Walmart merchandising boss praises mission of Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter

by Nancy Peevy ([email protected]) 1,137 views 

The Starlight Gala, fundraiser for the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter, continues to be the largest charity gala in Northwest Arkansas with a crowd of approximately 1,400 in attendance at this year’s event.

Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., said Walmart’s partnership with the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter is a perfect example of “helping people beyond the aisles of the stores and into our communities.”

“Our 1.3 million associates prove every single day how committed they are to helping people in their communities. Whether it’s helping a mom find school supplies in the store, or helping with a fundraiser; helping is in their DNA,” Bratspies said Saturday evening (April 9) at the 14th annual Starlight Gala benefitting the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter.

In his remarks to the crowd of approximately 1,400 corporate and community leaders, Bratspies said Walmart and its employees in Northwest Arkansas support the shelter because they know there are children in the area who need help because they suffer from abandonment, abuse or neglect.

Attorney Emily Reynolds, with Walmart legal and board president of the shelter, said she supports the organization because it’s a mission that gives hope to abused and neglected children here in the Northwest Arkansas area.

“There isn’t a worthier cause than that,” she said. “It makes me go home and hug Libby (her two-year-old daughter) a little bit harder a night.”

Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Walmart, U.S., spoke at the gala on Saturday evening (April 9). Walmart is a major sponsor of the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter.
Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Walmart, U.S., spoke at the gala on Saturday evening (April 9). Walmart is a major sponsor of the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter.

Walmart, a major sponsor of the gala, was joined by 81 other businesses and individuals who also sponsored the event and gave to help support the Children’s Shelter financially. General Mills was the presenting sponsor, along with others, such as Pepsico, Kimberly Clark, Hershey’s, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Mattel, Tyson, 3M and Anheuser Busch.  Individual sponsors included Brett and Kara Biggs, Steve Bratspies, Rick and Melissa Lockton, Bob Lee and Emily Reynolds.

“We had record sales as far as sponsors go,” Scott Hutcheson, director of marketing for the NWA Children’s Shelter, said. “Last year we had 73.”

Sponsorships ranged in prices from $2,350 to $25,000. Individual tickets for the evening were $250. A live auction and a special appeal by Dick Trammel, philanthropist and Arkansas Highway Commission chairman also raised money during the evening. The auction featured items such as a seven-night stay at a villa in Mexico, a trip for four to the Spring Cup Series in Kansas City and a week-long trip for 12 to a chateau in France. Last year the live auction raised $58,000.

In Trammel’s appeal, he asked the crowd to help fund the shelter’s preschool which was introduced in 2015, and focuses on kindergarten readiness of residents ages three to five. Last year the appeal raised $90,000 and Hutcheson was hopeful that that amount would be met or exceeded.

(from left) Attorney Emily Reynolds, with Walmart legal and board president of the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter, with Linda Phillips, development director for the shelter.
(from left) Attorney Emily Reynolds, with Walmart legal and board president of the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter, with Linda Phillips, development director for the shelter.

Organizers said they hoped that the total raised from the evening would be between $400,000 and $500,000. Hutcheson said the state of Arkansas gives the shelter 25% of it $3.4 million operating budget, and that the staff must raise the other 75%.

“We raise money through events like the gala and our through our other two events – our kickball tournament and our golf classic,” he said.

The Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter is a private, non-profit organization that provides 24-hour residential care to children and teens from all over Arkansas who are victims of abandonment, abuse or neglect. When a child is removed from their home, the shelter is often the first place they go before being placed in a traditional foster home.

In 2015, 448 children were served by the shelter. In its 22-year history, the shelter has cared for more than 8,200 children. the facility has 48 beds and children can stay up to 45 days in a six-month period. The majority of children are placed at the shelter by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) in response to a report or allegation of child abuse or neglect or an intervention by law enforcement.

The Starlight gala also included cocktails, dinner, a concert by county music singer Jennifer Nettles and an after party featuring DJ Purp Loder.

Hershey’s, a major sponsor of the Children’s Shelter, offered a game where guests could buy kisses for a chance to win a prize.
Hershey’s, a major sponsor of the Children’s Shelter, offered a game where guests could buy kisses for a chance to win a prize.