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Golden Circle of Champions

From Humble Beginnings to National Interest

The Golden Circle of Champions (GCOC) was founded in 2016 with the support and partnership of the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo to raise awareness and provide funds to help local children battling pediatric cancer. Each year 25 children and their families are chosen to be part of the Champions at the Elks Rodeo. The children selected range in age from 3 months to 17 years old and have been diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer or associated illness.

During the opening night of the Elks Rodeo our Champions and their families are honored. The children also attend a dinner at the rodeo where they meet many of the cowboys and cowgirls. They then 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 Cowboy Up Carnival & Auction Fundraiser is the chief fundraising event of the year. Additional events include various raffles, auctions, and the passing of the boot during the Elks Rodeo.

“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 first started in Santa Maria is now fortunate enough to continue the vital mission of the Golden Circle of Champions to provide support to these children and their families on a national scale. In December 2021, the GCOC, 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 during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Each one of these children is fighting life-threatening cancers or illnesses.

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 to honor their Champion. The Champions are outfitted with Wrangler jeans, Justin boots, a Resistol hat signed by all the cowboys and cowgirls, 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 in the crowd. The NFR contestants waving to their Champions is a very special moment.

The GCOC, through your financial support, looks forward to continuing to grow and to further support these brave 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 80th annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo. This year's rodeo runs from Thursday, June 1st through Sunday, June 4th.

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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