My friend Ashley’s favorite bullrider won a pretty cool award


Wish upon a ‘Star’
Coleman recognized for granting wishes
PUEBLO, Colo. (December 4, 2008) – Ross Coleman’s wish is simple.
All he hopes is that his family – wife Amy and son Cooper – remain healthy and happy, and achieve their dreams, whatever they may be.
But the 29-year-old cowboy from the Pacific Northwest is well aware that not all families are as fortunate as his. That’s exactly why – with a great deal of help from family and friends – Coleman has worked so hard to help the make dreams of the less fortunate become a reality.
Each year his professional and personal lives cross with the hosting of the Ross Coleman Invitational, a PBR-sanctioned bull riding event, in which all the proceeds are donated to charity. While the annual event is an enormous undertaking by itself, that isn’t his only charitable effort.
There’s an old saying that if you give you shall receive, and recently Coleman attended a banquet put together by the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Oregon where, much to his surprise, Coleman was the guest of honor.
He was recognized for his continued efforts with the prestigious Katie’s Star Award.
“That was cool,” said Coleman, who shared the evening with his wife along with his parents Steve and Cathy, and his sister Bridgette Wynn. “There (were) seven or eight of us that went into the city [Portland] that night for a dinner and fundraiser they had, and the main award that night was the Katie Star Award. It was really, really cool to win that.”
“I’ve won some different awards with bull riding,” he continued, “but to win an award like that—I don’t know—it really represents a good deed. I really felt good about it.
“When I won that award it’s always going to be one of the most prestigious awards I’ve ever won.”
Coleman, one of the top professional bull riders in the world, is from Molalla, Ore., and according to the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Oregon, he has demonstrated a significant commitment to the mission of granting wishes to local children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Over the past four years, the Ross Coleman Invitational, which has been recognized as the PBR Sanctioned Event of the Year, has raised more than $127,000 for the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Oregon.
Coleman has rallied fellow riders, the PBR and the entire Molalla community to support the organization, and more importantly, has shared the mission by hosting wish kids at the Molalla event each year.
“The people we work with work so hard and are so cool,” said Coleman, who aside from the help of his immediate family said his event wouldn’t be as successful as it is without the year-round effort of Kristy Wheeler and Lisa Banyard.
“When you work with the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Oregon, it’s so easy because they work so hard and they put a lot of time and effort into helping us out with our event.”
Katie’s wish was to meet the Seattle Mariners and bring her little league team with her. Her story struck an emotional chord and touched the hearts of millions—in part because of ESPN’s “SportsCenter: My Wish” series.
Sadly, Katie lost her battle with cancer in 2007, but her inspirational spirit continues to influence the work of employees and volunteers of the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Oregon.
In her memory, the Foundation created Katie’s Star Award to recognize an individual that touches many lives and makes a lasting impact on the Make-a-Wish organization.
“It’s a special time,” said Coleman, who had a chance to meet Katie’s mom when he received the Star. “It was pretty emotional just talking to her. … I was pretty chocked up, at the time, to win that award.”
As it turns out, Katie, like Coleman, is from Central Oregon, and their families have many of the same friends and acquaintances. As fate would have it, Katie was laid to rest in a cemetery located across the road from Coleman’s ranch in Molalla, where he hosts the Invitational.
“It’s a small world,” he said.
Coleman’s heartfelt efforts have not only personally impacted these amazing children, but have also set an example for others—that they, too, can support this magical mission.
Originally the idea for Coleman’s own invitational came when he decided to try and help raise money for his friend Jack Peterkin, who was battling cancer at the time. The entire community pitched in any way they could, and Justin McBride, who won the Challenger event that year, donated his winnings – as did Coleman – to the fund. Even the stock contractors donated the use of their livestock.
“I think everybody that year realized it was for a good cause,” Coleman said. “Then the next year we made it for the Make-a-Wish kids and everybody showed up again ‘cause they had so much fun and it went for a good cause.”
It may have been a small community, but as Coleman pointed out they collectively made a big difference for “something that just made a lot of sense.”
In the years since, the event has served as a major fundraiser for Make-a-Wish, and when Peterkin won his battle with cancer, the following year he was steering a big Clydesdale-led wagon filled with Make-a-Wish kids in the back.
Ever the humble and gracious giver, Coleman – when not championing those who help him organize the event – even credited the weather. “It’s August and it cools off real nice at night … it’s a nice atmosphere.”
But make no mistake about it: There is something about Coleman – the intensity he displays as a bull rider aside – that simply inspires those around him to help.
Those who may not have had money to donate instead donated their time and effort by helping Coleman hang sponsor panels, put up hay for the bulls, work the grounds, set up the V.I.P. area and other jobs that required manual labor.
Just as Katie did before him, Coleman has touched the lives of many and, according to the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Oregon, “he truly models the idea of aiming to share the power of a wish with children we serve and with members of the community.”
“If we can put a smile on someone’s face,” Coleman said, “that’s what makes you sleep better at night.”
The 2009 Ross Coleman invitational is scheduled for August 21 and 22. For more information, log onto www.rosscoleman.com.
—by Keith Ryan Cartwright
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