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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Visitors watch Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, as hot air balloons glow during the inaugural Soar NWA at Drake Field in Fayetteville. The event features hot air balloons, helicopter rides, live music, food and vendors to benefit Open Avenues.

Fundraisers usually held in the summer and early fall for three area nonprofit organizations have been canceled, but the groups continue to serve their clients.

The Elizabeth Richardson Center's Beach Bingo Bash will not be happening this year, but center supporters recently announced a "Christmas in July" benefit to help meet the needs of clients.

The group serves children and adults with disabilities in Washington, Benton and Madison counties. For adults, the group provides vocational training, job placement, community involvement and independent living options.

"Christmas in July" is intended to help provide for the needs of the adults who live in the Center's three intermediate-care group homes and those in supported living situations in the community. Like nursing homes, the group homes have been closed to visitors during the current covid-19 situation. Organizers have created an online wish list to help provide activities, games, craft supplies, coloring books and puzzles. The list can be accessed by visiting and searching for Elizabeth Richardson Center.

Services for preschool children ages 6 weeks to 5 years at the ERC Child Development Centers include speech, physical and occupational therapies. The centers are in Farmington, Fayetteville, Huntsville, Springdale and Siloam Springs, with the center in Springdale providing services for Hispanic and Marshallese families.

The organization also operates Richardson Industries, which employs adults with disabilities who provide contract services such packaging, assembly, light repair, sorting and labeling for businesses.

Life Styles Inc. will mark the 44th anniversary of its founding July 14 with cupcakes and plans a drive-through lunch/parade on July 17.

The group held its final Polo in the Ozarks last year after 30 years of the annual event. Organizers say plans are in the works for a new fundraiser in the coming months.

Founded in 1976, Life Styles set out to help people with disabilities live independently in their communities rather than being institutionalized. The nonprofit began with the capacity to help 10 clients.

The organization now offers a range of services through programs that include supported living, supported employment and an educational program, the College for Living. There are also extensive visual and performing arts opportunities for clients.

The inaugural SOAR NWA hot air balloon event in 2019 to benefit Open Avenues saw some 10,000 guests and featured hot air balloon rides, activities and entertainment. This year's event was set for Aug. 22, but organizers announced recently: "We are heartbroken to have to cancel our only annual fundraising event as we need the revenue now more than ever."

"But we knew this was the right, socially responsible thing to do," said Kelly Sampson, development director for Open Avenues. "We are incredibly grateful for the incredible support from companies like Sam's Furniture, Walmart, General Mills and so many others."

Sampson said the nonprofit will hold the Quest:NWA scavenger hunt benefit Oct. 23-25. Teams of six will compete independently with stops throughout Northwest Arkansas from which participants will submit photos.

Open Avenues serves adults with disabilities and helps its clients live as independently as possible while being active participants in the community at large. The nonprofit organization provides employment and job skills training along with job placement services.

For more event photos --

Columnist Carin Schoppmeyer can be reached by email at [email protected]

NWA Democrat-Gazette/CARIN SCHOPPMEYER Jenna Johnston (from left), Jeremy Minchew, Joyce Johnston, Drew Demorotski, Dave Demorotski and Essa Hicks enjoy the Beach Bingo Bash.
Christina Maples (from right), director of employment services at Life Style Inc., helps load lunches and dinners for delivery Thursday, April 9, 2020, with Jim Ramsey, bus driver, and his wife Susan, a direct service provider, at the at the Stensgaard Center in Fayetteville. Organizations in Northwest Arkansa helping residents with disabilities have had to concentrate their efforts to home services because of the coronavirus pandemic. Visit and for a photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)
NWA Democrat-Gazette/CARIN SCHOPPMEYER Sydni Brown (from left), Spring Fling co-chairwoman Tracey and Robert Brown and Pat Robertston enjoy the Open Avenues benefit May 19 at the Embassy Suites in Rogers.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/CARIN SCHOPPMEYER Cindy Hudlow (from left), Nancy Hairston and Teresa Taylor welcome guests to the Haute Trash Fashion Show to benefit the Elizabeth Richardson Center on May at Sassafras Springs Vineyard and Winery in Springdale.
Dena McCool, a direct service provider at Life Style Inc., walks with her client Colin (preferred to use only one name) Thursday, April 9, 2020, after he picked up a delivered lunch and dinner on the residential campus in Fayetteville. Organizations in Northwest Arkansa helping residents with disabilities have had to concentrate their efforts to home services because of the coronavirus pandemic. Visit and for a photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)
NWA Democrat-Gazette/CARIN SCHOPPMEYER Randy Northam and Randal Wright (from left) with Jaydin Northam help support the Elizabeth Richardson Center.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Josh Shelton (center) drives the ball up the field Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, ahead of John Hand (left) during the 29th annual Polo in the Ozarks at the Buell Farm in Goshen. This event features a polo match, games, vendors, music and food to benefit Life Styles Inc.
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At a Glance

Christmas in July

Who: Elizabeth Richardson Center

Mission: “Providing hope, independence and opportunity for children and adults with disabilities.”

When: Through July

Where: Wish list online at

Information: (479) 872-1800 or

Who: Life Styles Inc.

Mission: “Life Styles enthusiastically supports adults with developmental disabilities in reaching their full potential as contributing members of the community.”

Information: (479) 521-3581 or

Who: Open Avenues

Mission: “Open Avenues empowers adults with disabilities by providing employment education, life skills training, and meaningful work.”

Next: Quest:NWA scavenger hunt benefit Oct. 23-25.

Information: (479) 636-5082 or

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