story and photos by Brittany Ransom
More than 150 people turned out for the sixth annual United Way Casino Night to help raise money for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Franklin County. The Egyptian themed event was packed with dinner, drinks, dancing and gaming and had something to offer everyone. It was held Saturday (Mar. 5) at St. Mary’s Hall in Altus.
The evening kicked off with an hour of early gaming for high rollers. Refreshments and later, dinner followed. During dinner, Penni Peppas-Burns, executive director of the Ozark Area Youth Organization (OAYO), spoke about the impact of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Franklin County.
“Imagination Library is an important program to this community,” said Burns. “By putting books in the hands of children each month, this program is helping to increase literacy in our area and is helping to set our children up for a brighter future.”
In Franklin County, more than 125 children are enrolled in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Every month, children, ranging from birth to age 5, receive a quality, age-appropriate book in the mail with their name on it. Nearly 40 Franklin County children have already graduated from the program and received their “ready for kindergarten” book.
The free program is an early childhood literacy initiative of United Way of Fort Smith Area. It costs the organization approximately $30 a year per child enrolled. United Way brought Imagination Library to the region in 2006. Shortly after launching it in Sebastian County, the program expanded to Franklin County and later into Crawford and Logan counties. The four counties are among only a select few to offer the program in the entire state.
St. Mary’s Hall was filled with gaming tables including Black Jack, Craps and Roulette. A special horse racing game and a Texas Hold’em table were also set up. Guests could choose from a variety of cash games, as well. These included Wheel of Fortune, Card Sharks and March Madness. They could also enter for chances to win cash prizes in the 50/50 and the “Show Me the Money” drawings.
A live auction, packed with several big-ticket items was also part of the festivities. Ken Warden served as the auctioneer. Items up for bid included a Eureka Springs Getaway, a trip to Mountain Harbor, a “Pamper Me” package and two high roller tickets for the 2012 Casino Night.
A Drop and Draw, for those who didn’t win at the live auction, offered prizes including gift cards, movie passes, a grill set and a jewelry gift package. The evening concluded with music and dancing.