Sen. Stephanie Flowers, who gained national recognition with her heated speech against the proposed Stand Your Ground bill in Arkansas, was the keynote speaker for the Faulkner County Democrats’ annual Donaghey Dinner on Saturday.

Flowers discussed her personal experience with gun violence — when she was in the 10th grade, her sister was a victim of gun violence.

“It triggered certain things in me. Young people across our country are experiencing violence and losing loved ones,” she said. “I feel for these kids that we see on TV and read about. It’s a difficult thing to deal with. It’s something that our country needs to deal with. We need to demand that our elected officials deal with it.”

Flowers said that “in 2015, hen we started talking about bills allowing guns in churches, I just started thinking about it.”

“I can’t remember going to my sister’s funeral. I remember asking my brother if I went to the funeral because I couldn’t remember it,” she said.

Flowers, who was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2004 and then to the Arkansas Senate in 2010, said she got into politics for “personal reasons.”

“I got into politics for my son, for what was going on at his school,” she said. “The lack of challenges in his instruction disturbed me.”

Also during the annual fundraiser, which was in The Brick Room in downtown Conway, John and Betty Pickett received the Marion Baker Award, which is given to a local Democrat “who has dedicated their life to bettering Faulkner County,” Faulkner County Democratic Party officials said.

Justice of the Peace Tyler Pearson, Rene Henderson, Meleah Bowles and Jessica Steele Angel received the inaugural Trailblazer Awards, which honors people currently making a difference in Arkansas politics.

Sen. Joyce Elliott wrapped up the event encouraging people to run for office.

“Stop saying how special we are and how brave,” she said of elected officials. “We’re not … any different than you.”

Elliott said it’s important that no candidates run unopposed in 2020.

“We need people to run,” she said.

This year’s event introduced a new red-carpet style entrance with photos by Macknificent

Photography. Local jazz band Jackets and Jeans performed prior throughout the evening. Local teen playwright and musician Aiden Eslinger performed the National Anthem; 10-year-old Sydney Hopson recited the American Creed without the use of notes; and Pastor Odie Phillips of Greater Fellowship Christian Church said the invocation.

For more information about the Faulkner County Democratic Party, visit faulknerdemocrats.com.