Home for the Holidays: White County Native June Stewart Heads Up CARTI/Searcy Auxiliary Holiday Luminary Project

Once again bringing a seasonal glow to the White County Courthouse, the CARTI/Searcy Auxiliary Holiday Luminary Project will outline the historic landmark on the evenings of December 3 & 4 as part of a fundraising project benefiting area cancer patients.

They say there’s no place like home for the holidays, and whoever “they” may be, White County native June Stewart would tend to agree with them.

Returning home to Searcy a few years ago, Stewart is now serving as the chair of the 20th annual CARTI/Searcy Holiday Luminary Project scheduled for the evenings of December 3 and 4 in downtown Searcy.

“It’s such a rewarding project,” says Stewart, of the annual fundraiser which directly benefits the Searcy facility of the Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute. “The luminaries are such a complement to Searcy’s Holiday of Lights, and it’s such a great opportunity for bringing the community together.”

Since 1990, the CARTI/Searcy Auxiliary has traditionally launched the holiday season in Searcy by outlining the White County Courthouse for two evenings in early December with luminaries sold in honor or in memory of area loved ones.

Sales for this year’s luminary project are underway and continue right up until the lighting of the luminaries on December 3.

“I’m fairly new to the Luminary Project,” confesses Stewart, whose involvement with CARTI actually began while living in Little Rock.

“I actually got involved with CARTI way back in 1995 by helping out with the CARTI Auxiliary Festival of Trees,” she explains. “That’s all it took. Since then, I’ve worked on and even chaired many events benefiting CARTI.”

“So, I guess you could call me a transplant from the Little Rock chapter of the CARTI Auxiliary,” chides Stewart.

In addition to her role as chair of the CARTI/Searcy Holiday Luminary Project, Stewart also serves as the first vice president of the CARTI/Searcy Auxiliary, a position which marks her as the group’s president-elect for 2011.

“I’m not sure how to explain it exactly, but there’s a certain camaraderie that comes by working with other people who share a bond based in caring for others,” says Stewart, of her long history as a CARTI volunteer.

“That was true for me in the Little Rock auxiliary,” says Stewart. “It may be even truer for me now that I’ve returned a bit closer to home and am working with the members of the Searcy auxiliary.”

White County native June Stewart is committee chair of the 20th annual CARTI/Searcy Auxiliary Holiday Luminary Project.

According to Stewart, while the Luminary Project provides an ideal outlet for those whose lives have been touch by cancer to celebrate and remember the survivor spirits touched by the disease, luminaries are not limited only to honoring or memorializing cancer patients.

“Luminaries are sold in honor or remembrance of anyone for any reason,” says Stewart. “And most importantly, the money we raise here in Searcy actually stays here in Searcy. So, by supporting the Luminary Project, you are genuinely supporting the cancer patients in our area.”

Luminaries are sold for $10 each and can be purchased in person at CARTI/Searcy or by contacting the center at 501-268-7870. All proceeds directly benefit CARTI/Searcy and area cancer patients.

Members of the CARTI/Searcy Auxiliary have used funds from past Luminary Projects to fund everything from medical equipment and supplies to magazine subscriptions for the facility waiting room and gifts for patients on treatment during the holiday season.

“It’s a wonderful gift that the members of the CARTI/Searcy Auxiliary give not only to the cancer patients whom they honor, but really to the entire city of Searcy, “ said Cindy Wyatt, CARTI/Searcy facility director.

Wyatt credits the hard work of CARTI/Searcy Auxiliary members for the continued success of the project. Last year, the Holiday Luminary Project raised over $4,000.

“We consider ourselves so lucky—our volunteers are amazing,” Wyatt said. “The concern they have for others is evident when you witness the effect the Luminary Project can have on a cancer patient. The glow from the luminaries pales in comparison to the smile of a patient getting to see that others support them as they fight cancer.”

For Stewart, working on behalf of cancer patients holds additional meaning as a result of how her own family has been impacted by the disease.

“Cancer has always been a part of my family,” reflects Stewart. “I can remember as a child, many of my aunts, uncles, even cousins were diagnosed and fought against it. In fact, I lost both of my grandfathers to cancer.”

Born and raised in Abion, Stewart is the daughter of Ollie and Jack Reaper of Searcy. A former school teacher, Stewart spent 10 years in the classroom prior to a 23 year career in outside sales.

In addition to her commitments to CARTI and the CARTI/Searcy Auxiliary, Stewart still ventures back into the classroom now and then, and she enjoys spending time with daughter and son-in-law, Ashley and Brady Doty, and her three grandchildren.

CARTI is a nonprofit radiation therapy center with facilities in Little Rock on the St. Vincent, Baptist Medical Center and UAMS campuses, and in Conway , Mountain Home, North Little Rock , and Searcy. The CARTI Foundation was incorporated in 1983 as a non-profit organization to assist CARTI in meeting the current and future needs of Arkansas cancer patients and their families.