Youth Bridge kicked off the holiday season with its 6th Annual “It’s a Wonderful Life” Gala and Roast Friday (Nov. 10) at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers.
Approximately 350 guests attended this year’s event according to Phil Bode, marketing manager for Youth Bridge. Festivities began with a VIP guest reception followed by a silent auction, dinner and roasting of this year’s recipient Shawn Baldwin, a senior vice president of Sam’s Club.
The proceeds from the Gala all go to the expansion of the Benton County Emergency Shelter.
During dinner, guests were shown a video overview of Youth Bridge activities. Also viewed were former Youth Bridge residents sharing how Youth Bridge provided them the opportunity to overcome drug and alcohol abuse, as well as escape homelessness and physical abuse.
An emotional testimony was given by Bryce Barlow, 18, who was assisted by Youth Bridge enabling him to escape from an abusive situation at home. Barlow was a resident at Youth Bridge for two years. He is now a part of the client transitional living program for residents age 18-22. He works in the medical field.
The big announcement of the evening came from Wes Morris, group vice president Consumer Products for Tyson Foods and the honorary chair of this event. Guests stood and cheered after hearing that Tyson was donating $150,000 toward the second phase of the building project on Don Tyson Parkway. The Phase I substance abuse building was complete in January 2012. Construction is scheduled to start in the summer of 2013.
The honoree is chosen because of the difference a person can make by just being there, as the storyline goes told by George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) in the 1946 hit movie It’s a Wonderful Life.
Baldwin along with Sam’s Club Employee Volunteers spent countless hours landscaping, painting and organizing donations for the youth. The fun Roasters of the evening were colleagues of Baldwin including Dennis Horn, Kevin James, and Tony Engle.
Previous winners of the Youth Bridge “It’s a Wonderful Life” award include Dr. Becky Paneitz, president of NorthWest Arkansas Community College, and Jeff Schomberger, president of P&G Walmart Global Team.
“We continue to make each gala and silent auction better than the one before by adding new and exciting auction packages and fun ways to enjoy the evening,” said Nancy Hairston, Youth Bridge development director.
2013 marks the 50th Anniversary of Youth Bridge.
Youth Bridge houses approximately 3,500 children and young adults a year. It is a non-profit organization that serves youths and their families in the areas of abuse, neglect, addiction, homelessness, mental health issues and behavioral problems. Youth Bridge has six shelters in Benton and Washington counties.