The first ever Kelly Phillips Classic at Russellville High School on Saturday was a smashing success.
A big crowd came out for the event which both remembered the former RHS standout athlete on the 40th anniversary of his tragic death and also raised money for the scholarship fund that has been given out in his honor since his passing.
“It was a wonderful day,” said Diane Walker, who helped to organize the event. “We had perfect weather and a great crowd and ultimately the outcome of the scholarship fund raiser was very successful.”
Almost $8,900 was raised in all.
“The donations just poured in,” Walker said. “I was there and people were just handing me checks. Even fans from the out teams that were there to play were handing me money for the scholarship fund. It was just a huge outpouring of love.”
The scholarship has traditionally awarded $100 to one male and female student athlete at Russellville High School, but since the fund raiser was so successful, that amount me be increased in the coming years.
There will be a new application for graduating seniors to pick up for the scholarship and a new board has been selected to oversee the awarding of the money.
“We will be including one member of the Russell family that wants to stay involved in this,” Walker said.
Saturday’s ceremony included remembrance’s of Kelly Russell by his friends and family - including his sister JoAnne Russell Bennett, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Also, a new street sign was unveiled at the high school to honor the entire Russell family.
“Mr. and Ms. Russell were very involved in the RHS athletic program,” Walker said. ” They took several kids that played sports there under their wings and became a second mom and dad to them. They were always there do whatever they could to help out the coaches. By naming the alley #14 Russell Way, we felt like that was a way they could be honored along with Kelly.”
Russellville Independent schools superintendent Leon Smith was also pleased with the way the day turned out.
“I was amazed at the turnout on Saturday for this event,” Smith said. “The weather was beautiful and a great day for baseball. I would estimate 125 in attendance for the ceremony. While it was an emotional event, it was truly a celebration. I was honored to meet the head coach of Kelly’s team, David Phillips. To this day he carries that tragic day with him and I could tell he loved those kids. Special thanks to our Alumni Association for sponsoring this event.”
In addition to the RHS Alumni Association, the event would not have been as big of a success without the support of Gerald Printing, which was in charge of all the T-shirts that were sold as part of the scholarship fund raiser.
“They immediately agreed to be a part of this,” Walker said. “They covered all of the design and printing costs so that more of the proceeds could go to the scholarship fund. Gerald Printing was such a big part in setting the tone for this whole event.”