Young Professional 2018: Ann-Erica Whitemarsh
Ann-Erica Whitemarsh, Founder/Executive Director of Rascal Rodeo
Education: Warner Pacific College, bachelor’s in business administration
Do you have family? 1-year-old son named Colton
Briefly describe your company: Rascal Rodeo produces rodeo events for people with special needs of all ages throughout the Pacific Northwest. Showing them they are loved, cared for, accepted and can do things many say they can’t. Helping them discover unknown abilities. Rascal Rodeo is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that started as my high school senior project in 2001.
How long have you worked there? Paid employee of Rascal Rodeo since 2015.
What word best describes you? Passionate
Your biggest flaw? Not saying no to people. I’m learning to and people get mad at me now.
Biggest pet peeve? Emails/texts asking the distance somewhere. Google or Bing it!
Dream vacation? Private lake or river house with a maid and chef would be ideal.
Favorite book? I’m not a big reader but love “Prayers for my Little Boy.” Favorite musician? Any of the early 90s country or rock and several current Christian artists.
Favorite sports team? Seahawks!
Favorite website/app? Amazon, Costco’s app, Walmart grocery, social media apps.
Favorite Tri-City restaurant? Anything local and fresh! El Fat Cat, Foodies, Azteca.
Favorite thing to do in the Tri-Cities? Boating (floating and fishing). Driving down the road in the fall with windows down smelling the ripe grapes.
What thing would people be most surprised to learn about you? I haven’t been on a horse in 10 years and don’t care to own any. I grew up playing sports including track and volleyball in college but was a rodeo queen in 2003.
If you could have dinner with one or more people (living or deceased) who would it be? Tim Tebow. I love his heart for those with special needs. Princess Kate to get to hear what it’s like behind closed doors. I’m used to eating with a 1-year-old every day so I’d need to brush up on my skills a bit first.
Describe your job: In 2011, I produced the Tri-City’s first-ever exceptional rodeo. Ten years later I created a nonprofit to produce those rodeos and five years later I was able to pay myself to continue organizing them throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Mentors: My dad. I used to follow him around to different events when he was the recreation supervisor for the city of Pasco. He played an integral part in bringing Special Olympics to the Tri-Cities. He also created and ran many activities and events like the Cable Bridge Run during his 37 years with the city. I remember at a young age hanging out and helping him at those events. His love for special needs people was passed on to me and I believe I picked up event planning tricks as well as working with the public and different kinds of people from him. I do have to say that our Rascal Rodeo cowboys, cowgirls and their parents have taught me so much also. I have the utmost respect for them all and they have taught me how to be a better person with love and respect.
Toughest career decision: When I stopped applying for “real jobs” after being laid off four jobs in three years and decided to go after making Rascal Rodeo a reality. I had to block out a lot of negativity from those who did not believe. I don’t even need one hand to count those who believed in it in the beginning. To tell your parents when you’re 27 years old, with no job or car and only student loans to your name while living under their roof that you are going to start a nonprofit, you can’t blame them for questioning me. But I remember the night I laid in bed with tears rolling down the side of my face into my ears, the prayer I said, “God I’ll do whatever it takes to make this a reality and make it happen.” It was not always fun, easy or glamorous but it happened!
What do you like most/least about your job? Most: Being able to help people with “disabilities” discover abilities they didn’t know they had. Showing communities that people with special needs have just as many abilities as anyone. Abilities are greater than disabilities.
Least: When parents call before a rodeo and say they don’t think their child (of any age) would be able to accomplish our rodeo activities or think they won’t like it so they don’t bring them. I try to encourage them to bring the participant and let them decide what they can do or what they like or don’t like. So many parents end up in tears because they can’t believe what was accomplished during our rodeos. Also, when people won’t attend because siblings can’t be considered participants. Doing that halts the parents, participant, siblings and the whole family from being able to discover how capable their disabled participant is.
First job: Lifeguard and swim instructor for the city of Kennewick. I truly believe this is one of the best jobs a teenager and young adult could have. It’s high demand and great pay. Lives are your responsibility while dealing with everything from rude parents and their kids, figuring out if that brown thing in the pool is just a leaf or requires the pool to be cleared and sanitized, learning to work with and handling the public in a professional setting. Being prepared for the worst situations helps you to work well under pressure and dependent on your co-workers to make things go smooth.
Achieving work-life balance: It took me having a child to have a life other than Rascal Rodeo. When I became pregnant, I figured I’d just keep going 90 miles an hour in every which direction, but I was sick my entire pregnancy, so I quickly learned I could no longer work like that. Last year, when Colton was born, I missed several rodeos due to recovering from having an emergency C-section and a few other issues. That was the hardest for me. To miss the rodeo days, the days I work to make happen. Where all the joy and love happen. But I am so thankful that I’ve discovered life outside of Rascal Rodeo and am working on that balancing act. It’s a tough one when you love what you do and know so many are depending on you to make the events happen. The more I work, the more we will grow. But my son has now brought me that love and joy outside of the rodeos.
Community involvement: Since having Colton, my volunteer time has slowed greatly. But I still enjoy working with and supporting other nonprofits and attending their fundraisers. As well as helping anyone out that needs it.