Arkadelphia hospital aims for facility improvements thanks to fundraiser

By LESLIE R. KENT | The Arkadelphian

Nearly 250 area residents and community leaders gathered Tuesday night for the Baptist Health Foundation’s annual Steak Soiree. The goal of the annual fundraiser this year was to fund renovation of third-floor patient rooms and other improvements. 

The event included a silent auction, steak dinner and an entertaining keynote address by Bill Vickery, a fixture on the Arkansas political scene for over 20 years. Preceding Vickery’s introduction by Stacey Marlar of Southern Bancorp, Lena Hayes, the Baptist Foundation’s chief development officer, discussed the work and importance of the Baptist Health Medical Center. She showed a local family video testimonial about a family member’s heart attack and the Arkadelphia hospital’s role in saving his life. 

Noting the longtime rivalry between Arkadelphia’s two universities, Vickery chose sports instead of politics as his topic. He described the camaraderie that exists between sports fans and how similar camaraderie can work to build and improve a community. During Vickery’s remarks, guests were treated to a perfectly grilled medium rare filet mignon, cooked on-site by David Nelson, former director of the World Championship Steak Cook Off in Magnolia. Nelson has been supplying steak cooks for the Soiree since its inception.

In his closing remarks, BHMC-Arkadelphia President Jay Quebedeaux recognized six individuals for their family’s significant contributions to the hospital. The individuals acknowledged were Ross and Mary Whipple, Mike and Amy Gathwright and Lori and Randy Stewart.

The guests at the 2023 Steak Soiree knew their filet mignon was delicious and cut-with-a-spoon tender, but most didn’t know the guy who grilled them. His name is David Nelson, and in 14 years as the chairman of the World Championship Steak Cook Off held each year in Magnolia, Arkansas, he has overseen the cooking of at least 30,000 rib-eye steaks. Since relinquishing chairmanship of the Magnolia event, Nelson has added to his grilling expertise: his team will defend its 2022 Grand Champion title in October at the Texas Bacon Bash Championship. The event he is most proud of was preparing BBQ for 1,400 National Guardsmen when the Arkansas National Guard hosted the national conference in Little Rock. His day job is with the City of Magnolia, where he serves as City Inspector. His most recent achievement in the grilling world was being named Assistant Grill Master for the Dallas Cowboys, and he’ll spend the rest of this week cooking at the Cowboys’ summer training camp in California.

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