Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Pink Goat, Yes, Really -- Day 20 of 25 Memories -- A Countdown to Our 25th Anniversary Gala by Dorothy Gibbons

I was in Canada when Palmer McInnis first made history with The Rose.  Board member Bob Domec had left a message on my phone, talking so fast I almost couldn’t make out what he was saying.
“Did you hear about the heifer?  Palmer’s heifer was covered in pink ribbons!  The auction brought $11,000!”
Heifer? Auction? I was totally confused and it was several hours before I learned the whole story. 
The year was 2005. Palmer was 16 years old and an avid FFA participant having brought many animals to the Pasadena Livestock Show and Rodeo for showing and auction.   This year, his stepmother, Carla, was losing her battle against breast cancer.  Palmers Dad and Stepmother ran their own company and times had been tough.  They didn’t have insurance and when she needed help, The Rose was there. 
Carla was in ICU when Palmer showed his prized heifer and his decision to donate whatever money it brought during the auction to The Rose was pretty incredible.  You have to understand that these young people usually apply their “winnings” to their college costs. In Palmer’s mind, that money was better used by The Rose to help more women like his stepmother.
Fast forward to the fall of 2006.
While I wasn’t at the Livestock Show, I’ve heard many versions of the event –- an event that will go down in history, not just for The Rose but also for Pasadena and Deer Park. 
Imagine with me the sequence of events. 
Carla died not long after the donation from the heifer auction, and things got pretty tough for the McInnis family.  His dad was in major grief, work was sparse, and the boys (Palmer and his brother) pretty much held the family together.  He didn’t have money to raise, feed and care for another heifer, in fact he didn’t do a lot of things that year that his Senior buddies were doing.  It all boiled down to a matter of money.
Palmer is an incredibly handsome young man, with a modest-almost “aw shucks” approach and response to any praise.  But it is his sweet and generous nature that sets him apart from a lot of young people.  So that year, in spite of all, he didn’t give up.  He raised a goat, a plain simple goat. He named the goat Poncho and on the day of the Livestock Show and Rodeo, he spray painted it a bright pink color!   (Folks often ask if that hurt the goat—the answer is no; it washed off easily.)
His was an eighth place goat, not even in the running for any top awards and certainly not a candidate for earning much money from the auction.  In fact, if it brought $1,000 it would be lucky. But, undaunted, Palmer put a big pink ribbon around that little goat’s neck, and pulled his pink package into the ring.  He announced that whatever he raised from the auction would go to The Rose.

The auctioneer knew of Palmer’s story, his family’s loss, the way his winnings would go to The Rose and how Palmer’s heifer meant  $11,000 to The Rose the year before.  The auctioneer called for the first bid.
Joe and Debbie Chambers, owners of  “U Pick U Pull” Auto Parts in Pasadena started the bidding at $11,000!
The normal bidding continued until the bid reached $50,000—which Joe and Debbie Chambers paid. At that point, Bob Domec approached the auctioneer and told him Palmer’s dad had raised another $10,000 and Casa Ole’ was donating an additional $5,000 … that’s when everyone got in on the action.  

Someone shouted,  “I’ll add $5,000!”
Another yelled,  “Make that $10,000!”
In seconds, the crowd was going wild, clapping and screaming as the total grew. The frenzy was incredible.
The final figure came to $115,000.
Everyone was screaming and hugging.  Folks from The Rose were jumping up and down!  I still get chills remembering Brahana (our center director) tell me that she looked out over the crowd and saw grown men -- cowboys in their boots and hats—openly crying.  
It was a moment never before experienced in that convention center and most likely will never be recreated again.
Palmer beamed brighter than ever as he held on to Poncho -- which was given back to him.  Palmer’s story was picked up by every news station, and he was interviewed over and over by the local media. His answer to “Why would you do this? Why would give up you college money and be so generous to The Rose?” was always the same.
He’d smile and say, “It was the right thing to do.  All those women at The Rose could be helped.”
We nominated Palmer for the Yoplait Champion National award, which he won hands down and resulted in yet another gift of $1000 to The Rose.
It took months to “come down” from the excitement of that event and gift. Then, just when we were ready to move to yet another chapter in the life of The Rose, an interesting proposition was posed to The Board. 
Why couldn’t we start a Pink Goat Society?   It would be a way to reserve that $115,000 in a significant way and build upon it.  The concept was simple: anyone who gave a $1000 (or more) donation to The Rose could be a Pink Goat and be part of a very elite group of people.  We hired Rae Sinor to run the program and had tons of fun coming up with events, special gifts and ways to recognize our Pink Goats.   Radio star and Houston legend, Dana Tyson, even participated in the goat milking contest at the Houston Livestock Show as a way of participating in our Pink Goat Society. She came in second but it was great publicity for our group.
By the end of the first year, we went from 13 individuals who had given single gifts of $1000 to The Rose over the past few years to 80 people.  $80,000 plus $115,000 plus $11,000 wow that was a lot of money! The Pink Goat Society was a huge success and left us with such a legacy.
What a difference this young man made when he decided to do something special in memory of a woman who meant a lot to his life.
What a difference in The Rose’s life and the life of the women we served. 

PS.  Those folks that recognized Palmer had in fact “given away” his college tuition rounded up more folks and before we knew it, a Golf Tournament came about, raising lots of money to help offset some of his college costs.  Palmer is still in school and is still making a difference in the world.

Poncho eventually went to Dixie’s ranch where he lived out his short, but famous, life.

This memory is one of 25 short stories written by Dorothy Gibbons, the Co-founder and CEO of The Rose, a nonprofit breast cancer organization. She and Dr. Dixie Melillo received the 501C3 documents for The Rose in 1986. A memory will be shared daily, culminating with number 25 on the day The Rose celebrates its 25th anniversary November 10.

© 2011 Dorothy Gibbons. All rights reserved.

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