Volunteers for children honored at formal ceremony, Oct. 19, Blue Cross Foundation’s 2015 Angel Awards

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

BATON ROUGE – Your first bicycle is one to remember – the speed, the wind and even the tumbles. Dustin LaFont wanted to make each bicycle mean more than fond memories by encouraging young children to earn a bike through hard work. LaFont founded Front Yard Bikes to better the lives of Louisiana Children, which is why the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation considers him an Angel. LaFont joins eight other volunteers for children in this year’s class of Angel Award recipients.

At an invitation-only gala held Oct. 19 at the Renaissance Baton Rouge Hotel, Blue Cross Foundation recognized nine ‘angels’ from across Louisiana. Eight Angels received $20,000 grants, and one Blue Angel – a Blue Cross employee, received a $5,000 grant - for their respective organizations.

Elijah Benjamin Evans of Youngsville. Elijah Evans founded No Use for Abuse, an anti-child abuse program, in 2012. No Use for Abuse educates the community about child abuse and ways to prevent this horrible tragedy from happening to children in the Youngsville/Lafayette area.

Dustin LaFont of Baton Rouge. Dustin LaFont founded Front Yard Bikes in Baton Rouge in 2010. Front Yard Bikes is a program that teaches young children to earn a bike through hard work and dedication.

Bivian “Sonny” Lee III of New Orleans. Sonny Lee founded Son of a Saint in 2011 in honor of his mother and late father, former New Orleans Saints cornerback Bivian Lee Jr. Son of a Saint is a New Orleans non-profit organization that provides mentorship, tutoring, community service opportunities, mental health treatment and other self-improvement activities for boys in need of a father figure’s influence.

Kristen Maddox of Denham Springs. Kristen Maddox founded A Door of Hope, a faith-based, non-profit organization in Denham Springs that helps its clients break the vicious cycle of life-controlling issues and self-destructive behaviors such as abuse, addiction, eating disorders, depression, past abortions or self-harm.

L.J. “Joe” Rachal of Olla. Joe Rachal is a board member for the Centennial Cultural Center. The Center, a non-profit organization in Olla, works to nurture and promote culture and fine arts in LaSalle Parish, including the Center’s “Very Special Camp” program, an art camp designed for special needs children.

Kassi Robinson of Benton. Kassi Robinson founded Pay it Forward Networking in 2013. Pay it Forward Networking is an organization based in Bossier City that uses social media networking to grant wishes of children with special needs, disabilities or life-threatening illnesses.

Paula Taylor of Sulphur. Paula Taylor founded the Sulphur Christian Community Coalition in 2010. The Sulphur Christian Community Coalition is a non-profit organization that organizes volunteers to provide tutoring, GED classes, summer camps, enrichment programs, support groups and more to children of all

ages in the community.

Elisha Wilson-Thomas of Tallulah. Elisha Wilson-Thomas founded Tallulah’s T.I.A.R.A. Girlz, a social club for girls ages 3 to 7, in 2009. T.I.A.R.A. – Teaching Independence, Autonomy, Respect and Allegiance – addresses teen pregnancy, drug abuse, extreme poverty and low graduation rates in Tallulah with education at an early age.

Tanja Foil of Baton Rouge. Tanja Foil has volunteered and supported Families Helping Families of Greater Baton Rouge, a non-profit organization that provides resources for children with disabilities and their families, since 2011. Foil is recognized as this year’s Blue Angel for her efforts outside her daily work as an employee of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana. Her organization will receive a grant of $5,000.

“It is an honor to provide these Angels with the opportunity to empower and engage more children across our state,” said Michael Tipton, Foundation president. “In my experience, I know how much an award like this can mean to a person and the efforts they are so passionate about. The Foundation is honored to support these Angels for children.”