By: Justin Felisko
June 01, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – 2009 Ring of Honor inductee J.W. Hart has made some of the biggest headline announcements for his annual summer event in Decatur, Texas, over the past few years.
Whether it was convincing eight legends of the sport of professional bull riding to come out of retirement for one night, or to pitting four-time PRCA champion J.W. Harris against two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney, Hart has always found ways to bring national attention to a bull riding held in a tiny town of 7,000 people 45 miles northwest of Dallas.
However, the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge has never been defined by special challenges such as Pistol Robinson vs. Bushwacker or which young gun could attempt Jared Allen’s Air Time for $50,000.
Instead, it has always been about raising the most amount of money possible for charity, while also putting on the greatest show for fans.
Therefore, even though this Saturday’s event may lack a marquee, sizzle-reel matchup between groups of riders, the 14th annual J.W. Hart PBR Challenge Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event is going to be celebrating a monumental achievement.
The biggest headline should be, and will be, the fact that the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge will surpass the $1 million mark in charitable donations.
It is a huge, colossal number, and one that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
It is more important than any matchup Hart has ever helped to organize.
“We will go over $1 million in cash (donations) this year,” Hart said. “We will surpass it. That is what it is about. The fans and the charity.”
Over the last 13 years, the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge – the first non-Built Ford Tough Series event to operate as a non-profit – and WC Challenger Charities have donated $957,100 directly to 50 organizations.
“It’s kind of hard to fathom,” WCCC President Andrew Rottner told Racey Burden of the Wise County Messenger. “It’s a significant number, and it’s done a lot of good in the community.”
In partnership with 1,000 Miles Till Home, 15 homes – which are valued at over $3 million – have also been donated to military veterans in the last four years.
“To know how our country has let them down. I feel like if we can make up for one person letting them down. Then we are closer to home.”
Helping out our country’s veterans has been a passion of Hart’s for a long time. This year he has served as an ambassador for the PBR’s Celebrate America Tour.
“Our military. We wouldn’t be there without them,” Hart said. “If we can thank them by helping them, I am all for it.”
Hart still remembers when he was approached by Calvin Jackson about moving his annual Touring Pro Division event from Gainesville, Texas, to Decatur in 2004.
Jackson and his fellow committee members – Andrew Rottner, Alan Sessions, Wendell Berry, and the late Roy Young – were willing to handle all of the logistics of the event and let Hart focus on the bull riding.
Originally, Hart’s bull riding was not about raising money for charity. It was about bringing some of the best bull riders to his hometown.
“The guys in Decatur were like, ‘Why don’t you move it here and we will call it your deal. We will do everything. All you have to do is get the bull riders and the bulls. You don’t have to go out and do the sponsor work,’ Hart recalled. “I was like, ‘That is great.’”
They then added that all the profits would go to charity.
Hart replied, “Even better.”
This week has already seen the continuation of the committee’s charitable efforts.
Tuesday night featured a dinner in partnership with Warriors and Rodeo for military, EMS and firefighters, and Wednesday was a fitness and rodeo clinic.
There is a benefit dinner on Thursday to benefit 1,000 Miles Till Home, while Friday will feature mutton busting and freestyle bullfighting.
Saturday will then have the Eighter from Decatur BBQ Challenge and then the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event.
Tentatively expected to compete at the Wise County Fairgrounds Saturday at 8 p.m. CT are No. 11 Rubens Barbosa, No. 12 Mason Lowe, No. 14 Cody Teel, No. 15 Marco Eguchi, No. 20 Ryan Dirteater, No. 25 Mike Lee, No. 33 Cody Rodeo Tyler and No. 34 Harris.
So while the coming days will bring the frenzy of activity that comes with hosting a PBR event, Hart feels it is only right to tip his hat to a group of men who have made his namesake event one of the best in the business.
“Those are the five guys that brainstormed it, put it together and they had the fundraisers,” Hart said. “They do 1,000 Miles Till Home. They raise money. It is all them.
“There is not a better group in the world.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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