The odds of winning the lottery are almost one in 14 million, but Jimmy Bryant said he believes he has a much greater chance at walking away with a million dollar prize this week.

The 50-year-old Columbus barrel racer, who competes in about 250 events a year, has qualified for the semifinal round of The RFD American in Forth Worth, Texas, for the second time and will compete at the Cowtown Coliseum starting Tuesday.

The grand prize is set at $1 million, and if Bryant wins he plans on spreading the wealth. After the owners of his horse, “A Little Bit of a Cowboy,” receive their percentage of the prize, Bryant will use a good portion of what’s left to help out the children at The Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that helps children who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition.

Bryant already has contributed to the foundation by raising $16,000 in less than 30 days on his way to the semifinal. The idea to raise the money started with a video of Bryant saying that he would wear tie-dyed jeans to the RFD American if he were to qualify in response to the new rodeo fashion the kids are wearing.

Bryant’s wardrobe commitment spiraled into him promising to raise $16,000 for the foundation, which sponsors two children. Brantley Morren, a 4-year-old leukemia survivor from Bloomington, will split the $16,000 with a young girl from Seymour.

“I wanted to do something for the kids, and I did,” Bryant said. “I knew a lot of people who gave money.”

A Jimmy Bryant Fan Page on Facebook was initially created as a joke, but turned into something real once Bryant started having success in rodeo. On his page is a video with a link promoting the fundraiser and there is a slide that stays “one family, one team, one dream and two wishes.”

Bryant has been barrel racing for as long as he has been potty trained and said he has many friends and family who have supported him through his journey. He said his friends and family around the horse shows were major contributors in helping him reach his $16,000 goal.

But Bryant’s generosity did not stop there. He decided to pay for Morren and his family to travel to Fort Worth to watch him compete while wearing the Make-A-Wish logo with Bryant’s slogan “Doing it for the Little People” across his back.

Bryant has been using the horse “A Little Bit of a Cowboy” for about a year-and-a-half and won a total of $80,000 with him last year. But his quest for a million dollars started with a competition in Lewisburg, Ohio.

Bryant paid a $500 entry fee and placed third out of 52 racers, which advanced him to Fort Worth. He needs to place in the top 30 out of 147 in the semifinal if he wants to compete in the final round at the AT&T Center on Thursday.

“I’ve got a really good shot,” Bryant said. “I’ve got a really good horse this year. I think I could go all the way.”

Barrel racing consists of three barrels, where the rider has to run around each barrel in a Cloverleaf pattern. The rider with the fastest time wins.

Bryant said it is much warmer in Forth Worth than what he is used to, so he’s been riding “A Little Bit of a Cowboy” almost every day to this point to get acclimated to the air by the time the competition starts.

There are three more prizes starting with a $350,000 runner-up award and ending with a $50,000 fourth-place prize, but Bryant is only focused on the million-dollar prize right now. Morren and the rest of the Make-A-Wish family will be supporting him the entire way.

Jimmy Bryant at the American

Years of rodeo: 48

Grand Prize: $1 million dollars

Major Plans if he wins: Help the Make-A-Wish Foundation

Amount of money already raised: $16,000 (sponsors two children)

Author photo
Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.