By Kim Dishongh
More than 700 people will gather together on Saturday, April 6, for The Centers for Youth & Families annual celebration, The Evolve Gala, which will raise funds for the agency’s Therapeutic Foster Care Program. With programs ranging from residential care to foster care and outpatient counseling, The Centers provides critical behavioral healthcare services to more than 3,000 people in Arkansas every year.
“We invite our friends and supporters to sponsor The Evolve Gala, buy a table or tickets and be part of a special evening honoring our Hero of Hope, recognizing our Champions of Hope and celebrating our everyday heroes—our foster families who care for children and youth,” said J.D. Lowery, board member for The Centers’ Foundation and also the manager of community and economic development for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. J.D. and his wife, Jennifer, a therapist at Joe T. Robinson High School in the Pulaski County Special School District, are co-chairing this year’s gala.
The Therapeutic Foster Care Program at The Centers is the largest of its kind in the state, recruiting and training people in Arkansas to serve as foster parents for children and youth with emotional, behavioral or mental health challenges or are medically fragile.
“We ask people to commit to the challenge and joy of serving as therapeutic foster parents by completing 40 hours of pre-service education and additional continuing education every year,” said Jeff Gwatney, program director, “We help to place children in their care and provide counseling and other important services to the children and families.”
The black-tie optional event, with a Dr. Suess-inspired theme of “The Places You’ll Go,” begins with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m., followed by dinner and a program and ending with music and entertainment by Mayday by Midnight. Sponsors of The Evolve Gala include Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, Hon. and Mrs. Thomas McLarty III, Snell, Delta Dental, Landmark CPAs, Dover, Dixon, Horne and Mangan Holcomb Partners.
This year’s Hero of Hope is Dawn Scott, anchor at KTHV-Channel 11. She is a tireless advocate for children in foster care in Arkansas. She produces and anchors the station’s Emmy award-winning “A Place to Call Home” specials and segments, which feature Arkansas children available for adoption. Many of the children she has featured have been adopted.
Highlights of the program include honoring Dawn Scott, KTHV-Channel 11, as the evening’s Hero of Hope, recognizing 11th and 12th boys in The Centers’ Champions of Hope service program and sharing stories of foster parents and children in Therapeutic Foster Care.
“Dawn is truly deserving of this honor. She shines a light on children in the foster care system in Arkansas. It is gratifying to honor someone so deserving,” Lowery said. “She started meeting children in foster care, featuring their stories on KTHV and fell in love with the kids.”
It will be the second year the organization has hosted the leadership, service and philanthropy program, Champions of Hope.
“That’s a several-months-long program, and they come together a couple of times a month to learn about Centers and about leadership,” says Lowery.
Lowery says event organizers strive to bring together community members for a fun mission-minded evening.”
“The Evolve Gala is a great way for Centers for Youth & Families and board members like me to invite people to learn more about our mission and ask people in our community to help children and families who need services provided by The Centers,” he says. “It’s a fun night that raises much-needed funds for critical services, including foster care.”
Dudley Shollmier, Jr., sponsorship chair for The Evolve Gala, said, “In Arkansas, more than 5,000 children every year are in foster care. We are raising funds and awareness to give these children every opportunity for a bright future. The children and youth we are helping through The Evolve Gala are the children of Arkansas. We are excited to invite others to have a fun night on the town, learn more about The Centers and change lives of children in need,” Shollmier said.
For more information on sponsorship of The Evolve Gala, contact The Centers Foundation at 501-666-94336 or visit CFYF.org.