story and photos by Lauren Leatherby, special to the The City Wire
FAYETTEVILLE — Razorback basketball head coach Mike Anderson was the guest speaker at the Yvonne Richardson Center’s Celebrate Our Kids event, held Tuesday (Aug. 28) at the Fayetteville Town Center. The affair celebrated the glory days of former head basketball Coach Nolan Richardson and the memories yet to be made on the court under second-year coach Anderson.
Richardson’s late daughter, Yvonne, was already ill with leukemia by the time he got the offer to come coach at Arkansas in 1985. It’s been said that she insisted that he take the job. Since her passing, more than $1.4 million has been donated to charitable organizations in Yvonne’s memory.
The recent sold-out dinner gave guests a chance to mingle with former Razorback coaches and athletes.
“There are so many Razorbacks here tonight that it would take all night to introduce them all,” said Nate Allen, the longtime sportswriter who served as the night’s emcee.
Anderson expressed the importance of the Yvonne Richardson Center by sharing his memories of the recreation center he attended as a child. In addition to basketball, he dabbled in everything from
soccer to ping pong.
“I practically lived there. I’m telling you, I lived there,” Anderson said. “It kept me of the streets. My mom always knew where I was.”
A group of concerned citizens established the Yvonne Richardson Community Center in 1996 for children in southeast Fayetteville to have a place to learn, play and be safe, said Nancy Allen, board president of the center.
The money raised during the event will sustain the center’s current programs and help expand the center’s offerings.
“We would like to offer additional enrichment programs of art and science, and our big goal is we’d like a van at some point,” said Allen, the board president. “I don’t anticipate we’ll get a van from this night alone,
but maybe we’ll make some progress toward it.”
During the address, some past patrons spoke about the organization’s effect on their lives.
Quinn Childress, a Fayetteville High School senior, spent time at the center since 2002. In addition to going to the center as a safe place when times were tough, Childress developed a greater sense of maturity.
“[The Yvonne Richardson Community Center] taught me the responsibility and discipline to do things like go to church by myself,” Childress said.
The night kicked off with a social hour, during which guests could bid on silent auction items including a one-night stay in the Old Main Suite at The Chancellor and a Wheaties box autographed by the 1966 basketball team from Texas Western University — the first national champion team with an all-black starting lineup.