Two from Swamp People part of club fundraiser

By Wayne Bryan Published October 11, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Boys and Girls Club of Saline County Executive Director Jasen Kelly is shown with, from left, Eli Kelly, Keaton Griffin, Hudson Chandler and Taylor McCoy hold a flyer advertising an upcoming fundraiser for the club that will feature “Trapper” Joe LaFont and “Trigger” Tommy Chauvin from Swamp People.

— Even if you have never watched an episode of Swamp People on the History Channel, you may have heard about the Cajun clan that hunts and traps alligators in the nation’s largest wetlands in the Louisiana Delta.

On Oct. 20, two of the best-known hunters in the Atchafalya Swamp, “Trapper” Joe LaFont and his stepson, “Trigger” Tommy Chauvin, will speak and answer questions at the annual fundraising dinner for the Boys and Girls Club of Saline County in Benton.

This is the 34th annual fundraiser for the organization, said Jasen Kelly, executive director of the club. He said that after offering a Vegas night for adults and corporate sponsors of the club for two years, the club was looking to do something different.

“We wanted to do something more family-friendly,” he said. “We were trying to think outside the box, and we asked each other, ‘What’s hot today?’ Someone brought up Swamp People, and we got in touch with them, and it all seemed reasonable.”

Holly Little, a member of the club’s board of directors, said the gator-hunting duo had visited another Arkansas Boys and Girls Club with good results.

“The had done so much for the club in McGehee that we thought they could do the same here,” Little said. “They have been great to work with and the kids want to meet them. We think they will; also attract new donors and we have had a really good response.”

LaFont and Chavuvin will speak during the $50-a-plate dinner at the Boys and Girl Club on Cox Street, south of Benton High School, then participate in a question-and-answer period before signing autographs and posing for pictures.

For $10 each, individuals can attend the autograph session and will receive a Swamp People poster, Kelly said.

In addition, the evening will feature a silent auction of items collected from companies and individuals, including guns, hunting items, jewelry and dinners, according to an announcement from the club.

“This has really turned out to be popular,” Kelley said. “We have a total of 390 seats for the dinner at the club, and by last Friday, we had already sold about 360 tickets.”

Kelly said those attending will get a good preview of the next season of the program, after the swamp was hit hard by Hurricane Isaac.

“They told me that their season for alligators was only August and about a week into September, and they had a rough gator season because of the hurricane,” he said. “Joe told me last Monday that their homes were flooded, and there was a lot of destruction.”

Kelley said he hopes the event will bring around $20,000 to the club. The funds will be used to build a garden.

“It will be a community garden known as the Garden of Hope, Discovery and Dreams,” he said. “We are building it to address the hungry families and children in the area.”

He said the garden, which will be on the club grounds, will first grow turnips and mustard greens, along with other winter crops, then switch to other produce in the spring.

“Those in poverty often eat poorly as well,” Kelly said. “They cannot always afford fresh produce.”

During the summer, the Boys and Girls Club of Saline County took part in a national summer feeding program that offered children at the club breakfast and lunch.

“We served more than 13,519 meals this summer,” Kelly said. “That was the most anywhere statewide.”

The club was a destination for 423 children during the summer, and now that school has started, almost 400 children are dropped off after school at the club on any given day.

“Saline is a wealthy county compared to other areas in Arkansas, but there is an island of poverty near the Boys and Girls Club that is often overlooked,” Kelly said. “We never want food to be a barrier from success in the lives of these young people.”

To purchase a ticket to the dinner or to take part in the autograph session, contact the Boys and Girls Club of Saline County at (501) 315-8100.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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