Hemelt: Area’s best ‘River Parishes Magazine’ publishes April 30

Published 12:02 am Saturday, April 23, 2016

There is something special beyond the boxscores that has always made me a sports fan.

Sports fans out there reading this know what I’m talking about, and even those who aren’t sports nerds, like myself, can also say they’ve been drawn to certain storylines that don’t have anything to do with the actual games.

Two of my favorite stories I only recently learned of concern River Region residents Burnell Dent and Robby Gilbert Jr.

Gilbert’s father, Pete, invented and patented the pedal valve — a foot pedal that attaches to a sink to control water flow.

The idea arose because Pete’s wife used to leave the water on while she was doing the dishes. The invention drove Pedal Valves Inc. into a nationwide company that employs 150 people today and offers products and services related to water conservation.

That success has allowed Robby to pursue one of his passions through youth baseball. He remembers sitting in church and hearing God tell him to get involved with children’s lives through baseball.

After prayer and family discussion, Robby created a travelling team with a unique tryout and participation process.

Players are asked to sign a contract, expected to maintain a C average in school, agree to behavior expectations and are expected to pray.

“We go out to dinner before and between games, and each kid has to stand and say a prayer,” Robby said. “They have to do Christian things, both in their lives and also in their schools. They have to carry themselves a certain way.”

Robby has certainly done his part to keep the players motivated through all-expenses paid team trips around the country. He also built a baseball field in the empty lot next to his house in Luling and a 6,000 square foot indoor hitting, pitching and other-sports facility.

There are college players impressed by this set-up.

Another cool story is that of Burnell Dent, the 53-year-old pastor of New Foundation for Life Full Gospel Baptist Church in LaPlace. In what must seem like another life, Dent previously starred as a ferocious linebacker for more than a decade with Tulane University, the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants.

Dent put up prolific numbers in New Orleans, still standing today at the Green Wave’s all-time leader in career tackles and single-season tackles.

Yet, today, Dent is focused on New Foundation’s outreach ministry by growing the church’s partnership with a Second Harvest-sponsored food pantry and finalizing plans to construct a family life center.

We, at L’OBSERVATEUR, are excited when we get a chance to share these stories with our readers and community. Features on Burnell Dent and Robby Gilbert Jr. are a small part of the package we’re publishing April 30, when the latest edition of River Parishes Magazine, C’EST LA VIE hits newsstands.

Contributing writers Raquel Derganz Baker, Lori Lyons, Monique Roth, Courtney Griggs and myself have put together the perfect spring lifestyles magazine that’s 100 percent produced by and catered to the River Parishes.

Our marketing team of Christine Browning, Constance Woods, Regina Burrell, Corey Thomas and Candace Hemelt — special thanks to them — secured the business and sponsorship support needed to produce the all-color, all-glossy magazine, which comes out quarterly.

Be sure to check out our Spring Edition, which again, publishes April 30.

Some of our stories include:

• Mandi Sweeney, the beautiful St. Charles Parish college student, is so much more than just a pretty face. She’s extremely intelligent and an all-around good person.

She’s been participating in pageants since she was 2 months old. The 20-year-old has more than 40 crowns in her possession, a heart for charity efforts and the work ethic to pursue naval architecture and marine engineering.

• Orlando Watkins has served as an educator for nearly 30 years, leading him to his most important job today as principal at St. John Alternative School.

“When the opportunity came, I didn’t really think twice about it,” he said. “… I knew I could make a difference through my mentoring, the way I model behavior and inspire and motivate people, especially children, and just by the spirit I have and the will and the compassion.”

We think you will enjoy these stories and many more local features in this month’s River Parishes Magazine.

Stephen Hemelt is publisher and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.