9th annual James Pickens Jr. Charity Roping draws crowd

James Pickens Jr. (right) and his foundation manager Neal Williams (left) present the trophy saddles to Kaleb Driggers and Walt Woodard following their Open win at the 9th Annual James Pickens Jr. Foundation Charity Roping at Clovis Rodeo Grounds, April 24, 2018. (Photo: Sal Owen Photography 2018)

As rodeo fans count down the hours until the 104th Clovis Rodeo, some local amateur ropers—as well as pros from across the state and beyond—had the opportunity to compete for a cause Tuesday at the 9th annual James Pickens Jr. Charity Roping.

The event run by actor, avid roper and horseman James Pickens Jr. (Grey’s Anatomy) and his non-profit organization, the James Pickens Jr. Foundation, raises funds for two organizations near and dear to the actor’s heart—Camp Gid D Up and Hands 4 Hope—as well as for the Clovis Rodeo Association, which started benefitting from the event just last year.

This is the fourth year the charity roping has been held locally and Pickens says the event has doubled since the move as Clovis is the perfect locale for ropers competing up and down the state from Red Bluff to Oakdale.

“It’s a great locale that puts us right in the middle of that West Coast swing,” Pickens said. “We have this nice little pocket here and they can hit us in between the other ropings in California.”

At Tuesday’s event, 67 Pro-Am (amateur) teams competed in the morning, with winning header and heeler duos taking home exclusive James Pickens Jr. Foundation buckles. In the afternoon, over 100 professionals teamed up to compete for a trophy saddle as well as a monetary prize. The reserve champions (second place) in the pro division were also awarded with exclusive buckles.

A participating duo closes in on a calf during the ninth annual James Pickens Jr. Foundation Charity Roping at Clovis Rodeo Grounds. (Valerie Shelton/Clovis Roundup)

The charity roping raised about $10,000 for each of the three supported organizations. Over the last nine years since the event began, over $100,000 has been raised to benefit Camp Gid D Up, Hands 4 Hope, and now the Clovis Rodeo Association.

Camp Gid D Up is a 30-acre ranch located 30 miles north of Los Angeles that serves as a cowboy camp for inner city youth. At the camp, kids are exposed to the Western way of life and spend a free weekend learning to ride horses, camping, hiking, and swimming.

“It’s really a chance for them to see something outside of their perimeters in the city and open up a whole new world to them,” Pickens said. “I can’t think of anything better but the Western lifestyle to do that.”

Hands 4 Hope also serves at-risk inner-city youth ages 13-18 by giving them a place to go after school.

“It creates a safe haven that keeps them away from negative influences after school,” Pickens said. “A lot of the kids involved come from one-parent homes, so the program gives these single parents a chance to feel more secure about what their kids are doing while they are at work. [There], the kids have an opportunity to work on homework, they are provided meals, and they even have a wonderful music portion where kids can learn to play instruments and record. It gives these kids a really strong sense of self and even on a couple of occasions, Hands 4 Hope has taken in some kids off of the street and has provided them with some direction, shelter and some love.”

Last year, the James Pickens Jr. Foundation also added the Clovis Rodeo Association as a benefactor because Pickens said they too do great charity work. For example, the CRA blood drive held the Wednesday before the rodeo is one of the largest donation events not only in the Central Valley, but in the entire nation. The blood drive is just one community outreach activity that demonstrates the CRA’s commitment to service.

“The Clovis Rodeo Association does a lot of community outreach and we wanted to recognize that,” Pickens said.

The big winners of Tuesday’s charity roping in the professional open were Kaleb Driggers and Walt Woodard.

A participant (right) in the James Pickens Jr. Foundation Charity Roping takes his shot at roping a calf as his partner to the left winds up. (Valerie Shelton/Clovis Roundup)