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celebrating 25 years of triple swing
Story by Audrey Hanes; photography by Amy Long

Since 1993, a group of volunteers called the St. Bernards Advocates has been dedicated to assisting St. Bernards Healthcare in providing Christ-like healing
to the community through funding, volunteerism and community awareness. As Triple Swing, St. Bernards Development Foundation’s primary fundraiser, celebrates 25 years later this month, it will debut a new format as it raises money for St. Bernards Villa’s Memory Care Unit.

The St. Bernards Advocates were formed in 1993 by then-St. Bernards Foundation Executive Director Frank P. Hall Jr. and then-St. Bernards President Ben E. Owens. The idea was to form a community leader volunteer organization that would advocate for St. Bernards and assist with securing financial support for the medical center.

Today, the 199 patron and active St. Bernards Advocates put in about 2,000 hours of service each year. The group took over two pre-existing events, the Triple Swing Golf Tournament and Dinner Dance, which benefit a project designated for a specific use annually. The advocates have also since added two additional fundraising events: a Butterfly Release in 2008 and a 24-Hour Spin-A-Thon in 2012. To-date, the St. Bernards Advocates have raised more than $1.8 million for St. Bernards Healthcare, including $500,000 for the Phil and Flo Jones Hospice House and $345,000 for the St. Bernards Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

One very dedicated volunteer, Selena Barber, became a St. Bernards Advocate in 2007 and joined the board in 2010, where she has since served as Triple Swing chair and vice chair and is now serving as advocate chair.

“The advocates support St. Bernards through fundraising and community awareness,” said Barber, the vice president and marketing communications officer for Centennial Bank. “I have really enjoyed the opportunity to meet so many community members and to work with them towards a common goal of
supporting and raising money for the programs at St. Bernards.”

Triple Swing, which is now a three-day extravaganza, has become the hospital’s signature fundraising event. Barber says the funds raised by Triple Swing are especially important because St. Bernards Healthcare is able to utilize the funds the advocates raise for matching grants, enabling the volunteers’ efforts to be greatly multiplied.

“The Northeast Arkansas community has always been extremely supportive of our efforts,” said Barber. “We could not succeed in organizing a three-day affair of this magnitude without our generous sponsors.”

The 2014 Triple Swing Chair, Kent Bridger, is backed by a team of volunteer committee chairs that includes Deana Osment, Robert Wells, Justin and Lydia Parkey, Lori Bryant, Beth Murff, Mallory Riddick, Jerry Brackett, Lisa Graves, Joe and Blair Cook, Pat Farmer, Amy Cook, Michele Polk, Michael Givens and Dede Lee. Barber and Bridger also say that the event wouldn’t be possible without the foundation’s volunteer coordinator, Dana Housley, St. Bernards Development Foundation President Marilyn Hummelstein and office manager Kelli Merriman.

Bridger, the senior vice president of Simmons Bank, became involved with St. Bernards Development Foundation seven years ago and has been on the advocate board for three.

“I enjoy meeting new people and developing friendships while helping with such a tremendous cause,” said Bridger of what he enjoys most about being a St. Bernards Advocate. “The foundation has been very instrumental in helping with various special projects of St. Bernards and the community. The recent addition of the NICU and the Hospice House are just a few of the projects that have had a very meaningful impact on the community in which we live.”

The 2014 Triple Swing will kick off with a Hamptons beach party-themed dinner and dance, which will feature dinner, dancing, live entertainment by Bamboo Forest and more. In addition to the silent auction, the evening’s live auction willinclude several large items such as a University of Arkansas Razorback Football game day experience, a New York theater package and a golf package. The advocates will also be raffling off a Bad Boy UTV valued at $10,000.

As Triple Swing’s 25th anniversary chair, Bridger is looking forward to the event’s new format“Being the 25th annual Triple Swing is very special,” said Bridger. “The event has evolved throughout the years and this year is no different. The format for this year’s event has changed and we will not have a tennis portion, but we will have a V.I.P. golf portion on Sunday. I hope that the new feature is well received and grows in the future. …“With this being the first year for the V.I.P. golf portion, we are truly in the infancy stage with this new format, but I think this will grow and develop into something extremely special and unique to the area.”

The 25th annual Triple Swing will benefit St. Bernards Villa’s Memory Care Unit, which is dedicated to the needs of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

St. Bernards Development Foundation has kicked off a capital campaign to fund the construction of the Memory Care side of the house; in turn, the advocates have stepped-up with a generous pledge,” said Brian Rega, director of senior services/housing for St. Bernards Health Care Inc. “Like the Flo and Phil Jones Hospice House before it, St. Bernards Villa will fill a void in our continuum
of care.

“There’s currently nothing like this planned Alzheimer’s Special Care Unit in an assisted living setting in the region. Most Alzheimer’s or other dementia sufferers have been cared for at home or in a skilled nursing facility. We’ve created an option that is so much more. ”

The Villa is scheduled to open in the spring of 2015.“The Jonesboro community is always willing to help a worthy cause,” said Bridger. “Without the hard work of the volunteers and the community’s attendance at Triple Swing, we would not be nearly as successful in our fundraising efforts for this event.” The 25th annual Triple Swing will begin June 21 with a dinner and dance, followed by the V.I.P. Golf Classic on June 22 and the Golf Classic on June 23.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call 207-2500 or visit stbernardsfoundation.org.