Bridget Norton leads EVOLVE this year, highlighting the continued mission of The Centers for Youth & Families to provide a place to call home for children and families throughout Arkansas.
By Jillian McGehee | Photography by Sara Reeves | Hair & Makeup by Suzy Balkman with Bristle + Balm
There’s no place like home.” Bridget Norton, an ambassador for The Centers for Youth & Families, wholeheartedly agrees with that statement made popular by the classic film “Wizard of Oz.” As a member of the organization’s Emerging Leaders, Bridget is leading the young professionals auxiliary’s EVOLVE event, set to “A Night in Oz” theme. Through fundraising and advocacy efforts, these civic leaders support the mission to make meaningful and lasting impressions on children and families through a continuum of care – with focus on prevention, intervention and treatment. Members of Emerging Leaders are cultivating volunteerism for years to come, while also honoring the organization’s rich history as the state’s oldest continuously operating nonprofit.
The mental and behavioral health care for children and families in Arkansas change with time, says Bridget, an attorney at Dover Dixon Horn, PLLC. “The Centers is constantly evolving its programs to meet those ever-changing needs and continues to do so with the support of our government and local communities.” Support from Emerging Leaders and EVOLVE help the organization meet those needs as well. Chris Shenep, executive director of The Centers Foundation, says EVOLVE “plays a major role in our annual fundraising budget and is an incredible opportunity to highlight our mission, programs and services throughout the community.”
As The Centers continues to adapt its services to meet the needs of families, the EVOLVE theme also represents these changes. This year’s event highlights the organization’s commitment “to provide a better heart, stronger mind, strength and courage,” Bridget notes. “Over the past two years, EVOLVE has nearly doubled in size and exceeded all attendance and revenue goals. Following back-to-back years of record-breaking growth, we are now heading to the Statehouse Convention Center. I think the connection of our theme and the mission of the organization will truly make this event unique.”
When Bridget moved to Little Rock with her husband, Julien Norton, an otolaryngology resident at UAMS, four years ago, she looked for ways to connect to the community and notes it remains a priority for her. Bridget says her mother instilled in her the importance of community involvement. “Emerging Leaders has enabled me to experience the needs of the children and families in Arkansas and the character of those in our community who work tirelessly to support them.”
Chris says Bridget is invaluable to the organization as it celebrates its 130th anniversary. “She’s adamant about doing all she can to make sure this event is the largest and most successful to date. A girl from Georgia with a law degree from Louisiana, she is making a difference in the lives of children and youth in Little Rock and we’re happy to have her leadership at The Centers for Youth & Families.”
Emerging Leaders helps “put a face with the name,” Bridget notes. As young professionals, their network of peers and colleagues have a lot to learn about the mission of The Centers. The most meaningful part, however, “is the time we’ve spent with children of our Youth Emergency Shelter, whether it be for a fun Sunday of games or ensuring children have the love and joy over various holiday seasons that many of us take for granted,” she says.
With décor designed by Heather Owens, the Statehouse Convention Center will be transformed into the Emerald City – showcased in hues of green and gold. “Since there is no place like home, our patrons will enjoy a home-cooking-meets-gourmet rendition of chicken and waffles accompanied with delicious pastries,” says Bridget. “Most importantly, we will highlight the fact that for over 130 years, Centers has been giving children and youth a place to call home.”
Philosophy to live by? It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up – achievement requires belief in yourself, hard work, determination and dedication.
Favorite “Oz” character? The Cowardly Lion – I always found myself rooting for him to overcome his fears to find his courage.
What does “home” mean to you? Glinda the Good Witch said it best: ‘Home is a place we all must find, child. It’s not just a place where you eat or sleep. Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart, knowing your courage. If we know ourselves, we’re always home, anywhere.’