Consider for a moment, life without community. There would be no sense of belonging. Instead, a complete awareness of isolation would embody your very being. Everyone struggles, and there may be times when we fall. But there is comfort in knowing that here, along the bayou; everyone walks hand in hand. If it happens to one, it happens to all.
It is the very basis of Lafourche society no matter what downfalls the economy suffers or personal tribulations that fall in one's lap.
When an endearing community collaborates around an explicit shared purpose, it brings out the very best in each person. There is within our human nature a fundamental need for community and connection. The bayou community takes this to an entirely superior level than most, creating nothing short of a community of heroes, who are humble with no thought of recognition, providing comfort to others through selfless acts of kindness.
Allison Alario is one of many at the forefront of the giving door. Although she never wants credit for the multitude of fundraisers she has held in the last seven or eight years. There is no nonprofit, no big organization, just her huge heart and willingness to help.
When asked what made her decide to help others, Allison said, “I feel I received a calling from God. I also do not do this alone, nor could I; our community is the army that stands behind me. None of what I do would be possible without them.”
From school supply drives, shoe drives, holiday drives, to any other fundraiser she can put together, Alario shows no signs of slowing down and knows the community will continue to stand beside her.
We also spoke with Troy Danos whose son, Dylan, received a lifetime of community love and support. The family learned Dylan had cystic fibrosis when he was three months old. Over the next 17 years, the community pulled together, in support that never wavered for the Danos family.
Troy remembers when Dylan became gravely ill and had to have emergency surgery when he was only five or six years old. Doctors released Dylan from the hospital at the onset of Mardi Gras season, which happened to be his favorite time of year. Sadly, the young tike would be unable to attend any of the parades. Troy remembers fondly what the neighbors did for Dylan to lift his spirits and include him in the Mardi Gras festivities!
“Our neighborhood got together and gave Dylan his very own surprise Mardi Gras parade! Right down to the go-carts, mopeds, trucks, bikes, and music, everything was decorated just like a ‘real’ parade, except this parade was specifically for Dylan. He lit up when he saw the procession, laughing and catching beads. It was the greatest feeling imaginable for our son.”
“We’ve been so blessed by the community,” Troy added. “We will never to be able to thank the community enough. They embraced us in our greatest time of need. It is such a heart-warming feeling knowing what we have down here. The tremendous support of the family, friends, and community gave Dylan the opportunity to live a normal life and a fulfilled life. No one ever treated him differently, and that is the greatest gift of all."
The Breaux family is another who received an enormous amount of community support. Brayden “B” Breaux was just shy of his second birthday, along with his twin brother Dylan, when the family learned “B” had a brain tumor in 2003.
This beloved child, who loved the color orange, would probably never quite grasp the enormous impact he had on people in the Lafourche community and beyond. Brayden, along with his brothers, Dylan, Zach, Brittan, mother Andrea and father, Scott, would soon learn the power of community and the strength it carries.
Over the course of the next three years, Brayden would undergo four surgeries.
"Following a third surgery "B" remained hospitalized for six weeks. During this time, Brayden received hundreds and hundreds of cards and notes from just about every student at every school from Larose to Golden Meadow. Brayden's hospital room became quite the attraction with all of the cards and small tokens of affection lined along the walls. Staff and patients alike simply had to come by to see the little boy's room with all the cards and smiley faces." Andrea explained.
Upon Brayden’s hospital release, the family walked outside to see the Lafourche Sheriff’s department on hand and ready to escort Brayden home in his very own presidential like motorcade!
Andrea said, "As we approached our neighborhood we saw hundreds of people, all dressed in orange shirts (many emblazoned with "B" is Back), holding decorated signs and waving. The local fire department had the big fire truck there, with all the lights going, the street and house all adorned with decorations. A larger than life parade ensued, all for Brayden."
It was at this time a close family friend began calling Brayden's supporters "B's Buddies”, a phrase the town adored and wore proudly on t-shirts and orange silicone bracelets.
The parade was one of many instances of community support the family received. Little Brayden is still embracing his community, this time with his angel wings. His resting place is painted orange and easily recognized by many children, and even adults who make the trip to sit and speak with him.
“The entire year was such an amazing time for Brayden and the community. What could have been such a terribly sad time was instead fun for Brayden. Life was a party and made every day count,” Andrea went on to say.
Dana Gros gained an excellent reputation for her impressive community fundraising ability. Dana worked at South Lafourche High School for twenty-one years. During her tenure, she held a multitude of successful fundraisers for SLHS basketball, student council, and cheerleading, but also taught young adults the importance of giving back to the community.
Over a period of nineteen years, Dana's annual project "Paint Your Heart Out" gave high school students the ability to help the elderly and disabled within the community by painting their homes. The project gave students the opportunity to learn the meaning and power of giving.
Dana said, "It is a valuable lesson when students learn the importance of giving back to their community who continually supports and invests in them. Students would give their time freely and with a smile. It is hard to tell who felt more joy, the student, or the seniors/disabled persons receiving the gift of a newly painted home!”
When asked what this community means to her, Dana responded, “It is awesome to work in a community that gives so much, not only monetarily, but also physically and emotionally. It is not something found in many other areas.”
Lafourche Parish is very much a "self-funded community." Neighbor takes care of neighbor here; there is no need to look elsewhere for chivalry because it is in and around us every day. Neighbors rally around each other when a family is in their greatest time of need. Giving souls who provide strength, encouragement, hope, and healing, bringing with it a “what’s mine is yours” mentality.
Camaraderie is unshakeable in these parts, whether you are from up the bayou or down the bayou.
Posted on Fri, October 6, 2017
by Holly McKeon, Contributing Writer