Patriotic Dallasites salute American heroes at summer picnic fundraiser

This article, written by Stephanie Allmon Merry, originally appeared in CultureMap Dallas on July 25, 2019.

What: Boots & Salutes

Where: Equest at Texas Horse Park

The 411: About 300 patrons gathered July 19 for a patriotic, picnic-style fundraiser benefiting Equest’s fastest-growing program, Hooves for Heroes. The third annual Boots & Salutes was chaired by Carolyn Anderson and Norma Jean Schaltenbrand, who organized a fun and meaningful evening of tributes to veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

Upon arrival, guests were greeted by Equest ambassadors "Teddy" and "Taco" (a miniature horse and donkey) and an 8-foot tall cowboy (on stilts). The night's events officially started when the roaring engines of four WWII T-6 Texans flew overhead.

Emcee Sonia Azad, health and wellness reporter at WFAA Channel 8, led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, and Susannah Denney, Hooves for Heroes program manager, performed "The Star-Spangled Banner."

In her welcome to the patrons, Equest CEO Lili Kellogg said, “Tonight, you are supporting our work to serve our veterans who desperately need our help and who deserve the best opportunities to successfully face the daunting transitions they face when they come home.”

The tributes continued as first responders were acknowledged and veterans were asked to stand as their branch’s anthem played. Two outstanding veterans and Hooves for Heroes participants then received awards: Marine veteran Derick Garcia received the Pay It Forward Award, and Navy veteran KoCo Powell received the Above and Beyond Award.

Director of Music and Fine Arts at CSLDallas, Oscar Seung, inspired guests to donate by singing as a touching video showcased Equest's important work. Then guests raised their paddles to donate at various levels, raising more than $28,000 in just a few minutes.

Patrons dined on cuisine from local restaurants, including Bar Louie, Carlton Provisions, Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen, Haute Sweets Patisserie, Kolache Factory, Pop Star Popsicles, Savor Gastropub, Aw Shucks, Crazy Brothers BBQ, and Resident Taqueria. They sipped beer provided by Real Ale Brewing Co. as they perused the silent auction items assembled by auction chair Kailey Pretzlaff.

To end the evening, party-goers danced the night away under the stars to the tunes of the Ray Johnston Band.

Equest's Hooves for Heroes program promotes the well-being and mental health of veterans and their families through equestrian therapies and counseling. Since its founding in 2012, the program has helped hundreds of veterans and military family members at no cost.

Who: Jordan ProchaskaAinee IbesJustin GhaderyBrent EllisMelissa EllisAnna CurnesChristi MerilAnnie GriffethTeal GriffethLogan BairStephanie MeyersGreg NaredAmber JonesRyan Alexander, and Shawn McBride.

CJ Bankhead