HITCHCOCK – Galveston County’s rodeo was back in the saddle on Thursday at Jack Brooks Park with a special fundraiser for cancer research.

The Galveston County Fair and Rodeo’s six-week-long Summer Series continued with another night of youth rodeo events, but this Thursday’s installment was a special occasion with the annual fundraiser, which featured a raffle with a golf cart grand prize and a silent auction.

Summer Series rodeo superintendent Larry Hinze helped spearhead the Saddle Up For the Cure event, which donates proceeds to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, after losing his wife to cancer five years ago.

Rodeo patrons were asked to don lavender — the universal awareness color for all cancers — and donate generously to the cause.

Each year, the fundraiser, modeled after the National Finals Rodeo’s “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” campaign, has come just short of its goal of $10,000, but Hinze was optimistic the goal could be reached this year, or, at the very least, the event would come closer than ever.

“It gains interest every year,” Hinze said. “Everybody gets touched by cancer in some way or some form … and we said that if we can help, we want to do it.”

In its 13th year, Hinze recalled how the Summer Series event has grown from humble beginnings to where it is today.

“We started out just giving two saddles away and other tack and stuff like that,” Hinze said. “Now we give four saddles and we give approximately $22-25,000 worth of awards out each year at our awards banquet.”

Kids as young as 3 years old all the way up to 19 years old compete in various rodeo events in the summer series.

The events range from leadline in the pee-wee age group to senior barrel racing for the older kids.

The Summer Series provides a venue for local youth to put their skills on display, whether they want to hone their craft in hopes of making it to the professional rodeo or just want to parlay their sport into college scholarship funds.

Eighteen-year-old Melissa Warrick of Alvin, who has competed in barrel racing since she was 9, is one of those who hopes to make it to the NFR professional circuit one day.

Regardless, Warrick said the hard work that goes into competing and taking care of her horse has already helped her.

“It takes a lot of work and dedication to keep it up,” Warrick said. “I think it puts leadership and more work ethic into kids.”

Six-year-old Abby Moore of Sante Fe, who began taking part in rodeo events at age 3, was one of the youngsters in the pee-wee division’s leadline competition, and, for her, the appeal of rodeo was plain and simple.

“I love horses, and I decided to do it,” Moore said.

The Summer Series, which kicked off June 12, concludes next Thursday. The winners of each event at the rodeo will be honored at an awards ceremony at 5 p.m. July 26 at Ed Pickett Hall. For more information, visit www.galvestoncountyfair.com.

Contact Sports Editor James LaCombe at 409-683-5242 or james.lacombe@galvnews.com.

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