A Golden Experience

Brentwood youngster and family enjoy rodeo time, courtesy the Franklin Rodeo

The Caldwell family poses with world champion tie-down roper Caleb Smidt during the Golden Circle of Champions in Las Vegas. From left to right, son Cam Caldwell, Smidt, Lane Caldwell, Gina Caldwell, and Eli Caldwell. Photo courtesy Gina Caldwell.

Franklin, Tenn. – A Brentwood boy and his family got the experience of a lifetime earlier this month.

Lane Caldwell and his parents, Cam and Gina, and younger brother Eli, were guests of the Golden Circle of Champions, a non-profit focused on raising awareness about childhood cancer and the challenges families fighting this battle face.

This year, twenty children champions and their families were sponsored by pro rodeos across the nation, who pay for the child and his or her family to travel to Las Vegas the weekend of December 9.

The Franklin Rodeo hosted Lane and his family, and while in Las Vegas, the Caldwell family got to do several new experiences: hike in the desert, attend magic and acrobatic shows and attend the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

But the most memorable experience was being paired with pro rodeo cowboy Caleb Smidt, who is a four-time (and reigning) world champion tie-down roper.

While with Smidt, Lane and his brother Eli learned how to rope and got some practice in. Lane’s Christmas list from Santa has been changed; he now wants a roping dummy, so he can practice his roping.

The ten-year-old boy, who lives in Brentwood, Tenn., was diagnosed with medulloblastoma in October of 2022 and underwent surgery, radiation and chemotherapy at Vanderbilt University and St. Jude Hospital. His last treatment was in May of this year.

Lane Caldwell was paired up with world champion rodeo cowboy Caleb Smidt during the Golden Circle of Champions event, held in Las Vegas, for children who have undergone treatment for cancer. Photo courtesy Gina Caldwell.

The trip served as a welcome distraction for Lane’s parents. Lane is scanned every three months for the next two years. His last scans in June and September were clear, and his next scan is Dec. 19.

The thought of scans doesn’t bother Lane, his mom Gina said, but for her and Cam, it’s always in the back of their minds.

“The weeks leading up (to the scans) are tough,” she said. “It’s definitely tough to manage that anxiety because it creeps in about two weeks before, and it sits with you.”

She and Cam, while in Vegas, looked back on what they were going through a year ago, with Lane in treatment. “He was very sick during radiation, and it was tough being away from family,” she said. “And a year later we’re hiking” in Nevada. “We feel very blessed for how far he’s come in a year.”

She and Cam are grateful for the opportunities provided them by the Golden Circle of Champions. “They really wrapped these kids up and made them feel special,” she said. “Even with my younger son, they included him in everything. It was truly a blessing, and we were so fortunate to be able to do it.” The family has a younger daughter, Ella, who is four years old and stayed home with grandparents during the trip.

The Franklin Rodeo provided funding for transportation for the family to get to and from Las Vegas and spending money as well, and Gina and Cam learned more about the rodeo committee and its purpose.

“People in the rodeo community are good people who want to give back,” she said, “who want to help. Going through something like we’ve been through, it’s hard, but we’ve been so blessed to be surrounded by really good people who want to help.

“It’s hard not to be positive when you see that. Things like this mean a lot to us, and to the families. The year that Lane has had, to be made to feel special, and have an extra treat, and a perk. The things this organization does for the kids, it makes a really big difference.”

1Next year’s Franklin Rodeo is May 16-18, 2024 at the Williamson Co. Ag Expo Park. Tickets go on sale in March. For more information, visit

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