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Golden Circle of Champions

From Humble Beginnings to National Interest

Founded in 2016, with the support and partnership of the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo, the Golden Circle of Champions was conceived to raise awareness and provide funds to help local children battling pediatric cancer. Each year, 25 children and their families are honored during the opening night of the Elks Rodeo. The children attend a dinner at the rodeo, meet many of the cowboys and cowgirls, and then get to watch the rodeo from a special reserved section located in the grandstands. Through donations and fundraising efforts, support is provided directly to the families to fulfill their most urgent needs: paying bills, buying medicine and caring for their family.

The children selected each year have ranged in age from 3 months to 17 years of age and have been diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer or associated illness. The Cowboy Up Casino & Auction Fundraiser is the chief fundraising event of the year. Additional events include various raffles, auctions and, during the Elks Rodeo, they host an annual passing of the boot during each performance.

“Our goal is to bring the much needed education and awareness, locally and nationally, to pediatric cancer and offer a ray of hope to the families that are navigating through this journey. They desperately need our help as a community, and we want to let them know we are here for them,” stated Founder, Tina Tonascia. “It is our job to tell their story about pediatric cancer, in the hopes that one day we will be able to make a difference.”

What started in Santa Maria now is fortunate enough to continue the vital mission of the Golden Circle of Champions of providing support to these children and their families on a national scale. This past December, the Golden Circle of Champions, in conjunction with Las Vegas Events, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Red Bluff Round-Up, and Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation, honored 20 children and their families from across the country, all whom are fighting life-threatening cancers or illnesses, during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. The Champions are partnered with an NFR contestant who will teach them Rodeo skills. Each Rodeo contestant is given a gold Wild Rag to wear during their competition for their Champion. The Champions are outfitted with Wrangler jeans, Justin boots, a Resistol hat signed by all the contestants, a Montana Silversmith buckle, a Boot Barn belt, and many other goodies to ensure they feel like Champions! The Champions are also given signs to cheer on their NFR contestant so the NFR contestant knows exactly where their Champion is sitting. The NFR contestants waving to their Champions is a very special moment.

The GCOC, through your financial support, looks forward to continuing its growth and support of these children and their families.

For more information on the Golden Circle of Champions, please email us at For the latest news and event coverage, find us through social media at

Come support us at the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo!

Be a part of our annual fundraiser at the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo with the Cowboy Up Casino. This year, the event will take place on Saturday, June 4th, 2022.

Tickets will be available for purchase soon. Check back here for details.

Golden Circle of Champions at NFR 2021

"NFR 360" story about the Golden Circle of Champions at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. 

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