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  • Writer's pictureThe Show Circuit

Oklahoma Youth Expo is Bob Funk’s ‘first-love charity’

Bob Funk Sr. announced two major contributions to the Oklahoma Youth Expo. [HEIDI ANDERSON]

While the 2019 Oklahoma Youth Expo is winding down at State Fair Park, the excitement among OYE staff and supporters is continuing to build. The excitement is fueled by the generosity of local businessman Bob Funk Sr., who has announced two major contributions to the youth livestock and leadership program.

“OYE is my first-love charity because I know that we’re growing future leaders with this program,” Funk said as he talked about the donation of a new headquarters building for OYE and his plan to match donations up to $5 million for the OYE ONWARD campaign, which intends to create a $10 million endowment to ensure the future of the Oklahoma Youth Expo.

The headquarters for OYE will be located on the south side of State Fair Park on Reno Ave. not far from the National Reining Horse Association headquarters. This will be the first permanent headquarters for OYE.

“We are extremely excited and grateful to Mr. Bob Funk for his continued support of the Oklahoma Youth Expo and all of its exhibitors,” said Tyler Norvell, OYE executive director. “The youth expo is eager to have an official office that we can truly call home here on the fairgrounds.”

"I believe that by building the building right there on the fairgrounds that it will be a spot where everyone can tell what we're doing, and it's a spot that's close enough that they can develop if they want to more and more programs for the youth of Oklahoma," Funk said.

Funk, co-founder of Express Employment Professionals and founder of Express Ranches, serves as chairman of the board of OYE and is recognized as one of the motive forces behind the resurgence of the 100-year-old junior livestock show. 

"The new office for OYE is really a legacy for me and for Express and for Express Ranches” Funk said. “I believe it will be there for a long, long time.”

Tim O'Toole, president & CEO of Oklahoma State Fair, Inc., will oversee construction of the new headquarters. “We will be engaged with the youth expo people to get the building built, have it designed to what they need it to be,” he said. 

Illustration of the new OYE headquarters. [PROVIDED]

Funk said his support of OYE is based on his commitment to Oklahoma youth and his belief that they will provide leadership long into the future.

"These young people with the OYE have learned how to work; they've learned how to relate to one another,” he said. “They have learned leadership skills that cannot be replaced when they become a little older and take their responsibility in our country and in our state."

He attributes his own successes to the lessons he learned growing up in rural Washington state.

"I started working for wages when I was 14 years old on a dairy farm,” he said. “I learned hard work, that hard work didn't hurt a soul. Because of that I believe it helped me with my drive factor. It helped me with learning how to relate to people. I learned how to develop skills that helped me later in life.”

He sees the same drive in the thousands of young people who come each year to the Oklahoma Youth Expo. Funk said his $5 million testamentary challenge match for all gifts to OYE ONWARD is because he believes in the youth of Oklahoma. Every campaign gift, regardless of size, regardless of type of gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Funk up to $5 million total.

"I believe that the money we give to these young kids will help start their educational process,” Funk said of the scholarship programs that are a big part of OYE. “I believe if we help them start their educational process, they will be successful. Success is not necessarily finances. Success is helping young people to be successful themselves in whatever vocation they want to be in.”

He summed up his definition of success: “I believe you’re only as successful as the last person you help in your life.”


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