Remembering a young cowboy and raising awareness for mental health will be at the forefront of the third annual Ash Black Memorial Rodeo set to be held in Mandurah later this month.
One of the most successful young bull riders the Peel region has seen, Ash won over 25 titles before tragically taking his own life at the age of 19 on January 21, 2015.
His death shocked the community and sparked the hardest time of his mother Tammy’s life.
“It’s hard to explain what it all felt like,” she said.
“Ash was such a happy-go-lucky kid – he’s the last one we thought would have taken his own life and it rocked us all.”
The young star relished the opportunity to ride and compete in rodeos around Australia, and represented the nation at world championship events in America on two occasions.
Tammy described her son as a “larger than life character” who lived and breathed the rodeo scene.
“Ash got into the whole thing through my father and myself, and he loved it the minute he got started,” she said.
“He loved his riding and he loved competing – you could tell he was in his element when he was out there.
“He was a cowboy through and through.”
It’s that sentiment that sparked Tammy and her family to hold the first Ash Black Memorial Rodeo, which they used to shine the light on mental health issues while honouring their son and brother’s life.
Now in its third year, Tammy is hoping the event inspires others struggling with mental health issues.
“Often it’s the people who you don’t think will be dealing with any mental illness that need the most help,” she said.
“No one ever suspected Ash would do anything like that, but he did, and now if I can stop just one person, just one more family from going through that hell, then all of this would have been worth it.”
Tammy and her partner Neil McCone have been hard at work organising the rodeo, along with help from the Halls Head Football Club who will run the bar on the night.
This year will mark the first time the event has been held in Mandurah, following on from two successful turnouts in Waroona.
Both of those rodeo’s drew audiences in the thousands, with an even bigger crowd expected for the 2018 installment on the city’s western foreshore.
The event – which will promote mental health organisations R U OK? and Men’s Initiative – kicks off on Saturday, November 17, with gates opening at 3.30pm.
Juniors begin at 4pm with the main events like open bull riding, ladies barrel races and steer riding being held from 6pm onward.
Tickets can be purchased on the gate or beforehand at events.ticketbooth.com.au
If you or someone you know needs urgent support please contact the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.