NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The image of a cowboy hat can stand for many things.
For comedian Cowboy Bill Martin, the integrity of cowboys is shown in the work they do and the care they provide. It’s that base that became the driving force for the Cowboys Who Care Foundation, a non-profit organization he and his wife, Michele, founded a few years ago.
“The hat means honor, bravery and kindness,” Martin said. “Our sole mission is financial support, smiles and free cowboy hats for boys and girls who have cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.”
As a foundation board member, Pete Carr is heavily involved in the charity, one he believes in. He’s sharing that passion with rodeo fans across the country with fundraising raffles at every event his firm produces, like the Nacogdoches Pro Rodeo & Steer Show, set for 7:45 p.m. Thursday, March 23-Saturday, March 25, at the Nacogdoches County Exposition and Civic Center.
Patrons wishing to donate can purchase the raffle tickets for a 24-quart, soft-shell canvas cooler and official Pete Carr Pro Rodeo merchandise: one ticket is $2, two for $5, four for $10 and eight for $20. All proceeds go to the Cowboys Who Care Foundation (www.CowboysWhoCare.org).
“It’s really an awesome foundation with what they’re doing for these kids,” Carr said. “We go into these hospitals and visit with these kids and their families, and we give them their hats. Their faces really light up.”
The Martins developed the foundation after Bill Martin came in touch with Ashley Miller, who was battling a rare form of cancer.
“Ashley’s story had such an impact on me,” he said. “And when she bravely lost her battle in June 2011, I knew I wanted to help other kids like her.”
An internet search revealed pictures of children with big smiles and bald heads, so he decided to do something about it.
“In the mirror, I could see my cowboy hat, and it hit me,” Martin said. “These kids need cowboy hats. It is our belief that there is nothing more precious than a child’s smile. We have found that cowboy hats help create those beautiful smiles.”
Carr has seen those smiles. The foundation coordinates the visits with child-life specialists at children’s hospitals across the country, and cowboys volunteer their time to be part of the giving.
“We are really blessed to be working with Nacogdoches Pro Rodeo & Steer Show to have these raffles so we can continue giving to these kids,” Carr said.