By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Sara Reeves | Hair by Jessica Carder | Makeup by Jessica Humerick | Jewelry from Jones & Son Diamond & Bridal Fine Jewelry | Flowers by Becky Clement with Inspired by Nature | Chaise from Hank’s Fine Furniture/Event Rental
Susie Morgan believes a legacy is created through shared experiences and a steadfast commitment to the welfare of others. Her devotion to her family coupled with her spirited perspective to any formidable challenge make her the perfect Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas ambassador. She currently serves on the RMHCA Board of Directors and played an integral role in the Where Hope Has a Home Capital Campaign that funded the new RMHCA House – which opened its doors and the Beacon of Hope in November. For her leadership, she will be honored at this year’s Chocolate Fantasy Ball.
Executive Director Janell Mason introduced Susie to RMHCA and the vision for its new house several years ago. This dynamic duo shares an enduring friendship and passion for philanthropy. “We walk together every day,” Susie recounts. “I was familiar with the organization, but I had never seen the existing house. She took me through the facility and I was all IN!” She admits her tenacity is a great ally, “If I set a goal, I will find a way to make it happen.” A three-year capital campaign ensued and generated $8.9 million to create the new house that stands at the corner of 10th Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive – adjacent to Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
The Ronald McDonald House offers families a home away from home when a child is hospitalized in Central Arkansas. Throughout its tenure of more than three decades, RMHCA has served more than 30,000 families. “It’s peace of mind for families,” Susie explains. “We can alleviate some of the worry and let parents focus on what matters most – their child.”
The new house boasts 32,000 square feet – triple the size of the former house – and features 32 family-suites as well as a spacious dining room, kitchen and shared recreational rooms. Auxiliary groups and volunteers prepare dinners, create activities and connect families with a support system. “There are so many wonderful areas where families can visit, play and find respite.” The playground was sponsored by Susie and her husband Charles and seems to represent her philosophy towards philanthropy. Her grandchildren enjoy the playground when they spend time with their “CC” at the house. “It’s a wonderful memory for Morgan and Carson,” she notes. “I treasure the opportunity to teach them how important it is give back and show them it’s fun to volunteer. That is the legacy I hope to leave with them.”
With a finite focus on keeping families close, RMHCA offers these amenities regardless of a family’s ability to pay. “Chocolate Fantasy Ball is our largest fundraiser; all proceeds support our operational expenses. Traditionally this has represented approximately 20% of our operating budget,” Janell explains. “The increased programs and services at this new house, which is three times the size of our old facility, translate into a need for additional funding.” This year’s Chocolate Fantasy Ball showcases more than 4,000 chocolate creations along with dinner and dancing. “It’s the perfect Valentine’s Day celebration to be enjoyed with your sweetheart or a table of friends,” Janell adds. “The Ball also introduces new patrons to the important work of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas – keeping families close to their sick child when they must travel to Little Rock for world-class care.”
For Susie and her family, this remarkable home truly represents a place of hope and comfort. “Morgan was treated at Arkansas Children’s Hospital recently,” she remembers. “She was delighted to recognize the Beacon of Hope at the Ronald McDonald House.” Sponsored by McDonald’s of Central Arkansas, this comforting nightlight shines brightly in the Capital City and welcomes families to a home away from home and reassures hospitalized children that a parent is nearby at the Ronald McDonald House. “It was a ‘full circle’ moment for me – gratitude for our place in this world and authentic joy from the work we do to help others.”