Cowboy Up for a Cure Rodeo, UK students take a stand against pediatric cancer

A participant participates in the bareback riding event during the 5th annual Cowboy Up for a Cure Rodeo at Alltech Arena on Saturday, April 7, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Cowboy Up for a Cure was created in 2013 to raise money and awareness for various types of pediatric cancer. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Rafael Silva

The greater UK community, alongside 200 entrants, “cowboyed up” for the fifth time to take a stand against pediatric cancer.

The 2018 annual Cowboy Up for a Cure Rodeo was held Saturday, April 7, at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena. Cowboy Up for a Cure Inc., which hosts the rodeo alongside the UK Chapter of Alpha Gamma Delta and the UK Rodeo Team, began when founder and UK alumna Rebecca Shryock decided to start a nonprofit after her son was diagnosed with pediatric leukemia in 2012.

“Really, what we are just trying to do is to bring awareness to pediatric cancer in comparison to adult onset cancers and how underfunded pediatric cancers are,” Shryock said. “[We’re] really making sure that we support the University of Kentucky’s pediatric oncology unit and UK Children’s Hospital and support these kids and their families as much as possible.”

This year’s rodeo featured more than 200 entrants and plenty of attractions for the whole family, ranging from mechanical bull riding and boot racing to featured rodeo events such as bareback riding, steer racing, bull riding and a greased pig competition for fraternity and sorority volunteers.

“[Student volunteers] do everything besides the actual rodeo,” said UK Alpha Gamma Delta alumna and rodeo coordinator Mackenzie Miller. “We volunteer for face painting, the kid’s zone, we pass out programs, sell tickets, stamp tickets in, work with the different sponsors in making sure that they have different print materials that they could advertise with their logos on them.”

The UK rodeo team, which started five year ago around the same time that Rebecca Shryock’s son was diagnosed with cancer, has been a part of Cowboy Up for a Cure since the beginning of the organization.

“When [Shryock’s son] got sick, he was in remission and we wanted to come up with something,” said Shane Halbleib of the UK rodeo team. “We came up with a rodeo because he’s a cowboy and he battled through cancer like a cowboy.”

Since Cowboy Up began, the nonprofit organization has raised a total of $325,000 for families affected with pediatric cancer, including $200,000 in monetary donations for the UK Pediatric Hematology and Oncology clinic.

The rodeo has been voted the Mid-States Rodeo Association’s “Rodeo of the Year” in 2015 and 2016 and thanks to volunteers and the UK community is continuing to grow bigger and bigger.

“When we are in college we have tunnel vision, we are focused on getting our degree and getting into the workforce and making that money,” Halbleib said. “You kind of lose sight of the bigger picture.”

Halblieb said the rodeo and its charitable aims helps her remember what’s important in life. 

“I hope that everyone can feel like I do,” Halblieb said. “It kind of just gives me a clarity on life in general and that we need to remember what’s important and what we need versus what we want.”