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|March of Dimes launches 'Gourmet Gala' campaign|
Louisiana leads the nation in infant mortality, yet that could be reversed with more efforts like the work the March of Dimes conducts.
That's according to Sen. Mike Walsworth who joined dozens of children advocates Wednesday to kick off the fourth annual March of Dimes Gourmet Gala fundraising campaign.
March of Dimes is a national organization that works to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality through research, community services and education.
"We live in a very poor area, and we struggle," said Walsworth, R-West Monroe.
"We still lack in one thing, and that's taking care of the prenatal problems that we seem to have here," Walsworth said. "Infant mortality is one thing we don't want to be the leader of the nation in, and it's probably one of those things where we can make a true difference."
"These babies are our future," Walsworth continued. "There is a little baby at our church who has probably gone through half a dozen surgeries, and he's not even three years old yet. I don't know how he can take it."
"The state budget is tough … we cut a lot out of healthcare, and I apologize for that," Walsworth explained. "We need the community to join us to make sure we have those dollars we need to just help even one child and make a difference in one child's life."
The Gourmet Gala will be held Oct. 20 at the West Monroe Convention Center.
It is the signature event for the March of Dimes where money is raised to support the agency's efforts.
The March of Dimes currently is seeking chef sponsorships, which range from $750 to $2,000.
The event will feature a competition among area chefs, a live auction and a silent auction as well as other entertainment.
Each year, the March of Dimes recognizes a person in the community who has had an impact in the area of children's healthcare.
This year Lou Toney, an employee in the Neo-Natal Unit at St. Francis Medical Center, will be honored for her dedication to helping babies. She is the wife of Ouachita Parish Sheriff Royce Toney and a graduate of the University of Louisiana-Monroe.
An emotional Toney said it was an honor and privilege to be recognized for something she loves so much.
"I love this with all my heart," Toney said. "Those babies in that unit are the most special thing."
"For me, it is a true privilege to take care of those babies and for parents to put those babies in our hands to take care of," she said. "God has blessed me so much to allow me to do this. It is truly what makes me happy."
Mark Sanders, Gourmet Gala chairman, said the gala would be a showcase of local chefs and caterers in northeast Louisiana.
"It's a fun time and a great time to come together and learn a little more about the March of Dimes," he said.
He urged anyone who was involved in the food service industry to participate in the event.
For more information about the Gourmet Gala, contact the March of Dimes at 387-3650.
For photos from the event, see Page 7A of this week's edition of The Ouachita Citizen.