2013 Junior Cattle Baron’s Ball

Photo provided by Rod's Photography
Photo provided by Rod’s Photography

Seven years ago, I met a fragile toddler named Macy Morgan while hosting a Cancer Research Radio-thon for KTTS in Springfield, Missouri. Diagnosed with a Wilms’ tumor, she had endured several rounds of chemotherapy after having a kidney removed. Saturday, I watched Macy perform effortless back flips at the Junior Cattle Baron’s Ball at Trigger Creek Ranch in Forsyth.

Tearing-up as I type, all I can say is: Wow.

Now 8-years-old, Macy is a miracle. Her family, including big sis Madison, is upbeat, inspiring and focused on giving back to other families facing similar, dark diagnoses: “Family Affair: Ozark family planning St. Jude’s mission trip” from the Bolivar Herald-Free Press.

The Cattle Baron’s Ball has has become the largest fundraising event for the American Cancer Society in the state of Missouri. Each year, “movers and shakers” from across the Ozarks gather at the Darr Agricultural Center for a western-themed evening featuring gourmet dining, headline entertainment, a livestock and bull auction, Vegas style gaming and more. Nearly $2.5-million has been raised over the years, thanks to this annual evening of compassion.

The Lone Ranger kept us safe in Forsyth…

In the past, I’ve emceed the event, helped with voice-over and media production, and served on the publicity committee; but there is nothing more rewarding than spending an afternoon volunteering at the Junior Cattle Baron’s Ball before the big night.

The Junior Cattle Baron’s Ball is designed for pediatric cancer patients and their families. It’s a day to leave hospitals, doctors, waiting rooms and treatment in the dust; a day to have fun on the farm. There’s horseback riding, face painting, chuck wagon eats, cotton candy, arts and crafts, bounce houses, super slides, gator-tours of the ranch and a ton of amazing volunteers who make the day possible, coordinated by Gretchen Cliburn.

Kenny contributes to the quilt
Kenny contributes to the quilt

At this year’s event, the kids helped paint a mural with renowned local artist Susan Sommer-Luarca, provided hand prints for a commemorative quilt, and decorated Christmas ornaments…all items that will be auctioned off at the Cattle Baron’s Ball in August. In fact, with last year’s artwork at the Junior Cattle Baron’s Ball, the kids were able to raise an additional $70,000 for the American Cancer Society! That is impressive.

The theme for this year’s Cattle Baron’s Ball is “Summon the Heroes,” and the kids designed their own superhero capes and masks for the filming of a special video that will air during ceremonies at this year’s event. Last year, the theme was “Kick Up Your Heals and Shake Your Tail Feather,” as you can see in last year’s video by clicking Kenny’s picture…

Recently, I had a conversation with a buddy who has faced his share of adversity and set-backs over the past few years. Right now, he’s feeling overwhelmed by his burdens and struggles with finding a way to think positively. My advice – for what it’s worth – will never change: Simply do something for someone else.

Macy Morgan. An amazing back flip.
Macy Morgan. An amazing back flip.

Compassion and outreach are healing balms. When you stop asking “why me?,” focus some time and effort on others and silence the victim-mentality, it is amazing the positive impact that can have on your outlook – not to mention the positive impact you will have on others.

Think about the Morgan family and all that Macy has endured over the past eight years. Think of the patients and families still enduring treatment who attended the Junior Cattle Baron’s Ball. Victims? Hardly. On their day to cut loose, get silly and ride horses on the ranch, they didn’t just focus on themselves – they took the time to paint, color and design; artwork that will turn into dollars for the American Cancer Society’s countless programs that benefit others facing diagnosis and treatment; others who perhaps, 8-years from now, will be performing flawless back flips on a ranch in the Ozarks.