Each year, community leaders put on their dancing shoes in hopes of winning the title that is earned at the Dancing with Our Stars Gala. All this fun and friendly competition among participants benefits the Children’s Tumor Foundation and supports the Arkansas chapter’s research and mission: to end and find a cure for neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that disturbs cell growth in the nervous system, causing tumors to form on nerve tissue.
CTF also provides support for children and families affected by NF. A portion of the proceeds is donated for grants to send Arkansas teens to the International NF Summer Camp held at Camp Kostopulos (Camp K).
Leading up to the grand event, we’re putting each star in the spotlight and introducing them on our blog. They will compete for the dancing title and mirror ball trophy at the Sept. 8 gala, in addition to soliciting contributions + votes prior to the event.
Meet Hatim Smouni (Partnered with Devin Akins of Rock City Dance Center)
Hatim Smouni was born and raised in Casablanca, Morocco, and moved to Arkansas more than 20 years ago to pursue his education at the University of Central Arkansas. Hatim has been married to Alex Ifrah, an employee benefits partner at the Friday Firm, for more than 15 years. They have two children, Alaia, 12, and Isaac, 6.
Hatim enjoys helping people, from his capacity as a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch, to his civic leadership with countless organizations in Central Arkansas. He was one of three national finalists for the Volunteer of the Year Award given by The Invest In Others Charitable Foundation, and he is hoping to make a meaningful impact and contribution in this year’s fundraising goal for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. He believes that the true stars are the physicians and researchers working hard to fight NF and is asking for your support to help them find a cure.
Inviting Arkansas: Why do you choose to live and volunteer in Central Arkansas?
Hatim: I moved to Central Arkansas in 1995 to attend UCA and have been lucky to live in such a small and wonderful community. After finishing my undergraduate studies, I moved to Little Rock and met many individuals who make living here such a great place to raise a family and grow professionally. I volunteer because Arkansas has been, and still is, very good to me. I have been blessed beyond my dreams by having a great education and a great career that allows me to meet and have wonderful people as clients that continue to refer me and support me. I continue to be amazed at how Arkansans have big hearts and support so many organizations and are always willing to give back. It encourages me to be part of it.
IA: Type of dance you’ve always wanted to learn?
Hatim: Salsa or any Latin dances.
IA: Dance claim to fame?
Hatim: To be crowned 2016 Arkansas NF Dancing with the Stars winner (Please go vote for me!).
IA: Why did you agree to be a Dancing with Our Stars contestant?
Hatim: Because I can’t say ‘no’ to board member Natalie Rockefeller, and she said that Win (her husband and also a contestant) challenges me to dance and ‘try’ to beat him – challenge accepted. I have Alopecia Areata and I know how hard it is to be a kid growing up with something physical that makes you not look ‘normal’, so I hope we can make a difference and raise lots of money for research and programs.
IA: What do you most look forward to about the evening?
Hatim: Hopefully, seeing many friends and raising a lot of money for NF research and children affected with NF.
IA: What are you nervous about?
Hatim: Tearing up after hearing the judges announce that I won the dance contest. I will hopefully remember to pack some Kleenex in my pocket.