By Jillian McGehee | Photography by Sara Reeves | Connelly & Leighton’s Hair by Kristen Spann with Red Beauty Lounge / Makeup by Juli Waits with Red Beauty Lounge | Linda Rowe Thomas’ Hair by Maurice Coats | Shot on location at Romás by Linda Rowe Thomas Showroom
The Mount St. Mary Academy Mercy & Me Luncheon brings together nearly 800 mothers, daughters, business professionals and civic leaders to celebrate the Mercy Values and honor the significance of these values throughout the community. This year, mother-daughter duo Leighton and Connelly Weeks are chairing the luncheon, featuring keynote speaker Linda Rowe Thomas – renowned fashion designer and burn survivor.
Collectively, these three women represent the spectrum of values that are the cornerstone of a Mount St. Mary Academy’s education and life-preparedness mission. The Mercy Values – instilled by the Sisters of Mercy – have been guiding leadership among women at Mount St. Mary Academy for more than 160 years. Their multi-generational appeal resonates with the timeless message the luncheon shares with guests.
Connelly graduated from Mount St. Mary Academy in 2011 and is the “first millennial event chair,” according to Mount St. Mary Academy’s Director of Advancement Kirsten Dickins. Leighton recognizes that the all-girls Catholic high school was an inclusive and ideal environment for her daughter, “She grew in her faith during her four years and developed confidence and leadership skills she used both in college and in her young adult life.”
Both Connelly and Leighton are looking forward to presenting Linda at the luncheon and sharing her message with guests – a message that instills hope. “Linda Rowe Thomas embodies so much of what Mount St. Mary stands for: courage, excellence and the recognition of the worth and dignity of each person,” says Connelly. “I really think this will shine through in her talk and inspire our guests to use their own gifts to respond to the needs God has placed in their paths.”
As a burn survivor since a house fire at the age of two years old, Linda was treated at the Shriners Burn Institute for more than 16 years without her family having to incur any medical expenses. Linda established the Designing Hope Foundation seven years ago to continue the legacy of giving hope to other burn survivors and their families. She utilizes her platform as fashion designer and author to inspire others to discover personal success.
“I am always hopeful that anyone who hears my testimony of possibility within the impossible leaves with a new confidence,” Linda says. “That they leave inspired to be everything they were truly destined to be in this life.”
Linda will host her annual event Designing Hope on March 9 – an evening that promises Central Park will be brought to Central Arkansas. Proceeds support Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s burn unit and its programs SOAR and Camp Sunshine for burn survivors. Highlights include fashion from the Romás by Linda Rowe Thomas collection along with local boutiques and local firemen rockin’ the runway.