Lun­ney keeps up help­ing spirit, aids youths in need

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - CLAY HENRY

The love of sports can lead to good things in Arkansas. Barry Lun­ney Sr. knows that from work­ing with young foot­ball play­ers. He won eight state cham­pi­onships and fin­ished run­ner-up three more times dur­ing sto­ried runs at Fort Smith South­side and Ben­tonville.

There have been some neat op­por­tu­ni­ties come his way through coach­ing. He ex­plained some of the good sto­ries over iced tea this week. There’s noth­ing like con­vinc­ing a trou­bled young ath­lete to trust in teach­ers and coaches.

“I have sto­ries about what ath­let­ics has done for our young peo­ple,” Lun­ney said. “You just don’t know when you are go­ing to reach into their hearts and teach them to trust in oth­ers. They have of­ten faced strug­gles that you can’t un­der­stand.”

It’s those sto­ries that made Lun­ney want to keep coach­ing. So when he re­tired fol­low­ing the 2014 sea­son af­ter he won his fourth state cham­pi­onship in a seven-year span at Ben­tonville, Lun­ney won­dered how he could find mean­ing­ful ways to help oth­ers.

“I’m find­ing them,” he said. “They are out there. There are so many places that you can help.”

Lun­ney “lucked” into one of those op­por­tu­ni­ties this time last year when he was in­vited to a sport­ing clays tour­na­ment to ben­e­fit Restora­tion Vil­lage, a shel­ter in Lit­tle Flock for women with chil­dren in cri­sis. It tugged at his heart.

“Bobby Martin asked me to go last year and I just de­cided to get in­volved,” Lun­ney said. “I had a great time at the event, but what re­ally hap­pened is that I learned about the mis­sion of Restora­tion Vil­lage. I learned what they do for th­ese women and chil­dren from such tough con­di­tions, help­ing them re­build their self-es­teem and lives.”

It’s typ­i­cal Lun­ney. He’s al­ways got­ten en­gaged when youth are in­volved.

“I guess I have,” he said. “But I have more time now and this is some­thing I re­ally be­lieved in. I was asked to help with the com­mit­tee to get the word out, make it more vis­i­ble. It’s great work.”

Martin has jumped in big­time, too. Fin­ish­ing his first year on the Arkansas Game and Fish Com­mis­sion, the Rogers busi­ness leader used his per­sonal re­sources to help.

“Bobby is a part owner of Green­brier Duck Club,” Lun­ney said. “We were at the sport­ing clays tour­na­ment last year. There were some auc­tion items. Bobby de­cided to help.”

In a “spur of the mo­ment” an­nounce­ment, Martin said he’d give away a hunt at Green­brier, one of the world’s great duck hunt­ing spots. It’s on 2,000 acres of flooded tim­ber near Stuttgart. Many of the coun­try’s most fa­mous celebri­ties have hunted at Green­brier.

“It was first the Winch­ester Club,” Lun­ney said. “You can see pic­tures of John Wayne, Clark Gable and so many other movie stars who have hunted there. If it’s not the best duck hunt­ing club, it’s one of the top two or three.”

There was tal­ent in­volved in the give­away.

“Bobby said you had to go to the third sta­tion of the ro­ta­tion, pay $200 and break at least three clays with a .28 gauge shot­gun,” Lun­ney said. “That put your name in the

hat for a draw­ing. He gave away two nights and a two­day hunt at Green­brier.”

There were 24 tak­ers. Pre­sum­ably, there will be more this year when the sec­ond an­nual event takes place Aug. 26 at Spring Val­ley An­glers near Gravette. Regis­tra­tion is at 7:30 a.m. The event be­gins at 8 a.m. Break­fast and lunch are in­cluded, and it’s over at 12:30 p.m.

“The first event last year raised $65,000 and that was enough to add a full-time worker at Restora­tion Vil­lage,” Lun­ney said. “We are hop­ing to top $100,000 this year.

“The live auc­tion will be amaz­ing. It’s great what ev­ery­one is do­ing.

“What I see hap­pen­ing is that the peo­ple of our state are amaz­ing con­ser­va­tion­ists,” he said. “They take care of our nat­u­ral re­sources. That’s what hunters do. What this is about is the con­ser­va­tion of hu­man­ity. This is the area of hu­man­ity who are most vul­ner­a­ble, women and chil­dren. Our sports­men have ponied up.

“I’ve got­ten to know the founders of Restora­tion Vil­lage, David and Bev­erly En­gle. David told me what they do with the women is the same thing we do in the out­doors. You have heard the say­ing, ‘Don’t give them fish, teach them how to fish.’ David says they teach the women how to live again. It’s amaz­ing work.”

The re­treat is a 10,000square-foot lodge and tran­si­tional house nes­tled on 70 acres.

Regis­tra­tion can be done on­line at restora­tionvil­lage. net. For in­for­ma­tion, con­tact Cyn­thia Cochran at cie@restora­tionvil­lage.net.

File Photo/NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/BEN GOFF

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