Chaired by Kristie and Adam Mitchell, the Central Arkansas Heart Ball was held at the Statehouse Convention Center and raised more than $850,000 for research and educational efforts of the American Heart Association. The event began with a welcome from the Mitchells, followed by an introduction of all 58 Sweethearts. A white-glove dinner service included a first course of Prosciutto Roulade and an entrée of Crab-Crusted Sirloin with Creole mustard crème sauce, sautéed broccolini, oven-roasted carrots and goat cheese mashed potatoes. Dessert was a choice between sweet potatoes cheesecake or caramel banana truffle. Master of Ceremonies David Bazzel then introduced 2014 honorees: Roxana Harsh Whitner, Dan Herrington and Friday, Eldrege & Clark. Featured survivor Samantha Johnson shared her story of receiving a heart transplant. The evening concluded with dancing to The Rockets.
The annual Governor’s Arts Awards Luncheon was held at the Marriott Downtown and honored nine individuals and one group for their efforts to advance arts in the state. Honorees included Paula Morell, Robert Hupp and Lee and Dale Ronnel, among others.
The American Childhood Cancer Organization Arkansas presented its annual Gallery of Hope art auction at Next Level Events. The event included a cocktail reception and auctions to benefit Arkansas’ youngest cancer patients.
The Historic Arkansas Museum held a reception to kick off its exhibition, A Sure Defense, the world’s largest bowie knife exhibit ever assembled. Guests at a special VIP kick-off reception included locals and museum staff, knife lenders and the editor of Knife World magazine.
UofA Athletic Director Jeff Long was the honoree at the “Leader of the Year” fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Central Arkansas. Guests enjoyed dinner from Corky’s and a short presentation by Keith Jackson, Jeff Long and others.
Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families held its annual Friend of Children Luncheon at the Clinton Presidential Library. Award recipients included Judge Wiley Branton Jr., Dr. Tom Bruce and the late Dr. Betty A. Lowe.
Few people can say their lives or the lives of their loved ones haven’t been affected by cancer. For Little Rock native Kori Gordon, her own experience with cancer began with her career on the hematology/oncology unit at Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) and, more recently, with the death of her father, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2003. “That’s a devastating diagnosis,” Gordon says. “I cannot even imagine hearing those words.” Just over 10 years later, Gordon’s passion for helping cancer patients has led her to the 20th Century Club, where she will co-chair the organization’s annual Hope Ball this month, along with Kelly Thompson.
After graduating from Hendrix, Gordon went on to receive her pharmacy degree from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences before beginning a clinical pharmacy position at ACH’s hematology/oncology unit. “I loved the time I spent working at ACH,” Gordon says. “I’ve always loved hematology/oncology. It’s always interested me.” Even years later, Gordon keeps in contact with the families and patients she met while working at ACH, even some of the families whose children passed away long ago.
Gordon’s passion for cancer patients was apparent to everyone around her, including Cecelia Blasier, whose husband, Dale, is an orthopedic attending physician at ACH. Cecelia encouraged Gordon to join the 20th Century Club, an organization of women who raise funds and volunteer for the 20th Century Club’s Lodge, which provides temporary, no-cost housing to cancer patients receiving outpatient chemotherapy and radiation treatments at medical facilities in central Arkansas.
“I love Little Rock. My husband had the opportunity to join a medical practice in Oregon but he chose to come home back here and I feel blessed that we did that,” Gordon says. Since working at ACH, she had dedicated much of her time to volunteering around the city. She spent seven years as a member of the Junior League of Little Rock. She volunteered at her sons’ schools and had joined the board of directors for Jr. Deputy Ball Park, where she now serves as president. Though she had a lot on her plate, the idea of joining the 20th Century Club was one she couldn’t shake.
Gordon and her husband, Eric, have four sons, ages 3, 5, 11 and 13, and she’s made it her mission to teach them the importance of volunteering. “Eric and I strive to teach our boys that volunteering isn’t something that we can do or need to do, but it’s something that we have to do. Volunteering teaches my boys compassion and gratitude, but I also want to instill in them humility and a strong work ethic.”
As Gordon was nearing the end of her seven years in the Junior League of Little Rock, she and Eric decided to attend their first Hope Ball, the annual fundraiser of the 20th Century Club, and she immediately decided to join the organization. “I was blown away by what they do,” Gordon says. “The 20th Century Club’s Lodge is the only facility in Little Rock that offers no-cost housing for cancer patients and a caregiver, no matter where they’re receiving treatment — St. Vincent, Baptist, UAMS, it doesn’t matter. And the lodge is amazing. It’s beautiful. We don’t just offer a bed and a shower. We clean their rooms, we serve dinner three times a week, we play BINGO. We offer that little something extra that lets them know they’re being taken care of.”
The Lodge, which was built in 2011, includes 27 patient rooms available on a first-come-first-serve basis, and frequently, patients have to be turned away when the Lodge is at capacity. “We provide 5500 nights of housing and 4000 meals to 1200 patients and caregivers annually,” Gordon says. “That’s a big number of people.” It costs the 20th Century Club about $50 per night to house a patient, and their annual Hope Ball acts as the club’s sole fundraiser.
Proceeds from the Hope Ball are used to fund annual Lodge operations expenses. Because the Lodge is relatively new, repair and maintenance costs are only going to get larger as it ages. According to 20th Century Club’s Lodge Executive Director Elizabeth Clogston, “The 20th Century Club Endowment Fund was created to allow these types of expenses to be removed from our annual operating costs. Our long-range goal is to grow the Endowment Fund to $2 million so that the annual income will cover these types of expenses.” Short-term goals include a backup generator in case of extended power outages.
This year’s Hope Ball, which will take place March 8 at the Statehouse Convention Center, will begin with cocktails and a silent auction at 6 p.m., followed by dinner, a live auction and a super silent auction at 7:30 p.m. Recognition will be given to this year’s Hope Award Winner, Cathy Ellis Hendrix of Ellis Infiniti, and the Distinguished Service Award Winner, Cecelia Blasier — the same woman who encouraged Gordon to join the 20th Century Club. Guests participate in the Club’s annual Fund-A-Night appeal, during which donations will be displayed in real time on a custom scoreboard, and the evening ends with music by Tragickly White.
“When I was asked to chair the Hope Ball this year, I was scared to death. I’ve never done anything like this, and I didn’t know if I could do it,” Gordon says. She found herself facing new challenges and doing things she didn’t realize she was capable of. “Asking people for donations? For money and support? I would have never thought that was something I could do. But I am on a mission. My motivating force is thinking about those kids at ACH. When I get scared, I remind myself that this is just a ball. I am chairing a ball. Those kids were fighting for their lives and they did it with a smile on their face.”
Gordon is grateful for the previous Hope Ball chairs, who pass forward a notebook each year with every necessary detail of planning the event. “It’s like a manual for life,” she says. “They have provided us with a roadmap. That’s how Eric and I live our life. We look at where we’ve been, what we’ve done and how to bring it forward.”
One of the most heartwarming and inspirational moments during each Hope Ball is the video that plays just before the Fund-A-Night appeal. This year, the video, created by New York Emmy-award winning producer Mami Kuwano Renaud, chronicles a day in the life of a 24-year-old cancer patient. “When we were in a planning meeting and someone mentioned that Charolete Williams would be the focus of this year’s video, I said, ‘Do you spell her name C-H-A-R-O-L-E-T-E?’ and the committee members said, ‘How did you know that?’” Kori explains. “Charolete was one of my patient’s at ACH 10 years ago. Everything came full circle for me in that moment, and I realized how special it was that the year I chaired the event, Charolete would be in our video.”
2014 Hope Ball
|When: 6 p.m., Saturday, March 8||Where: Statehouse Convention Center|
|Tickets: $250 per person||Info: 907-1760, HopeAwayFromHome.org|
We have a pretty wicked collective sweet tooth in our office. When it comes to cookies, we often refer to ourselves as prolific taste testers, because who doesn’t want to indulge in copious amounts of portable, bite-sized sweet treats whenever possible? A delightfully sugar-filled afternoon and a couple of pounds later (all in the name of research, of course) — we bring you nine of our favorite cookies from Little Rock bakeshops.
For coconut fans, this is a wonderfully sweetened and fluffy cookie that offers a perfect balance of chewy and crunchy. Melts in your mouth good.
Sylvek’s European Bakery
1900 N. Polk St. (inside The Heights Kroger)
Classic sugar cookies with a fondant icing, these are hands-down our favorite iced cookies in town. Buttery with a sweet hint of vanilla, these are always a huge hit at our office.
1200 Main St.
This takes the traditional oatmeal cookie to the next level. Dried cranberries add tangy pops of sweetness to this large, shareable cookie. Also often made with sour cherries – equally delicious.
Boulevard Bread Company
1920 N. Grant St.
A gluten-free option that is full of flavor. We love the lemony, gooey center, crispy edges and light dusting of powdered sugar.
323 S. Cross St.
Boasting the perfect blend of cinnamon and sugar, this slightly cakey snickerdoodle is a 10 in our books. We will have a dozen more, please.
Sweet Love Bakes
8210 Cantrell Road
Made with cocoa, peanut butter and oats, this cookie has a fudge-like quality that makes us want to savor each bite slowly.
Kris & Sam’s
1208 S. Bowman Road
We love The Root’s version of our childhood favorite. These beauties feature oversized, creamy chocolate chips baked into a dense, chewy cookie.
1500 Main St.
Simple in name, but not flavor. This decadent, buttery cookie has a cake-like gooey center but a delightfully crispy exterior. This could be the world’s perfect sugar cookie. Yes, we went there.
Brown Sugar Bakeshop
419 E. Third St.
Looking for a sweet that’s fat-free and gluten-free but still tastes like a cookie? Spicy and molasses-infused, this one hits the spot without packing on the pounds.
10700 N. Rodney Parham Road