story and photos by Brittany Ransom
The rain steered clear just long enough for Girls Shelter supporters to take part in the third annual Polar Bear Walk on Saturday morning (Jan. 12). Held at Creekmore Park in Fort Smith, the event welcomed its largest crowd ever, with more than 75 walkers participating.
Mary Dale Colvett, Girls Shelter executive director, and Kim Vann, event chair, kicked off the walk by welcoming the crowd and thanking everyone for their participation. Colvett explained that all proceeds from the walk benefit the shelter which cares for girls, age 12-17 who are removed from their homes by the court system.
“Girls that enter our program have been removed from their homes for a number of reasons,” said Colvett. “While in the shelter, we strive to give the girls a ‘normal’ teenage experience, which includes going to school and special group outings.”
Founded in 1970, the shelter’s goal is “to provide a safe, structured homelike atmosphere while encouraging behavior modification.” The organization can house up to nine girls at one time.
“This overall has been a great year,” said Colvett. “Not only is it our largest event, but the weather has held off and made for a nice morning. Last we were in the 20s.”
Registration for children ages 12 and under was $10 and $15 for adults.
Walkers of all ages took part in the event, as did some of the participants’ furry friends. All registered walkers received a fleece scarf for their participation, which were made by girls currently living at the shelter.
“We are very grateful to the all of our walkers, supporters and sponsors who helped make this event possible,” said Vann. “We are thrilled with how many signed up and with the number of sponsors we have. This was our best year in terms of sponsorships, too.”
“Our goal for the Polar Bear Walk was to raise $3,000,” added Colvett. “We are really proud that we exceeded our goal.”
After making a few laps around the park, many walkers picked up a cup of hot cocoa. Participants were also gifted with a goody bag and other treats donated by the event sponsors.