On Nov. 22, Dreams Come True will debut their Kids on the Katwalk, and Eddie Paul Bearb, of Cankton, will be one of those walking the runway.
Eddie Paul intends to go to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to become a pilot when he’s able.
A military history buff at the age of 9, Bearb has leukemia and his biggest wish was to visit Pearl Harbor. He got the opportunity to visit Hawaii with his parents last July.
“What the mom didn’t know,” said Dreams Come True Executive Director Becky Prejean, who worked closely with the U.S. Navy to provide the opportunity, “was that it was an anonymous donor. We don’t usually send to Hawaii, it’s out of our budget.”
Kids on the Katwalk participants will model clothes provided by 10 local retailers — Bundle of Joy, Caroline & Company, Lafayette Shooters, 7 Chics, Melodies Belles & Beaus, Kiddeaux, Tabb, Vanessa V, La Petite and Watch Me Grow.
“We want to stay with local businesses,” said Prejean. “It’s unbelievable how some will help. Baton Rouge has carried the torch long enough — it’s time for Lafayette.”
The organization, which grants wishes to youngsters ages 3 through 18 with a life-threatening illness, has been in Baton Rouge for 30 years but in Lafayette for only four.
Prejean works seven days a week from home with the part-time help of her daughter, Tiffany Guidry, and says it’s inherent with the territory.
“I never leave work,” she said.
Prejean collaborates with pediatric hematologist Dr. Ammar Morad, of Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Lafayette, Children’s Hospital in New Orleans, Ochsner and several Texas hospitals, although the patients live in Louisiana and all money raised remains within the state.
“They find us,” she said. “I work with doctors and child-life specialists. The children also get acquainted in the treatment room — they talk.”
After a dream is approved by the organization’s board, which includes approval by its medical review board, there is a face-to-face interview with the child, not the parent. Prejean insists upon meeting all families.
“We don’t want to lose that touch. We have a budget, resources are not unlimited,” she said.
Life changes drastically for the parents of chronically ill children, with one parent usually having to quit work to care for the child, Prejean said.
“Their financial status changes,” said Prejean. “To buy that package of chips, that Coke in the hospital, the gasoline to get there, people don’t realize.”
At the fundraiser fashion show, Mrs. U.S. of A. Globe Michelle Merrill will emcee and special guest Madeline Stuart, a Down syndrome model-celebrity, will open and close the show. Children will be escorted by locals, including State Police Col. Mike Edmonson, coach Tony Robichaux and the Ragin’ Cajuns baseball players, Milwaukee Brewer Jonathan Lucroy and Tampa Bay Ray Mikie Mahtook. And, although the details are still being finalized, Prejean is certain of one thing: “This is a first,” she said. “We’ll open with the national anthem.”
“It helps the newly diagnosed families to see there’s hope.”