Cowboys have earned a reputation for living life on the edge.
But thanks to the Justin Boot Company there is a safety net for when things go bad for cowboys inside the rodeo arena. In 1991 John Justin Jr. and rodeo legend Jim Shoulders came up with the idea of the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund.
"The fund helps injured rodeo professionals with their living expenses until they can get back on their feet," said Cindy Schonholtz, program manager for the Cowboy Crisis Fund. "Our motto is that the fund is a hand up, not a hand out."
The fund helps rodeo professionals (not just cowboys) and their families in the event of serious injuries that would keep them out of the rodeo arena and away from the paychecks they depend on to make a living.
Schonholtz said that last year the fund helped 60 cowboys with $300,000 in relief.
Since 1991, the program has helped injured rodeo professionals with nearly $4 million in aid.
The money is not intended to pay for medical expenses, but to pay bills and put food on the table for cowboys who are injured and can't compete.
The fund has been used to purchase wheelchairs, crutches and braces for cowboys who cannot afford them.
The fund was supported by John Justin, Jr. who passed away in 1991, and gives 100 percent of its donations it receives to help the cause.
The Justin Boot Company pays all of the administrative costs ranging from the stamps on envelopes to staff members' salaries.
Schonholtz said the fund is asupported by a huge number of fundraisers across the country that provide the money that is needed to make sure the program continues well into the future. Celebrities like George Strait, Charlie Daniels and Nolan Ryan use their names to increase awareness and their talent to raise money.
Two winters ago Daniels came to Steamboat and capped off the 31st annual Cowboy Downhill in Steamboat with a concert benefiting the Cowboy Crisis Fund. The event raised $11,000.
Steamboat Motors and Steamboat Resorts also have been long-time supporters of the fund.
Steamboat Motors' John Centner said that supporting the crisis fund has always been a worthwhile endeavor for his company and fits in with Steamboat's rodeo heritage.
"Life as a rodeo cowboy is tough," Centner said. "It's important to have the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund there in case these guys get knocked down and can't get up on their own. We feel like it is a worthwhile cause to support."
Schonholtz said the Justin Crisis Fund is about supporting the men and women who carry on the American tradition inside the rodeo arena.
"The fund has always been well received by the cowboys," Schonholtz said. "They don't always want to use it, but I think they're happy it's there in case they have to use it."
She said it's not uncommon for cowboys to return money to the fund if they get back on the road, or for cowboys to help with fundraisers to ensure the fund gets stronger.