Elks Lodge announces inaugural Freedom Ball to benefit veteran programs

Staff Report
Shown from left are Royal Couple Jamison and Heather Dore, Royal Couple Percy and Bonnita Matsuda, Duke Frank Joffrion, Grand Duke Brandon Katz, Ball Captain Tamiko Francis Garrison, King Oscar Evans, Queen Taylor Walker, Duchess Devyn Hambrick, Royal Couple Juanita Pearley and Sherman Verner, Dr. Arthur and Cindy Joffrion. Not pictured: Royal Couple Reagan and Irasema Katz, Grand Dukes Paul “Louie” Viallon, VI, Christian Katz, Shae Castillo, Steven Castillo, Duke Jordan Theiler, Duchesses Ashleigh Evans, Ainslee Evans, Governess Amanda Liotto, Marchioness Reami Rogers, and Marquee Corbin Rogers.

King Jolly Goodfellow XC and retired Lt. Colonel Oscar Evans, his queen Taylor Noel Walker, and ball captain and the honorable Tamiko Francis Garrison announced the Donaldsonville Elks' inaugural Freedom Ball, set for Jan. 14 at 6 p.m. at the Ascension Gym at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales.

The Freedom Ball is a public fundraising program hosted by Donaldsonville Elks Lodge No. 1153 to support veteran service programs.

The event includes all of the traditions and fanfare of a traditional carnival ball and is a continuation of the Elks Carnival Ball celebrating its 90-year anniversary.

Proceeds from the ball will provide services that benefit the health and well-being of veterans; those who serve, have served, and have given their lives to protect our democratic way of life, which are all principles for which Elks deeply believe in and take an oath to protect. The Elks pledge is "So long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them."

Some of the Elks programs supporting veterans include the Elks Adaptive Sports and Therapy Kits Program, the Welcome Home Initiative, Veterans Expressions Ceremony, the Veterans Day Ceremony, Veterans Walk of Honor, Memorial Day Celebration, Veterans Food Drive, Low Income Veteran Housing Assistance Program, Veterans PTSD Counseling Support Group, Veterans Job Fair, Veterans Entrepreneurship Program, the Mark Bergeron Honorary Student Scholarship Program, the Veterans Leadership Roundtable, the Veterans Golf Classic, and the Freedom Ball.

Evans is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and fighter pilot. He graduated from Ascension Catholic High School in Donaldsonville in 1985, Louisiana Tech University in Ruston in 1989 and was commissioned as a U.S. Naval Officer in May 1990.

He received his Wings of Gold in September 1992 and went on to fly F/A 18 Hornets. He amassed almost 2000 hours in the Hornet and has almost 400 carrier landings. He is a graduate of the US Navy Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun) Adversary Course.

After his Naval Service, he joined the Bayou Militia of the Louisiana Air National Guard, where he flew the F15 Eagle for seven years and retired in 2010. He received the Meritorious Service Medal, Strike Flight Air Medal and many other personal and unit commendations during his 20 years of active duty.

He is a realtor, business consultant, and small rancher in Homedale, Idaho. He is married to Clara-Leigh, and they have three children, Ashleigh, Ainslee, and Garrett.

Queen Taylor Noel Walker is the daughter of King Jolly Goodfellow LXXXII, Robert Walker and Aimee Dugas Walker of Baton Rouge. She is a sophomore at the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Alabama, and is the granddaughter of Larry and Karen Dugas, and Audrey Walker and King Jolly Goodfellow LVIII, the late Elmer “Bobby” Walker Jr.

Queen Taylor is a mass communications major with a concentration in broadcast production and a minor in digital film making.

She is a member of the University of Montevallo track and field team, where she competes in the pole vault. During her freshman year she was named to the Academic All-Conference team for track and field and has been on the President’s List every semester.

She is also a member of Phi Mu sorority, where she holds the office of vice president. Queen Taylor is also vice president of BEA (National Broadcasting Society) and a member of Strong Hall Production Crew.

She is a 2021 graduate of St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge, where she was an academic honor graduate and a 3-year varsity letterman in track and field. She was also the pole vault team captain for three years.

During her junior year, she broke the SJA indoor pole vault record with a jump of 11’ and earned academic all-state honors in her senior year. During her four years of competing in track and field they were two-time 5A outdoor state champions, two-time Division 1 indoor state champions and were Division 1 Indoor state runner-up.

Presiding over the Inaugural Freedom Ball is ball captain and Honorable Tamiko Francis Garrison. She is a native of Donaldsonville and is a 1986 graduate of Ascension Catholic High School. In 1990, she received her bachelor of science degree in accounting from Southern University in Baton Rouge.

She is the daughter of the late Bernard J. Francis, Sr. and the late Janet Ganes Francis. She is married to Ira Garrison and they have one daughter, Tamiko.

She is a Certified Fraud Examiner and an Accredited Healthcare Fraud Investigator.

In 2020, Judge Garrison was elected to serve as the Justice of the Peace, 1st Justice Court, Parish of Ascension. She is the first Black female to serve in the role in the parish's history.

Judge Garrison has more 32 years of experience in law enforcement, investigations, compliance, and auditing. She served 15 years as a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service residing in Phoenix, Arizona, New Orleans, and Chicago before making the decision to return to Donaldsonville.

Since her return to Louisiana, Judge Garrison has owned and operated Francis Investigations (a private investigations firm), served as a Director of Compliance at Southern University, and the executive director of AMIkids Donaldsonville. In 2012 she became the executive director of AMIkids Baton Rouge serving East Baton Rouge School Board.

After successfully recovering from a kidney transplant, Judge Garrison returned to work as a Medicaid Investigator with Louisiana Healthcare Connections. In 2018, she became the Manager of Special Investigation Unit, Louisiana Region, Louisiana Healthcare Connections.

In June 2022, she was hired by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana to serve as their Medicare Advantage Compliance Manager.

She was served on numerous boards and actively involved in many community service organizations. She is often honored for her work in the community and her dedication to her life’s mantra by Shirley Chisholm, "Service is the rent you pay for the privilege of living on this earth."

The inaugural Freedom Ball will feature special guest masters of ceremonies, Maxine Crump and Johnny Ayhsen, both lifelong career journalists, community servants and philanthropists.

Also being honored at the Freedom Ball will be five grand marshals who are being recognized for their military service careers as well as their commitment to the community. Those being honored are Sheriff Bobby Webre of Gonzales, Charles J. “Jay” Lemann Jr. of Donaldsonville, Paul Louis "Kip" Viallon V of Belle Rose, Leroy J. Sullivan Jr. of Dumfries, Virginia, and Ronald H. “Ronnie” Baker of Gonzales.

Serving in the inaugural Freedom Ball Royal Court are Percy and Bonnita Matsuda of Gonzales, Sherman Verner and Juanita Pearley of Gonzales and Donaldsonville, Jamison and Heather Dore of Donaldsonville, Dr. Arthur Joffrion and Cindy Joffrion of Plaquemine, and Reagan and Irasema "Sema" Katz of Hacienda Heights, California.

Dukes and Duchesses include Grand Dukes are Paul Louis "Louie" Viallon, VI, Brandon Michael Katz of Donaldsonville, Christian Bailey Katz of Prairieville, Shae Marlowe Castillo of Hacienda Heights, California, Steven Wolfgang Castillo of Hacienda Heights, California, and Duke Frank Joseph Joffrion of Plaquemine, and Jordan Glenn Theiler of Memphis, Tennessee.

Duchesses include Devyn Yvonne Hambrick of Donaldsonville, Ashleigh Adele Evans of Homedale, Idaho, Ainslee Angelle Evans of Homedale, Idaho. Also participating will be Governess Amanda Liotto, Marchioness Reami Rogers and Marquee Corbin Rogers all of Prairieville.

The Freedom Ball is now accepting reservations. Corporations, members and the public are invited to celebrate the event and all reservations are tax deductible. Table and ticket reservations must be submitted by Jan. 11, 2023.

For more information, call (225) 445-1383.

The Donaldsonville Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks is a constituent member of the BPOE Elks of the USA and is a fraternal organization among hundreds of thousands of members, over 2000 lodges, and a 150+ year history.

The Donaldsonville Elks Lodge No. 1153 was founded in 1909, and the membership has given countless hours of volunteer support and thousands of dollars in grants and assistance in its over 100-year existence.

Gonzales Weekly Citizen and Donaldsonville Chief, part of the USA Today Network of Louisiana, cover Ascension Parish and the greater Baton Rouge area. Follow at facebook.com/WeeklyCitizen and facebook.com/DonaldsonvilleChief.