Rodeo unites campus, community

Theta chi’s Jeff Grayson jumps over a pig during the greased pig competition. Photo by Taylor Pence

Lexington Souers

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The buzz of halogen lights filtered through puffs of dust as horse and rider pounded across the arena. 

The lariat whipped through the air to wrap around the neck of a racing calf, and the real sport began. 

Calf-roping, a classic staple in rodeo competition, ends in a calf being roped and hog-tied, and the calf must stay tied for six seconds before the run is successful. The event was among 10 performed at Saturday night’s Cowboy Up for a Cure Rodeo (CUFAC), hosted by Alpha Gamma Delta Fraternity for Women, FarmHouse Fraternity and the UK Rodeo Team. 

Having packed the Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena on Saturday night, the event filled up the 5,700 seats and left many spectators in standing room only. 

“We knew based on pre-sale tickets we would be close, hopefully, to selling out, but you’ve always got to knock on wood,” said marketing and management senior Ben Taylor, overall rodeo chair and member of FarmHouse Fraternity. “But to be completely full and see cars piling in, I couldn’t be more happy for CUFAC, … the UK (Providing Assistance with School Program) and the UK Clinic.” 

While the organization won’t know a total for a few days, there was over $65,000 in ticket sales. 

The money raised through ticket sales, sponsorships and other fundraising opportunities, like a boot pass, where boots are filled with donations as they are passed through the rodeo stands, will go to UK’s DanceBlue Hematology and Oncology Clinic. More specifically, the money is for the PAWS Program, a part of UK’s DanceBlue Clinic that helps ease families and patients back into normal life, and a school intervention specialist, who helps to bridge the gap between school and treatment. 

The specialist associated with CUFAC, Courtney Emery, prepared an individualized learning plan for Drew Shryock, the inspiration behind CUFAC, and does so for every patient at the clinic.

UK alumna Rebecca Shryock started CUFAC when her son Drew was diagnosed with leukemia at 4 years old, but the idea of a rodeo came three years ago when her Greek organization, Alpha Gamma Delta, partnered with FarmHouse Fraternity and the UK Rodeo Team. 

“When Drew was diagnosed, the first people behind me were my sisters and some I hadn’t talked to in years,” Shryock said. “It didn’t matter, and it never will matter.” 

Shryock said she hopes the Rodeo sheds “a lot of light, not only on the Greek system, but the Greek system at the University of Kentucky,” and allows the community to remove some of the stereotypes placed on Greek organizations.

“It amazes me how driven these collegiates are … because often times they’re full time students, they hold jobs, they have commitments within their sorority or fraternity, they have boyfriends or girlfriends,” Shryock said. “They have all these things going on, but then they are the first to step in and volunteer for something like this, which is like another full time job.”

For Shryock’s fraternity sister Sherri Eden, a member of CUFAC’s advisory board, the event is about more than just serving AGD’s ideals. 

“On UK’s campus, we are tasked with the opportunity to serve DanceBlue,” Eden said of Alpha Gamma Delta. “Internationally, we’re tasked with being able to contribute to our international foundation and philanthropic focus.”

Eden has been a part of CUFAC for three years, since its beginning.

“We would love to grow to a bigger venue, but in the meantime, we are at the horse park,” Eden said. “We are raising money for the (Kentucky) Children’s Hospital and programs, and we definitely have the support of the community.”

As for the future, Addison Lowry, Alpha Gamma Delta rodeo chair and executive director, said the organization hopes to grow in donations and to implement more school intervention specialists.

“(Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is) very similar to chemo brain,” said Lowry, a business junior. “So we’re trying to do research on kids with FAS and figure out a way to combat chemo brain like they do with FAS.” 

Eden said the event would not be as successful with out the help of Adam Menker, director of rodeo operations. 

“I don’t think he’s slept since Tuesday, and I bet he won’t until he gets all of the (area) cleaned up to his specification,” Eden said.

Menker coordinated the entry and arrival of riders and their horses, livestock and medicals checks, boarding of both people and horses, floor and event area care, and hanging banners and setting up stock pens, and he also managed families’ and riders’ travel arrangements.

As the dust began to settle on the arena floor, describing the moment was hard for Shryock.

“Emotionally, it just means a lot to me,” she said. “We can’t talk about that, because I’ll cry.” 

Instead, Shryock pulled up a picture of her smiling son, tears welling in her eyes.

Editor’s Note- The Altech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park holds 5,700 individuals not 57,000. As well, FarmHouse Fraternity was misspelled.