Fund offers cowboys a hand up, not a hand out |

Fund offers cowboys a hand up, not a hand out

George Strait and Charlie Daniels sing for it, Justin Boots believes in it and, since 1989, injured cowboys have learned they can depend on it.

Recognizing that serious injuries can be traumatic enough without the additional burden of financial worries, the Justin Boot Company formed a partnership with the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association in 1989 to establish 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 Schomholtz, program manager for the Cowboy Crisis Fund. “Our motto is that the fund is a hand up, not a hand out.”

The idea was to establish a fund to help 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.

Schomholtz said that last year, the fund helped 60 cowboys with $300,000 in relief.

Since 1991, the program has donated $3.7 million to injured rodeo professionals.

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 also has been used to purchase wheelchairs, crutches and braces for cowboys who cannot afford them.

The fund, long supported by John Justin Jr. and the Justin Boot Company, gives 100 percent of the donations it receives to help the cause.

To ensure that the money goes to cowboys, Justin Boots supports the fund by paying for all the administrative costs including staff member’s salaries and other often overlooked expenses.

The fund also is supported by a huge number of fund-raisers across the country that provide the money that is needed to make sure the program continues well into the future.

Celebrities and country music stars such as George Strait, Charlie Daniels and the late Chris LeDoux use their names to increase awareness and their talent to raise money.

Daniels capped off the 31st annual Cowboy Downhill in Steamboat last winter with a concert benefiting the Cowboy Crisis Fund.

“I think the Downhill has become synonymous with Steamboat over the last three decades, and it’s the cowboys that make the event, and this is just one small way we can give back to them,” said Mike Lane, spokesman for the Steamboat Ski Area.

Last year, the resort raised $11,000 during a Charlie Daniels concert, proceeds from which went toward the fund.

Schomholtz said the Justin Crisis Fund is about supporting the men and women who carry on the American tradition inside the rodeo arena.

They compete for a love of the sport that rewards them only when they are competing and winning.

Rodeo is a fair-weather sport that rewards cowboys with big checks when things are going well, but not when they are injured.

“It’s not a question of if you will get hurt, but when you will get hurt,” said Pat McAteer, Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund Board member.