For more than a century, Arkansas Children’s has written the story of cutting-edge pediatric care including expanding access and delivering excellence to the state’s youngest patients. Evolving over 10 decades from an orphanage to a hospital to the expansive health system it is today, Arkansas Children’s is a nationally-ranked, anchor health care institution for the state.
Though Arkansas Children’s has extended services, clinics and hospitals for many parts of the state, children from all 75 counties still need the care that only ACH can provide. Whether a pediatric intensive care unit, a toddler’s kidney transplant or an infant’s heart surgery, ACH is the only hospital in the state that can do that.
The brass at Arkansas Children’s recognized that supporting the growing children of Arkansas requires multiple strategies, including effective scheduling practices, a robust provider workforce, efficient use of well-designed spaces and extensive building renovation and expansion, all at an investment of $318 million.
In addition to the scores of community members, foundations and companies who support Arkansas’ only hospital system solely dedicated to caring for children, money raised from this year’s Miracle Ball, a shared project of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Auxiliary and Arkansas Children’s Foundation, will also aid in support for the 111-year-old institution’s largest-ever expansion
Founded in 1967, the ACH Auxiliary is a volunteer 501(c)(3) organization with more than 450 members. To support patients and families, the auxiliary undertakes five major projects each year: a la Carte, the Holiday Card Project, Miracle Ball, Race for a Healthier Tomorrow and the ACHiever program. Auxiliary volunteers also donate their time at the Playaway Gift Shop in the ACH lobby.
In 2023, the group donated $1.4 million to ACH to support programs and research initiatives for the hospital, marking the 13th consecutive year the auxiliary has raised more than $1 million in support of the hospital’s mission.
The theme of this year’s Miracle Ball is Couture Christmas, chaired by Tiffany and Daniel Robinson. Daniel, a senior investment officer and vice president at Arvest Bank, and Tiffany, owner of Little Rock women’s designer boutique Barbara/Jean, are both no strangers to supporting nonprofits and are often counted among the best dressed at fundraising events.
That they incorporated their love of supporting the community with their knowledge of what is in vogue comes as no surprise, nor is it any wonder they have agreed to chair during this ball, one of Arkansas Children’s most pivotal years.
“Choosing Tiffany and Daniel Robinson as chairs for the 2023 Miracle Ball was simply perfect timing, just as we began to dream about the future,” says Fred Scarborough, executive vice president and chief communications and development officer at Arkansas Children’s. “They exemplify the spirit of philanthropy, making it a part of their very lifestyle. Their involvement in numerous nonprofit organizations reflects their dedication to giving back.”
Tiffany and Daniel, who have been married for 18 years, point to the year that Tiffany’s mother and step-father, Cindy and Chip Murphy, chaired Miracle Ball as their first real exposure to Arkansas Children’s mission to champion children by making them better today for healthier tomorrows.
“It’s always a family affair. [Cindy and Chip] asked me if I would chair the silent auction, which of course I did, and I became acquainted with Fred Scarborough, and we got to know some of the other team members. It was just a really wonderful experience,” Tiffany says. “And, of course, who can’t get behind the mission of what they do every day at Arkansas Children’s Hospital?”
The Robinsons also point to many personal examples of how lives have been affected by Arkansas Children’s and why having specialized pediatric care nearby is so important to them. One of Tiffany’s roommates was, and still is, a nurse at ACH.
“I was always just so impressed,” Tiffany says. “We’d come home from work and she would tell me about her day and I would tell her about my day, and I’d be like, ‘wow, she’s doing some major stuff.’”
Tiffany’s older brother was a NICU baby, and even though they weren’t living in Arkansas at the time, that example is the reason why she believes just having the level of care that hospitals like ACH have available is life-saving. Daniel cites friends whose children have had heart surgeries, his brother-in-law was treated for burns there — ACH houses the state’s only burn specialty center and treats both children and adults — and even a coworker’s child whose life has been extended and enriched through the efforts of ACH.
“She was born 11 and a half years ago, and at this point she’s lived longer than anybody they can find with her combination of issues,” Daniel says. “And she’s doing great.”
“It’s just one of the many stories of someone who, at first, they thought, this baby’s not going to make it. Then she had several surgeries and she did. And they thought, well, maybe, you know, she’ll make it a year or two. And she did, and she just kept thriving,” Tiffany says. “She’s now doing all kinds of things that nobody ever thought, and it’s because of the doctors and the miracles that have happened [at ACH].”
All of those experiences and the countless other stories the Robinsons hear from friends and family are what keep them coming back, continuing to stay involved and helping with whatever fundraising activities are needed.
“When Cindy and Chip Murphy chaired Miracle Ball many years ago, I playfully predicted that Tiffany would follow in their footsteps in 20 years,” Scarborough says. “Well, here we are, witnessing a full-circle moment. They truly are extraordinary individuals who are making an indelible mark on our community.”
Miracle Ball 2023 guests are invited to celebrate the hospital’s legendary past, the magic of the present season and the dreams of tomorrow, complete with couture installations, holiday shopping and a specially-curated menu of extraordinary food.
“This year’s Miracle Ball promises to be a night of elegance,” Scarborough says. “However, the true magic of the evening lies in our shared commitment to the children. Coco Chanel is credited with saying, ‘To achieve great things, we must first dream.’ That’s part of our inspiration for this year’s Miracle Ball, a dream of a healthier tomorrow for the 700,000 children in Arkansas.”
It’s partly because of Tiffany’s background in fashion that she and Daniel thought it would be fun to transform Children’s Hall on ACH’s campus to feature luxury, gilded style and glamour.
“Last year was the first time they did Christmas as a theme, and everybody really enjoyed it. So at least for a little bit, we’re carrying the Christmas theme over,” Daniel says.
“It will hopefully feel like you’re walking down Fifth Avenue or Bond Street or one of the other couture streets around the world and looking in the windows.”
The room will be transformed to feature specially-built storefronts decked out with mannequins, gowns and bespoke fashion while Tanarah Luxe Floral will decorate the whole “street” and its shops for the holidays. The Robinsons say guests will experience part Met Gala, part warm and cozy all together in the same room, complete with a red carpet, and will feel transported to a luminous city of splendor to delight in window shopping for high-fashion clothing, footwear, fine jewelry and festive florals.
“If you see Children’s Hall before and during, I mean, it’s always remarkable, the transformation,” Daniel says.
Barbara/Jean will even have a “storefront” to showcase its handbags, shoes and pieces from the Lourdes Chavez collection.
The Robinsons hope to net $1 million through Miracle Ball and are confident they will reach that goal. The event will feature a live and silent auction along with a call to action to raise as much money as they can to support the future plans of the hospital’s expansion in Little Rock.
“Transformative impact starts with donors, volunteers and community leaders across our state,” Scarborough says. “Support is essential to delivering on our promise for a healthier tomorrow for the children of Arkansas.”
Arkansas Children’s will embark on its most ambitious clinical expansion next summer as part of its strategic plan to deliver unprecedented child health in Arkansas. The growth will happen over the next eight years and includes ACH in Little Rock and Arkansas Children’s Northwest in Springdale.
“Pediatric health needs are more complex than ever before, and we are committed to the highest levels of access and health care quality for the children and families across the state,” Arkansas Children’s President and CEO Marcy Doderer says. “This plan includes recruiting more than 100 new providers and 400 new team members, adding new programs and building and modernizing facilities.”
The system-wide expansion plan will increase bed capacity, transform inpatient and outpatient surgical approaches with the addition of an ambulatory surgery center, redesign clinical spaces to promote multidisciplinary care and create an inviting and accessible campus experience.
Polk Stanley Wilcox and Cromwell are the architects of record and Nabholz will serve as the construction manager for the project. Arkansas planning and engineering teams are finalizing proposals for the enhancements, but estimate 265,000 new square feet of facilities and an additional renovation that spans more than 170,000.
“We are building the future together in this next chapter in our story. The result will define excellence and deliver a healthier tomorrow for the children of Arkansas and the region,” Doderer says.
The investment comes after significant expansion at the health system’s regional clinics since 2018, adding capacity for specialty care in Jonesboro, opening a primary care clinic in Pine Bluff, opening Arkansas Children’s Northwest and debuting additional care spaces in Springdale.
In 2022, Arkansas Children’s served 169,000 children — more children than ever before — and the need for service continues to grow.
“I’ve worked in this organization for decades and I think we have always tried to listen to the community and meet the needs of our patients and families,” says Lea Woodrow, a 45-year veteran nurse and team member. “It’s hard to put into words how excited I am that we are moving in this direction. It will be such a difference maker.”
“Every child deserves to have timely access to great pediatric health care,” says Shannon Hendrix, chief administrator of Arkansas Children’s Northwest. “Expanded services will reach children in every corner of the state and well into the region. These new world-class facilities are where a new generation of care begins.”
The Robinsons agree.
“Arkansas is at the bottom of many lists that are not good for children,” Daniel says. “It’s our duty to take care of the kids because they can’t take care of themselves. They are our future. We have to help them.”
“Growing up, I knew Arkansas Children’s Hospital was on the interstate when I would drive past it. But it wasn’t until I became an adult … that I realized, this is a major thing. It’s not just another hospital that exists. It’s a really special place that can do all kinds of really amazing things for kids that a lot of people don’t have access to,” Tiffany says. “It just comes full circle when you meet so many people and you hear so many stories and you learn about so many really positive outcomes.”
“In a field where minutes matter,” Daniel says, “having Arkansas Children’s here, there’s no doubt it’s changed outcomes.”
BRIDGET BALTIMORE OF BARBARA/JEAN