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Besplug’s events raising money, awareness for Ty Pozzobon Foundation

When Ty Pozzobon died 14 months ago, those closest to him decided quickly to honor him.

The Ty Pozzobon Foundation was created last March to “protect and support the health and well-being of rodeo competitors inside and outside the arena.” That’s the foundation’s mission, and those involved have been developing the ideas necessary to raise funds toward it.

“We are working toward funding the Canadian ProRodeo Sports Medicine team at all PBR Canada events,” said Tanner Byrne, a member of the foundation’s board. “We want to branch out to more rodeo events and into youth rodeos, Little Britches and Small Spurs, and having a sports medicine presence at those events.”

The key reason is raising awareness about self-care and the importance of rodeo athletes to understand how injuries not only can affect their ability to play the game but also live their lives. Pozzobon committed suicide in January 2017 after he had head injury-induced chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), an autopsy revealed.

That’s why those friends and family members are pushing for better education for other athletes and why funding is so important. Chad Besplug understands that. Like Byrne and Pozzobon, Besplug is a former bull rider who now produces events through his Alpha Bull brand.

“Ty was known for having way more best friends than most people,” said Besplug, who also serves on the foundation board. “Ty was one of my best friends, and we traveled together for years when we were both competing. We maintained a close relationship when I stopped.

“I’m very close with his family, and I consider them like a second family. When this happened, Tanner, me, Ty’s family and others close to Ty talked about the need to do something.”

Besplug is making that happen. At his most recent Alpha Bull events – the Chad Besplug Invitational in Claresholm, Alta., and the Teepee Creek (Alta.) PBR Classic – event-goers helped raise $10,500 toward the foundation. Part of that was through Ty Pozzobon Foundation merchandise sales, and a good portion came through a special auction.

“Cole Pozzobon (Ty’s cousin) got a bunch of dog tags made up, and they were really nice medallions,” Besplug said of the jewelry created by Troy Fischer Silverworks. “When he died, we ordered 10 for his close friends. Troy does all the buckles; he’s the guy here in Canada. We ordered from him, and without us knowing, he made five extra dog tags. They run about $250 each.”

Besplug has auctioned two of them at those events, and nearly half of the money raised came from the dog tags.

“We got great support in our communities,” he said. “In Claresholm, the dog tag sold for $2,200; the one in Teepee Creek sold for $2,700. It comes from the support of those communities. They’re bidding on them. People are realizing it’s going for a cause like that. To shell out that kind of money for the foundation says so much.”

It all goes back to the foundation, which then supports the foundation’s mission goals. If the PBRs and rodeos are interested in covering the cost of having the sports medicine in place, then it serves as another generous offer.

“If those events want to donate that amount and more, we graciously accept that,” Besplug said. “At the Alpha Bull events, I donate the full amount back. We will continue to sell merchandise at all our events. There will be other little things we will do from time to time as well.”

Besplug certainly believes in the process, and others involved with the foundation certainly appreciate all that Alpha Bull is doing.

“The Ty Pozzobon Foundation greatly appreciates the support we get from Alpha Bull events,” Byrne said. “Chad, his whole crew and the communities have been stepping up to the plate supporting our cause. We have big plans for the betterment of the athletes, but without their support, there is no way we can make this happen.”

This is much greater than having a sports medicine team in place at rodeos across Canada. The foundation is building a platform based on overall health and well-being, adding education and leadership to assist those during and after their careers by creating videos for athletes to help them take proper care of themselves. The foundation is striving to build an education platform to assist competitors with their careers and more.”

“We want them taking care of themselves when they’re alone,” Byrne said. “With the support of people like Chad and Alpha Bull, our goals are coming to fruition. It takes a lot of funding to make these things happen and to actually follow through with what we are doing.

“It’s important to us, because 100 percent of the proceeds raised are going back to the athletes and the betterment of the athletes in bull riding and rodeo.”

Besplug also hopes people gain a better understanding of how important mental health is in daily lives. His dear friend suffered numerous concussions over a short but distinguished bull riding career, and, cumulatively, they did damage. His concussion-induced depression – a symptom of CTE – led to his suicide and to friends and family mourning someone they loved.

“We want to lift the stigma on mental health,” Besplug said. “In the rodeo world, this is something that wasn’t talked about before. People may deal with mental health issues at some time in their lives. We want to give them the health they need.

“We want them to lead happier, healthier lives.”

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