The long-standing traditions of the Kentucky Derby are lived out each year in Little Rock at Southern Silks. Big hats, gents and ladies dressed in their Sunday best, mint juleps and even “horse” races are all part of this fundraiser benefiting Methodist Family Health. The races at this event don’t involve the thoroughbreds clocking the track at Churchill Downs, but the excitement and fun of this special day in May is all the same.

Supporters and friends of Methodist Family Health, as well as Derby-Day enthusiasts, are invited to attend this post-race soiree in celebration of the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. The faux horse races, with sponsors as jockeys, involve prizes, and guests can enjoy live and silent auctions, a hat contest and more. The event takes place at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 6, at the Metroplex Event Center.

Table sponsors choose designated jockeys prior to the event to participate in one of six races at Southern Silks. Guests purchase betting bucks and place their bets at any of six different betting windows, which are color-coded to the “horses” or sponsors competing in each race. Multiple bets may be placed on multiple mock horses, with chances of winning increasing with the number of bets placed.

Jockeys advance at the roll of the dice, which will indicate the color and number of spaces to advance. The jockey who crosses the finish line first represents the winner; the one who places second is the “place horse;” and the one who places third represents the “show horse.”

Event co-chair Lesley Roberts noted the excitement of the event. “Guests get to really participate in the event. There is so much energy in the room as jockeys make their way around the track and guests watching to see who wins. Also, it’s not just the person with the highest bid who gets to take home prizes. A $5 donation can win a prize valued at $1,000.”

Proceeds from the event help the organization fulfill a myriad of services throughout the state.  Jane Dennis, director of communications for Methodist Family Health, shared the following history and facts about the organization.


Methodist Family Health provides emotional, behavioral and spiritual support to children and families in Arkansas. The organization was established in 1899 as the Methodist Orphanage and later known widely as the Methodist Children’s Home.

Methodist Family Health’s nonprofit organizations currently provide care via a statewide network of therapeutic group homes, a behavioral hospital, residential treatment centers, emergency shelter, day treatment programs and counseling clinics. Its mission is to give the best possible care to those who may need our help and to treat the whole person: behaviorally, emotionally and spiritually.

Roberts is co-chair with her husband Stan. They noted how the organization helps families get past the stigma of mental and behavioral issues. Stan serves on the organization’s foundation board, and Lesley, a fundraising consultant, has helped write grants for the organization.

“There is still a stigma associated with mental health, and these issues aren’t talked about as freely as physical challenges,” Lesley said. “When children are facing behavioral or emotional challenges, parents often don’t know what to do to help. Methodist Family Health is there to help families navigate the care needed for kids.”

Stan added that the organization treats children and youth with a wide range of behavioral and emotional issues. “Many people know about our Methodist Children’s Home therapeutic group homes across the state, but we also help kids struggling with issues such as anxiety and grief who can benefit from care in our outpatient counseling clinics.”

Southern Silks offers a time like no other in Little Rock, Lesley noted. “It is such a fun experience to participate in an event rather than just showing up to eat, mingle and bid on auction items. We can’t wait to spend time with friends and other supporters of Methodist Family Health, and of course, see all of the great Derby-inspired hats.”

For more information on Methodist Family Health, go to www.methodistfamily.org or call 501.661.0720.


:: By Jillian McGehee :: Photography by Jane Dennis