As president of the 20th Century Club, Kelly Thompson continues the organization’s mission fulfillment work – providing lodging + fellowship to cancer patients – as the club prepares to host its annual Hope Ball.
By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Meredith Melody | Hair by Jessica Carder | Makeup by Samantha Schmitt with Belle & Blush | Jewelry provided by Jones & Son Diamond & Bridal Fine Jewelry | Chandeliers provided by Bylites | Production by Bespoke Video Production
Kelly Thompson credits encouragement from family and friends for her successful tenure as a triathlete. After meeting Kelly, it’s undeniable that her tenacious spirit certainly helps her accomplish any task with graceful determination. She recognizes the transformative power that faith and a strong circle of support have in her life and the lives of others. As president of the 20th Century Club, she continues the organization’s mission fulfillment work – providing lodging + fellowship to cancer patients – as the club prepares to host its annual Hope Ball.
Initially a friend invited her to join the 20th Century Club and after attending the Hope Ball, Kelly realized the remarkable services that cancer patients and their caregivers receive at the 20th Century Club Lodge. “It’s so necessary and worthwhile,” she notes. And like too many Arkansans, Kelly has family and friends that have been diagnosed with cancer. “It’s something that really touched my heart.” She considers her marriage of nearly three decades and her children her greatest achievement and acknowledges her devotion to God is her daily inspiration. “Through Him, all things are possible. I believe that through Him we were able to build the lodge as well as love and care for the people who stay with us during their family’s hardship.”
For more than 25 years, the 20th Century Club has helped families battling cancer offering “hope away from home” at its lodge. This no-cost housing for patients receiving treatment at area medical centers includes more than simply necessary amenities. “Club members and our Angels of Hope serve dinner and organize weekly bingo games for the residents – residents are welcome for as long as they need to stay with us,” Kelly explains. “Patients and caregivers can come together to share experiences, give and get advice or just pray – this makes our lodge a loving, caring place.” It’s this fellowship that impresses Kelly the most – offering patients and families a community of support coupled with heartfelt compassion.
Kelly has witnessed the strength and perseverance of residents at the lodge that continues to inspire her. She remembers meeting Charolete Williams, who was featured at the 2014 Hope Ball in the Fund-A-Night video, and has been battling cancer since she was 14 years old. “Charolete has lost a leg and a lung to cancer and is still fighting this terrible disease. Through all of this, she remains positive and appreciative,” Kelly pauses. “Yes, I said appreciative! She always sees the good in every situation.” Charolete has been a resident of the lodge throughout her treatments – more than 160 days. “She is an inspiration to me and we have all come to care for her.”
The Hope Ball guarantees an evening of elegance + ease that reflects the hope and healing of the 20th Century Club – the essence of the club’s mission. Chairman Martha Ellen Talbot and Chairman Pam Morton kept a finite focus on this throughout the planning process and determined crystals seemed inherent to their vision. Martha Ellen notes, “Pam and I loved the idea of a crystal ball. It seemed appropriate to us in a symbolic way – as we started to imagine our Hope Ball as a crystal ball looking into the future – a future focused on healing for our patients and on service to our mission of caring for our patients. We also loved that clear crystal reflects light – we want the beautiful light of our members working together to be reflected at our ball.”
The highlight of the gala is the formal presentation of the Angels of Hope. Established in 2008, the program fosters civic leadership and a spirit of volunteerism among high school juniors. Their service at the lodge includes serving meals, playing games and visiting with cancer patients. Proceeds support the operating costs of the lodge and the organization’s sustainability. “Hope Ball is our only fundraiser – all the money raised at the ball stays at the lodge,” Kelly explains. “We have patients from every county in Arkansas and from 24 other states.”
Just as Kelly remembers considering triathlons practically impossible, she approaches her leadership with the same reverence. “It’s something I never thought I could do – racing, biking, swimming – but it’s nothing compared to the challenges our residents face. It keeps me humble and grateful.”
The 20th Century Club was created in 1941 to promote the war effort by volunteering the hours needed to assist the Red Cross and USO in making bandages, clothing and food items.