HELENA — It has been nine years since the death of Helena priest Father Stuart Long, on who the Mark Wahlberg movie “Father Stu” was based.
Friends of Long created Beyond 227, a nonprofit, to honor him and continue his mission of religious and charitable endeavors.
“When we got word they were making the movie about Father Stu, we thought it would be good to keep his mission, some of the things be believed in alive,” said Fr. Bart Tolleson, a friend of Long’s and Beyond 227 spiritual advisor. “How could we do that? We started an organization.”
“227” was the number of Long’s room at Big Sky Care Center. The group’s promotional materials also feature plenty of bigfoot imagery, a favored fascination of Long.
On Friday, June 9, 2023, the anniversary of Long’s passing, the organization held its first fundraiser, a murder mystery.
With the funds raised, they aim to help a number of causes including aiding families facing homelessness, supporting seminarians and offering companionship to those in long-term care facilities just to name a few.
“We have many programs and thoughts in the works and of what we want to accomplish with visiting nursing homes,” said Executive Director Shannon Bell. “He was there and sometimes felt forgotten. And so we feel that's very important to, you know, fulfill that niche, we might say. And then also just starting to really learn how to not look inward all the time. We need to be looking outward, and that’s what [Father Stu] did.”
Bell and Tolleson noted it’s a bit odd, in a good way, to be holding this event. While Long may no longer be there physically, there’s no denying the lasting impact he’s continuing to have on his community.
“I think that Stu is still at work from where he’s at, and I think he’s pushing all of us to do better with our lives,” noted Tolleson. “To help other people, to give them hope.”