At 75 years young, Whitey Smith of Rogers, Arkansas is known for saying “I do it for the kids.”
In high school, Smith played football for the Rogers High School Mountaineers. Although he graduated in 1956, he continues his involvement to this day with the Mountaineers sports programs.
Immediately after graduating, Smith began his volunteer work with the Mountaineers by working the chains on the sidelines at home football games. He did this for three years before moving up to the press box where he kept score, ran the clock, and kept stats for “his” team. Smith continued to run the clock for the next 46 years. In those 46 years, he rarely missed a football game, home and away, as he would travel to watch his team. During these same 46 years, Smith also volunteered in the gym, keeping the stats and running the game clock for the basketball teams.
Furthermore, just after Smith graduated high school, someone needed a fundraiser, a kid’s sports team. Hearing of the need, Smith arranged a “chicken cook.” He set up a 47-foot long cinder block pit to cook donated chicken halves. Once cooked, the sports team sold the chicken roadside. Smith did not charge for cooking, he did not ask for a dime. All the money raised went to the sports team. Thus, began Smith’s weekly chicken cook fundraisers.
Now, some 50 years later, you can still find Smith, and his chicken-cooking crew, early on Saturday mornings firing up the pit and preparing to cook 300 to 500 donated chicken halves. His “Whitey’s Chicken” has become a local favorite meal for people on Saturday mornings, and his chicken cooks have become as a fundraisers for several community groups in Rodgers including school sports teams, scholarship funds, and Boy Scout troops. Smith has even help to raise money to offset medical expenses for community members. In 2001, it was estimated Smith had helped raise over one million dollars for various groups in Rogers.
In the 1960s, Rogers was a small town. Jobs were mostly farming and ranching and money was tight. Kid’s sports and activities needed funding. Sports uniforms and equipment were expensive. That is when Smith stepped up to raise money for such endeavors. Even now, with a population right around 60,000, funding for such items as uniforms, equipment, and camps, are still hard for the schools and community groups to budget.
Smith is a champion of kids and an outstanding neighbor to the City of Rogers. He has coached little league baseball and football teams for more than 20 years. The local chamber of commerce has recognized Smith and the Rotary Club has honored him with its Harris award. In addition, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association recognized him with an Unsung Hero award that included two monetary prizes, one for an organization of his choice, and the other to Smith. In Smith’s fashion, he donated both of them to the Rogers School system’s athletic fund.
Smith has proven to Rogers that you can accomplish anything when people come together for a cause. In Smith’s case, the cause is youth and school sports. By Smith providing fundraising for these different groups, they are involved, as they know it takes teamwork.