One of the most authentic ways to experience Texas culture and history is also a powerful force for good—and we're not just talking about delicious fried Twinkies.
Founded in 1932, The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ (HLSR) has grown to welcome more than two million visitors over three weeks every spring. The event includes agricultural and livestock programs, a giant carnival, food competitions and concerts, all of which benefit the youth and communities of Texas year-round.
Elizabeth Guerrero, senior administrative assistant at BOK Financial®, started going to the rodeo as a child. "Rodeo culture is part of our Western heritage," Guerrero said. "Early Texans helped each other, whether coming together to build a barn or a neighbor's house. And then they celebrated together with food and music. HLSR celebrates those qualities: improving where you live, helping other people, taking care of what you have and treating people with kindness. That’s what is important to us."
To the casual observer, the three-week event might be about livestock auctions and scrumptious fried food. In reality, HLSR is a massive nonprofit organization that utilizes more than 35,000 volunteers annually and has donated more than $575 million to youth and education. There are more than 2,300 students on Rodeo scholarships attending more than 80 different Texas colleges and universities, a value of over $50 million.
In addition to scholarships, HLSR also provides research, grants and educational programs to organizations that benefit youth, support education, expand agricultural horizons or preserve and honor pioneer heritage and culture. HLSR has provided nearly $84 million to more than 100 Texas organizations and institutions.
Scholarships and grants get their funding through rodeo activities, including ticket sales, volunteer dues and fundraising committees, several of which Guerrero serves. A portion of the livestock auction sales also contributes to scholarships.
"When kids raise animals, and they bring them to auction, not everyone shows prize-winning livestock," shared Guerrero. "As president of the Petite Piglettes organization, we raise money to help purchase pigs so the kids have a positive experience and gain scholarship benefits."
Roping in the next generations
Guerrero always knew she wanted to be a rodeo volunteer. She initially joined the Go Tejano committee 15 years ago, where she currently still holds a seat. "I'm so passionate about HLSR because I believe in helping young people. Whether teaching them independence and respect for the natural world or providing educational assistance through scholarships, HLSR gives young Texans opportunity to succeed."
For Guerrero, HLSR is also a family affair. Her daughter met her husband while volunteering, and Guerrero looks forward to introducing her one-year-old grandson to rodeo programs as soon as he's old enough. "I know he'll be up there riding a horse or raising a pig someday," she said. "This is his legacy."