The foundation is a big believer that in order to solve problems, that you have to become engaged where the problems live. The western/rodeo environment in the US has had a long-term relationship with tobacco, and until 2009 The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the rodeos that they sanctioned had a lengthy history of tobacco sponsorship money funding the sport. While that has ended at PRCA events, tobacco use, and smokeless/spit tobaccos still thrive in the sport.
While adults certainly have the right to make any lifestyle choice they desire, they inadvertently expose impressionable young people to what are sometimes harmful habits though poor examples like the use of tobacco products. This is particularly harmful as kids look up to athletes, not just in rodeo, but major league baseball and elsewhere, as “heroes” that they would aspire to be like. Unfortunately, no hero is ever perfect. OCF has begun a program to put alternative role models out in the world of rodeo cowboy athletes, with the intention of reaching young people before they make addictive choices that will harm them later in life. The foundation’s messaging is simple and straightforward;
Be Smart. Don’t Start.
In 2014 our first rodeo spokesperson joined OCF; Cody Kiser, a young, personable, up and coming bareback bronc rider. Cody and OCF founder Brian Hill began a program of doing interviews at rodeos or by phone after Cody’s competition in the arena with local print media. The message from Hill, an oral cancer survivor, and Cody, a rodeo cowboy that believed in rodeo as a family oriented event where tobacco wasn’t a contributing part of the mix, was simple. Tobacco eventually brings bad things into your life, and you can be a great competitor and cowboy/athlete without it. The foundation worked with photographers to not only capture the excitement of a wild 8 second ride on a horse that wants to put you on the ground, to showcasing the message and branding that Cody wears on his safety vest and shirts into the arena competition. The idea, particularly Cody’s compelling story of wanting to do good in the world while following his passion of traveling to rodeos to compete each weekend, was an immediate success. That human interest story, coupled with facts about tobacco and nicotine addiction, and the dire oral cancer element, was a story that resonated with people. Almost immediately it attracted national attention in venues like the largest print magazine in circulation in America; Parade, to front page stories in local newspapers like the The Idaho Press Tribune.
Given our early success in the rodeo community, OCF decided to expand our community outreach by adding a second rodeo competitor as a spokesperson. Carly Twisselman is a fierce competitor in the the barrel racing event. She competes in events on the west coast, and brings with her the passion to do good in the world while following her desire to be part of professional rodeo. As a 7th generation member of a ranching family, she has been around horses her entire life, and has been competing since she was a child. OCF is very proud to have her as a spokesperson in our “Be Smart – Don’t Start” program. Besides where work with the foundation, Carly can be found as a TV host on the new Ride TV cable channel, a stunt woman in Hollywood, a Screen Actors Guild member appearing in shows as popular las Glee on TV, and if that were not enough, a model who is the face of the Gypsy Soule clothing brand.
Now with two competitors riding exclusively for the Oral Cancer Foundation brand, we expect to have a larger presence in the rodeo world, and reach many more young people with our anti-tobacco message.