Starlight Gala raises money, awareness for Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter

by Nancy Peevy ([email protected]) 1,131 views 

A sold-out crowd of 1,100 gathered for the Starlight Gala benefitting the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter.

In an effort to give hope to abandoned, neglected and abused children in Northwest Arkansas, 1,100 people came together on Saturday (March 4) in Rogers at the 15th annual Starlight Gala, benefitting the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter.

Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S. and Children’s Shelter board member, spoke to the crowd about the theme of the evening, “Hope in Action” and the opportunity to improve the lives of the children at the Shelter.

“All of them are victims of circumstances that are just way beyond their control,” Bratspies said. “It really breaks your heart. It breaks your heart until you realize that you can actually do something and then it actually becomes a pretty exciting situation.”

Bratspies told the crowd that while the country is divided, those at the gala were united in compassion, conviction and in action for helping children.

“It doesn’t matter where you stand on the issues, what your job title is or where you’re from,” Bratspies said. “Tonight we’re just a group of people coming together to help kids who need us … they need our resources, they need our influence, they need us to believe in them, but above all what they need is hope.”

Bratspies said children discover hope at the Children’s Shelter. He said that hope is evident when a scared child, abused by her father, “looks you in the eye and tells you thank you.” Or when a 10-year-old boy blows out the candles on his first ever birthday cake. Or when a 16-year-old girl, who never thought she’d go to high school, earns her GED.

Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising for Walmart U.S. and Children’s Shelter board member, spoke to the crowd.

“Those are the seeds of hope firmly planted, seeds that are planted at the Children’s Shelter,” Bratspies said. “I want to create more moments, more hope and more optimism.”

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

In 2016, 513 children were served by the Shelter. Since opening in 1993, 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.

Board members and staff hoped to raise $620,000 for the operation of the Shelter as a result of the evening. A live auction during the evening featured items such as a seven-night stay for 10 at a villa in La Punta Manzanilla, Mexico; a classic Wrigley Field rooftop experience; a trip to see Bruno Mars live at Madison Square Garden in New York City; a Dallas Cowboys club package and a trip to see the play “Hamilton” on Broadway. The gala also included cocktails, dinner, a concert by the country duo “Maddie and Tae” and an after party.

Dick Trammel, philanthropist and Arkansas Highway Commission chairman, continued his tradition of raising money during the evening with a special 10-minute appeal that organizers hoped would raise $80,000.

Walmart U.S. was the major underwriting sponsor of the gala. General Mills was the presenting sponsor. Approximately 80 sponsors helped with the gala and included Kimberly-Clark, Pepsico, and Hershey’s. Sponsorships ranged in price from $2,350 to $25,000, with Individual tickets for the evening costing $250.

Country singing duo, Maddie and Tae, performed for the crowd