Red Shoe Shindig honors volunteer photographers

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 277 views 

It was a sea of red high-heels, boots and sneakers on Saturday (Oct. 20) as hundreds came out to support the Ronald McDonald Room at the second annual Red Shoe Shindig.

Hosted at the Phoenix Expo Center in Fort Smith, the event featured drinks, dinner and dancing, as well as a special awards presentation to honor an inspiring group of volunteer photographers.

The evening kicked off with a cocktail hour sponsored by @Urban in the Red Shoe Lounge. Guests were served the evening’s signature drink, a Red Shoe Shindig, which consisted of pomegranate juice and champagne. Guests relaxed on plush, white couches and mingled throughout the room, while others took their turn in the FunkyMemories photo booth.

In 2011, the first-ever Red Shoe Shindig raised $73,000 for the Ronald McDonald Family Room, which is a project of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkoma. Located in the Women’s Center at Mercy Hospital-Fort Smith, the room provides a relaxing place within the hospital where families of critically ill children can stay close to their child without ever leaving the grounds.

The Family Room is approximately 3,000 square feet and contains four overnight sleeping rooms, two full bathrooms, a dining room, commons area, laundry facility, library, fully stocked kitchen, administrative office and more. The RMFR is the first of its kind in Arkansas.

Event planners hoped to exceed last year’s total and were on track to do so, after selling more tickets than the year before.

“We sold 300 tickets this year and are hopeful that we will raise even more money this year,” noted Ginger Thompson, RMFR program director. “All Red Shoe Shindig proceeds are used to fund the annual operating cost of the Ronald McDonald Family Room.”

Following dinner, emcee Garrett Lewis, KFSM TV 5 chief meteorologist, welcomed guests and provided guests with a little background on the Ronald McDonald Charities.

A short video documenting two families that stayed in the RMFR at Mercy gave event-goers a better understanding about the impact the family room has on patients and their loved ones. Lewis noted that since opening in December 2010, the room has helped more than 1,000 families.

Thompson then took to the stage with Mercy Public Relations Director Laura Keep. After recognizing the event planning committee and shindig sponsors, the two ladies welcomed Clay and Susan Pruitt to the stage, for the presentation of The Lily Award.

Named in honor of their late daughter, Lillian Page, who passed away at the age of four months, the award honors a person or organization whose work has impacted families that stay in the Ronald McDonald Family Room.

Evan’s Project was announced as the recipient of the second annual Lily Award. The initiative provides photography services to families with infants in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) at Mercy. (Link here for a June 2011 The City Wire story about the project.)

Evan’s Project began in memory of Evan Bumgarner who was born on March 10, 2009, and passed away six short days later. A family friend, Stephanie Freeman, was so moved by photos that Evan’s nurses took for his family during his brief life, that she decided to do the same for parents of NICU babies in honor of Evan.

“Parents so often miss out on those early days because they are so focused on their child’s care,” said Freeman. “This gives them professional level photography that they don’t have the opportunity to go out and get in those first few precious days.”

Ten professional photographers now participate in Evan’s Project. Each volunteers to take pictures of the babies while they are in NICU. Their services are donated and the families receive a disc of the images at no charge.

“We are very proud of this award and are so pleased that Evan and his memory are being honored through this effort,” added Freeman.

In just 17 months, Freeman and the other volunteers have photographed 207 babies as part of the project.

Following the awards ceremony, many guests made their way to the dance floor to enjoy the music of the Chris Cameron Blues Band.

A spirited live auction also got underway, with guests bidding on 10 high-ticket items and deluxe packages. A Vahan diamond, sterling silver and gold bracelet, and a tropical adventure in Costa Rica were among two of the prized items up for grabs.

A premium wine table was set up in the dining room. Guests could purchase bottles of fine to enjoy with dinner or to take home following the event.

Guests were also encouraged to fill out a sponsorship card to help fund the organization’s Share-a-Meal program, which provides food to families staying in the family room.

“Our donors are what make the Ronald McDonald Family Room possible,” noted Thompson. “We greatly appreciate their support of this event and of the work that we do to benefit families every day.”