Leslie Parnell remembers being greeted at the receptionist desk with a question when she arrived at CARTI for daily treatments for breast cancer.
"They would always say, 'How was your drive in?'" she says.
Parnell, who went through a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, was puzzled, because the drive from her home was only about 15 minutes.
"I didn't realize what such a huge percentage of other cancer patients go through to get to their treatments," says Parnell, senior vice president of treasury management and strategic development at Simmons Bank. "They don't live here, and many of them have to drive two hours, there and back. Many have to drive three or four or five hours. And I mean, there were days that I could barely get home before being sick and I'm 15 minutes away."
That realization underscores the need for a place like the Home for Healing, which provides low-cost lodging for parents of babies who are in the neonatal intensive care unit and for cancer patients and their caregivers.
"It's called the Home for Healing for a reason. It feels like a home. It's warm, it's inviting," says Parnell, who along with her family created artwork to put on some of the bedroom walls. "The furniture is comfortable, the lighting is soft."
Parnell got involved with Home for Healing because of her own cancer journey. "I just felt like that experience was really bigger than me," she says. "I wanted to be able to find a way where I can give back and help bring greater awareness, and obviously with awareness comes fundraising."
Monster Bash, which bills itself as Little Rock's biggest Halloween costume fundraiser -- 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Venue at Westwind in North Little Rock -- is expected to raise almost a third of the operating costs for the Home for Healing.
Tickets are $50-$100 each; VIP tickets include signature spooky drinks and a glowing cup along with special seating. Virtual ticketholders can pick up a grab bag filled with a signature drink, cup and koozie.
The event will have an in-person and a virtual option, and participants are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative covid-19 test in the 10 days prior to the event, and they will be required to wear a mask except when eating or drinking.
Supporters can start browsing the online silent auction on Oct. 26. The live auction starts at 9 p.m. Oct. 29. The silent auction ends at 10 p.m. Oct. 29.
Stuart Cobb will be honored with a Home for Healing Impact Award during the event. There will be music from the band Just Sayin', and a costume contest for individuals and groups.
"That should be very fun," Parnell says of the costume contest. "Costumes aren't required, they're just encouraged because it's fun."
In past years, before she moved from Chicago to Little Rock, Parnell and her husband often spent Halloween at a formal black-tie event.
"That was always something fun we did with our friends," she says. "When we moved here, it's always been focused around our friends. Now that we have our son we do things with his friends and their families, too."
She hasn't settled on a costume for herself and wants others to realize they don't have to be intimidated by the challenge of coming up with one.
"There are so many easy ways to do it. You don't have to go all out. You don't have to have a wig on, you don't have to have face paint, you don't have to have a big blowup costume," she says. "You can be Michael J. Fox, from "Back to the Future." That's jeans and a sweater vest. You could be a doctor or a nurse and that would be a nice way to thank the doctors and nurses that have given so much to us this past year."
Parnell predicts many people will be choosing costumes this year because of the time they didn't have that opportunity.
"I think people are looking for a way to come together with their community and to celebrate such a great organization," she says.
Home for Healing provides a place for people who need it for just $10 a night, she points out, and there is financial assistance for people who can't afford that. That rate is well below the cost of a hotel stay, and the level of care provided for the people who stay is unlike anything a hotel would offer.
There are resources available to guests including education about child care for new parents, legal and financial support and counseling services for survivors -- ranging from pet and art therapy to gardening.
Executive director Kristin Trulock makes sure any amenities guests might need when they arrive at Home for Healing are available, Parnell says.
"If folks show up with just the clothes on their backs, there are options. We have a game plan to support those individuals staying at the home," Parnell says. "When you walk in, you know that you're entering into a unique world with a totally different level of support."
More information on the Monster Bash is available at homeforhealing. org/monster-bash/.