Rodeo raises funds to help Mulvane family build new house

Skip Miller, son of Mike and Shelly Miller, distracts a bull on Sunday afternoon. The Bull Blowout benefit rodeo in Mulvane raised money for the Miller family. (Oct. 30, 2016)
Skip Miller, son of Mike and Shelly Miller, distracts a bull on Sunday afternoon. The Bull Blowout benefit rodeo in Mulvane raised money for the Miller family. (Oct. 30, 2016) Eagle correspondent

Family and friends – more than 200 to 300 of them – came together Sunday to help out Mike and Shelly Miller.

They hosted a “Bull Blowout” fundraiser at the Mulvane Rodeo Arena – so there were clowns, bulls, cowboys and plenty of competition.

When he saw the outpouring from the community, Mike Miller’s eyes clouded over and his voice broke.

“It is amazing,” he said and paused to catch himself. “It is pretty overwhelming. We have a lot of good friends and family.”

On the night of Aug. 19, Mulvane was undergoing some torrential rain. Boats were being used to pluck some Mulvane residents from their homes as floodwaters rose 5 feet or more in southern Sedgwick County, northern Sumner County and western Butler County. Rainfall amounts approached 4 inches an hour.

Mike Miller was at his home when the phone rang.

That was the night of the Mulvane Rodeo, and his wife, Shelly, was in town serving as the treasurer of the event.

“Shelly said the rodeo was canceled because of all the water and rain,” he said. “Roads were closed.”

Shelly arrived home at 9:30 that night – and not long after, floodwaters started coming in the front door of the house. Mike went outside to help get their animals to higher ground.

The water went from 8 inches deep to waist deep within minutes. Their home had 40 inches of water inside.

“That’s when I realized we’ve got problems,” Mike said.

The couple have four children, but one – 32-year-old daughter Tonja – is disabled and lives with them. She is on a ventilator and has a feeding tube. Shelly called 911 while she and the nurse worked to relocate Tonja to an area hospital.

The couple lost all their possessions in the flash flood.

“It’s devastating what has happened,” Michelle Endres, a Mulvane Rodeo Arena Member and friend of the Millers’, said in a release about the event. “They’ve always treated everyone around them as if they were family and will drop everything to help out.”

On Sunday, it was time to turn things around.

The benefit rodeo raised more than $3,000 in ticket donations at the gate. A Go Fund Me account, established not long after the flood, has raised nearly $4,000. The family wants to raise $12,000 to help with handicapped modifications a new house will require for Tonja to live with them.

“Right now, I am physically lifting her up and putting her into the tub and lifting her back out,” Shelly Miller said. “We are in a temporary house and can’t do anything to that house. We had the modifications before, and we will need them again. It is expensive, and right now, we are just trying to keep our head above water.”

The family plans on returning to where their original house was located and building a new house – but raising it 6 feet higher.

“If it was just Mike and me, it would be different,” Shelly Miller said. “But knowing we have her. … Every time it rains, I get this feeling. It is scary. … Since this happened, I have had people tell me ‘You have been there for us, let us help you.’ But it is hard – hard to feel you need the help.

“Yesterday, we were out there at the old house, tearing off the siding. I stood there and cried because it made all this real. I won’t go back in that house. It is full of mold and nasty.”

On Sunday, the community came together to give thanks.

And for a moment, it was about cheers, thrills and open hearts.

Beccy Tanner: 316-268-6336, @beccytanner