Mother-daughter duo Connie and Stacey Bennett represent the rich heritage of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Auxiliary and the transformative power of the Star ACHievers program.
By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Sara Reeves | Connie’s hair & makeup by Jennifer Jones with Stilo Salon | Stacey’s hair & makeup by McKenzie Cavin with Stilo Salon | Wardrobe from Barbara Jean | Shot on location in the South Wing Atrium of Arkansas Children’s Hospital
The Arkansas Children’s Hospital Auxiliary reflects a legacy of women committed to the hospital’s mission and determined to generate additional support for the renowned care it provides. As the auxiliary celebrates 50 years of service, its membership – now 500 women strong – is comprised of female civic leadership as diverse as its portfolio of programming that continues to generate funding for the organization.
For many, it’s a family affair – grandmothers, mothers, daughters and granddaughters – bound by an unwavering commitment to the welfare of all children. Mother-daughter duo Connie and Stacey Bennett epitomize not only the auxiliary’s impact in the community, but also its multi-generational appeal.
As chairman of Star ACHievers, Connie Bennett believes there is no more compelling testament for the compassionate care and services that ACH provides than an authentic experience. “Star ACHievers is an educational and service-based program,” Connie explains. “The girls tour many units of the hospital – watching them witness the tiny miracles in the NICU is amazing.” It was this experience that put Stacey’s future into finite focus. “I suddenly knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” Stacey remembers. “I wanted to work at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.” Stacey pursued her ambition, and is a registered nurse in the ACH neurology unit.
A friend encouraged Stacey to enroll in Star ACHievers and it transformed her perspective of hospitals. The Star ACHiever program, sponsored by the hospital’s auxiliary since 2002, instills civic responsibility and support for the hospital – specifically developed for girls entering ninth grade. Participants are introduced to career opportunities in the medical sector as well as intricacies of the hospital. As they develop a spirit of volunteerism, the girls earn community service hours by working in non-patient care areas of the hospital. “I was smitten with Arkansas Children’s Hospital from the start,” Stacey explains. “I am honored to be part of a team that strives to make children better today and healthier tomorrow – in a place where it is evident from the moment each patient enters the hospital.”
Terri Bonner and Jan Alman served as the first Star ACHievers chairmen and Terri remembers, “The program was designed to empower girls by building self-esteem – enriching their lives through volunteerism, education and activities that cultivate leadership.” The additional exposure to potential careers in medicine remains a steadfast value of the program. Monthly educational sessions include tours of the Angel One Transport Department, the Heart Center, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the Speech, Audiology and Rehabilitation department.
After spending a morning at ACH with Connie and Stacey, the admiration they share for the world-renowned care the hospital provides and each courageous patient is undeniable. “My patients exhibit incredible strength and optimism. They are the reason I am a nurse; they leave me smiling from ear from ear every day,” Stacey notes.
A former preschool teacher, Connie believes building brighter futures for all children is a universal value that spans beyond the classroom. She serves on the Women and Children First Board of Directors and organizes art projects for the children. “A heart of service is simply the desire to improve our community and those around us.” It’s the Star ACHiever philosophy and curriculum that impressed her. “I always told Stacey, ‘Do what you love,’ and that’s what she discovered at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.”
Each year, the auxiliary contributes $1 million to designated ACH projects including the David M. Clark Center for Safe and Healthy Children, Arkansas Children’s Research Institute, Palliative Care Program, Good Mourning Program and the Comfort Foods Program. Much of the hospital’s continued expansion of services comes from philanthropic support. It’s the rich heritage of the auxiliary and organization’s vision for the future that will perpetuate its mission – championing for children – toward a century of service.
Girl Talk // Chit CHAT
FAVORITE SPOT IN LR
Connie: The Capital Bar
Stacey: The Pantry
Connie: Stepping on Cheerios (reading it now)
Stacey: Harry Potter
BEVERAGE OF CHOICE (like mother, like daughter)
both: pinot noir
Connie: running and reading
Stacey: hanging with Baxter, the schnoodle
Connie: Do what you love.
Stacey: Listen more.
Connie: It’s a very special place.
Stacey: Those tiny superheroes steal my heart.