About Town

Race for a Healthier Tomorrow – Meet Neal Lea

The Race for a Healthier Tomorrow, presented by Arkansas Children’s Hospital Auxiliary, offers something for everyone. This 5K and 1-mile Family Fun Walk will be virtual – with more opportunity for more people to join the FUN. All ages and physical levels are encouraged to participate on Saturday, November 7. Proceeds support  funding for a statewide health system that reaches as many children as possible. Arkansas Children’s mission is to champion children by making them better today and healthier tomorrow. Race for a Healthier Tomorrow C0-chairman Neal Lea shares insight + enthusiasm for her continued service with Arkansas Children’s Hospital Auxiliary.

Registration Fee: $25 (18+); $10 (5-17); $5 (4 and under) Register now and start a fundraising team at support.archildrens.org/race

How did you become involved with Arkansas Children’s? I became involved with Arkansas Children’s through the Garland County Circle of Friends Chapter while I was living in Hot Springs. Several of my friends in Hot Springs were involved and encouraged me to get involved. Since my oldest daughter was a patient at ACH it seemed a natural fit. My dad was serving on the hospital board of directors at the time; hearing his enthusiasm about the hospital and his involvement also helped spur me to get involved. Once my husband’s job moved us to Little Rock, I got involved with the auxiliary.

Have you had a personal experience with Arkansas Children’s? My oldest daughter Lucy was diagnosed with a heart murmur at her 4-month checkup. We were referred to ACH for additional tests. She has been a patient in the cardiology clinic since then. Lucy is almost 16 years old. My youngest daughter Taylor was diagnosed with Staph Scalded Skin Syndrome when she was 5 years old and thankfully we caught it early enough for her to be treated in an outpatient setting.  So neither child has had to spend the night in the hospital, but we have witnessed firsthand the technology at work and the care and attention the doctors and nurses give to the patients and families.

What is your present role + past roles with Arkansas Children’s? My present role is co-chairman of the Race for A Healthier Tomorrow and a member of the Auxiliary Board of Directors.  I have served on the Miracle Ball Committee, been Silent Auction Chairman of Miracle Ball, Recording Secretary, Playaway Gift Shop Chairman-Elect and then Chairman. I was also Historian for two years which occurred during the Auxiliary’s 50th Anniversary and I helped put together a book chronicling the auxiliary’s 50-year history and its impact on the hospital. Up until the onset of Covid-19, I was a pretty regular volunteer in the Playaway Gift Shop on Fridays.

What does a Race for Healthier Tomorrow mean to you? Race for a Healthier Tomorrow is an event designed to help promote child wellness in our state and move the needle on improving child health. By most national measures, Arkansas is one of the least healthy states to be a child, ranking 40th of 50 states in overall child health and well-being. The race is a great way to get more families and people involved in supporting ACH in a healthy, family friendly, fun way. I think there is no better time for people to be thinking about their own health and well being as well as those around them, than during a pandemic. Playing off the hospital’s mission “We champion children by making them better today and healthier tomorrow,” we hope that funds raised from this event will help do just that and reach more children in more ways where they live, learn and play.

What can participants expect from this year’s Race for Healthier Tomorrow? Well, the event will certainly be a little different than we originally planned, like everything else in 2020. The race will be a virtual this year. People can chose their own route or use one of our suggested routes to run or walk the 3.25 miles at their pace and time. Plus, you will not have to contend with weather as a factor. It rained for the race in 2019. You can choose to go on a day when the weather suits you. It’s a fun way to get the family outside, promote a healthy lifestyle, social distance and contribute to ACH from anywhere in the state.

What keeps you living + giving in Central Arkansas? I was born and raised in Little Rock and my husband’s job brought us back from New York to Arkansas almost 19 years ago.  We have been very fortunate to live here and raise our kids here. I think the more you give to a community, the more you get out of it. And I am blessed to have the time and resources to give back. I have been involved with lots of different philanthropic organizations and what I have gotten out of it, has been super rewarding. I have made a ton of new friends from all walks of life, I have learned to wear a lot of different hats, fundraising skills, and most importantly being able to work as a team to accomplish a common goal.

Now, some fun facts…What’s on your running playlist? Where do you run? I quit running with headphones/music a few years ago, after almost being plowed down by the same person on two separate occasions while running in my neighborhood. I have found that without the headphones, I actually pay more attention to the sights and sounds where I am running, than the music.  I can clear my head better too. I usually run in my neighborhood, I have a couple of different routes that I alternate between and I also like to run the path between the Big Dam Bridge and Two Rivers Park.

Photography by Lori Sparkman Photography

Inviting Arkansas

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