Eight women were honored on March 28 for their “exceptional efforts toward the advancement of women in Louisiana” at the LSU Women Center’s seventh annual Esprit de Femme Sunrise Celebration at the Renaissance Hotel.

The sell-out crowd was welcomed by center Director Summer Steib and LSU Vice Provost Dereck Rovaris. Offering their congratulations to the honorees were LSU President F. King Alexander and Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. Former honoree Alsie Dunbar served as emcee for the breakfast.

The honorees included:

Alyssa Carson, 17, the youngest graduate of the NASA Advanced PoSSUM Academy and youngest astronaut trainee graduate. She is also a graduate of the Advance Space Academy, National Flight Academy, VA Flight Academy, Cosmophere and Euro Space Academy.

Leah Cullins, assistance professor/family nurse practitioner at the Southern University School of Nursing. She also serves as an ambassador for the Black Women’s Health Institute.

Dr. L’Issa Gates, of New Orleans, a pediatric specialist, social justice advocate and community servant.

Brianne Joseph, owner and head investigator at Sly Fox Investigations, an all-female detective agency.

Cynthia Peterson, dean of the LSU College of Science, and a biochemist with a passion for science and advocacy.

April Ruffolo, co-owner of the Louisiana Culinary Institute and both locations of BRQ Seafood & Barbecue. She is also a founding member of the nonprofit Baton Rouge Emergency Aid Coalition.

Tiffany Stewart, the Dudley and Beverly Coates endowed professor and director of the Behavior Technology Lab at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

Marketa Garner Walters, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services. Throughout her career, she has worked to improve the lives of children and families.

Two up-and-comers were honored as Student Leaders:

Dominique Dunbar, an alumna of AmeriCorps, the Urban Leadership Initiative and VIPS Golden Apple Award recipient. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in sociology at LSU, focusing on race, youth and sexuality.

Sydni Prather, of Germantown, Maryland, a sophomore who is a mass communications major at LSU, where she also serves as an LSU Ambassador.

Spanish Town

When you think of Spanish Town Mardi Gras, I'll bet pink flamingos pop into your head. But there's another side to this oh-so-fun group, the Society for the Preservation of Lagniappe in Louisiana. It is a super fundraiser for nonprofits in the community.

Through its annual ball, parade and golf tournament, SPLL has given almost $1.5 million to the community. Talk about a party with a purpose!

On March 27, the board — Bill Brumfield, Jason Broussard, Doug Cossman, Duz Hamilton, Robert King, Dusty Kling, Doc L’Herisson and Brian Nolan — doled out $86,000 to local nonprofits at a celebratory event at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux’s.

This year’s recipients included the Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Center, $15,000; Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, $12,000; Parker House, $6,500; Baton Rouge Magnet High School’s radio training program and Magnolia Care Center Veteran’s Home, each $6,000; Baton Rouge Police Department’s Fallen Heroes, $5,500; Front Yard Bikes, McMains Children’s Developmental Center and Miracle League at Cypress Mound, each $5,000; Dreams Come True, $4,500; Folds of Honor, $4,000; Feliciana Lodge Dyslexia Project, St. Lillian Academy and Capital Area Law Enforcement Foundation, each $3,000; Girls on the Run, $1,500; and Back the Blue, $1,000.

The night also included the presentation of the parade’s float awards by judges Rob Payer, Jeanette Player, Anissa Jarreau, Darlene Broussard, Melanie Sanders and Doc. The long list of winners included Best Float — Krewe of Cookie’s “Tribute to Aluminum Siding”; Worst Float — Krewe of Sherwood Forest’s tribute to the parade founders; Best Marching Group — King Daniel Hoffmann and his “Golden Guys” entourage; and Best Bribe — Krewe of Krime, which can’t be shared in a family newspaper. (This is Spanish Town!)

The board handed out an honorable mention to the S’Krewe U “for hanging in there for years without ever being recognized.” Then, there was the debut Smiley Award, a special trophy from The Advocate’s Smiley Anders, given to the Prancing BabyCakes for bringing smiles not just to him but all parade-goers. An “As if She’d Say No” trophy went to the Italian American Marchers member who popped the question to his sweetie right in front of the judges' stand.

Animal Friends

Before heading downtown for the Spanish Town celebration, I popped in at the Friends of the Animals’ Dog Adoption House, where they were celebrating the arrival of a new transportation van that will bring area shelter dogs to the house, as well as vet appointments and off-site adoption and educational events. It’s “wrapped” with photos of adopted dogs and a list of sponsors, done by Rebel Graphix. It's a real eye-catching look sure to turn heads at the red light.

Among those on hand for the celebration were Carole and Charlie Lamar, who were representing the Lamar Family foundation, which provided funds for the van’s purchase along with the Pedigree Foundation and Pennington Family Foundation.

If you’re thinking of getting a pooch, check out the adorable ones available at the Dog Adoption House, which is open from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends.

A little Big Buddy dancing

This year marks the 13th anniversary of one of the community’s favorite fundraisers, Dancing for Big Buddy, and the Star Dancers are getting anxious. On March 29, Rebecca and Jeff Boudreaux opened their lovely home for the traditional line-up party, letting the dancers and their dance professionals know who goes first and who closes out the big show. Rebecca, a former winning Star Dancer, pulled out her trophies and did her best Vanna White impression to show this year’s group what they could possibly win.

Taking to the stage April 28 at LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center are Brandon Barker, Sara Fautheree, Lauren Fowler, Brad Grundmeyer, Brandi B. Harris, Cate Heroman, Tina Holland, Aaron Lambert, Sherry Mockler, Larry Munson, Vishal and Namisha Patel-Vasanji, Chris and Trula Remson, Scott Taylor, Raedtha ‘Rae’ Vasquez and Michael Valluzzo.

Aside from telling them who’ll dance when, event co-chairwoman Monique Scott-Spaulding and Executive Director Gaylynne Mack laid out plans for rehearsal, publicity and other need-to-know tidbits. Co-chairman Leonard Augustus, vacationing at some fabulous locale, provided a video pep talk wearing a crown. Why were we not surprised?

I’ll be back on the judges’ stand this year with cohort Kathy Victorian and others. Floor seats and general admission tickets are still available at dancingforbigbuddy.com.


Follow Pam Bordelon on Twitter, @pamspartyline.