The two riders who enter the Roundup Rodeo arena following the pomp and ceremony of Saturday night's grand entry won't be competing, but they'll be received as champions nevertheless.


The two riders who enter the Roundup Rodeo arena following the pomp and ceremony of Saturday night's grand entry won't be competing, but they'll be received as champions nevertheless.

     Marsha Webber and Shayla Sauser will hold a victory banner high as they circle the ring, and more than a few cowboys might blink back a few tears as the riders pass

    That's because Webber and Sauser's ride will celebrate more than their own triumph over cancer — the ride is also a tribute to the struggles fought and victories won by countless others who face down cancer every day.

    Six of the foot soldiers in this war have shown Dodge City what a small band of determined women can accomplish — especially when they have won the backing of an entire community. Every year at the Roundup Rodeo, Mary Trotter, Pat Shrader, Colleen Hastings, Kelly Tassett, Emily Shultz and Shayla Sauser organize a big fundraising drive to raise money for local cancer patients and their families, and every year the Roundup Rodeo cowboys and the community come through with thousands of dollars, which is donated to Circle of Hope.

    In just a few years, Tough Enough to Wear Pink has become so well-known in Dodge City, that the color pink is now virtually synonymous with both the rodeo and Dodge City Days.

     "I think one reason we get such a powerful response is that everybody has been affected by this disease in one way or another. It touches all our lives," said Trotter on Friday, as she clamped a bright pink cowboy hat on her head and looked through her notes. "At some point, everyone knows someone who has cancer and that's an experience that people understand."

    Trotter said she thinks that cowboys in particular respond to Tough Enough because the organization provides them with an opportunity to contribute to a community that doesn't always understand them.

    "Cowboys want to give back, just like most people do, but they haven't always had a way to do that," said Trotter. "They appreciate being able to make a difference in a way that shows the public the kind of values cowboys really have."

    Trotter's crew will be visible throughout Dodge City Days, starting with a booth at the barbecue following today's big parade. Throughout the week, the group will sell a wide variety of pink items from its booth, which will also display the coveted pair of pink leather chaps destined for auction next Saturday night. That's when Tough Enough's crowning event will take place in the Roundup Rodeo arena.

    "That's our big night — we pass the hats and auction off the chaps," said Trotter. "All of our sponsors will be at the arena, and their employees will pass the hats through the crowd. The sponsors will match the money collected, up to $2,500, so that can make a huge difference. We really count on the support of the community."

    As crucial as the hat passing is to meeting the goal, the most exciting part of the night arrives when cowboys wearing pink receive their extra $100 for winning an event — and then donate it right back to Tough Enough.

Reach Claire O'Brien at (620)408-9931 or e-mail her at claire.obrien@dodgeglobe.com