|Arkansas United Methodists walk for children, families|
United Methodist youth and youth leaders are among the crowd crossing
the new Big Dam pedestrian bridge in Little Rock, Ark., for the first
Walk for Children rally in behalf of Methodist Family Health. A UMNS
photo by Jane Dennis.
By Jane Dennis*
Aug. 14, 2007 | LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (UMNS)
More than 250 people of all ages hiked across a new pedestrian bridge
over the Arkansas River to show support for Methodist Family Health, a
ministry to children and families in Arkansas since 1899.
The Aug. 3 Walk for Children brought church youth groups from around
the state to the Big Dam Bridge for the first-time event sponsored by
Methodist Family Health in partnership with the Arkansas Conference
United Methodist Council on Youth Ministries. The event raised more than
$23,000 to help the agency provide behavioral healthcare services to
children and families.
"We hope the Walk for Children increases awareness for Methodist
Family Health, not just with Methodists but with the corporate
community," said Andy Altom, president and chief executive. "We want to
get the word out about our services and how we’ve grown and all the
different ways that we can help families around the state."
Bridging the gap
The bridge, spanning three-fourths of a mile and connecting Little
Rock with North Little Rock, opened in 2006 and is touted as the world’s
longest pedestrian and bicycle bridge built and designed specifically
for that purpose.
Participants donned orange event T-shirts and walked across the
bridge and back, where pizza, bottled water, frozen treats and live
music waited. Later, many youth took part in a conference-sponsored
all-night "lock in" at a local water park — welcome relief from the
sweltering 96-degree daytime temperature.
"It’s very hot," said 15-year-old Kelsey Brock of Smackover, who
crossed the span with her friend Stephanie Clements, "but it’s still
fun." They came with a large contingent from the youth group at
Smackover United Methodist Church.
"It was easy going over, but coming back I had to stop and rest,"
said a red-faced, perspiring Taylor Keller, 15, a member of First United
Methodist Church in Camden.
In the crowd were many United Methodist pastors including the Rev.
David Moseley of First United Methodist Church in Pine Bluff, who pushed
his granddaughter, Katherine, in a stroller.
Strong church support
Local United Methodist churches and individuals have been loyal
supporters of Methodist Family Health, particularly at Christmas when
drives are held for the United Methodist Children’s Home, which now
falls under the Methodist Family Health umbrella.
The organization has changed dramatically since its beginning in
1899, when its mission was to serve as an orphanage and find loving
homes for children in need. Today, Methodist Family Health provides
comprehensive behavioral healthcare services to children and families.
The organization’s continuum of care includes a psychiatric residential
treatment center, therapeutic residential group homes, acute psychiatric
hospital care, foster care services, day treatment program, early
childhood development program, out-patient counseling services,
emergency shelter and school-based counseling services. A program
serving mothers with addictions and their children is the newest
The picturesque pedestrian bridge, which at night is bathed in
different color combinations of lights, was selected as the site of the
inaugural event because "it is a new exciting attraction for Arkansas,"
said Maggie Beeler, director of special programs for Methodist Family
But beyond the novelty of the bridge, the Walk for Children expanded
"awareness of the behavioral health care services available to children
and families across the state of Arkansas," Beeler said, "as well as
continuing to raise funds to better serve the more than 600 kids and
families currently in our behavioral hospital, shelter, and outpatient
and residential centers."
*Dennis is editor of The Arkansas United Methodist, the newspaper of the Arkansas Conference.
News media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., 615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Methodist Family Health
Arkansas Annual Conference
Arkansas Conference Council on Youth Ministries