Local ladies host variety show to raise money for toddler in need

Published 6:23 am Wednesday, March 1, 2023

LUTCHER — The community is invited to join the 3-ELLS under the big top this spring to support medical and travel expenses of the littlest ringmaster, 3-year-old Anniston Cancienne of Paulina.

Short for “Lyrics, Laughter and Ladies,” the 3-ELLS are a group of fun-loving women from St. James Parish who have promoted charitable works through live entertainment for more than 50 years. The ladies put on a big variety show every other year to raise money for a cause or community member in need.

This year’s show will take place at Lutcher High School and includes 7 p.m. evening performances on March 31 and April 1, followed by a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee on April 2.

The 3-ELLS initially partnered with the Cancienne family two years ago, but restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled plans for the show.

Anniston, son of Darren and Tricia Cancienne and twin brother to Greyson, was born with a rare congenital condition called MMIHS that impacts his smooth muscle functions. After facing 17 hospitalizations before his second birthday and left with virtually no intestines, Anniston received an intestinal transplant on July 17, 2022 at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York.

Anniston did well during the 14-hour surgery. Despite going into rejection, which required two weeks of very intensive therapy to reverse, he proved to be a trooper and was cleared to return home to Louisiana at the end of October. He has since returned to New York to remove his broviac central line, which was previously used to deliver nutrition straight to his heart but posed a major risk of infection.

“That was huge because he can now take a bath and get immersed in water. X-rays and blood work indicate he is doing well,” his mother, Tricia Cancienne, said. “Anniston still gets G-Tube feeds at night. That’s his main source of nutrition, but he is eating now, and he can have anything he wants. He loves pizza and pasta. He got to sit down and eat Thanksgiving dinner with us, which is something we were told he would never be able to do. It’s a wonderful feeling because, as a whole, Anniston is doing better than my husband and I could have ever imagined.”

Cancienne wants the community to understand that while the intestinal transplant improved Anniston’s quality of life, it was not a cure for MMIHS. Just by looking at Anniston, no one would guess the Disney-loving, lively little boy is dependent on 13 medicines a day. He still has medical accessories hidden under his clothes to assist with bodily functions his smooth muscle is unable to perform.

The Cancienne family was overwhelmed by support from the community during a massive benefit golf tournament benefit held at Riverlands Golf & Country Club this past fall. Proceeds allowed Anniston’s parents to travel between New York and Louisiana to care for both of their sons during the months-long hospital stay that followed the transplant.

However, the journey is far from over. Anniston will have to return to New York every three months for the first two-to-five years post-transplant. From years five to 10, it will be every six months, and visits will become annual after the 10-year mark.

“The positive energy that has come from everyone is truly what has kept us going. My No. 1 goal is to let Anniston know how many people have helped him. I am certain that he will have a purpose to be able to make a difference in someone’s life, and hopefully he knows how everyone rallied around him,” Cancienne said. “We are so humbled and overwhelmed that the 3-ELLS chose Anniston and that they recognized he will need assistance for the rest of his life, going back and forth to New York. This is one of the most genuine group of women. They have families and other commitments, and they still practice for hours and hours and give of themselves. We want to help them make them make this as successful as possible.”

Kim Melancon, president of the 3-ELLSm said the group was founded in 1965 and has about five founding members performing to this day.

“We’ve recruited people, and a lot of the members have daughters who have joined the club, so it’s been continuous. It’s just really been a bunch of fun-loving people who want to have a good time and donate the money to a cause,” Melancon said. “We’ve been doing this more than 50 years. Since we’ve been putting on the show for three days, we’ve found we’ve been making anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000.”

Over the years, the 3-ELLS have raised money for various churches, fire departments, and individuals battling cancer in St. James Parish. One year was dedicated to 3-ELLS member Sandy Leblanc to cover expenses of a prosthetic after her leg was amputated.

Melancon said the most rewarding fundraisers of all have been those that benefit children. The 3-ELLS’ 50th anniversary show in 2015 raised money for Baby Claire Brazan while she was hospitalized.

“Really and truly, it’s heartfelt when we do it for a child or an individual that is down on their luck,” Melancon said. “Anniston is a child, and he really touched our hearts. It’s a no brainer. We really love to do things for kids, and we are happy that we are going to get to bring both Anniston and Greyson on stage to be ringmasters.”

Melancon encourages the community to come out to the show, which is family-oriented and will include a children’s number.

Fundraising will also take place in the form of plate lunch and ad sales. The deadline to submit ads for the 2023 3-ELLS program will be Friday, March 3. A full page ad, which includes two complimentary tickets, is $125, while a half page is $50 and a quarter page is $25. Smaller ad spaces are also available at 1/5 page for $20 or 1/10 page for $10.

Checks can be made payable to The Three Ell’s Club c/o Mandy Boudwin 441 N. Pine Street Gramercy, LA 70052. For more information, contact Melancon at 225-331-0123 or kbmelancon16@yahoo.com