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Custom chaps for soldier  Auction: Buyer gives prize to mom’s son in Afghanistan
by BRETT A. SOMMERS, Herald and News 8/17/14

She never saw it coming. An act of unexpected kindness left Vanessa Hansen nearly speechless and in tears at the Great Northwest PRCA Rodeo, especially as she thought of her son, Ryan Hadden, who is serving in the military in Afghanistan.  

   Hansen proudly displayed the pair of handmade red, white and blue chaps made and donated by Russel Bustos, to be auctioned off on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project, something that has become tradition for Saturday night’s rodeo at the Klamath County Fair.
    Gene Thomas purchased the special chaps

   She galloped her horse around the arena, wearing a set of Ryan’s fatigues, as the bids rained in from several generous individuals, who helped raise $2,500 for the project, which aids local military families of wounded veterans.

   Gene Thomas purchased the full-length chaps, but upon having them delivered to him in the stands, he told PA announcer Rob Smets to give them back to Hansen for her to give to her son, recently deployed, upon his return home.  

   “I don’t know what to say,” Hansen said. “It helps me feel a lot better, that the community is behind me and supporting the troops.

   “I am shocked. It shows so much support from our community. As a mother, it’s my fears and my worries and my prayers. I didn’t expect the community to come out and support us like that. It was a beautiful surprise. It really was. That was awesome.”

   It was even more than Bustos expected, too. This was his second year making the finely-tooled leather chaps, which were lined with painted stripes, to resemble the   flag, and had stars carved down the leg.

   “I was pretty pleased,” Bustos said. “For that guy to donate them back to that gal to give to her boy that is fighting over there for us, that’s way cool.”

   Jamie Berg, a leader in organizing the rodeo year after year, handed the chaps back over the arena fence to Hansen, who embraced him and waved to the crowd in appreciation.  

   “Russ is a good friend of mine,” Berg said. “I am happy to have a friend like him that has such a big heart and donates his time for such big causes.”

   It turned out so much bigger than anticipated. The special moment for Hansen happened as a backdrop of fans screamed its applause, perhaps expressing some of the gratitude Hansen found too overwhelming at times to express.  

   “I am humbled,” she said.

   Thomas said he planned on buying the chaps before he got to the Hancock Event Center, but even he had no idea how the night would play out.

   “You have families who are out here and making sacrifices to serve our country. That woman’s son is over there serving us, and it is a way of giving back,” Thomas said.  

   As for Hansen, she doesn’t even have the address of where her son will be located in Afghanistan. It will likely be another week before she receives one, but she knows Saturday night’s experience will be one of the first things she shares with him.

   “I can’t wait to tell him,” Hansen said. “He is going to be so excited.”

    bsommers@heraldandnews  . com; @BAsportswriter  

  H&N photos by Dave Martinez

   The model: Vanessa Hansen parades the Klamath County Fairground John Hancock arena floor in her son’s fatigues worn in the Middle East. Hansen was helping auction off a pair of chaps to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project.

  H&N photos by Dave Martinez

   Prize chaps: Vanessa Hansen, above, blows a kiss to the buyer who purchased a pair of chaps to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. Wearing her son’s fatigues that were used during his tour in the Middle East, Hansen was given the chaps by the buyer. The custom chaps, below, were auctioned off at the Great Northwest PRCA Rodeo Saturday.



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