Home on the Range (HOTR) was found in 1949. In its beginning years, it was basically an orphanage for boys. Now, 70 years later, the non-profit organization is a home for abused, troubled, and many times traumatized boys and girls. Licensed for 36 boys and girls, with an average length of stay from three to nine months, the facility provides education, therapy, spiritual guidance, and recreational and work activities.
Development Director Jolene Obrigewitch says, “While they are living here at Home on the Range, near Sentinel Butte, they go to school, participate in our work programs, and meet with therapists and social workers to help them with their treatment plans whether it be drugs and alcohol or abuse.”
As a non-profit, HOTR does many fundraisers to help pay for the direct care of the children. One of those events, which is their largest fundraiser event, is the Champions Ride Saddle Bronc Match. In 1957, HOTR and a group of cowboys got together to create the Champions Match Ride to raise money. Sixty-three years later, this is still the main intent of the Champions Ride. From its beginning days of about 1,000 people, they have seen an increase up to 2,000 in about five to seven years’ time since becoming a Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) sanctioned event. Averaging 1,800 people that come, always held the first Saturday of August, the rodeo-goers get to witness one of the best and one of the longest extreme bronc riding matches in North Dakota. For more than six decades, the match has been the premier saddle bronc competition. This event has a history of promoting the top-rated cowboys and broncs featuring cowboys from the PRCA, stock contractors from the PRCA, and announcers. Family oriented, all proceeds from this event come back to benefit the kids at HOTR.
In the past, the event was an invitation only bronc match, but now under PRCA guidelines, they have gotten a lot more advertising and promotion. Obrigewitch mentions, “This year, on August 1, we will be celebrating our 64th anniversary of the Champions Ride Rodeo – always the first Saturday in August at 1 p.m. held on Home on the Range grounds in our outdoor arena. From the arena, you can actually see Sentinel Butte, which has the highest elevation in western North Dakota. Thirty-two of the top cowboys come to compete and the top 12 go on to the short-round to compete for the title and money. Tickets usually go on sale about June.” The Champions Ride Saddle Bronc Match Committee is now led by Brad Gjermundson, four-time world champion saddle bronc rider, and many other volunteers. “Together, we have become the longest standing Extreme Bronc Riding,” says Obrigewitch.
Together, with sponsors and supporters, they have made huge strides not only for the bronc match, but for HOTR as a whole. Dakota Community Bank & Trust (DCB&T) stepped up when they were struggling to build the bronc match program. Looking for ways to make the program bigger and better, DCB&T started as a bronc sponsor and built on that year after year. As the event grew, so did the sponsorship. From advertising in the program book, to sponsoring an announcer or the Calcutta supper, to becoming a corporate sponsor. Obrigewitch adds, “Dakota Community Bank & Trust has been tremendous for us. They really have stepped up to invest in our special event and become a corporate sponsor. They really have done so much to help us become bigger and better. They are now really truly investing in the children that need help because these children return back to their communities where the bank locations are. Dakota Community Bank & Trust is really investing in not only our special event but in our children. When you invest in a special event, like the Champions Ride Match, you’re really investing in the Home on the Range, and changing the lives of the abused and neglected kids in North Dakota. I think that they (DCB&T) just do a tremendous amount of reinvesting and supporting all of western North Dakota.”
The rodeo itself is truly a class act, but more importantly it brings people to HOTR, to see the working ranch dedicated to helping homeless, troubled, neglected and traumatized children.
“We love the cowboys here. We love the broncs, but the best thing is when we see these people, we can share our success stories about our kids and how we have helped them,” expresses Obrigewitch. “It is exposing our kids to the elements of nature, western heritage, and ranching. They are actually witnessing and working with the animals and helping get the grounds ready. At the rodeo, they get to experience so much more because they are not just watching the rodeo, they are helping behind the scenes. At the end of the day, they see these famous cowboys and these horses, and they can walk right up to them and get their autographs. It is just amazing to see the impact that the rodeo culture and western heritage has on these kids and then all of the sudden they get it – the wholesome environment, the freedoms that we offer out here in western North Dakota.”
While the Champion’s Ride is an affordable quality entertainment event for all ages, the goal is to resolve these youth’s problems, teach appropriate coping skills, heal trauma and do it in a matter of months. Once the children have completed their program at HOTR, they return to their communities and families. They become young adults and begin to plan their future. That future may be finishing high school and attending college, beginning a career, or starting a family of their own – but all of them will hope to become productive and responsible citizens. To join HOTR in the betterment of our state’s youth, or donate to the Champions Ride Saddle Bronc Match, visit: https://hotrnd.com/champions-ride-rodeo.
Written by Lindsey Hefta, Marketing Director