Growing up on a Georgia farm, Doug Yates only cared about impressing two people in the world – his mother and father.
“The only way to impress my mother was to do the right thing and to do for others,” he said. The best way to impress his father was to work hard.
Doug has done both in a signature event that has raised more than $1.2 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital over the last 20 years. The annual St. Jude Rodeo is an official event of the Professional Cowboy Association attended by about 20,000 people each year. The three-day, family-friendly event is held at the Doug Yates Farm in Ringgold, GA, just south of Chattanooga, Tenn., and only a mile-and-a-half from where he grew up.
Doug works early and late for months in advance with the help of his stepson and nephew “to make sure everything is nearly perfect for the rodeo,” said his daughter, Kristy Yates. This preparation takes place in addition to Doug’s day job operating his own towing company in Chattanooga.
The rodeo is a family affair involving Doug’s wife, Sandra Priest, and many others. Kristy takes a week off from her job in Chicago to help prepare.
Everyone in my family is incredibly passionate about St. Jude and is involved in different ways. I guess you could say we have our own little event production team, with my dad being the lead.
Doug’s granddaughter, Morgan Yates, 22, grew up with the rodeo and assists with social media and contestant calls for the event, as well as participating in the rodeo by barrel racing.
“The thing I most enjoy about the rodeo is the way it brings my family and the community together,” Morgan said. “Growing up, every summer was spent getting ready and helping prepare the farm for the rodeo.”
The rodeo is always scheduled during the first weekend of August, in memory of Doug’s youngest son, Jason, who died 23 years ago in a car wreck at age 16 on Aug. 7.
“My father is the most generous, compassionate and hardworking person I know,” Kristy said. “He strives to give back to a cause where he can possibly help other families never lose a loved one.”
The rodeo also has strong community support with partners including the Miller Family Foundation of Chattanooga, which paid for construction of an indoor rodeo arena on Doug’s farm. In addition, the rodeo partners with WUSY-101 FM, a country radio station in Chattanooga that participates in the Country Cares for St. Jude Kids radiothon each year.
"We will begin gearing up for the 2018 Rodeo in coming months and are already aiming for a higher goal,” Kristy said. “With the help of our loyal sponsors, vendors, volunteers and attendees, who have all become like family to us, I have no doubt we can accomplish it!"
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