Mrs. Rooftop Rodeo float to be followed by riderless horse: Fundraising group honors missing member

Gary Nelson and Dr. Jennifer McLellan ride on the Mrs. Rooftop Rodeo float in the 2023 Rodeo Parade. (Photo by Wendy Rigby/Estes Park Health)

When the ladies in pink wave from their float to promote the Crowns for the Care and Mrs. Rooftop Rodeo campaign supporting Estes Park Health during the annual Rodeo Parade in Estes Park, an important member of the team from last year will be remembered in a special way.

A riderless horse will be following the Mrs. Rooftop Rodeo float to represent Gary Nelson, the former Director of Perioperative Services at Estes Park Health who died earlier this year following a hard-fought battle with renal cancer.

In 2023, Nelson was an integral part of the Mrs. Rooftop Rodeo campaign which raised a record-breaking $113,618.20 for a new DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) machine for the Diagnostic Imaging Department at EPH.

Nelson served as the liaison between the Mrs. Rooftop Rodeo and the Rodeo itself in 2023. (Estes Park Health File Photo)

Nelson served as the liaison between the Mrs. Rooftop Rodeo and the Rodeo itself. He kept the group aware of parade plans, rodeo activities on Paint Estes Pink Night, and passed the boot to raise more money during the rodeo. He also contributed to the fundraising himself and rode on the float in the parade.

“Gary became so much a part of us last year, we felt we needed to do something to have others remember him and recognize his contribution to a hugely successful campaign,” said Sherry Unruh, Chairperson of the Mrs. Rooftop Rodeo/Paint Estes Pink Committee of the Estes Park Health Foundation Fund Development Committee. “We have gotten saddle bags with his picture on them to hang over the horse and other pictures that will be hung on our float. His cowboy hat will be laying on the saddle.”

Nelson lived in Estes for about two years. He was already immersed in the community, including a local Rotary Club, the Rodeo, and the EPH Foundation. (Estes Park Health File Photo)

Nelson lived in Estes for about two years. He was already immersed in the community, including a local Rotary Club, the Rodeo, and the EPH Foundation.

“We were all amazed at how Gary inserted himself in such wonderful groups, roles, volunteering, and his work,” Unruh recalled. “He was always smiling and even though his prognosis wasn’t good, he never made you feel bad for him. He was positive and lived his last few months with joy!”

Gary Nelson is remembered in a new mural on the second floor of Estes Park Health. (Photo by Wendy Rigby/Estes Park Health)

2024 Crowns for the Care Campaign

For more information about this year’s Mrs. Rooftop Rodeo campaign, go to https://eph.org/campaigns/paint-estes-pink/.

This year, Crowns for the Care is raising funds to purchase a Philips EPIQ Elite ultrasound machine. This system will allow our on-site radiologist to perform needle-guided biopsies at Estes Park Health, bringing significant advancements in our ability to diagnose breast cancer quickly and efficiently.

The EPIQ Elite features an exceptional level of clinical performance, workflow, and advanced intelligence that will save women time in finding out their diagnosis, as well as ease their mind and speed up advanced care as needed. As part of its strategic plan, Estes Park Health is aiming to create a more female-friendly diagnostic imaging center, and as eighty percent of all breast cancers are diagnosed in women over the age of fifty, this is an important health concern for the Estes Valley’s older population.

100% of donations given to Crowns for the Care benefit this cause. Give today.

Gary Nelson is shown alongside Sherry Unruh at the 2023 Rooftop Rodeo Parade. A riderless horse will be following the Mrs. Rooftop Rodeo float to represent Gary Nelson, the former Director of Perioperative Services at Estes Park Health who died earlier this year following a hard-fought battle with renal cancer. (Photo by Wendy Rigby/Estes Park Health)