By Mandy Stanage Shoptaw | Photography by Dero Sanford | Featured with her dog Chulo | Shot on location at The Bark Bar
Ladies, have I got a deal for you! For the price of admission you can enjoy a fabulous girls night out with marvelous food by Trio’s Restaurant Executive Chef Capi Peck and drinks by Altas Bar as well as a festive swag bag. Intrigued? Welcome to the “fun-raising” work of Party with a Heart, which hosts events throughout the year that support a chosen charity. This year, the designated organization is Arkansas Paws in Prison. And in September, Party with a Heart invites you to a sing-along night featuring the movie Dirty Dancing. They promise, you’ll have “the time of your life.”
Capi Peck recognizes not only the importance of pet rescue, but the invaluable lessons that prisoners learn through the Paws in Prison program. It’s a partnership between the Arkansas Department of Correction and animal shelters that rescues dogs and assigns them to prison inmates for the duration of the training session. The dogs are adopted into forever homes — it’s a win-win-win for pets, prisoners and adoptive families. “After we lost Chica, our first Paws in Prison pet, we were determined to adopt another Paws in Prison dog because of the win-win formula of this program,” explains Capi who, along with her partner Brent Peterson, adopted Chulo, their second Paws in Prison pup, earlier this year. “The inmate learns how to care for and train a pet and receives the unconditional love only a pet can give. In return, the lucky person who adopts a Paws in Prison graduate gets a dog who is well-trained and who is often truly saved from being put down or abandoned in a shelter.”
Yvette Parker with Party with a Heart explains this year’s collaboration. “We focus on helping small nonprofit organizations by raising awareness and funds. When Paws in Prison approached us they had set a clear goal to start a program in the McPherson Unit, which is the prison for women in Newport.”
“Party with a Heart knows that the Arkansas market is saturated with fundraising events, galas and auctions so we took a totally different approach to fundraising,” Yvette continues. “We created a way for women to connect, have fun and raise money for nonprofit organizations by hosting unique girls night out events that do not have long speeches, live or silent auctions or pleas for more money. It’s just a fun way to get the ladies together for a night out without the additional ask once they have purchased their ticket.” The evening includes a full bar, heavy appetizers and a swag bag full of movie props.
But back to the FUN-raising purpose, Paws in Prison. “One of the things I love about Paws in Prison is that you receive a journal with daily entries on your future pet’s training. This is such a great way to connect with the inmate who lives with him or her for eight weeks.” Capi continues, “Another important part of the program is that this is a rewarding, therapeutic and an important experience for the inmate as well as the dog. This is especially important to my partner, Brent, who engages in prison outreach by teaching a weekly men’s meditation class at the Wrightsville Unit.”
Since its inception four years ago, Party with a Heart has generated $60,000 for PATH (Partners Against Trafficking Humans), Literacy Action of Central Arkansas, Hope Rises, and this year they hope to add $30,000 to the total for Arkansas Paws in Prison.