New film chronicles life of rodeo benefactor

New film chronicles life of rodeo benefactor

New film chronicles life of rodeo benefactor

One man’s story of overcoming alcoholism to become a successful businessman and philanthropist to Texas students is playing at movie theaters across San Antonio this weekend.

The independent film “Deep in the Heart” tells the true story of Richard Wallrath, who has been called the largest individual donor to Texas Future Farmers of America and Texas 4-H programs at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo and other Texas livestock shows.

Shot entirely in Texas, the movie features Jon Gries of “Napoleon Dynamite” fame as Wallrath, who has funded scholarships by buying show steers at junior steer auctions and through the Richard Wallrath Educational Foundation.

The movie, directed by Christopher Cain, features Val KilmerElaine Hendrix, and D.B. Sweeny. It’s playing at the Santikos Palladium 19and the Santikos Silverado 16.

Wallrath won’t be at the stock show auction this weekend, but he said he hopes the public will support the movie.

“Our thinking was the economy was so bad, and we lost so much (money) in our educational foundation, (we wanted) to try and make enough money from the film to endow scholarships from here on through perpetuity,” Wallrath said by phone. “We need the help of the public; buying a ticket will help a student with their scholarship.”

Wallrath, 81, credited God for the good things in his life, including 44 years of sobriety. He said he’s using his second chance to invest in Texas students, calling them the nation’s future leaders.

He has helped boost the prices being paid for winning steers.

“The first time I came to San Antonio, there were little buying groups, and I slid in there and they didn’t know who the hell I was,” Wallrath said. “I bought the grand champion, and they had to spend more money for the reserve.”

In 1997, his Houston-based Champion Window Inc. paid $69,000 for Boomer, a 1,263-pound Maine-Anjou picked Grand Champion Steer. In 1998, Champion Windows bought both the champion and reserve steers for $122,500.

In 2001, he paid $87,500 for the grand champion, a shorthorn steer named Super Fly.

Others have followed his lead. On Friday, a group of bidders paid a record $112,000 for the Grand Champion Steer.

The film’s executive producer, Jay Hoffman, said the filmmakers were attracted to Wallrath’s story because of the “incredible arc” that’s played out in his life.

“To me, it’s a great American story about the power of faith and hard work to change your life,” Hoffman said by phone. “We all can take a great lesson from what Mr. Wallrath has gone through.”

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