On Call – A Gala Two Years in the Making

WORDS Dwain Hebda
IMAGE courtesy Arkansas Colleges of Health Education

They say good things come to those who wait and if that’s true, the On Call gala, slated for September, will be the charitable event of the year. The occasion, originally scheduled for 2020, has been pushed back twice due to COVID concerns, which has made organizers eager to finally see the event come to fruition.

“When was the last time you were out with 600 of your friends?” says Jackie Krutsch, executive director of advancement for Arkansas Colleges of Health Education (ACHE). “This is an event that’s going to be a lot of fun, but at the same time, we want people to see what we are building here and for them to go, ‘Oh my gosh! I didn’t realize that we had that kind of medical research capabilities here in Fort Smith. I had no idea.’”

On Call, An Elegant Evening for Research, is slated for Saturday, September 17 at 6pm. Money raised goes to support research programs at the ACHE Research Institute Health and Wellness Center in the former Golden Living headquarters on the ACHE campus. Choctaw Casino and Resort in Pocola is the presenting sponsor of the event.

“We purchased the former Golden Living headquarters in 2020,” Jackie says. “It was just a phenomenal opportunity to get a great building that we could repurpose at a very reasonable cost. In that way, we’re bringing research to Fort Smith so much sooner and at a much higher level.”

A blend of art and health will come to life just steps into the On Call event. Attendees will participate in a special sculpture project at check-in, after which they will enjoy music, hors d’oeuvres and an open bar. A signature drink, developed just for the occasion, will also be served.

After the social hour, the doors will open to an elegant dinner of steak and scallops plus specialty desserts. A live auction will follow and after that, live musical entertainment by Intensity from Dallas.

“We have two raffles in addition to the live auction,” Jackie says. “We’re going to be raffling off a gorgeous jewelry item donated by Newton’s Jewelers. In our Lucky Draw, patrons can choose which raffle they want to participate in. We’ve got a fabulous bourbon gift basket that has allocated bourbons like Blanton’s and Eagle Rare. In another raffle, we’re going to have a Big Green Egg, and in another, a pearl and emerald necklace from The Jewelry Store.

“Then, we’ll have a great after party to cap off a really fun evening. If you’re not on the floor dancing, you can relax out on the patio. It’s an opportunity to be with friends and neighbors, helping us support research in the community.”

The event will cap ticket sales at six hundred; individual tickets are $200. Formal attire is required, black tie is optional. Jackie says the goal for the evening is to raise $250,000 with proceeds not only helping with in-house research, but also supporting programs that are already ongoing in the community, targeting early eating habits and food literacy to help head off health issues later in life.

“Through the Health and Wellness Center, we have a pilot nutrition program using hydroponic gardens in local kindergarten classrooms,” Jackie says. “We’ll be adding them to first-grade classrooms and they’ll follow these children as they move up. Every time they move up a grade, this hydroponic garden will assist them in learning about nutrition and where food comes from – from planting the seed to harvesting and eating the food that they’re raising. They’ve made salsa in kindergarten. They’ve made salads. They’ve learned about emulsification by making a vinaigrette for their salad. So, you build science and nutrition and art projects around nutrition and all of that gets built into their education.

“We cannot produce enough health care professionals to address the health care needs that we have facing us in this country. We’ve got to get people healthier so that the number of health care professionals that we have and that we’re producing can meet the needs within the community.”

Once fully funded, the scientists will focus on a variety of chronic health needs within the community.

“Some of the needs of the community population we will be addressing are in the areas of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and neuroscience related to drug and alcohol addiction,” Jackie says.  “The work will have a direct impact on regional healthcare expertise resulting in improved healthcare and wellness. ACHE’s new Vice President of Research Dr. Jeffery Osborn, along with Dr. Lisa McClain, chief wellness officer, will be leading these efforts.”

Asked what she most wanted people to understand about On Call, An Elegant Evening for Research and its capacity for improving health and health outcomes in the future, Jackie paused a moment.

“I think having the chance to really expose the greater Fort Smith region to the fact that we’re creating a top-level research institute right here that will have direct benefits for the health and well-being of the entire area is important,” she says. “I would also want people to know that their participation and support may save someone’s life, perhaps someone in their own family.”

For more information and to buy tickets, please visit ACHE at achehealth.edu.

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