Every summer, a slew of locals ascend to Disney World in Florida — an annual tradition now almost two decades running.
While there, the group is actively making a difference to children around the world who are struggling with life-threatening diseases.
Larose-Cut Off Middle School has its Give Kids the World Club where students can join and become "Mickey Maniacs".
Throughout the year, the club raises money for Give Kids the World through various fundraisers and events.
At the end of the year, they ascend to Orlando together and donate the fruits of their labors. This year, that was a check for about $77,000. Over the history of the club, they've given back close to $1.1 million — a humbling number that leaves school organizers Celeste Breaux, Michelle Plaisance and Molly Bourgeois in awe of the power of the people in our area.
"Our community is amazing when it comes to supporting good causes," Breaux said. "We unfortunately have been touched by too many of these children facing life-threatening illnesses in our area. Once the students put faces to the names of the kids we talked to them about, they took off with ideas to raise money to help grant these kids their wish trips. They have touched the lives of many of us and we continue to raise money to help give them and many others like them a week full of fun and laughter, instead of doctors and hospitals."
The idea for the club and everything that's happened in the past 20 years is fate.
Plaisance went to Disney World 20 years ago and found a pamphlet about the Give Kids the World Village.
From there, she returned home and took the pamphlet to the kids in her advisory class, who all decided to give back.
The rest, as they say, is history, though there is an irony to the story.
Throughout her 19 years of the program, Plaisance said she's gotten to know several people with Give Kids the World. No one knows how the pamphlet she found got into Epcot.
"The 15 students in my advisory class decided to raise money for the village," Plaisance said. "It all started with a pamphlet and those 15 kids. The administration at Give Kids the World Day say it's fate because they don't put out pamphlets or advertise about the village at any of their Disney parks."
The idea and the program grew and a full-fledged school club was formed.
Breaux and Bourgeois got involved a few years after the first group, and together, the three women have helped literally thousands of students raise more than a million dollars over the past 19 years.
The students involved are diligent and work tirelessly throughout the year to help raise money for the cause.
To attend, a student must
work all of the club's fundraisers. The end-of-year student trips are funded by their families.
Some of the school's fundraisers are inspired by former local children who were once Make a Wish children, themselves, including a cake bingo in honor of MaryKate Bruce and a golf tournament in honor of Brayden Breaux.
Throughout the year, the school also works concessions at sporting events and hosts other events to try and raise money for the cause.
"We do pretty much anything that we can do to raise money," Bourgeois said.
The community has bought in and joined and helped out, as well.
Trixy and Chad Boudreaux have hosted their annual Holiday Mingle Jingle and Shooting Da Crap events with proceeds going to the village.
This year, the family donated more than $44,000 to the village, joining the LCO contingent in the trip to Disney.
"Thank you to everyone who's helped in any way," the Boudreaux family said in a Facebook post announcing the donation. "You truly have made a difference in many children's lives. There is no act too small to help build to bigger things and it definitely doesn't go unnoticed."
The teachers agree. They say that there is no greater feeling than seeing young people in a community dedicate time and labor over the course of a year to support a greater cause — a cause greater than themselves.
The teachers say the trip to Disney World is always emotional — a chance for the students to see where their hard work from the past year is going.
"As our friend says, 'It's all for the kids,'" Plaisance said. "Our Mickey Maniac motto is, 'Kids Helping Kids,' and I think that is the driving force behind it all."
Having just six months left to his administration before a vote for re-election, Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle has two key personnel vacancies to fill, following their resignations last week.
Parish Administrative Director Timothy Vedros and Parish Human Resources Director Emily Knight, both resigned within days of each other last week.
Vedros resigned on June 4, saying that his duties were in direct conflict with his duties as a Deacon in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux.
Knight resigned on June 6, with no public explanation.
Unless he discusses the vacancies with the council on June 11, Cantrelle said Monday, that he will advertise for both jobs.
However, Parish Risk Manager Brent Abadie said that
will be a tough task since the Cantrelle administration will technically end Dec 31, unless Cantrelle is reelected.
Vedros had been on the job since late February, after the council approved his hiring on Feb 26. The process to hire Vedros was long and several other candidates were turned down by the council.
In his resignation letter, he wrote that deacons are to, "refrain from most political activity."
He also stated that he would not be able to fill the duties of parish president, in the event that he would be called on to do so, under the Lafourche Parish Charter.
"After much soul-searching in prayer, I have concluded that it is not a good fit for me to attempt to fulfill my commitments to the church at the same time as performing the duties of parish administrator. My faith is foremost in my heart. Therefore, I am compelled to tender my resignation from service in the government of Lafourche Parish effective immediately," Vedros said.
Knight, who resigned on June 6, had a much shorter letter - it was roughly 40 words, "Please accept this as formal notification that affective close of business June 6, I am resigning my position as director of human resources."
Abadie said filling Vedros' and Knights' roles will be tough, "Who wants a job that technically provides only six months of job security? However, we will advertise and try our best to find quality people."
"We respect Mr. Vedros' decision, " Abadie said.
Cantrelle said he believes Knight wanted to spend more time with her son, and so he respected her wishes as well.
Council Chairman Armand "Noonie" Autin was disappointed with Vedros' resignation.
"It is unfortunate and I wished it could have worked out. Mr. Vedros had the full support of the council. I'm not really sure what happened," Autin said.
Councilman Jerry Jones said roughly two weeks ago, Vedros had called a meeting to which he (Jones) was not informed.
"When I confronted him, he said, 'Whoopsee, Whoopsee,' and so my response to his resignation is, whoopsee, whoopsee," Jones said.
Councilman Daniel Lorraine said he could not comment on either resignation.
However, he said when the vote was called to hire Vedros, he was told that Vedros was an ideal candidate, because he was "a deacon in the church, and that he was honest."
"Does that make anyone else who had the job, or anyone that we spoke to about the job, not honest? What does that mean?" Lorraine asked.
To read Vedros' and Knight's resignation letters in full, please visit this story on the Houma Times website at www.houmatimes.com.
BATON ROUGE -- The Louisiana House on Thursday unanimously approved the $30 billion state operating budget for next year, which aligned with Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' agenda for $1,000 teacher and $500 support staff pay raises and a contested $39 million block grant for public school districts.
The Legislature's budget deal also included boosts to higher education spending and early childhood education after years of standstill funding and cuts to these agencies and programs. It was the first significant statewide pay raise for teachers in a decade.
The budget will take effect on July 1, 2019.
This legislative session, which ended on Thursday, marked a sharp contrast with previous sessions that ignited partisan disagreements over deep cuts across state agencies as lawmakers were trying to address recurring budget crises.
The partisan dispute ended last year when the governor and Republican House leaders settled on a compromise to extend the state sales tax by .45 of a cent until 2025 to stabilize the budget.
This year, legislators used part of the revenue brought by the sales tax extension to
increase funding across state agencies, including the teacher pay raises.
The 2019-2020 budget includes full funding for the popular TOPS scholarships and an extra $20 million for early childhood education, as well as boosts for higher education and the Department of Corrections.
The biggest budget contention was between the governor and House Republican leaders, spurred by House Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, around the teacher pay raises and across-the-board funding for school districts.
House Republican leaders had sent a budget proposal to the Senate which included $1,200 pay raises for teachers and $600 raises for support workers, but not the $39 million block grant to school districts that the governor and the state's education board sought.
But GOP lawmakers in the House Education Committee last week concurred with the governor's pay raise rates and the inclusion of the block grant in next year's budget.
In the Senate budget debate last week, Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, objected to the budget. She said the budget was immoral because it did not include funding to support women and children, who would be affected by the state's 'fetal heartbeat' six-week abortion ban passed earlier that week.
Peterson, who chairs the Louisiana Democratic Party, offered amendments to the budget that proposed additional funding to foster care, sex education and prenatal care services to women, but they were all rejected on the Senate floor.
Earlier in the session, the Senate rejected a proposal by Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, that would have phased out the extra portion of the state sales tax compromise the Legislature passed in the previous legislative session.
The Legislature passed the budget minutes before the session officially ended at 6 p.m.
Immediately after the House finally approved the budget for next year, Rep. Terry Landry, a Democrat from New Iberia who has experienced the partisan wrangling of the previous years, commented "this is the first year in decades that our budget has been stabilized."