Founders of WC Challenger Charities began planning the 10th anniversary of their signature event – the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge – with heavy hearts.
Roy Young died in September of 2012, just as he and co-founders Wendell Berry, Calvin Jackson and Andrew Rottner were drawing up the 2013 event.
But the team pushed forward in Young’s honor, raising a record $146,000 and expanding its reach to aid not only local organizations, but also the Military Warriors Support Foundation to help provide mortgage-free, gift-tax-free homes for five veterans wounded in the Afghanistan or Iraq conflicts.
In its first joint venture with the military support group, WCCC had originally planned to give away just one home. But the fundraising skyrocketed, allowing them to give away five homes.
Berry, who developed the “1,000 Miles Til Home” campaign to promote their efforts, ran 1,000 miles in the months leading up to the event, including the last lap in the arena that night with a group of veterans.
WCCC donated $100,000 to the group and split the remaining $46,000 between local organizations, the bulk of which went to United Way of Wise County. During the past 10 years, the rodeo event has raised $540,600 and at least 30 organizations have benefited from it.
In 2013, a bet between J.W. Hart and Pistol Robinson pushed the event into the national spotlight. Robinson took a shot at riding Bushwacker, the top bull in the world, for $40,000. He was unsuccessful, but the hype helped secure legendary barrel man Flint Rasmussen to work the arena, and brought the likes of “CBS This Morning” to air a five-minute segment on the event. The community basked in the spotlight.
“The support of this community is overwhelming when it comes to good causes,” said Rottner. “There is no better place to be.”
For the founders, the most important part of this year’s event was honoring their lost partner, Young.
“Without him, we never would have gotten to the level that we have with this event,” Rottner said. “We’re hoping he’s watching and seeing what we’ve done for him. It was our desire and passion to make it the best event for him, to honor his memory.”