‘KidsClub’ supported with a Night at the Races

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 136 views 

Fayetteville’s horse racing may not be flashy. You may not feel the rushed block of air wafting off the course and pushing your hat off your perspiring brow, or the sun making its way to your skin, but it’s here and it has a distinct purpose.

A Night at the Races took place at the Fayetteville Town Center Friday evening to benefit the Arkansas Support Network, an organization that helps families with disabled children to make the most of their resources.

“100% of the proceeds from this event go to the KidsClub,” said Liz Hogan, Fox Morning Edge news anchor and the emcee for the Night at the Races. “The Arkansas Support Network is an organization…that helps children with developmental disabilities. It was established in 1994 without any taxpayer funds.”

Guests of the event dressed in derby attire, women sporting many big, floppy hats, accompanied by men in suspenders and bowties. The evening was one of hors d'oeuvres, drinks, bidding on round after round of video horse racing, live music all in celebration of an organization that makes life a little easier for so many people.

Hogan stressed that the importance of the event was to keep the ASN functioning to provide children with enriching activities throughout the summer and a chance to be around other children.

James Wilkes, division manager at Arkansas Support Network, explained the organization as one that embodies Albert Pine’s words on leaving a good legacy.

“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world is and remains immortal.”

Wilkes is taking that responsibility very seriously, an extension of his many years of service to the ASN.

“We improve on our kids club every summer,” he said. “The kids have a great, fulfilling summer and the parents can be stress free for a while. Without your support, this wouldn’t happen.”

Expenses for each child total $175 a week, which is more than $1,000 per summer; quite the ticket for an organization that has to raise all of its funds and operation costs independently. Over the course of the evening, funds were raised through entrance fees: $35 per person, $50 for VIP entrance or tables ranging from $240-$300. Additional donations were made through ticket sales for the video horse races and a silent auction, which featured several items for children, like a Powerwheels Jeep, math tutoring sessions, climbing parties for up to 10 children and trips to Lokomotion.

The evening would not have been complete without a little credit given where it’s due.

The annual Michael Donald Carver Award goes to a recipient who exhibits extraordinary service to disabled persons. This year, that recognition went to Dr. Richard Roessler, emeritus professor of rehabilitation education and research at the University of Arkansas, whose 39 years of teaching, research and service revolved around this very act.

The award was presented by Lynn Donald Carver, the mother of Michael Donald Carver.

“This is the 5th year for me to present this award in the memory of my son Michael, who had cerebral palsy,” she said. “I’m so honored and so pleased to give this to an outstanding person in the field.”

Michael would have been 31 years old this year.

“Richard Roessler was recognized with the 2010 National Distinguished Service Award from the American Rehab Counseling Association… and his department, which focused on rehabilitation education was ranked 15th in the nation,” Carver said. “He gives unselfish service to people with disabilities, is still working with students and still doing research.”

Roessler told his students that the one phrase he didn’t want to hear them use was “the disabled.” Instead, he taught them to regard everyone with compassion and fairness.

“Everyone has … a right to personal choice in one’s own affairs.” Something, Roessler said, that he was taught by people with disabilities, which he passed on to his students.

Roessler left quite the legacy for his many students over the years, and surely his mantra is echoing in more than a few ears out there.

“You’re ambassadors for people with disabilities,” he tells them. “They matter and you matter.”