August 2021

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August 2021 | 1

2 | 501 LIFE August 2021

COMMUNITY OF CARING Medical mission Hundreds served Countless acts of kindness FRIENDS • NEIGHBORS • CAREGIVERS Community of Caring is a medical mission coordinated by Unity Health that took place on July 24. Free medical exams, dental screenings, COVID-19

(501) 278-3230

testing & vaccinations, and food were available to help our neighbors in need. August 2021 | 3

EDITOR Stefanie W. Brazile PUBLISHER/ART DIRECTOR Jeremy L. Higginbotham FOUNDERS Donna Spears and Sonja J. Keith SPORTS AND DIGITAL DIRECTOR Levi Gilbert COPY EDITORS Jordan Hickey and Andrea Miller BRAND AMBASSADOR Donald Brazile PHOTO DIRECTOR Mike Kemp FINANCE DIRECTOR Debbie Flowers ADVERTISING SALES: Donna Spears


CONTRIBUTORS Becky Bell Donna Benton Don Bingham Kellie Bishop Aaron Brand Donald Brazile Brittany Gilbert Laurie Green Dwain Hebda Linda Henderson Vivian Hogue

Beth Jimmerson Jennifer McCracken Mark McDonald Mark Oliver John Patton Susan Peterson Dr. Robert Reising Judy Riley Chloe Short Donna Lampkin Stephens Morgan Zimmerman



sense the back-to-school excitement in the air. Stores are teeming with clothing sales and school supplies. Band members, cheerleaders and football teams are returning to campus for early-morning practices. Parents are checking game schedules and signing their children up for fun after-school classes. After being home with their children and having more control over their environment, some parents will resist the flurry of activity. This time of year feels comfortable because we know that it means that cooler temps are soon to follow, but heading back to school this year is different from any other I've known. Yes, many students returned to the classroom in the spring, but a large percentage finished the school year as virtual learners. Add to that the news of virus variants, and it's obvious that the start of this school year has extra stress. Health concerns and the socialization gap that students have experienced all create new anxiety. School districts always begin meeting with their staff weeks before the first day of school. Added to their training sessions this August are materials that will teach educators how to help students cope with stress. It's good to know that adults have recognized the impact that worry, sickness and loss have on children, youth and young adults. We've interviewed an expert on the subject and shared her insights. Our inspiring columnists also have advice that parents can use to set their kids up for a positive school year. This magazine is overflowing with articles 4 | 501 LIFE August 2021

about special students, teachers, schools and athletes. Make sure you meet Riley Popovich, our Kid of the Month from Cabot. And Donna Stephens' story about a recent Searcy graduate, Briley Waddill, will touch your heart as you learn how she overcame cancer with strength and grace. We've also brought you information about programs that benefit kids in Central Arkansas, like the "Rise and Shine" series that was offered by Arkansas PBS this summer. Multiple Arkansans who have won "Teacher of the Year" taught lessons that were aired to help kids stay engaged and challenged over the summer months. "Crops for Kids" highlights how students in White County learn about farming and even earn money from a one-acre rice crop. The August issue also highlights important charity events and the volunteers who make them happen. Be sure to meet Julie Gorman and learn about her involvement with the "Dancing With Our Stars" event in Little Rock next month. The dazzling fundraiser benefits the Children's Tumor Foundation. We are fortunate to live in a society that promotes education because learning is a lifelong journey we can all enjoy. We've even snapped a story about adult education opportunities into this binder. It's time to head back to school, so plan some extra time for your morning commute and watch for school buses. If you wave at those kids, you'll help them go back to school with a little more spirit as they make a fresh start each day.

Johnny Adams Jack Bell Don Bingham RaeLynn Callaway Glenn Crockett Kay Dalton Beth Franks Russ Hancock Spencer Hawks Mathilda Hatfield Roe Henderson Jerry Hiegel Mike Kemp Julie LaRue

Karl Lenser Monica Lieblong Lori Melton Kiera Oluokun Deanna Ott Pat Otto Jon Patrom Amy Reed Lori Ross Margaret Smith Jan Spann Kim Tyler Suzanne Waggoner Jennifer Whitehead

CONWAY COUNTY EDITORIAL BOARD Mary Clark Shelli Crowell Dr. Larry Davis Shawn Halbrook Alicia Hugen Alisha Koonce

Stephanie Lipsmeyer Stewart Nelson Kristi Strain Jim Taylor Morgan Zimmerman

WHITE COUNTY EDITORIAL BOARD Betsy Bailey Tara Cathey Cassandra Feltrop Phil Hays Natalie Horton

Matt LaForce Mike Parsons Brooke Pryor Carol Spears Kristi Thurmon

To subscribe or order back issues, visit Subscription rate is $20 for one year. (12 issues)

Make the Jump Media, LLC 920 Locust Ave., Suite 104 Conway, AR 72034 501.327.1501 •

501 LIFE is published monthly by Make the Jump Media, LLC (920 Locust Ave., Suite 104, Conway, AR 72034, 501.327.1501) owned by Jeremy Higginbotham and Stefanie W. Brazile. The contents of 501 LIFE are copyrighted and materials presented may not be copied or reproduced in any manner without the written permission of the publishers. Articles should not be considered specific advice, as individual circumstances vary. Products and services advertised are not necessarily endorsed by 501 LIFE.

August 2021 | 5


August 2021

Volume 14 Issue 4

4 8 9 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24

Letter from the Editor Upcoming events Menifee gymnasium restoration Loving LIFE Photos St. Joseph breaks ground on new high school Reynolds Performance Hall new season Antonio Jamison ‘HELLO Radio’

By Aaron Brand

Couple of the month: Fredricka & Neal Sharkey III Mascots - Hidden heroes

By Dwain Hebda

UACCM Adult Education

On the cover

By Mary Clark

Youth of the month: Briley Waddill of Searcy

Mascots from Searcy, Maumelle, Morrilton and Conway helped us celebrate our 501 LIFE School Spirit edition. Photo by Mike Kemp

By Donna Lampkin Stephens

26 30 32 33

Julie Gorman: Dancing with Our Stars

By Dwain Hebda

Entertaining: Summer salad extravaganza

By Don Bingham

Parent financial checklist Helping students manage stress as they head back to school

By Stefanie Brazile

36 40 42

Arkansas PBS "Rise and Shine"

By Stefanie Brazile

CRMC chef brings restaurant style

By John Patton

Wallace brothers say family is key to baseball success

By Donna Lampkin Stephens

46 48 50 52

Energy smart homes


By Beth Jimmerson

Share Grounds of UALR

By Dwain Hebda

New Conway superintendent

By Stefanie Brazile

Artistic Excellence: Katz-Messenger’s stained glass

By Aaron Brand

54 56 58 60 63 66 68

Back-to-school beauty routine White County teaches kids about farming

By Judy Riley

Robinson’s legacy of learning

By Vivian Hogue

PCSSD reflects on ‘21 and looks ahead

By Jessica Duff

Deshon Washington is storyteller in song

By Dwain Hebda

501 KIDS: Mom’s first day of school

By Meagan Lowry

Kid of the Month: Cabot’s Riley Popovich

By Becky Bell


Athletic Excellence: ' Bud Mobley was a ‘Wonder Boy’

By Dr. Robert Reising


Pet of the month: Look hoo’s coming to town

By Becky Bell


Publishing success begins at 70 By Susan L. Peterson

76 77

Blessing of the backpacks

By Donald Brazile

What's your school spirit

By Mark McDonald

80 Finding beauty where you least expect - 501 swamps By Linda Henderson


Searcy’s teacher of the year Kyla Glasser

6 | 501 LIFE August 2021


501 LIFE would like to thank our advertising partners for their continued support and encourage our readers to visit these businesses: A Arkansas Coding Academy, UCA, 79 Arkansas PBS, 66

B Bledsoe Chiropractic, 23

C Centennial Bank, 39 Conway Corp, 41 Conway Institute of Music, 35 Conway Regional Health System, 83 Conway Regional Rehab, 64

All the cool kids have 501 LIFE delivered right to their home

Catch 501 LIFE on KARK News at 12:30 on August 9th!

For only $20 a year, you can have 501 delivered to you. While the magazine is distributed to more than 700 locations in Central Arkansas, copies go fast. Home delivery ensures you never miss an issue!

Visit or call 501.327.1501 to subscribe.

D DDS Denture + Implant Solutions, 29 DJM Orthodontics, 60

E E.L. Clinical, 54 Edward Jones, 32

Did you know 501 LIFE covers


11 counties in Central Arkansas?

First Community Bank, 57 First Security Bank, 84 First Service Bank, 13 Freyaldenhoven . Heating and Cooling, 65

G Garage Experts, 51 Greenbrier Schools, 67





welcome to the Writers’ Room

Hartman Animal Hospital, 73 Harwood, Ott & Fisher, PA, 75 Heritage Living Center, 5

M Methodist Family Health, 37 Middleton Heat & Air, 47 MSC Eye Associates, 49

O Ott Insurance, 17

P Pain Treatment Centers of America, 55 Patterson Eye Care, 51 Pulaski County Special School District, 61

R Reynolds Performance Hall, 62

S Salem Place, 33 Shelter Insurance, 47 Sissy’s Log Cabin, 15 South Conway County Schools, 77 St. Joseph School, 59 Superior Health & Rehab, 2

U Unity Health, 3 University of Arkansas . Community College Morrilton, 25 University of Central Arkansas, 19

Vivian Lawson Hogue A native of Conway, Vivian Lawson Hogue graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a degree in art education. A retired teacher, she worked in the Conway School District for 23 years. She can be reached at

Susan Peterson holds a Ph.D. in education and taught at the University of Central Arkansas and Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. She retired in 2004 and now spends her time doing artwork (painting and pottery). She is interested in literacy and is a member of the Arkansas Literacy Association. Contact Susan at susanleepeterson@

Mark Oliver is an award-winning sports broadcaster. His voice has been heard across many platforms — spanning television, radio, print and online media throughout the U.S. After graduating with bachelor’s degrees in broadcast journalism and writing, Oliver became the play-by-play voice of Fountain Lake football, where his unique, energetic style earned him the 2017 Sully Award for the best broadcast play call in Arkansas.

August 2021 | 7


St. Joseph School Bazaar

Central Arkansas Women’s Expo

Aug. 6 & 7

Aug. 14 & 15 • 11 a.m.

The annual bazaar will begin on Aug. 6 with “Box Lunches” being sold from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Spiritan Center Dining Hall. On both days, the flea market will open at 9 a.m. and close in the afternoon. The midway, attractions and food will operate both evenings from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. There is also a raffle of three prizes, including a 2021 Ford Explorer. Visit the “St. Joseph School” Facebook page for information, or call 501.513.6808

Fresh Grounded Faith

The KARK 4 Fox 16 Women’s Expo With a Cause kicks off at 10 a.m. on Aug. 14 and 11 a.m. on Aug. 15 at the Hall of Industry at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds in Little Rock. The first 200 attendees each day receive goody bags. Shop, sip and sample your way through 165+ booths. Tickets are $5 online or $7 at the door, children 12 and younger get in free. For information and tickets, visit centralarkansas2021.

National Championship Chuckwagon Race Aug. 28 – Sept. 5

Aug. 6 & 7

An area-wide women’s event called Fresh Grounded Faith will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Aug. 6, and from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Aug. 7, at Antioch Baptist Church, 150 Amity Road, Conway. Jennifer Rothschild is the featured Bible teacher. She has sold more than 1 million Bible studies through Lifeway. She will be joined by best-selling author and speaker Angie Smith and worship leader Michael O’Brien. In-person and online attendance is offered. Antioch Baptist Church and several area churches are sponsoring the event. Tickets are available for purchase at or by calling 800.859.7992.

Rock at the Bay

Held at 2848 Shake Rag Road in Clinton, the weeklong event will feature concerts by Neal McCoy, Tracy Lawrence, and Shenandoah, along with others. The daily ticket costs $35 for adults and $20 on Sunday. Children ages 6-12 cost half of the adult ticket price. Visit for event information or one can send an email through the “Contact Us” button.

Women Run Arkansas 5K Training Clinics Beginning Aug. 29

Aug. 14 • 7 p.m.

"Rock at the Bay" at the Fairfield Bay Conference Center. The Tom Bryant Band will perform classic rock and rock funk favorites. An Arkansas resident and friend to the Bay, Bryant was a lead vocalist for Head East. He has shared the stage with bands like Journey, Foreigner, Ted Nugent, Kansas and Bad Company. Seating is limited. Reserve seats by registering at ffbconference. com. Multiple tickets can be filled out in one person’s name and the system will autofill the form. For more information, call 501.884.4202. 8 | 501 LIFE August 2021

The Annual Women Can Run/Walk 5K Training Clinics will begin Aug. 29 and will continue for 10 weeks in cities across the state. At the end of the training period, participants will come to Conway on Nov. 6 to participate in the Women Run Arkansas race. Many cities are recruiting and training leaders. Register to run and learn more at or on Facebook at “Women Run Arkansas Running Club.”

Coming in September

Get Down Downtown - Searcy 9/24 & 25 Walk for Apraxia - Conway 9/25


Members of the Menifee Community Development Center stand in front of a sign designating the gymnasium as part of the National Register of Historic Places. Front row: Councilman Terry Coleman (from left), former Menifee Mayor Jerry Coleman, Tracy Tresvant, Kay Brown, Charlotte Payne, and Ronald Delph. Back row: Yazmin Juarez (from left), Kelly Delph, former Menifee Mayor Lee Smith, Bryan Delph, Councilman Ronnie Williams (with grandson Gavin), Gregory Williams, Eric Delph Jr. (with son Kingston). Not pictured are Councilman Derrick Hammond, Councilwoman Rita Davis and Dr. Alice Hines.

Group mounts full-court press to return historic gymnasium to former glory T

he Menifee Gymnasium was first constructed in 1938 through assistance from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depressionera federal relief agency. The fieldstone-clad, single-story building was one of the first three indoor gyms for African-American schools in Arkansas. Before the gym was even fully completed, it served as the home for the 1939 Menifee basketball teams to practice. The Menifee Travelerettes girls team went on to become state champions that year, playing the championship game on a wood floor for the very first time. The gymnasium also served as a community center, hosting drama performances, agricultural shows, proms and assemblies. When Menifee was devastated by a tornado in 1960, the gym was one of the only buildings on campus to survive. In 1979, the Menifee School District was consolidated with other districts into the South Conway County School District, and within years the gymnasium fell into disrepair. Then, in the early 2000s, the Menifee Community Development Center (MCDC) stepped in. "Our community partners did the work necessary to receive grant funds to repair a leaking roof,” said MCDC Chair Terry Coleman. “We also were able to get the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 6, 2002.” The group believes they are closer than ever to restoring the gym and know that accomplishing this goal will make a true difference to this Central Arkansas community. "This renovation is very important in order to restore the power and confidence of people working together," Coleman said. The group is asking for both monetary and in-kind donations to complete the project. For more information or to help, contact the MCDC at 501.339.7543 or email

1939 State Champs - Menifee Travelerettes Donations are tax deductible and may be made to Menifee Community Development Center Inc. Attn: Dr. Alice Hines P. O. Box 147 • Menifee, AR 72107

August 2021 | 9


501 families are heading

The Little Rock Rangers mascot was rounding up his herd as the team ended their summer season. Buzz the Hornet was "Loving LIFE" in Bryant even as he felt the sting of summer ending.

Headed out on a special trip? Have a special occasion or get-together coming up? Pack a copy of 501 LIFE in your suitcase, snap a photo at your destination and send it to us for publication in a future issue!

Hallie Todd was "Loving LIFE" as she prepares to cheer for her fellow Malvern High School Leopards. The Guy-Perkins Thunderbird was “Loving LIFE” as he gets ready for the 2021-22 school year.

Photos can be submitted by email to or by mail to Reader Photos, c/o 501 LIFE, 920 Locust Ave., Suite 104, Conway, AR, 72034. Please include the names of those in the photograph, and their hometowns, along with contact information. Sorry, photos will not be returned by mail but can be picked up at the 501 LIFE office.

Pat the Panther is "Loving LIFE" as Bigelow students prepare to pounce on an all new school year.

10 | 501 LIFE August 2021

These Perryville Senior High cheerleaders were “Loving LIFE” after making Universal Cheer Association AllAmerican Cheerleaders at UCA’s Cheer Camp. They are Sophmore Emma Hawkins (from left), Senior Jenna Webb, Senior Avery Branscum, Sophomore Kami Williams and Sophomore Tessa Hubbard. Jacksonville North Pulaski School District's Titan mascot Voltage was "Loving LIFE" as they get ready to jolt into the 21/22 season.


Gary and Marsha Wallace of Greenbrier were “Loving LIFE” with their granddaughter, Lainey Milam, at the regional gymnastics championship in Galveston.

Derek, Samantha and young Jett Cypert were “Loving LIFE” in Searcy at the “United We Stand” celebration on the Fourth of July.

Senior Ms. Arkansas State Fair Sue Billot was "Loving LIFE" at the Old State House Museum in front of the "First Ladies of Arkansas: Women of their Times" exhibit.

Tommy and daughter Kayle Browning were "Loving LIFE" before a parade in her honor in the City of Greenbrier. She left for Tokyo in late July to compete in Olympic trap shooting. Kim Williams, director of the Conway Downtown Partnership (from left), Jeremy Higginbotham and Stefanie Brazile, co-owners of 501 LIFE Magazine, were "Loving LIFE" after the July 2 performance of the Conway Community Band. Two summer concerts were sponsored by the Downtown Partnership and the magazine.

Supporters of the Conway Symphony Orchestra were “Loving LIFE” at a recent party that unveiled the upcoming season. It was held at the home of Houston (from left) and Jenny Davis, who welcomed guests with CSO General Manager Suzanne Loerch and Israel Getzov, music director/conductor.

The Conway Community Band was “Loving LIFE” after the American Spectacular Band Concert held July 2 at Simon Park in Conway. Hundreds enjoyed the patriotic music led by Tim Cunningham Brantley Douglas, Justin Cook (pictured above) and Nathan Cunningham.

The First Security Bank Gold Club of Saline County was “Loving LIFE” this summer at Mount Rushmore.

Fans of the Little Rock Rangers minor league soccer team were "Loving LIFE" as they prepared to watch the final Rangers game of the season at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

August 2021 | 11


Faith in the

Future St. Joseph breaks ground on new high school

Many members of the 501 community gathered on June 30 as St. Joseph School formally broke ground on a new high school building as part of their “Our Faith, Our Children, Our Future School” capital campaign. The two-story, 39,000-square-foot facility will replace the current high school that was constructed 70 years ago. The facility will feature regular as well as specialty classrooms, a student union, a black box theater, as well as biology, chemistry and computer labs, all built to give the students a true 21stcentury learning experience. Chairman Emeritus Charles Nabholz of Nabholz Construction addressed the groundbreaking audience, mentioning that he and fellow attendee Ray Luyet had been present for the dedication of the old high school in 1951. The school has raised close to $9 million of their overall goal of $10.9 million, including a $4 million matching grant and a $1 million pledge from the volunteer-run, St. Joseph Flea Market. “St. Joseph School appreciates the Conway community and all the support given to the school since it began in 1879, and would welcome a pledge or one-time gift to complete the project,” said Teri Breeding, director of marketing and communications for St. Joseph. Bishop Anthony Taylor blessed the site and prayed for the successful completion of the project and for the safety of the workers.

Bishop Anthony Taylor blesses the site and prays for the successful completion of the project and for the safety of the workers.

Faulkner County Judge Jim Baker (from left) and Raymond Luyet, St. Joseph alumni and buildings and grounds committee member, celebrate the groundbreaking.

Charlotte Moix (from left), Greg Moix and Rose Freyaldenhoven

The St. Joseph bulldog statue watched over the event.

Father Tony, Bishop Taylor (from left), St. Joseph School Principal Matt Tucker, architect Joanna Nabholz, elementary principal Courtney Pope, middle school assistant principal Hannah Belew, Father Brian, and jobsite superintendent Kenny Nahlen turn dirt with golden shovels.

12 | 501 LIFE August 2021

Help us provide


Text ORWB to 800-669-2517 to learn more! August 2021 | 13

Reynolds ready to

step back on stage Theatre director promises exciting season


fter more than a year of limited shows and socially distanced seating, Reynolds Performance Hall will return to full capacity live performances for its 2021-22 season. The season will be full of award-winning musicians, vibrant musicals, and eclectic performances to entertain the UCA campus and the community. “Regardless if you are an artist or a patron of the arts, you can easily see the value that they bring to Central Arkansas through cultural experiences, educational benefits and creative outlets,” said Amanda Horton, director of Reynolds Performance Hall. “There is also an essential social element that is important when participating in the arts. “There is nothing more entertaining than sharing a moment at the theatre with a sold-out audience during a rousing standing ovation.” She added, “Our patrons have been missing not only live entertainment, but also the thrill of experiencing these shows with others.” The season kicks off Sept. 30 with the world’s most successful rock ‘n’ roll musical, “BUDDY: The Buddy Holly Story” and continues with “An Officer and a Gentleman,” Christmas with CeCe Winans, “Stomp,” and Yamato Drummers of Japan, along with many other events throughout the year.

“We work hard to present a season packed with diverse show options that serves our whole community,” Horton said. “Each year we attend conferences where we watch artists perform in showcases and meet with talent agents. They work with us to adhere to our budget while also providing exceptional entertainers that are a fit for our community and campus.” Reynolds Performance Hall will feature 22 shows from the Broadway, Pops and Night Out Series; three from the Storytellers Series (formerly Speakers Series), three Main Stage EdUCAtion shows, an Add-On event and three benefit performances for the Main Stage program. “We are also excited about our newest series, the Storytellers Series. This series explores historical events through music, dance and spoken word while sharing poignant stories from our past,” Horton said. The Main Stage EdUCAtion Series, aimed at Arkansas school districts, introduces students to live, professional theatre. Horton said, “The program started in 2014 and has entertained and educated over 40,000 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Forty different schools from at least nine different counties have come to one or more performances. For many students, this was their first experience with a live theater production.” Subscription renewals for current season ticket holders are available now. New subscriptions will go on sale to the general public starting Aug. 2. Subscriber Courtesy Week — when those who bought season packages may purchase individual tickets to shows before they open to the general public — will be Aug. 30-Sept. 3. Single tickets will go on sale to the general public Tuesday, Sept. 7. To purchase a new subscription package beginning Aug. 2 or individual tickets beginning Sept. 7, call 501.450.3265 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday or go online at 14 | 501 LIFE August 2021



August 2021 | 15


Photo by Mike Kemp


Antonio Jamison aims to ensure every child is heard


By Aaron Brand

or Antonio Jamison, serving children with disabilities is a compassionate calling as he helps them better their lives with innovative projects that are getting noticed throughout Central Arkansas. His commitment to social service extends deep. He earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, followed by a master’s degree in public administration from Arkansas State University. He is a former University of Arkansas employee where he worked for a grant-funded program. “I have a degree in social work,” Jamison said. “I always wanted to help kids out because I always had someone to help me out. I was thinking a while back, when I was in junior high I had a mentor and they used to take us around to nursing homes on Valentine’s Day to hand out roses to the residents.” It brought him joy. Today, Jamison lives in Mayflower with his wife and daughter and his day job is with Compass Academy. The private, nonprofit school serves students with disabilities and those who struggle with fittingin at public schools. He’s a fourth and fifth grade teacher with just shy of 90 students. His work to help these children find happiness and fulfilment extends beyond the classroom though. “I’m trying to bring kids with 16 | 501 LIFE August 2021

disabilities, or any hardship, joy and happiness, reduce anxiety,” Jamison said. With that goal in mind, Jamison founded the Jamison Alexander Success Center which receives grant money for special initiatives. Realizing that kids needed different outlets to express themselves inspired him to start his nonprofit organization. The Success Center helps youth in several different respects, including self-esteem, career preparation, and setting goals. His funders have included $700 from the Arkansas Community Foundation and a grant of $10,000 from the Department of Human Services. The grant money was used to purchase weighted blankets that soothe anxieties of kids with mental and physical disabilities. “The blanket is like a hug. It helps with the stress level. It calms you down, and it helps you sleep and it helps reduce anxiety.” Another large grant of $25,000 from the Arkansas Community Foundation will further these efforts plus create new outlets for Jamison’s Center. One of these outlets will be his HELLO Program that will include the online HELLO radio station. HELLO stands for Healing, Encouraging, Loving, Lifting and Overcoming feelings of anxiety and isolation and loneliness through gratitude, volunteering, and community service. The HELLO

program serves disabled children ages 10 to 17, but Jamison won’t deny any child the opportunity to participate. “We want all of the youth of Faulkner County to know we hear their pleas for help, we are listening, and we are here to help them overcome these trying times,” he said. “With this new grant, we will be able to expand and bless kids across Central Arkansas with weighted blankets and therapeutic items to try to reduce their anxiety, loneliness, and isolation,” Jamison said. Jamison will use input and assistance from his current HELLO participants to reach new children. “We’re going to do Conway, Mayflower, North Little Rock, Little Rock, just all surrounding areas,” Jamison said. “The best thing? My kids that are already in the program are going to be the one to bless the new members and show gratitude. That will be their community service project, to bring joy to other kids.” Jamison’s new radio station will also be useful to spread his joyful messages. “HELLO Radio started because we wanted to continue to let kids know we hear them and are listening,” Jamison said. This concept was proposed by Faulkner County Judge Jim Baker, he explained. The radio station is meant to give a voice to children with disabilities or any hardship so they can tell their story to the world. The internet radio station will enable him to broadcast remotely from various locations, such as a birthday party. “If they want me to come, I’ll be there. If the kids want to create a podcast I’m going to let them,” Jamison said. Starting this month, he will open the radio to kids twice a week so they can hear themselves. They can call 501.725.0051 or find the station online at and search for HELLO Radio. Jamison says that listeners can expect wholesome family music and entertainment. “On Sunday and Wednesday, it’s going to be gospel hour,” he said. Currently, Jamison plans on holding events in various locations when the weighted blankets come in, but he encourages anyone to contact him if they know of youth in need. He understands that with the continuing effects of COVID-19, children facing disabilities and other hardships need help. “Reach out to me. I really want it to be personable,” Jamison said about delivering directly to Central Arkansas kids. “We’re going to try to uplift every kid here in Central Arkansas who’s going through any type of anxiety,” he said. Anyone interested in finding out more about Jamison’s work with children with disabilities through his non-profit organization can visit or on Facebook at Jamison Alexander Success Center Hello Program.

Many of Antonio's young friends and supporters joined him for an event to announce the all new HELLO Radio program.

Antonio and Christian prepare to go live on the first HELLO Radio broadcast.

August 2021 | 17

MAUMELLE NEIGHBORS Couple of the Month


Photo by Mike Kemp

Neal L. Sharkey III

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP: Greenville, Miss. EDUCATION: Associate of Arts from Mississippi Delta Community

Fredricka B. Sharkey


WHERE DID YOU GROW UP: Indianola, Miss.

College; Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Northwestern State University; Master of Business Administration from Webster University, St. Louis, Mo.

EDUCATION: Bachelor of Arts from Alcorn State University in Lorman, Miss.; Master of Arts from Webster University, St. Louis, Mo.

WORK: Division Manager, Historic Mid-Atlantic District of the United Parcel Service (UPS).


PARENTS: Henrene and Neal Sharkey Jr. of Greenville, Miss. COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Most of my community activities are

WORK: Director of Media Relations for the University of Central PARENTS: Wilma and Joe Stiffin, deceased.

with my fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., through my local chapter, Omicron Lambda Lambda. I also participated in a couple of COVID-19 testing events.

COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Most of my community activities are with my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., through my local chapter, Little Rock Alumnae Chapter. I also participated in a couple of COVID-19 testing events.

CHURCH ACTIVITIES: I am a member and deacon of St. John Baptist Church in Little Rock. We also work at the food pantry at our church. Our children and I volunteer as often as we can. We pick up food from distribution centers, help fill the food boxes, deliver to cars, and anything else they need.

CHURCH ACTIVITIES: I am a member of St. John Baptist Church in Little Rock. I love working with the food pantry, although my children and husband have been able to do much more than I have.

HOBBIES/SPECIAL INTERESTS: Golf, camping with my

children, evenings with my wife.


dedicated, sincere, a hard worker, and fair leader.

WHAT IS ONE THING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU: I was a professional athlete with the Houston Oilers. WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO: Why wait when you can do it now? WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT LIVING IN THE 501: Everything is accessible. Parks, trails, and even a

mountain are all right here.

18 | 501 LIFE August 2021


motivated, mothering, and curious.

WHAT IS ONE THING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU: I am an introvert. MOST ENJOYED WEEKEND ACTIVITY: Nothing! With so much of our time dedicated to our calendars, I enjoy nothing more than sleeping in on a Saturday and hanging around the house. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT LIVING IN THE 501: Trails, parks, community spirit.

MAUMELLE NEIGHBORS Couple of the Month

WHEN/HOW WE MET: We met February of 1997 at the March of Dimes telethon in Greenville, Miss. THE PROPOSAL: Neal was determined to ask my parents first, so he did; however, he did it while I was at the house, too, as well as my aunt and uncle who were visiting from Florida. They all got to see the ring, play around with it, and try it on while I waited for the proposal. It was different. WEDDING BELLS: May 29, 1999, at First United Baptist Church in Indianola, Miss. CHILDREN: Neal IV, 21; Sarah, 19; Frederick 18. PETS: Fredricka is not a pet person, so the only dog the children ever had stayed in Mississippi at Grandma Henrene’s house. Her name was Coco. FAMILY ACTIVITIES WE ENJOY TOGETHER: Family dinner – We have

dinner together almost every night. Even if it is McDonald’s, we pray together, then eat as a family. We cook together quite often. It’s much harder now with the children working and attending college. We also took family vacations to Branson and Orlando. We had educational trips to the space center in Huntsville, Ala.; Winterville Mounds in Greenville, Miss., and in Chucalissa, Miss. Photos courtesy of Pureessence10Photography




lasses are just the beginning. At UCA, students get it all – a beautiful campus, NCAA D1 sports, impressive facilities – plus the outdoor adventure and city access unique to central Arkansas. Even better? It’s all surprisingly affordable. Apply today!

August 2021 | 19

Local mascots always there to help us find our cheer By Dwain Hebda

There may be no more beloved identity that fans share with their favorite sports teams than the mascot. Think about it: In high school, you were more apt to identify yourself as a Tiger, a Wildcat or an Eagle than you were as a mere representative of (insert high school name here). After all, while some mascots are cute or clever, most embody the kind of strength, toughness and other noble attributes that we all aspired to, particularly during the awkward teen years. The word “mascot” comes from the French word mascotte, which means “lucky charm.” It’s hard to pin down when the first mascot as we know it today appeared, but in America, as “The Dickson Baseball Dictionary” contends, it likely dates to the 1880s. Back then, American sportswriters started taking note of a baseball team (history has forgotten which) with a batboy whose name was Chic. As “The Sporting Life” wrote in 1883, “the players pin their faith to [Chic’s] luck-bringing qualities.” One year later, the first animal mascot appeared when a goat started wandering around a Cincinnati baseball team’s field and became synonymous with the squad and its fans. Here in the 501, the mascot tradition is a proud one. For our cover story, we have selected a few of the well-known and best-loved standard-bearers to present their origin stories and other traditions. As fans head back to stadiums this year, young and old alike will look forward to watching the action on the field or court as hope for a conference or state title springs eternal. Adding to that one-of-a-kind atmosphere will be the band, the cheerleaders and especially the mascot, brought to life by dedicated students willing to brave heat, cold and loss of free time to play their role, however anonymously. Here’s to all of them throughout the 501, from Lions to Tigers to Bears. As we enter the new school year, may you play hard, stay safe and have fun! 20 | 501 LIFE August 2021

Morrilton Devil Dogs

In World War I, U.S. Marines gained the nickname Devil Dogs for their reputation for ferocity on the battlefield, specifically by the Germans who described the Corps as hounds from hell who could not be defeated. B. Jack Wilson, a Morrilton student, is credited with nominating the fearsome-sounding creature as the school’s mascot in the 1920s. The 1973 yearbook explains things further: “A Devil Dog is a maroon and gray figure with horns and teeth for fighting with all his might. The Devil Dog wears a gruff yet determined expression that radiates confidence and enthusiasm. He is strong and kind, he is stern and determined, yet he is friendly and considerate ... The Devil Dog is that abstract spirit that lives in every student of M.H.S. and makes them proud and envied.” Shawn Halbrook, superintendent of schools for the South Conway County School District, said the never-say-die attitude of the mascot has not dimmed with time. “The spirit that embodies our school district and community is the resiliency and grit to not succumb to the challenges we face,” Halbrook said. “The Devil Dogs are tough and determined.” Holly Tramel, a teacher and MHS varsity senior high cheer coach, said in her 22 years, she’s often seen Devil Dog spirit bring out remarkable things in the students who wear the costume. “You have to make everything big. Your arm movements have to be big. Your character has to be big,” she said. “Normally, my mascot is someone who’s not involved in any other athletics, and a lot of times, those kids are the ones who don’t want to be front and center. They want to be involved in school spirit, but they don’t want to be seen. They’re shy. They can hide behind that suit and it just brings out something totally different in them.”

Maumelle Hornets

The emblem of Maumelle High School is an amalgam of past traditions and future glory. When the high school opened in 2011, it replaced Oak Grove High School, but it wanted to carry forward a piece of its memory. So, the new school adopted Oak Grove’s Buzz the Hornet mascot, even as it chose new colors. “There was community involvement in picking the scarlet and black colors,” said Katrina Jones, a teacher and MHS spirit coach for varsity and freshman cheer, which includes the mascot. “We kept

the mascot because we wanted to keep the history of Oak Grove alive, but Maumelle wanted to have an identity as a new school as well.” The tactic worked and Buzz the Hornet gets heavy use during the school year and at special events to rally community support for the high school. “The Hornet is active at pep rallies, football and basketball games, and probably [what is] most memorable to people is we have the Hornet Swarm every year,” Jones said. “It happens every August to kick off the school year, and involves everyone in the community from Maumelle and Oak Grove little league football to our feeder schools Pine Forest Elementary and Crystal Hill Elementary. “At Hornet Swarm, we showcase all of our community and school teams. Everybody does a little performance and we end it with a football game between 8th and 9th grade teams. It’s a way to bring the community together to rally and show that Hornet pride.” The mascot selection process comes in the form of tryouts and carries a mandate — absolute secrecy concerning the identity of that year’s Buzz. “Unknown. It is a secret. Nobody knows who Buzz is,” Jones said. “Some people try to guess, but that mascot is sworn to secrecy. Even when they are not in uniform, they cannot tell. At the end of the school year, when the season is over, we identify them and take pictures for the yearbook. But throughout the year it is a total surprise.”

Searcy Lions

Shannon Holeyfield, who’s in her first year coaching the varsity cheer squad, has taught in the Searcy School District for 20 years. In that time, she’s learned to identify as a Lion, even though she’s not an alum. “I went to Pangburn High School,” she said. “I grew up in the area and we’re the Tigers, so at least I’m familiar with the whole cat family.” The origins of the Lion as mascot here are fuzzy, Holeyfield said, as many historic yearbooks at the school were lost in a fire. But the qualities of the regal cat are easy to apply to the high school’s students and athletes. “I think a lion is a perfect mascot — he can be respected and feared,” she said. “The energy from the mascot is something we play off; lions being a safari animal, we call our gym ‘The Jungle.’ Even the yearbook theme was ‘Causing an Uproar.’ “More than anything, the lion is the king of the jungle and one of our favorite band songs that all the kids in the student section love is ‘Who is the King of the Whole Wide World?’ So, we play off

of that. We’re the kings.” Selection for the honor of embodying the Lion spirit has been less formal in recent years. For her first tour of duty, Holeyfield polled some students as to who they thought would make a good candidate. When one name kept coming up, Holeyfield approached the student who readily accepted. “I was aware of him and I had him in class,” she said. “I knew he didn’t mind making a fool of himself and he’s not afraid to talk to anyone. He’s goofy, creative and dependable. Since he kept coming up, I asked if he’d be interested and he was really excited. He was hoping I’d ask.”

Conway Wampus Cat

Greet any current or former student of Conway High School with “Wampus Cat,” and they’re likely to respond with: “Four to run at the speed of light. Two to fight with all its might.” It’s just one of the unique traditions dating back to the 1920s that surround the mythical six-legged swamp cat. “There’s a couple other schools that have the Wampus Cat,” said Jessica Smolsky, a Conway teacher who also coaches the cheer and dance squads. “Our Conway version is unique because we have the blue and black cat with the glowing eyes, the six legs, and the motto. I have friends who graduated from here who, when you say ‘Wampus Cats,’ they still say that sentence back.” One reason why Wampy is so ingrained is because the mascot gets around to more than just sporting events. “Wampy’s not just a high school thing,” Smolsky said. “We do events like the Turkey Trot with the elementary schools. We go out and open doors and let kids out in the morning sometimes, or we’ll go to little-kid pep rallies. "Wearing that Conway shirt, you are held to a higher standard. They have to represent having goals and achieving them and making sure they’re maintaining a positive role model for that school.” The program features one other twist: the identity of the student inside the suit is kept secret, sometimes for years. “I had three of them that graduated who had been the mascot from the 10th grade and they kept that secret until we walked them out during basketball Senior Night when they were seniors,” Smolsky said. “One of them was a shorter girl and I’m a little shorter, so the cheerleaders for years thought it was me. They were like, ‘You’re never here when the Wampus Cat’s here. It’s you.’ So, they didn’t even know.” August 2021 | 21

Team work

Photo by Mike Kemp

is making

dreams work UACCM Adult Education employees consider work a labor of love


By Mary Clark

eorge Lucas, creator of the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” franchises, said, “Education is the single most important job of the human race.” For employees of the Adult Education Centers, helping individuals earn their high school equivalency is also a labor of love. The University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton operates adult education centers in Conway, Faulkner, Perry, and Van Buren counties. The adult education centers, a section of the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, provide GED preparation and testing, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, WAGE job readiness training, career readiness certificates, TABE skills assessment testing, and basic skills refresher courses, with most services free of charge. Since program year 2017-18, the centers have served more than 3,300 students with more than 300 earning their GED credential. Kim Darling serves as director of UACCM Adult Education, a position she has held since 2015. She first joined the college in 1994 and became the division chair for community education in 2010. When she became director of adult education, the program comprised centers in Morrilton and Perryville. Darling navigated the July 2017 expansion of the program into two additional counties and said absorbing the Clinton and Conway adult education programs was a task that required tremendous attention to detail. She stated, “My goal was to ensure that students in Clinton and Conway would experience a seamless transition into enrollment with the UACCM program, and I am pleased the merger process went extremely well.” Darling continued, “Any accomplishment a student achieves is a source of inspiration; each accomplishment is significant. As the program director, watching adult learners gain self-confidence and acquire new skills sets is rewarding to me. In addition, assembling a dynamic team of adult education employees that strives to help adult learners achieve their educational and career goals is my top priority.” Working in the field of adult education provides numerous sources of inspiration on a daily basis. The UACCM Adult Education program serves a vast array of adult learners between the ages of 18 and 70+ years of age. Each student has a unique story to share. While the backgrounds of students vary drastically, the students share common goals – to improve their basic academic skills and enhance their quality of life. The teachers and staff of the four UACCM Adult Education Centers are as diverse as the students. These employees strive to help adult students establish educational and career goals through not only academic instruction but also motivation, encouragement, and coaching. They empower their students by helping them identify and remove barriers to success. Denise Wells, administrative specialist at the Morrilton facility said, “I am thankful to work with each student who walks through our doors. Being a GED graduate myself, I know how difficult and scary that first step can be. I feel that having been on the other side of the desk as a former GED student, I can relate to these individuals on a more personal level. I understand their fears and apprehensions better than most.” Ashley Dickson, an administrative specialist and GED examiner at the Conway location, echoed Wells’ sentiments. Her favorite part of working in adult education is “getting to know individuals from all walks of life.” Amy Lawrence and Christy Koeth taught on the elementary, high school, and college levels in public school districts prior to joining UACCM Adult Education. Lawrence loved working with children but considers her time in the world of adult education as the most fulfilling. Koeth, the ESL teacher for Faulkner County, said she loves serving the ESL students. Another rewarding aspect of working in the field of adult education is helping 22 | 501 LIFE August 2021

Since Kim Darling was appointed director of UACCM Adult Education in 2015, centers have been added in two additional counties.

adults explore career clusters and identify career pathways that will allow them to advance toward a chosen career field. Many students wish to upgrade their existing skill sets to prepare for better job opportunities that will provide a family-sustaining wage. Vicki Shadell is the SNAP Employment and Training case manager for Conway, Faulkner, Perry, and Van Buren counties. She has worked in nonprofit, government, and private sector management and training capacities for more than 30 years. Shadell assists members of SNAP households in gaining skills, training, work, or experience that will increase their ability to obtain regular employment. She considers helping others identify and reach their goals to be her favorite part of the job. Darling observed that for those who work in the field of adult education, the greatest rewards are often experienced during GED® graduation ceremonies. Watching students, their family members, and friends beam with pride on graduation day is a source of joy that words cannot explain. On July 16, the UACCM Adult Education program held a graduation ceremony for 123 individuals who completed their GED during the past two years. In addition to that accomplishment, 27 of the graduates qualify for UACCM’s GED Achievement Scholarship. This scholarship is a $1,000 tuition waiver per semester for GED graduates who scored in the top 10% on the GED exam statewide. Students must enroll in at least 12 hours their first semester at UACCM, and the scholarship is renewable for up to three additional semesters

based on their grade-point average. All GED graduates in Arkansas qualify for the GED Opportunity Scholarship that provides a tuition waiver for three credit hours at UACCM. This award allows students to take one college class and decide if they want to continue their education to the next level. The old adage, “The more you learn, the more you earn,” rings true when comparing salaries of high school graduates versus those with less than a high school diploma. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, GED and high school graduates earn an average of $8,000 more annually than those without a high school diploma. There are many other rewards that come with completing the GED credential: enhanced career opportunities; a greater sense of self-worth; and the increased security of providing for one’s family. Darling reflected, “The scope of the educational services we provide reaches far beyond the classroom. By helping adult learners succeed, the UACCM Adult Education program contributes to the success of our local communities. I believe local communities thrive when adult learners improve their level of education and acquire job readiness skills.” For the UACCM Adult Education team, there is great satisfaction in helping an adult learner reach his or her full potential. Seeing the smile on the face of a student who is heading to the next step, whether college or a career, is the ultimate reward. Working in the world of adult education isn’t just a job – it’s a true calling.

UACCM Adult Education Centers Morrilton & Perryville:

501.215.4904 Conway:

501.358.4299 Clinton:

501.745.5666 Individuals can begin classes any time of the year because they are self-paced. The GED exam has four sections and each one costs $4 to take. Services such as adult basic education classes, ESL and WAGE are free of charge.

August 2021 | 23

SEARCY NEIGHBORS Youth of the Month

Searcy youth overcomes cancer, looks forward to college By Donna Lampkin Stephens


Photo courtesy of Kim Boyd at Zoe photography

24 | 501 LIFE August 2021

robably more than most of us, Briley Waddill of Searcy is looking forward to an uneventful school year. She hasn’t had many of those lately. Waddill, 18, a May graduate of Harding Academy who is headed to Harding University to study business, had her eighth-grade experience interrupted by cancer. During her treatment, she spent her freshman year keeping up with her studies from home, returning to campus as a sophomore. Her junior year was marred by COVID-19. Her senior year, too, was marked by the pandemic’s aftermath. “I think it’s going to be cool,” she said of the immediate future. “It’s going to be nice to get out and do stuff that’s normal and be able to fully participate in things I’ve always wanted to do.” After all she’s been through, she deserves the opportunity. While running track for the junior high Wildcats in the spring of 2017, she noticed a painful bump beneath her left knee. “It gradually got bigger and more painful,” she said. “After about two weeks, we went to the doctor, and then we hopped around from doctor to doctor. Several were saying it was something not concerning at all. It was probably about a month before I got a diagnosis. That diagnosis was osteosarcoma — a type of bone cancer that begins in the cells that form bones. According to, osteosarcoma, which typically occurs in teens and young adults, is most often found in the long bones. Waddill underwent three kinds of chemotherapy, often requiring stays at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. After the six months of chemo, she had an eight-hour surgery for a full knee and partial tibia replacement. After that, she was stuck in a straight leg brace and couldn’t bend the knee for six weeks, which led to muscle atrophy and having to learn to walk again. But with the help of a physical therapist, she has gone from 30 degrees range of motion to 130. “I’m almost fully recovered,” she said. “I don’t have a noticeable limp — they told me I would — so that’s good.” Betsy Dawson of Little Rock, a friend of Waddill’s aunt, provided local support during the Little Rock hospital stays.

The girls from Briley's entire class loaded up on a school bus to pay the tribute to Briley on her birthday.

“It was an opportunity for my son at a really young age to see someone going through something his little brain couldn’t comprehend, but he knew it was bad, and he saw her go through it with a smile on her face,” Dawson said. “I was there a lot through some of the not-so-good days, but from my vantage point, she always had a positive attitude and was an example of resilience to my young son that has stuck with him. “He got to see someone suffer well. It impacted him. I’m thankful for those experiences. She taught me a lot about bravery and courage and facing things with a positive attitude that I don’t know that I would’ve had.” During the treatment and recovery, Waddill became an online student long before the rest of the world. “It was the start of the fourth quarter (of eighth grade), and I started ninth grade completely at my own pace,” she said. “I ended up finishing the majority of that (schoolwork) the summer before heading back to school to start 10th grade.” Making her situation more complicated was the fact that she’d been at Harding Academy less than a year before her diagnosis, having moved with her family from Houston, Texas. “The smaller school did a good job sending me cards, and all the girls in my grade came to see me on a bus on my birthday,” she said. “On my weeks off from treatment when I was home, I had to be careful, but I could see people as long as they weren’t sick. “I had left Houston, the only place I’d known, and come to a small

town I didn’t think I’d like. But having that kind of support was nothing I would’ve ever had in Houston. The timing turned out to be perfect.” Afterward, her athletic career was over, but that was OK, too. “I did sports, but I was never a die-hard athlete,” she said. She turned instead to chorus, musicals, and smaller ensembles — unsurprising since her parents, Doug and Rochelle Waddill, were music majors at Harding University. “Those were really good,” she said. “I’d always been in chorus in elementary, but I never thought I would do it long-term. But I enjoyed it. I’m hoping to be in chorus at Harding.” Plans are for her business major to help toward her goal of a career in business law. Based on her experiences, what advice does she have for other 501 youth? “Learn to appreciate every moment you’re given because you never know when it could be taken away,” she said. “Especially with last year and COVID, I’m sure everyone has seen the truth of this mentality, but I still have to remind myself of it sometimes. It’s all too easy to get wrapped in your own head, but it’s so necessary to take a step back to appreciate where we are, what we have, and how far we’ve come.” That’s good advice for all of us.

GO AHEAD. GET AHEAD. Register Now for Fall Classes

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August 2021 | 25


For the

of a child

Julie Gorman to perform in Little Rock's Dancing with Our Stars to support friend Zayden By Dwain Hebda


n many ways, Julie Gorman and Phaylan Davis are very different people. Gorman, a pharmacist who lives in Conway with her husband, Tim, sports a personality that matches the volume and manic energy of their two rambunctious boys. Davis, a single mother of one, lives in Vilonia and works as a teacher. Quieter by nature, she’s slower to put herself into the spotlight. But in one way that is absolutely essential, the two women are of one accord - they love a little boy named Zayden. Davis’ son is her whole heart and the very breath of life itself. And, he’s the guardian angel for the vivacious Gorman who’s dedicated herself to battling a disease which has already complicated the 6-yearold's existence. It’s a relationship among the three that’s so powerful, the mere mention of it loosens the floodgates of emotion in the two mothers, now fast friends. “Julie has been,” Davis began, the thorny words sticking and dragging their way out of her throat. “Basically, having gone through what we went through, the moment that we met her was when I needed someone more than ever. To know that there’s this wonderful little lady out there that just loves my little boy like her own and that her purpose and drive and passion is to help my little boy means the world.” Gorman, her own composure tattering, added, “It’s very touching because I have healthy children and her child was not. And it was almost like – I don’t know. Like a little guilt, I guess. My children are healthy and this mom is going through such a tough time in her life. Just seeing Zayden and having my own children, who at that time were like three and six months or whatever, it was just an emotional thing for me.” Photo by Mike Kemp

During the 2019 Dancing with our Stars event, Gorman received the community service award and Zayden joined her on stage.

26 | 501 LIFE August 2021

Love, it is said, makes you do funny things, things you’d never otherwise consider doing. For Davis, that means agreeing to interviews and sharing the intensely private journey of Zayden’s health. Born with neurofibromatosis (NF), a complex genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow throughout the body with the potential to affect almost every organ system, the boy’s challenges came early in life. In year one, a tumor was discovered on his optic nerve, followed by another on the optic chiasm, where the optic nerves of both eyes intersect. Two weeks after his second birthday, Zayden began chemotherapy treatments that continued for a year. He’s also had 15 MRI scans and surgeries to date as a result of his condition. “Life has not been very easy for him,” said his mother, quietly. “He doesn’t let it affect him, though. If you ever get the opportunity to meet him, you’d never know he’s been through a lick of that, ever. Oh my gosh, he is so full of life. I could cry just saying that.” Gorman’s activities with the Children’s Tumor Foundation (CTF), a nonprofit that promotes awareness of the condition as well as raises funds for research, began with meeting her now-husband in 2010. Tim ran marathons as part of the Arkansas NF Endurance Team, which raised money and

the organization’s profile. Those events also set her on the path to ultimately meeting Zayden which inspired the former collegiate athlete to tackle an even bigger goal in 2016 – an Ironman triathlon – which would take 15 months of training. It was then that Lesley Oslica, president of the Arkansas CTF chapter, made a suggestion that would change Gorman’s life and drive the impact of the disease home as never before. “Lesley asked me, ‘Hey, would you like for Zayden to be your ambassador for your training?’” Gorman said. “An ambassador is someone that they assign to you, for lack of a better word, as someone that you do your miles for. Your running, your biking, whatever you're doing, you do it in honor of that person. “When I met Zayden and his mom, basically the real connection was made then. The official word is ‘ambassador,’ but what we really call them is, ‘That is your hero.’ So, that’s how it started.” As an ambassador, Zayden was Gorman’s mental poker, stoking her competitive fire and giving meaning to her training, which many athletes consider as tough or tougher than the race itself. Focusing on the little boy, the enormous challenge of the legendary triathlon paled in comparison. “Race day was the fun day; [the real

On Sept. 9, “Dancing With Our Stars” will be hosted by the Children’s Tumor Foundation in Little Rock. Local “stars” have been paired with a professional dance teacher and will perform at the annual fundraiser. In this photo from 2019, instructor Brian Earles danced with “Star” Alisha Curtis. For ticket information to Dancing with Our Stars or support Julie Gorman in the competition, visit get-involved/ctf-arkansas.

28 | 501 LIFE August 2021

challenge] was the mental aspect that it took to train day-in and day-out, shift my family around for three sports with two-a-day workouts and still be a mom,” Gorman said. “The whole entire time I was training, Zayden was going through chemo for his optic nerve tumor caused by the neurofibromatosis. “It became, ‘OK, if he can endure this and his family can endure this, then I can endure training for the next however many months, until I get on the start line.’” Gorman completed her Ironman in 2017 in Florida, a crowning accomplishment for her personally, but just a warm-up for what she wanted to do for NF patients. After running in a local race benefiting the CTF in 2018, she took on race director duties for the I Know a Fighter 5K in 2019, raising $18,000. She got a break in 2020 as everything shut down, emerging in 2021 with a new energy and a new challenge, Dancing With Our Stars. The annual CTF Arkansas benefit mimics the “Dancing With the Stars” television show, pairing contestants with a professional dance instructor. Gorman agreed to participate despite having zero dance experience. “There is none of that in my past. None. I’m the opposite of a dancer. I don’t know what they’re going to do with me,” she said. “My teacher is Brian Earles, he’s in Little Rock. He’s got his work cut out for him, bless his heart.” She laughs and then shrugs. “I’m just passionate for the foundation and if I’m able to do it and they want me to do it, then I’m going to try to help. I want to step out of my comfort zone and do something different. It’s a challenge. I’m good with being pushed out of my limits. Dancing is just two minutes. I’ve done an Ironman; I can do anything for two minutes.” Zayden is doing so well now you’d never know the path he’s walked. “Whenever Julie does her events or running, it’s for my little boy and that means the world. She has her own kids and they don’t have NF, but she thinks of my little boy,” Davis said. “For a parent, there’s so many ‘what-ifs’ and you’re always trying to make the best of things even when life’s not always the best and you can’t change the course of things. “To know there’s someone on your team fighting for your boy, fighting to raise money, fighting to find a cure, which is the only thing you hope for your child, you just can’t say anything nicer about a person than that.”

30 | 501 LIFE August 2021

Photo by Mike Kemp


Don Bingham

t's that time of year again - those last,

hopefully, hot days of summer and time to return to school. It's during these days we all endeavor to squeeze in that "last minute" retreat, getaway, steak cookout, or backyard party. These celebrations may materialize in many forms. Our celebration this year will take on the simple form of a Salad Supper Extravaganza! Where I grew up in Alabama, school

TEXAS CAVIAR 1 can black-eyed peas, drained 1 can hominy (white), drained 1 green pepper 2 tomatoes, chopped 1 red onion, chopped 1/2 cup parsley, chopped

2 jalapenos, chopped 3 garlic cloves, chopped 1 package Zesty Italian Dressing (Follow directions on back, includes red wine vinegar, olive oil and water.)

Mix ingredients together and serve.

did not start until the day after Labor Day and was most generally celebrated with barbecue, smoked and sold by the pound, prepared by the local Kiwanis, Rotary or Lions Club. Those wonderful aromas and flavors can still remind me of those culinary back-to-school signs of what was coming.


with entertaining spaces large enough

1/3 to 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds 1/4 cup wine vinegar 1 small garlic clove 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard salt and freshly ground pepper

for the entire family of 23, including 12


Our small, but completely landscaped garden-style backyard is the perfect place for the late afternoon summer party

grandchildren! One of the most refreshing meals that is easily prepared without heating the kitchen is that of a salad buffet. It will include salad choices for any palate, and all ingredients are available at the local grocery store. The Cold Beef Salad is one of our favorites. The vinaigrette is flavorful, the meat is hearty, and serves as an entrée supported by the other salads. We have included some of the salad that will appear on the Salad Supper Extravaganza for your enjoyment. Included is also a simple but great yeast bread to add that Italian-like breadstick for all to enjoy.

Recognized throughout the state as an accomplished chef, Don Bingham has authored cookbooks, presented television programs and planned elaborate events.

2 heads of Bibb or Boston lettuce, separated into leaves 2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, sliced into thin strips, and rubbed with lemon juice 6 fresh mushrooms, stemmed and sliced 3 small green onions, minced 1/2 cup canned white corn, well-drained 1/3 cup coarsely chopped salted cashews cherry tomatoes (garnish) For Dressing: Combine all ingredients in a processor or blender and mix until smooth. Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate. Let set at room temperature 1 hour before using. Dressing can be prepared one day ahead and refrigerated. For Salad: Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter. Fan avocado slices evenly over lettuce. Sprinkle slices with mushrooms, green onion, corn, and cashews. Cover and refrigerate. Just before serving, sprinkle each salad lightly with dressing. Garnish with tomatoes.

COLD BEEF SALAD Bake or grill 1 ½ cups beef strips. Slice a red onion into rounds. Wash cherry tomatoes and set all aside


1 tablespoon sugar 1 teaspoon dry mustard 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper Dash of paprika 1 tablespoon horseradish 1/2 teaspoon grated onion With an electric mixer at medium speed, slowly add 2/3 cup salad oil, a small amount at a time, alternately with 1/3 cup of white wine vinegar. Chill thoroughly. Toss beef strips in the dressing, then arrange them, cherry tomatoes, and onion rings on romaine lettuce greens.

PIZZA BREADSTICKS 1 package yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon granulated sugar 1 teaspoon salt 2/3 cup warm water 3 cups flour Dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes. In a bowl, put olive oil, sugar, salt, and water. Add yeast mixture. Beat in flour 1 cup at a time. Dough will be stiff. Knead 5 minutes. Let rest for 30 minutes. Punch down. Stretch dough into a rectangle, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with dried parsley. Bake until golden. Cool and cut into finger wedges.

Find Don’s recipe for Rice and Vegetable Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette, at August 2021 | 31


f you’re a brand-new parent, or even if you’ve been one for a little while, you’re no doubt filled with the many joys your child brings you. But as caught up as you are with the feelings and experiences of today, you also need to think about the future – specifically, the financial issues that accompany a growing family. What are some of the key moves you need to make?

Here’s “checklist” to consider: Establish a budget.

If you’re going to meet the additional expenses of a child, plus make progress toward other objectives, such as paying down debts, you’ll need to know where your money is going. Setting a budget, and sticking to it, may seem difficult, but once you’ve gotten into the habit, it will become easier – and for many people, following a budget actually gives them more of a sense of control over their finances. Over time, expenses related to your children will change, so you’ll need to adjust your budget accordingly – for example, once a child is in school full-time, childcare expenses may drop, which could allow you to boost your savings.

Protect against the unexpected.

If something were to happen to you, how would your child, or children, be affected? Even a family with two working parents can face serious financial difficulties if one of the parents were to die prematurely, or even just drop out of the workforce temporarily due to illness or injury. To help ensure your family could still stay in your home and your children could still afford to pursue higher education, you’ll want to create an appropriate protection strategy involving both life and disability insurance. Your employer may offer both, but the coverage provided may not be sufficient for your needs, so you may need to purchase your own policies. And here’s another protection-related idea: Try to build an emergency fund containing three to six months’ worth of living expenses, with the money held in a low-risk, liquid account. Without such a fund, you might have to tap into your longer-term investments to pay unexpected costs, such as a major car repair.

Prepare for high cost of higher education. You may already be thinking about sending your child to college. And it is indeed a good

idea to start planning early because college is expensive, and it’s getting more so every year. However, you can prepare for these expenses through a college-savings vehicle, such as a 529 plan. A financial professional can help you pick the investment, or investment strategy, that’s appropriate for your needs. But whatever route you decide to follow, you won’t want to wait until your child is close to college age.

Keep long-term goals in mind.

Even while planning for the costs associated with raising a child, including saving for college, you can’t forget your other long-term goals. It isn’t selfish to build resources for your own retirement – in fact, you’ll ultimately be helping your family greatly by taking steps to maintain your financial independence throughout your life. So, during your working years, try to consistently contribute as much as you can afford to your IRA and your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan. Having a child is obviously a life-changing event, and one with considerable financial challenges – but they can be manageable if you make the right moves at the right times.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. Edward Jones, Member SIPC

32 | 501 LIFE August 2021

August 2021 | 33

Feeling their way through Helping students manage stress as they head back to the classroom By Stefanie Brazile

A teacher works with a student who is receiving extra support to help with anxiety and stress.


he pandemic has taken a toll on people’s sense of safety and security and on their mental wellbeing. Even though it’s common to hear the phrase “kids are resilient,” mental healthcare professionals are speaking out about the effects that the COVID-19 virus has had on children and youth. At first glance, one might think that kids were glad to stay home and learn, but licensed clinical social worker Amanda G. Owens offers a different perspective. “Many kids are resilient, but they crave structure,” said Owens, a program coordinator for several school-based programs in the 501. “With the quarantine, the routines that kids were accustomed to — those that made them feel safe, such as getting up at a certain time, getting ready for school, as well as their set times for school subjects, recess and lunch — were gone. “While the change was fun at first for some, for many kids, school is their safe place. It’s where they feel loved. It’s where they know what to expect. With that gone came increased anxiety, fear and depression.” Besides a predictable routine, students benefit from the traditional aspects of school like personal interactions with teachers, hands-on learning, and social interaction with peers. These benefits could not be achieved through virtual learning, according to Owens. “We saw many kids who no longer had any form of socialization,” Owens said. “They did not leave their homes for months. While some older kids had online interaction with peers, not all had that luxury, and most of the younger children did not have any interaction with anyone outside of their home.” For many children, this halted social development has made returning to the classroom stressful. Owens said that parents and guardians can be proactive and supportive to students by being present and showing love and support. “Open communication is very important in families,” she said. “It allows children to have a voice for their thoughts, questions and 34 | 501 LIFE August 2021

concerns. It allows the parents to provide a loving and supportive environment for their child’s voice to be heard, the opportunity for parents to gain their child’s insight to the virus, and to correct any misinformation the child may have gotten from peers or other sources.” She encourages adults to ask the student how they are feeling and to realize that sometimes they don’t know what they’re feeling. “They just know they feel ‘different’ than normal.” Owens anticipates that students will have a mixture of emotions as they head back to school. They may be sad to leave Mom or Dad during the day but excited to see peers and favorite teachers. At the same time, they may feel anxious about possibly being exposed to the virus. While these emotions are normal, if a child has physical complaints, is vomiting or is crying inconsolably, she encourages adults to reach out to the school counselor or a mental health provider. Other behaviors that indicate the child is overwhelmed can include withdrawal, anger, aggression, lack of interest in their usual activities, change in appetite, change in sleep patterns, and any sort of dangerous or destructive behavior. For teens, one could see self-destructive behavior such as drug or alcohol use, reckless driving, and toxic relationships. “Watch for any change in their usual behavior or demeanor,” she said. “Do not be afraid to talk to your children or teens about the changes you’re noticing and be supportive of wanting to hear them if they want to talk.” If a parent feels that a child needs more support than they can give, they can reach out to the child’s teacher, school counselor, church, or primary care physician. These professionals can point the parent to resources. In many communities, there are free and lowcost resources available. Learn more about psychiatric, behavioral, emotional and spiritual health in Arkansas at

August 2021 | 35

Photos courtesy of Arkansas PBS 2018 Arkansas Teacher of the Year Courtney Cochran

Rising to the challenge Arkansas PBS organized dozens of staff members, as well as freelance producers, artists and educators across the state, to create "Rise and Shine."


By Stefanie Brazile

eeping students learning at a normal pace during the pandemic was a huge challenge for educators. The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) looked for innovative means to reach kids at home and came up with a plan to partner with Arkansas PBS. The two organizations had worked together during the final eight weeks of the 2020 school year to develop an at-home learning option called Arkansas AMI, or alternative methods of instruction, so joining forces again to create “Rise and Shine” was an obvious fit. Arkansas PBS was asked to expand upon AMI and give students in kindergarten through fifth grade an entertaining reason to tune in each weekday morning and boost their summer learning. “We were thrilled to collaborate with the Arkansas Department of Education and partners across the state to bring an essential summer learning experience,” Arkansas PBS Education Director Sajni Kumpuris said. Providing a grant to the award-winning network was a natural choice because they have licensed educators, writers and producers on staff, along with the equipment and ability to broadcast on one of four TV channels. “We are proud to be partnering with Arkansas PBS and other great community partners to do what we can to help our students reinforce and retain academic milestones during the summer,” said Johnny Key, secretary of the ADE. Arkansas PBS was approached by the department with a grant that would give them the opportunity to expand upon the quality programming the network had developed in 2020. They wanted to use that content as the foundation to build upon, but with more

36 | 501 LIFE August 2021

time to fill it out and help young students this summer, according to Kumpuris. “Rise and Shine” consists of national PBS KIDS programs, as well as 101 hours of high-quality content that was largely written and produced at the Arkansas PBS studio on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas. The free programs began airing from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on July 6, and will continue running in this slot on weekdays until Aug. 13. The idea is to reach students who do not have internet access outside of school and the station is also expanding transmitter coverage with funds awarded by the Arkansas CARES Act Steering Committee. A team of nearly 100 people worked on “Rise and Shine.” It began with curriculum specialists studying the learning targets that the ADE wanted taught. Elizabeth Rollans, manager of curriculum and instruction at Arkansas PBS, translated those expectations to the team. “We were given the ‘Back to School Playbook’ of essential curriculum standards,” Rollans said. Presented by Secretary Key in 2020, the “Playbook” was compiled by around 130 educators and identifies skills that students missed when the state’s schools closed in March 2020. One unique aspect of “Rise and Shine” is that Arkansas PBS invited Arkansas Teachers of the Year from the past six years to create lessons and teach them on camera, with some help from puppets, music, animation and guests to make the lessons more engaging. “While the teachers were in studio being taped for segments, we asked them to look at these learning targets and develop their lessons for ‘on-camera’ based on those,” Rollans said.

Corey Womack, lead writer/producer, said that some of the learning targets were outside what the teachers would address in their segments. “There were topics like healthy eating, earth science and basic physical science lessons that gave the production team (writers and producers) the ability to flex our creative muscles,” he said. “We created five short series of cartoons and puppets — we’ve created a whole new slew of characters that are helping cover these targets.” The core team of around 30 people at Arkansas PBS met and brainstormed ways to keep youngsters engaged while hitting key goals each day. Levi Agee, director of production, said that Arkansas PBS Executive Director Courtney Pledger reminded the team about Sesame Street’s short segments that taught a letter or shape. “We created many interstitials, or short sequences, that are 10 minutes or less and connect to some learning target goal,” Agee said. “Basically, they become these short films that talk about science, math, reading or dance/movement — all these sorts of things that have this creative expression. So, we’ve got a segment called Robbie Rocket and it’s a gorgeous animation of a little rocket that flies around and tries to find a home planet to land on. The animation was all done locally, which is kind of fantastic. It’s a little minute of this sci-fi adventure that teaches gravity and sizes of planets and things like that. I would have been in heaven to have this as a kid, so now we get to make this all within Arkansas, which, to me, shows the richness of creativity that we have here.” The team leaders brought in more than 60 people to work with them. “This is the first time that I’ve worked on something that I think will

A COMPLETE CONTINUUM of CARE From theraputic day treatment for Kindergarten through 12th grade to psychiatric residential treatment centers, therapeutic group homes, school-based counseling services, to Methodist Behavioral Hospital for children 3 to 17 – and more – Arkansas children and families have counted on the care of Methodist Family Health for over 120 years. Call 501-803-3388, 866-813-3388 toll free

August 2021 | 37

“It’s a huge, huge door opener for not only the kids who get to watch this, but the creatives in Arkansas.” - Levi Agee, director of production

2020 Arkansas Teacher of the Year Joel Lookadoo

change the face of how filmmakers and producers get involved,” Agee said. “This is such a growing, impactful television station, and now we’re giving a house to more and more of the creatives in Arkansas, and now people are saying, ‘I want to come work with you. I saw this cool animation on TV.’ “It’s a huge, huge door opener for not only the kids who get to watch this, but the creatives in Arkansas.” The project started in April and filming began the second week of June. To fill in gaps, Rollans hired four additional educators. One person consulted on math and science, and special educators with training in teaching literacy were also added. Her team broke down what had to be taught and passed that on to the writers. Womack and others then wrote interesting content that could compete with other TV programs during the same time slot. Arkansas PBS producers had to ensure the writers’ vision was carried out. They also got to build on that creativity. “You’ve got to realize that most TV programs have a lead time of six-months to a year, but the team turned it around in two months,” Agee said. “I think that’s because of the sheer passion of all of the individuals on our team. We really care. Not all of us have kids, but we were once kids who watched ‘Mister Rogers Neighborhood’ or ‘Bill Nye the Science Guy,’ so everyone in the building has had that emotional connection to help the next generation.” Besides being introduced to new characters, animations, music and puppets, “Rise and Shine” viewers also go on 32 five-minute

“field trips” to unique buildings and locations around the state like the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro and the Toltec Mounds outside Little Rock. In addition to broadcasts, which will continue through the second week of August, most of the programming will be available indefinitely on-demand on and at “Arkansas educators can know that all of this content aligns with ADE academic standards,” Womack said. “They have access to, a powerhouse of free classroom resources, and they’ll know it’s worry-free.” Another bonus that Rollans’ team created are six Power Packets, which are colorful, bilingual workbooks that extend each week’s lessons. More than 6,000 copies have been mailed or delivered to area food banks and other places that reach economically challenged children. The colorful books can also be requested or downloaded from The outstanding work of Arkansas PBS was recognized at the start of this year by the National Education Telecommunications Association, which awarded them five Public Media Awards — the most for any network competing. Two of those awards were Overall Excellence in Education and Overall Excellence in Community Engagement. The team’s work on “Rise and Shine” continues to reinforce why their work was recognized on a national level.

Arkansas PBS organized dozens of staff members, as well as freelance producers, artists and educators across the state, to create "Rise and Shine."

38 | 501 LIFE August 2021

August 2021 | 39

Look what's cooking at Conway Regional By John Patton

Chef Mike Robichaud brings restaurant quality to hospital food.


ne of the many things that Mike Robichaud appreciates about Conway is the small-town vibe. When Robichaud accepted the position of director of Food and Nutritional Services at Conway Regional Medical Center, his friends began a flurry of activity, calling his phone and reaching out on social media. “Conway Regional is a big part of the community and some of them had been wanting me to work here for a while,” said Robichaud, a 20-year Conway resident. Robichaud is known for bringing restaurant style food to the hospital setting. 40 | 501 LIFE August 2021

It just so happened that he joined Conway Regional during the COVID-19 pandemic when the general public could not access the hospital cafeteria. Robichaud recruited staff from some of his previous food ventures and introduced them to an existing group of enthusiastic staff. “It’s nice to start with some people who have worked with me before and know the standards. The existing individuals who were already here saw the vision and bought in. I started on a Wednesday and by Monday we flipped it to more of a restaurant style. If everybody had not been on board, it

wouldn’t have worked,” said Robichaud. He defers the credit to his team. “It’s not me; it’s we.” Accolades began pouring in as Robichaud changed menus and recipes and restructured how the food was prepared. One of his first changes was to adopt a more gradual cooking process: “cook less, more often.” He explained, “We start with a couple of pans, then we cook some more, and we cook some more. In this way, everything stays fresh. The person coming in at one o’clock isn’t getting the food that was cooked at 9 a.m. That’s a big deal.” His team also

“I want this to be an upstanding, modern style eatery. I still want to wow people.” - Chef Mike Robichaud does more “scratch cooking” and relies less on pre-prepared dishes. The Nutrition Services team is also working on patient food to enhance the quality and choices of the food being delivered to patients. “Working with Clinical Nutrition Manager Jennifer Turner, we are developing an exciting new menu featuring fresh veggies and more upscale entrees,” Robichaud added. He has also changed how food is delivered to the patient floors at Conway Regional Medical Center by initiating a Nutrition Ambassadors program in which warm, fresh food is personally delivered to each patient. He is continuing to upscale the menu for staff and visitors by changing the Mexican food recipes to be more authentic, introducing Cajun foods like fried alligator, hibachi style Asian foods, and adding more seafood options. Each Wednesday, Robichaud has started a “Chef’s Table” during which he and Jon Russell, a sous-chef whom Robichaud recruited, answer questions from Conway Regional staff and visitors and prepare fresh menu items such as cob or strawberry salads or carve meats. “It’s a way to meet people and answer any questions they have about what we are doing,” said Robichaud. “The pandemic took away the salad bar, so we’ve been preparing some fresh salads out there, as well.” Robichaud added, “I get a lot of compliments on our move away from frozen vegetables and toward using fresh vegetables. It’s that restaurant mentality. That’s what we are: we’re a restaurant inside of a hospital, and that’s what the people deserve.” His most recent food theme was developed around Cinco De Mayo, featuring huevos rancheros for breakfast; burritos, enchiladas, rice, and beans for lunch; empanadas, mini tacos and crispitos on the grill

line; and a steak, chicken, and shrimp fajita bar. The attraction also included a live mariachi band in the cafeteria. “Doctors were stopping me in hallway complimenting me on the food,” he said. “I probably got a dozen emails that day.” Again, Robichaud defers the praise to the Nutrition Services team. “It’s nice to be appreciated but it’s not me. We have to work together and that’s happening. It’s a great environment to be a part of.”


After returning from military service, Robichaud began a 24-year food service career. “I was working at Waffle House and discovered that I loved it. I kept moving on to different types of restaurants,” said Robichaud. “I did the business side first and I learned about presentation and food quality from the chefs I hired.” While he concedes that he watches Food Network shows to learn about trends in food preparation, Robichaud said, “I’m not a TV chef. I just try to make food that people like and do it the right way.” Mike Robichaud and his wife, Erica, have lived in Conway since 2001 and have raised four children here. The oldest son, Corey, is in the US Navy and the oldest daughter, Callie, is a travel nurse who is caring for people with COVID-19. The two youngest sons are Carson, who plays in the Conway High School band, and Colton, who plays football for Conway Junior High School. What does the future hold? Eventually Robichaud wants to work with local farmers to add a market site at Conway Regional with a mobile kitchen for cooking demonstrations. With an eye on the future, he said, “I want this to be an upstanding, modern style eatery. I want people to know that we are continuing to get better. I still want to wow people.”

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August 2021 | 41


Photo courtesy of Mike Harris



Cayden and Paxton Wallace say family is key to baseball success By Donna Lampkin Stephens

42 | 501 LIFE August 2021

Photo courtesy of Willie Schwanke - Wichita State Athletics


aseball parents seeking role models for success need look no further than Mike and Christy Wallace of Wooster. Their sons, Paxton and Cayden, are among today’s elite players. Paxton, 22, played three years at Wichita State and left last month after signing with the Los Angeles Angels. Cayden, 19, was named a Freshman All-American recently after his first season at Arkansas. “Baseball is a game of life,” said Mike, a two-time All-Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference quarterback for Harold Horton’s University of Central Arkansas football team in the late 1980s. “It teaches you that to be the best, you have to work harder than everybody else. It teaches you that things don’t always go your way, and it teaches life isn’t always fair, but you keep giving it your all every day.” While Paxton, who’d been plagued by injuries, wasn’t taken in the Major League Baseball draft, he quickly got a call afterward from the Angels wanting to sign him as a free agent. “I’m so excited for my brother,” Cayden said. “He deserves everything that’s coming his way. He’s worked hard, and I couldn’t be more happy for him. He deserves it.” Christy said the boys grew up playing back-yard baseball with the neighborhood kids. “They have worked out and practiced together their whole lives until Paxton left for college,” she said. “COVID-19 gave them the opportunity to train and work together again. They are truly best friends.” But baseball isn’t the family’s ultimate aim. “We want our boys to be great ball players, but we want them to be even better people,” Mike said.

Paxton (on left) and younger brother, Cayden, have loved baseball from a young age.

Brothers at the bat continued on page 44

Cayden (from left), Mike, Christy and Paxton Wallace, of Wooster, value family above sports.

Brothers continued from page 43 Mike Wallace came to UCA from tiny Gillett and was a four-year letterman from 1986-90 during one of the most successful runs in Bear football history. There he met Christy, from Greenbrier. After graduation, they married and Mike began his career with Farm Bureau. Eventually, they settled near her family in Wooster. Cayden remembers loving baseball while watching his brother’s tee-ball games. “I was like 2, and after every one of his games, I would want to go hit or throw or take grounders on the field,” he said. Christy remembers her younger son standing with his glove and hat during Paxton’s games, pretending to play. “When they finished, Mike would get out and throw some with him on the field,” she said. “He couldn’t wait to get out there.” Mike coached his sons in tee ball but realized early on that he needed to get them a coach who could help them more than he could. “Joe Fitts and Andy Menard really helped develop them as players,” she said. “They taught them the importance of the mental side of the game and how to handle failure at an early age.” Mike said it was hard to say which brother is better. “It depends on the day,” he said. “They both love the game. They love the practices, the training and everything about the game. They both respect the game and are very humble boys. The main difference is the path they have taken to get to where they are today. Paxton has been dealt some injuries, and he has taught us a lot on how to overcome adversity. You can’t knock the kid down — he just gets back up and works harder. He always has a smile and a great attitude no matter what life throws at him.” Paxton was the first Wallace to star for Greenbrier High School 44 | 501 LIFE August 2021

and was on the bubble to be drafted out of high school in 2017. Instead, he went to Wichita State. After battling through injuries and the COVID-19 disruption, in 2021 he hit .322 with 67 hits (including 11 doubles and 11 home runs) and 49 RBIs. He graduated this spring with a degree in Sports Management. “He’s got the best attitude,” Christy said. “He never let it get him down. He’s been through a lot of adversity, and he overcomes everything that comes his way.” Paxton said he thought overcoming all the challenges had helped him be “so mentally strong” this year. Cayden also starred for Greenbrier and committed to Arkansas in 2017. In a normal 2020, he would have likely had a decision to make with the MLB draft, but the COVID-19 year wreaked havoc on baseball along with everything else. “He didn’t have a bad option either way,” Christy said. His All-American stats this spring included a team-high 67 hits, including 14 home runs, and 44 RBIs while batting .279. He said the All-America honor had been a goal all year. “But honestly, I just wanted to help my team the best I could and however I could help us go the farthest,” he said. Like his brother, Cayden is majoring in Sports Management. Like his brother, he’ll expect a call during a future MLB draft. The bond the boys share is obvious. “My brother has influenced me big time, definitely my biggest influence,” Cayden said. “He’s a great role model on and off the field. He has a great attitude all the time, through the ups and downs. Seeing how he responds has been big to me, how hard he works. He’s just a great leader and role model and brother. We’re like best

friends.” Paxton returned the compliments. He’s very much an elite player,” the older brother said. “I’m beyond proud of him. This is what we’ve worked for our whole life. He’s taken the next step, and I’m so pumped for him.” And, of course, the sibling angle has added to the dynamic. “It pushes me to get better,” Paxton said. “The cool thing is we get to push each other every day. We’re just shaping our craft together.” Christy said the way they handle failure is among their strengths. “In baseball, you fail every day,” she said. “It’s how you handle that failure that molds and makes you. Even if you have a bad day, you can still be the best teammate and encourage others. They understand that baseball doesn’t define them. God has a plan for them each and every day, and they just need to get up and give it their best every day. “Faith, family and friends are the most important things.” Cayden, who spent the summer playing with other college players in the Cape Cod league, said their parents raised them in a positive atmosphere. “Even on bad days at games, even outside sports,” he said. “They raised me and my brother to be more focused on God than baseball. They’ve led by example. We couldn’t have asked for better parents.” Paxton said Mike and Christy were due the majority of the credit for their sons’ success. “They’re a great example of raising two Christian kids,” he said. “That’s a big part of our lives. They planted that as we were growing up, and it’s made us who we are today. They’ve dedicated their lives to doing whatever we need to be successful. I can’t thank them enough.”

Photo courtesy of Mike Harris

Top: Paxton was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels last month Bottom: Caydent has spent his summer playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League in Massachusetts.

Mike and Christy Wallace advice for sports families: “Don’t let baseball stats and results determine your mood and attitude toward your kids. Joe Fitts taught us the 24 hour rule — you don’t talk baseball with your kids for 24 hours after a game. That way you lose any negative thoughts or words you might have had for your kids after the game.”

Energy Smart Homes C

Beth Jimmerson A long-time Conway resident, Beth McCullough Jimmerson is the manager for marketing and communications for Conway Corp. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas. She can be reached at beth.jimmerson@

46 | 501 LIFE August 2021

onway Corp’s Energy Smart program is one of the many ways we’re balancing increasing demands for electricity with our commitment to providing affordable rates while enhancing the quality of life for our friends and neighbors. We’re dedicated to making homes in Conway energy efficient, and that’s why we created the Energy Smart New Home Program to recognize builders who implement efficiency construction and equipment measures. Recognized builders adhere to stringent construction guidelines, and Energy Smart Homes are proven by the U.S. Department of Energy to be 20 to 30 percent more energy efficient than a standard built home. Energy Smart Homes combine state-of-the-art energy-efficient construction, windows, appliances and lighting to reduce home energy use as cost-effectively as possible. Energy Smart Homes save energy and money, while being more comfortable and durable. Homebuyers should consider the benefits of a Conway Corp Energy Smart Home when looking for a new home. Energy Smart Homes perform better for the homeowner and the environment thanks to a variety of features including insulation, high-performance windows, tight construction and ducts and efficient heating and cooling equipment. All homes that receive the Energy Smart designation are independently audited by a Conway Corp energy professional to ensure proper construction and guidelines have been followed.

Energy Smart Home Features Effective Insulation – Properly installed insulation in floors, walls and attics ensure even temperatures throughout the house while reducing energy use. High-Performance/Low-E Windows – Energy– efficient windows employ advanced technologies such as protective coatings and improved frames to help keep heat in during the winter and out during the summer while blocking ultraviolet sunlight that can discolor carpet and furnishings. Tight Construction and Ducts – A tightly sealed home

improves comfort and indoor air quality, while lowering utility and maintenance costs. At the same time, sealing holes and cracks in a home’s envelope and in the heating and cooling duct systems reduces drafts, moisture, dust, pollen and noise.

High-Efficiency Heating & Cooling Equipment –

Energy-efficient, properly installed heating and cooling systems use less energy and save money. In addition, they’re quieter, reduce indoor humidity and improve the overall comfort of the home.

High-Efficiency Lighting and Appliances - Energy Smart Homes are also equipped with Energy STAR qualified products like light fixtures, fluorescent bulbs, ventilation fans and appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers and washing machines that reduce overall energy use in the home.

Low-Flow Water Products – Products like

energy efficient.

Energy Smart Home Benefits

Smart Home is certified by a Conway Corp energy professional to verify its energy performance and ensure it meets energyefficiency standards.

low-flow shower heads and toilets conserve water and reduce utility costs.

Energy Savings – Not all homes are energy

efficient. Many builders claim their homes are energy efficient, but Energy Smart Builders have the certification to back it up.

Lower Ownership Cost – Compared to standard-built homes, Energy Smart Homes use substantially less energy, and energyefficient homes deliver $300 to $400 in annual savings on energy bills. Over the average seven to eight years a homeowner stays in a home, that adds up to thousands of dollars saved on utility bills. Comfort – Properly installed energy-

efficient improvements deliver better protection against cold, heat, drafts, moisture, pollution and noise. Energy Smart Homes ensure consistent temperatures between and across rooms, improved indoor air quality and greater durability.

Peace of Mind – Home buying is complex enough without having to know all the details of energy-efficient construction. An Energy Smart Home easily identifies that it is truly

Independent Testing – Every Energy

Smart Investment – Today, everyone is concerned about managing energy costs. Homebuyers who purchase an Energy Smart Home can be confident it will have highlyvalued features when the time comes to sell. Conway Corp is proud to work with local builders to ensure homebuyers have high-quality, energy-efficient options for homeowners in Conway. Our professionals work with more than 25 companies in the city, including Rush-Hal Building Management that was recently named Conway Corp’s 2020 Energy Smart Builder of the Year. Rush-Hal Properties built more than 30 Energy Smart Homes in 2020 and have additional homes under construction for 2021 that will meet the Energy Smart specifications. Look for the Energy Smart sign in front of Rush-Hal properties and other Conway builders for homes that are certified energy-efficient. Customers interested in learning more about Energy Smart homes or builders interested in building Energy Smart homes can call 501.450.6000 or visit ConwayCorp. com/EnergySmart.

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Photos by Mike Kemp

A Fair Share

Legenia Spiller-Bearden and her daughter, Angelina, utilize Share Grounds facilities to create her Sincerely Legenia Keto Spice Blends.

Share Grounds helps entrepreneurs move from home kitchen to store shelves


f you’ve ever mastered a dish or dessert – say, your Granny’s heirloom cinnamon rolls or a top-secret barbecue sauce – chances are you’ve toyed with the idea of taking the product to the masses. Maybe you’ve even heard from friends and colleagues who have sampled your cooking that you’ve got a sure winner on your hands. But those who have given it a go will tell you – having a winning recipe is just the very tip of a massive entrepreneurial iceberg. The real work lies in addressing the millions of details that come with moving from your personal kitchen to a commercial operation. Labeling, scaling up recipes, materials costs and hiring packaging personnel, all must be done without breaking the bank. Share Grounds, a new program offered 48 | 501 LIFE August 2021

By Dwain Hebda through the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, was created to help Arkansas’s food entrepreneurs do just that. “If you want to create a food business, you have to understand safety, regulations, what your recipe is, [and] make sure it’s quality,” said Amanda Perez, U of A System Division of Agriculture assistant professor and a specialist in food systems and safety in Little Rock. “We help people manage risk by helping them figure out if their idea is feasible.” Share Grounds does this by providing facilities and expertise that are equal parts food lab, classroom and production space. Perez, the architect of the program, has been working toward such a program for the past decade and leading formal planning efforts

for more than two years. “We focused most of our efforts on getting a facility set up as a manufacturing plant,” she said. “The university opened a food innovation center on campus to help small businesses get things off the ground and it’s been very successful, but it’s at capacity.” Replicating the food innovation center was a steep challenge for the organization. Perez said building from the ground up was prohibitively expensive and many existing buildings lacked amenities such as cold storage or sufficient access. Ultimately, the solution for these issues came from an unexpected source. “If you want to build a food manufacturing facility, you may need to spend a couple million dollars to get everything you need

Amanda Perez, U of A System Division of Agriculture assistant professor

to make it operational,” she said. “Working with communities, we identified that county fairgrounds already have a lot of infrastructure in place – large warehouses, kitchens, roads you can bring trucks in on. “A county fairground is normally used for a month out of the year, so we reached out to the fair boards and said, ‘Would you be interested in using your facility for alternative purposes if we could develop mini food manufacturing facilities?’ They said yes.” The name Share Grounds is playfully derived from “fairgrounds,” but the mission is all business. “These are in rural areas, but within an hour’s drive of an urban center and they have the capacity to allow us, on a shoestring budget, to start a food manufacturing facility,” Perez said. “So instead of us trying to find land and build a $6 million facility in Little Rock, we were able to do this for about $ 50,000 per site.” Through grants, Share Grounds was able to create three kitchen incubators and aggregation centers in Marshall, Rison and McCrory. All three sites were completed and ready to go in early 2020, but COVID-19 put the program on temporary hold. During that time, Perez and her team provided technical assistance to many would-be entrepreneurs, helping them refine their ideas and determine feasibility prior to moving to the production phase. “We’ve helped about 30 businesses with initial development,” Perez said. “In some cases, we had to tell clients, ‘We’re not sure you’re going to make any money off this.’ You can say ‘My granola is the best granola ever,’ but if your costs are $20 a bag, you’re not in business.” Through that process, six of the 30 entrepreneurs advanced to the next phase of development and production. After everything the program has been through, Perez is excited to see what this phase of Share Grounds yields.

“We’re just getting started in the kitchen,” she said. “From concept to product testing, they can use our kitchen and on-site technical assistance to build their business with less risk. We’re not talking Conagra here; this is for small-scale startups. If someone gets that big, they’ll have to go to another facility. It’s hard to get a food business off the ground, but if it works, people can scale up and get a food packer or a larger facility.” Which, she added, would be a nice problem to have, especially in rural Arkansas

where business opportunities and economic development are often hard to come by. “Most food hubs take five years to break even, and usually take seven years to get highly productive and profitable,” she said. “My priority is to get these locations to a level of sustainability and to prove that this model works.” For more information on Share Grounds, visit, then scroll down and click on the “Share Grounds” logo.

August 2021 | 49

‘This is exactly where we are supposed to be’ New superintendent considers district, church and region to be tops


eff Collum has accepted a job with huge responsibilities and he couldn’t be more excited about it. Following the footsteps of a retiring Conway Schools Superintendent is a role that he stepped into with peace of mind and honor on July 1. “Conway is one of the premier districts in the state,” Collum said. “They have a high academic performance and great community. I love the school district and the community that wraps around the district.” Collum is qualified to make the assessment after working in education for 24 years, with nine of those years as superintendent for a range of school districts. Most recently, he served in Hallsville, Texas, which has 17,000 virtual and in-person students. By comparison, Conway School District is 7A,

Photo by Mike Kemp

50 | 501 LIFE August 2021

By Stefanie Brazile

with about 10,000 students. He also led another large Arkansas school district. “When I served at Benton School District from 2012 to 2016, I heard good things about Conway,” he said. Growing up in Shelbyville, Texas, Collum played basketball, football and ran track. While attending Lamar University in Beaumont, he played basketball for their travel team. Although his parents worked tirelessly in education until retirement, his interests lay in sports medicine until his senior year of college when he was asked to finish out a semester for a high school coach and teacher. “I absolutely fell in love with it and have never regretted choosing the field,” he said. “Growing up, I was at the school early and

was at the school late. We were the last kids to leave because Mom and Dad were always in meetings and working, so that’s what I knew growing up.” Besides education, he’s also passionate about his wife, Cara, and their three sons. His mother-in-law lives with the family to help with their 15-, 13- and 8-year-old, and his mother lives in Longview, Texas. After the loss of his father a few years back, Collum has remained close to his two brothers. “My family is so important to me,” he said, smiling. “I’m very family-centered, very faithcentered. I also love New Life Church – we’ve had connections there for years. So, we have an amazing church and community here.

“I’ve got an opportunity as a dad and I’m really beginning to reflect on my time with those older two because it is growing shorter. This is an exciting and important time as a family for us to be here.” Their sons will attend Conway Public Schools and Cara will continue working as a counselor for a virtual school. As a hunter, fisherman and outdoorsman, Collum always loved coming to Arkansas to pursue his hobbies. “When you mix getting to enjoy work and your personal life — what a great opportunity!” His top goal for the year is to help students reenter school and create as normal an environment as possible. “They’ve had a very hard year, almost two years,” he said. Another priority is to get to know the community and the district by going out and being on the campuses, seeing things in motion and seeing people in action, he said. “I’ve heard great things about this district for a long time, so it’s cool to be here now. So the goal is to let me understand what has made them great – [to] let me see that and let me build on that and add to that.” The superintendent is quick to praise the “rock solid” team that Greg Murry built during his 14-year tenure. “If there’s a task to be done, I need to be one of the first people to the job,” Collum said. “If there’s a change to be made, I need to be able to explain that and walk through that process with the people that are going to have to make that change. “I like to have a good team of people with me, and so I spend a lot of time and energy trying to build the team and build relationships and pull people together, and then we go and do the work.” With the foundation of his experience, the support of his family and admiration for the job and community, Collum feels on top of the world and sure this is where he’s supposed to be at this time.

The Collum's are finding comfort in their new home of Conway. Caleb (from left), Jeff, Cara, Elijah and Causey Collum (on sofa).

August 2021 | 51

Photos by Mike Kemp

h t i w g paintin


By Aaron Brand


Roberta creates the designs on paper. Her husband, Steve helps draw, construct and install his wife's art.


oberta Katz-Messenger has applied her talent and an artist’s sensitivity to the stained-glass arts for the better part of four decades, but the pursuit still gives her plenty of renewed inspiration. As an art form, stained glass forever changes. With its play of glass and light, it’s never static. There’s an element of surprise. “It’s got a liveliness that continues to blow me away,” Roberta said. “I will finish something, and you can’t really tell what it’s going to look like until it’s done.” Assuredly, she’s well-known in Clinton, Arkansas, where she ran Pentacle Gallery for 18 years, and where she and her husband, Steve, now run Katz-Messenger Stained Glass. But her art is all over the state, perhaps in a cozy living room or inside the hushed chapel of an Arkansas church, resonating with the solemnity of spiritual feeling. And there at Roberta’s studio in a countryside setting two miles outside of Clinton, projects include stained glass for a variety of places: churches, homes, public spaces and more. Plus, she creates artistic objects like lamps and panels. Roberta’s art beautifies, among many places of worship: Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, St. Jude’s Catholic Church, South Side Baptist Church, and Peace Lutheran Church. Whether the church is Baptist, Unitarian, or some other denomination under the sun, Roberta captures the essence of a spiritual message parishioners aim to convey through stained glass when lit by light. Residential work often favors natural themes: sunflowers, a waterfowl triptych, or a secret garden. She’ll make transom panels and a Victorian window. Camp Aldersgate in Little Rock, which serves people with disabilities, features her theme window work with

canoeing and a campfire, even a raccoon and a four-seasons tree. Her work “Healing Waters” at Ozark Health Medical Center connects nature to restorative powers. She’s versatile, but the work is always captivating with the details and color. Roberta’s job is mainly design, pattern drawing, cutting, and wrestling with the paperwork. They primarily do copper foil stained glass (easier with small pieces), unless lead seems like a better idea. Her husband helps with job aspects like foiling and soldering. “He’s actually more than the installer. He does a lot of the construction and occasionally pattern drawing and a lot of the installation,” Roberta said, adding, “I usually do the finishing.” While she ran Pentacle Gallery, she showcased Arkansas artists and craftspeople. The public gave her a loyal following. Artists she carried included William McNamara. “I was so lucky at that time because there wasn’t very many people who were handling strictly fine crafts,” Roberta recalled about working with Natural State artisans. She was right on the highway with a yellow house and interesting things to see in the yard - even, one Christmas season, a camel to give rides. It attracted attention. “There was a lot of help from everybody,” Roberta recalled about the community spirit that helped her gallery along. In this sense, she fostered a community of artist contacts and cohorts. Roberta grew up in the Chicago area (South Side) and learned about art at the Art Institute of Chicago. She studied at the Goodman School of Drama and worked at the University of Chicago (public relations, conference coordinator) and other interesting jobs before heading west. In Denver, Roberta was introduced to stained glass in a roundabout way (she apprenticed with Rhonda Dixon), and thus her long, fruitful journey with the art form began. While there, still in her 20s, she worked as a dinner theater singer.

But back when she was in Chicago, she recalls she felt a life-changing realization when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. She was shaken. “I decided to go be what I wanted to be and stop worrying about trying to make everybody else come to understand what I hoped they would understand,” Roberta said. To that end, she and her Denver friends wanted to be part of the “back-to-the-land” movement. Longing to put their ideals into practice, they moved to Clinton in the early 1970s, where she soon started her gallery. And with her friends, she enjoyed a vast stretch of acreage in the woods to call home. “Believe it or not, some of the town city fathers here immediately seemed to take a shine to stained glass, and I wound up with jobs right away,” Roberta recalled. She kept at it. Sometimes she can drive through town and see the first stained glass she made. What was it about the art form she appreciated? Why did she take a shine to it so many years ago? “It’s so changeable. You look at it one day with the sun at one altitude and it looks like one thing, and then it just shifts so much. Then, too, the fact that it’s luminous. Painting with light is one of the phrases that one hears often, and that’s kind of how it is,” Roberta said. Roberta recalled first doing stained glass for a church, her favorite in town, a challenge she finally welcomed. “That’s been another layer of meaning, of design difficulty, because you’ve got to walk into somebody’s sacred place, listen very carefully to everything that you’re told and everything you see, and all the elements that are already there,” Roberta said. She’s mindful of what she must do: create something inspirational. Stained glass inside a church conveys a message that means something deep to the people within. “That kind of responsibility is kind of mindboggling, but I love that because it’s such a service to them to tell the story in stained glass in a way that’s going to persist, it could be, a very, very long time,” Roberta said. To learn more about Roberta KatzMessenger's art and studio visit August 2021 | 53

All things beauty

Back to School Beauty


eality check: Summer break is almost over. It’s August, which means the relaxed, lazy days of summer are about to give way to backpacks, homework, after-school activities, and hardest of all – waking the kids up early. I have to admit, I don’t miss those days at all. When the wheels on the bus were going round and round, I was sweating through my shirt and watching my foundation slide down my face and feeling my perfectly applied eyeshadow, lipstick, and blush melt into Tammy Faye. Today more than ever, I brave the hot days makeup-free. There are easier ways to recreate this smudgy, soft, shiny look. Which makes this the perfect time to get going on your back-toschool skincare routine! Maybe you’re a teacher, student, parent of a student, or maybe your college days are long behind you – either way, the post-Labor Day period is your chance to get well-organized on how to turn the warm, humid weather into a beauty advantage. There will be days when you are tired, busy, and the last thing you have time for is hair, nails, makeup, or even the time and energy to devote to a daily skin care regime. This doesn’t mean your skincare routine has to interfere with your responsibilities. After all, we still want “all things beauty.” You may not be used to waking up early, and you may have a lot less free time overall, but here are some ways to make the transition easier: • Move any parts of your skin care regimen to weekends or evenings – give yourself a break in the morning! You need some time to adjust to these early mornings; take anything off your plate you can. Stick to the necessities. In the mornings, splash your face 20 times with warm water, then add your favorite moisturizing lotion and get your kids to school on time. 54 | 501 LIFE August 2021

• •

Keep up with the daily sunscreen, at least on your face and neck. Just because it doesn’t look as bright or feel as warm does not mean that the sun’s rays aren’t damaging or prematurely aging your skin. If you are driving your kids for a longer distance, apply sunscreen to your arms. Solar exposure is stronger through glass windows. Get to bed early. This seems like a very obvious tip, but it may be tempting to continue your late-night routine and try to balance the kids’ homework with your summer lifestyle and social life. This will catch up with you, and your face won’t hide those sleepless nights for long. Getting adequate sleep is so important for overall health, but especially for your skin! Sleep on your back, with adequate neck support and a pillow that is firm enough to prop your head up and allow fluids to drain! Keep your favorite beauty products on hand. You may be spending more time away from home – there is no reason to not have everything on hand. Look into travel-sized bottles you can fill with your must-have creams and serums or ask for samples of your favorite products so you can freshen up in a pinch. Maintaining balance and setting aside time for yourself is very important in keeping you healthy, sane, and the best you can be for your family. You invest a lot of work into making your family happy, safe, wellfed and loved. Next time you’re feeling run-down or stressed, try to set aside a day just for you. You may even develop the extremely contagious need for “all things beauty.” It just might give you the rejuvenation you need to get you through this school year!

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White County crops teach kids about farming


eep in the heart of the White County farming community reside a few committed individuals with agriculture backgrounds and a passion for teaching kids about farming. This team is part of a larger effort of Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation to educate youth about the safety and affordability of Arkansas’ food and fiber. The curriculum, “Agriculture in the Classroom” is used for school programs conducted locally by volunteers. Each set of materials is tied to Common Core Standards of the Arkansas Department of Education, making it easier for teachers to use. In 2019, the information was shared with over 84,000 students in 388 schools across Arkansas. Dana Stewart, president of White County’s Farm Bureau Board, said she volunteers because educating the public about agriculture is her passion. “As generations of people become further removed from the family farm, it’s important for children to learn how their food is produced," Steward said. "We have the safest, most affordable and abundant food supply in the world, thanks to America’s hardworking farmers and ranchers. Presenting agriculture in the classroom opens students up to a whole new understanding and appreciation of their food

56 | 501 LIFE August 2021

and fiber. As a 6th generation beef producer, I’ve always felt the need to tell others how we raise our cattle.” White County Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership group takes the lead in scheduling tours of local farms and teaching the lessons in elementary classrooms. Riverview-Judsonia K – 6th grade students learned all about rice with recent interactive presentations. They even used a mini rice mill to mill rice, and then sampled one of the newer aromatic rice varieties grown in Arkansas. The students were surprised to learn that Arkansas produces more rice than any other state; in fact, Arkansas farmers produce half the rice grown in the United States according to volunteer Fredese Wheetley. She assisted students with planting their own rice plants, which are often mistaken for grass. Rice is grown in water, not so much because that much water is needed, but flooding rice fields is a non-chemical measure to control weeds. Local farmers often team up with U of A Cooperative Extension Agents to conduct another program, “Rice for Kids.” Bald Knob farmer Brad Peacock, dedicates an acre of his rice crop to the project. White County’s Agricultural Agent Jan Yingling goes to Bald

By Judy Riley

Knob fifth grade students in the spring to discuss rice nutrient needs, soil testing, growth stages, conservation practices and the science involved in growing rice. Students return in the fall for a field trip to the Peacock farm. They witness firsthand the harvest process. Peacock gives the profit from that one acre to the students to donate to the charity of their choice. According to Yingling, the students get involved in helping make decisions about conservation practices and see results of the farmer’s efforts. According to Johnny Wheetley, Licensed Crop Consultant, “I do this because in my work, I am an advocate for farmers, helping them produce the highest quality product at the least cost while still being a good steward of the land and its resources. And in my spare time, I love to tell their story. I especially enjoy the “wow factor” when kids learn about their food. In most of our farm tours, students get to see large farming equipment. They never forget the complexity of what it takes to grow their food.” The story of Arkansas agriculture is interesting and engaging and best told by those who love it, believe in it and live it. A story untold is a story unknown. More information available at

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August 2021 | 57


By Vivian Hogue

ur city’s schools have long reflected America’s cultural changes. When I first began my teaching career, one of the most accurate statements I heard was that in general, schools are microcosms (miniatures) of their cities. If you could spend a day being the proverbial “fly on the wall,” you could see this is true. It has always been true everywhere. The most standardized change in American public education was toward the one-room schoolhouse of the 1800s. During our city’s existence, our own local schools have grown from a single one-room schoolhouse to 16 public schools, two private schools, and homeschooling. Homeschooling existed centuries before the current homeschooling system, which has returned rapidly since the 1980s due to various needs or situations. Conway’s school from 1879 to 1893 was one designed by Conway founder Asa Peter Robinson, who also donated the land. It was located on the west side of the north end of Locust Avenue and locally called the “Little Green School.” It was much like hundreds across the nation, as well as in Europe, with many located in undeveloped rural areas where children really did walk miles to school and back home in several inches or feet of snow! Some had the luxury of horses to ride; a few were accompanied by hired hands or family members. Their grades were generally first through eighth grade, although some had advanced learning. My mother and dad taught school in structures such as these, as did an aunt who collaborated with a friend on a book on the subject. My aunt had taught in her small-community school for several decades. The book stated that rural children had chores to do before and after school, the hours of which were 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Depending on the child’s age and the weather, chores included carrying wood, milking cows, feeding animals, and collecting eggs. Their often-barefoot walks to school were hampered by fear of snakes, poison ivy, rabid dogs, ticks, chiggers, fleas, and aggressive animals. Some streams were crossed, although swift and deep at times. Lunches were carried in lard buckets with tight lids and a handle, and might hold baked potatoes, biscuits with eggs and meat, cookies, and other homemade delights. Free of preservatives, dyes, excess sugar, and MSG, foods provided proper alertness for learning reading, spelling, penmanship, history, arithmetic, English, and geography. Many readers read classical literature – even Shakespeare – at an early age. McGuffey Readers containing stories based on moral precepts from the Bible were used from first through sixth grades. My mother also taught Latin to higher grades. I still possess her school handbell which she rang outside in the mornings to announce it was “time 58 | 501 LIFE August 2021

Rendering of the "Little Green Schoolhouse" from the UCA Digital Archives. This was the first public school in Conway. Built in 1879 for $1,599.

to take up books” or to signal that recess was over. My own first teaching experience was in 1966 at our local St. Joseph Elementary School. In retrospect, I realize that my classroom and students were much like those I have described of the one-room schoolhouse era. I was not of the Catholic faith but found myself learning about the children’s religious and home customs. Mass was at 7:30 and the bus had them there on time. I learned that several of my students had done farm chores before they left for school. My unusual situation was that the school was short on teachers, and I was “recruited” to teach a class of which half were second-graders and half were third. I had no idea how I would handle two grades in one classroom, but I realized that I could teach the third-graders a subject, then the second-graders, then give the younger ones desk work with which the older ones could help. They were well-behaved, teachable, huggable, and wanted to keep their classroom clean. Many brought their lunches and they were put on a shelf in the “cloakroom.” I remember stepping into that cubby hole once to comfort a third-grader whose dad had been deployed to Vietnam. The “aroma” of bologna and peanut butter was overwhelming, but after hot tears from both of us, we smoothed things out. They laughed at me when I chided them for throwing dirt in each other’s faces during lunch and recess, only to learn it was Ash Wednesday and the priest had applied ashes to their

foreheads. They also forgave me when I told them Jesus might be offended if He saw the weeds someone put behind His wall crucifix - only to find it was an approved sprig of palm leaf for Palm Sunday. That was 55 years ago, and I still remember every name, face, personality, and their supportive parents. I recall many years ago when I went to a districtwide teachers’ meeting and found myself looking at one of those “children” who had grown up, finished college and become a teacher herself. At least one of the “boys” owns his own business and many of their classmates have worthwhile careers. One of the perks of educating our youth is seeing what they do with their gained knowledge. Along with that, I always considered common sense to be of equal necessity, maybe even more so. My high school students may remember a large banner above my desk that said, “Whatever is in your heart comes out of your mouth.” That includes kind words and actions and knowing when to speak and keep quiet. Education includes many facets of learning, and most teachers hope they covered them by the last day of the school year. In time, they often receive sincere letters or notes indicating they succeeded. I still have those I received. No expensive stationery. In fact, one of my favorites was written on toilet tissue. However, the grammar was correct; the sentiment came from their heart; and common sense led them to express their thoughts. What a lasting and gratifying perk!

This handbell was used by the author’s mother who taught in a rural, one-room schoolhouse beginning in 1919 when she was only 18. The bell was used to summon students to school and to signal that recess had ended.

Bessie Arnold Lawson, the author’s mother, is pictured (far left) in 1919 with her students outside a one-room schoolhouse in Bettis Town. Made of pine lumber on land furnished by Tom Bettis that was hauled by wagon from a sawmill near Evening Shade.

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Visit August 2021 | 59

Pulaski County Special School District

Reflecting on the class of 2021 and

looking ahead By Jessica Duff

Pulaski County Special School District serves nearly 12,000 students in Pulaski County, with almost 3,000 students attending schools in the Maumelle feeder zone. The Maumelle feeder within PCSSD includes three elementary schools (Crystal Hill, Oak Grove and Pine Forest), one middle school (Maumelle Middle) and one high school (Maumelle High). As we prepare for a new school year, we also want to give a final shout-out to the graduating class of 2021.

Letter to MHS Seniors ’21 from Mr. Jeff Senn, Principal I wanted to take a moment to wish you well, to wish you the best life has to offer, and to wish you continued blessings. There have been many obstacles that we have had to overcome since you began Maumelle High School four years ago. I hope as you look back, you can say this time in your life had a positive impact and you will carry each memory with you wherever you go. It was my pleasure being your principal and helping to guide your high school journey through each grade. Imagine yourself stepping into the world with someone who believes in you. I am certainly that person. You are ready. Life keeps moving forward, and we all have to put each foot in front of the other, going up, going down, going on with passion toward each step of life. You are MHS strong!

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PCSSD is looking forward to the 2021-2022 school year and returning to a more traditional school setting. In addition, we are excited to offer a new full-time virtual schooling option for students called DRIVEN and the kickoff of the Academies of Central Arkansas created by Ford NGL. DRIVEN is a two-part platform within the district that includes the School of Opportunity and the Virtual Academy. The DRIVEN concept engages students in online and in-person learning to meet students where they are and allow them to work at their own pace. DRIVEN Virtual Academy (DVA) will serve students in homeschool or who are homebound due to health or social-emotional issues. DVA will also serve students whose families must travel often or are involved in extracurricular activities and desire a more flexible option through online or accelerated learning. Blended learning and extended, in-person tutoring opportunities will add other resources to support students and families. DVA students may participate in PCSSD extracurricular activities upon meeting academic requirements. The Academies of Central Arkansas is an educational initiative to help students prepare for college and career by engaging them in project-based learning to provide real-world learning experiences for students. All PCSSD high schools are implementing freshman seminars, which is the first class taken by high school students before selecting their pathway for 10-12 grades. In preparation for the academy concept in high school, all

About PCSSD Pulaski County Special School District spans more than 600 square miles in central Arkansas and requires highly skilled and passionate personnel to adapt educational policies and personalization to 25 schools. Every school is accredited by the Arkansas State Board of Education. PCSSD has served schools across Pulaski County since July 1927. PCSSD is committed to creating a nationally recognized school district that assures that all students achieve at their maximum potential through collaborative, supportive and continuous efforts of all stakeholders.

PCSSD middle schools are moving to a block schedule.


! l O o h c s o t k c ba August 2021 | 61

62 | 501 LIFE August 2021

Like all good musical artists, Deshon Washington is a storyteller in song.

Photos by Mike Kemp

The comeback kid By Dwain Hebda

August 2021 | 63

Local performer gaining national attention Listen to any of Deshon Washington's cuts and you get a little piece of where this smooth Conway sensation has been, where he’s at and where he’s determined to go. “I’m about to make my mark and this is just the start of something brand so spanking new,” he raps on “What’s Become of Me.” “And if you got a problem with that, then homie I got just one thing to say to you.” “It goes, ‘Get out the way.’” Given the competitive — some might say cutthroat — industry that is the music business, the biting sentiment speaks to the 24-year-old's steely ambition to ride music as far as it will take him, come what may. “I knew that success wasn’t just gonna fall in my lap,” he said. “I would have to get up and actually make waves, as little as they may have been. I know that waves grow. I got into the studio, started making music. I’ve been going out to venues promoting our band.” In 2019, Washington’s career was riding a rocket. He started catching some attention when he made it to the World Karaoke Championships and that accelerated with an appearance on Netflix’s singing competition “Sing On.” For the latter, he was one of just 48 performers chosen from 50,000 auditions. Washington said while the exposure was nice, the experiences paid off for him in other ways as a performer. "To go to London and film ‘Sing On,’ that kinda sparked something more in me,” he said. “’Cause as a musician, as a singer, you’re a perfectionist. You want to be perfect and you’re always your own worst critic.

“I always had a little bit of self-doubt, and once they reached out and they were like, ‘We want to fly you out. Pay for your flight. Pay for your hotel. Pay for your food. And have you shoot this international show,’ it kind of boosted my confidence, as well as opened the door for a lot of opportunities.” Washington’s first love was dancing, molded in the image of his idol Michael Jackson. He was recruited to the high school choir by a teacher who saw something in him — even when he didn’t know it was there. “It was definitely a hidden talent,” he said. “I didn’t know I had it. I never really sang as a kid, even when I was a teenager.” Like a lot of newcomers to the world of music, Washington started by imitating his favorite artists, Jackson especially, but as his musical literacy grew, he learned how to develop his own sound and style. “I did venture out to listen to other people,” he said. “Definitely the Weeknd; he has a voice where he can really sing, and he can dance a little bit, and that’s the perfect little mix. I started listening to Aretha Franklin a lot. Erykah Badu. And also Andre 3000 from Outkast which — he’s a rapper, but listening to his words made me want to listen to him. The music that I make now, I try to make it real. I try to make a story and that’s what he does in his raps.” The Netflix gig landed Washington a spot opening for rapper Twista and thinking about his next opportunity. COVID-19 could not have landed at a worse time, as it stalled all career momentum in its tracks.

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64 | 501 LIFE August 2021

“It was definitely rough,” he said. “It did slow us down. We were having shows once or twice a month and we were on track to start going all across the state and even some shows out of state. And when COVID hit, it kind of just stopped everything. “I did worry that the connections that I did make were going to not hold. I knew once COVID was over or the restrictions were lifted, people were gonna go back to what they were familiar with. And so, if what they were familiar with wasn’t me, it was gonna take longer for me to get into the door again.” Washington spent 2020 working on his craft, releasing singles and videos to stay visible and working a 9-to-5 job to pay the bills as he bided his time. Now, as things open up, he’s got a new single and video coming out Aug. 24, and he’s eager to get back to what he loves most. “I’ll close my eyes and I’ll see a stadium full of people,” he said. “They’re happy, not just to see me, but they’re there to have a lot of fun. The ultimate goal for me is to have that sold-out arena, stadium, singing my song back to me. That’s the ultimate goal for me when I see myself in the future. “I see myself selling out arenas but also staying close to home and helping out my community as much as I can. ’Cause without them, there would be no me.”

“That sold-out arena, singing my song back to me that’s the ultimate goal.” - Deshon Washington

August 2021 | 65

First day for her will be lasting memory for me By Meagan Lowry It’s back-to-school time in Central Arkansas, and for the first time, I find myself gearing up to send a child off to school with the rest of you. My daughter, Lennox, will be entering kindergarten, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t all in my feels about it. First off, she was born, like, yesterday ... OK, so that may be a stretch, but it certainly feels that way. And secondly, I could have sworn the people who told me, “The days are long, but the years are short,” were full of it when I was knee deep in poopy diapers and spit up. But here we are, and they were right. My days of undivided Lennox time are soon to be behind me, and I’ll find myself sharing her with someone else for eight hours of her day. If you’re anything like me, then I imagine that you’ve had to give yourself a pep talk or two as you’ve raised your children. I also imagine that our kids are far more ready to soar away from us than we are actually ready for it to happen. I’ve been told that is the ultimate goal of parenting: to ensure your children can function without you.

I’ve planted my flag firmly on the river of DENIAL though, and I like to believe that this little human who has needed me for Every, Single, Thing her entire life will continue to need me until the day I die. I know that’s not realistic, but you try talking down a mom who is about to send her daughter out into the world and try to convince her otherwise. It’s hard. I am her protector. But school is a different ball game. She will learn to thrive, pick herself up, handle rejection, and so many other things on her own once she starts school. And for a mama who likes to show her the best the world has to offer, that has been the toughest pill to swallow. I think we all feel that way to a certain extent. We don’t want to see our kids struggle. We don’t want to see them hurt. But it’s the culmination of the entire school experience that will help shape our kiddos into who they are meant to be. Looking back, I can remember such sweet memories of school. Of course, I want that for Lennox. I want her to learn and grow and

need me less and less (this one maybe not as much). But mamas with kids entering school this year too, this last part is for you: If you wanna cry, cry. If you wanna do a happy dance as you send those babies out of the house, do that happy dance. However you handle sending them off into the unknown is OK! Just as long as we are sending them with a little good sense and the love they need. One day, we’ll look back and think how silly it was that we were so upset to send them off, but until then, know I’m holding your hand and walking this season with you.

Catch two all-new episodes this month: “Camp Counselor Carol’s Fearful Phobia” Friday, Aug. 6, at 9:07 a.m. “The Bothersome Brother” Friday, Aug. 13, at 9:07 a.m.

D Find activity ideas, printables, games and more on 66 | 501 LIFE August 2021

Then, enjoy season two again on Fridays, Aug. 20-Sept. 10, at 10 a.m. each week.

August 2021 | 67

CABOT NEIGHBORS Kid of the Month

Photo by Dyson Creative Photography

68 | 501 LIFE August 2021

Riley Popovich is

setting his

sights high


By Becky Bell

“He got to see that Dr. Thurman does a autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. iley Popovich may not have perfect sight, but Eastside Elementary staff made big job and sees so many people and does “He’s a little quirky,” Popovich said. “When sure he had the perfect vision of kind- really good with his patch,” Popovich said. he gets excited, he just kind of rolls around hearted people during his kindergarten year “As a result, Riley just really connected with and flaps and bounces, and the other thing at the Cabot school. him and the next day when they were having we are actually struggling with doing the Riley, 6, has struggled with his eyesight career day, he told me he wanted to be Dr. best we can is that he has selective mutism, since he was 2, said his mother, Poppy Thurman when he grew up. I got him a cute which is a form of anxiety. It is a really bad Popovich. little suit and they took pictures together one.” “His right eye anchored and that just and it was super sweet.” Popovich said with this type of disorder, means it was like cross-eyed, but the muscle The visit increased Riley’s confidence. was so tight it doesn’t move. So, they went in Thurman even got him his own school badge her son may be just talking with someone and did surgery to help release the muscle, and notified Cabot School Board members they don’t know, but if he is asked to talk, he and then he had to start patching,” she said. that Riley was the honorary superintendent may freeze up and not be able to do so. Since he was 2, he has been patching on of the day. “Riley will stand still like a statue,” she and off to help correct his vision. And being Popovich doesn’t think her son will have said. at home with the patches was one thing to to wear the patches when he is older but His anxiety is the reason the school Riley, but wearing them around people in his said he has other challenges they deal with district allowed his twin brother, Finley, first year of school was another, she said. because he is on Level 1, the least severe to be in his kindergarten class. His “We have to patch his eye six hours brother’s presence helped him to feel a day and the patching is working,” OK in a room full of strangers. Popovich said. “But he didn’t want to “He was like his security blanket,” wear his patch to school because he Popovich said. was afraid people would make fun of And although Riley started out the him or not like him.” However, the truth is Riley’s year sitting in a bean bag away from the insecurities were all for naught. other students for his own comfort, by “So, nobody noticed. He’s in the end of kindergarten, he was sitting kindergarten, so it really wasn’t that at a school desk and playing with the big of a deal,” she said. “The kids in other students, Popovich said. kindergarten said something about Despite his challenges he has visually pirates and that’s about it. The school and with disorders, Riley has a bright was really good about it.” future, and for now in the summer, he And it wasn’t just the children who just mostly giggles at home, as he did were so good-natured about Riley throughout this interview with his looking a little different. mother. Riley’s kindergarten teacher, Sam McDonnel, knew that Riley would “He’s a happy boy,” she said. enjoy meeting Cabot School District She is hopeful he will have another Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman. good year at school in the fall, but it will Thurman, who was dealing with some not all be easy, she said. eye issues, sometimes wore a patch too. “Next year, we are starting from zero McDonnel told the superintendent again because everything will change,” Riley had been very upset at school, she said. keeping his head down and feeling But this year had some unanticipated embarrassed. So, Thurman came to happiness due to those at the district visit Riley to show him that he wasn’t Cabot Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman and student Riley Popovich who went so out of their way to make alone in wearing a patch to correct his sometimes need to patch one of their eyes for health reasons. They posed together on career day when Riley dressed as Thurman. sure Riley felt like he was fitting in. eyesight. August 2021 | 69


athletic excellence By Dr. Robert Reising

Conway County

Bud Mobley

He was a star on one of the

most spectacular teams ever fielded in The Natural State. With John Bryce “Bud” Mobley as their “ground-clearing workhorse,” the 1945 Arkansas Tech University “Wonder Boys” demolished every opponent on their schedule, enjoying one of the most memorable seasons in the annals of American intercollegiate football. Simultaneously, Bud and his teammates created a unique chapter in the playbook of Arkansas’s favorite fall sport.

Most of the 48-player squad was fresh from World War II military service or about to see duty during “The Korean Conflict”; Bud was among the former. Born in Morrilton on August 11, 1920, he spent all of his years there prior to his 1939 enrollment in Russellville’s two-year institution. The middle son of Max James and Mary Ellen Mobley, his father in the construction business, his mother a stayat-home mom, Bud thrived in his love- and activity-filled family setting. He also fared well educationally, with football quickly becoming his favorite extracurricular pursuit. At Morrilton High, his gridiron skills were so accomplished that he twice earned All-State honors. Within months of his 1939 graduation, he was a “Wonder Boy,” and by season’s end he had earned, in his daughter’s words, “a letter as a skinny back-up tackle” on a team claiming the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference title. In the same year, too, he joined the National Guard, a move that would later catapult him to far greater gridiron acclaim. But a second academic year and an uneventful football season intervened, complete with another letter for Bud. In January 1941, his unit was activated, an event featured in nationally circulated LIFE magazine. Soon after, Bud’s unit moved to Tacoma, Washington. Weeks later, built around 14 “Wonder Boys,” Bud among them, a talented West Coast football team emerged, destined to sweep “through service competition without a reverse.” They christened themselves the “Arkansas

Travelers,” and claimed their first 6 games by scoring 221 points to 6 against. They were a media delight, as popular as they were powerful. Ray Peters, also from Morrilton, was an indispensable starter, and Dumas’s Aubrey “Cobb” Fowler a dynamic running back. Bud, however, was unique. According to a Dec. 7, 1941, article in the Arkansas Gazette, he was “modest and [a] non-publicity seeker … never found when the photographers swarm into a practice session.” Yet, “Mobley has been responsible for more yards and touchdowns than as if he had carried the ball.” The article said that fan interest continued to grow as the Khaki Bowl of December 13, 1941, neared. The contest at the University of Washington Stadium — pitting the formidable Moffett Field team from California against “the Cinderella Team” of Fort Lewis in Washington, the “Arkansas Travelers” — would decide “the service championship of the Pacific coast.” A massive crowd was anticipated, headed by the governor of Washington, who had been formally invited by Seattle’s mayor. On December 12, with both teams in Seattle “ready for action, and public interest at a steam-heat pitch,” military officials in California cancelled the contest. The nation was at war, those officials declared, and the men scheduled to compete would instead join “the boys who will bear the brunt of the fighting within the next few months.” They did, and until war’s end, they were proud members of America’s “Greatest

Generation,” patriotic warriors defending the nation they loved. By 1945, with the Axis powers defeated, they returned to their studies and gridiron efforts, hardened, experienced, mature. What they had visited upon military rivals, and aided by promising newcomers, the “Wonder Boys” of 1945 inflicted upon intercollegiate foes, a record-setting juggernaut that quickly amazed fans everywhere. “Cobb” Fowler, later a professional star, continued his mind-boggling running and Ray Peters his stellar line play. Now 220 pounds of military muscle, Bud was again an asset with his bone-jarring blocking. In under 60 days, the trio led coach John Tucker’s team to another AIC Championship and defeated their eight opponents by a cumulative score of 311 to 6. All-American Fowler accounted for 102 points and team substitutes surrendered the lone touchdown. Such lopsidedness was seldom to be seen again in intercollegiate play. Earning his Tech degree in 1946 and marrying a year later, Bud spent the bulk of his remaining years as a sales representative for Marquette Cement of Memphis while enjoying his expertise and reputation as a Morrilton-area barbecue specialist. Duck hunting and fishing also brought him many pleasurable hours and yummy suppers for his five children. A Roman Catholic and Boy Scout leader, Bud passed away on December 22, 1973, forever to be respected in Conway County and the 501.

The 1945 Arkansas Tech "Wonder Boys." Most of the squad was fresh from WWII or about to see duty.

August 2021 | 71


look hoo's coming to town Little Rock Zoo’s young barn owl learning to be ambassador By Becky Bell


he Little Rock Zoo is training a small new ambassador who weighs about as much as a baseball but will have a big impact in spreading information about owls in Arkansas. Originally named Orion because zoo personnel thought she was a boy, Bellatrix, or more commonly known as Bella, is a 1.1-pound barn owl, said Lee Ann Goette, a certified bird trainer who works in the Conservation Education Department. A blood test was needed to determine the gender of the bird. Eventually, Bella’s job will be to travel across Arkansas to anywhere from preschools to senior centers to show people what she looks like and give people a chance to learn more about what they can do to help owls have longer life spans in the wild. She will also sometimes be on exhibit at the zoo and the Arkansas Heritage Farm Exhibit, which the zoo operates. “Barn owls are not in danger, but all owls face issues in the wild,” Goette said. “When people poison rodents on their property, it will poison owls who eat them. Barn owls are usually comfortable living in human dwellings, so you can buy an owl box and put one near your barn. Screech owls might come, too.” Bella has been hand-raised since she hatched on March 27. She came from the World Bird Sanctuary in

Photos by Mike 72 | 501 LIFE Kemp August 2021

Lee Ann Goette, a certified bird trainer Little Rock Zoo’s young bar in the Conservation learning to be ambassador Education Department, is helping Bella make it through her "terrible two's" and creating a bond with the young owl as she is trained to become an animal ambassador.

Valley Point, Missouri. The mission of the sanctuary is to preserve the earth’s biological diversity and secure the future of bird species and their natural environments through the three pillars of education, conservation, and rehabilitation. The first thing people notice about Bella is her beauty, but she can be a handful for trainers who are trying to get her ready to become an ambassador, Goette said. “She is very cute, and she is testing her limits, so we call her the Terrible Two,” she said. “She can fly, so she likes to see where she can fly and explore. She likes the snake room, where she can go and watch the snakes move around.” Despite the occasional challenges of training Bella, the opportunity is one that Goette, who has worked at the Little Rock Zoo for 10 years, appreciates. The trainer had flirted with the idea of being a veterinarian at one time but fell in love with animal education because she got to develop a stronger bond with the animals she engaged with. “It’s exciting but nerve-wracking because you want to make sure you do everything right, so the animal is as comfortable with you as possible,” she said. “But it’s exciting because you can see their personalities develop and watch them learn.” Goette describes owls as “opportunistic carnivores.” She said they would eat a snake if they could catch one but primarily dine

on rodents, both in the wild and at the zoo. Bella’s trainers use her diet to help reinforce positive behaviors, such as coming back to land on them when she flies off and getting into her crate when needed. Her diet consists of rodent pieces, chicks, and what is called a birdof-prey diet. As small as she is, she can eat an entire rat if given the opportunity, Goette said. When not on the road as an ambassador, Bella will eventually live in an individual enclosure housed with the other birds of prey. Most birds of prey are solitary, so they all have their own space, Goette explained. As she continues to be trained, handlers must wear a glove to protect themselves from her talons, which are the way owls most often defend themselves and hunt their prey. She has sometimes pecked them with her beak, but Goette said this was likely because she was trying to determine if they had a food item. Although owls are known to have outstanding hearing, they do not see very well, she said. Any schools or senior centers that want Bella to pay them a visit when she grows a bit more and is more well-trained are welcome to make an appointment online or call the zoo at 501.661.7200. They may also see Bella during a show when she has matured. For more information about Bella visiting your town, go to

August 2021 | 73

The write choice for her First published at 70, Vicki Olsen is determined to produce more books By Susan L. Peterson

74 | 501 LIFE August 2021


everal years ago, Vicki Olsen had a friend who asked for feedback on a book he was writing. Little did she know that providing that assistance would set her on her own literary career path. Vicki had never considered writing a book. She had degrees in marketing and economics and held a variety of jobs, from insurance adjuster to owning a gift store. So, when a friend asked for help on a book he was writing, Vicki was hesitant. She had always been an avid reader and knew what she liked regarding plot development, so she agreed to give him feedback. As his book progressed, Vicki gave more detailed advice. She could feel her own confidence growing and thought, “I could do this – I could write a book.” Following the book’s publication, Vicki found herself wondering about Sarah, one of the minor characters appearing in his book. Vicki couldn’t stop thinking about what her background story might be. When Vicki approached her friend with an idea for a book about Sarah, they agreed to coauthor it. It wasn’t long after the work began that it became obvious that Vicki was the one motivated to write the story. The two authors parted ways, but Vicki was permitted to use the name of the fictional town, Tolerance, Arkansas, and the character’s name, Sarah Jones. It took Vicki about five years to finish writing the book, which she did evenings and weekends when not working her full-time job. “A Sparrow Falls” was finally published in late 2018, the year Vicki turned 70. “That was my goal, to get it published

before I turned 70, and I did.” The story is described as both disturbing and nostalgic. The time frame begins in the 1950s and leads into the Vietnam era ’60s. Themes of the book involve abuse, family secrets, and spiritual reawakening. Once the book was published, Vicki couldn’t wait to start the next two volumes in the series. The writing bug definitely took hold. She retired from her job but finds herself at work in her office at 8 a.m. every day, spending a full day writing and editing her work. She joined several online writing groups. Work progressed on the sequels, but one thing got in the way – an idea for another book with a very personal family connection. During World War II, Vicki’s father was on a mission over France, when his plane was shot down. With the help of the French Resistance, he was able to escape to safety. In 2017, Vicki’s family was contacted by the son of a Resistance member who had assisted her father. She and other members of her family were able to go to France to retrace her father’s footsteps, thanks to members of France’s Association of Rescuers of Allied Airmen. One of the goals of this group is to re-establish friendly links with the airmen and/or their descendants. Incredibly, Vicki was also able to reestablish connections with people she remembered meeting as a child in the 1960s. Following the war, the family was stationed in Germany, and they would often visit her father’s war-time French friends. Vicki was able to return to France for a lengthy stay in 2019 to visit her rediscovered French connections. She stayed with the families and listened to the stories told by the aging unknown heroes who put their own lives in peril in order to save others. Realizing that in another 10 years these Samaritans will all be gone, she decided to write their inspirational stories. Because of COVID-19, she was unable to return to France in 2020 to complete interviews, but she was able to travel there in June of this year, right after France opened its doors to foreign travelers. She intends to complete “The Duty of Memory” before the end of the year, and it will be published in English and French. Vicki is embracing her new life as a writer. She enjoys attending book signings and meetings to discuss her work. Find out more about Vicki and the updates on her upcoming books on her Facebook page and at

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August 2021 | 75

Be Blessed! (Blessing of the Backpacks) I

t’s August, so we know what that means—back to school, football season, late summer allergy season, and lots of sniffing and sneezing. And with the sneezing comes the automatic response of “bless you” from those nearby. Saying “bless you” to another person or asking God for blessings is a good thing. Something we should not limit to sneezing. If you go to church with any consistency, then you know Christians bless pretty much anything that moves and plenty of things that don’t. We didn’t make it up. We get it from the Bible. In the stories found in Genesis to Revelation, someone is either being blessed or giving out blessings to others. In the gospels, Jesus comes blessing the poor, hungry, weak, merciful, pure in heart, and all sorts of people. He blesses his disciples, strangers, and he blesses children (Mark 10:13-16). You see, Superman can fly, Spider Man can cling to almost any surface, Thor can summon thunder and lightning with his powerful hammer, the Hulk has incredible strength, but we can do something far more spectacular--we can bless! That’s why churches throughout Central Arkansas celebrate the “blessings of backpacks” for children entering a new school year. Students are asked to bring their backpacks to church, and during the service the minister says a prayer of blessing upon the backpacks. Why? Because each individual congregation wants the children to know that they are carrying the love of God and the love of the church with them wherever they go. At these services, they ask God to touch and bless each student. They pray that each student would discover and develop the gifts they’ve been given, that as the students grow in knowledge, they will grow also in kindness and compassion, learning respect for themselves and others. Additionally, a prayer is spoken for the parents, teachers, aides, principals, administrators, maintenance workers, secretaries, cooks, security officers, librarians, custodians, and bus drivers. They pray that each one might be surrounded with encouragement, support, and love. Raising children is no easy task. Churches offer some of what we all want for our children in this chaotic, sometimes frightening world. They offer ancient wisdom with a modern mindset in a language students understand: a place with a lot of joy, hope, and a lot of laughter (and glorious music, too!) And best of all, a chance for your kids to be loved by other human beings the way God loves them: unconditionally. One thing’s for sure, you and your children will be welcomed with open arms. You’ll be welcome — if you haven’t been to church in a while, haven’t ever been to church, have lots of questions, have no questions, fall asleep during the sermon (we understand), if you don’t like church music, or if you love church music! You’ll be welcome — if you have five Bibles, or no Bibles, if you are 9 months old and cry all the time, or 99 years old and never cry, even if you accidentally clap off beat! You will be warmly welcomed. So, what are you waiting for? Call the church that you regularly attend, or one that you’re interested in attending, and ask them about their upcoming “back to school” service. Place it on your calendar today and “Be Blessed!” 76 | 501 LIFE August 2021

By Donald Brazile

August 2021 | 77

What is your

school spirit? By Mark McDonald

I still remember the day our first child went to kindergarten. He was not happy, and therefore, neither were we. He wouldn’t let go of us when it was time to go to school, so we had to pry him off and hand him to a teacher. He begged us not to leave him there. Driving away was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and then I found myself wondering how “bad” his day was going. You’ve probably guessed it: He came home and couldn’t stop talking about his wonderful day. Our next child didn’t even say goodbye. She opened her own door and never looked back. It hurt my feelings not to have her beg to stay with me. It was different for every one of our children, and it affected their spirits - and ours- differently. The back-to-school season fills us with a wide range of emotions, and therefore it affects our spirits profoundly. We are excited to have some routine after a summer of juggling camps, work schedules, and more. We may even look forward to being away from each other a little bit! At the same time, there is a lot to purchase, enough reorganizing that we want to call Marie Kondo, and a seemingly infinite number of classes, grades, bullies, friends, meals, and field trips to manage. “School spirit” is about to become our mantra again. For some, school spirit represents a spiritual awakening and for others it represents spiritual challenge. (Probably even a little bit of both.)

In faith traditions, most of our communities move around the school year. While holy days like Christmas, Shabbat, Hanukkah, Diwali, and Ramadan are important to faith communities, school calendars often do more to increase attendance and challenge our scheduling. The school year is a reminder that we live in a world filled with competing demands and conflicting values, so it is one of the best opportunities to ask ourselves some tough questions and make some of the most rewarding decisions of our lives. When we had several children in school, we made them choose one primary ongoing extracurricular activity, but let them get as involved as they wanted in church activities. The one extracurricular activity made them prioritize the things they wanted most (or the people they wanted to hang around with the most). It was sometimes a challenge, but it helped them define who they were and what was important to them. So, what about you? Have you set your priorities? Do you set limits because some things are more important than others? The back-toschool season is a powerful time to ask what your spiritual priorities are and how they affect all the competing demands that lead us to conflicting values. Those demands don’t cause our value conflicts; they remind us to base what we do on what we believe!

As we wind up our school spirit and get ready to juggle so many new routines, take some time to decide what is most important to you. And even more importantly, who is most important to you. 78 | 501 LIFE August 2021

August 2021 | 79

Photos and story by Linda Henderson

finding beauty where you least expect it I have a confession: I am snake-phobic. The funny thing is I keep finding myself with my camera in Arkansas swamps, where every log looks like an alligator and every stick looks like a snake. A swamp is defined as a poorly drained wetland. The wetland can be freshwater or saltwater. It can be wooded or grassy and may be covered with open water. According to Anyplace in America, there are 38 swamps in the counties that make up the 501. Many people are afraid of swamps. They find swamps to be wet, scary places only inhabited by snakes and mosquitoes. How many horror movies are set in swamps? Despite the reputation of swamps, they are areas of great biological diversity. Many swamps are filled with many varieties of plants, trees, animals, fish, reptiles, birds, wildflowers and insects. The cypress and tupelo trees are the most recognized Arkansas swamp trees. These trees have adapted well to the swamp’s 80 | 501 LIFE August 2021

waterlogged soil. Their “bell-bottom” lower trunks provide stability for the long periods they spend submerged in water. Cypress trees over time will grow knees, which are part of the root system and can reach several feet above the swamp water. Tupelo trees do not have knees but have deep taproots that thrive under the swamp water. The root collects nutrients and helps support the tree. Tupelo trees are the most gorgeous in the early fall when their leaves turn a bright, golden yellow. A beautiful stand of tupelo trees can be seen between Menifee and Conway on Interstate 40. Wildlife abounds in Arkansas’ low-lying lands. Swamps serve as home for many migratory songbirds and waterfowl. When I spend time in the swamp, I always hear many more birds than I see. The watery woodlands of the swamps serve as a wintering home for ducks, eagles and osprey. My favorite swamp bird is the snowy egret. Swamps are a habitat of these animated fishermen. They

gracefully dance through the tea-colored water, gathering fish and crawfish in their long beaks. There are several swamps in Central Arkansas that are located close to towns and cities in the 501. One wetland area is the William Kirsch Preserve. It borders Pinnacle Mountain State Park. It is 234 acres of field, forest, wetland areas, open grasslands and the Little Maumelle River. There is also a wonderful sunset view of Pinnacle Mountain. The preserve is maintained and owned by the Nature Conservancy and is open to the public. So, plan a field trip to a swamp near you and enjoy the cypress and tupelo trees. Follow the interpretive signs along a trail. Spend a little time on a boardwalk. Listen for the songs of the birds, the chorus of the frogs, watch for snakes, but do not let your fears of the mysterious wetlands prevent you from enjoying the quiet peacefulness of an Arkansas swamp.

August 2021 | 81

SEARCY NEIGHBORS Person of the month

Kyla Glasser Searcy Teacher of the Year

Photo by Mike Kemp



FAMILY: My parents are Jim and Mona Diles of Pangburn; my husband is Daniel Glasser; and, my children are Samuel, Gabe, Gracen and Rhett.

WORK: I teach seventh- and eighth-grade science at Ahlf Junior High at Searcy School District. Department chair; has worked for the district since August of 2005.

MOST CHERISHED POSSESSION: I am not much of a materialistic person because family means everything to me. My most cherished possession has to do with family. I have my greatgrandmother’s ring that has a stone for my mother’s immediate family and all six of the first cousins. I was 10 when my grandmother passed away. I remember getting that ring out of her jewelry box and sitting on her lap and her telling me which of the 12 stones belonged to whom in the family. It is a cherished memory. Seven years ago, my parents gave me the ring for Christmas. I wear it every day.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO GO INTO YOUR FIELD: I grew up surrounded by educators. There isn’t a branch in my family tree where someone wasn’t a teacher. I remember helping my mom get her classroom ready for the next school year and grading papers. I loved it! I knew from early on that I was going to teach. I just didn’t know what grade level or subject. I had a science teacher, Dr. David Collins, in ninth grade, who showed me how a good teacher taught. I wanted to teach like him. I love everything about teaching, well except for grading. I love to teach others how to teach as well. I am an adjunct for Harding University and have led trainings at the state and national level on things I have implemented in my classroom.

MOST ENJOYED WEEKEND ACTIVITY: Most weekends, you will find me at some type of sporting event for one of our kids. I spend lots of weekends at soccer fields, swimming pools, and tennis courts. However, when we don’t have a sporting event, I love visiting family and friends and being outdoors. My husband’s parents live in Izard County, and we like to go up there to fish and spend time on their cattle farm. I also like to curl up with a good book on a rainy weekend. My husband and I also love to go antique shopping and looking for unique pieces to add to our house.


WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT LIVING IN THE 501: I love living in the 501 because there is so much to do outdoors. The Little Red River, Greers Ferry Lake, camping, woods, and just the beauty of nature. At the same time, there are lots of fun places to shop.

EDUCATION: Bachelor of Arts from Harding University in early and mid-level education in 2004; Master of Science in school counseling in 2008 from Harding University.

2021 Searcy Teacher of the Year; 2020 Featured on KARK for integrating virtual students with my in-person students; 2020 Searcy School District Shooting Star Award; 2017 Arkansas State Finalist for Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching; and, 2011 National Board Certification.

COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: I lead my school to partner with

Operation Homefront to provide toys at Christmas for Arkansas military families. Annually, we raise $5,000 worth of toys. 82 | 501 LIFE August 2021

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO INCLUDE: I served on the committee to write the science standards

for the state of Arkansas and have worked on various projects with the state Department of Education. I have partnered with ACT to write and edit questions on their assessments.

A Growing Health System for a Growing Community

New Medical Offices

More Specialists

Expanded Access

Innovative Services

Surgical Excellence Stay close to home for the most advanced care. At Conway Regional Surgical Associates, our board certified surgeons offer a wide range of general and vascular procedures, providing high-quality, compassionate care from surgery to recovery. When you need surgical excellence, look no further than Conway Regional.

We’re not just growing—we’re growing together. Pictured: Brock King, MD, FACS, Landon Humphrey, MD, Michael Stanton, MD, FACS, Anthony Manning, MD, FACS, and Josh Dickinson, DO

August 2021 | 83

Bank Better with us. When you bank with First Security, you’re choosing real support. For you, and for the state. That’s because our bank is your community bank. So friends, families and fellow Arkansans find better solutions together. It’s another way First Security helps Arkansas bank better – and it’s why you should call on us today.

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84 | 501 LIFE August 2021