The Cella family, now that expanded casino-style machine gambling is just around the corner at their Hot Springs race track, has kicked in the promised $1 million to a foundation to support Hot Springs students and seniors. It's said to be the largest single contribution to charity in Hot Springs.
Note that congratulations were bestowed by Gov. Mike Huckabee, an avowed gambling opponent, who didn't even wait the statutory five days to announce that he would not veto the narrowly passed 2005 legislation that cleared the decks for video poker and blackjack and slot machine-type wagering at Oaklawn and Southland. (Incidentally, this legislation guarantees wide gambling options for any Indian tribes able to clear federal regulatory hurdles to open a casino in Arkansas, our nominal constitutional prohibition on gambling notwithstanding.)
The Cellas took care of Huckabee before Hot Springs. Their investment company made a $10,000 contribution to his presidential exploratory PAC several months ago. Er, excuse us. We meant his PAC to encourage healthier living in America (through keeping The Huckster on the public teat).
As promised during a 2005 election to approve expanded gaming at Oaklawn Park, the family of owner Charles J. Cella today presented the Oaklawn Foundation for the Future of Hot Springs with a check for $1 million, the largest single gift ever to a Hot Springs charity.
"The people of Hot Springs have always supported Oaklawn and we're happy that we can give back to the community in this way that will have such a lasting impact," Cella (pictured here) noted. The Oaklawn Foundation will receive continuing funding of $250,000-$500,000 per year from gaming income as a result of an agreement that Oaklawn voluntarily made with the city. The Foundation will be administered by an independent Board of Trustees which will use the money to fund programs and scholarships to benefit Garland County students and senior citizens, including the construction of a new Center on Aging in association with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.
The thirteen citizens invited to sit as the Charter Board of Trustees for the foundation are Keeley Ardman DeSalvo, John Hearnsberger, Dr. Robert Kleinhenz, Dan Messersmith, Darrell Meyer, Norma Newman, Kerry Owen, Jim Randall, State Representative Rick Saunders, Helen Selig, Sam Stathakis, John Vines and Kirby Williams.
A video from Governor Mike Huckabee, congratulating the Cella family, Oaklawn Park, Hot Springs and the Oaklawn Foundation, was also shown to the guests on hand for the announcement.
The Trustees were introduced at a luncheon hosted by Oaklawn at the Hot Springs Civic Center. Director of Media Relations and Track Announcer Terry Wallace emceed the luncheon and, with Foundation Chariman Darrell Meyer, introduced the Trustees as "entries," placing their names on the same board used for post positions for Oaklawn's most prestigious races. "We thought this would be a fun 'Oaklawn' way of revealing this outstanding group of community leaders to the public," smiled chairman Meyer.
Dr. Jefferson Farris, a member of the Steering Committee, which spent nine months creating the framework for the Foundation, outlined the work of his committee and the goals established for the new Board. "We met many times, heard from a panel of experts and worked very diligently to make sure that the Board of Trustees had all the groundwork done and tools in place to put these funds into the hands of the people who need them as soon as possible," he announced.
The Oaklawn Foundation will be managed under a contract with the Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce. They will disburse funds through an agreement with the Hot Springs Area Community Foundation.