One such group is the Spring River Circle of Friends for Arkansas Children's Hospital. Each member of this group has the opportunity to participate in education, fundraising, and public relations. In 1983, a group of women gathered to create a support organization for Arkansas Children's Hospital. A grass roots volunteer movement began, and a statewide network of Circle of Friends chapters was soon created.
Over the past 25 years, Circle of Friends has grown to include more than 700 members. Currently, there are 13 Circle of Friends chapters across the state. These members have raised nearly $10 million for the children served by Arkansas Children's Hospital. The strength and power of Circle of Friends comes from these volunteers, who give their time, talents and treasures every year.
Arkansas Children's Hospital has been changing children's lives for almost 100 years. It was officially founded in 1912 as an orphanage and has grown into one of the top 20 pediatric hospitals in the country. The hospital treats children regardless of the family's ability to pay and no child is ever turned away.
This world class facility houses 316 beds and records more than 280,000 patient visits each year, with over 1,200 visits from Sharp and Fulton counties in 2008. Arkansas Children's Hospital has a staff of over 500 physicians with specialties in a huge variety of illnesses. In addition, ACH has available over 3,600 support staff to serve the very diverse needs of children who are ill or injured. Sixty percent of all pediatricians in the state are trained at the facility which boasts a 98 percent pediatric survival rate for complex surgeries in their pediatric cardiac center and a 96 percent survival rate in their neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The NICU, which accommodates 80 babies, makes it one of the nation's largest pediatric centers. Thanks to the Angel One helicopter, no child in the state is ever more that 55 minutes from Arkansas Children's Hospital.
Many miracles often begin at Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI). Physicians pride themselves on providing a "bench to bedside" care, which refers to a research approach that brings advances from the laboratory to the bedside as quickly as possible to benefit the patients. An example of this world class technology that was developed at Arkansas Children's Hospital is a "cooling cap." This cap is used to cool the heads of oxygen deprived newborns to prevent or reduce potential brain damage. In 2006, the device was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Arkansas Children's Hospital is one of only three hospitals in the world to take advantage of this advanced life saving technology. Circle of Friends is an integral part of that care due to their support of the ACHRI.
Several of the Circle of Friends members have witnessed the miracles at work through the doctors of Arkansas Children's Hospital first hand, including Chairman Misty Casey. Misty and Ty Casey's daughter Alexis was born six weeks early. When she was two days old, her mother noticed what appeared to be a broken blood vessel on her cheek. Within a week, the mark appeared like a birthmark, covering the side of her face and inside her mouth. Baby Alexis was taken to Arkansas Children's Hospital, where she was diagnosed with, "a large compound facial hemangioma."
Alexis had numerous surgeries before she was a year old. ACH did laser surgery on her before she was two weeks old. Alexis continued to have resurfacing surgeries as well. Her mother said with the help of the surgeries, medicine and lasers, the hemangioma has shrunk.
She will continue to receive treatments on her face during her teenage years as she grows. Not only did Alexis become a patient as an infant, in 2007, she again visited ACH. This visit was a result of an accident in which she was placed in the trauma center at ACH. Alexis was confined to a wheel chair for six weeks following the accident. Once again, her mother said she received the best treatment and is a perfectly healthy child today, thanks in part to the doctors at ACH. She was even chosen as the ACH ambassador in 2007.
Susan Adam, membership chair, has also had personal experience with Arkansas Children's Hospital. When her son Chandler was two, he was hospitalized at ACH for an infection in his lymph nodes that resulted in him undergoing four surgeries over a two year period. However, Chandler was not the first one in his family to have an experience at Arkansas Children's Hospital. His great uncle, Larry Davis, was also a patient at ACH in 1942 for the first two years of his life, in which he was treated for Polio. Both Chandler and Larry received excellent care. Chandler is now a healthy 10 year old and his uncle is an accomplished doctor in Florida.
Amy Trivitt, education chair, had both of her daughter's Rachel and Riley in the hospital on separate occasions for pneumonia and a heart murmur.
These are only a few testimonies of the 23 members of the Spring River Circle of Friends. They and many other people throughout the community have a personal connection to Arkansas Children's Hospital.
The Spring River Circle of Friends organization is currently seeking new members to help them meet their 2009 goal of 36 members. The Spring River Chapter consistently exceeds their goals due to the commitment of its members and the generosity of the area. In 2008 they raised over $29,000, and hope to increase that amount to $34,000 in 2009. While attending the President's Round Table at Arkansas Children's Hospital in June, the Spring River Chapter of Circle of Friends was awarded the coveted 10-Star Award. This distinguished honor was given to only three other chapters in the entire state of Arkansas and is something for which the group is very proud. Currently, while recruiting new members, the group is actively planning their largest fundraising endeavor of the year, the 8th Annual Fall Festival. They have set a $20,000 goal for the Fall Festival which will be hosted at the Cherokee Elementary School Sept. 26 from 3-7 p.m. The festival includes fun and games throughout the day for the entire family. Casey said the cost for most games is only 25 cents.
Circle of Friends members have been visiting area businesses for sponsorships for the festival and are thankful for the positive response they have received. Not only do the area businesses contribute to the success of the event, the large number of families who bring their children to play games, eat the barbecue dinner, purchase silent auction items, enjoy the band, and eat snacks from the concession stand, also make the day a huge success. Currently over 60 items have been received for the silent auction -- everything from dinners, flower arrangements, interior decorative, clothes, toys, electronics, tools, and much more.
Casey said there will also be a barbecue dinner from Beach Club Barbecue available at the festival. Pat Davis, projects co-chairman, said the dinner cost will be $6 and the plates are also available for carry out. The Circle of Friends are also excited about offering DNA and finger printing and the Fire Safety House for the children.
One of the most popular games at the Fall Festival is the cake walk. Casey said there is always a need for baked goods. Casey says anyone who would like to donate baked items for the cake walk, their donation would be greatly appreciated.
When asked to give a summary of the Fall Festival, Susan Adam, Fall Festival chairman, had this to say, "We have hosted this fun filled event for the past seven years, with continued success that is due in part by the hard work of our Circle of Friends members and from the overwhelming community involvement. The continued generosity of businesses is amazing, and the support of local families is incredible, however, the most rewarding aspect are the smiles you see on the children's faces, knowing that we are providing a fun, family evening, while helping make miracles happen at Arkansas Children's Hospital.
For further questions or to donate an item for the event, contact Misty Casey at 856-4616 or Susan Adam at 847-5015.