Crawfish Festival makes dreams come true
Published 7:17 am Wednesday, April 12, 2023
GONZALES — Touched by the story of a young cancer patient who had never had pizza, a small group of families led by J.L. NeSmith arranged for a pizza to be delivered to him on a fire truck escorted by a police unit. It was the beginning of a decades-long tradition of granting the dreams of Louisiana children with life-threatening/terminal illnesses.
Forty years later, Dreams Come True of Louisiana has expanded past the Denham Springs area to reach every corner of the state, including the River Parishes. The nonprofit continues to grant 65 to 70 dreams per year for children ages 3 to 18, a feat made possible by proceeds from the South Louisiana Crawfish Festival and other fundraising efforts.
All are invited to pass a good time at the 2023 South Louisiana Crawfish Festival Craft & Car Show from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 15 at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales. Tickets are available at the door for $5 per person, and children ages 12 and under get in free.
A crawfish boiling contest, jambalaya cook-off, mini pot contest, crackling cook-off, crawfish eating contest, celebrity judges and a cornhole tournament will set the stage for some friendly Cajun competition. Other activities include all things crawfish, a classic car show, a petting zoo, 150 craft booths, inflatables, a 50/50 drawing, and live music from Eddie Smith Band, Night Train and Na-Na-Sha.
One hundred percent of the proceeds will benefit Dreams Come True of Louisiana, according to Freddye Smith, director/treasurer of the organization.
When Smith first attended a Dreams Come True meeting 30 years ago, she instantly knew the organization would become part of her life.
“These children are our heroes,” Smith said. “Our families tell us when they go to Disney or on a trip, it gives them a week to not have to think about doctors and hospitals and instead spend time together as a family making memories.
The organization makes a difference one dream at a time, from trips to Disney World to shopping sprees, playhouses, tree houses, swing sets, and life-altering medical equipment. Teenagers getting ready for college have even asked the dream makers to help buy their textbooks.
Smith will never forget how a 10-year-old boy dreamed of joining the U.S. Army.
“Being we had a short time to grant his dream of a surprise Army birthday party, DCT was able to have over 25 soldiers to surprise him at his party. The soldiers inducted him to be SGT, and at his funeral, many came; TAPS were played, and he was given a proper military funeral,” Smith said.
Dreams Come True of Louisiana consists of only one full-time paid employee, Executive Director Becky Prejean, one part-time employee, Smith, and an army of volunteers.
The volunteer-based team of dream makers will stay in touch with families even after a dream is granted, ensuring they never feel alone in the best and worst of times. Some will go to their funerals.
According to Smith, DCT strictly operates on donations and fundraisers. One is a fashion show where the dream kids are the models for local boutiques, a golf tournament that has been held for more than 34 years, and the great annual Na-Na-Sha dance.
DCT also hosts a private Christmas party to which every dream child and their entire family is invited. Santa gives a personal gift to each dream child while families enjoy food and arts and crafts. The dream children’s siblings also receive gifts from Santa since DCT recognizes that they go through a lot, too.
“We have seen great relationships grow from this party,” Smith said.
The organization has been a featured charity of groups such as Jacob Dugas Fishing Group, the Baton Rouge Boat Club and the Cajun Classic Car Club.
Dreams Come True of Louisiana has received support from several local businesses, including Briggs Equipment Company, the title sponsor of the South Louisiana Crawfish Festival.
For more information about the Crawfish Festival, call Rodney at 225-328-6735 or Randy at 225-413-8681 with questions or visit crawfishfestival.org. Sal Palermo can be reached at 225-937-2766 for information regarding the classic car show.
If you know of a child who may qualify for a dream, call 225-614-8197 or complete the dream application online at dctofla.com.
Those interested in volunteering to make a child’s dream come true can call 225-614-8197 or fill out the application available at Dctofla.org