Benefit finishes lengths ahead for KidsCamp

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 99 views 

FAYETTEVILLE — It was a subdued crowd at Arkansas Support Network’s Night at the Races fundraiser Friday night (July 20).

Perhaps they weren’t accustomed to horse racing at the Fayetteville Town Center.

Organizers showed video of three races, encouraging guests to bid on a would-be winner in each race (there was no betting for “place” or “show” finishers). Bets were just $5, placed at any number of ticket booths at one end of the room. Winning tickets, no ever how many, were put in a pot for a drawing at the end of the night.

Prizes were Visa gift cards worth $100, $250 and $500.

The races were spread throughout the evening, with a live auction taking place midway.

“C’mon No. 5, you glue-factory reject,” yelled one guest at a table closest to the front of the room. Moments later, he said “Where the heck is No. 5?”

As the other horses picked up speed, he quipped: “There’s No. 5 — all the way back in Albuquerque.” And finally, after the race, exacerbated, he said, “I know donkeys that can run faster than No. 5.”

LaDonna Meredith, director of development for Arkansas Support Network (ASN), said she was expected 25-300 guests at the fundraiser and hoped to make about $30,000. The event benefits KidsClub, a nine week summer camp for children who are unable physically or mentally to participate in regular camps.

A highlight was Lynn Carver, ASN’s co-founder, giving out the fifth consecutive Donald Lynn Carver Award, named for her late son and former ASN client. Carver praised the awardee, Brian Swisher, as someone who “makes sure people with disabilities are included in the community at large.”

Swisher’s son, also named Michael, recently celebrated his 21st birthday with a trip to a regional casino and is enrolled in “Program Launch,” which allows individuals with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy some of the more fun aspects of college. Michael Swisher is also an Eagle Scout and recently joined his Catholic Church’s Knights of Columbus group.

“He has done everything his parents did,” Carver said of the younger Swisher. “He had the advantage of having parents who were focused on what he could do, not what he couldn’t do.”

The Swisher matriarch, Gail, died in January after a hard-fought 13-year battle with breast cancer.

The event’s two live auction items went for a steal. Dinner for 8-10 guests catered by Jose’s Mexican Restaurant at the winner’s home or that of Shawna and Calvin Garrett in Fayetteville with music provided by ASN Executive Director Keith Vire was valued at $2,800 but sold for $700.

 A commissioned painting by artist Nadine Rippelmeyer, considered a $3,500 value, was won for $550.