Dick Harmon: BYU football: Holly Mendenhall takes the reins when needed for her husband, sons

Published: Saturday, May 12 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

In time, she wants to take her sons to Africa, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia. "There is no place I will not go," she says.

Before she married Bronco, she owned an adventure travel business. "I love to travel. It's a pain and a lot of work to plan trips, but I love to do it and when there are issues or problems, that's just part of the adventure."

Holly wants her kids to get out of familiar surroundings and expose them to other places. "I think Bronco is on board with that. He hasn't traveled a ton, but he is catching the vision a little bit."

Holly believes everyone in America, if they can, should leave for a while.

"It's to appreciate what we have because when you leave, you realize the small, tiny little things we take for granted that other places do not have. I want my boys to realize what they have and not get caught up in their own little world. It goes with the philosophy that when you leave this life you can't take anything with you but what's in your brain."

Also atop her list is to teach her children it is important not to just talk of charity but to do it.

"To those who have been given much, you have to give back," she says. That is why she and her husband began the Bronco and Holly Mendenhall Foundation, which incorporates Thursday's Heroes. This is a program where once a week individuals in need or those who are limited are brought to BYU's football practice to meet the team and receive gifts, encouragement and support from coaches and players.

One day Holly and Bronco found themselves doing good work they thought was beneficial but were "just writing checks." They decided it would be better to actually do something in addition to writing those checks.

So, they started the Cowboy Ball, which will be Saturday, May 19 at Stephen's Foxtrotters Family Farm in Wallsburg. Cost is $200 per person with corporate tables still available. That morning is the Gridiron Rumble, a three-hour motorcycle ride with Bronco that begins with an 8 a.m. breakfast at Timpanogos Harley-Davidson in Orem. They plan on a run or hike to the "Y" in October.

"The Cowboy Ball is a lot of fun but a lot of work. We limit it to 200 people so we can keep it intimate and Bronco and I can meet people and talk to them."

Money raised for these events funds a new grant program wherein Thursday's Heroes or their immediate families can apply for money to help with renovation projects, medical equipment or education costs in the $1,000 to $10,000 range.

"We've found that people like to give, like to contribute, but sometimes they just don't know where to make that donation," says Holly. "And people don't want to give their money and see it go towards a slick brochure or pay someone's salaries or expenses. Nobody makes a penny with our foundation. It goes directly to Thursday's Heroes and for as long as I can, that's how it is going to be.

"We can't touch the medical bills some people have because they are so much, but we can help with other things."

Holly said all these efforts, aside from helping others, is to show their sons they actually do what they talk about with charity.

"It's come a long way and we've made big strides. For me, about three events a year is all I can handle."

That's why they've created what they call "perpetual" producers that help the charity year-to-year on their own. Two of these include a motorcycle jacket or coat patch, available at BroncoMendenhall.com, and a soon-to-be published BYU cookbook via Deseret Book.

Holly quickly changes on this Friday, barking out reminders for one son to get ready for swimming as another practices piano. The whirlwind has started once more and there is no Bronco in sight. He's still at work and is preparing for a fireside circuit trip to New Zealand with his parents, who served as LDS mission presidents there a few years ago.

"If Holly was not independent, I couldn't be the coach at BYU," Bronco told Utah Valley Magazine. "She is bright, articulate and absolutely strong-willed. She's also loving, supportive and has a great listening ear. Without these qualities combined, my career at BYU would have been over at year two or three."

Cowboy Ball and Gridiron Ball: The Cowboy Ball and Gridiron Rumble are sponsored by the Bronco and Holly Mendenhall Foundation. For more information, visit BroncoMendenhall.com. Both events are planned Saturday, May 19.

Email: dharmon@desnews.com
Twitter: Harmonwrites

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