Clay attended Fort Smith Public Schools and graduated in 1991 from Northside High School. After completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Geography at the University of Central Arkansas, he returned to Fort Smith and started a career focused on serving the needs of at-risk children
He began his career at the Children’s Emergency Shelter in Fort Smith in 1997 and worked there until 2011, serving as the Executive Director. After one year working as the Executive Director of the Leflore County Boys and Girls Club, Clay moved to his current position in 2013 as the Director of the Western Arkansas Youth Shelter (WAYS), a facility managed by Comprehensive Juvenile Services. Clay has spent his entire professional career advocating for children, working to give victims of abuse and neglect a safe and secure home in sad and terrifying circumstances. In his current position at WAYS, he helps at-risk children, child-abuse victims and children with behavioral issues that cannot be remedied inside the home. In his 20 year career as a children’s advocate, he has helped more than 4,000 children and impacted thousands more within the surrounding community.
Clay is married to Tammy Roper and has two step-daughters, Chauntel (24) and Dachelle (19). Tammy is employed as a Specialist at the Department of Workforce Services; she helps workers who have lost their jobs due to plant lay-offs and closures with occupational training. Clay attends a ridiculous number of basketball games in Fort Smith, spending a great deal of time watching his nephews and niece at their various sporting events and school activities. He and Tammy are big supporters of the Northside Grizzlies, the UAFS Lions where their older daughter, Chauntel, played until a knee injury ended her career, and now the Johnson County Community College Cavaliers in Kansas City, where their younger daughter Dachelle plays as a freshman.
In November 2017, Clay was diagnosed with metastatic fibromyxoid sarcoma, a very rare type of soft-tissue cancer. He was referred to MD Anderson in Houston and is working with doctors there to determine a course of treatment. There is no established chemotherapy course or drug that successfully treats this type of sarcoma and surgery is not an option. Ongoing genetic testing may reveal a targeted gene therapy. If no genetic markers are present that would indicate a particular course of treatment, Clay will likely be enrolled in a clinical trial of a new or untested drug. Costs for either course of treatment, even after insurance, will be astronomical. Additional expenses to travel to Houston for consultation and treatments, and missed work will be very high as well, but there are no options for local treatment. Less than 200-300 people per year are diagnosed with this rare disease.
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