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State of the Hogs:
I have questions that need to be answered. I could have asked those questions at the appropriate corners of our little universe that is Northwest Arkansas, then reported on the answers to fill this space today.
I want to know what happened to that baton that was knocked loose from the Arkansas relay runner in the final race of the SEC track and field championships on Sunday in Lexington, Ky. My suspicion is that some Florida team members still have it.
I would like to find out why Jonathon "Pookie" Modica fell in the closing seconds of regulation in Arkansas' 72-68 overtime loss to Alabama. I asked Pookie about that play afterwards and he had no answers. He didn't focus blame or say he was fouled, just that he couldn't remember because some things happen in the heat of the battle.
Both of those are worthy of a lengthy commentary, but I decided to go a different direction. I decided to move away from the usual. I don't want to write about games, or about who won or lost or why. I want to tell you about the Lance Ellison Fund and what people in this community have done to support it.
I will tell you about my plans to contribute to the fund. I canceled a fishing trip this weekend, and plans to possibly test new trout flies I've learned to tie. Yes, at the urging of Brad Dunn, my co-worker at Hawgs Illustrated and someone with a passion for the Lance Ellison Fund, I've decided to divert some funds earmarked for personal recreation to a worthy cause. I will spend the money saved for this fishing trip on building a new home for the Ellison family.
Lance Ellison is the former Razorback kicker from Conway. He was seriously injured in a killer car wreck in November of 2001. His family has spent the last two-plus years trying to find ways to cope with Lance's needs for rehab. He is partially paralyzed and blind in one eye. His father, Lonnie, is in North Carolina after experimental surgery last week for stomach cancer.
Friends and supporters in Conway are trying to move the Ellison family from a small apartment to a new handicap accessible home. You can go to the Internet to learn more about the plans at http//:www.HelpLanceEllison.com, a site constructed just recently by Hawgs Illustrated co-worker Tom Ewart.
What I write about today is the positive story of people helping those in need. It's what our community and state is all about. Ellison lettered for the Hogs from 1991-94 when, as Harold Horton likes to say, he made everyone feel good by his constant smile. Horton and the UA lettermen are among many who have rallied behind Ellison's cause.
Horton is the front man for the UA lettermen's A Club and a vice president of the Razorback Foundation. Along with Hawgs Illustrated's Dunn and UA athletic director Frank Broyles, Horton was at Conway earlier this winter for a dinner attended by around 250 to get things launched in the campaign to build the house.
"It's going to happen," Horton said. "People in Conway, the Little Rock area and now Northwest Arkansas are coming together to get it done. It was more like a rally than a dinner. You saw a commitment from everyone that came together that night, from the donation of land for the home to donations of services and pledges for funds.
"It appears to me looking back that it was a highly successful event and we see now that the home will be built. For sure, the lettermen have gotten behind it and we will meet our goal. We made a commitment that night to give $50,000, and we will top that."
That's just from the lettermen. There's another $60,000 in the bank account of a North Little Rock church, Park Hill Baptist, from other sources, according to Reg Hamman, coordinator for the project.
"Our tentative date for beginning the building is April 14," Hamman said. "That will be the ground breaking ceremony. Then we'll do the serious work on April 15-17. We think we'll have everything but the painting done by that Saturday."
Tom Watson, a real estate developer from the Conway area, has donated the lot, valued at $30,000. Others have donated everything from nails to concrete to lumber. Many donated labor, although electricians, plumbers, carpenters and other skilled helpers are still needed. If you can help, call Hamman at 501-758-5557.
"We have 50 volunteers to do the work," Hamman said. "We would like to have 100 spread over the three days."
What Hamman has in mind is something akin to an old-fashioned Amish barn raising.
"We need people that will just supply basic labor, too, so there is a place for everyone," he said. "It will be an exciting event and we still need more help."
More than anything, they still need funds to help pay for the special rehabilitation equipment needed for Lance's recovery. A special rehab pool will be built, but more specialized items are needed.
"That's where we wanted to help, with the fund raising," said Horton, who specializes that with the Razorback Foundation. "I knew the lettermen wanted to be a part of this. We decided to make our scramble golf tournament that we have at our lettermen's reunion this spring benefit Lance's foundation. We will send all the money for that to the church in North Little Rock."
Horton said he's already filled the scramble tournament and many other lettermen have sent donations.
"Here's a family which has endured a lot because of this accident and still faces a tremendous hardship and it's about stepping up to take care of them," Horton said. "It's good to see our lettermen rally around the Ellison family. Both Danny Ford, Lance's coach here, and Houston Nutt have pitched in with generous donations. They've been very supportive.
"What you have to know is that everyone liked Lance. He was always happy, always smiling. He's one of those that when you were around him, he made your heart smile.
"To me, this is what a Razorback is all about, stepping in and picking someone up. I knew our lettermen would want to do their part in this."
It's happening in so many areas. Lance's former classmates from Conway High School have established what will be a yearly event, a fundraiser tied to the NCAA basketball tournament they've dubbed, "The Big Dance to Benefit Lance." There will be a nice prize package for the contestant who fills out the best tournament bracket.
To enter, just clip a bracket from any newspaper, fill it out, and send at least a $10 donation to P. O. Box 1226, Conway, AR, 72033. Entries must be postmarked by March 17.
Charles Nabholz, Conway businessman, sees Conway folk helping everywhere he looks.
"It's working out with so many people working on this," Nabholz said. "I will never forget talking to my son, who is a few years older than Lance, just before Christmas. He told me and his mother, ‘Don't buy me anything for Christmas, just take that money and put it in Lance's fund.' You just don't ever forget something like that and that's what you see and feel in this community right now."
It's spreading to other parts of the state. I feel it in Northwest Arkansas, too.