Where it all Started


Emily Pilkington

It’s that time of year again, the rivalry football game of the Clinton YellowJackets and the Heber Springs Panthers is upon us. While it’s  a fierce rivalry on the field, off the field, these two schools come together to make a difference in their community.  From raising money, collecting items that are needed by agencies that help children, and helping wishes come true, this is the pure embodiment of what sportsmanship is all about. This year the tradition of supporting the battle against childhood cancer is still at the heart of how this all started   Activities and fundraisers for the Battle of the Little Red started to help support a CHS student, Devon Wooten. Devon was diagnosed with neuroblastoma years ago.  After many years of fighting like a superhero, Devon gained his wings.   “Many people ask why we still do this?  That is easy,  Devon is the why.  Anyone that was there the night he walked across the football field, saw and felt the impact of this amazing young man!   An example of how to fight with grace and dignity was played out in front of us.  What a blessing he was to our community, “ stated Sarah Hutchins, CHS teacher, who was tasked with heading up the fundraising efforts.  Hutchins continued, “Seeing the picture of Devon hand in hand with our boys still gives me chills. This is a cause that hits home.”  This is the only “why” we need.  It is the least we can do, to honor his memory, fighting for causes with the same intensity that he did daily.  

In 2018, Dollars for Devon was the first fundraiser that was started to help Devon and his family. In Dollars for Devon the two schools took up donations and sold t-shirts. The shirts were designed with the motto, “Nobody Fights Alone”, this motto was to show the love and support from the community for Devon, and to let him know that he was not alone!  We were here to fight with him.  At the Battle of the Little Red game of 2018, Devon made it home from the hospital just in time for the big game.  That night the crowd was honored seeing him walk out arm and arm with our football team before the game. Devon was all smiles and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. This was a lasting memorable moment that has touched the hearts of many. 

As the year went on Devon fought his  battle. April 4, 2019 Devon passed away after a long hard fought battle that ultimately began when he was just 5 years old. “No matter how hard it gets, you just have to keep trying.” This is the motto that Devon would always say. His attitude always stayed positive even at the most trying times. The school and community still want to honor  Devon’s life and legacy. Before Devon passed away he was able to travel to LegoLand, which was funded by Make a Wish. Devon’s wish was granted by the organization Fight Like a Kid. Fight Like a Kid is an organization that works with Make a Wish to grant wishes to kids with qualifying illnesses.

This is the 4th year we will be working with Fight Like a Kid to grant a wish to a Greers Ferry Lake area student.  The money raised during the Battle of the Little Red is held specifically to grant a wish for a student in the Greers Ferry Lake area.  This sends a student from the area to their dream destination if they meet qualifications. For the past three years the community has been able to present one child from one of the two schools with their “wish”. 

Last year we began making a $1,000 donation to the Devon’s Donors Foundation, in memory and honor of Devon.  The money is used for scholarships for a Clinton senior and a Heber Springs senior.  The committee gives special consideration to students battling illnesses or other obstacles out of their control.  Students that exemplify Devon’s fighting spirit. 

Devon is a true superhero to this town. His spirit and faith was unshakable. While we should have been lifting him up, he was lifting us up. Everyone can agree that he always had a smile on his face and a positive attitude to match.   This community still works hard to fund these organizations to honor the one that started it all, our beloved friend Devon Wooten.  Let us never forget our why!