Everyone has a story, and the special relationship between Richard “Dick” Wallrath and the Texas FFA Association is an original, awe-inspiring story.
Wallrath’s personal demons caused him to hit rock bottom and lose everything - his family, job and hope. But after finding faith, Wallrath picked himself up, built a nationally successful window company with his sons, earned back the love of his children and became the leading all-time individual donor to the Texas FFA Association.
From adversity to success, Wallrath’s life is the subject of Deep in the Heart, which premiered Feb. 15 at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas.
More than 70 FFA members and advisors lined the red carpet to attend the movie’s premiere.
“One of the greatest pleasures in life is watching someone else succeed, preserve, overcome obstacles or inspire others. That is what the evening [premiere of Deep in the Heart] afforded those in attendance,” said Aaron Alejandro, executive director of the Texas FFA Foundation. “We had a chance to see the Wallrath Family – the very characters of the movie – and a chance to see the actors who played their respective roles. It was inspiring to watch the audience respond favorably to Mr. Wallrath’s story.”
Other distinguished figures were in attendance for the premiere, including Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples and Gov. Rick Perry, as well as cast members John Gries, Elaine Hendrix, James Haven, Rheagan Wallace and DB Sweeney.
“The future of Texas is all about creating opportunities for the next generation and no one has done more than Dick Wallrath,” Staples said. “There is no measurement for the impact Dick has had on the Texas youth by providing them with a means to achieve their goals.”
And even the actors bragged about the Texas FFA members.
“FFA is teaching the members how to develop great leadership and life skills, and the maturity level of the members is outstanding. They are an inquisitive group who are pleasant and fun to be around,” Hendrix commented.
Wallrath’s tragic, yet magnificent story inspired those in attendance.
“It’s excellent to be a part of something this big and meaningful. He (Dick Wallrath) has given so much back to us,” said Harper Orts, Manor FFA vice president.
Orts was also one of the approximately 200 FFA members who were used in the filming.
Deep in the Heart was released across the Lone Star State on Feb. 17 and had a successful opening weekend, ranking as the number one independent film.
A portion of the movie’s ticket sales will go to the Richard Wallrath Educational Foundation to continue to support the youth and their organizations.
“Mr. Wallrath views his support as an investment in the future of our country,” Alejandro said. “His hope is to challenge current members, former members, parents and teachers to also make an investment in others – to ‘give back.’ I admire his demonstrated faith. He has always told me, ‘I didn’t give the Texas FFA the scholarships, I just wrote the checks – they came from God,’” Alejandro recounts.
Scholarships from the Richard Wallrath Educational Foundation, established in 2006, are awarded to deserving FFA members across the state to help further their education. Today, 35 $10,000 scholarships are given to Texas FFA members who excel academically, participate in FFA and have the desire to further their education.
“The Wallrath family story is gripping and ultimately redemptive. It could inspire the next Dick Wallrath or the next C.J. ‘Red’ Davidson to come forward and support the Texas FFA and 4-H Associations. The possibilities are limitless,” said Barney McClure, executive director of the Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas.