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Chicks N Chaps: Funding the Fight Against Breast Cancer

03/22/2016 11:00AM ● By Kimberly Boney

Barn Raising

April 2016

Story by Kimberly Boney

On a cold, crisp October evening, a small group of women gathered, each of them holding fast
to a pink balloon with the name of a loved one handwritten on it. Standing in a circle, they each took a moment to honor the special someone they had lost to breast cancer, speaking their names aloud before releasing the balloons into the starry night sky. It was the perfect close to the very first Party in Pink, an event dedicated to sharing the importance of early detection of breast cancer, one that Linda Hicklin created to honor a lifelong friend, Marie Long, who had lost her battle just a few short months before.  

What began in 2009 as “just a few friends getting together” to open up an important dialogue on women’s health while raising money to support local women walking through the fire of breast cancer, grew to include nearly 75 women from all walks of life. They gathered in the Old Shasta Schoolhouse, listening to the first-hand account of a woman who had survived. There were pink cupcakes, pink tablecloths, raffle items and women of all ages wearing pink in solidarity. The blackboard of the old schoolhouse, filled with special messages to survivors and lost loved ones alike, was evidence that cancer had touched each and every one of them.

But after three years of being a one-woman operation, Hicklin realized that trying to coordinate an event of this magnitude on her own was a recipe for exhaustion. It was then, in 2011, that she stumbled on an email that would redirect her path. Norcal Think Pink had sent a notification that the Redding Rodeo Association and Auxillary were looking for volunteers for Chicks n Chaps, a national organization that was putting down roots on the West Coast for the first time, right here in the North State.

Chicks n Chaps got its start in Missoula, Mont., in spring 2008. Shannone Hart founded Chicks n Chaps to help to offset the costs associated with breast cancer treatment for women like her mother, who was undergoing chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.

Hart had a chance to meet the chairman of the Missoula Stampede and pitched the unique idea of teaching the women in attendance about the rodeo while raising funds for breast cancer. With only three months to plan, Hart and her co-organizer, Staci Flynn, managed to gather 170 women for an event that raked in $20,000 for Tough Enough to Wear Pink of Montana. 

During the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Hart approached a member of the Redding Rodeo Association to see if they would be willing to promote the first West Coast chapter of Chicks n Chaps. It was then that Laurie Alexander, vice president of the Redding Rodeo Association Auxiliary, was set on her own new path. Alexander would be responsible for figuring out how to incorporate this organization into the local Redding Rodeo dynamic in support of local women during their struggles to overcome breast cancer.

Alexander knows those struggles personally. In 1998, she lost her sister in law, Marcella, to the disease. Alexander’s mother, who has had breast cancer three times in a 10-year span, is in the end stage of the disease. “I want these women to understand that they are not alone. I want to be there for them – to give them a sense of sisterhood.” 

“The first year, we had about 40 ladies. We really didn’t know how it was all going to work out,” says Alexander. But with strong support from Linda and Carl Bott of KCNR 1460’s Free Fire Radio, Sierra Pacific Industries and Signarama, among others, Chicks n Chaps has become a fixture at the Redding Rodeo. 

“Until this year, we could only get grandstand seats in the south. This is Chicks n Chaps’ fifth year, and this time around, the event will be taking place in Rodeo Flats – and that’s prime rodeo real estate. We have new challenges to overcome each year, but it keeps growing and taking on its own life. If we didn’t have this amazing group of women, small and mighty as we are, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” says Alexander.   

This year’s event on May 20 at the Redding Rodeo’s Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night will provide attendees with an opportunity to learn some viable information on early detection of breast cancer, in addition to hearing from a breast cancer survivor. John Growney and some local cowboys will be presenting some rodeo fun-damentals, in addition to other highlights, including a stick horse barrel race, raffles, a live auction, food and drinks. And no ladies’ night would be complete without a swag bag full of everything a girl needs to feel fabulous, including a stylish commemorative t-shirt. 

All proceeds from Chicks n Chaps will benefit local women through Mercy Foundation North, Norcal Think Pink and Redding Rodeo Auxillary’s Helping Hands, in addition to the survivor who will share her story at the event. 

Chicks n Chaps • Friday, May 20

Tickets $75 (includes rodeo admission); 

available through May 1 • (530) 945-4556