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A Ministry of Hugs

It’s been years since Sharleen Walkoviak’s first Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. But to Sharleen, every Opening Day still feels just like the first. “The two best days of the rodeo are Opening Day and Closing Day,” she shares. “Opening Day, you’re full of anticipation and so happy it’s here. On Closing Day, you’re just worn out.”

Sharleen has good reason to be worn out at the end of the rodeo’s annual three-week run. As only the 6th female Lifetime Vice President of the Rodeo, she serves as leader, volunteer, problem-solver, and mentor to the show’s more than 35,000 volunteers who serve on 107 committees. “You’re there to lead and set an example. I feel a great responsibility to conduct myself in a professional manner and mentor whoever has questions.”

Sharleen has been a role model and trailblazer throughout her life. She began her career working as an accountant in the late 1970’s. “Things have certainly changed dramatically since I was that accountant walking into my first day of work with men everywhere,” she laughs. “I think we’ve come a long way but we’re not all the way to the finish line, by any stretch of the imagination.”

She also volunteered at the rodeo when female “Committeemen” were rare. “Most of the women then were in supporting roles. Their husbands were on the committees and there were women’s chapters for those committees. So, I started there and worked my way up the ranks like everyone else.”

Sharleen says she loves the friendships she’s made and the opportunity to work with and support youth through the rodeo, which awards students hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of scholarships. “I’ve met so many great kids! Often you meet every kid in the family. They all raise and enter animals one after another.”

Sharleen credits her loving husband, Ron, hard work, wonderful friends and mentors of her own, and her faith for her achievements. She is a business owner of Covenant Technology Services and serves on many boards and charities, including the Bush School of Government and Public Service and the KSBJ President’s Council. “I didn’t get into any of this thinking ‘what can I get out of it,’” Sharleen says. “I was fortunate people recognized my hard work.”

Sharleen says she loves serving on the President’s Council and is grateful for KSBJ. “KSBJ has helped me to renew my faith, to reconsider my actions, and my outreach to other people. You must live your life as a good example of your faith.”

One of Sharleen’s favorite ways to reach out to others is simple: a hug. “I get emotional about this,” she says, tearing up. “The reason is, it might be the nicest thing that happened to that person on that day. You never know what is going on in someone’s life, and if you can make a difference with a hug, how easy is that to do?”

Sharleen’s husband teases her that it takes her hours to leave a room because she hugs every person. The rodeo Closing Day will be a long one.

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