Macey Wadley and daughter Vada enjoy volunteering together, something Macey first did with her own parents as a kid.

As the holiday season kicks into full swing, we’re reminded of the countless nonprofits in central Arkansas through different donation drives, charity events and volunteer opportunities.

Taking time out of these busy months can be a challenge — but teaching your kids the value of volunteering and giving back is a lesson that needs to be shown through actions, not just words.

If volunteering isn’t typically in your wheelhouse, that’s OK — it’s never too late to start. With some tips from CARTI Sugar Plum Ball event chair Macey Wadley, we compiled seven ways to promote that spirit and practice within your family.

1. Start Young

Encourage your kids from an early age to volunteer and give back. Show them how they can contribute in ways that are attainable to them — whether that be coloring Christmas cards for kids at the hospital (which anyone can do) or helping you shop and pick out for school supplies for someone in need.

“When I was 9, I was helping decorate trees in the back and making sandwiches for the event,” Macey said about her experience helping at the Sugar Plum Ball as a kid.

2. Set an Example

If you aren’t already, now is the time to step out and get plugged in as a volunteer in some way. Your kids are watching and will pick up on the attitude of serving and being aware of when those around you need help. For Macey, she had the opportunity to watch her dad and stepmom serve as event chairs, inspiring her to someday follow suit.

3. Make Them Feel Important

Make sure your kids know that what they’re doing makes a difference — no matter how small or insignificant it may feel. Little things add up in so many ways, and just playing one role in a big picture is important. As Macey works on all the details that go into the Sugar Plum Ball, she’s turned to her daughter Vada for feedback and assistance.

“Vada is just beyond excited because she’s my little helper; she’s my co-chair,” says Macey. “She’s played a significant part because I ask her things like, ‘What do you want to see changed?’ … It truly is a family affair.”

4. Make Volunteering a Lifestyle

Rather than thinking of volunteering as something that needs to be done between set hours or during the shift you signed up for at an event, promote a spirit of positivity, giving back and selflessness in everyday life.

“I always try and teach Vada that we are all the same — no matter what the outside of us looks like,” says Macey. “It’s important that she always try to leave a positive footprint in the world. She’s got a big heart and so I encourage her every day to make someone smile.”

5. Start Small

If the idea of becoming a regular volunteer or committing to a big project is overwhelming, it’s perfectly OK to start out small. Think of things you already do at home and how you could translate those things into generous actions. For example, the Wadleys used to enjoy gardening and would donate some of the food they harvested each season. They also purchase some extra school supplies at the beginning of each school year for those who need it and make sure to donate clothing that they’re no longer wearing.

6. Find a Passion

Volunteering is easy when you’re helping a cause you care about. Look for an organization that connects with your child’s passions in order to help them form a connection and desire to help.

If, for example, your kids love animals, consider spending time walking dogs at the animal shelter. Even if this isn’t where your passions lie, it’s important to let them discover their own, independent from what you might choose to do.

7. Get Friends Involved

Everything is more fun when you’re doing it with people who you enjoy spending time with! Rather than making volunteering a solo activity, invite your kids’ friends to participate with you. Sign up for a timeslot at the Arkansas Foodbank together and it suddenly becomes less intimidating to try something new. Walk around your neighborhood picking up trash as a group, and the focus will be on the camaraderie rather than the garbage. And the more volunteers, the more that will be accomplished!

Sugar Plum Ball 2019

This year’s Sugar Plum Ball takes place on Thursday, Nov. 14 from 6-8 p.m. The event raises funds for CARTI and is just one part of the larger Festival of Trees happening over the span of several days. The Ball features dining, dancing, tiaras and more, all while attendees get the chance to mix and mingle with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Wadley said that attendees can expect to see lots of color and huge candy adorning the Statehouse Convention Center. There will be a snow machine, ballerinas and even an enchanted forest. For more information on the Sugar Plum Ball, visit

Vada Wadley has been attending the Sugar Plum Ball for several years. In 2017 she went with her dad Thomas Wadley (left) and in 2016 she went with her grandfather Dow Worsham.