PUEBLO, Colo. – Ryan Dirteater still feels proud when his childhood heroes Justin McBride and Adriano Moraes congratulate him for an 8-second ride on the Built Ford Tough Series.
It is always special when some of your greatest heroes talk to you, says Dirteater, which is one of the reasons why he had no problem saying yes when Jaxson Kidd, the PBR’s first participant in its Adopt a Child program, asked him during the Built Ford Tough World Finals if he would be willing to visit him and his second grade classmates at Bixby North Elementary School in Bixby, Oklahoma.
Throughout the school year, teacher Dana Preston’s students each are allowed to be the Spartan of the Week and bring in one item to show the class. Kidd had always wanted to bring a bull rider to school and asked Dirteater if he would pay a visit.
Therefore, Dirteater stopped by for lunch and a meet-and-greet with Kidd and his classmates last Tuesday.
The students watched YouTube videos of Dirteater and got to see his bull rope, riding gear and other accessories. They also participated in a question and answer session with the 25-year-old from Hulbert, Oklahoma.
“It means a lot to me being there and just seeing the smile on a kid’s face like that (is worth it),” Dirteater said. “It was only a half a day, but it means a lot. It is more than half a day. They have heroes like we all do and for me to do that makes me feel good.”
Jaxson was diagnosed with brain cancer in February 2013. It was just three weeks after the Kidds had moved from Houston to Bixby, Oklahoma, to be closer to their friends and family. Jaxson completed his treatment, which included chemotherapy, in May, but he is still battling the effects of the treatment and the cancer.
It was a much-needed morale boost for Kidd, said his mother Gina. A day earlier, the Kidds spent all day at the hospital as Jaxson went under a series of tests. It was an extremely long, stressful and worrisome day. Yet, Dirteater’s upcoming visit kept Jaxson excited and looking forward to going to school.
“I really think if it was not for the fact that Ryan was going to be there, it would have been hard to get Jaxson to go to school that day,” Gina said. “It is amazing what (the bull riders) can do for him and it had been a rough time. For Ryan to come and spend the day with him was the best.”
The young bull riding fan was wearing his Cooper Tires jersey and snuck up and surprised Gina and Dirteater when they were waiting in the cafeteria, where the two friends sat and ate McDonalds together.
Dirteater and Jaxson talked all things PBR, including Mick E Mouse, who is Jaxson’s new favorite bull following the retirement of three-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker.
“It was awesome!” Jaxson said. “It was like we were having a party!!”
Gina added, “Jaxson felt like he was the big man on campus because Ryan was coming that day.”
Once inside the classroom, Jaxson excitedly introduced Dirteater to all of his friends.
“It was fun and really good being around them,” Dirteater said. “It kind of brought me back to when I was their age. They really loved bull riding and asked a lot of good questions. They were a good group of kids, really smart.
“A lot of them don’t get to go to bull ridings and maybe that opened doors for one or two of them that they may want to be a bull rider.”
That seemed to be the case as Gina has since been flooded with calls from fellow parents asking when the next time the PBR would be in the region.
Therefore, you can expect next year’s BFTS event in Oklahoma City on Jan. 23-25 to feature even more Dirteater fans than usual.
Most of all, Jaxson was happy to have a visit from one of his favorite bull riders.
“I think Jaxson missed him,” Gina said. “We spent so much time in Vegas with him; I think he was really missing the bull riders. To see Ryan was really good.
“Everyone had a really good time.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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