Thankful |


Think of Mandalay Bay, and the words,“Thankful, charity, giving of ones self,” are probably not top of mind.

After a gunman took the lives of 58 individuals during a country music concert in Las Vegas in September, some in rural America second-guessed their plans for traveling to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

The hesitance was probably temporary, but now, as some rodeo fans are buying their tickets for the Thomas and Mack Center, they may not reserve rooms at Mandalay Bay.

One woman decided she wouldn’t be fearful, anxious or angry. Instead she would be helpful. She would be joyful, she would focus on those who need a hand up. And she would do it at Mandalay Bay.

“We will . . . bring national attention to our “Help Thy Neighbor” Fundraiser, for direct aid to those who have experienced hardship and may not have received any form of assistance.” Donna Evanoika, Colorado Springs businesswoman

Cowboy Cachet and Artisans, Help Thy Neighbor, Cowboy Christian Connection, the Giving Back Foundation and many other people and entities plan to join forces to raise funds to help farmers and ranchers in need via the Roper Cowboy Marketplace at Mandalay Bay from Dec. 7 – 16, 2017.

According to Colorado Springs businesswoman Donna Evanoika, Cowboy Christian Connection is a non-profit that established a fund called Help Thy Neighbor, in order to have funds at the ready when a farmer or a rancher is need.

“In the ag community, we pull together when there is a natural disaster, the community comes to help. But we believe this is something that should be available all the time, we shouldn’t wait for a disaster.”

Evanoika pointed out that federal programs like Federal Emergency Management Agency don’t always respond to ag needs.

Evanoika said there is a board that oversees the funds. Anyone can ask for help on the “I need…” tab on the website. The board reviews the applications and works with local churches to be sure the needs are legitimate. People can also ask for help for a neighbor. “Sometimes we know of someone who needs help but doesn’t want to ask for it.”

“Say someone’s haystack burned down and they need immediate assistance. The applications are reviewed, if we’ve got material , we provide it, or finances, or whatever they need.”

There are also tabs online for folks to click on to donate or to request prayer.

“On the ‘I have…’ tab, businesses or others can report extra materials they might have, a pallet of posts or anything like that that, and we’ll be sure it goes the right individual.”

Evanoika hopes cowboy churches across the country will register with them, to help them carry out their mission. She said eventually the site will give those churches a place to advertise – for free – their own local events like camps, trail rides, etc. The churches can also register to provide prayer help.

Both donations and requests for help will be kept confidential unless the individual gives permission to the organization to share names – so that thank yous can be shared appropriately.

Evanoika said her goal is “to bring people, businesses and organizations together, to be able to give of oneself for the benefit of others, and in turn glorify Jesus Christ.”

The fellowshipping event gives opportunity and exposure to those not full-time in the industry, possibly holding jobs outside of their passion for the Cowboy and Western Lifestyle. With the support of sponsors and partners the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, Chamley Financial LLC, Cowboy Cachet and Artisans, High Plains Travel, Giving Back Foundation and Art of the Cowboy Makers the Roundup Stage will a place to hear cowboy poets and more during the WNFR.

“HeBrews” Cowboy Coffee will kick off each day 9:30-10:30 a.m. with cowboy devotions and fellowship.

Rick Thompson and Derek Barton’s popular “Talk Rodeo” will be center stage 11 to noon with pro rodeo cowboys and cowgirls being interviewed.

Live entertainment by cowboy pickers, singers, songwriters, storytellers and poets will fill each hour on the stage, as visitors stop by to learn more about donating to Help Thy Neighbor and enjoy the variety show.

Hopefully some great rodeo film will be shown when loud events from the other arena tend to drown out the musicians.

Workshops and talented artisans will also entertain and wow.

Dec. 8 from 9-5, Bob Park will show onlookers how to draw western floral patterns.

Dec. 9, he will show how to tool leather.

Dec. 10, he will demonstrate leather antiquing, drying and finishing in the morning and then burnishing edges in the afternoon.

Dec. 11 he will present gun leather design and contruction.

Dec. 12, onlookers can learn to make a small leather notebook.

Dec. 13, learn to make a wallet cover.

Dec. 14-15, learn to carve, tool and scuplt orchids.

Ranch reared, Donna knew the challenges faced by ranchers, farmers, cowboys and families, as well as organizations and businesses from the far flung Great Plains and other corners of America, dreaming of attending a National Finals Rodeo. Evanoika has made it her business to help create affordable trips for rural folks, including to the NFR in Vegas.

This year she’s on a mission to “support rural America through hardship and celebration” with the Help Thy Neighbor fundraiser at Mandalay Bay.

Check and to see what’s going on, then come visit, buy books or CDs from the performers and donate to ranchers in distress. Go on the website to report a need, volunteer, donate, pray, share prayer requests, or list resources you have available to share.

Participating artist Kim Harrington said, “I have a special spot in my heart for people who live off the land . . . the backbone of this country . . . literally feeding us, as well as much of the rest of the world. Rural America is, in my opinion, the last stronghold of traditional Christian values. When they suffer, we all suffer; and anything we can do to help them in time of trouble we should do gladly.”

A milk can will be available at the Mandalay Bay event to accept donations for the Help Thy Neighbor Fund. Additionally, some artisans will sell handmade items created right at the venue, with a portion of the proceeds going to the fund. Businesses or individuals can also donate to a silent online auction that will raise money for the fund. Contact Evanoika at to make a contribution to the silent auction. F