In the fight to end premature births, 300 Northwest Arkansas business, community and health care leaders enjoyed gourmet dishes and drinks prepared by local chefs, and bid on a variety of items to raise money for the cause, at the fifth annual March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction.
The event, presented by Northwest Medical Center’s Willow Creek Women’s Hospital and held Oct. 27 at the Fayetteville Town Center, featured Dusty and Michelle Hurst’s story of losing their first set of twins to premature birth at 22 weeks. Their second set of twins, born five weeks early, benefitted from March of Dimes research and only spent two weeks in the NICU. The twins are thriving now at six months old.
The March of Dimes reports that prematurity and birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality. Out of the 38,511 babies born in Arkansas each year, 3,845 are born preterm and 1,170 are born with a birth defect. In Arkansas, 297 babies die before reaching their first birthday.
“One in 10 babies are born too soon and in Arkansas there are six babies that will pass away before their first birthday, so there’s a lot of parents that are suffering. So, we want to change those statistics,” said Melissa Wood, executive director of market development for NWA.
Organizers hoped to raise $115,000 from the event this year and Wood said that it would go towards research, family support, education and advocacy efforts. Last year the March of Dimes funded research grants totaling nearly $24 million nationally and invested $15,000 in maternal and child health community grants in Arkansas.
“A lot of babies will be saved because of the research March of Dimes is doing,” Wood said.
At the event, 11 area chefs donated their time to create signature dishes for guests to sample. Participating chefs included Chef Allen Keever with Flint Creek Steakhouse, Chef Crissy Sanderson with Mockingbird Kitchen, Chef Fernando Castillo with Con Quesos Fusion Tacos, Chef Jennifer Keaton-Madewell with KFB Events, Chef Justus Moll with River Grille Steakhouse, Chef Kurt Plankenhorn with 28 Springs, and Chef Maudie Schmitt with Café Rue Orleans. Sassafras Springs Vineyard & Winery and Diamond Beverage Group provided wine for the event.
Guests also enjoyed silent and live auction items. Live auction items included a package for four to Disney World; a fishing vacation for four to Gaston’s White River Resort; a Sunday lunch at Mockingbird Kitchen with Arkansas Razorback head coach, Bret Bielema and his wife, Jen; and a 50-person party package from KFB events. Guests could also purchase a holiday dinner prepared by Lead Chef Gerald Becker for 50 parents with babies in the NICU at Willow Creek Women’s Hospital.
Harrison Kiser, assistant chief executive office for Willow Creek Women’s Hospital and his wife, Chelsea, physician liaison for Northwest Health System, were co-chairs of the event.