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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy photo At the "Signature Chefs" dinner, the Sappington family will share their experience in the neonatal intensive care unit when baby Hadley Grace was delivered 13 weeks early. Today, Hadley is a happy, healthy 2-year-old.

Marcus Osborne, honorary chairman for the March of Dimes Arkansas "Signature Chefs" event, says he was drawn to working with the group because of personal connections he had to the organization's mission. The March of Dimes seeks to improve infant health by preventing premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality.

Courtesy photo At the "Signature Chefs" dinner, the Sappington family will share their experience in the neonatal intensive care unit when baby Hadley Grace was delivered 13 weeks early. Today, Hadley is a happy, healthy 2-year-old.

"My wife is a midwife and helped found a birth center here," he says. Cara Osborne is co-founder of the Birth Center of Northwest Arkansas. "So I was already interested from an academic perspective. But, unfortunately, I also have close family members who have dealt with the downside of pre-term birth. In some cases, it's been positive -- where the child has lived but with significant complications and cost. And in some cases, the child didn't live. As this group has gotten much bigger in Northwest Arkansas, I've started getting more and more involved with them here."


WHAT — Signature Chefs, benefiting the Northwest Arkansas March of Dimes Association

WHEN —6 p.m. Oct. 12

WHERE — Brightwater, 801 S.E. Eighth St., Bentonville

COST — $200 to $10,000

INFO —717-7071

The March of Dimes excels in three areas related to its mission of fighting premature births, Osborne says. The first, and most critical, he says, is research.

"They're directly funding research into the causes of prematurity and what we can do to address it. You would think that a lot of federal government funding goes into this, but, in fact, it does not. So the amount of funding they put into research is critical."

Osborne notes that the March of Dimes also contributes to training local physicians in best practices when working with premature babies.

"I think this is specifically beneficial here," he says. "They help local physicians stay on top of and educated around what are the most modern, evidence-based approaches to deal with the challenges of prematurity."

"That's one of our big initiatives here," confirms Annsley Stewart, development director at the March of Dimes. "Our maternal child health impact director comes up from Little Rock and works with hospitals, providing them with best practices and up-to-date procedures to provide education to hospital staff in an attempt to reduce prenatal prematurity. We've also worked with our 'Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait' campaign with hospitals, making sure there aren't early elective deliveries before 39 weeks. By doing that, we've dramatically reduced the rates of prematurity in Northwest Arkansas."

Osborne says the March of Dimes also is successful in its mission to offer support to families who have infants in the neonatal intensive care unit.

"They come in and do care packages for the families that have children in the NICU," says Osborne. "I spoke with a woman who said she was not able to touch her baby for 72 days, and that's sort of the reality for these families. Coming in and being there for them, providing care packages and offering some of that family support infrastructure is important."

The organization's upcoming "Signature Chefs" event is a chance to both celebrate accomplishments and raise funds to continue the important support they give the community, says Osborne.

"The event is happening at [the Northwest Arkansas Community College's culinary institute] Brightwater," says Osborne. "The event itself is really fun. It's an opportunity to engage with a fairly diverse and eclectic group of culinary talents in the area. Having been here 10 years and seeing the transformation of the culinary scene in Northwest Arkansas -- this is an amazing opportunity to engage with some of these new chefs. They'll be competing with each other to see who can produce the best dishes."

The 11 participating chefs include lead chefs Maudie Schmitt (Cafe Rue Orleans) and Keith Burmylo (Bocca), as well as chefs Chrissy Sanderson (Mockingbird), Rob Nelson and Scott Baker (Tusk & Trotter) and Darwin Beyer (Meiji). Live music will be provided by Take Cover. Stewart says both the live and silent auction offerings are robust and exciting.

"One of the ones I'm really excited about is the private poker party in Bike Rack Brewing Co.," she says. "It will be in the brew room, and they're pairing their beers with tacos from Yeyo's Mexican Grill. The winners of the auction will also get a private tour of the brewery. We also have a five-day, four-night stay in New Zealand -- that seems to be a popular one. And we have a dinner at Mockingbird Kitchen with Razorback Coach Bret Bielema."

The event will spotlight the Sappington family and their daughter, Hadley Grace, who was born prematurely.

"Without all of the advancements in research, technology, lifesaving medications and testing pioneered and funded by the March of Dimes that Hadley received while in the hospital, I'm not sure what our outcome would have been," says Valarie Sappington in a statement on the event's website. "She is healthy and brings so much joy to all of those around her."

NAN Profiles on 10/08/2017

Print Headline: March of Dimes "Signature Chefs" Celebrates Past Successes, Raises Funds for Future

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