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By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Jamison Mosley | Hair & Makeup by Suzy Balkman with Bristle + Balm | Jewelry from Sissy’s Log Cabin | Shot on location at Cypress Social

   Cuisine in the Capital City is practically synonymous with the Keet family. At JTJ Restaurants, LLC – it’s a love of community that brings extraordinary eateries to life. This devotion to the welfare of fellow Arkansans spans beyond the brick + mortar businesses. As civic leaders, the Keets are deeply invested in countless nonprofit organizations. Stephanie Keet will join the cast of Dancing with Our Stars in September for an evening that provides funding for the Arkansas Chapter of Children’s Tumor Foundation. 

   JTJ Restaurants, LLC – best recognized for introducing Taziki’s, Petit + Keet, Cypress Social, Waldo’s Chicken & Beer and Count Porkula to the Natural State – is committed to building a better community. “Each family member has causes that they champion,” Stephanie explains. “Our focus remains on developing restaurants in Arkansas, but we live here and want to see everyone prosper.  We have a heart for helping the people of Arkansas.” 

    width=This civic responsibility is paramount as Stephanie considers carefully the organizations she serves. “I am proud to have worked with several organizations in Arkansas including ACCESS, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, American Heart Association, Children’s Advocacy Centers and now the Children’s Tumor Foundation,” she elaborates.  “When I was asked to be a star in 2021, I wanted to learn more about the foundation. So I became a volunteer to promote that gala to understand the Children’s Tumor Foundation’s mission.” Stephanie quickly realized the advocacy and critical research that the foundation provides for NF families is invaluable. “The Children’s Tumor Foundation gives the world HOPE – hope for a cure and better treatment options.”

   Inspired by her daughter’s non-curable disease diagnosis of neurofibromatis (commonly called “NF”), Lesley Oslica established the Arkansas Chapter of the Children’s Tumor Foundation. NF is a set of distinct genetic disorders that cause tumors to grow along various types of nerves. It can alter the development of non-nervous tissues such as bones and skin. “As the parent of a child who almost passed away from a genetic condition, I immediately connected with Lesley as a mom willing to do anything for her kids,” Stephanie shares. Children’s Tumor Foundation is visionary – leading the quest for more research, knowledge and advanced care for the NF community. In Arkansas and in partnership with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, CTF brings the first multidisciplinary adult NF clinic to the organization’s portfolio of services. ““Children living with NF grow up to become adults living with NF, and they experience different and complex issues that demand multidisciplinary practitioners knowledgeable to their particular needs,” Lesley explains. 

   Proceeds from Dancing with Our Stars support the vision to end NF. This gala, coupled with a dance competition, features local business and civic leaders who generate support through online preliminary voting and ultimately perform with a professional dance partner at the gala. It’s an evening of friendly competition, but it’s much more than a party. Lesley explains, “Each of the dancing stars are paired with an NF ambassador to give a face to this disease, and so unaffected families will have a better understanding of the struggles – as well as celebrate the triumphs.” The event has experienced unprecedented success. This year, Lesley notes, the organization will surpass $3 million for NF research. 

   It’s the commitment of dedicated volunteers like Stephanie who cultivate awareness for the life-changing fundraising efforts that spans 365 days a year for NF. “We are a family business that enjoys working together and serving other families at our restaurants and throughout our community,” Stephanie reflects. “If we can join in the business of HOPE, hope for those we serve to live a life not defined by disease, we’ll all be better for it.”

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