Ross Coleman left the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series World Finals in Las Vegas with $21,500 in prize money, a few bumps and bruises and an award that had nothing to do with his riding and everything to do with his heart.
The 29-year-old Coleman, of Molalla, Ore., learned during the finals that his event on the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Challenger Tour was voted the outstanding Challenger Tour event of the year.
The award was voted on by the bull riders who compete on the Challenger Tour — a stepping stone to the PBR's elite Built Ford Tough Series. The event, held in August, attracted many of the top riders from the Built Ford Tough Series, including past world champions Justin McBride and Mike Lee, J.B. Mauney, Brian Canter, Sean Willingham, and Luke Snyder.
Rising star Travis Briscoe of Edgewood, N.M., won this year's event.
Coleman started the Ross Coleman Invitational three years ago after learning his longtime friend, Jack Peterkin, had been diagnosed with cancer.
"He had cancer and he wasn't doing very good financially and health-wise at the time," Coleman said. "So we put on this bull riding as a fundraiser and we made a bunch of money that helped pay his bills.
"The bull riding went so good and the community got so involved in it that we decided to do another one the next year and we've been going ever since," he said.
Molalla is a town of about 6,400 residents located 35 miles south of Portland.
Peterkin beat his cancer, and the past two years, the money raised from the Ross Coleman Invitational has gone to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oregon. Make-A-Wish is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to granting wishes to children facing life-threatening conditions.
In two years, the event has raised more than $127,000.
Just before the start of the PBR World Finals, Coleman was honored by the Oregon Make-A-Wish Foundation at its annual gala with the "Katie's Star" award, the top award given by the organization. The award is named for Katie Morris, a 13-year-old Oregon girl who died of brain cancer in 2007.
"I've won a bunch of different awards riding bulls, but man, that really meant a lot to me," Coleman said.
Coleman said August is always a busy time of year for him, but he has a great group that organizes the event to ensure a top-quality bull riding experience for riders and fans alike. Peterkin's sister, Lisa Banyard and Kristy Wheeler, both of Like That Productions, help produce the event for Coleman.
"They do so much damned work," he said. "They've worked their butts off the past two years to make sure it's a quality event."
He said it will continue because he has seen the good it does on a personal level.
"The best part about it was that my buddy, Jack Peterkin, he fought cancer and beat it, and now he's doing good ... and he's going to be a dad in a couple months," said Coleman, who recently became a father for the first time. "That's a great thing."
As for Coleman, he plans to be back on the Built Ford Tough Series when the 2009 season starts Jan. 2-3 in Baltimore, Md.
His performance in the just-completed PBR World Finals didn't match up to his own high standards for himself, but he did split first place in the third round of competition with his longtime friend Brendon Clark, and walked away with $21,500 for the effort. He finished ninth in the final BFTS standings with $110,710 in earnings.
He said he is looking forward to the season.
"I've got to make some more money," he said.