I remember my first Professional Bull Riding event I ever attended. It was 2012 in Philadelphia, PA. I was stationed in Norfolk, VA, fresh out of Navy boot camp. My then girlfriend, now wife Lindsey had come to visit me in Virginia and suggested we make a short weekend trip to Philly to meet her dad who was hauling bulls to the Wells Fargo Center for a PBR Built Ford Tough Series Event. At the time, I had no clue about the sport or PBR, and no involvement. After approval from my chain of command, I agreed to make the trip.
The night we rolled into Philly we jumped into Lindsey’s dads Dodge 3500 dually truck with a 36 foot goose neck trailer hooked to the back. The trailer was loaded down with these massive 1,500+ pound bucking bulls. We drove over to the Wells Fargo arena (home of the Philadelphia 76ers) and down under the arena to where the bulls were unloaded. After unloading the bulls Lindsey’s dad (Shane George) introduced me to a couple bull riders. At the time because of my lack of knowledge of the sport I didn’t really understand who I was meeting. I still remember the riders though, Ben Jones “The dancing Australian” and Austin Miers. Two very successful professional bull riders. These guys were rough around the edges and some tough son of a guns. That night I spent some time behind the chutes, but mostly in the stands watching. I think what won my heart was the competition. The adrenaline rush I got when the bucking chute gate opened and it was man vs. beast. Add that to the fact I was watching some world class bucking bulls compete that were owned by now father in law, made my first experience with the sport a night I’ll never forget.
After the Philly event, I begin following the PBR Built Ford Tough Series tour every weekend. When I could find off time from my military commitments I made trips to meet Lindsey’s dad at other Built Ford Tough events. I met him twice in NYC. It helped that NYC was a couple hours from where I was stationed in Norfolk, VA. I have always been a big basketball fan. I played all through high school, even having the honor to be high school teammates with NBA all-star Jimmy Butler. So, my trips to NYC were awesome because the PBR events were held at Madison Square Garden, such a legendary sports arena that I had always wanted to visit, just never thought I would finally go because of the PBR. What an experience though, walking through Manhattan in our starched jeans, and cowboy hats. New Yorkers couldn’t get enough of us. In 2014 I drove to Nashville, TN to meet Lindsey’s dad again for a Built Ford Tough Series event. This event was one of the most special to me so far. I got to go behind the chutes with her dad for the short-round where I watched up close and personal the greatest bucking bull of all time Bushwhacker buck on his fair-well tour. That short round pen was full of great bulls including Mississippi Hippy and of course Southpaw who Shane (Lindsey’s dad) my now father in-law hauled for Missy Luzak-Smith. I had become so obsessed with the sport by this time, I begin expressing interest in owning bulls myself, which I now do. None have made it to the Built Ford Tough Series yet, but I’m young and have plenty time. I know I’ll get there.
Early in 2015 I drove to Baltimore, MD to be at the season opener for the PBR Built Ford Tough Series, just two months before deploying to the middle east on board the air craft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. Luckily, we had a break in training for deployment, and I could make it to the event. I hounded Flint, the PBR’s official entertainer on twitter all week that I was campaigning for the famous “Fan of the Night” honors. Well, sure enough I said all the right things, because Flint picked me and I now have the Cooper Tires Fan of the Night buckle hanging on my wall at home. I left for deployment in March 2015. I started Boots For Troops towards the end of that deployment. Boots For Troops started as a GoFundMe page, but today is a fully functioning non-profit organization that is recognized by the IRS as a tax-exempt organization. Boots For Troops custom care package program, which includes a new pair of boots in each care package for the service member receiving the package has spread like wild fire amongst active duty deployed troops and is making a significant impact around the world.
It was a dream of mine early on to have Boots For Troops attached to the PBR in some way. Being a new organization, it is hard to get the attention of any major corporate company. You must grind and fight for it. Well that is what I do. I have been lucky to meet a lot of awesome people throughout this journey building Boots For Troops, and although I’m the face of the organization I know that Boots For Troops wouldn’t be where it is today without so many generous Americans.
Back in January of 2017 I was in Fort Worth, TX with my father in-law Shane George. He had some classic bulls entered in the Cowtown Classic. Before the event we strolled over to the White Elephant bar for a drink. As we were getting ready to leave, and literally signing our tab, a voice shouted across the bar. “What is Boots For Troops?” It was the voice of my now partner in the Silvano Alves Challenge Mr. Jon Goetz. Jon had recognized my Boots For Troops hat and shirt I was wearing. I quickly explained to Jon and his partner Casey Cox what Boots For Troops was, and what we do to help our active duty service members. They had expressed to me they were looking for a charity to partner with in this adventure they were partaking in to host a PBR Real Time Pain Relief Velocity tour event. After we left the bar that night, I was skeptical if I would ever hear from Jon and Casey again, but they kept their word and sure enough we talked the next day and in the following weeks. Jon and Casey eventually asked Boots For Troops to be the official charity partner for the Silvano Alves Challenge, which will be held August 6th, 2017 in Allen, TX at the Allen Event Center. It’s an absolute dream come true and I can’t thank Jon Goetz and Casey Cox enough for giving Boots For Troops and myself the opportunity to be a part of the event. Both guys have put their hearts into putting on a great event, that is first class. I think a lot of people will be surprised at the quality of the event.
I have come a long way since the night I rolled into Philadelphia for my first PBR event. Although, I’m proud of the accomplishments and the success story, I’m not done. I think Boots For Troops mission and our concept aligns directly with the PBR and its western lifestyle. Being the official charity of the Silvano Alves Challenge is for sure a dream come true for this veteran. However, the next dream would be to become an official charity partner with the PBR year around. For now, I’ll enjoy my dream becoming a reality August 6th in Allen, TX.