Cody Snyder is lending his name and his fame to a needed cause.
Snyder – the 1983 world champion bull rider and the 1986 Canadian champion bull rider – has been inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, the PBR Ring of Honor and the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Now, he and his wife, Rhonda, produce bull ridings in Canada, including the Ranchman’s Bull Bustin’ that takes place each July in Calgary, which helps raise money and awareness for the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Center.
“In talking with Sheldon, we became aware of the mental health issues surrounding abused children at the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre and the mental health issues that Sheldon suffers from,” Snyder said.
Kennedy is a former professional hockey player in the NHL, whose life was impacted by trauma at the hands of Graham James, a coach who has been found guilty of sexually abusing a number of the young men who he was responsible for coaching. Kennedy now devotes much of his time and career to educating people about abuse and supporting those who are impacted by it. The Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary provides wrap around services for children, youth and families who are victims of abuse.
“We have since learned how common mental health issues are and felt that we had a perfect platform with our Ranchman’s events to help this cause,” Snyder said.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital and indicates a prevalence of 1 in 5 people being impacted by mental health in one year, and that 1 in 2 people will be directly impacted by mental health and or addiction issues by the time they turn 40.
“Mental health problems have really come to the forefront and are not going away,” Snyder said “It takes a lot of money and exposure to run these organizations. We can help in both these areas.”
Snyder is also an active member in the Calgary business community along with rodeo and bull riding. The suicides of George Gosbee, a Calgary businessman, and Ty Pozzobon, a professional bull rider, opened
Snyder’s eyes to the urgent and importance of mental health.
“We produced an event in the Saddledome in Calgary for three years for George’s company, Tristone Capital,” Snyder said. “He was a good friend and fan of professional bull riding. We have the platform through our events and social media to let people now how important this cause is.
“Ty was a great friend and bull rider. With his passing, it opened the eyes of the bull riding and rodeo world that nobody is exempt from this illness. It happens everywhere, in every walk of life. Hockey players, football players. We are strong, tough guys who never want to show weakness. Cowboys and cowgirls need to realize that it is ok to let people know how you are feeling mentally.”
The understanding of mental health in athletes, including the connection with concussions, is only the beginning.
“Bull riding and rodeo have come a long way in a short time,” Snyder said. “Ty suffered from CTE, as did a lot of athletes from other sports that have taken their own lives. It is proven that concussions and brain injuries can be a contributing factor. There are now concussion protocols in place with sports medicine programs that prevent guys from competing if they do not pass.”
Snyder’s social media accounts have also been active in challenging the stigma and raising awareness of mental health and illness.
“If you have a broken leg, you go to the doctor, and they put a cast on it,” he said. “You can’t do that with mental health as it is a hidden illness. I want to make it so rodeo and bull riding athletes aren’t ashamed to come out and talk about it, to let them know that there is access to professionals and that they can really help.”
There is hope and change happening.
“When we talk about it we can create a platform that creates a mindset that it OK to not be OK. When we show support, love and compassion to those who are suffering, they become stronger.”
In addition to raising money for the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre, the Ranchman’s PBR Bull Bustin’ 2018 will also be raising money in support of the Society for Treatment of Autism and the Canadian Mental Health Association in Calgary. Visit www.ranchmans.com for tickets.