Steve's 101: Bull riders come from all over for Steve Woodard fundraiser in Stamford
STAMFORD TX - It's not always easy to gauge the impact someone had on their friends and community during their lifetime. But, on Saturday, March 26, in Stamford, TX, people saw the impact that Winters' Steve Woodard had on everyone he met. In a benefit put on by Bill Reed Distributing to raise funds for Woodard's family, 101 bull riders of all ages showed up to show their love and appreciation for Woodard by courageously sitting atop ornery animals trying to buck them off and throw them into the next county.
In the early morning hours of February 1st, a fire broke out in the Woodard home in Winters. Steve and his wife Brandy awoke to their home engulfed in flames. As they made their escape to the front door, Woodard kept Brandy in front of him, trekking through the smoke and heat to get to front the door and escape the growing flames. Woodard urged Brandy onward as as he ensured his wife was the first to the door, "Brandy, get out!" Those words, tragically, would be the last words that Woodard would ever speak.
As Brandy escaped, Steve succumbed to the fire. His body was found just inside the front door. If anyone escaped the inferno, Woodard wanted it to be his wife of 22-years. A marriage and life of love and adventure ended devastatingly with Woodard paying the ultimate sacrifice. His legacy is firmly and deeply chiseled into the hearts and minds of his friends and family, forever.
Bill Reed Distributing put on the open bull riding event at Stamford's Reunion Cowboy Arena to raise money for Woodard's family. Woodard's daughter, Brooklyn, gave birth to Steve's only grandchild, Creed, 2-years ago. One of the central focuses of the event, in addition to helping Brandy rebuild a life from the ashes like a Phoenix rising, was to raise money to put Creed through college someday. Scores of people with aching hearts and tears in their eyes stepped in to help care for Woodard's family, just as he would have wanted.
Woodard worked for Bill Reed Distributing for approximately 25-years, representing the beer distributor in the Abilene area. He was loved and respected by his friends and coworkers, alike. Woodard was often referred to as a "gentle giant" for his big heart that always had room for new friends.
The cowboys and cowgirls riding bulls that warm Saturday afternoon under bluebird skies came from all age brackets, with riders from their early 20s to their late 50s. They came from near and far.
There is no easy way to ride an animal that is 2,000-pounds of muscle trying to get you off of its back. That was evident on Saturday, as some bull riders left with broken ribs, bruises, cuts, scrapes, missing teeth, etc. But, they were all there for same reason; to honor Steve Woodard and to ensure his family was taken care of. Brandy, Brooklyn, and Creed watched from the best seats in the house atop the area. Cold refreshments were provided by Bill Reed Distributing.
Mike Lee was perhaps the best known of the 101 bull riders. Lee is a former PBR world champion and 17-time qualifier for the NFR. Lee rode like the champion he is, scoring an 80 on his first ride out of the chute. The 38-year old was the 2004 PBR World Champion and the 2004 PBR World Finals Event Champion.
Even the riders who didn't stay atop their bulls for the full 8-seconds were winners in the hearts of all of those in attendance.
The event started at 1 p.m., lasting well into the evening. The time between divisions of riders was filled with live music. Nothing was spared to make the event memorable and worthy of the grace that Woodard's friends and family said that beloved friend, father, and grandfather possessed. Once the bull riding was finished up, once cuts and bruises were tended to by the EMS medics, not long after the last riders broke from the chutes, a dance topped off the activities. People spoke fondly of Woodard and his love for all of those he surrounded himself with during his life.
The day included a live auction for several items that were donated for the cause, including beautifully handmade cedar benches donated by Oscar Torres of Winters. Craig and Kelly Gehrels, owners of GPS insurance in Winters stayed throughout the day. The turnout was strong, a testament to the quality of Woodard's courage, character, and his selflessness.
Brandy said that she's received support from everyone since that tragic February day, "The response has been overwhelming. The support hasn't stopped. Every week it's different. Someone is always checking on me. The financial and emotional support have been incredible. Sometimes people will message me with just a little heart and that will make my day."
Brandy also commented on the turnout for the event, "It's been great. There are more people here than I thought would be here. I think we have like 101 bull riders. I've seen a lot of people from Winters here."
Woodard's daughter, Brooklyn, holding her son, Creed, also commented on the turnout, "I don't really know what I was expecting. I think that even with a lot of things going on this is a great turnout. Dad was the best."
The bull riding competition was held on the same day as the Outlaws & Legends outdoor concert was going on in Abilene, just 40 miles to the south of this small agricultural town nestled into the Rolling Plains. Outlaws & Legends didn't seem to effect the turnout for the men and women who were willing to strap themselves to 2,000-pound animals, trying dearly to hang on for 8-seconds.
Brooklyn spoke about her mother's strength, "I think my mom is being a lot stronger than I ever imagined. I thought that she'd be a nervous wreck. I think that Steve's work family has come together and given the family great support. All of them are really great people."
Shirts for the event were made by Winters' Angela New, owner of Gypsy Threads, Tees & More. The front of the Winters-blue colored shirt were printed with "Be Like Steve." The back of the shirts read, "You never know who you will inspire."
New also spoke about the turnout, "It's great to see all of these people here. Bill Reed Distributing has done a fantastic job. Steve was an absolutely wonderful man and I'm sure he's looking down on this, proud of how people are taking care of his Brandy. She is a great person. They loved each other with all of their heart."
As for that inspiration that Woodard was known for, the event organizers at Bill Reed Distributing have committed to holding the bull riding event annually for the next decade.
The incredible turnout and participation weren't the only inspirational aspects to the event; It was the outright, genuine love of all of those who attended as well as from those who participated. It was also the courage of the guys and gals strapping themselves to those bulls, risking all manner of injury, to help raise money for the family as they honored Woodard's memory with every buck of the bulls.
The cuts, bruises and fractured ribs will heal as everyone helps Brandy and her family heal from the tragedy of losing someone who touched everyone's life.
Rest in Peace: Steven Devon Woodard: August 23, 1971 - February 1, 2022.