RANDLEMAN, N.C. - To those who haven't had an opportunity to get to know a professional bull rider or a stock car driver, they might seem like half-crazy adrenaline junkies.
And they wouldn't be alone in their thoughts.
It was professional bull rider J.B. Mauney, currently ranked fourth in the world, who described both types of athletes as adrenaline junkies, who happen to be normal people. "But we like to push it to the edge," he said.
NASCAR legend Richard Petty said that athletes in both sports are half crazy, but noted that each respective sport, including skydiving, was "a test of your courage and your ability."
Some of the top bull riders in the world - Luke Snyder, Douglas Duncan, Brendon Clark, Shane Proctor and Mauney - joined the Petty family, including Richard and son Kyle Petty, along with the All Veteran Parachute Team at a joint press event in Randleman, N.C., on Thursday afternoon. The event took place at the Petty-owned Victory Junction.
The event was more than a bull weigh-in to promote this weekend's Built Ford Tough Series event in nearby Greensboro.
Organized by Blue-Emu, it was about giving back to the community and helping raise awareness for Victory Junction, which provides life-changing experiences for kids with chronic medical conditions or serious illness.
"Blue-Emu is a perfect example of a company that can bridge that gap from Victory Junction to the bull riders to NASCAR to our family," Kyle Petty said. "I can have a million things I want to do, and J.B. can have a million things that he wants to do, but without help, then you're just one person. What Blue-Emu brings to the table is that little bit of help to turn one person into two and two to four and four to eight."
"You know what makes America great? Great Americans. We're here for a good cause."
The elite skydiving team was led by Sgt. First Class (Ret.) Mike Elliott, who parachuted in along with Todd Love, 22, a triple amputee from Marietta, Ga.
Love is a third-generation Marine, who was injured on Oct. 25, 2010.
A recon Marine, he was the point man on a foot patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan, when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. According to his father, Gary Love, he suffered an immediate loss of both legs and his left arm.
Gary said it's "a God send" that his son has no memory of the entire day and does not suffer nightmares.
"Most guys remember the moment it blew," he said.
Elliott met the Love family after being contacted by a drop zone in Hawaii that specializes in training, rehabilitating, empowering, motivating and enduring. According to Elliott, in order to assist Love in a tandem jump, he and his crew of former Golden Knights created what they now call the Love harness.
Love has made four jumps since meeting Elliott.
"There is no one more motivated, more inspirational than that kid," Love said. "Everyone should take a little bit from Todd. He's an inspirational guy."
Mauney said seeing Love reminded him of the spirit of his grandfather, who lost both legs and refused to give up a life of umpiring baseball and fishing.
"Seeing somebody do something like that, the sky's the limit now," said Mauney after watching Love skydive.
Elliott said someone like Love could choose to stay home, but in doing so, he would miss out on living life. Instead, regardless of his injuries, he's chosen to live his life.
"We all have some pretty interesting jobs - all of us - but it's about heart," Elliott said. "You have heart and passion in what you do and you have heart and passion in giving back. That's why we all came together and that's why we're out here today. It's about giving back.
"Just this week, you have bull riding, you have NASCAR and you have skydiving, but you know what the main focus is? Great Americans. And you know what makes America great? Great Americans. We're here for a good cause. It makes me feel real good doing what we're doing, because it's not about us."
Kyle Petty said in spite of "the negative stuff" we see on the news, he believes there are a lot of good people in the world who want to help.
From his experience, especially with the donations and volunteers it takes to operate Victory Junction, if one person says they want to do something, there is always someone standing nearby who wanted to help with the same thing.
Petty said that's especially true in Middle America.
He later noted that Richard Guy, chairman of Blue-Emu, "is a good example of somebody who started out in one place ended up in another, and now he's giving back in so many other ways.
"Whether you talk to the guys who drive cars, ride bulls or jump out of an airplane, somewhere that seed's already been planted in their heart and they want to give back."
BULL WEIGH-IN: The legendary Chicken on a Chain and Deja Blue-Emu were at the event, and each bull stepped on the scale. Chicken weighed in at an even 2,000 pounds for his last regaular-season appearance, while Deja Blue-Emu topped the scale at 1,535 pounds, for a combined total of 3,535 pounds.
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