By Kevin McClintock
JOPLIN, Mo. —
A unique charity operated by a former National Football League linebacker will soon be working together with local residents to create a 5-ply, silk bow tie that will be uniquely Joplin.
"I first learned of the city of Joplin like most other people, which was when the tornado hit," Dhani Jones, founder of the BowTie Cause, told the Globe. "I was actually in Kansas City meeting with the Kauffman Foundation, so I was quite close to the tragedy on that day."
'Bring awareness back to joplin'
The gears in Jones' head began to turn after bumping into Brian Beshore, the former Joplin resident who established the Joplin, Mo., Tornado Recovery Facebook page just hours after the tornado hit Joplin.
"We kicked around some ideas about how to bring awareness back to Joplin, and that's when BowTie Cause came up as a feasible solution," Jones said.
Just as the name implies, BowTie Cause designs unique, high-quality silk bow ties to help raise money for good causes. It is partnering with Joplin's George A. Spiva Center for the Arts for the effort.
BowTie Cause was established in 2010 after Jones' good friend, Kunta Littlejohn, told him what to do when he was drafted by the NFL's New York Giants in 2000.
"He told me, 'If you wanna be somebody, you gotta rock a bow tie.'"
When Littlejohn was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Jones began "rocking" a bow tie in silent support of his friend, and he's never taken one off.
Today, the charity has designed signature ties for more than 80 organizations around the country, from the Ronald McDonald House to ZooFari of the Cincinnati Zoo. But the Joplin bow tie, Jones admits, will prove quite unique. That's because the winning design will ultimately come from a Joplin resident.
"We've never engaged an entire city (in the design of a tie) like this, so it's very special, to say the least," Jones said.
Spiva officials couldn't agree more.
"I think, especially if it's a Joplin bow tie, that we'll see a great response," said Lori Marble, Spiva's public relations coordinator. "I think Joplin has never left the spotlight of the heart of people from across the country."
Joplin residents will have the chance to submit their own ideas for the Joplin bow tie during a fun competition, the Bow Tie Bash, scheduled from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24.
The intent is for residents -- children, adults and artists -- to "create a visual message for Joplin" on a bow tie, accompanied by a story that explains their design, Marble said.
Entries will be submitted on a one-page handout that's now available at the Spiva information desk. The deadline for entries is 5 p.m. Jan. 25.
"We're really beating the drum and getting the word out as quickly as possible to bring in any and all entries," Marble said.
Judging will take place on Jan. 26. Entries will be displayed inside the Spiva lobby. There will be three judges, Marble said, two of which have been confirmed: Drew Hartley of Freeman Health System and Elaina Edman of Joplin Schools.
Finalists will be announced Jan. 27. The final designs will then be sent to Jones and BowTie Cause officials for a final decision.
"We want this to be a difficult choice to narrow down the field to three to five options to send to Dhani Jones and his team for selection," Marble said.
Potentially, a child could pen the winning entry. Or a tornado survivor.
"We have to tweak it a bit in order to make the design work on the fabric," Jones said. "We love it because the interaction and conversation rises to the top through something like this. It is awesome to see people embrace the process."
Bow ties to be available, affordable
Twelve weeks later, the official Joplin 5-ply, woven silk bow tie will be available and ready to purchase. Its price tag will be in the $50-$60 range.
Proceeds from the sale of the bow ties will be shared between Rebuild Joplin and Spiva Center for the Arts, Marble said.
"Since I was a kid growing up in the military, I think it was ingrained in me to have the 'give back' mentality," Jones said. "Both my parents were in the Navy, and we were exposed to many diverse situations. I'm just lucky that I've found a passionate avenue to give back through BowTie Cause, and I love seeing the awareness it can bring, which I hope it does for Joplin."