We’ve all had the same series of thoughts while laying in fresh dirt, our horse standing over us with a look that’s half amusement, and half confusion;
Did I break something?
Oh no, maybe I did, I have to work tomorrow.
Falling is part of riding, and occasionally getting hurt is a part of falling. But what if your livelihood depended on your ability to successfully ride and perform on a horse or livestock? An injury could be devastating, not just for you, but for all those who depend on you. Enter the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund.
We chatted with Cindy Schonholtz, their program manager, to find out some truths about the Fund. The Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund helps professional rodeo athletes sustain their families and get back on their feet after an injury while rodeo-ing. They don’t cover medical expenses, as the PRCA membership includes an accident policy to assist with that, but rather all the other expenses that come along with being ‘benched’ with an injury, making sure the athletes take the time needed. They’ll help riders take care of their families, get other jobs, or go back to school and get a degree – all affirming their tag line
“A hand up, not a hand out.”
In 1989 the Justin Boot Company formed a partnership with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) to establish the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund (JCCF). As their website says, “The JCCF’s premise is to lend a helping hand to professional rodeo athletes and their families in the event of catastrophic injuries resulting from professional rodeo activities. The fund fills the void of financial hardship when the inevitable serious injury interferes with the careers of those who have dedicated their lives to the sport.”
The Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund is one of the few 100% organizations around, meaning that 100% of all donations given to the fund go directly to help athletes, not to ‘keep the lights on’ at the Fund. All administrative costs are covered by Justin Boots, and it’s been “100% from the beginning with John Justin,” says Schonholtz.
So what’s the process for a pro athlete to receive assistance? It starts with an application, which Cindy herself will review and assist with if needed. The application covers all sorts of things like how the injury occurred, a doctor’s letter, financial information, and pro rodeo-ing records. Once turned in, the Fund verifies the evidence, even checking with the PRCA, to make sure that the athlete is both truly in need of assistance, and that they’re in good standing with the rodeo community. After everything checks out, the application goes to the board where they assess the situation and give assistance as they deem fit. Assistance can be in the form of a lump sum, monthly assistance, or even needed assets like ramps or a wheelchair van.
Another way to judge a non-for-profit is by their board of directors. If you look at the Fund’s you’ll see some people you’d expect, the director of the PRCA and Justin Boots execs, but there are some celebrities as well, take Nolan Ryan and Charlie Daniels. The cynics in the room will scoff at the addition of such names as a publicity stunt, but both Ryan and Daniels, along with ALL of the other board members, are in it 100%. They review all of the applications for funds and meet twice a year, once at Justin’s headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, and once at NFR in Las Vegas. Truth be told, both Ryan and Daniels have been involved since the inception in 1991 and are very involved with the sport of rodeo.
We asked Cindy if she had any good stories to share, her answer said it all, “Good stories happen every day.” But two in particular caught our attention – one from a young donor, one from an athlete. The young donor is a 6 year old boy who sent in $60 in celebration of his 6th birthday, that kid definitely has as bright future if he’s that gracious at 6. The other is from pro bull rider, Tyler Smith – he relied on the Fund when he was injured in 2012. In 2013, he was back in the the game and tearing it up, but he didn’t forget those who helped him along the way. That year he pledged a portion of his winnings to the Fund, and after making to the NFR and back, he helped out quite a bit.
All in all, the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund is an amazing organization that not only helps people, but empowers them to be better and to rise taller than they were before they fell. We’ll tip our hat to that.
If you’d like to be involved with the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund, you can donate on their website at http://www.justincowboycrisisfund.com/donate/ or check for a fundraising event in your area at http://www.justincowboycrisisfund.com/calendar/.