As a mother whose child received world-class care at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Kristen Saffa enthusiastically welcomes guests to the auxiliary’s tastiest fundraiser, Arkansas à la Carte.
By Barrett Gay | Photography by Sara Reeves | Hair by Kennedy Whitlock with Red Beauty Lounge | Makeup by Scarlett Endsley with Red Beauty Lounge | Wardrobe from Tulips | Shot on location at Kemuri Japanese Restaurant
“Sometimes when you walk into a hospital, it might seem cold,” says Kristen Saffa, “but when you step inside Arkansas Children’s Hospital, it immediately feels warm and inviting.”
For a parent, there’s a feeling of extreme helplessness when a child is hospitalized. Kristen, controller at World Martial Arts and mother of two, remembers that vulnerable feeling. In 2015, her six-month-old son Charlie was admitted to Arkansas Children’s Hospital for five days with a respiratory virus. “It was really scary,” she recalls, “he had tubes all over him.” Thanks to the world-class pediatric care of the ACH staff, Charlie left healed and healthy. “That hospital is exceptional,” Kristen says. “They don’t just care about their patients; they care about the whole entire family, too. I had doctors ask if they needed to get me lunch or coffee.”
Kristen’s story isn’t unique. In the spring of 2017, Arkansas Children’s Hospital joined an elite rank of hospitals when it received Magnet status from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association. The Magnet Recognition Program sets rigorous standards and only recognizes healthcare organizations with superior nursing staff and patient care. Only six percent of hospitals worldwide have reached this benchmark of excellence.
After her initial experience with ACH, Kristen joined the ACH Auxiliary, and she remains a confident ambassador for the life-saving services the hospital provides. Her story is similar to several fellow auxiliary members. Many of these women were introduced to the hospital as parents of patients and, as a result, felt compelled to support it. “The women who choose to volunteer usually don’t volunteer and then walk away,” Kristen notes. “They are committed.”
Last year, the auxiliary celebrated a milestone: its 50th anniversary. This group, now more than 500 women strong, has contributed significantly to the expansion of the ACH campus and various programs throughout the decades. From funding the Infant/Toddler Unit in the South Wing, to leading educational programs like Star ACHievers, to planning Miracle Ball and Arkansas à la Carte – the auxiliary’s impact cannot be understated. Notably, every year since 2011, its support of the hospital has exceeded $1 million.
Arkansas Children’s recently opened a sister campus in Northwest Arkansas, bringing expert care to the region, and the volunteers there will certainly prove just as vital. Director of Volunteer Engagement Jennifer Selig says the new facility “will be a tremendous resource for the children and families in the Northwest Arkansas region and is a strong next step as Arkansas Children’s works to transform healthcare for children around our state.”
As chairman of this year’s Arkansas à la Carte, Kristen is completing final preparations. The evening will boast samplings of specialty food and beverages from Central Arkansas’ finest eateries as well as the popular Art à la Carte auction, which features artwork created by patients with the help of local artists such as Bob Snider. With a theme of fire and ice, the décor will reflect the two extreme elements. Proceeds support the auxiliary’s annual budget, with special emphasis on a new project – the creation of peaceful, natural outdoor spaces that will be utilized for physical therapy.
With Arkansas à la Carte, as with any task or goal assigned to the auxiliary, Kristen says the dedicated members offer the same response: “This is a need that the hospital has, and we will make it happen.”
Food & Fun with Kristen
Favorite Meal: my husband’s gumbo
Cocktail of Choice: vodka tonic with two limes
Guilty Pleasure: dark chocolate
Wine or Beer: wine