Dozens of kind, energetic families gathered together Sunday afternoon in the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center to help improve the quality of life for many Arkansan children, where they listened to live music and tasted a variety of local soups along the way.
The 12th Annual Northwest Arkansas Soup Sunday brought roughly 600 people, 25 local restaurants and good will under the same roof to benefit the operations of the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.
Participants brought empty muffin tins to serve as sustainable food trays to hold sample-sized cups of soup from the many restaurant booths that lined the entirety of the convention center. The wide variety of recipes made it hard to leave hungry, especially after a trip or two to the bread table and an ice cream sundae to top it off.
“We had 600 people attend last year,” said Laura Kellams, director of the Northwest Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. “We expect that many (to return) this year. We will raise over $50,000.”
Restaurants that served food at the event included old favorites like BHK Cafe, Bordinos and Ozark Natural Foods, as well as some new faces, like Fresco Cafe & Pub, Vetro 1925 and Sipamouane Twin Kitchen.
“We’re here because we try to reach out to the community,” said Kevin Baker, who represented Greenhouse Grill at Soup Sunday. “The owners of Greenhouse love to do anything we can to (connect) and be involved.”
Each guest in attendance was entered in a drawing for gifts of a Soup Sunday cookbook and five tickets to Bags for Books, a luncheon event taking place in March which raises funds to send children a book per month until the age of five.
Tickets to the event were $20 in advance, $25 at the door and $5 for children under the age of 12. While this was the 12th annual event in the region, it is the year of the 32nd Soup Sunday hosted for the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. To honor that, staff and board members of the organization were hoping to additionally raise 100 donations of $32 each during the event.
This year, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Dave and Pam Parks, Joel and Lynn Carver and Hershey and Denise Garner were the event’s major sponsors.
“The donation goes to help. ... lots of kids in need, which we couldn’t do without you,” Kellams said.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families is a non-profit organization that works toward policy solutions for the health, welfare, education and opportunities of children and their families. Its staff is comprised of 13 members who bring various strengths of health, policy and communication knowledge that they use to benefit Arkansan residents. The main office is in Little Rock, but a Northwest Arkansas office opened in 2008.
The organization is working on legislation to improve access to afterschool programs; provide more local opportunities for juvenile offenders; extend health care access for families and ensure that kids can functionally read by the third grade, according to a Soup Sunday brochure.