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|March of Dimes honors Lou Toney|
Lou Toney began tending to premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Francis Medical Center in 1981 while she was pursuing a nursing degree at then-Northeast Louisiana University.
Toney never left the hospital. When she graduated in 1983, Toney immediately specialized in neonatal care and has remained a nurse in the St. Francis NICU ever since.
Because of her dedication and service, the Northeast Louisiana chapter of the March of Dimes honored Toney at the organization's 2009 Gourmet Gala fund raiser. It was held Tuesday night at West Monroe Convention Center.
Event chairman Mark Sanders said the March of Dimes recognized Toney because of dedication in caring for premature children. The March of Dimes' focuses on raising money for the care of premature children as well as for research in preventing birth defects.
"She is a very special friend of mine," said Sanders. "One because she is a great lady and two because she was the one taking care of my niece for almost six weeks in the NICU at St. Francis about 9 years ago."
Sanders credited Toney and the rest of the NICU staff with the survival of the infant, who is now nine years old.
"We have a very healthy, active 9-year-old running around my house, my parents' house, my brother's house," Sanders said. "We're very grateful to Lou."
The wife of Ouachita Parish Sheriff Royce Toney, Lou Toney said she continues to work because she "loves every one of these babies."
Toney showed the audience a small slip of paper covered with inkblots to illustrate why she is dedicated to providing care.
"You may not be able to see what this is," Toney said. "These are footprints and they're less than an inch long."
The Gourmet Gala is an annual event held by the March of Dimes to raise money for and awareness of premature births.
Sanders highlighted the importance of the event, which is one of the organization's primary fundraisers.
"Tonight is very important to Ouachita Parish and Northeast Louisiana because Ouachita Parish leads the nation in premature births," Sanders said. "So any event that helps the March of Dimes is one we should sit up and take notice of because not only is this helping the national organization, it's helping an organization that's working on research and development of healthy babies and healthy pregnancies."
In addition to the presentation of Toney's service award, attendees were also treated to a taste of northeastern Louisiana gourmet food, provided by more than a dozen area restaurants and chefs.
Also, attendees took part in a silent auction of donated items, a live auction of chef's services and a wine tasting.
For photos from the event, see this week's edition of The Ouachita Citizen.