St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee treated Reed Lawson and her family right while the 3-year-old was receiving care for a chest tumor there earlier this year. Now, the family wants to pay it forward with a rodeo benefit in honor of the Smyth County tot.

Events for the three-day Rodeo Extravaganza will open Friday, June 28 at the Appalachian Regional Expo Center in Wytheville. All proceeds will go to St. Jude’s.

Reed’s mother, Allison Lawson, said the idea for a rodeo arose after folks wanted to do a benefit for Reed, but the family decided the money would be put to better use at St. Jude’s.

 “St. Jude’s is a wonderful place,” Lawson said. “You really don’t understand what they’re capable of until you have to experience it. Absolutely everything about them is amazing.”

Doctors found the tumor in Reed’s chest on January 23. Until then, she had experienced no noticeable symptoms. That month, Reed took a cold she wasn’t able to shake and ended up with pneumonia. When doctors performed an x-ray on her chest looking for the pneumonia in her lungs, they also discovered the four-by-four-inch tumor.

 Reed was immediately sent to St. Jude’s for treatment.

“When we got there, they immediately had it lined up to do bone marrow and an MRI and everything to figure it out,” Lawson said. “By the time they got their results back, they had an answer, ‘this is what you do to take care of it.’”

That experience was not what Lawson and her family had expected.

“So many places are like, go ahead and treat this or that, or try this or that. With them, it was this is what we do to fix it, there was an answer immediately.”

Traditional therapies would not work on Reed’s tumor, her mother said, so the child had to undergo two surgeries to remove it. The doctors told the little girl’s family that they’d like to see at least 50 percent of the tumor removed. They were able to remove 90 percent. Removing the remaining 10 percent would be risky, the doctors told Lawson, and so long as it didn’t grow, it would not affect her well-being.

Reed now checks in with her doctors every three months to keep an eye on what remains of her tumor. So far, no growth has been detected.

Throughout Reed’s five-week stay at St. Jude’s, Lawson said, the care the team provided and the way the family was treated was unparalleled.

“The doctors down there are just amazing,” she said. “They break things down on your level, so you don’t have to have a medical degree to understand. The nurses and doctors are always playing with the kids and the atmosphere is just energetic.”

When Reed first arrived, the family was provided a place to stay and was given meal cards for the hospital’s cafeteria.

To make a great experience even better, the family has not seen a bill for Reed’s stay.

“If there’s one organization that anybody feels like they need to donate to, this is one that really hits home,” Lawson said.

The money raised at the Rodeo Extravaganza will be given to St. Jude’s to help other families have the same high-quality experience as Reed was given, Lawson said.

On Friday night, the Rodeo will feature the Eddie Wagoner Memorial Ranch Rodeo set to begin at 7 p.m. Saturday will bring an open barrel race, with exhibition beginning at 10 a.m. and performances set for 2 p.m.  Then on Sunday, attendees will see some team roping beginning at 1 p.m.

Reed and her family will be present at each event and Reed herself will make an appearance on her pony, Roper, during the beginner peewee class barrel racing performance.

Reed and Roper tested out the arena Tuesday night. Reed, who is usually led on her pony, wanted to try it on her own and made her way solo around the barrels at the APEX arena Tuesday evening.

The Rodeo Extravaganza will also serve as a celebration of Reed’s birthday. The tot will turn four years old July 1.

Gates will open at 6 p.m. Friday night. Tickets are $5 at the gate for adults and $3 for children ages six to 12. Children five and under get in free. Concessions will be available.

For more information visit the APEX Center’s Facebook page.

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