Large crowds rolled out for the First Annual Restoring Lives Patriot Fundraising Rodeo on Saturday, bringing in more proceeds and filling more seats than expected.
Restoring Lives founder and board president Shenita Jones said the amount of support the non-profit received from the Carter County community and beyond was overwhelming. Over 500 people from Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas were in attendance and over $23,000 was raised, she said.
“We were surprised at the cars lined up over and over and over again,” Jones said. “We assumed that we were going to have a nice turn out of about a couple of hundred because of our pre-ticket sales but we did not feel that we were going to be over 500.”
The rodeo featured 11 events with categories for men, women and children and kicked off with Jones’ personal favorite, mutton busting. However, one of the most popular, well-received events among onlookers was the pony express, she said.
The pony express is a relay race, often done in African American rodeos, Jones said. “It was new to some people and a lot of people were intrigued by it. I’ve even had some people that wanted to contact the team to learn how to do that,” she said.
Plans are already in the works for a second annual rodeo and possibly a third and fourth, Jones said. Because of the large amount of support for the first event, future fundraisers may also be more than one day. “It was something that Ardmore was ready for and is willing to support us with in the future,” she said.
The proceeds from the first annual rodeo fundraiser will be going back into the community through Restoring Lives’ scholarship program, college readiness program and behavioral development and mentorship programs.
As a United Way of Southern Oklahoma partner, Jones said Restoring Lives is especially thankful that United Way moved its kick off campaign to Monday, Sept. 16 so that the organization could hold the rodeo on Saturday.
“Oklahoma really did us well when it comes to the rodeo,” Jones said. “I thank those who actually sponsored and supported us and took a chance for us to be able to raise funds to help the people in the Carter County community.”