COUNTDOWN

Golden Circle of Champions

Dec 10, 2019

Golden Circle of Champions

No one should have to go through cancer, least of all children. More so, no child should have to go through it twice, in less than two years.

In other words, no one should have to endure what Seth Permenter has endured. The 13-year-old from San Antonio was first diagnosed with bone cancer in November 2016. Subsequent surgeries and treatments held him wheelchair-bound for eight months and on crutches another four months.

But he fought through it and beat it.

Then, in June of 2018, doctors found a spot on a heart valve and on his lungs. That dreaded “C” word, once again.

“I was pretty scared,” Seth said, before explaining what got him through such a trial. “God and my family. They just supported me. The hardest part about the second time was just knowing I had to do it all again.”

Perhaps it’s cancer that should have been scared, though, because Seth beat it again. He’s been cancer-free for almost a year.

One of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo’s newest events is the Golden Circle of Champions, which honors pediatric cancer patients/survivors with an all-expenses-paid rodeo weekend in Vegas. Twenty children and their families – 10 from Southern Nevada designated by the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation, 10 from across the country chosen by their local rodeo committees – took part in a Sunday luncheon with Wrangler NFR contestants, then attended the fourth go-round that night.

Seth was rightly among those honorees, joined by his dad, Lance Permenter. The joyous event was quite a turnaround from what Seth and his family – mom Sarah and 15-year-old sister Abby – have dealt with over the past three years.

“It’s been scary, stressful, just a pure nightmare. Obviously, Seth’s the one dealing with the surgeries and everything, but it affects everybody,” Lance said, noting the whole family was all in for Seth’s battle. “We just showed up. You do what you have to do. He said God helped get him through it. What got us through it was Seth – his positive attitude.”

Positive attitude could be the motto of this event. It’s a concept first developed by Tina Tonascia and her peers operating the Santa Maria, Calif., Elks Rodeo. Since 2016, the Santa Maria Rodeo has honored 10 pediatric cancer patients each year in its community. When Tonascia brought the idea before Las Vegas Events and Wrangler NFR officials in mid-2018, seeking to expand it to the 10-day Super Bowl of Rodeo, the Golden Circle of Champions received immediate acceptance.

“Pat Christenson kicked this off. He was the first person I spoke to about this,” Tonascia said, adding there was no hesitation from the Las Vegas Events president. “It was not whether they were going to help us. It was, ‘Tina, what do you need us to do?’”

Now in its second year at the Wrangler NFR, the second batch of 20 kids were feted with a fun-filled day. But it’s not just the kids who benefit. The event is an emotional one in the best possible way for the parents of these tough youngsters, seeing a side of their kids that for a while was stolen away.

“It’s pure joy,” Lance said. “Seth missed more than a full year of life. He was in a wheelchair for probably eight months, then on crutches another four months. There was eight months of treatment in the hospital.

“To see him have this opportunity, to get to live life, to be a kid, he’s getting some of that lost time back.”

For more on this year’s Golden Circle of Champions event, take a look at the Wrangler NFR special section in Tuesday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal or go to reviewjournal.com.