If there can be a positive to emerge from a sad chapter in Southern Arkansas University Rodeo history, it is found in the generosity that made an endowed scholarship possible for an SAU Rodeo team member.
The scholarship in honor of “Credit Card,” one of five horses stolen from Mulerider Stables in November 2011 − and the only one to not return home – was endowed before the start of the fiscal year and will be awarded to a rodeo team member in the fall of 2013.
While the Smith family grieved the loss of their beloved Credit Card, a victim of foul play, generous offers began pouring in from people who were saddened by the loss.
“Almost immediately after the fate of Credit Card became known, people started asking what they could do to show their support for the SAU Rodeo Team and for the students who had gone through the ordeal of having their horses stolen,” said Jeanie Bismark, director of the SAU Foundation.
Jay Smith, patriarch of the family, and Rodeo Coach Rusty Hayes met with Dr. David Rankin, SAU president, to discuss how the situation could benefit the team and rodeo students. The Credit Card Memorial Scholarship Endowment was the result of that meeting.
As part of its mission of assisting and coordinating fundraising for the University, the SAU Foundation, consisting of Bismark and Associate Director of Development Josh Kee, began the fund and organized the receipt of the donations.
When the fund was announced and the word spread across the U.S., horse lovers from Florida to Washington state began mailing and making online donations of all sizes. Nicole Holman of Blue Flame Farms in Orrville, Ohio, organized an online auction to benefit the scholarship. “It turned out to be a tremendous amount of work, but the proceeds were a substantial part of the total needed to make the scholarship possible,” said Bismark.
Even so, as of the last week of June, the end of the 2012 fiscal year, the fund was still $1,100 short of reaching the $15,000 needed to start the endowment for the 2013 fall semester.
“In the past few weeks, as we approached the close of the Foundation’s fiscal year, people began calling to ask if the scholarship would be complete in this year,” said Bismark. “Everyone seemed determined to make sure that this scholarship was funded, and with the help of numerous people, including the Southwest Arkansas High School Rodeo Association, it was.”
Hayes said the most amazing thing about this scholarship was the relatively short time in which it became a reality.
“There are a lot of endowments that are waiting to happen that never get completed. For this to happen in six months – that’s a real accomplishment,” he said. “And to know that the majority wasn’t alumni or even from people associated to SAU. If any good came out of the whole deal it was that it brought so many people to know about SAU and the rodeo program. A tragedy is a horrible way to get recognition, but it has turned into something of a positive.”
“Horse people come together in a time of crisis. It is amazing how one animal can touch so many people in this way,” said Smith. “That is the thing that amazed us the most. Help came from California, Canada, New York and all over. The horse community all across the nation came together to do that.”
Smith said, the scholarship helps with healing process.
“It was a life-changing experience for us,” he said. “It helps to know that this scholarship could be life-changing for a kid in a positive way. From my family and our heart -I would like to thank everyone who supported the cause.”
Any additional donations will serve to increase the amount of the scholarship when it is awarded to a rodeo student, starting in the fall of 2013.