May 16, 2017 | The 143rd Kentucky Derby had its share of thrills, with racing fans picking favorites among a crowded field. However, the crowd at the 14th Julep Cup Jaunt at UAMS gathered to support patients who need encouragement the most.
More than 200 guests in colorful derby attire attended the event, held May 6 in the Fred W. Smith Conference Center on the 12th floor of the UAMS Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute. Sponsored by the UAMS Consortium and benefiting the UAMS neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the event is central Arkansas’ premier derby watch party, featuring derby-themed food and drink, as well as a live and silent auction.
The event raised more than $81,000 this year, with proceeds benefiting the Mom & Baby Postpartum Wing Renovation Project.
The UAMS NICU cares for infants of high-risk pregnancies, premature births and newborns with special medical needs. It features private rooms for patients and web-based cameras known as the ANGEL Eye system, allowing parents and family to view babies via a secure website.
Addressing the crowd by video were Sara Peeples, M.D., and Elizabeth Kim, M.D., both assistant professors in the Department of Pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine; and Mary “Luann” Racher, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the UAMS College of Medicine. Peeples attended wearing scrubs and an elaborate derby hat.
“Anything that we can do to support families and to provide equipment to get the best quality patient care possible is really, really invaluable,” Peeples said. “So, to anyone who has been willing to make a donation that allows us to continue to provide that kind of care for our patients and for their families, we are unbelievably thankful and grateful for what you have done for us.”
The video featured the stories of the Robinson and Mann families. Jag Robinson, now 23 months old, spent his first four months in the NICU in 2015 until he was discharged to his parents, Kelsey and Brian, that December. Triplets Mason, Logan and James Mann were born in April 2014 at 27 weeks and six days and spent 3-5 months in the NICU.
“He was the tiniest baby I’d ever seen, but he was a miracle,” Kelsey Robinson said of Jag. “Many families were not as lucky as we were to be Arkansans and to have this wonderful hospital here that has all of the technology that our baby needed to grow, and the doctors and nurses here that had the knowledge to take care of our baby.”
“We are very, very blessed to have UAMS,” Robinson said.
The capacity crowd featured a wide array of bright colors, derby hats and fascinators. Seersucker, a popular derby choice, was featured on dresses, slacks and jackets. Men wore business or business casual attire, often with pastel or plaid shirts, along with several bowties ranging from green paisley to pink polka-dot. Dresses ranged from bright shades of hot pink, orange and green to more subdued blues and whites, with plenty of floral patterns and lace. Many derby hats and fascinators were trimmed with elaborate ribbons, roses and feathers.
Keith Cragg, chair of the UAMS Consortium, thanked the crowd for its support of UAMS. Julep Cup Jaunt has raised more than half a million dollars since its inception, he said.
“The care at UAMS for mothers and babies is one that is making a true difference for Arkansas,” Cragg said. “The Consortium board is honored to be able to host this tremendous event that ultimately helps babies just like Jag and the Mann triplets have brighter and healthier futures.”
Prior to the race, 8-year-old Berkeley Courtney-Moore, daughter of emcees Alyson Courtney and Wess Moore, announced Leslie Mann as the winner of the hat contest for her wide-brimmed hat with a large white ribbon. Silent auction tables were flanked by photos of NICU preemies, with additional photos cycling through on a display screen. Guests lingered around four 70-inch, high-definition televisions – one of several updates to the 12th floor space – for pre-race coverage.
Silent auction items included gift baskets, dinner packages, spa packages, club memberships, kids’ items, jewelry, artwork and more. The live auction included a 12-person day trip to Oaklawn Park, home to the Arkansas Derby; a three-night Napa Valley tour and tasting trip for two; and a three-night Churchill Downs VIP experience, including a race named in the winner’s honor. The Oaklawn trip went for $950, the Napa Valley tour went for $4,000, and the Churchill Downs trip went for $4,100.
A live feed of the race was shown on the large 12 ft. by 24 ft. theater-style auditorium screen.
The Derby started late due to rain, with the track a muddy mess. Always Dreaming, a 9-2 favorite, pulled ahead in the late stages and finished 2 ¾ lengths ahead of Lookin Lee and The Battle of Midway, as well as the rest of the mud-spattered field. Classic Empire, the 2017 Arkansas Derby winner and crowd favorite, mustered a late charge but finished fourth.
Misty Tharp was the event chair. The UAMS Consortium is a council of advocates for UAMS made up of business professionals who serve as ambassadors for the university.
Sponsors for the event were The Hat Club, Robin Dee Enterprises, Diveny/Baker Services, Bankers Assurance, UARK Federal Credit Union, Windstream, Simmons Bank, CenterPoint Energy, JPMS Cox, Iberia Bank, Bank of the Ozarks, Quattlebaum Grooms and Tull, Ferstl Valuation Services, Mitchell Williams, Miller Pipeline, Hiland Dairy, LR Bancorp South and Aspire Realty.
UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a northwest Arkansas regional campus; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 2,870 students, 799 medical residents and five dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS and its regional campuses throughout the state, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.