Close-knit group heeds Call of the Wild

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 85 views 

ROGERS — The venue made it seem like a fancy fundraiser, but the Ozark Natural Science Center’s Call of the Wild benefit felt more like a laid-back gathering of
close-knit friends.

About 330 of the center’s supporters and close friends wined and dined at the John Q. Convention Hammons Center Saturday night (April 21) for the 20th annual soiree — or, uh, get-together. Organizers expected to raise some
$50,000 for educational programs about Ozark ecosystems and conservation for the more than 4,000 local children every year.

“Everything that we do to raise money helps to offset the losses we incur by providing our programs as a nonprofit to area kids,” sad Beth Stephens, executive director of the Ozark Natural Science Center.

She was also proud to show off the organization’s offerings of camps for “grown-ups,” a fall family weekend, summer camps and more.

Though the event was staged in the posh convention center, it was marked by a low-key, folksy ambiance. Guests wore casual attire, and folk trio 3 Penny Acre serenaded supporters as they dined. After dinner, Michelle Harvey of the Environmental Defense Fund gave a keynote address.

Silent auction items included mountain bikes, kayaks, tents and handmade pottery by Caleb and Alisen Wardlaw and Blanchard Reel. During the live auction, guests bid on package deals to wine and folk festivals, fishing trips, weekends at the lake and more. Sach Oliver of the Bailey and Oliver Law Firm riled the crowd as the night’s live auctioneer.

In addition to raising money to subsidize its free programs for kids, the organization was also looking for funds to cover some specific needs Saturday night.

“We’d like to provide two-way radios that cover our entire campus to keep kids safe when they’re out on hikes,” Stephens said.

The Ozark Natural Science Center’s central campus is located near Huntsville, about 30 miles east of Springdale. The grounds consist of three lodges, an education building, guest and faculty housing and more than eight miles of hiking trails. The center has served more than 45,000 area children since it began 21 years ago.