Granger Smith’s fourth annual Boot Walk, held May 4-8, 2014, demonstrated to military and civilian families alike how Texans support and celebrate our nation’s heroes, aiming to raise $50,000 for the Boot Campaign. And up in Amarillo, some 500 miles north of the starting line, KPUR-FM program director and DJ Craig Vaughn took the call-to-action straight to the streets. Despite having no personal connection to the armed forces, Vaughn wanted to go beyond promoting Boot Walk and supporting the Boot Campaign – he wanted to go the extra mile. The “shadow walk,” held April 26, completely exceeded his expectations and blew his initial goal right out of the water.
As a member of the media, Vaughn is no stranger to reporting events and helping with fundraisers. But he’s a big believer in using one’s talents for more than just earning a paycheck, so he decided he could do better than simply promoting Boot Walk. “This was a way to help on a bigger scale, to raise money and awareness for something really important not just to me, but for our entire country! It was a way to give back to the men and women who give up so much for us. It seems like the least I could do, really. I mean, it’s a few hours out of my life when they’re giving up 24 every day,” he shared.
In just a few short weeks, Vaughn and friend Retta Faye, of local band Salt Cedar Rebels, organized the shadow walk. It started with finding a host venue, which didn’t turn out to be very hard at all; local bar The GoldenLight Cantina jumped onboard immediately, opening their doors, donating money to the cause and discounting their popular burgers for event-goers. Next came securing the talent, and that was a piece of cake, too, with Amarillo-favorite Strangetowne signing on to play the event with absolutely zero hesitation. Vaughn and Faye wanted to be sure everyone involved had a great time, so they went to work collecting door prizes for the participants. “Fun was [an] important part; if we didn’t have fun, then people weren’t coming back next year,” he said.
Those door prizes were impressive! Walkers had a chance to win a bass guitar donated by musician Danny Ruiz; $500 towards a new deck or gazebo from Amarillo Dream Decks; a hamburger dinner for 30 donated by the area Shriners chapter; Amarillo Sox baseball and Amarillo Venom arena football tickets; tickets to Homer’s Backyard Ball, a Texas music festival featuring Robert Earl Keen, Josh Abbott, Kevin Fowler and more; and a whole lot of CDs! “We had enough prizes for everyone to win at least something!” added Vaughn.
What’s a fundraiser without raising funds? In a local TV interview, Vaughn explained that when he first heard about Boot Walk from Granger Smith’s radio promoter, Angela Marie Lampton at Sunfire Entertainment, he anticipated raising a few hundred bucks through a CrowdRise page. But as more and more people grew interested in the cause, it became clear that he could do better. As the shadow walk date approached, local musicians Danny Ruiz, Chancy Bernson, Mike Chism and Lee Scheetz put out tip jars at their gigs for people to donate to the cause, and Midnight Rodeo, Guitars & Cadillacs and Whiskey River, all country bars in Amarillo, made financial contributions. The incredible response touched Vaughn tremendously: “The bands, the bars, the businesses…people really wanted to help in any way they could. It was really, really heart-warming. There were times where I would get a text from someone telling me they wanted to donate money or a prize and it would literally stop me in my tracks and make tears come to my eyes.”
The day of the walk couldn’t have been more perfect: gorgeous weather, over 75 participants and an infectious sense of enthusiasm permeated the crowd. Walkers began at The GoldenLight, which happens to be located on part of the iconic Route 66, and continued about a half-mile west before turning around and heading back to the bar. Despite the short distance, Vaughn stressed to the participants that making the trek was really secondary to the event; the main focus was the Boot Campaign and its work for military men and women. He laughingly shared that, in all his planning, he didn’t secure a permit for using public streets, so participants were encouraged to pretend they were window-shopping, or high-tail it back to the bar if approached by police – his humor was much appreciated!
Through donations and registration fees, the Amarillo shadow walk raised more than $2,700, but it also ignited a spark in everyone who attended the event. Walkers expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to participate and their hope that there would be another walk next year; Midnight Rodeo suggested they would like to be a sponsor for the next one; and Vaughn himself seemed to truly love everything about how his big idea turned out, sharing, “It was completely awesome: the vibe, the weather, the food, the band, the walkers, all of it.” We couldn’t agree more. Thanks, Craig!