story and photos by Stephen Carter, special to The City Wire
Loving Choices Pregnancy Centers of NWA raised $245,044 at its 26th annual fundraising banquet Tuesday (Oct. 29) at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale.
Nearly 900 guests heard a message from keynote speaker, Melissa Ohden, the survivor of a failed saline infusion abortion in 1977.
The organization conducted 4,222 appointments this year, providing counseling and limited medical services to women experiencing a reproductive health crisis, whether it is an unplanned pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease.
Executive Director Caroline Rhoads anticipates more clients in 2014 due to advertising efforts. To accommodate more clients, the organization plans to increase its weekly operation from three to four days beginning next year. Funds raised during the event will support the organization’s increased operational needs in 2014.
Ohden, who has been featured on television and radio programs including Fox News, The 700 Club, and the award-winning documentary A Voice for Life, shared her life story at the event, stating, “my life would have been very different if a place like Loving Choices existed 36 years ago when my biological mother faced an unplanned pregnancy herself.”
Michelle Duggar, a guest at the event, and mother of 19 children, said the Loving Choices annual banquet, in addition to raising funds for operational costs, “brings awareness to the community what crisis pregnancy centers are all about.”
With locations in Fayetteville and Rogers, Loving Choices provides free and confidential services to help with pregnancy and other reproductive health issues including pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, STD testing and abortion information. All services are free of charge. Rhoads said the organization “provides a voice to the voiceless.”
Kim Darner, a Loving Choices client, said, “if I knew someone that was pregnant with an unplanned pregnancy, I would definitely tell her to come to Loving Choices.” Darner, commenting on the organization’s impact on her own life, said “I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.”