Bass tournament provides drinking water for third world countries

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, October 10, 2023

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WEST POINT LAKE — A check in the amount of $5,005 has been given to the Neverthirst Foundation in memory of Diana Renee Reaves. The money was raised in Saturday’s inaugural Diana Renee Reaves Buddy Bass Fishing Tournament on West Point Lake.

A total of 47 boats left Southern Harbor Marina at 6:45 a.m. EDT on Saturday and were back for a weigh-in at 3 p.m. The two-man team of Ben McDuffie and Robert Medas of LaGrange won the $1,500 first prize. The bass they caught on Saturday weighed a total of 14.28 pounds. They also won the $460 prize for landing the biggest fish. It topped the scales at just over seven pounds.

Hundreds of people turned out for the event. Most of them lingered around a large stage that had been set up and listened to gospel music though the morning and early afternoon hours. Many were seated under a large tent provided by Jackson Heating & Cooling. The event concluded with a tribute performance to Elvis Presley.

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Ballard Party Rentals brought their inflatables for the kids, and tents were set up where fresh-grilled hot dogs, hamburgers and fish were served. Lots of items were given away throughout the day in a raffle. Among these items were some expensive fishing rods and gear, framed fishing-related artworks and a large bag filled with Merle Norman cosmetics. Some Neverthirst caps were for sale under one of the tents.

Randy Reaves served as the emcee throughout the day and kept everyone entertained with his friendly manner and quick wit. 

“We want to have this tournament every year,” he said. “It’s for a good cause, and it’s in Diana’s memory. We think we had a good turnout today, but we’d like to have over 100 boats in future years. We really want to have some local high school bass fishing teams.”

Shannon Wayne took to the stage to read the poem “Orchard.”  It’s one of 44 poems from Diana’s book, “What We See When We Look Up.”

“Diana could express herself in a manner that blessed everyone,” Wayne said. “Her poems say so much about her life and her ministry. She’s not with us today. She’s looking down from heaven.”

Diana died at only 35 years of age in July 2022. She loved the work done by charitable organizations such as Neverthirst, which has reached more than 1.3 million people in countries such as India, Nepal, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Niger.

Neverthirst is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that helps bring clean water to underprivileged parts of the world while bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Its goal is to reach the unreached.

Copies of Diana’s book were available underneath the tent set up by her parents, Randy and Tammy Reaves. On display was a framed copy of a letter from the people of Odisha, India thanking the Reaves family for what they had done for them. It quoted Psalms 67: 1-2: “God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us, that thy way may be known upon earth and thy saving grace among all nations.”

Saturday’s weather was absolutely gorgeous, but a little bit too windy for the fishermen. The breeze did die down about the time they had to report for the weigh-in. Everyone was in high spirits and loved being out on a beautiful fall day. Some people came from as far away as Derby, Kansas and Brookhaven, Mississippi to be there.

The Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce helped promote the tournament. Executive Director Carrie Wood and Tarin Parrish of the Chamber staff were there to make the check presentation. 

“It was Randy’s tournament, but we wanted to help promote it because it’s such a good cause, and we are all about getting more people to come to West Point Lake,” Wood said.

The money going to Neverthirst will build a new well in India. It will ensure that people in an impoverished area will have clean, safe drinking water.

“Since my daughter died, we have built five wells in parts of the world where clean water is needed,” Randy Reaves told The Valley Times-News. “Diana dedicated the first one to my wife, and that means so much to me. We have built four more since then, and we want to keep doing it. There is such a need for this.”

Matt Letourneau, the president and CEO of Neverthirst, was at the tournament and very much appreciated the outpouring of support he witnessed.

“We are already working on next year’s tournament at Southern Harbor,” Reaves said. “It’s going to be on Saturday, October 5. We want to get our local high school bass fishing teams involved. Next year there will be a $400 first prize to the bass fishing team that comes in first place. We will also have some trophies for them.”

The trophies are truly unique. They are made of stainless steel and in the shape of the kind of well that goes in the ground in Neverthirst projects. Saturday’s tournament winners, Ben McDuffie and Robert Medas, got the first two. More of them will be awarded next year. They are outstanding keepsake items and will look really good sitting on the mantel in someone’s home.

“Something I really like about Neverthirst is that there’s little overhead,” Reaves said. “Eighty-four percent of what’s raised goes  straight to the field and helps people in need.”

Diana is a 2005 graduate of Valley High and was Miss Vallerata her senior year. She went on to earn an undergraduate degree at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee and a master’s in creative writing at the University of Arkansas. She taught creative writing at the university for four years.

Before losing a battle to cancer, she courageously soldiered on despite having her tongue removed. Several years ago, an article entitled “The Tongueless Baker” appeared in the VT-N’s Valley Living magazine about what she was going through.

Reaves said he will never forget Diana and what a special person she was. 

“She lived a life marked with beauty and much success as a singer, teacher and writer,” he said. “At 33, she was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma cancer, and she suffered tremendous pain and some difficult surgeries. With her tongue and voice marred, still, she wrote. Her words and love encouraged and inspired others. She suffered with strength, grace and purpose.”

Shortly before her diagnosis, she shared with her family a personal revival she called her sunrise. Her readers can gain insight into that in her book of poems, “What I See When We Look Up.” Copies are available on Amazon.