PA Students Raise Their Second Highest Dollar Total Ever to Fight Hunger

By Ben Boulden

In a short ceremony March 6 at UAMS, the students presented an oversize, mock check to Michelle Hill, corporate relations manager for the Food Bank.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, no in-person races were held in 2020 or 2021. The Class of 2023 and volunteers from the Class of 2024 organized the Oct. 8 event, which started at Two Rivers Park in west Little Rock.

“In a sense, the planning and execution of the race this year was like doing it for the first time,” Samantha Lawson, MPAS, PA-C, said. “It took a lot of teamwork, but the race was a success. Everyone had a great time.”

An assistant professor in the UAMS College of Health Professions Department of Physician Assistant Studies, Lawson said students had to overcome challenges like raising funds from companies that limited charitable donations during the pandemic and administrative challenges like obtaining permits and insurance as well as general organizational work.

“We made some changes along the way and hopefully altered the course of future Heroes against Hunger races in a significantly beneficial way,” said Ryan Toliver, a Class of 2023 PA student. “One thing stayed the same, and that was our mission. Most importantly, we increased awareness of the massive presence of food insecurity among children in Arkansas and beyond.”

The money raised supports the Arkansas Food Bank Food for Kids Program, and each dollar provides five meals to children in need, Hill said. So, the donation was the equivalent of 55,000 meals.

“We could not do what we do without you,” Hill said. “We delivered 40.1 million pounds of food in 2022. Unfortunately, food insecurity keeps rising, and Arkansas remains the number two state. Keep doing what you’re doing to help us keep putting food on tables.”

Rhonda Mattox, M.D., president of the Arkansas Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association (AMPDA), and Hillary Mayberry, an assistant professor in the department, congratulated the students and the Food Bank at the ceremony via a live video stream.

In his opening remarks, Edward Williams, DMSc, M.Ed., PA-C, department chair, said the partnership between the Fellowship of Physician Assistant Students and AMPDA “has significantly increased and improved how much we can donate to the Food Bank from the race every year. We want to recognize the partnership we have with the association.”

He said the collaboration between the two is now several years old and lends the race a 501(3)c federal tax status so people can take their donations off their taxes.