SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. – Cal Poly will celebrate its 80th annual Poly Royal Rodeo on Saturday night with a special guest participant from Make-A-Wish Foundation: 11-year-old Maddie Owens of Winton, California.
The event will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Cotton Rosser Rodeo Complex on Cal Poly's campus.
Organizers said the event will feature the top collegiate rodeo athletes from around the West Coast who have advanced to the championship performance from the weekend’s earlier rounds.
The rodeo athletes will compete for a championship title in events such as barrel racing, team roping, breakaway roping, tie down roping, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, bull riding and steer wrestling, according to Cal Poly.
Also participating is special guest Maddie Owens, who has been training with the Cal Poly Rodeo team as a part of her Make-A-Wish to be a barrel racer.
Maddie was diagnosed at age 10 with Ewing Osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer.
Make-A-Wish said that after treatment, surgery and the fortunate circumstance of an early diagnosis, Maddie is now in remission and ready to saddle back up and spend more time doing what she loves – riding horses.
"One minute with Maddie and you can see how passionate she is about animals, especially horses," said Lorie Hennessey, vice president of mission delivery at Make-A-Wish Northeastern & Central California and Northern Nevada.
"This wish to be a barrel racer is being brought to life thanks to the efforts of the Cal Poly Rodeo program and Head Coach Ben Londo," said Hennessey. "They’ve already done an incredible job making Maddie feel like the star of the show, and still to come for her is an opportunity to participate at the Cal Poly Royal Rodeo in front of all those in attendance.”
Make-A-Wish provided the following background story of Maddie Owens:
Riding horses and biking with friends — a childhood that instantly changed for 10-year-old Maddilynn Owens.
In August of 2020, Maddie was diagnosed with Ewing Osteosarcoma after her mother took her to the emergency room for a swollen and aching forearm. Doctors thought the swelling could be caused by a hairline fracture.
However, the X-rays showed that she had a large tumor within the area.
She was transferred immediately to the children’s hospital for additional X-rays and exams. The type of cancer that Maddie is fighting is extremely aggressive and can spread to the lungs very quickly, so, her oncologist recommended she begin treatment right away.
On December 8, 2020, Maddie underwent surgery to remove the tumor and had a bone graft.
Growing up around horses, Maddie is well-versed in her knowledge of care and familiarity with the special animal. Through this passion, it is no surprise that Maddie’s heartfelt wish is to become a barrel racer for the day.
Maddie envisions her special day with private lessons from an expert barrel racer and hopes to learn the ropes from those that know the rodeo craft best.
A special companion, like a horse, can help bring Maddie through even the toughest of times and her wish to become a barrel racer will provide confidence and joy, leading her into a hopeful future ahead.Make-A-Wish Northeastern & Central California and Northern Nevada
Tickets for Saturday's Poly Royal can be found here, although as of Saturday afternoon, the event was sold out.
Cal Poly said that in prior years, the annual Poly Royal Rodeo was held at the Spanos Stadium, offering two full nights of entertainment – but then a $3.2 million turf replacement project temporarily closed the stadium — leading the event back to the campus rodeo grounds where it began 80 years ago.
For more on Cal Poly Rodeo, click here to visit the team's website.