Lone Star Horse Report

In English
published in the LONE STAR HORSE REPORT, May 2010

As a child riding horses just a pebble’s throw from Earth’s greatest ocean, Jo Jo White little imagined that her life’s calling would lie in bringing water to the thirsty.

At the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center near Carmel, on California’s Pacific coast, she had joined Pony Club at the age of seven and risen through the ranks under the tutelage of renowned coach Dick Collins.

As a teenager, she competed in eventing on a Thoroughbred gelding from Oregon named Priority, a horse selected by her friend Mason Phelps, who later founded the Florida equestrian public relations firm, Phelps Media Group.

Jo Jo was a member of the preliminary-level team that won the Western America Cup in 1970. Later, in the Pan American Games Trials, she won the individual bronze medal in the intermediate division.

After earning a degree in history from Ball State University in Indiana, she moved to Dallas in 1976 to work in sales and marketing for Circle R Ranch in Flower Mound, which hosts more than 350,000 guests each year for meetings and special events.

In her spare time, she rode with the late Walter Straus, who helped develop the sport of eventing in Texas, at his Three Day Farm. She also served on numerous business, trade association and charity boards.

Seven years later Jo Jo launched her own firm, JWP Ltd. It began as a full-service print brokerage and then branched into graphic materials, event planning and production, and promotional items.

Through the printing industry, she met her husband, Pat Pope, founder of Graphic Associates, Inc., which sells offset, digital and analog supplies and equipment.

About six years ago, on the recommendation of a California friend, Jo Jo joined the million-member Rotary International, the world’s first service club organization.

One blazing hot summer day in 2006, her frustration building in the heavy Dallas traffic, she arrived late for a Richardson East Rotary luncheon and heard a talk by Oran Bain on the efforts of Rotarian volunteers to provide safe, clean water to villages in Sub-Saharan Africa.

She was astonished to learn about the scarcity of this life-giving liquid – that some people walk more than 10 miles daily for a few precious gallons, and that clean water can reduce infant mortality rates by half. More than a billion people worldwide lack access to a supply of safe water.

“I returned to my car, where I had left a huge thermos-type drinking mug filled with water that was still ice-cold, crystal clear and very safe to drink,” she recalls. “I was embarrassed and ashamed that just a little over an hour ago, I had been frustrated, stressed and felt over-committed to my tiny and minor problems and irritations.”

Two years later, Jo Jo found her perfect opportunity to help.

She had been riding regularly at Britt McCormick’s Elmstead Farm in Parker, which has produced and managed many top-rated USEF shows across the South.

When Britt asked her help in organizing a new kind of horse show series, she laughed and declined. Then he offered to donate 100 per cent of the charitable funds raised to any project of her choice.

The penny dropped. “I took a deep breath and a prayerful moment, and replied, ‘Okay, Rotary International and clean water.’”

With Britt as her partner and cofounder, Jo Jo took on the long, onerous task of establishing a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. They named it Clear Rounds for Clean Water. (A horse and rider achieve a “clear round” when they jump all obstacles in a course without refusal or knocking down a rail.)

Jo Jo give special credit to the staff of her local Congressman, Sam Johnson, for helping to inch along the wheels of the government bureaucracy.

She recruited a strong local board of directors and an advisory board of influential friends from around the world.

Final approval was granted just a few months before the first show of their new series, the Texas Sport Horse Cup and Texas Rose Classic, which was held last September at Texas Rose Horse Park in Tyler.

Thanks to Britt’s high standing in the hunter/jumper world, the two five-day USEF “AA” shows drew more than 500 horses and riders from 10 states. Clear Rounds for Clean Water was assisted by many volunteers and generous donors, including Claire Rock, Johnnie Martin Carey, Jane Gilday, and Lynda Hodge. Highlights were a $15,000 Hunter Derby, a $25,000 Grand Prix, and a clinic conducted by George Morris, the current chef d’equipe of the USEF Show Jumping Team.

Through silent auctions and other activities, they raised $10,000 for Clear Rounds. Then through a series of matching grants – including a major gift from World Vision – Jo Jo was able to increase the total contribution to $70,000. “And every dime went to the project,” she says.

The check was presented to Rotary for its two-year $930,700 project in four districts of Northern Uganda, which will fund wells, hand pumps, latrines, hand-washing stations, rain water collection systems, and repairs of war-damaged boreholes.

Jo Jo hopes to double the size of this year’s shows, with more than $90,000 in prizes to be awarded in the first week. The Texas Sport Horse Cup and George Morris clinic will be held September 1-5, and the Texas Rose Classic, September 8-12. Between the shows, participants may be bused to the casinos and races in nearby Shreveport.

She is gathering support far and wide. Romantic suspense author Sandra Brown, who lives in Arlington and has written 58 New York Times bestsellers, has agreed to auction off the name of a minor character in one of her upcoming thrillers. Last year, the Countess Bernstorff-Gyldensteen of Denmark, a childhood friend of Jo Jo’s, donated a week’s stay in her Scottish home for the silent auction.

Sponsorships and donors for this year’s series are welcomed. Clear Rounds for Clean Water is considering several possibilities for its next project, including one in Honduras.

With clean water unavailable to one in six people on the planet, there is no end of opportunities to put in practice the Rotary motto: Service Above Self.

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