"I love Tux ‘n’ Trees,” says Adam Head, president and CEO of CARTI. He and his wife Courtney are also this year’s event chairs.
“To have several hundred people in one room on one special night — each with their own cancer stories — we get to experience and remember together we are part of something much bigger than any of us. It’s what we call our ‘transcendent purpose’ at CARTI, our vision, our great work.”
Courtney and Adam both say they never had any plans to chair the cancer-care organization’s signature gala, but when they were approached on the subject, they realized it made a lot of sense.
“There are so many people with CARTI stories who have volunteered, served on our board, walked with a loved one on a cancer journey or been patients themselves who have told our story from the podium,” Adam says. “The reality is, like so many others, CARTI has also changed our lives in ways that go far beyond the job itself.”
According to Jennifer Selig, CARTI Foundation’s executive director, Courtney and Adam have a deep connection to and passion for CARTI and its mission to make trusted cancer care accessible to every patient it serves. Both have witnessed the instrumental role Festival of Trees plays in sustaining the Patient Assistance Program and have worked diligently to make the three-event weekend successful for years.
“Through Adam’s role as CARTI’s president and CEO, they have a unique understanding of the fight against cancer and the support our patients and their families need,” Selig says. “Whether it’s leading the charge on the brand-new CARTI Surgery Center or The Bridge, now under construction, Adam is constantly encouraging our team to push the envelope to offer those we serve the best care available. Courtney matches his dedication by regularly volunteering her time to help patients, caregivers and CARTI employees.”
Adam has served in his position at the top of the organization for six years, and Courtney has been right beside him in the trenches the whole time. She has given her time to all of the Festival of Trees fundraisers through the years and has a standing weekly volunteer gig in the CARTI gift shop.
“Seeing the mission up close through Adam’s work with the patients, physicians, administration, staff and board members has given me a tremendous appreciation for CARTI’s role in the lives of so many Arkansans facing cancer,” Courtney says.
CARTI has no investors, no physician owners and no status quo to maintain, according to Adam.
“We answer to our patients and the communities we serve, and we believe we always can and should do more next year than we did this year.”
The way CARTI delivers care, allowing patients to receive comprehensive and trusted cancer care where they live, is changing things for Arkansans. When a patient walks into a CARTI Cancer Center, perhaps scared, confused, disoriented and sometimes alone, and is met by a team of experts all working together on behalf of a single person, Adam and the rest of the team believe they are living out their mission.
Since 1976 as the Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute, CARTI has brought patient-focused innovative care to its patients by combining compassion with research and technology. The organization offers support services to its patients and caregivers, giving them access to resources to make their cancer journey smoother, and CARTI utilizes and invests in the latest trends in technology to provide superior results that reduce patient downtime while promoting screening and proactive genetic testing to catch cancer earlier.
CARTI is committed to achieving its vision of being “the cancer treatment destination” in Arkansas and beyond. Over the last several years, it has experienced unprecedented statewide growth, particularly in areas with limited cancer services.
With a goal of making sure no one has to go without access to treatment, CARTI actively looks for ways to meet patients where they are. From the main campus in Little Rock and the comprehensive cancer centers in North Little Rock, Conway, Russellville, Pine Bluff and El Dorado to its clinics in more than a dozen cities around the state, CARTI is always ready to walk alongside its patients on their cancer journey with specialty services including audiology, breast cancer, cancer genetics and risk management, gynecologic oncology, imaging, urology and more.
CARTI’s team of expert providers treats more than 35,000 patients each year from every county in Arkansas and from across the country. They service all types of adult cancer and blood disorders with a full spectrum of treatment modalities, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as well as diagnostic radiology.
This June, CARTI opened the state’s only cancer-focused surgery center, allowing patients to receive leading-edge surgical care within Arkansas’ statewide network at CARTI’s flagship Little Rock campus.
“Our physicians, leaders, incredible board and fantastic donors were all highly engaged in this project coming to fruition. We’re thrilled about the CARTI Surgery Center opening at this juncture in CARTI’s history. Not only do we now have the ability to perform onsite surgery, significantly reducing the need for many patients to have to navigate a hospital, but it falls in naturally with our efforts over the past several years to create state-of-the-art comprehensive cancer center hubs,” Adam says.
“Because very often, a cancer journey begins with surgery, patients can now have their surgery in the CARTI Surgery Center with our team of experts and then receive the other aspects of their care — chemotherapy, medical oncology visits, labs, various imaging studies and radiation oncology and the like — where they live.”
And, to add to the excitement, The Bridge, CARTI’s newest endeavor, is now under construction in Little Rock. The on-site support services center will offer accessible programs and support groups to educate, equip and ease patients’ stress during their cancer journeys as a safe haven for patients and families.
Current offerings from The Bridge include a lymphedema support group, laryngectomy support group, breast health support group, cancer 101 workshop, healing arts, pastoral care, financial advocacy, resource and appearance center, genetics and risk management workshop and virtual and in-person yoga.
As further evidence to the organization’s growth over the past year, CARTI has expanded its breast center to a fourth location in Arkansas, ensuring women can receive potentially lifesaving mammograms, radically deepened its level of care in urology by adding new urologists and new locations and has become a world leader in several clinical research trials.
“We now have more patients in clinical research trials than at any time in our history,” Adam says.
“As a volunteer, I see patients and staff interacting all the time,” Courtney says. “It never ceases to amaze me how full of heart and true concern each CARTI team member is, whether it’s a physician, nurse, valet, other staff member or volunteer. People seem to really enjoy their jobs, and patients seem to truly feel cared for and seen.”
In its 47th year, Festival of Trees continues to be one of CARTI’s largest events with the greatest reach. The festival umbrella covers three events: the Sugar Plum Ball, the Festival of Fashion and the Tux ‘n’ Trees Gala.
Tux ‘n’ Trees, this year chaired by the Heads, promises to be a toast to the holiday season at an evening filled with traditional holiday excellence, live and silent auctions, fine dining and live music for dancing. Courtney describes the fun evening as a great way to kick off the holiday season by knocking out some shopping, buying a beautifully pre-decorated Christmas tree and helping to raise much-needed funds for a worthy cause.
“The anticipation and excitement for Tux ‘n’ Trees, our signature black-tie gala, has exploded,” says Selig, who is anticipating a sold-out crowd.
“We selected our theme, Ignite Hope, as a call to action. By supporting Festival of Trees — buying tickets, bidding on auction items and contributing to the ‘Fund a Need’ drive — attendees are helping ignite hope for patients battling cancer this holiday season and into the new year.”
All proceeds from the gala benefit CARTI’s Patient Assistance Program, which provides comprehensive support services such as transportation and lodging assistance and financial, emotional and nutritional counseling to eliminate barriers to treatment. In addition, the program offers cancer patients a variety of publications and resources on cancer, treatment and prevention.
“It’s exciting that the ballroom will be filled with people supporting CARTI’s mission,” Courtney says. “I am most excited about helping ignite hope as we help to raise money for the Patient Assistance Programs that directly help cancer patients and their families during some of their most difficult days. When I volunteer each Thursday, I see the needs up close as I look into the eyes of patients, hear their joys when a scan looks clear and they get to ring the bell or see the worry in their eyes on the harder days when there are more somber conversations because a scan showed something new. Cancer is such a difficult disease, but I love how CARTI desires to come alongside patients and families on their journey.”
Cancer patients and their families need support all year long. Along with Festival of Trees, the CARTI Foundation offers CARTI Salute! in April, Tour de Rock in June, the CARTI Searcy Holiday Luminary Project in December and many other recurring giving opportunities.
Adam is quick to share how the organization has affected him and Courtney in profound ways.
“Not only has Courtney walked this CARTI leadership journey with me since early 2017 when I first heard about the job, but she has also stepped into the mission here by volunteering regularly, interacting with our patients, families and team members and encouraging this great work.”
While she says she was “completely surprised” when Selig approached her and Adam about chairing the event, after some reflection, Courtney realized it was the obvious choice.
“CARTI’s mission and purpose have become a huge part of our personal lives, and we are honored to be a part of this tremendous organization,” she says.
“Hearing real stories from real patients. Real cancer doctors. Real people. The ‘real’ brings us back to why we push ourselves so hard at CARTI to do more,” says Adam of the gala, “and as we sit in that room together, the atmosphere is inspiring. Each year, I get to take the podium and share where we are as an organization and what’s next. I look forward to this because I believe in the vision and mission of CARTI so much.”
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