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Boots and Bling
NEA’s Inaugural Cattle Baron’s Ball

By Audrey Hanes, Photography by Amy Long

Later this month, the American Cancer Society will bring its signature Cattle Baron’s Ball to Jonesboro for the first time in order to help fund a transportation grant for patients and their families. Organizers hope the inaugural event will pair perfectly with the city’s Southern roots and heart for giving back.

The Cattle Baron’s Ball will take place on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at The Silos in Bono. The event will feature dancing, live music from the Arkansas Brothers, dinner catered by JTown’s Grill courtesy of Jeffrey Higgins, auctions and more. Organizers describe the Western-inspired gala as a country chic event where guests can throw on their favorite cowboy boots and relax.

“This is a signature event for ACS, but it is primarily big in the South,” said Lauren Bassie, American Cancer Society (ACS) Community Development Manager of NEA. “I am excited to launch it in Jonesboro. It reflects the area here; from Southern roots to an agricultural focus, it really fits well with our local culture.

“ACS’ Cattle Baron’s Ball started 44 years ago in the Dallas market. It has since raised more than $77 million. We know NEA has generous hearts. We feel like the community here will love it.”

Chairing the 2018 ball is Leslie Conner, a Jonesboro native and event planner who splits her time between Jonesboro and Atlanta. As the event’s inaugural chair, she will also head up the 2019 NEA Cattle Baron’s Ball.

“When Lauren asked me about chairing this event, I didn’t hesitate,” said Conner. “When I was a little girl, I had an aunt pass away from ovarian cancer when she was not even 40. That was the first time I ever heard the word cancer. I have had many other family members be diagnosed with and pass away from cancer since then. It’s a disease that does not discriminate as far as socioeconomic status, gender or age.”

Working with Conner is a committee full of local volunteers who are passionate about raising funds to help those battling the disease here in NEA; Traci Jones Burgess, Jennifer Clack, Becca Cobb, Lisa Godsey, Lauren Isbell, Elizabeth Johnson, Heather Johnson, Andrea Dionne Kain, Shelley Kelley, Jasmine Miles, Erin Mount, Caroline Sanders, Kimberly Scutero, Keith Sharp, Nikki Sharp, Callie Talley and Suzie Blagdon Woodring are all part of planning the inaugural event.

Scutero is currently serving as the 2018 honorary chair, and for her, the cause is incredibly personal. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2017 and will finish her year of treatment just prior to the Cattle Baron’s Ball.

“June 29, 2017, will be a day that I will never forget,” said Scutero, the administrative assistant for Dr. Len Frey, Arkansas State University Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration. “It was the day that they called to tell me that my biopsies all came back malignant. Never in my life did I think this could ever happen to me. After all the tests that were run, I was diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer. I also tested positive for BRCA1.

“Nobody ever wants to hear they have cancer, but for this to happen to me, there are so many blessings to come out of this. The biggest blessing is that our family had been in Jonesboro for three years at the time of my diagnosis. With Mike being a college coach (A-State assistant men’s basketball coach), we could have easily moved to another state that summer and I would have been in a town not knowing a single person. Instead, we were here in a town that poured out so much prayer and support not just for me, but for our family. This also goes for my family and friends from all over. Another blessing was having my sister move in with us to help out.”

Scutero did eight rounds of chemotherapy, had a double mastectomy with eight lymph nodes removed along with immediate reconstruction, went through 28 rounds of radiation, had a total hysterectomy with a few revision surgeries for her reconstruction and finished her 13th round of targeted therapy last month.

“It feels so good to finally be at the end of this journey,” said Scutero. “Everybody has their own way of dealing and coping with their diagnosis. From my personal experience with my battle of breast cancer, if I could offer any advice it would be to stay strong, remain positive and take it one day at a time.”

She says that the American Cancer Society and the Cattle Baron’s Ball are incredibly important to her because raising funds for a transportation grant to help patients get access to care is so needed.

“Not everybody is fortunate enough to have the ease of access for care like I have had right here in Jonesboro,” said Scutero. “By attending the Cattle Baron’s Ball, the community of NEA can support the ongoing research for new treatments and cures for all types of cancer.”

The Cattle Baron’s Ball will also honor Fred and Susan Cathcart with a Legacy Award to thank them for their tireless work to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. To-date, the couple has raised more than $5 million in honor of their daughter, Donna, who passed away from pontine glioma at the age of 9.

“We knew we wanted to do this, and when we thought of who in our community was helping battle cancer, they immediately came to mind,” said Conner. “They’ve raised more than $5 million so far; it’s legendary. We wanted to honor someone who has dedicated so much of their time to fighting cancer, and the Cathcarts have done that.”

Another special aspect to the event are Mason Jars of Hope. Available for $20 each, organizers hope to light up the night with mason jars in memory of or in honor of someone who has been touched by cancer.

“No family should have to go through what a family goes through when somebody is diagnosed with cancer,” said Conner. “Our big goal for this event is to fund the mission – to raise funds for a transportation grant – to make it easier for families who have a hard time getting back and forth for treatment. Those dollars will stay right here in Northeast Arkansas.”

Bassie says that the grant will tangibly help people battling cancer to get to treatment, a burden that is significant given the rural setup of much of the region.

“We need to help cancer patients get access to care,” said Bassie. “So many people drive three to four hours to get to treatment. The burden is there. ACS saw the community needs in NEA, and we are going to address those needs. … This wasn’t a shot in the dark. We have the numbers for how many people live across NEA and come to our two hospitals to get treatment. Proceeds from the event will address those local needs.”

The ACS of NEA is already active in the area in its effort to support those battling cancer and to attack cancer from every angle, from offering a 24/7 support hotline to providing wigs for cancer patients in the area. Jennifer Clack, a local Jonesboro volunteer, helps lead the fight against cancer by advocating in D.C. with ACS of NEA’s advocacy branch, ACS CAN, for better healthcare, and the organization also partners with local healthcare facilities to increase their health screenings.

Bassie and the Cattle Baron’s Ball committee have big dreams for what the organization can accomplish in Northeast Arkansas with additional funding, beginning with the inaugural event.

“From the time you walk into the barn to the time you leave, you’ll know you’re at a special event,” said Conner. “We’ll have great food, live music and unique auction items like a beautiful farm table and cowhide purses. During the event we’ll have a photo booth, cornhole, dancing and a live painting from Pinot’s Palette. Attendees will also be invited to help in funding our transportation grant. To wrap up the night, we will host a late night dessert buffet.

“We believe we are really bringing a different kind of event experience to Jonesboro, and it’s all to make a mark on cancer here in Northeast Arkansas.”

To purchase tickets or for more information about the 2018 Northeast Arkansas Cattle Baron’s Ball sponsored by St. Bernards, visit cbbofnea.com, email lauren.bassie@cancer.org or call (870) 316-2031.