Between the Motos: Jimmy Button

Between the Motos Jimmy Button

July 1, 2015 10:50am

As a racer, Jimmy Button made an impact with numerous titles at Loretta’s, factory rides, 125SX victories, a 450 national win, and an unfortunate injury that ended his career. Jimmy was paralyzed at the 2000 San Diego Supercross, but was lucky enough to recover and walk again, although riding was never again possible. 

Through that experience, Jimmy and his friends developed Road 2 Recovery, which has made a bigger impact on the sport than any one rider. This foundation has always helped provide funding for injured riders, but in today’s world of other fund-raising sites, social media, and the like, we all need a reminder of Road 2 Recovery’s capabilities. In short: If you know a rider who gets hurt, set things up through them. Trust us.

Here’s Jimmy with more.

Racer X: Let’s start with the project at Carlsbad, which you don’t hear mentioned in motocross circles as much as we used to. Pretty neat what you’re doing.
Jimmy Button: Yeah, pretty cool. Todd Huffman and Marty Moates’ brother came to me with an idea, and it’s awesome. I remember the first time I ever raced Carlsbad, and I was on a Yamaha 60. Unfortunately, where the track was, I drive past it every day on my way to the office, which is pretty surreal. There’s a little bit of track left, but it’s mostly an industrial complex. There’s nothing significant at all that lets anyone know how significant the place was for motocross, especially with the USGP there, and there was also a skate park, a drag strip; they ran that Superbikers event there, a lot of very cool things, but there’s nothing distinctive there at all now, just some industrial buildings. They have a goal to build a monument for the track. So when they said they have some support from the city to make this happen, and some donors, we worked out a program so we can help. We’re going to try to raise the money needed to build a monument there. If they come up with money that goes above and beyond what is needed for the monument, it goes back into our endowment that helps inured riders. 

"We know the motocross community is a great, caring environment, and everyone wants to help. We just want people to know if they come to us first, they’ll have more money in the end." – Button Cudby

At High Point we had a rider, Broc Schmelyun, suffer a huge crash, and some good people quickly put a GoFundMe account together to help him out. That’s great, but you and I were talking, and you’ve explained that working through Road 2 Recovery offers significant advantages over using GoFundMe.
For sure. Just to give a history, the foundation started when I got hurt back in 2000. Myself, Bob Moore, and Bob Walker got together a few months after I got hurt. When I got hurt there were a ton of people who came out and supported me with information and even financial support, which I didn’t even ask for, but that just shows how amazing our industry is. People want to help! That’s great. I had great insurance, so my medical bills were covered, but my rehab was not covered because I went to a place of my choosing. That’s where I wanted to go, and it cost me a lot of money.

But as we all know, some of these riders don’t have great insurance, so they end up with these massive bills that can destroy them. We knew that could happen again down the road, so we put together a foundation to help. When it started, if someone got hurt we’d raise some money. We didn’t have much structure. It started to grow, and at that point we knew we needed to solidify everything we’re doing. My mom had recently retired, so we brought her on full time, and it’s grown by leaps and bounds since then. 

At this point we’ve been able to put three-quarters of a million dollars away as a fund for injured riders, and the first rider to tap into that was Ian Trettle. We’ve raised money for tons of people, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the list is long—James Marshall, Doug Henry, Christian Craig when he broke his back. The list is crazy how many riders we helped. But Ian was the first one since we’ve established this endowment who had a career-ending injury who tapped into it. For Ian, it was really up to him how he wanted to receive the money. Now it’s climbed. We have an even larger payout for riders with career-ending injuries. This isn’t for broken bones; it’s for career-ending injuries.

Now, for broken bones, we obviously can’t tap into the endowment. But since we are a 501c3, non-profit, we can raise money and give 100 percent of it to the injured rider. With GoFundMe or other things like that, you pay a bunch of fees for the use of it, and then you’re hit with taxes from the IRS. If you raise $100,000 with GoFundMe, you’re going to lose $5,000 in fees, then maybe $30,000 in taxes, so take that away and you’ve only gotten $65,000 out of your $100,000. We know the motocross community is a great, caring environment, and everyone wants to help. We just want people to know if they come to us first, they’ll have more money in the end.

One thing I’ll add to that is, as of January 2015, we now handle all action sports, including snowboarding, BMX, skiing. We’re doing that for all the sports. 

"I got very, very lucky that I was able to make the recovery I did." – Button Cudby

I think everyone knew you had the endowment and you could help with career-ending injuries. But for riders who are injured, but it’s not career ending, this is still a great tool. How do people go about that?
You go to our site and you’ll see the contact link. Click that and send us an email. More than likely my mom will make the initial phone call to you; I might do a follow up. Very quickly, we’ll get things going. We have the ability to take donations directly to our site. We can do exactly the same thing any of these other websites or social media outlets can do. When someone is raising funds, they’re just sending out a link. We can be that link.

You can do it in a variety of ways, like just donating to the endowment in general, or picking a specific rider. We all love Ernesto Fonseca, and maybe you’re a fan that loved watching that guy ride—I’m just using him as an example. You can donate $500 specifically to him, and it will go to him. This goes on forever—we’re not just collecting money during a specific time during an injury. Look at Donovan Mitchell, great guy. He got hurt fifteen years ago, and we’ve just helped him in the last year. 

I got very, very lucky that I was able to make the recovery I did. This foundation has grown, but we still only have two people on the payroll—my mom, who handles everything day to day and motocross related, and another person who handles the rest of the action sports. That’s it. I don’t take any money from it and neither do the rest of the founders. Myself, Bob, and Bobby actually donate ourselves every year. It’s a labor of love, and until these action sports have a pension or something like that, like football and baseball do, we are in a sense doing that kind of thing for the riders.

One other big advantage: If people donate through you, it’s a tax write-off. If you do it through GoFundMe, it’s not.
Right. My mom worked with a guy who donated $100,000 a couple of years ago, and he was able to write that off. Same way if you donate five bucks. We’re as transparent as transparent can be. You can even look at all of our tax returns on our website. If you have any questions or anything you’re wondering about, we’ll show you. We want to prove where the money comes from and what it gets used for. This whole thing is about doing something for these injured riders.

"We want to help these athletes and get them all the money they can get." – Button Mike Balzer

You also have relationships where you can reduce the medical costs.
Correct. We have different places in the U.S. that provide scholarship rates for athletes that come in through Road 2 Recovery. So maybe instead of a rehab facility costing fifteen grand a month, we get you a discount. We can also get deals with surrounding hotels and extended-stay-type of places, so people can reduce their costs while they’re away from home.

Okay, let’s put it this way: be it a career-ending injury or just broken bones, which in this sport we unfortunately consider a standard deal, whatever type of injury it is, if money needs to be raised, it makes sense to contact you folks first and see what you can do.
Yeah. We want to help these athletes and get them all the money they can get.