Children, animals in spotlight at nonprofit benefits
Scott Purdin and miniature wire-haired dachshund, Barney Rubble, and McCall Dempsey and her English bulldog, Lilly, were crowned king and queen of this year’s Fur Ball benefiting the Companion Animal Alliance of Baton Rouge on May 10. The Crowne Plaza was filled with women dressed to the nines and dapper men in tuxedos escorting their leashed pups for this oh-so-much-fun gala. Check out our video online at theadvocate.com.
Actually, some of the dogs were as well turned out as their owners. I ran into award-winning menswear designer Manuel Martinez and inquired what the well-dressed pup should be wearing. “A bow-tie and cummerbund, of course,” he replied, adding that he even created such an ensemble for King Barney. This was the first year the ball had a court from which gala-goers got to select the royal “couple.” It also included Cherie Arkley and her beagle mix, Lilly Mae; Aaron Bayham and his Chihuahua, Pacino Easley Bayham; Quanah Hall and her Bouvier des Flanders, Moses; Scott McKnight and his pit bull, Fancy; Anthony O’Connor and his Labrador mix, Tucker; Dawn Starns and her black-mouth cur, Lincoln; Amy Strother and her golden retriever, Knox; Jennifer Waguespack and her Labradoodle, Utah; and Leslie Whittle and her Pomeranian, Mia.
To allow guests to leisurely shop the silent auction, pets could go spend some time in the Petz Plaza spa for some TLC and canine socializing.
Erin Reynaud served as ball chairwoman. Committee members included Patricia Calfee, Melissa Curry, Michelle Dunlap, Elizabeth Dunn, Marty Engquist, Kelly Gable, Reyna Grand, Jacelyn Hackett, Michael Hackett, Elizabeth Hammett, Kelly Hickerson, Heather Kleinpeter, Sunny Mayhall, Jeanne McNeil, Elizabeth Quirk, Dennise Reno, Amanda Standish, Amanda Vincent and Mary Weller.
Some exciting news benefiting the children of Baton Rouge and the entire state was announced at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital’s annual Fiesta May 8. OLOL board Chairman Don Daigle and lovely wife Gerry once again rolled out the welcome mat to host the fundraiser, where Don joined hospital CEO Scott Wester and OLOL Foundation President John Paul Funes in announcing that an architectural firm has been hired to come up with the design for a free-standing Children’s Hospital. The Dallas-based architectural firm of HKS Inc. also designed the new Woman’s Hospital.
That news definitely put the record 700-plus party-goers in a festive mood, especially when combined with the video message from honorary co-host Les Miles. He and wife Kathy have served as honorary co-hosts of this event since they came to Baton Rouge, and this is the first one he’s missed. He explained that he tried to get NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to change the date of the NFL draft so it didn’t conflict all the no avail … “I have to be in New York. Odell Beckham needs me.”
As we sipped margaritas and other libations, chances were taken on the antique platinum and diamond earrings from Classic Jewelry, the $5,000 makeover package from Dr. Ann Zedlitz or one of the five red Lexus vehicles from Price LeBlanc Lexus. Also up for bids were 41 trays and other pieces created by local artists, including Lauren Barksdale, Stacy Belanger, Tony Bernard, Helen Bolin, Maria Boudreaux, Billie Bourgeois, Jo Busse, Michelle Conques, Sam Corso, Jeannie Frey Rhodes, Sharon Furrate, Marita Gentry, Laura Taylor, Brandon Haymon, Becky Carville Hess, Andrew Hodges, Amy James, Jeanne James and Meg Jones.
Also, Hannah Lane, Anita LeJeune, Katie and James Lowder, Jade Meyers, Emily Monroe Godfrey, Keith Morris, Matt Morris, Taufeeq Mohammad, Jennifer Oliver, Katherine Rutledge, Lauren Slowik, Nancy Smitherman, Saliha Staib, Rebecca Stewart, Christopher Turner, Lori Wilson, Stephen Wilson, Vincent Thibodeaux and patients from OLOL Children’s Hospital.
As if all this wasn’t enough, auctioneer Brian Fourroux had folks waving their bid numbers during the live auction for adventures like an overnight stay in New Orleans to see Justin Timberlake, trophy buck bow hunting, sideline passes to the LSU vs. Alabama game and five days of Bahama Island hopping aboard a luxury charter yacht.
Kudos to Fiesta Chairwoman Cherie Lemoine and her committee on one fabulous night!
Before I went to Fiesta, I stopped by the Governor’s Mansion for the VIP reception honoring this year’s Louisiana Legends. Holding court in the salon were former LSU basketball coach Dale Brown, the only SEC coach to have appeared in 15 straight national tournaments and the second winningest coach in SEC history; W. Elton Kennedy, who is actively involved in rice research and the innovation of the rice business, and, along with his family, tenants and employees, directly farms more than 25,000 acres of rice; Mary Frey Eaton, one of Louisiana’s most outstanding civic activists; and former two-term Gov. Mike Foster. Legend Buddy Guy, one of the most celebrated blues guitarists of his generation, was unable to make the celebration due to a scheduling conflict.
From the reception, the honorees, their family members and board members of both Louisiana Public Broadcasting and Friends of LPB headed over to the Old State Capitol for Legends Gala.
Celebration of Change
Special needs children, those battling substance abuse and mental illness and the homeless are among those served by Volunteers of America, which held its Celebration of Change fundraiser the evening of May 6 at the Manship Theatre. One of those special-needs kids who found their “forever home” thanks to VOA and whose story was shared at this event five years ago is now an active, talkative 6-year-old who proclaims, “Let my people go!,” to his mother when his time in timeout is done.
This year’s video highlighted the “epidemic” of homeless veterans that is currently the biggest problem facing VOA of Greater Baton Rouge. An astounding one in four of local homeless are vets, according to VOA numbers. The moving stories of Rufus, Harry, Claude and Gladys earned them a standing ovation.
At the event, which began with a cocktail reception, I enjoyed getting to visit with Cyril Vetter and daughter Gabé, Marc Goldstein, Sonny Cranch, Todd Sterling, Bill and Gail O’Quinn, Ira Babin and Graig Luscombe, Alison Traxler, John Massey and Bob and Carmen Mercer.
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