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West De Pere teen rides to raise breast cancer awareness

Pink Ribbon Rebels also raise funds to help local families

By Ben Rodgers and Kevin Boneske
Editor and Staff Writer

DE PERE – The Pink Ribbon Rebels ride their horses to help others, inspire people and spread awareness.

“We are an equestrian drill team and we ride to spread the awareness of breast cancer, said Tori Boyea, a Pink Ribbon Rebel who is a senior at West De Pere High School. “This year we started something new where each ride has a dedication to a survivor or someone who lost their battle to breast cancer.”

Most of the riders are high school students from the region with riders from West De Pere, Hobart, Neenah and elsewhere. However, the group has riders ranging from 12 to 28 years old.

“I started last year and I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, but it’s so much fun,” Boyea said. “You go out with a group, you go out and perform, and after each rodeo we sign autographs and these people come up and say, ‘I’m a breast cancer survivor, here is my story, can I get a picture with you?’ It’s so rewarding. We’re doing something we all love and we’re helping people out. It’s so much more than riding a horse.”

The team appears in about six rodeos and parades a year. At the rodeos it either opens the show or provides the halftime entertainment.

From left, members of the Pink Ribbon Rebels posing for pictures prior to their performance Friday, Aug. 17 at the Brown County Fair include Lorna Caswell, Katie Heitzke, Deb Nooyen, Morgan Caswell, Suzie Heitzke, Olivia Collar, Tori Boyea. Kevin Boneske Photo

“From my point of view, we got every type of personality in that arena,” Boyea said. “We’re not cliquey, we come from different schools, we don’t know one another, and it’s just so cool. We have the same goal, the same passion, and we don’t get anything out of this. We pay our own gas and trailer fees. We’re just in it for fun. We’re not doing this for ourselves. We’re doing it for others.”

The Pink Ribbon Rebels hold 50/50 raffles when they perform and donate part of the money raised to local families battling breast cancer.

The riders wear uniforms with hot pink and glitter when they perform their routine with each rider carrying a flag.

Their uniform leggings also reference Isaiah 41:10, a Bible verse that includes the phrase “fear not, for I am with you.”

“It’s something that anyone afflicted with this (disease) should be aware of and look for that support,” said Mark Caswell, Pink Ribbon Rebels coach. “As far as the uniforms and things like that, it’s just a logo that I came up with and we perfected. I had some help with some of the young girls as far as the designs and as we moved along and moved forward, it was something that just continued to develop year after year.”

Caswell said the girls on the Pink Ribbon Riders have the opportunity to “ride their horses and make a difference.”
“It’s a choreographed routine that is set to music,” he said. “It’s like a dance thing, only it’s on horses.”

Caswell said the Pink Ribbon Rebels raise awareness about breast cancer as well as raise money to donate to local families afflicted with the disease.

The Pink Ribbon Rebels equestrian drill team performs Friday, Aug. 17, during the rodeo at the Brown County Fair. Kevin Boneske Photo

“Every year we’ve donated well over $5,000 to local families, giving that money directly back to local families,” he said. “It’s not going into a fund. It’s not going anywhere else. It’s simply going to these families to help with that.”

Caswell noted this year’s team has included nine girl riders, plus parents and others who have supported the group.

The Pink Ribbon Rebels had their final performance of the season last weekend as part of the rodeo held in conjunction at the Brown County Fair.

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