By Rebekah Hall | Photography by Lori Sparkman Photography | Shot on location at The Fold: Botanas & Bar
Taste of the Finest celebrates the best and the brightest young professionals in Central Arkansas for their dedication to civic leadership and their commitment to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Each year, the Todd Miles Award honors the top fundraiser and the memory of Todd Miles, who lost his battle with CF at 40 years old. Brett Thomas, an account executive at Crews & Associates and last year’s recipient of the award, raised more than $24,000 – the highest monetary contribution in the event’s history. For Brett, finding a cure for CF is a family affair – his dedication is steadfast and unwavering.
Brett lost his father at a young age and describes his father-in-law, Dan Lovelady, as the father figure in his life. His father-in-law experienced tragic loss when his sister and his brother, ages 13 and 3, succumbed to cystic fibrosis in the 1960s. “Because of the influence he has in my life, I wanted to honor him,” Brett says. “Doing something that he is so passionate about made me passionate about it.”
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that predominantly affects the lungs, the pancreas and the digestive system – causing infections and complications. Established in 1955, the CF Foundation supports innovative research and medical developments that treat the disease and, as a result, the life expectancy of CF patients has increased dramatically. “When we were founded, children with cystic fibrosis only lived to be about 5 years old,” says Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Development Director Bethany Howell. “Today, cystic fibrosis patients are living as adults – getting married and having families of their own.”
Brett made a significant contribution to helping find a cure for CF, noting support from his colleagues at Crews & Associates. “We have a tremendous employee base that loves to give and is easily approachable, so I just approached everyone in the office,” Brett says. He also had plenty of help from friends and family including his mother, through her civic leadership with the Arkansas Arts Council and Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Brett and Bethany both emphasize the unique transparency that the CF Foundation provides to patrons. “The people with CF that are taking these different medications, we hear their stories and then we share their stories so people can hear not just from us, but from the individuals that this is actually impacting. It’s changing their lives and the way they live every day,” Bethany explains. “The foundation is unlike a lot of others,” Brett adds. “Most of the money goes to research, and you can actually see the improvements over a short time frame.”
This year’s Taste of the Finest will feature live entertainment from Mayday By Midnight, delicious food and drinks from a wide variety of local restaurants and breweries, as well a smart-phone friendly silent auction. As Brett says, “Who doesn’t want to go mingle with hundreds of people over good food and good music? What else do you have to do on a Friday night?”