Colton Workman gets special treatment this weekend at RFD-TV’s The American in Dallas |

Colton Workman gets special treatment this weekend at RFD-TV’s The American in Dallas

Colton Workman and his family will make the trip to Dallas for the third annual RFD-TV’s The American. They will get VIP treatment, since Colton won the Fan Exemption Choice. From left to right: sister Kaden, Tabor, mom Brittany, Ray holding daughter Andi, and Colton. Photo by Brittany Coffee

A special little boy gets special treatment next weekend at RFD-TV’s The American in Dallas.

Colton Workman, a five year old roper from Lincoln, Arkansas, was voted the Fan Exemption Winner for the 2016 RFD-TV’s The American Rodeo. Over 62,000 fans voted for him online, and the little guy will be in Dallas on Feb. 28 for the rodeo.

But he won’t be roping. He was born with no lower left arm and no hand. Because of safety concerns, he will not compete at The American but will instead be given the VIP treatment at the rodeo.

Colton lives in Lincoln, Ark., and even though he has only a right hand, by the age of two, he had a rope in that hand. In 2012, his dad, Lewis Workman, was killed in an auto accident. His mother, Brittany, a header and former barrel racer, married Ray Huffaker, a heeler a few years later. Lewis was a saddle bronc rider and roper, and Brittany and Ray often team rope together at US Team Ropings.

His parents have never treated him any different than their other kids. Colton, who was born on July 4, 2010, “came into this world like a firecracker,” Brittany said. “Nothing’s slowed him down. He’s a determined little boy.”

After his dad died, Colton got in touch with eight-time world champion Roy Cooper through his Cooper Rodeo Foundation. A friendship was born. “The Coopers (including Roy’s sons Clint, Clif and Tuf) took my son in,” Brittany said. “They consider him family. They have all helped him.”

Colton heels, using a specially designed piece that fits on his saddle and holds the coil, allowing him to hold the reins in his “nub” and swing the rope with his free arm. Mark Holstrom, co-founder of Ark-La-Tex 3D Technolog in Shreveport, designed the piece that holds the coil; that piece can also be attached to Colton’s arm. Craig Ginther, another Shriners employee, designed Colton’s arm. Colton chooses not to wear the arm, because it is heavy. As he grows, new prosthetics will be designed for him, and the arm may become easier to wear. Holstrom is working on designing a fully functional hand for Colton.

But it doesn’t matter if Colton is missing an arm or not. “He shoots a BB pellet gun, he hunts, he fishes, he does everything,” his mom said. “He picks up wood and hay, he feeds his own horses, he catches his own horses. He’s a hard little worker. He’s always busy.”

When Colton came home from his first day of Kindergarten last fall, he had a black eye. Another student had punched him, and continued to bully Colton for the next few months. Colton’s teacher called Brittany one day, asking, “How can you handle this?” she said. Colton was crying because he was being called names. Brittany realized the power of bullying. “This is a problem, and it’s starting in Kindergarten,” she said in amazement. “These kids have to learn early it’s not OK” (to bully). She, with Colton’s help, began an anti-bullying campaign called “Saddle Up And Together Let’s Rein in Bullying.” Colton had his kick-off event in January at the Lincoln, Ark. elementary and middle schools, and at the Prairie Grove, Ark. elementary school. They distributed over 3,000 t-shirts to students that day, and big-name athletic stars joined them. PBR bull rider Skeeter Kingsolver was in attendance, as was PRCA rodeo clown Gizmo McCracken, the Arkansas Razorback cheerleaders, Arkansas Razorback fullback Chris Jones, Miss Rodeo Arkansas, and Miss Washington County (Ark.) Rodeo. Team ropers Coleman Proctor and Travis Graves couldn’t be in attendance but sent video messages. Several schools have asked to be on Colton’s schedule for anti-bullying presentations in the future. About once a week, the campaign’s Facebook page gets a message from someone whose child has committed suicide due to being bullied. “If we can make a difference in one kid’s life, then we’ve succeeded,” Brittany said.

Colton and his older sisters Tabor, age eleven, and Kayden, age eight, compete in the Cowboys Winter Rodeo Association (CWRA). Tabor heels and breakaway ropes, and Kayden calf breakaways and steer breakaways. Colton breakaway ropes and heels, and last year won a CWRA saddle and buckle. Colton also dummy ropes at the US Team Ropings. Brittany and Ray have a daughter together, Andi, who is 22 months old.

Even though he won’t be roping at The American next weekend, he and his family will have a wonderful experience. They will have VIP tickets on the dirt, which are not available to the public. He’ll get to choose merchandise from The American, and some of The American’s sponsors will also supply fun gifts for him. RFD-TV will give the family suite tickets for the Iron Cowboy PBR which takes place the night before, and the Huffaker family’s hotel and lodging costs will be taken care of.

Colton will also get to participate in the Contestant Patch Auction, in which all American contestants get to take part. Each contestants’ back number space is auctioned off to the highest bidder, and that bidder can put their logo or image on the rodeo athlete’s back, to be seen on RFD-TV during the rodeo. Fifteen percent of the winning bid goes to support three western heritage organizations: the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, and the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum, both in Fort Worth. The remaining eighty-five percent goes to the contestant. Even though Colton won’t be in the arena competing, TV cameras will still be focused on him. “He will have visibility,” said Julie Mankin, Vice-President of Public Relations for RFD-TV.

Colton garnered more than double the Fan Exemption votes than the second place winner, Shawnee Sagers, a Utah barrel racer. He’s popular, he’s cute, and he’s determined, said Mankin. “His family did a good job of getting the word out, and he has a great message in his anti-bullying campaign. People respond to that. And he’s a cutie, and that doesn’t hurt.

“I think our fans like that. It’s fun to see a kid that is so crazy about being a cowboy, and with his disability, it’s inspiring to watch. He’s a neat kid.”

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