The dying wish of an 11-year-old cancer patient and the touching stories of several patients at one hospital bookended last week's busy calendar.
It was more than fitting that organizers picked the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend May 26 to unveil a bust of Trevor Sims, the youngster who captured our hearts and that of the entire country with his dying wish to banish hunger. If anyone ever doubts that one person can have a huge impact, all they have to do is look at this young man's legacy. Even while he battled cancer, he marshaled thousands of people to raise money for the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank so no child would have to experience hunger as he had.
One person whose life was touched by Trevor was Central High School student Ashton Kennedy. After one day hearing Trevor quip that maybe someone would erect a statue in his honor, Ashton raised the money to do just that. The statue is located on the Downtown Greenway. Ashton joined Trevor's mom Allison, Food Bank CEO Mike Manning, Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and former Mayor Kip Holden in the unveiling.
"What is the point on this?" asked Trevor's mom. "It will help us remember a time when our community came together … there's not enough time on Earth for hate."
Thursday had me going from one end of the city to the other, starting with lunch at the Bocage Racquet Club. There the ladies of Trianon, the auxiliary to the ARC, were getting together for their annual meeting and installation of officers. For her first official act, President Carroll Benedetto presented a parting gift to outgoing President Lynn Robbins. Not only was the organization's main fundraiser derailed by last summer's historic flooding, so was Robbins, who lost both her home and car. She not only managed to get her life back on track but helped Trianon to raise $5,800 via a virtual event. This year's holiday event is set for Nov. 9 at the L'Auberge Event Center.
Installed along with Benedetto were Vice President Yvonne Crew, Corresponding Secretary Chris Enright, Recording Secretary Amy Drago and Treasurer Linda Michelli.
Celebrating the arts
Later that afternoon found me near Mid City at the chic new Ann Connelly Gallery for the annual meeting of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. The highlight was the presentation of the Michael Crespo Arts Fellowship to artist Randell Henry. In addition to painting, Randell teaches art at Southern University and attends just about every art opening in the city. In fact, I've never been to one in past 24 years and not seen him there. That's why when Catherine Saurage presented him with the award and its $5,000 prize there was an immediate enthusiastic standing ovation. I was fortunate enough to be sitting next to his mom, Carrie Henry, so I could see her beaming face and happy tears of pride.
In other business, the Arts Council announced its new executive committee: Chairwoman Nancy Stich, Vice Chairman Randy Roussel, Treasurer George Bell, Secretary Rose Hudson, Development Committee Chairman Bryan Fontenot, Board Development Chairman Todd Sterling, at-large member Scott Ritter and immediate past Chairman Scott Hensgens.
New board members include Ralph Bender, Clarence Brown III and Drew Tessier. Tapped for second three-year terms were board members Dyke Nelson, Alkis Tsolakis and Ritter.
Cocktails at Sunset
My last stop of the evening was L'Auberge Casino & Hotel's rooftop pool, where The Advocate was co-hosting the Cocktails at Sunset competition with the hotel and Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits. I had the honor of announcing this year's winners: first place, Marcus Plaisance for his Champagne Bloom; second place, Anna Dunn's Boozy Lemon Tea; and third place, Chuck Tanner's Hard Ameretto Sour. The recipes will be coming soon in The Advocate's EatPlayLive section.
Hall of Fame
The Baton Rouge High School Foundation held its Hall of Fame banquet May 24 at the Renaissance Hotel, whose owner Mike Wampold, Class of 1971, was among the inductees. His fellow honorees included rock 'n' roll legend Jimmy Clanton and John "Hutch" Hutchison, Class of 1956; Felix Weill, Class of 1965; Johnny Palazzotto, Class of 1966; Babs Baker Ware Stapleton, Class of 1969; Bonnie Baker Richardson, Class of 1971; and coaches Leon McGraw, 1963-1971; and the late Ray "Coon" Porta, 1963-1966.
John Koontz, a 1986 graduate, served as the night's emcee. Hannah Koch Amoroso chaired the alumni committee.
My next stop was Galatoire's Bistro, where the patio was packed with some of Baton Rouge's most powerful women. They were there to celebrate City Year Baton Rouge and meet several of the outstanding young adults who have signed up for another year of service in area public schools. Brian Butler summed up their sentiment: "It's not enough to gain success on your own, but you need to turn around and help those behind you."
Asking for support for City Year, of which Baton Rouge is one of 28 nationwide sites, was board member Adrienne Moore. She pointed out that in schools with City Year volunteers, students' grades were two to three times higher. "We need more red jackets," she said in reference to the uniforms of City Year members.
Experience the Difference
The week began at Baton Rouge General Foundation's Experience the Difference luncheon May 22 at the Renaissance. Sharing their heart-tugging testimonies of how the hospital and its staff impacted their lives were "everyday heroes" — heart patient Kent Barton, cancer patients Claudia Boudreaux and Melissa Wilkes, former LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye and East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Sgt. Bruce Simmons, injured in last summer's ambush of local law enforcement officers.
Hospital CEO Edgardo Tenreiro updated luncheon-goers on plans to expand the hospital's intensive care tower and the dedication of an entire floor to its burn center. Former Baton Rouge Police Chief Jeff LeDuff recounted how he was treated at the hospital after a motorcycle accident. He went on to work as its chief of security after retiring from the police department. He then explained how guests could help the hospital achieve its goals and the anonymous matching gifts of up to $40,000.