferred a country theme; they just had no idea how fast it would take on a life of its own.

“We knew we wanted to do a country-themed event, since it was in the National Western Complex,” Pilcher said of the 2006 party’s origin. “We had a friend of a friend who is a cowboy. We contacted that cowboy, and he contacted his cowboy friends. They came up with an idea and ran with it.”

That “friend of a friend” was Greg Dieker, a corporate director of business development who also happens to be a humble team roping cowboy and a rough stock rider in his early rodeo days. When Dieker learned about Whiz Kids and their need to organize something country oriented, he had just one thing to do before agreeing to help.

Pray.

“My friend asked me, ‘We’ve got an idea ” would you be willing to help us?'” recalled Dieker, speaking after the event was completed. “I prayed about it … and made the decision to jump in (and) go for it.”

Jump in, he did. With the Good Lord’s help, Dieker quickly sought the assistance of a rodeo buddy named Gerald Washington, and the pair came up with a plan and a list of events, along with recruiting about 35 salt-of-the-earth volunteers. All that was left was the important step of laying it out for approval in front of the Whiz Kids Board of Directors.

“They were very excited,” said Dieker of initial reaction to the idea of cowboys, cowgirls, horses, goats, ropes, and everything else buckaroo. “I think it was a combination of excitement and terror at the same time,” he corrected himself with a laugh.

It ended up all excitement and no terror for the 1,000 children, siblings, tutors, and parents who showed up to revel in the Saturday activities.


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