The Rascal Rodeo Formed Out Of A High School Senior Project
The Rascal Rodeo is a non-profit organization that puts on rodeos for people with mental and physical disabilities.
The whole concept started in 2001 as a high school senior project.
Founder Ann-Erica Whitemarsh said for her Pasco High School senior project she had to spend a certain amount of time doing something outside of school and then write a paper about it.
She said writing was not her strong suit so she knew event had to make up for it.
Anne-Erica Whitemarsh said she dreamed about being a cow girl and has always had a special place in her heart for special needs kids, so when it came time for her to complete a senior project she put two and two together.
"I am a fully able body and I was able to do it somewhat and I loved and I thought well they don't have the opportunity anywhere so I thought I'm going to start that up around here," said Whitemarsh.
Ann-Erica came up with the idea to do simulated bull and bronco riding, milking cows, roping, and horse back rides for people with disabilities.
The first rascal rodeo was in 2001 with 20 volunteers and 4 special needs participants.
After graduating Ann-Erica went to college and other jobs putting the Rascal Rodeo on hold.
After a friend asked her to help organize a similar event in Moses Lake in 2010, Anne-Erica realized this is what she is meant to do.
She said the Rascal Rodeo is a non-profit but doesn't have enough backing to pay it's employees so this is her full time volunteer job,
"We are just working on the grants and major corporate sponsors but right now I clean houses and baby-sit to pay my student loans," said Whitemarsh.
Ann-Erica said rodeo organizers often ask her why she is doing this if she isn't making any money and her answer is always the same.
"They questioned me and doubted me and said if you're not making any money why are you doing this, and I said for the participants," said Whitemarsh.
She said she gets just as much enjoyment out of the rodeos as the participants.
She said special needs people have some the biggest hearts you will find.
"They don't care who you are or what you do as long as you give them a little bit of your love and attention they will give you all of theirs and that is incredible," said Whitemarsh.