CLOVIS, Calif. – Big things happen when nearly 100 PRCA team ropers partner up with actor James Pickens Jr. (who plays Dr. Richard Webber on “Grey’s Anatomy”) and the Clovis Rodeo as $24,000 was raised for multiple children’s charities at the James Pickens Jr. Foundation Charity Roping on April 25.
This is the eighth year Pickens has put on the charity roping, and it’s the third year with the Clovis Rodeo. Since then, many PRCA competitors who are making their spring run at Red Bluff and Oakdale swing by the charity roping before competing at the Clovis Rodeo, which starts on April 28.
“They were very responsive to what we’re trying to do and it’s been a great partnership,” Pickens said. “Our concerns for the kids were the same – we wanted to see them elevated and their value highlighted in society, and these charities focus on at-risk youth in the urban areas of LA. That’s a perfect fit for us.
“We were just hoping we could draw some attention to the charities, but from Day 1 the PRCA guys I’ve made a relationship with were on board right away. They believed in what we were doing and they spread the word as it being the place to go. We had 50 teams at the first one, and now we’re almost double that, with the best guys in the business – it’s more than we could have dreamed.
“It’s become a destination for guys on the spring run on the West Coast, and that’s a testament to how we treat them and try to make them feel appreciated and that their efforts don’t go unnoticed. I’ve been an actor for 30 years – closer to 40 – but to do what they do on a daily basis is tough, but they’ve been positive and constructive on what we’re trying to do.”
Camp Gid D Up provides an opportunity for inner-city and at-risk youth to experience a Western-style summer camp on a real ranch. Campers learn and interact with nature for three days near Lake Hughes, Calif. During that time, they learn to rope, ride horses, ride a bucking machine, hike, camp and partake in other outdoor activities.
The camp has been active for nearly 20 years and more than 90 percent of the former campers have changed their lifestyle to reflect a more positive direction – gone to college, became counselors, attended technical school, joined the military or got a job.
The roping’s other major benefactor, Hands4Hope LA, provides support to at-risk youth from low-income households to improve their quality of life through free S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) based after-school programs, a low-cost academic summer camp, and semi-annual single parent resource fairs.
Thanks to the charity roping, these groups have been able to pay their bills, and the event itself has drawn attention to the cause, Pickens said.
“There are great organizations doing the same thing, but in a community like Clovis, where it’s small and agriculturally based, we wanted to draw attention to kids who did great things and the people focusing on these kids, and so we thought of the Clovis Rodeo Foundation and we hitched our wagon to theirs,” Pickens said.
Hands4Hope LA brought several kids to the roping for a breath of fresh air and their first rodeo experience.
“They’d never been to a rodeo and never been to a team roping, and they were really fascinated by it,” Pickens said.
There were 96 teams competing – among the bunch were PRCA cowboys Junior Nogueira, Cody Snow, Jake Barnes, Tom Richards, Russell Cardoza, Ty Blasingame and Brandon Bates.
“We had the crème de la crème,” Pickens said.
Check back with prorodeo.com on April 27 to find out about the first John W. Jones Sr. Memorial Steer Wrestling, and how Rodeo Clovis contributes $200,000 to several charities in the central California region.
Courtesy of PRCA