‘80s-themed ‘Totally Hawgsome’ gala was every bit its name

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 194 views 

ROGERS — The decade-old Kiss a Pig Gala, arguably the Best Charity Gala five years running, held onto its title with a party for the record books last weekend (March 3) at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center.

The 2012 affair, an ‘80s-themed event appropriately dubbed “Totally Hawgsome,” sold out almost as soon as the fundraising candidates were announced nearly two months ago. Local business leaders and personalities compete to see who will get to kiss a University of Arkansas farm-bred pig at the end of the gala.

Going lip to snout with a swine seems more like a penance than a treat, but that is the way they roll at American Diabetes Association. The group holds the pig on high as a first source of insulin. The local event is said to be the top-ranked Kiss a Pig Gala among others like it nationwide. Saturday's event drew some 1,300 guests and raised more than $325,000.
Organizers carried out the ‘80s theme to the hilt, enlisting glam rocker-turned-reality TV show star Bret Michaels to perform. Michaels, formerly of the band Poison, was diagnosed with the disease at age 6, is instrumental in the Stop Diabetes movement and raised more than $300,000 for the ADA while starring in NBC's Celebrity Apprentice.

Michaels and his band gave a memorable performance reminiscent of his days with Poison and auctioned off an autographed Dean acoustic guitar, which sold for $2,300.

At the end of the night, pig-pecking privileges went to Amy Callahan, co-founder for Collective Bias, who raised $45,000 to win in the small-business category, and Jason Reiser, merchandising vice president for health and family care at Sam’s Club, who raised $135,000 to win in the big-business category. The curl-tailed guest of honor was named “Rock Star.”

All proceeds benefit the ADA to help fund research aimed at preventing and curing Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. Diabetes is a constant concern for those who struggle with the disease, and it is equally burdonsome for their families.

“Por la familia —  for the family. Diabetes doesn’t affect the individual, it affects the entire family,” averred Wal-Mart exec Gisel Ruiz, who served as honorary chairman for the event.

Other Kiss a Pig candidates for this year’s fundraising effort included Jamie Cooper, category leadership manager, ConAgra Foods; Biffy Fletcher, director of sales and marketing, Wells Blue Bunny; Tressa Horton, account executive, CitiScapes Metro Monthly Magazine; Lindsey Porter, account executive, Cheyenne Products; Tom Smith, a partner in the Smith & Horwart Law Firm; William Trentham, realty manager at Wal-Mart; Gabe Wight, senior vice president and general manager of client services for MARS Advertising; and radio personality Jon Williams, president of the Loyal & Royal Army.