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.