For the 11th consecutive year, Wise County’s battle of the bull riders – the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge – has bolstered the finances of local non-profit organizations and for a second year has provided free homes for war veterans.
This year, event-sponsor WC Challenger Charities (WCCC) presented $133,500 in all to 20 recipients, raising the total to $674,100.
“Having surpassed $600,000 in donations is a great milestone,” said Andrew Rottner, one of WCCC’s co-founders, “and we look forward to many more years of this volunteer community effort helping our local agencies.”
One of the original WCCC beneficiaries, United Way of Wise County, again received $25,000, bringing the umbrella organization’s total to $274,000.
WCCC gave another $2,500 – for a total of $53,000 – to PBR’s Rider Relief Fund, a financial safety net for injured cowboys who make bull riding possible.
“We’re grateful to our loyal sponsors, fans and supporters for allowing us to contribute to all of these worthy charities,” Rottner said.
Because bull riding and barbecue are a natural fit, pitmasters from as far away as Iowa competed for the first time to provide yet another source of income for WCCC.
“We were overwhelmed by the success of the Eighter from Decatur BBQ Challenge,” Rottner said. “The 98 teams were the most ever for an International Barbecue Cookers Association inaugural cookoff.
“We have an outstanding committee heading this up, and I predict a great future for this competition,” he continued. “It was also a hit with the public, and we anticipate much larger crowds next year.”
That one event provided $23,500 in direct support to the Wise County Animal Shelter Buddies, Wise Area Relief Mission (WARM), Decatur Fire Department and the Roy Young Memorial Scholarship.
Young, Wendell Berry Jr., Calvin Jackson and Rottner organized WC Challenger Charities in 2004. The first donation to the Young scholarship was for $4,000 in 2013, the year after he died at age 49. It received a $10,000 boost this year.
Berry has spearheaded the local effort known as 1,000 Miles ’til Home, in support of the Military Warriors Support Foundation. It helped provide five homes in both 2013 and 2014.
“This is probably our most meaningful program going forward, and we know Wendell’s continued leadership and passion will achieve more recognition for this outstanding initiative,” Rottner said.
“Words cannot describe the feeling of fulfillment that comes with presenting one of this country’s heroes a mortgage-free, gift tax-free home,” he recalled. “To see the joy in the eyes of these families is simply amazing.”
Now in its second decade, at least 35 organizations and 10 military families have benefited from the Hart bull riding and its related events, tentatively set for May 29 and 30, 2015, at the Wise County Fairgrounds in Decatur.
SUPPORTING DECATUR YOUTH – Andrew Rottner and Alan Sessions of WC Challenger Charities present $3,000 to Connie Redwine and Deroy Bennett of the Decatur Youth Fair Buyers Association. The two organizations have been involved in putting on the JW Hart PBR Challenge since the first bull riding in 2004, and the association has earned $17,950 in all. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle
CO-OP HELPS OUT – Wise Electric Co-op’s community volunteers, The Outlets, have earned another $3,000 for operating the concession stand at the JW Hart PBR Challenge, bringing their 10-year total to $17,050. From left are WC Challenger Charities’ Alan Sessions and Calvin Jackson, and The Outlet’s Bryan Shriver and Bill Hood. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle
DECATUR FIREFIGHTERS – Randy Burkhart, representing WC Challenger Charities, presents $500 to Fire Marshal Deroy Bennett of the Decatur Fire Department. With them are, from left, Andrew Rottner, Mark Tuley, Carey Williams, Wade Watson, Debra Walker, Ronnie Walker and Wendell Berry Jr. Since its inception in 2004, the organization has donated $3,650 to the firefighters. The first Eighter from Decatur BBQ Challenge funded this year’s check. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle
WISE YOUTH RODEO – Zane Lasater, center, accepts a $1,000 donation to Wise Youth Rodeo from Calvin Jackson and Alan Sessions of WC Challenger Charities for helping to put on the 11th annual JW Hart PBR Challenge at the Wise County Fairgrounds in Decatur on May 31. The youth rodeo was held Aug. 22 and 23 during Chisholm Trail Days. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle
DONATION TO WARM – Wise Area Relief Mission receives $10,000 from WC Challenger Charities. Participating in the presentation are, from left, Ronnie Walker, Carey Williams, Wade Watson, Randy Burkhart, Mark Tuley, WARM Executive Director Rene Ashmore, Andrew Rottner, Betty Carson and Rick Ross. WCCC’s first donation to WARM is being funded by proceeds from the first Eighter From Decatur BBQ Challenge. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle
BENEFITING HOSPITAL – For the seventh time in its 11-year history, WC Challenger Charities has made a donation to the Wise Regional Health Foundation. This year’s $3,000 brings the total to $30,000. Pictured are WCCC’s Andrew Rottner and WRHF’s Michelle Stone and Mike McQuiston. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle
YOUNG SCHOLARSHIP – Roy Young was a founder of WC Challenger Charities, and this year the organization is giving $10,000 to a college scholarship in his memory. The scholarship was started last year with $4,000. From left are Andrew Rottner, Mark Tuley, Carey Williams, Wade Watson, Randy Burkhart, Debra Walker, Ronnie Walker, Calvin Jackson, Wendell Berry Jr. and Alan Sessions. This donation is being funded by the first Eighter From Decatur BBQ Challenge. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle
AGGIE BACKERS – Jared Laaser of the Cross Timbers Aggie Club accepts a $2,000 donation from Andrew Rottner of WC Challenger Charities as reward for parking cars at the JW Hart bull riding. The club has earned a total of $8,050 from WCCC since 2007. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle
FREEDOM’S DEFENDERS – Wise County Veterans Group receives a $2,000 check from WC Challenger Charities, bringing total donations to $6,650 since 2005, the second year of the JW Hart PBR Challenge. From left are WCCC’s Wendell Berry Jr. and Alan Sessions, Armed Forces veterans Bob Johnson, Wayne Hartley and group Commander Cliff Dudley, and WCCC’s Andrew Rottner and Calvin Jackson. Additionally this year, WC Challenger Charities gave $60,000 to the Military Warriors Support Foundation, bringing its total contributions to $160,000. Berry led the local effort known as “1,000 Miles ’til Home.” Messenger photo by Ken Roselle
AIDING SHELTER – Wise County Animal Shelter Buddies is a first-time recipient of WC Challenger Charities’ generosity, and its $3,000 gift is being funded by a first-time event, the Eighter from Decatur BBQ Challenge. In on the check presentation are Wade Watson, Mark Tuley, Andrew Rottner, Carey Williams, Shelter Buddies’ Brenda Argraves, Randy Burkhart, Debra Walker, Ronnie Walker and Wendell Berry Jr. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle
UNITED WAY – Wendell Berry Jr. and Andrew Rottner of WC Challenger Charities present $25,000 to Sabrina Easley and Mike McQuiston of United Way of Wise County. With them are WCCC’s Calvin Jackson and Alan Sessions. WCCC raised the money at its J.W. Hart PBR Challenge bull riding. Over the 11 years of the event, WCCC has given $274,000 to United Way and has been one of the umbrella organization’s biggest supporters. Berry, Jackson, Rottner and Roy Young founded WC Challenger Charities in 2004. Sessions has helped shoulder the load for the volunteer organization since Young’s death in 2012. “Alan has been a tireless worker and partner,” Rottner said. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle
DECATUR CARES – This year the JW Hart PBR Challenge added a local celebrity steer-riding contest as a “halftime” attraction, and WC Challenger Charities made donations to six fearless riders’ non-profit organizations of choice. Here, Wade Watkins presents $2,000 to Ken May of Decatur Cares. With him are WCCC’s Wendell Berry Jr., Andrew Rottner, Calvin Jackson and Alan Sessions. Decatur Cares is a community effort to see that children who receive at least one meal a day at school do not go underfed during the summer. May is pastor of First Baptist Church in Decatur. Watson owns Texas Custom Trailers. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle
HELPFUL ROTARIANS – The Decatur Rotary Club has parked cars at all but the first JW Hart PBR Challenge in Decatur, earning $10,900 for its volunteer effort, including a record $2,000 this year. From left are WC Challenger Charities’ Alan Sessions, Rotarians Curtis Creswell and Eileen Standridge, club President Lannie Noble, WCCC’s Andrew Rottner, Rotarian John Lanier and WCCC’s Wendell Berry Jr. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle
DHS RODEO – Decatur High School Rodeo Club’s Chase Wilson and Carolyn Spear accept a $1,000 donation from WC Challenger Charities’ Wendell Berry Jr. and Alan Sessions. The club received $250 last year for helping with the JW Hart professional bull-riding event. The club is hosting a North Texas High School Rodeo Association event Sept. 27 and 28 at the Wise County Fairgrounds arena on South FM51 in Decatur. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle