Wings 4 Water
Story by Dave Eckert
It goes by the acronym W4W, which stands for Wings 4 Water. But the name alone just doesn’t do this Lee’s Summit-based charity justice. I went to the group’s founder, Chris Turney, for more on the organization’s efforts to provide water relief the world over, and how the modest chicken wing started it all. “For several years, I hosted a “Wings ‘n Royals” party on my patio as a fundraiser for our church’s youth group. The top ten silent auction bidders would get to come over to my patio, eat wings, and watch a Royals game. After one of those parties, a friend commented that his chicken legs were better than my wings. The not-so-slight tinge of competitive nature in me couldn’t let his cavalier statement fly. So, I invited him, and his chicken legs, over to my patio. Ten of our friends planned to come watch the Chiefs beat the Patriots in the opening game of the 2017 NFL season. Our buddies would eat his legs and my wings then vote for their favorite with money. Whoever raised the most money through those votes earned the right to donate it all to a charity of his choice,” Turney recalled. Turns out, Turney ended up with eight guys wanting to compete and 150 to attend. “We asked The Local, a local live band, to perform, which led to us renting the community center in my neighborhood. Everybody had a blast and we had around $1,500 in donations that I gifted to World Vision.” World Vision is an international charity helping more than three and a half million children in nearly 100 countries. Wings 4 Water was on its way.
From there, Turney set up a 501(c)(3) organization, so the group could have some of the necessary materials donated. “While I was opening our bank account at UMB, Ryan Bryant asked what Wings 4 Water was. As I explained, he enthusiastically suggested that UMB could sponsor the event. He also had several friends who would like to compete. At that point, the goal of Wings 4 Water was to obtain enough sponsors so the event could be paid for before guests came out. That way, every vote dollar cast at the event would go to clean water efforts,” Turney shared. That accomplished, W4W was able to grant $5000 to global and local water relief efforts.
From there, WFW continued to grow, doubling its attendees, competitors, and grants the following year, 2019, Then, there was Covid, but W4W was undeterred. “We worked with the Health Department to create a format to maintain Wings 4 Water in 2020. Around 20 competitors set up their grills, smokers, and fryers to prepare some 12,000 chicken wings that our guests pre-purchased online. We sold 400 boxes of wings packaged in containers that contained a QR code for each competitor. Our 2020 event yielded over $16,000 in grants to local and global relief efforts.
The group and its efforts continued to grow as 2021 allowed for the return to a public event. “We moved the event from downtown Lee’s Summit to a nearby community center with a larger parking lot. We had over 30 competitors and over 2,000 guests plow through just over a ton of chicken wings fully donated by Tyson Foods. We granted $25,000 to local and global relief efforts from the 2021 event, Turney shared.
Then came 2022 and the biggest and best W4W yet. “Paragon Star invited us to be its first public event. Around 40 competitors cooked more than 20,000 chicken wings for over 3,500 guests. The Chiefs Training Lab and KC Wolf provided a game-day experience to kick off the opening weekend of the NFL season. Tyson Foods delivered more than 100 cases of wings on a refrigerated trailer and video crews documented the community buzz,” Turney said.
I attended and judged. It was, in a word, amazing, which is also a good word to describe what Turney and W4W has accomplished in six short years. “To date, W4W has granted over $85,000 to global and local relief efforts. Our primary questions when granting money to water relief organizations are: (1) will more than 90% of our grant go to relief efforts, as opposed to administrative costs, (2) are measures taken to ensure the water relief efforts are sustainable and not subject to abuse of power, and (3) will the method of providing purified water also result in building a community that will grow in future generations,” Turney told me. “Personally, I just love this community. W4W’s Board members are long-time dear friends. Our competitors’ competitive nature led to new wing creations every year. The best wings you’ll ever eat are the wings you’ll find at our event. The regional community that comes out is also thrilling. At this year’s event, it was fun to be a stranger at my own event. Guests would excitedly talk about the event with me without realizing it began on my patio. It was so thrilling to see so many joyful people coming together to celebrate wings and giving.”
To learn more about what W4S does, and to get involved at any level, visit https://www.w4wkc.org/.
As someone who’s personally been involved in the group’s efforts since 2018, I can assure you that you’ll emerge with a belly full of delicious wings and a huge smile on your face! Dave Eckert~