The color of loyalty: Gorsuch and Kraupie families grow closer after Rett’s diagnosis


The initials are engraved on Taydon Gorsuch’s rodeo socks and shirts.

And if anyone asks about them or the purple color he wears, he has an answer ready for them.

The letters are the monogram of his best friend, a little blonde-haired girl named Whitley Ray Kraupie, who has a rare genetic condition called Rett Syndrome, and the color purple is Rett’s consciousness color.

But the story goes back to when Taydon himself was a little boy.

The son of two-time world steer wrestling champion Dean Gorsuch, he and his dad and Del Ray Kraupie crisscrossed the continent as pro rodeo men. When Dean was busy with horses or bulldog, Del was Taydon’s babysitter and best friend.

rodeo friendship

Del Ray and Dean had known each other for years, growing up a few miles apart, and Dean had practiced his bulldog at Del’s.

But it was a horse in 2010 that strengthened their friendship. When Dean purchased Pump Jack, the gelding on which he won his second world title in 2010, he partnered with Del’s father, Darrell Kraupie.

“We practiced together the whole time,” Del said. “Dean asked me if I could go with him, and that’s how it started.” Del Hazed for Dean from 2010 to 2013, the last year he competed in the National Rodeo Finals. They always took one of Dean’s sons with them, often Taydon, because he was older.

Del Ray married Stacy Doll in 2016, and the couple settled in Del’s hometown of Bridgeport, Neb., a few miles from his friend Dean and his wife Bekah and their three boys: Taydon, Trell and Teagan, to Gering.

When Del and Stacy had their baby girl, Whitley Ray, in 2019, Taydon said she was his best friend.

At one year old, she was crawling and talking like any normal baby.

And then it stopped. She stopped crawling and there was no “mommy” and “daddy” anymore.

The Kraupies didn’t know what was wrong. They searched for answers, spending more than two years consulting countless doctors, pediatricians, physical therapists, children’s hospitals in two states, with no answers.

Stacy said she had more than 120 appointments over a two-year period, testing Whitley for everything from cerebral palsy to tethered spinal cord. When no answer was in sight, friends, trying to be helpful, suggested that Whitley’s body needed to be detoxified, or that childhood vaccinations had caused the problems. They even went so far as to do a study on the little girl’s sleep deprivation.

Stacy and Del began to doubt themselves. “We got to the point where we thought maybe we were crazy,” she said. “Maybe we imagined that.” They blamed themselves.

But they were surrounded by supportive family and friends. “They never let us go. Don’t stop looking and don’t come down,” they were told. “We just had unreal support,” Stacy said.

Whitley’s Diagnosis

It was during a genetics appointment for insurance purposes that a diagnosis was finally made.

On October 1 of last year, the geneticist called Stacy at her office, an insurance company in downtown Bridgeport. Stacy put the geneticist on hold as she walked to Del’s office next door.

Together they listened to the diagnosis, Rett Syndrome, and sat in silence. “You could hear him on the phone, asking, are you still there?” Stacy remembered that.

Rett syndrome is a rare genetic disorder affecting mainly girls. It causes a severe disability of muscle movement. Most babies with Rett syndrome develop normally for the first six to 12 months, then begin to lose skills they had before, such as the ability to crawl, walk, use their hands, and communicate . Scoliosis and lung and heart problems are also part of the syndrome.

Rett syndrome can cause seizures; people with Rett sometimes have trouble forming relationships with others. With good medical care, people with the disease can live into their 40s and 50s.

For the first few weeks, they didn’t do well, Stacy said. They were in denial. But again, the army of friends and family around them lifted them up.

And came the Gorsuches.

Taydon Gorsuch and Del Ray Kraupie. The two have ties that date back to Taydon’s toddler days, when Del Ray would travel with his father, Dean, on the rodeo route, hazing for him, and Taydon would follow him. Photo courtesy of Stacy Kraupie.

Dean and his wife Bekah and their boys loved Whitley as their own when she was born. One of the hardest things Del and Stacy did, after telling their own family about the diagnosis, was telling the Gorsuches.

The boys, who are now seventeen, fourteen and nine, had a lot of questions. So Bekah told them to write down their questions and invited the Kraupies to dinner. With Del and Stacy’s blessing, she asked if it was OK if the boys could ask their questions. They asked, and after his brothers left the dinner table, Taydon stayed. He had researched online and had the tough questions. “Is she going to die?” He asked.

Whitley’s diagnosis affected Taydon more than his brothers, his mother Bekah said, partly because he’s older, but also because he and Del are close.

Del was there when Taydon learned to ride a bike while at the Calgary Stampede. Del was the one who taught Taydon that brushing your teeth with Mountain Dew wasn’t a good idea, and he even had an ID card for the boy, in case they got on a plane to go from rodeo to rodeo. .

“Seeing how much pain Del was in was a huge eye opener for the boys,” Bekah said.

Through Taydon’s online research, he discovered that the color of Rett Syndrome consciousness is purple. So he asked his mom for some purple rodeo shirts and socks. His socks, which he wears in football practices and matches, have a large “WRK” embroidered on them. Under his Gering High School football jersey, he wears a purple undershirt.

His western purple shirts, monogrammed with Whitley’s initials and a heart, are the most on display.

Del Ray Kraupie dreams of Taydon Gorsuch. The two have a history of friendship: Del helped keep Taydon on the road to the rodeo, fussed over him when he jumped his first heist, and when his daughter Whitley was born, Taydon announced she was her best friend”.
Taydon’s socks are monogrammed with Whitley’s initials: WRK, in honor of the little girl. Bekah Gorsuch | Courtesy picture
Dean and Bekah Gorsuch’s eldest son, Taydon, wears purple undershirts and purple socks, in honor of Whitley Kraupie, while playing football for Gering High School (Neb.). Bekah Gorsuch | Courtesy picture

When Taydon was interviewed before competing in the national high school finals last summer, he urged the reporter to ask him about the purple shirt and the monogram.

The shirt and the monogram opened doors for conversation.

Once a man asked Taydon about his shirt and the letters on it. After Taydon explained his goal, the man revealed he was a pediatrician specializing in Rett Syndrome and gave Stacy his personal mobile number.

Taydon and his “best friend” Whitley Kraupie. After his diagnosis of Rett syndrome, he and his brothers, Trell and Teagan, researched the disorder. Taydon wears purple to his rodeos and high school football, to raise awareness of the disorder. Stacy Kraupi | Courtesy picture

Another time, a physiotherapist asked Taydon about his shirt. Turns out she lived in Nebraska and worked with girls with Rett Syndrome.

Yet another person on Whitley’s team has a strong bond with the girl. The physical therapist who helped her before the diagnosis told Del and Stacy that she had twin daughters and that one of the girls was born with a genetic condition. The doctors had told her that the girl would not live more than three months, but she lived for three years. “So when I tell you that I know the pain and the fear that you are going through, it’s not because I saw it, it’s because I experienced it,” she told the Kraupies.

The rodeo part of the Kraupie and Gorsuch story came full circle this summer, when Taydon competed in the National High School Finals Rodeo. Dean had been scrambling for his son all year, and at the Nationals he rode Del’s horse, the same one Del had ridden to fog for Dean in his professional career. Taydon finished seventeenth in the world.

Taydon Gorsuch and Del Ray Kraupie have been part of each other’s lives since Taydon was a little boy. Now he’s befriended Del and Stacy’s daughter, Whitley, who has Rett syndrome. Photo courtesy of Stacy Kraupie.

Taydon’s friendship with the Kraupies

Taydon jumped his first steers with Del hazing for him, and can often be found at Del and Stacy’s house, practicing. He was also a moral support for the couple. Last winter, as they adjusted to the news of their daughter, he was hanging around. “He added levity to our days,” Stacy said. “He’s always been a part of our life, but he would be here a lot. We needed each other.

And Whitley loves Taydon. “He’s one of his favorite people.”

There are always blessings in any situation, and Kraupies recognize theirs. Whitley doesn’t have seizures, can eat and has a sunny personality, Stacy said.

“She eats well, she likes us and recognizes us, and things make her happy. She is so happy and cheerful. He is the happiest child.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”