Katie deVeer rides her horse, Smack, outside of Burton Coliseum on Wednesday. (Karen Wink / American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 06, 2012 7:30 PM
Dutchtown senior Katie deVeer spent most of the year gearing up for this week's Louisiana High School Finals Rodeo.
On May 29, Katie and her sisters Kassie (a rising freshman and competitor in the Junior High Finals Rodeo) and Kallie (age 7) were running last-minute errands with their parents Michelle and David before everyone was set to leave for Lake Charles.
Excitement was high as the family prepared for Katie and Kassie to take center stage at the state championship event. But at 12:30 p.m., they received a horrific phone call from a neighbor.
A fire had burned down their Geismar home.
Not much in the house was salvageable, and Katie’s hat was all that survived in the family’s flat-bed trailer. But the fire didn’t take away the deVeers’ will and determination to participate in the rodeo.
“Rodeo gave me something to get my mind off of it,” Katie deVeer said. “I had to immediately pick up and focus on this and kind of leave (the fire) behind right now. I’ve worked so hard for this all year, so that helped get over it.”
David deVeer said the family’s competitive nature quashed any notion that they wouldn’t make the trip. Rodeo instantly became therapy for them.
“They wanted to come, and they knew we needed to do it,” he said. “They showed a lot of grit. They came Thursday morning and roped in the jackpot and got in the right frame of mind.”
Word of the deVeers’ tragedy traveled to the Louisiana High School Rodeo Association staff, and immediately efforts were launched to help the family.
An account was set up at MidSouth Bank for contributions, and a ‘Split the Pot’ drawing each day at the rodeo spearheaded by LHSRA student officers also raised money.
The family’s clothes, hat and shoe sizes are listed at www.lhsra.info as well. Clothing donations can be brought to the rodeo office in Burton Coliseum.
David and Michelle deVeer said the contributions of the rodeo family this week have been “phenomenal.”
“For such a loss, I don’t really feel it. I feel blessed because everybody has been so generous,” Michelle deVeer said. “We’re not the best at taking; we’re usually the ones giving. Because of everybody being so supportive, (Katie and Kassie) have still been able to focus and go on. I’ve seen super strength in them to be just ‘we’ve got to do this.’”
Katie agreed that the outpouring of care and concern for her family has given her extra encouragement to do her best at the rodeo. She competed in the first round of breakaway roping and goat tying Tuesday, and she’ll resume Friday in third place in breakaway. Kassie finished fifth in junior high breakaway roping.
“We haven’t really had to buy anything, so that’s been great,” Katie said. “I’ve gotten more clothes than I could possibly imagine; I probably have more than I started with. We’ve had boots and hats and everything we need for this weekend that everyone has given us.”
Katie remembers the image of fiery smoke billowing from their house that fateful day. But it’s her passion, diligence and perseverance that’s aided her in working toward her rodeo goals before she goes to college at Nicholls State in the fall.
“It just shows you that life is short,” Katie said. “We weren’t in the house so we’re all safe. Kassie and I try to keep each other positive ... We didn’t really stop to worry about it.”
Katie deVeer’s rodeo family has kindled a new fire within her, one that has fueled her to achieve her dreams in the rodeo arena.