By Ruby Tevis
The horse is a universal symbol of freedom. Like many equestrians, Shane George of Magnolia, Texas, fell in love with the feeling of freedom from the back of a horse. As a USEF “R” judge, Shane has traveled from sea to shining sea to judge competitions. While each horse show was held in a different state with new competitors, there were always two unifying constants: the national anthem and the horse.
Often times, Shane’s daughter, Lindsey Rogers, would travel alongside him. “Lindsey grew up in the horse industry,” Shane said. “Being a professional’s kid, she’s been getting on airplanes every weekend or driving by car to various horse shows around the country since she was very young.” Lindsey took after her father’s love for horses and competed in pony hunters and amateur owner hunters for many years.
In 2012, Lindsey met her husband, Jimmy Rogers Jr., who was deployed to serve for the United States Navy in 2015. While Jimmy was away, he experienced the loneliness of being so far from home. Though Jimmy and his fellow service members would receive care packages, they were often mass-produced and contained items that weren’t very useful. Jimmy was inspired to found a program to send meaningful, custom care packages. With Lindsey’s help, Boots For Troops was born.
Boots For Troops is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to sending troops custom care packages that include personal, requested items, footwear, favorite snacks and items from home. “Every item we send is of quality, and is something that you would use yourself,” Lindsey said. “We don’t send old magazines or one-blade razors that no one would want to use. We pride ourselves in sending quality items to our troops who deserve the best, just like we all want.”
Along with care packages, Boots For Troops runs the Warrior Morale Project to help active duty service members afford to travel home during holidays and family emergencies. To fundraise for these projects, Shane and his wife, Chris George, transform their 35-acre Texas horse farm, Show Sports, into a concert venue.
Concert in the Country
This fall, Show Sports will be unrecognizable as the front 15-acre pasture is transformed into a concert venue for “Concert in the Country,” a country music fundraising event. Preparation will begin one month before the gates open on October 5. The stage is hauled in on a flatbed trailer, tents and barricades are set up and sound equipment is all put into place. Along with general seating, the exclusive Sponsor Area is constructed. This area includes private seating, bars and food trucks.
“When the organization was in its first full year of operation, we were trying to come up with ideas for fundraising events,” Lindsey said. “One night, we were out having a drink, and Shane and Jimmy were joking around about how cool it would be to have Jake Worthington play in the front pasture of the farm. Fast forward four years and it’s now a full-fledged concert event that’s beautifully executed.”
Past performers include Jake Worthington from NBC’s “The Voice,” Josh Ward and Mark Wills. This year’s headliner is country music star Tracy Lawrence. With these big names come even bigger crowds. “The first year we had about 800 attendees, the second year about 1,000, last year 1,800 and this year we expect 2,500 plus,” Shane said.
Bringing Equestrians Together
For the past three years, the Gochman family has invited Boots For Troops to Wellington, Florida, to share their mission with members of the equestrian community. During the dinner at the International Polo Club, guest speakers share the importance of supporting the military. “We’ve tossed around ideas of changing up the event this coming year. We could possibly have a packing party or combat boot runway show — details to come this winter!” Lindsey said.
Boots For Troops has been supported by the equestrian community since the very beginning. About half of the first $5,000 raised through GoFundMe was from the equestrian community. “The support and love from the equestrian community has been truly special,” Lindsey said. “Everyone has their own connection to the military, and it’s been a pleasure to find out what connects each person.”
While the program is expanding nationwide, Boots For Troops’ headquarters remains in the heart of Shane and Chris’s horse farm, among everything that reminds them of the American dream. The office is housed in a former broodmare barn, where four stalls were enclosed and transformed into offices and work space. The group plans to expand the office and build a large care-packaging room. The purpose of the packing room is to further encourage community involvement and give volunteers a space to write letters and pack boxes for troops.
“Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in the life we are all blessed to experience in the horse industry,” Lindsey said. “We often forget about those who are half a world away fighting for our freedoms. This is our opportunity to give back and support them so they are not forgotten.” To date, Boots For Troops has impacted 1,300 service members, sending over 1,200 care packages and helping 82 families return home for holidays or emergency situations.
Shane sees an incredible future for Boots For Troops. “If everyone involved can stay passionate about the impact they’re making in the lives of so many service members, then I believe the organization will continue to grow,” he said. “The demand for the care package program has never been greater, which proves there’s a need for these services. The future is very bright for Boots For Troops.”
For more information, visit boots4troops.org
Photos courtesy of Boots For Troops