To Florida, and Beyond!

A community in need called out for help, and we got the chance to answer.

 

2018 saw a hurricane season that was extraordinarily active and destructive. While most of us here in Arkansas saw little to no damage, Hurricane Michael took a devastating toll on residents of Florida, particularly in the panhandle. This toll included life-threatening storm surges, catastrophic flooding, and record-breaking rainfall. As the effects of the storm became more and more clear, we felt compelled to do something about it. So, we set out to figure out just how we could do that.

One thing became very clear, very quickly: the nature of disaster relief work is sensitive. We were hundreds of miles away and had no idea where to start or what to expect. Michael Robichaud (AKA Chef Robo), our Give Fresh Program Coordinator, was charged with heading up our disaster relief team and tackling this issue. His first order of action was to take stock of our options and identify a reputable organization to partner with. What he found was HOPE Panhandle, Inc. Hope Panhandle, Inc. is a nonprofit organization formed of local community leaders to help residents of the panhandle in the wake of the destruction left by Hurricane Michael. They work with volunteer groups coming in to the area and ensure they are being used in a strategic manner to best benefit the community.

With a partnership in place, we were ferociously tackling the logistics of our trip and exactly how we could help. The marriage of our Give Fresh: The Power of Food program and disaster relief made perfect sense. We had access to fresh, nutritious food and the ability to take that in to a devastated community. Thanks to countless employee gifts, community sponsors (special shout out to Keith Hollowell and Premium Refreshment Service for providing an entire pallet of water!), and individual donors we were able to purchase food, water, and transportation for our team to make the trek to Florida.

Our team drove through the night to ensure we would be ready to set up by 8:00am in Lynn Haven. Chef Robo was on site even earlier to get the grill set up and ready to go. Driving in from Panama City, our eyes were glued to our surroundings whizzing by. What started as a normal beach town quickly turned into chaos as power lines lay flat next to heaps of debris that used to be buildings. One look at google maps showed us the landmarks that used to litter the roads we drove, now reduced to mere blips of what used to be. The damage was daunting. We began to feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the destruction, and feeling very small and insignificant. Could we actually make a difference?

This question was still lingering in our minds as we set up and started preparing food. It was barely ten minutes past 8:00am when a truck pulled in and interrupted our thoughts. It was a truck full of construction workers, in town helping re-build what was salvageable. They wanted to know if our lunch would be free, and if we had extra water to spare for their crew. We ensured them that lunch was indeed free, asked them to help spread the word, and sent them off with water bottles – it was the first glimpse in to what the day would hold. By 10:00am, we had an audience and decided we should start lunch early. People were hungry, and time seemed to become a silly matter. From then on, it was a whirlwind of grilling, replenishing the food line, and visiting with the hundreds of people who stopped for a meal. We met families, children, business leaders, other volunteer groups, people who lost everything, and people working tirelessly to take care of their families and neighbors. Together we served those who had lost so much, and yet still they had hope. By the time we ran out of food, we had served well over 1,000 people. 1,000 faces came through our line. 1,000 people received not only a meal – but support. Support from a community hundreds of miles away.

What started out as hope to provide aid blossomed into the chance to provide something far greater, and that was relief. Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible!

Look Ma, We Made it!

Bolo Bash Tennis is now officially the Little Rock Open – let us tell you what that means.

 

As many of you know, in 2015 we took on Little Rock’s long-standing Men’s Pro Circuit Futures tennis tournament and added it into our repertoire of events. The tournament joined our popular Bolo Bash Series and was a smash hit right from the start. Although it was brand new to Baptist Health, the tournament was 35 years in the making. Standard Business Systems jumped on board immediately to present this event, and they were committed to doing everything in their power to see it prosper.

Over the next four years, Bolo Bash Tennis helped us to grow and develop partnerships with both the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and the City of Little Rock. Then, in 2019, we took a leap of faith (and a giant step up) to become part of the ATP Challenger Tour.

So, what exactly does that mean? The ATP Challenger tour is a series of international men’s professional tennis tournaments. If we were to put it into a pyramid: The top tier would be the ATP World Tour, the second tier would be Challenger Tour Events (hint, hint – that’s us!), and the Futures tournaments (that USED to be us) make up the third and fourth tiers. So basically we jumped up an entire tier and on to a whole new playing field.

Players are still playing to earn sufficient ranking points to become eligible for larger tournaments and advance their careers. They come from all over the world, literally, to play in hopes of earning points. Now, we offer ATP points (90 to be exact) and more prize money ($81,000 – wow!). Players in our tournament will now rank more like 300-100 in the world rather than 800-300. So all this being said – what it really boils down to is that we are bringing in the best tennis Arkansas has ever seen in 2019!

But remember, our tournament is an integral part of these pro tennis player’s careers. These young men have devoted their entire lives to this. We are being given the chance to encourage youth in our community to work hard, stay active, and follow their dreams via these athletes. This has been, and continues to be one of the only pro sporting events in Arkansas. We would like to respect this legacy and the sport. Your support not only benefits Baptist Health Foundation, but young athletes and our community as well.

Jump on board and help us welcome the 2019 Little Rock Open to our state with a BANG! Sponsorships are available and we are always open to community help and involvement.

All you have to do is check out our website here or contact Marci Atkinson at 501-202-1213 or marci.atkinson@baptist-health.org for more info.

BHF On Why We Do What We Do

But really, we’re telling you exactly why we love our jobs.

 

Sit down, put your phone away, and think really hard about what we are about to ask you. Why do you do what you do? Did most of you tense up like we did when we realized we would be answering that question out loud? If not, well then give us your secret because that incredibly level temperament you obviously possess must knock interviews out of the park.

A few weeks ago, our Chief Development Officer charged us with the task of creating a video for an upcoming board meeting that would capture the spirit of the Foundation. We set some studio time, got the camera ready, and threw up a quick prayer to the man upstairs that we could somehow pull this off. What we expected was a whirlwind of stress and caffeine that would somehow produce enough for us to dress up in fine clothes to present to our board. What we got, well, it was something totally different.

You see, something amazing happens when you ask people to share something about themselves. What happens is that, if you’re lucky, they actually tell you. Even though it is awkward being filmed and we tend to fill the space with nervous laughter or apologies for not speaking as effortlessly as we imagined, the rawness of what our co-workers had to say came rolling in like waves. No, not everything came out exactly like they planned. Yes, we had lots of takes and needed lots of encouragement that we were doing alright. BUT, between the laughter and the re-takes, real sincerity and passion for the work being done was impossible to miss. As we filmed, we found ourselves smiling when Andrea told the story of Dr. Adamson, an 84-year-old volunteer, going above and beyond to walk a distraught woman all the way across campus to find her husband who came in through the ER. We laughed with each other as half of us couldn’t remember our own official job title. We heard the often untold accounts of what our co-workers devote their time to each and every day. As co-workers one by one connected so easily to the stories they told, something became glaringly obvious…they all genuinely love what they do.

Loving what you do does not mean that coming to work is easy every day, or that you never feel frustratingly overwhelmed. It means that when you look at the big picture – you are proud of what you have created. Each one of us in the Foundation plays an integral role that ultimately impacts one thing: our community. A community each one of us is a part of, and cares deeply about. A community we love so much that we each took a job here, at the Baptist Health Foundation, so that we could spend our working hours doing our part to make it better.

So, thank you, to everyone who supports the Foundation in any way. You allow us to do what we love and give happy every single day!

 

Want to see what we’re talking about? Check out our video here.

Sign up for the quarterly Foundation newsletter

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.