Chocolate Fantasy Ball honorees Carla and Bob Gunderman share their commitment to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas – a home away from home for families whose children are receiving medical care in Little Rock.
By Jillian McGehee | Photography by Sara Reeves | Hair by Jessica Smith with Salon Scarlet
Makeup by Aaron Perkins with Face Your Day Studios | Clothing provided by B. Barnett
Jewelry provided by Jones & Son Diamond & Bridal Fine Jewelry
Furniture provided by Kaufman by Design | Cupcakes provided by Cupcakes on Kavanuagh
Strawberries provided by Java Primo | Cakes provided by Sweet Love
A universal worry as a parent is that your child becomes seriously ill. Hospitalization might mean long hours of waiting, uncertainty and loss of typical home-life routines. This is often a reality for families who live outside of Central Arkansas. Offering a home away from home is where Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas comes in. As parents of two young boys, the RMHC mission resonates with Carla and Bob Gunderman, and as volunteers of the organization, they are dedicated to its success. “If our children ever require hospitalization, we are blessed to be located in Little Rock where medical care is close by,” Carla says. “However, this is not the case for many families. They drive to Little Rock without the ability to go home and would likely have to stay in a hotel or sleep in the hospital waiting rooms, if not for Ronald McDonald House.”
Ronald McDonald House provides these families an opportunity to remain near their children receiving treatment at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Baptist Health or UAMS and offers a few of the comforts of home. From the volunteer groups that prepare dinners, to the school groups and other volunteers sharing their time and talent, to the dedicated employees and board members – there is a sense of community and purpose, Carla says. “Everyone is in it for the good of the families served by the organization.”
For their commitment, the Gundermans will be honored at this year’s Chocolate Fantasy Ball – the organization’s signature fundraiser. Bob, CFO of Windstream, served on the Board of Directors, most recently as vice-chairman. Carla is a seasoned committee member of the ball. This year, she is responsible for securing corporate sponsorships and looks forward to being chairperson next year. Emily Piechocki, RMHC development director, says the Gundermans were the ideal choice as honorees. “We come face to face with the families on a daily basis and see firsthand the importance of the Ronald McDonald House at such a difficult time. We couldn’t do it without the support from volunteers, and the Gundermans’ dedication to the Ronald McDonald House has been unwavering.”
Operational expenses for the Ronald McDonald House – the new state-of-the-art facility is scheduled to open this fall – rely on contributions. Proceeds from the Chocolate Fantasy Ball are a significant source of funding for these expenses. “The revenue raised from this event stays right here in our community,” notes Emily. And the new house, whose capital campaign was spearheaded by former longtime volunteer and now-Executive Director Janell Mason, will be a five-story, 32-family-suite home. Janell adds, “The six-figure proceeds realized from the Chocolate Fantasy Ball help ensure that families can stay free at the Ronald McDonald House while their child is hospitalized.”
Janell says the Chocolate Fantasy Ball has “thrived” with the support from the Gundermans. “From Carla’s dedication as sponsor chair to procuring auction items and chocolate, combined with their efforts in increasing event sponsorships and Bob’s past service as a board member and officer, this amazing couple is fully invested in seeing the Ronald McDonald House succeed.”
As a result of the ball’s popularity and continued success, it moves to the Wally Allen Ballroom at the Statehouse Convention Center this year. “We are excited to have the additional space to grow and bring in more people,” notes Carla. “We hope to generate additional community interest in Ronald McDonald House and increase support for the organization.”
Chocolate truffles, chocolate-covered strawberries, chocolate sculptures – anything that pairs well with chocolate or can be assembled of chocolate is showcased at the ball. “It’s really is amazing to see all of the different ways the chocolate is presented,” notes Carla. “It’s also fun that the ball occurs during Valentine’s Day weekend. What better way is there to celebrate with your sweetheart than to get dressed up for an evening of dinner, dancing and fabulous chocolate?”
Live and silent auctions, a seated dinner and live music by The Groan Ups add to the night’s festivities. During Carla’s favorite portion of the evening, “the share-a-night appeal, we will hear the story of a beautiful family served by Ronald McDonald House and learn more about the mission of the organization.” Many guests attend for the chocolate and fun, but it’s Carla’s hope that they leave inspired to share the organization’s mission with their friends. She adds, “It is deeply fulfilling to have the opportunity to play a small role in this organization.”
HE said // SHE said
Milk, white or dark chocolate?
Carla: all chocolate is good, but dark chocolate is the best
Bob: hunting, camping, golfing with his sons Will and Luke
Carla: playing tennis with friends
Something surprising about you?
Bob: one of nine children
Carla: has a degree in agriculture business