There’s a runway, there are lights, there’s music and people are cheering.
It’s the Gentlemen of Distinction Gala, a men’s fashion show where every year 20 men in northwest Arkansas don a special outfit and take to the stage. It’s a fun, entertaining affair that serves as the annual, signature fundraiser for Hope Cancer Resources, an organization that provides emotional and practical support to cancer patients and their families.
“We’ve had a little bit of everything. It’s a lot of fun,” says Gay Prescott, Vice President of Development at Hope Cancer Resources. “We’ve had fathers and sons. One man modeled with his dog. Some models quickly. Others truly embrace the runway.”
The gala has grown through the years, and every year makes a difference. “We can raise money for a specific purpose and know that it can change people’s lives.”
America’s Car-Mart has sponsored the Gentlemen of Distinction gala since its inception in 2004 to honor the legacy of Bill Fleeman, founder of America’s Car-Mart. The fundraising event provides financial support to patients in treatment for cancer through Hope Cancer Resources. Sadly, this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the gala is canceled; however, Car-Mart will honor its financial commitment to the organization.
“Car-Mart has sponsored our event for a long time. They do it out of their passion in honor of Bill Fleeman and for cancer patients today. To have that culture of philanthropy and to support families for years and years is a great legacy. Car-Mart does a lot to support families in northwest Arkansas, and they do so at a significant level,” says Gay.
“Think about the population alone. Think about how the area has changed. Think about how our organization has changed and grown. It’s all been based on the demand from patients. We’ve seen an increase in the number of patients. We know people need us. To have a company that so solidly supports us year after year after year – it gives you a present and helps with our needs,” she maintains.
Walking the Runway
For each gala event, Car-Mart selects an associate to represent the company and model at the gala. “The Car-Mart men come prepared, and they represent Car-Mart very well. They also have a really good time,” laughs Gay. “Car-Mart has a good culture. I always look forward to meeting the Car-Mart models; they always come with stories.”
“It was a blast walking the runway for the event in 2017,” says Barry Baggett, Senior Marketing Manager.
“I was honored to represent Car-Mart as a celebration of my 25th Anniversary with the company! The Gentlemen event is first class all the way and Gay does a great job making sure all models get the most out of it.”
“We had an individual photoshoot, and a stylish group photo session for a local magazine,” Barry adds. “The clothes provided were awesome, and we even had a practice runway session on the day of the show.”
“Hope Cancer Resources serves a tremendous need in northwest Arkansas, and the Bill Fleeman Gentlemen of Distinction event is the cornerstone event to provide that service,” continues Barry.
“Many Car-Mart associates have participated over the years and many great stories have been shared, adds Ted Taylor, Car-Mart’s Director of Expansion and Lot Development. “It was an honor to join in this great cause and as part of celebrating 35 years with Car-Mart. Our hope is this event will continue to raise awareness and support as it continues to grow.”
“What a rewarding experience to walk the runway for an exceptional cause,” says Jon Sims, Senior Vice President of Corporate Recruiting. “Hope Cancer Resources did an exceptional job catering to our needs and preparing us for the experience. Gentlemen of Distinction has developed into “staple” in cancer treatment and helping those in need in our communities.”
Providing support through the Cancer Journey – Hope Cancer Resources
A cancer diagnosis affects everything. “No one ever really learns about cancer until you get a diagnosis,” says Gay. “It’s a whole new world, and we’re there to walk beside them during their journey.”
During 2019, Hope Cancer Resources helped 1,200 new patients and 4,400 patients. Located in Springdale, Ark., the organization provides support services to help cancer patients transition through their diagnosis.
Social workers talk with patients about their needs and concerns, so Hope Cancer Resources can provide the right resources – financial, transportation, etc. “Each cancer diagnosis is unique so it’s important to know what’s going on with each individual,” says Gay.
Hope Cancer Resources has six licensed counselors who connect with patients and help them manage their emotions and overall cope with their diagnosis. They also help the family better understand what to expect and how to manage through the challenging circumstances.
The organization provides transportation to take patients to their appointments, which are daily, weekly, and monthly. In 2019, Hope Cancer Resources traveled some 300,000 miles to transport patients. A Spanish interpreter will also go to medical appointments with patients, if necessary.
“Many times, we are their complete support system,” says Gay, while adding providing this level of support is both humbling and rewarding. “We have a lot of stories.” [Learn more about the stories of hope at HRC].
Helping People – a Passion for Gay Prescott
For Gay, helping cancer patients is her life’s calling has helped patients for over 20 years. “Watching someone battle a disease like cancer is heart-wrenching. There are so many unknowns. It doesn’t matter where you are in life, cancer is hard, and it’s hard on the person and it’s hard on the family. It hits you to the core,” says Gay, who joined Hope Cancer Resources in 2005.
Gay feels a close connection to cancer patients having lost her Father to melanoma in 2007.
“My family and I lived through this for a year. It changed my passion and increased it even more as it opened my eyes to the little things, we can do to make a larger impact on people,” Gay says.
“Cancer affects people from all walks of life. It doesn’t pinpoint a certain demographic. It is something that can affect any family. I lived through that with my own family, and it changes you,” Gay continues. “It changed our family for the better. The death of my Dad brought my family together even more.”
Helping Hope Cancer Resources
Gay suggests several ways in which people can pay it forward at Hope Cancer Resources:
- Volunteer and be an advocate.
“When you hear a friend, co-worker, family member newly diagnosed with cancer, we would love for you to say, ‘Hope Cancer Resources can help you.’”
- Donate money.
“Be assured that every gift goes to the sole purpose of helping a cancer patient and helping their patients get through their diagnosis.”
- Stay tuned for our Gentlemen of Distinction Gala in 2021!
“Perhaps you’ll become a sponsor and then be a model!”
At America’s Car-Mart, we’re always excited about October. It’s our annual Drive Away Cancer campaign – and you can drive away for $1,000 off your down payment! For every car we sell during October, we’ll donate a few bucks to the American Cancer Society – up to $10,000.
And we want to do all we can to raise awareness of breast cancer and all cancer. During October, we’re featuring stories of people who currently have cancer, have experienced cancer, or have helped loved ones during cancer treatments. We thank our associates for sharing their courageous stories.