Luncheon recognizes Life Styles’ champions

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 103 views 

SPRINGDALE — Life Styles Inc. founder Carol Hart may have given up her longtime job as the organization’s leader, but Life Styles has not given up on bestowing her with honors and accolades.

At the organization’s 24th annual Celebration of Possibilities luncheon Wednesday (March 7), past board president Charlie Harwell announced a national award to be given in Hart’s name. The Carol Hart Visionary Award “will recognize individuals or groups throughout Northwest Arkansas and beyond whose innovation, leadership, energy and ideas have made an outstanding impact on the lives of people with disabilities throughout the United States.”

Standing on a dais in front of a crowd of 600 or so at the Springdale Holiday Inn, Harwell held up a large crystal vase representative of the award. The audience included Life Styles clients and their families, individual and corporate supporters, board members, staff and volunteers. With all of them in one room, they appeared to be one big happy — and appreciative — family. (Hart once described the annual event as a “love fest.”)

The award was a surprise to Hart, who retired last November and was replaced by her second-in-command, Jennifer Maynard.

“After announcing my retirement, I’ve received so much from all of you in terms of good wishes and appreciation,” said Hart. “Truly, leading Life Styles was a joy every single day for me. And getting to know all of you was equally joyful.”

Describing Life Styles’ mission can be difficult, only because the organization does so much. Simply said, it befriends individuals with disabilities and gives them every chance possible to achieve independence. Life Styles helps its clients find rewarding employment, provides housing, and through a recent endeavor — Project Launch —  it gives them a chance to be a part of the college experience at the University of Arkansas.

The luncheon was a Olympic-themed affair, with inspirational music and decorations. (Anytime you walk into a banquet hall to the theme from Chariots of Fire, it gives you a lift.)

Things got underway with a welcome by current board president Blair Johanson and his son, Steven. During the meal, Maynard, the new executive director, promised to do her best to fill Hart’s shoes. She then gave an emotional nod to the clients in the room.

“You didn’t necessarily choose your path, but you are the reason that brought us all here,” she said.

The keynote speech was by Life Styles client Thomas Van Bebber, accompanied on stage by his parents, David and Sue Van Bebber. Community partnership awards were given to the Ozark Youth Shooting Club, Volunteer Group of the Year; Aaron Hall and Becky Wood, Volunteers of the Year; Milestone Construction Co., Volunteer Company of the Year; and Washington Regional Medical Center, Employer of the Year.

Washington Regional, named one of the nation’s best regional hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, employs Life Styles clients in several areas of the hospital’s operations.

The luncheon concluded with milestone service awards for Life Styles employees and clients.