Once upon a time there was a loving grandmother named Ginger who just so happened to live in a marvelous, magical place called the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. Her grandchildren visited her there often frolicking through beautifully appointed hallways, enjoying special moments and activities like playing with dolls and reading story books.

Of course, Mrs. Beebe’s granddaughters, Laken and Alexandria are too young to grasp the importance of where their grandparents live or what their jobs are and the fairytale-like surroundings. Like other preschoolers, they just soak up their time with them and go about doing what grandkids do when they are in the presence of their adoring grandparents.

Being around the First Lady for even the shortest amount of time, one picks up on her genuine care and concern for others. Her humility and candor magnify her inner and outer beauty. Mrs. Beebe’s warmth and depth derive from a life of gratitude, helping others, and perspective. She was adopted at the age of four. She says it made her more appreciative of family. Her adoptive mother and father were very giving and volunteered in their church and community “without even thinking about it”.

Mrs. Beebe states, “We don’t all have money, but we have time.” In fact, Governor and Mrs. Beebe met over 33 years ago through civic work and volunteering. She beams, “We just connected.” They married and blended their families. Their lives together spanned work through the state legislature, the attorney general’s office and now the governorship. “Mike knew he could count on me to take good care of our children and things at home when he was at work. He was able to focus on what he needed to do for the state of Arkansas.”

Mrs. Beebe’s work is inspired by her drive to help families and children live happier and healthier lives. She turns challenges and tragedies into fuel for making a positive difference. In 2006 her daughter’s husband committed suicide. A dear family friend had also committed suicide. In 2007 Governor and Mrs. Beebe began their work to reform Arkansas’ Mental Health System of Care and to de-stigmatize mental illness, encouraging people to access appropriate and necessary services. She has worked each year since with a wide array of efforts to promote the importance of good mental health. Beebe states, “Mental illness is like any other illness…like cancer. We have to treat it that way and help children and adults get the care they need.”

Her passion for helping children ranges from emotional or physical difficulties to childhood literacy and education. After the 2006 election, Mrs. Beebe broke her foot. She had to use crutches and a wheelchair. “We don’t realize the difficulties anyone with a physical disability encounters. It was so difficult to get around. I wiped out a whole table of neckties while Christmas shopping. Thankfully it was temporary for me, but for so many it is ongoing,” she shares.

Physical difficulties hit painfully close to home in 2010 when the Beebe’s then 11-week old granddaughter, Alexandria (Alex) was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a solid tumor cancer that arises in nerve cells. Little Alex endured surgery, chemotherapy, and a host of therapies and treatments. “It was not known if she’d ever be able to use her leg or walk. But, now she does walk,” says Beebe joyfully.

Mrs. Beebe loves reading and playing with her grandkids. She has even outfitted her office next to the Grand Hall of the Governor’s Mansion with some of the girls’ favorite toys and a collection of beloved books. “Not all children have a library of books or someone to read to them,” explains Beebe. Beebe works with schools statewide on nutrition and literacy efforts. The day of her interview with Little Rock Family she shared she was preparing to read The Kid Who Ran for President by Dan Gutman to a fifth grade class. “Reading can pull families together and take you wherever your imagination will let you go,” she affirms. She also works with several literacy organizations: Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), Reach Out and Read, Read Across America, Read for the Record, and Together We Read. Beebe shared her collection of Flat Stanleys that have traveled extensively with her, and even to the White House. Check out FlatStanelyBooks.com to learn more about the book series and ideas for your own Flat Stanley adventures.

Some of Mrs. Beebe’s other favorite times are decorating and cooking for the holidays. Their family traditions over the years have included making a countdown to Christmas calendar with toys and candy in it. They enjoy sharing Bible verses. She says the children, help out by setting the table and making cookies. See her green cornflake wreath cookie with red hots recipe below.

“As parents we need to strive to be role models in all we do whether it’s our words or actions, the food we eat, thinking about the environment, or helping others.” She encourages, “Communicate to your kids you care for them.”

Ginger Beebe’s Pet Advice for Parents

The First Dog, Viper joined the Little Rock Family photo shoot. He loves children, and has even taken part in Literacy on the Lawn where elementary students bring sack lunches to the Governor’s Mansion and enjoy stories from Arkansas authors and celebrities.”

  • Make sure your child is old enough to take some responsibility.
  • Discuss time and monetary commitments ahead of time.
  • Really think about what type of pet you’re going to get.
  • What kind of pet fits your style of living?

Christmas Cornflake Wreath Cookies

  • ½ cup butter
  • 4 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 teaspoon green food coloring
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups cornflakes cereal
  • 1 (2.25 ounce) package cinnamon red hot candies

Microwave marshmallows and butter on High for two minutes. Stir, then microwave on High for two minutes more. Stir.

Add and mix quickly the coloring, extracts, then cornflakes. Drop by spoonfuls in clumps on greased wax paper in a wreath shape and decorate with three red hots each.

Once cool, transfer to lightly greased serving/storage tray with lightly greased fingers.