SWEETWATER COUNTY – After twenty plus years and five million dollars given out to local families in the battle for life, Cowboys Against Cancer said goodbye on Saturday.
While she did not rule out a possible return, founder of the annual fundraising event Margaret Parry said this will be the final Cowboys Against Cancer event.
“Unless things change drastically, this will be the last Cowboys Against Cancer,” Parry said.
“I have seen the best of humanity. Thank you Sweetwater County for believing in my dream. You are the most amazing people I have and will ever meet,” Parry said.
The story begins over 20 years ago when Parry was diagnosed with cancer. Assistance allowed Parry to stay at home while going through treatment. She explained nobody will ever know how grateful she was to be able to go through treatment at home, avoiding a three-hour trip home after going through a chemo treatment.
To say thank you to everyone who helped her and to help cover costs of local patients battling cancer, Parry started the event. Since then, the event has given out over $5 million to help local families and has been recognized nationally for the work.
“My father would always tell us to leave the world a better place than when we arrived,” Parry said.
This past year, Parry lost both her parents to cancer. The final Cowboys Against Cancer event on Saturday night was dedicated to Margaret’s mother Mary Lou McClammy. Al Harris described Parry as a “chip off the old block” explaining Margaret is full of life, energy and drive just like her mother was.
“She was born on Christmas Eve,” Harris said of Mary Lou. “What a great gift.”
These events led to Parry’s decision.
“I want to spend more time with my children and grandchildren,” Parry tearful said, explaining ending the event has been the hardest decision in her life.
As he has done year after year, Al Harris was again the master of ceremonies.
“It’s been a helluva run,” Harris said. “We are going to go out with Cowboy guns blazing.”
Harris said there are two reasons the event has been successful, they never lost focus and they never changed the they way they did business. Cowboys Against Cancer is a non-profit volunteer organization. Members serve without monetary compensation.
“Every dollar spent goes to the bottom line,” Harris said.
Harris spoke about the changing face of cancer treatment. When the event started, most residents made that trip on I-80. Now, through the work of Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County, a regional cancer center is serving local cancer patients at home.
Harris explained Cowboys Against Cancer has given out over 160 grants to patients this year and more than half of those patients are being treated right here at home. Harris said the recent announcement by MHSC that they will now be an official affiliate on the Huntsman Cancer Center is another landmark step for Sweetwater County.
Another aspect Harris touched on was the tremendous amount of money raised each year. Over $5 million has been given to local families over the 21-year history. The 2015 event raised over $160,000 this year alone, and before the night even started around $250,000 had already been raised.
The event has also drawn some of the biggest names in Wyoming politics each year and continued Saturday night. Dignitaries in the crowd included all three members of the Wyoming delegations, Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and Representative Cynthia Lummis. State officials included Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray, Wyoming Auditor Cynthia Cloud and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jill Balow.
Senator Enzi congratulated the organization and Sweetwater County for the tremendous giving. He also thanked Al Harris for all his years as the voice of the event explaining Harris is a survivor as well.
“There isn’t a state as giving as the people in Wyoming are,” Enzi said. “And here in Sweetwater County, you top the list.”
Senator John Barrasso brought his own special gift to the event this year. On Nov. 3, Barrasso recognized Cowboys Against Cancer in the Congressional Record. To read the entire congressional recognition.
RECOGNIZING COWBOYS AGAINST CANCER IN THE CONGRESSIONAL RECORD
President, today I come to the floor to recognize one of Wyoming’s most generous groups, Cowboys Against Cancer.
Founded in 1994 by cancer survivor Margaret Parry, Cowboys Against Cancer raises funds for residents of Sweetwater County who have been diagnosed with cancer. Touched by those who aided and encouraged her during her own battle with cancer, Margaret created Cowboys Against Cancer in order to provide the same comfort to those battling this awful disease.
Margaret’s mission—and that of Cowboys Against Cancer—is one of compassion and support. From offering the comfort of a shoulder to lean on to awarding grants to support overburdened individuals and families, Cowboys Against Cancer has waged a tireless battle against cancer.
As a nonprofit volunteer organization, Cowboys Against Cancer is a proud group devoted exclusively to charity. The organization’s volunteers work without compensation, and Cowboys Against Cancer employs no staff members. Without staff on the payroll, no office space, and very little overhead, the majority of the profits generated are donated directly to those in need.
Since the organization’s inception, Cowboys Against Cancer has given hundreds of grants to local cancer patients, including more than 150 grants in 2015 alone. In addition to these grants, the group has also worked to fund the development of cancer treatment infrastructure throughout Sweetwater County to better serve the regional population.
This year marks the 21st and final Cowboys Against Cancer Annual Benefit and Banquet. Over 1,000 people will gather to both celebrate the memories of those who are no longer with us and recognize the exemplary courage and determination exhibited by cancer survivors. Including the donations raised from this capstone gala, Cowboys Against Cancer estimates that they will have awarded a total of $5 million of grants to folks in Wyoming.
This is a remarkable achievement.
Margaret has a tremendous team of volunteers who have helped her make this dream a reality.
Over the years, dozens upon dozens of folks have worked for this great organization. I would like to recognize the current board of directors and the people who have volunteered for 10 years or more.
The Cowboys Against Cancer board of directors are: Margaret Parry, president and founder; George Lemich, vice president and auction officer; Cindy Petersen, historian; Kristi Parry, secretary; Erika Kosher, banquet; Anita Punders, treasurer; Terry Warren, grant disbursements; Kathy Devoy, invitations and tickets; Cindy Rodriguez, advertising; and Geannie Berg, auction item data base.
The kind, generous, and energetic volunteers who have lent a hand for over 10 years are Sandra DaRif, Danella ‘‘Prune’’ Devries, Pat Devoy, Debbie Gunn, Mary Hardy, Beth Ice, Mary Juel, Veldon Kraft, Don Melvin, Vance Petersen, Kyle and Patsy Rossetti, Becky Sanchez, Kelly Shablo, Bess Stevenson, Liz Strannigan, Tim Warren, and Donald Wiggen. Students from Western Wyoming Community College, Rock Springs High School, and Green River High School have always been generous with their time. And, finally, a special note of thanks to Al Harris who serves as the event’s master of ceremonies. Please join me in offering my heartfelt congratulations to Margaret Parry and her Cowboys Against Cancer team for their efforts toward creating a cancer-free world. This organization has exemplified the nature of the cowboy spirit: tough, but neighborly. Sweetwater County—and Wyoming—are better, thanks to the selfless contributions of Margaret Parry and Cowboys Against Cancer.
KICKING CANCER’S ASS
Representative Lummis told a story to open her comments Saturday. She told the event when she was running in the election, she had an interview scheduled with Al Harris. When she arrived, Lummis said she was told Harris would have to cancel the interview because there had been a bad accident on the interstate and Harris was out assisting. Lummis said that story is a perfect example of how giving the people of Sweetwater County are and what the event has been for the past 20 years.
“Neighbor helping neighbor,” Lummis said. “What is more American than that.”
The last dignitary to speak was Governor Mead. For Mead, this year was his sixth year of coming to the event. He said cancer is a horrible disease that has impacted everyone alive. He said it is because of this event, many local battles are being won.
“Congratulations, you are kicking the ass of cancer,” Mead said to the large crowd. “You’re getting the job done and you’re getting the job done well.”
On the Cowboys Against Cancer website Parry left a special message to all.
“This is the 21st year Cowboys Against Cancer has been striving to assist friends in Sweetwater County to help defray expenses in order to receive the treatment they need in fighting cancer. And each year as my own anniversary date approaches reminding me that I am cancer-free, I count my blessings and many friends who helped me through those challenging days.
The day never arrives without the accompanying tears that well up in my eyes as I recall the despair and anxiety upon hearing those words, you have cancer.
But that initial message of despair was rapidly overcome by the rush of memories of those who immediately came to my rescue- as we have striven to do for so many here in Sweetwater County- in stepping forward to offer an ear to listen, a shoulder to lean on, and the prayers of all who will not diminish their efforts in this ongoing goal of learning that one is cancer-free or that giant steps are being taken to eradicate this disease.
Each year as we invite our cancer survivors to the stage to be recognized during the Benefit and Banquet, we marvel at not only the increased numbers in attendance, but also at the positive, forceful determination they exhibit in letting us know that we are winning the battle.
Nor do we forget the many who are no longer among us, but whose memories live on in adding the impetus we need when going gets rough and the road ahead seems never-ending.
How blessed we are to be able to celebrate the lives of those who set their examples for us by their courage and determination and by the many who assemble each year at the annual benefit to remind us, We CAN make a difference. Thank you – each and every one of you- for being a part of this effort!”