PUEBLO, Colo. ― Ten years ago, Mike White was asked by the PBR to visit St. Jude Children’s hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and spend time with a young boy whose wish was to meet the professional bull rider.
At the time, White was in his late 20s and in the prime of his career battling for a world title. The bull rider said he would have no problem paying the boy a visit and thought originally he would stay for around 45 minutes.
However, White’s stay ended up being closer to three hours. The two laughed, played with PBR bucking bulls on the boy’s bed and just chatted about a variety of things.
“That right there changed my life for kids,” White said. “That kid’s wish was to meet Mike White before his time was coming. That was his dream – to meet Mike White. That made me think about some things, and all of the things that a kid could wish for, he wanted to meet a crummy old bull rider.
“That’s the whole reason I started doing what I am doing right now.”
White is in the final preparations for his fifth annual Mike White Invitational, which is set for April 18-19 in DeKalb, Texas. The Friday night bull riding is a Touring Pro Division event, but more importantly, all gate proceeds will benefit Ropin’ Dreams.
The nonprofit organization’s mission is to “fulfill the dreams of those young people who are faced daily with the adversity of physical challenges due to critical injury or serious illness.”
“I got a big passion for kids,” White said. “I have always wanted to help kids in that area. I am just happy to be a part of it and help raise money for them.”
White’s event last year raised $11,000 and this year the goal is to double it. The current Built Ford Tough Series safety man tips his hat to all of the sponsors, as well as his sister, Wendy LaVergne, who have lined up to make this goal a very potential reality.
“Without the sponsors, we would never raise any money for (Ropin’ Dreams),” White said. “Every dollar spent on a ticket is going straight to the kids.”
According to White, Stormy Wing and Douglas Duncan are expected to compete at the event next weekend, despite it being the first weekend off in over three months for the Built Ford Tough Series. Chase Outlaw was originally going to be there before suffering an injury on the BFTS.
White remembers the grind of the PBR’s major tour and he appreciates the fact that some riders are willing to sacrifice a weekend off to attend his event. In the past PBR riders such as J.B. Mauney, Sean Willingham and Kasey Hayes have competed.
“It means a lot to me when those guys will step up and say, ‘Yeah we will be there,’ and commit themselves to coming,” White said. “It’s tough. It’s that first weekend you have off in months and you are going to want to take it off, but those guys stepped up and said we are going to do it.”
Along with the Friday night bull riding, general admission tickets are available for $15, there is a pre-event concert from former PBR rider Colby Yates and a post-event party featuring Luke Kaufman. Saturday includes an all-day roping, an Easter egg hunt – last year there were 5,000 eggs hidden and later found in 15 minutes – with two four-wheeler ATVs and two smaller battery-powered ones up for grabs, as well as a silent auction that will benefit four select kids from Ropin’ Dreams.
White made plenty of children hospital visits during his bull riding career, which included the PRCA world title and PBR Rookie of the Year honor in 1999, but that special visit in Memphis is one that he will never forget.
“I had been to hospitals to talk to kids, but none in the shape this kid was in,” White said. “I will tell you what. I don’t care how big or tough you are. It will make you tear up. I left that hospital thinking, ‘Wow, I don’t have any problems in life compared to what they deal with.’
“It gives you a whole new outlook on life. You think you have problems and you sit back and look at their problems and yours are nothing. Yours are minor.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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