The purpose of a parading Carnival organization is to present a private ball and a public parade, providing fun for members while spreading joy to those who attend the krewe’s events.
But even though most don't get much publicity for their efforts, many krewes are also active in philanthropic causes.
The custom of Carnival krewes giving back is nothing new. In 1879, rather than spend money on its annual parade and ball, the Comus organization formed a “Dietetic Association” to feed those in need during a yellow fever epidemic that struck New Orleans.
Since 1947, the parade route of the Krewe of Thoth has been designed to pass by several institutions whose residents are not otherwise able to view a Mardi Gras parade. Thus, Thoth is widely known as the “krewe of the shut-ins.” The all-male group also decided 20 years ago to stage a separate parade, the “Thoth Walk,” to visit nursing homes.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the original Krewe of Freret (1954-1993) honored a junior queen when its parade stopped in front of St. Elizabeth’s Home.
The Krewe of Carrollton used to stop its parade at Charity Hospital and present gifts to the children, while the Elks Orleanians presented orphans as the club’s royalty on a float in its Fat Tuesday parade. The Elks truck krewes remain active in charitable causes.
In post-Katrina New Orleans, many clubs have become active in charitable work, including some that have established separate foundations dedicated to that cause.
Rex’s Pro Bono Publico (for the public good) Foundation has led the way by donating more than $5 million to 70 public schools since 2007. The Krewe of Muses has sponsored scores of projects, most recently benefiting the Steve Gleason Foundation. Hermes supports the New Orleans Police Department with its BTP Foundation — Hermes Beyond The Parade.
The 34 krewes that parade in Orleans Parish participate in the annual “Krewes for Karnival’s First Responders,” which includes the Police Department, Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services. This year, $68,000 was raised, bringing the five-year total to more than $250,000.
Endymion and Babylon donate to the NOPD. Each year, the Bacchus organization brings its celebrity king to visit the patients at Children’s Hospital. Nyx supports the Autism Society, and Orpheus contributes to the George Rodrigue Foundation and the Michael J. Fox Foundation. The Krewe of Iris participated in three charities in 2016, including a major cancer awareness event and the Teddy Bear Drive.
For many years, Sparta sponsored a float in its parade for a prince and princess from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Each September, NOMTOC purchases school supplies for needy children. Alla provides parade rides for 40 children with cancer. Morpheus supports the Child’s Wish organization. Femme Fatale sponsors a “Tools for Schools” event.
The Krewe of Tucks works with the Magnolia School, while Carrollton supports Kiwanis and Lions clubs and the East Jefferson General Hospital Cancer Center. Mid-City supports First Responders.
In Metairie, the ladies of the Krewe of Isis support the Komen Foundation. Caesar sponsors the Sunshine Kids, and Excalibur sponsors the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Little Rascals funds various children’s organizations, and the Corps de Napoleon supports Children’s Hospital.
In St. Tammany Parish, several parades offer free rides to veterans on "Wounded Warrior" floats. Perseus recently aided Baton Rouge flood victims. The Slidellians contribute to Habitat for Humanity, while Selene sponsors a “Fight Cancer” float in its parade. The Krewe of Eve contributes to the Samaritan Center, the Greater Mandeville Police Foundation toy drive and Habitat for Humanity.
Since its incorporation in 1916, the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club has served the needy in the city year-round. The theme of the 2017 parade, “Stop the Violence,” furthers the krewe’s commitment to improving the community.