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story.lead_photo.caption Donna Bressinck graduated from Little Rock’s Mount St. Mary Academy in 1964, but never left. An active volunteer for the school, she has teamed up with her fellow-alumni daughters to chair the 2019 edition of the Mercy & Me Luncheon, the biennial signature fundraiser for the academy, to take place April 16 at the Statehouse Convention Center. - Photo by John Sykes Jr.

Donna Bressinck graduated from Little Rock's Mount St. Mary Academy in 1964.

But, well, she never left the all-girls' high school.

"I've stayed pretty involved over the course of 55 years," Bressinck says. Her daughters, Ashley Cunningham and Amy Bratcher, kept her involved as members of the classes of 1988 and 1989, respectively. And now, Bressinck has a granddaughter attending the school. Over the years, Bressinck has served with the Booster Club, the Parent-Teacher Organization, the Alumni Association and various academy boards.

She's now co-chairing the Mercy & Me Luncheon, the biennial signature fundraiser for the 168-year-old academy. Its 2019 incarnation will take place April 16 in the Wally Allen Ballroom, Statehouse Convention Center.

The event was born of the idea of "celebrating mercy," Bressinck says. "The original, and still the tag line, is 'Nine mercy values, all kinds of leaders.' ... the community in our community. And also, celebrating the Sisters of Mercy coming to the United States" from Ireland in 1943.

Mercy & Me trades off with Dinner Belles, a dinner program also held every other year as a fundraiser for the school and for which Bressinck has also volunteered. She has worn various hats on all the Mercy & Me planning committees. This year, Cunningham and Bratcher have joined her as co-chairmen.

Mercy & Me gets its name from the nine mercy values modeled by the Sisters of Mercy -- an order of Roman Catholic sisters whose members founded the academy and other schools as well as hospitals -- and its founder, Catherine McAuley:

• Recognition of the intrinsic worth and dignity of each person

• Excellence and quality

• Hospitality

• The courage to innovate and the right to make mistakes

• Compassion, mercy, justice

• Service to the poor, sick and uneducated

• Response to need

• The worth and need of a sound education in the total effort of leading students to the truth

• Respect for varied religious traditions and beliefs

A silent auction featuring pottery and paintings will take place prior to the lunch and program. "We're hoping to have 700 people" at the event, Bressinck says. The luncheon speaker will be Sister Mary C. Sullivan -- professor emeritus of language and literature, and dean emerita of the College of Liberal Arts, at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and author of numerous works on McAuley. Introduced by Sister Lisa Griffith, executive director of the Mercy Education System of the Americas, Griffith will speak on "Mercy: Past, Present, Future."

A NEW ACCOLADE

New to the event will be the Mount St. Mary Academy Women's Leadership Award, established to recognize exceptional women with ties to Arkansas who have demonstrated outstanding professional or service-oriented leadership within their community. The inaugural award will go to Laura R. Landreaux, the first female president and chief executive officer of Entergy Arkansas. Landreaux is a 1991 St. Mary's graduate and founding member of Arkansas Women in Power; she also has a daughter at the academy. Proceeds from the luncheon will go to St. Mary's programs and services.

Bressinck and her daughters are overseeing a committee of 30-40 people. "It's a very multigenerational committee -- a lot of young people and a lot of older people," she says. "We sort of ... multiply and divide. We just try to get out the word -- and now it's a lot easier with social media. And, we have a good time."

The luncheon normally takes about a year to plan, with the committee formed two years out. Members meet at least once a month as a whole, with subcommittees meeting individually. Bressinck credits the school's foundation office with doing a lot of the background work, which "makes us look good."

The event attracts a number of non-Catholics and non-St. Mary's people -- "mostly women," Bressinck says. "But ... there are several boards here that have men on them," and they're expected to attend, she adds. Organizers hope to match, and ideally top, the $185,000, raised during the previous Mercy & Me Luncheon.

The most rewarding part of Bressinck's role with the event, she says, is just being on campus with other alumni, parents, faculty and staff.

ONE BIG FAMILY

"Everybody is ... part of this big family," she says, and all the members of that family are participating in the luncheon in some way. The art department, for instance, is painting 700 Mercy Shields -- Sisters of Mercy crosses. The students in the video technology department are putting together a video to be shown.

"It's an adult kind of event, but it includes all the kids to what extent they want to [be included]," Bressinck says. She praises the Mount St. Mary students for their level of volunteer activity around the city as well as on campus.

"As an all-girls school, we have a lot to celebrate," she adds. "And they do a lot of celebrating here. Whether it's an athletic event or a scholarship event, there's something to celebrate because there's something for everybody here ... a lot of student participation, a lot of community service."

As for Bressinck's own community service, she's also active at Holy Souls Catholic Church and school and has also worked with Riverfest, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and the Sculpture at the River Market program. "But mainly, in the last [few] years, it's been either church or St. Mary's," she says.

Why is she so committed to giving of her time? "It's one of those [things in which] you get more than you give."

Mercy & Me, April 16, Wally Allen Ballroom, Statehouse Convention Center; 11 a.m. silent auction; noon lunch and program. Tickets are $100; $1,000 for tables and may be obtained at mtstmary.edu/mercyandme.

Photo by John Sykes Jr.
Donna Bressinck, co-chairman of Mount St. Mary Academy’s April 16 Mercy & Me luncheon benefit, says that the most rewarding aspect of her role with the event has simply been keeping company with “this big family” — fellow alumni, parents, faculty and staff of the 168-year-old institution.

High Profile on 04/07/2019

Print Headline: Mount St. Mary's fundraiser takes generations of helpers

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