Tony Bradfield’s background may be in jewelry, but the businessman’s passion for helping those in need steered him to start Rodeo Auction Angels, an organization that raises funds so that children have the best possible bidding experience at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
According to their website, the organization’s mission is to buy the last lots in the rodeo livestock auctions that typically go unsold, ensuring no child is left alone on stage feeling like their hard work went unnoticed.
“I think most people have experienced a time in their life when they were not necessarily picked for a certain team, invited to a certain dance, put at the bottom of a list—things of that nature,” he says. “I started this with my close friend Dana Barton because we both wanted to help mitigate what could be a not-so-positive experience and make sure these kids walk away with an upbeat feeling of encouragement to try even harder next time.”
At the rodeo’s annual steer auction, bidding can stretch for hours, Bradfield says, and by the time kids who rank lower bring their animals into the auction ring, many of the auction’s big spenders have moved on to other rodeo activities. Too often, kids who show late in the day walk away with no bids.
Bradfield emphasizes how vital it is for kids to have a positive experience as participants in the rodeo, because it is the most likely motivation for them to continue on that path of setting a goal and working hard to achieve it.
“These young people are responsible for looking beyond their needs and desires to take care of an animal for a purpose,” he says. “This isn’t a one-day commitment. It is an animal that has to be taken care of every single day. These are the young adults that will eventually become important members of our community, and I have a great deal of respect for their discipline and commitment to something other than themselves at such an early age. I don’t have any children of my own, so this is my way of supporting our future generations.”
Bradfield found getting involved with the rodeo felt natural after he moved to Houston more than ten years ago.
“I wanted to support the rodeo for quite some time, but it wasn’t until about four years ago that I felt I could truly commit the time needed to make some positive impact,” he says. “Ironically, my rookie year was 2020, and as we all recall, that is when the rodeo was shut down after the first week due to COVID-19. Even though I was born and lived most of my childhood overseas, my father was a Texan. I don’t know how you can spend any significant time in Houston and not be curious about an organization that has been so successful and so prominent in the community like the rodeo. You begin to look at the history, the tens of thousands of volunteers that support it annually, how unique of an event it is. How can you not have an interest?”
When he isn’t helping students get their moment in the spotlight, Bradfield is helping people in a different way by assisting them in finding the perfect jewelry at his business, Tenenbaum Jewelers.
“We both wanted to ensure that these kids walk away with an upbeat feeling of encouragement to try
even harder next time.” —Tony Bradfield
“My interest and involvement in the jewelry business came about quite unexpectedly,” the president and CEO of the company says. “After moving to the US while in high school, I was in a situation where I needed to work to help support the family, and I apprenticed in the estate jewelry business. I did not go to college and continued that training while working another year before starting my first business in a related field. One thing led to another, and I ended up in the real-estate investment/development business from which I semi-retired in my mid-30s. Fast forward to 2010, and I was presented with the opportunity to acquire Louis Tenenbaum‘s business in Houston. Even though this path was never planned, I’ve always enjoyed the artistry, and I have appreciated the very human factors behind the product.”
Jewelry represents a special bond, whether that be a partnership, marriage, or anniversary, and Bradfield finds it to be an honor to be involved in such pivotal moments in people’s lives.
“I often say that I now get to deal in and broker happiness,” he says. “Jewelry is associated with the high points in most of our lives. Celebrations. Momentous occasions. Acknowledgment of success. Symbols of unity. Any way that we could continue to provide a great unique product, coupled with good service and value, is my company’s goal.”
Aside from growing his own businesses, Bradfield says he wants to expand on the Rodeo Auction Angels project, making sure more and more students are helped.
“Our goal is to continue using what we feel is a unique approach to appeal to a broader donor base and further the exposure of the rodeo in Houston,” he says. “We want to support our donors that might not necessarily want to jump in and feel like they want to compete to buy the top lots, but at the same time providing a donation vehicle that directs their funds to support the kids we are focused on.”
For more information, visit rodeoauctionangels.com