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Cal Poly rodeo team helps fulfill young cancer survivor’s wish to be barrel racer 

Maddilynn Owens

Maddilynn Owens

Maddie Owens will be a special guest at  this year’s 80th annual Poly Royal Rodeo on Saturday, April 9

– A special guest will participate in this year’s 80th annual Poly Royal Rodeo on Saturday, April 9. The Cal Poly Rodeo Team has been working with Make-A-Wish Northeastern & Central California and Northern Nevada to fulfill the wish of 11-year-old Maddie Owens, from Winton, California, who at age 10 was diagnosed with Ewing Osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. After treatment, surgery, and the circumstance of an early diagnosis, she is now in remission and ready to saddle back up and spend more time doing what she loves – riding horses.

With the help of Sierra Spratt, assistant coach and member of the Cal Poly Rodeo Team, Owens was invited to practice on campus several times leading up to the big event, including this Saturday, Feb. 12. Owens will spend time on campus with Cal Poly Rodeo Women’s Team, which is currently ranked first in the nation, to prepare for her big day in April. At the Poly Royal Rodeo, she will compete in the barrel racing event as a special guest of Cal Poly.

“One minute with Maddie and you can see how passionate she is about animals, especially horses,” said Lorie Hennessey, vice president of mission delivery at Make-A-Wish Northeastern & Central California and Northern Nevada. “This wish to be a barrel racer is being brought to life thanks to the efforts of the Cal Poly Rodeo program and Head Coach Ben Londo. They’ve already done an incredible job making Maddie feel like the star of the show, and still to come for her is an opportunity to participate at the Cal Poly Royal Rodeo in front of all those in attendance.”

Riding horses and biking with friends

Childhood was instantly changed for 10-year-old Maddilynn Owens. In August of 2020, Owens was diagnosed with Ewing Osteosarcoma after her mother took her to the emergency room for a swollen and aching forearm. Doctors thought the swelling could be caused by a hairline fracture. However, the X-rays showed that she had a large tumor within the area. She was transferred immediately to the children’s hospital for additional X-rays and exams. The type of cancer that Owens is fighting is extremely aggressive and can spread to the lungs very quickly, so, her oncologist recommended she begin treatment right away. On Dec. 8, 2020, Owens underwent surgery to remove the tumor and had a bone graft.

Growing up around horses, Owens is well-versed in her knowledge of care and familiarity with the special animal. Through this passion, it is no surprise that Owens’ heartfelt wish is to become a barrel racer for the day. She envisions her special day with private lessons from an expert barrel racer and hopes to learn the ropes from those that know the rodeo craft best. A special companion, like a horse, can help bring Owens through even the toughest of times and her wish to become a barrel racer will provide confidence and joy, leading her into a hopeful future ahead.

Maddie’s wish was adopted by Megan Vincent, a past Make-A-Wish board member, who reached out to Cal Poly Rodeo Coach Ben Londo to make her dream a reality. It was revealed at a Sacramento International Horse Show that her wish was granted.

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