Pink-shirted contestants provide support

St. Helena, Calif. — A rodeo contestant's check list: Boots…check. Chaps…check. Jeans…check. Hat…check. Pink shirt…

There is a lot of gear associated with rodeo contestants and, until now, a pink shirt was not usually on that list. But this year with Sutter Home asking riders, "Are you tough enough to wear pink?," the winery is hoping pink shirts, made by its partner Wrangler, are not just on the list, but on their backs.

As a national television and official sponsor of the 2004 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Sutter Home has designated Dec. 7 as Breast Cancer Awareness Night during the Wrangler NFR in recognition of the Sutter Home for Hope campaign. The campaign, which was established four years ago when breast cancer touched the lives of several women in the Sutter Home family, promotes early detection and treatment of breast cancer.

"Most people think of the rodeo as a predominantly male sport, which is true," says Terry Wheatley, senior vice president of Sutter Home Family Vineyards. "What many don't know is that its audience is predominantly female — more than 50 percent female. With our Sutter Home for Hope Campaign, our mission is to reach women by being where women are and there are a whole lot of women at the rodeo."

The donations will be made based on the number of riders who wear the shirts with 120 contestants competing the night of Dec. 7. For each contestant wearing a pink shirt, a $100 donation will be made. If a pink-shirted contestant wins one of the night's seven events, an additional $1,000 will be donated. According to Wheatley, 100 percent participation by the contestants could translate into a $20,000 donation to City of Hope through the Sutter Home for Hope program.

City of Hope, a world-renowned cancer research and treatment institute located near Los Angeles sponsors the annual Las Vegas Walk for Hope to Cure Breast Cancer every fall.

Contestants are not the only ones at the Wrangler NFR who can help make a difference and support the cause. Rodeo spectators will have the opportunity to receive a pink bracelet stamped with the "Are you tough enough to wear pink?" phrase at the Sutter Home Saloon on-site. Fan attending the rodeo that evening are encouraged to support the cause by also wearing pink. For the most creative show of support, Sutter Home will be offering giveaways.

"Every year nearly 230,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer," says Wheatley, herself a breast cancer survivor. "With early detection, 98 percent of breast cancer can be cured."