Golden Circle

Dec 26, 2022

Golden Circle

By Susan Kanode

                  Sometimes the littlest things make the biggest difference and that was certainly the case at the Golden Circle of Champions held in conjunction with the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) on Sunday. 

                  A select group of the WNFR contestants took time out of their busy schedules to spend with children that are fighting cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Then those contestants honored the children by wearing gold at the fourth performance of the rodeo. 

                  Half of the 20 children came from Clark County and were sponsored by the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation. The remaining 10 were from across the country and were sponsored by rodeo committees that are participating in the fight against pediatric cancer. The children and their families were treated to a day away from hospitals, treatment, and doctors. 

                  “It’s a really special time for everyone involved,” said Tina Tonascia, organizer of the event. “It’s a highlight for the kids and their families. Everybody pays attention to them and treats them like the champions that they are.” 

                  Golden Circle of Champions started in 2016 at the Santa Maria (California) Elks Rodeo. Since 2018, they have been having an event in conjunction with the NFR. In Las Vegas, they partner with the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation. There were 110 volunteers on site that did everything from rolling out the red carpet and filling goody bags to decorating and chaperoning families.  

                  Rodeo contestants’ days here are filled with sponsor appearances, family time and if they are lucky, they might fit in a nap. Prior to the fourth performance, a big group of those contestants made the decision not to take a nap and spent time with the children at the Golden Circle of Champions. 

The children were joined by their families at the Tuscany Suites and Casino where they got to participate in mock rodeo events, had lunch with the contestants, walked the red carpet and got new cowboy hats, gift bags and treatment like the champions they are. And then they got to attend the NFR and watch their cowboy and cowgirl heroes. 

Half of the kids came from the Las Vegas area and the other half were representing rodeos across the country. One of those rodeos is held in Franklin, Tennessee, just 60 miles away from Cedar Hill where Chad Masters grew up. 

It was no coincidence that Masters got paired up with Braxton Hallums, a seven-year-old boy who has been through a full year of treatment for T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. The young man who loves riding his pony and dirt bike still has another year and a half of treatment, but he has never quit doing the things that he loves. 

And, it’s no surprise that he loves to rope. His mother, Tara Hallums grew up in Springfield, Tennessee, and when Masters was a kid learning to rope it was her horse that he started breakaway roping on. 

“This means so much to us,” Tara Hallums said. “It’s a chance to get clear away and focus on something that we all love. To have Chad here and because he is a close family friend makes it even more special.” 

Jeremy Buhler and Rhen Richard showed up wearing custom Warbonnet Hats made in gold for the occasion. There were several contestants in the hats that were going to wear them in the Thomas and Mack. After the rodeo they were presenting those hats to the children that they spent the afternoon with. Along with Masters, Braxton Hallum also had three-time world champion Caleb Smidt by his side. Smidt was one of the contestants with the special hats that had his name as well as Braxton Hallum’s embossed in the band. 

Caleb Smidt and Braxton Hallum hanging out in Aces High at the Thomas & Mack Center after the rodeo. | Photo By: Susan Kanode

After the children had all been introduced on stage and picked up their goody bags, six contestants donated the hats that they are wearing during the competition here for auction. Richard and Buhler were among them and their two hats raised $22,000 of the $83,000 total. That money will be used to give more children a champion experience at rodeos across the country. 

“It’s a real encouragement to see what these kids go through and how they keep fighting,” Masters said. “Now that I’m a dad, I have a new appreciation for what Braxton and his family are going through. I know this means a lot to them, but it means even more to me.” 

The greatest bareback rider of all time, Kaycee Field with six world titles was not just honored to participate in the activities, he was a big part of the fundraising efforts. His older brother Shad Feild is the owner of Warbonnet hats that provided the custom hats that were worn during Sunday night’s rodeo. Kaycee was wearing one of those and also auctioned off his own hat that he is wearing during the remaining nine performances. The hat of the G.O.A.T. brought an amazing $34,000. 

“As a dad, I know how blessed I am to have three healthy children. My family has been touched by cancer and I know firsthand that it can hit at any age and that each day is a gift,” he said. “Participating in this event was a big priority for me on several levels. Seeing the smiles on all of the kids’ faces was worth every moment.”