By MANDY STANAGE SHOPTAW | Photography by SARAH ODEN | Makeup by Bridget Baltimore with Barbara Jean | Wardrobe from Barbara Jean
Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas works relentlessly to improve the welfare of all children – providing the abused and neglected a safe place following traumatic experiences. The organization depends on the advocacy of civic and business leaders throughout the state to expand this mission and garner support. This year, Donna Malone will be celebrated as the Woman of Inspiration at the dinner and fashion show that benefits CACA.
“My husband, Senator Percy Malone, asked me to do some research for a bill to help children,” explains Donna of her involvement with child advocacy. “I read an article on a loophole in many state laws that said if a child is a victim of rape or molestation by a close family member it is considered incest and not rape, which carries a lighter sentence. That’s just completely outdated! Closing this loophole was the first bill I worked on and my husband was successful in getting it passed.” Donna is proud that Arkansas was the second state in the nation to eliminate this kind of provision.
Donna was then asked to serve on the Legislative Task Force on Abused & Neglected Children, “We looked at how the children are treated once they disclose all the way through the system. Our report to the legislature was four inches thick. It laid the groundwork for the bill which made it possible for child advocacy centers to receive state money.” Senator Malone’s efforts led to a 1% sales tax on beer and the first year it brought in $3.5 million dollars. “So please buy more beer to support our centers,” Donna says only half-jokingly.
“A child advocacy center is a kid-friendly facility where a child abuse victim can receive free services: forensic interview, medical exam, advocacy, and mental health, all in one location,” explains Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas Executive Director Elizabeth Pulley, “With this model the child doesn’t have to retell their traumatic experience and all services can be handled in one location. There are 17 centers in Arkansas and our goal is to continue to grow to make sure all child abuse victims receive the best possible services, no matter of their location within the state. We want to provide services to the child to set them on a path for hope and healing.”
Each year, CACA recognizes a Women of Inspiration who has been an ardent advocate for the welfare of children. Past honorees include First Lady of Arkansas Susan Hutchinson, Jonelle Hunt, Lisenne Rockefeller and Shelley McMillon. “We also honor an adult survivor of child abuse through our Blue Ribbon Award,” explains Elizabeth. “This event has brought awareness to child abuse in Arkansas.” The evening includes a fashion show and silent auction; proceeds support centers throughout the state.
“The wonderful designer from California, Lourdes Chavez, is the person I requested be the designer for the 2019 Woman of Inspiration,” says Donna. “She has a wonderful eye for fabrics that are fabulous and must be seen in person. Plus, her designs are very wearable for real women.”
While all the Women of Inspiration have contributed towards making Arkansas a better and safer place for some of its most vulnerable citizens, Elizabeth notes that Donna’s unique contributions are impressive. “Donna has given a voice to the hurting children in our state by conducting countless hours of research to find the best models and practices to help bring healing to child abuse victims.” Elizabeth continues citing the strong working relationship between Donna and her husband. “Along side of her husband, former Senator Percy Malone, Donna supported a movement in the state to change laws, create funding and to develop more child advocacy centers statewide. Her vision has been to bring hope and healing to each and every child abuse victim in Arkansas.”