This fall, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation will present The Angel Award® to nine everyday people doing extraordinary good to improve the lives of Louisiana's young people.
The honorees were chosen from a record-shattering number of nominees — individuals noticed by friends, neighbors and colleagues for their selfless investments of time and compassion in children. Each Angel will receive a $25,000 grant to the nonprofit organization of their choice.
In the estimation of the Blue Cross Foundation's president, Michael Tipton, the overwhelming number of nominations this year is in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic:
"I think that when our world suddenly felt much smaller and challenging, more people took greater notice of who was standing up and helping. Much of the work our Angels do is difficult — it takes a lot of strength, perseverance and willingness to see kids through some really tough times," he said.
To honor the Angels for their hard work and dedication to the community, the New Orleans Saints are providing each grant recipient tickets and pregame sideline passes to a Saints home game throughout the 2021 NFL season. These recipients have earned the opportunity to be a part of the No. 1 fan experience in the NFL.
"The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation plays a pivotal role in supporting our community," said Saints and Pelicans president Dennis Lauscha. "We appreciate the work Blue Cross does in our community on an annual basis, and are thrilled to offer a unique Saints gameday experience for the nine Angel Award recipients, who are recognized for positively impacting Louisiana's youth."
Receiving The Angel Award® this year are:
- Miguel A. Alonso of New Orleans, a case manager for the New Orleans Children's Health Project (NOCHP), where he has helped thousands of children and families who have immigrated to New Orleans access life-saving healthcare services.
- Dr. Marc Behar of New Orleans, a longtime advocate, supporter, fundraiser, volunteer and community leader. Behar is the founder of Pride Prom NOLA, a celebration for LGBTQIA+ high school-aged youth. He also serves with a number of other organizations focused on young people, particularly those who have been rejected by their families, leaving them vulnerable to significantly worse outcomes than their peers.
- Ken Brown of Lake Charles, an educator at Washington-Marion Magnet High who has created and implemented a number of model programs in suicide prevention for teenagers, and has advocated for changes in state laws that have made mental health services more readily available to young people — saving the lives of many teenagers considering suicide.
- Rylie Duos of Benton, a 13-year-old student and the founder of the CRD No Limits Foundation, a nonprofit that raises funds to purchase medical equipment and cover medical expenses for children with physical and cognitive disabilities.
- Stephanie Antley Herrmann of Farmerville, the director of the Union Parish Library, which she has transformed into an open, responsive community resource that supports all children and provided essential support after natural disasters and COVID-19 impacts.
- James "Big Brown" Joseph of Baton Rouge, a former Harlem Globetrotter, current UPS driver and founder of the Big Brown Reaching Back Foundation. The foundation helps communities however needed, including meals, air conditioners, school supplies and, in response to COVID-19, hand sanitizer to every school district in Louisiana.
- Lucas Spielfogel of Baton Rouge, the executive director of the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition, which reaches children in elementary, middle and high schools across Baton Rouge to provide college counseling and preparation. Spielfogel is known for going above and beyond for the hundreds of students reached by BRYC, providing rides, personal mentoring and much more.
- Dr. Erin R. Wheeler of New Orleans, the executive director of College Beyond, which helps students enroll and succeed in college, regardless of socioeconomic background. She dedicates almost all of her waking time to supporting students – permanently altering the trajectory of the lives of hundreds of children in southeast Louisiana, particularly first-generation college students.
Each year, the Foundation also honors a "Blue Angel," an employee of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana who has shown extraordinary commitment to children. This year, the Foundation has selected Kellie DeRouen Duhon of Crowley. Duhon is a long-time volunteer and board member serving The Life of a Single Mom (TLSM), which improves the lives of children by providing education, counseling and support to single mothers. In Louisiana, more than half of children are born to single mothers, according to the CDC. TLSM will receive a $10,000 grant in Duhon's name.
More information about the Angel Award is available online at www.BCBSLAFoundation.org.