Supporting families: RHIM raises money for ag families during annual memorial barrel race
Laramie – Rowdy’s Hope in Motion (RHIM) was started in memory of nine-year-old Rowdy Smallwood, who passed away after a tragic ranching accident in 2010.
“We were at our ranch, and he was trying to help his dad and the guys unload some big, 800-pound hay bales,” says RHIM President and Rowdy’s mother Stacey Smallwood. “One bale came off and landed on him.”
Rowdy was lifeflighted to the Children’s Hospital in Colorado, where he stayed for over a month.
“God had other plans for him,” comments Smallwood.
After being amazed at the support and generosity of the community, the Smallwoods decided to begin a non-profit organization to support other ranching, farming and rodeo families.
“We had so many people donate money to help us with whatever we needed help with at the time,” she says.
Smallwood continues, “The money we had leftover we used to start the foundation to reach out to other farm, ranch and rodeo families who have been in some kind of tragic accident of their own or have lost someone due to a tragic accident that has to do with farm, ranch or rodeo.”
Over the last seven years, RHIM has been able to help approximately 14 families with various expenses.
“Our goal is to pick a couple families per year to support,” explains Smallwood.
Promotion of their foundation is primarily done through word of mouth, as well as through their website and Facebook page, with potential families either being nominated or contacted directly by the foundation.
“A lot of times people nominate families, or if we hear about them, we’ll reach out to them to see if there’s anything we can do,” she continues. “Families can be nominated through our website, too. Basically, the online nominations are emailed to us, and we get ahold of the family to learn their story.”
Smallwood reflects on the first family the foundation was able to assist.
“Our first big person that we’ve helped was Russ Weitl, a professional roper from California. We were able to help buy them a handicap accessible van,” she says.
She comments, “We don’t really do a lot with insurance because we can’t touch helping with medical bills, but we typically will give families money to help pay for any of their expenses.”
The largest fundraiser the foundation has held to raise money for families was raffling off a Corvette, says Smallwood.
“We have done done raffle drawings in the past. One of our family members donated a Corvette, and we did a big huge raffle where we sold tickets all over for several months,” she says.
Now the foundation is established, RHIM raises money through an annual barrel race, with their seventh annual event scheduled for this year.
“Every year, we have a fundraiser event in Rowdy’s honor around his birthday,” comments Smallwood. “Our event is usually always held the very last weekend in June.”
She continues, “During the race, we do several fundraising activities to try and raise money for the foundation.”
This year’s race is a commemoration of Rowdy’s 16th birthday, and the foundation is hosting a two-day event on June 24-25 in Laramie.
“The last two years, we’ve been able to host a two-day event, and we’re excited to be able to do it again this year,” says Smallwood.
The race will feature a wide variety of events, including barrel racing, pole bending, dummy roping, stick horse racing, exhibitions and a silent auction.
“We try to gear the event toward family, so kids can come and it can be a whole family event,” she comments.
This year, the top six competitors in each division will be entered to win a donated saddle.
The annual Spirit Award buckle will also be given away in Rowdy’s honor.
“We give the buckle to somebody who had some hard luck during the race, went out of their way to do something extra special or who showed really good sportsmanship,” explains Smallwood.
While entries are allowed up the day of the event, preregistration for the race ends on June 19.
“Prices vary depending on the event,” says Smallwood. “Those interested can go to our website and click on the entry form to find out more and to enter.”
Looking ahead, Smallwood notes their work is just beginning with RHIM.
In addition to Smallwood and her husband, the foundation also has board members to help plan and make decisions.
“We just barely started. We’d love to see RHIM grow. We hope to get more people involved so we can give more and grow,” says Smallwood.
She concludes, “It’s kind of been a slow, hard process, but we’re excited for the future.”
Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.