A Tennessee man who survived a lightning strike and pulled his company out of financial ruin in the face of a family tragedy is using his second chance at life to give to others across the nation — and give them a second chance, too.
Richard Rogers established the Just One More Foundation last year to openly give second chance opportunities to others. In May, the foundation granted $120,000 to applicants from 17 states. For a long time before that, Rogers anonymously gave money to help people.
“What excites me is giving to someone that is going to enable themselves to give to others and basically pass it along,” Rogers said.
Rogers, now 69, said he still remembers that fateful day in 1995 when lightning struck the hunting cabin where he was sleeping with a friend and his two boys. The bolt sliced through the roof, setting him on fire and stopping his heart.
“I didn’t wake up. I was dead,” he said.
As the skin on his chest burned away and his hair singed, one of the boys performed CPR on his lifeless body, and Rogers had an out-of-body experience.
“It was very calm too. I was going through this bright tunnel and it was really cool,” said Rogers.
Treacherous terrain and a storm hindered helicopter rescue, but after two hours, Rogers made it to a burn center in Chattanooga.
As he fought for his life, Rogers made a solemn pledge to give back. He said his son asked him, “Dad, are you gonna die?”
“And that’s when I went, ‘Wait a minute.’ I sat up in the bed and I prayed. And my prayer was, ‘If you will let me live, I don’t wanna live for me. I wanna live for others that I can help,'” said Rogers.
Despite his impairments from the lightning strike, Rogers remains undeterred. He says the scars are still visible, his balance isn’t the best and his hearing is impaired, but his inspiration to give remains unwavering. He was able to resume his normal life within two to three years after the lightning strike.
“The doctors told me I would never walk again and so I proved them wrong too,” said Rogers.
Rogers, now Chairman of the Board of the U.S. Stove Company, inherited the once-struggling business from his father, who died by suicide. Determined not to declare bankruptcy, Rogers and his brother turned the company around, embodying the theme of “rising again.”
The company now serves as the foundation for Rogers’ philanthropic efforts, which include The Launch Pad in Chattanooga — homes, and a community, built for women battling drug addiction. Scottie Bowman, who overcame her own battle with cocaine addiction, said Rogers’ support and confidence have made all the difference.
“What Richard likes about his and my story is that they correlate so closely together because we’ve both been given a second chance at life, him through a death-defying electricity strike and me through death-defying cocaine addiction,” said Bowman.