The incredible generosity of Northwest Arkansans fuels the good work of nonprofits across the region, and many of them put on their biggest fundraisers toward the beginning of the year.
Jaclyn Keeter, the president of the Northwest Arkansas chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and development and outreach services director for the Washington Regional Medical Foundation, said nonprofit organizations put on 350 special events a year. They include runs, walks, rides, galas, balls, banquets and celebrations.
"Special events are a way to engage a nonprofit’s supporters as well as reach individuals who have a like-minded interest in the nonprofit’s mission," Keeter said. "Events provide the platform and energy to share an organization's mission, to connect with individuals and organizations with mission-minded passion for the work being done, and to provide key financial support for programs and services."
Among the biggest is the Kiss A Pig Gala on March 11 in Rogers. The celebration draws attention to the work of the American Diabetes Association, which maintains its Northwest Arkansas/River Valley office in Bentonville. Celebrate Arkansas magazine's staff attends most of the region's largest nonprofit events and provided the photograph of Russ Daniel kissing the pig and it's his wife Jamie Daniel giving thumbs-up approval in the background.
The region's next major fundraiser is this Saturday when Paint the Town Red takes place at Fayetteville's Town Center. The event is part of a nationwide American Heart Association campaign that raises $60 million for research, advocacy and education programs.
All in NWA, a fundraiser for the Teen Action and Support Center in Rogers, takes place on Jan. 28 in Rogers. Last year's event raised about $48,000 for the center that's dedicated to helping teenagers with such things as facilitating volunteer hours and providing individual and family counseling services.
Northwest Arkansas residents will have a chance to attend the Walton Arts Center's Masquerade Ball on Feb. 11. Last year's event raised $204,000 for the center's educational programs.
There's also Northwest Arkansas Soup Sunday, an event started 16 years ago by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. This year's event is Feb. 19 in Rogers.
The Chase Foundation holds its Fifth Annual Chase the Blues Away on Feb. 28 at Fayetteville's Town Center. The organization supports the elderly, veterans, women and children in domestic violence situations and animals.
Next comes the Starlight Gala on March 4 in Rogers. The event is put on to benefit the Northwest Arkansas Children's Shelter. Last year's gala raised $465,000 for the nonprofit organization that provides emergency residential care to children who are victims of family violence, neglect and abuse.
The remainder of the year is jammed with hundreds of other events, including some that draw more than 1,000 supports of the organization and some that draw only a few dozen guests.
Among the largest fundraisers later this year are the Sunshine Gala that supports the Sunshine School and Development Center (April 8), the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure (April 22), the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Run for the Roses Hope Gala (May 6), the Dream Big Charity Gala that supports the Children's Safety Center (July 22) and the Northwest Arkansas Heart Ball that supports the heart association (May 13).
Events in the last half of 2017 include the Color of Hope Gala put on by Arkansas Children's Hospital (Aug. 4), the Jones Center's Big Night Event (Nov. 11), and the Mercy Health Foundation's Northwest Arkansas Charity Ball (Dec. 2).