Champagne & Ribs, Gift of Life’s popular annual event, is goin’ Cajun for a cause in 2014, and plans to put a whuppin’ on prostate cancer while having a heck of a time doin’ it!
Everyone is invited and encouraged to bring their friends to Champagne & Ribs Kickin’ it Cajun Style on Thursday, April 10 at 6:30 p.m. at Cowboy Harley-Davidson, 1150 Interstate 10 South in Beaumont. Individual tickets for the event are $125, with sponsorships starting at $500.
Gift of Life even brought a few friends of their own to the party. Grammy-award winner and Zydecajun king Wayne Toups, who will be performing his unique blend of Cajun music, zydeco, R&B. Hometown band Mid- Life Crisis will also be jammin’ classic rock ‘n’ roll favorites at the Fais Do-Do.
“Wayne has such a tremendous following,” said Norma Sampson, executive director of Julie Rogers’ Gift of Life. “His music is fun, lively and definitely a nice fit for Southeast Texas and our theme. His entire entourage has been so verbally supportive and appreciative to give back to the community.”
As a special treat, T-Roy and Bigfoot of The History Channel’s hit reality television series Swamp People will be on-hand for a me e t - a n d - greet to talk to fans about life in the Atchafalaya and snaggin’ gators. The boys are scheduled to sign autographs as well.
And what’s a swamp stomp without some good and spicy Cajun food?
Guests can expect mouth-watering jambalaya, crawfish pie, tasty boudain, duck and chicken gumbo, fancy grits, po-boys, New Orleans bread pudding, Bananas Foster and much more prepared by the Golden Triangle Chef’s Association, Go Texan, Rich Courville, Zummo’s and other awesome local favorites. In addition to the event’s staple of champagne and fall-off-the-bone ribs, a selection of specialty and craft beers will also be available for tasting. All food and beverage is included with the ticket purchase, Sampson said. The Fais Do-Do will also feature a silent auction with many unique and exciting items.
This year’s honorees are Beaumont native and urologist Dr. John Henderson; founder of Texas Home Health Charline Dauphin of Silsbee; and Jefferson County Court at Law No. 1 Judge Gerald Eddins, a Port Arthur native.
Henderson has practiced medicine in Southeast Texas since 1986 and is affiliated with Southeast Texas Urology Associates.
“I’m very honored and excited to attend,” Henderson said. “Gift of Life does a lot of good work in the community with breast and prostate cancer awareness and has done a lot to help inform people of the disease process and help those who are unfunded to have treatment.”
Henderson is a dedicated advocate for early prostate cancer detection, said Gift of Life founder and chair Regina Rogers, and has been a supporter of the Gift of Life’s prostate cancer initiative — now in its 14th year — since its inception.
“He has advocated passionately for individuals to be screened and has helped us tremendously in raising the awareness level and motivating physicians to become involved,” she said.
Henderson, one of two Zydeco Kings, will be recognized alongside Judge Gerald Eddins, also an honoree and king.
Judge Eddins won election to the court in November 2012 and was sworn in on Nov. 29, 2012. He is running for re-election this November.
Eddins practiced law at the Eddins & Bennett Law Firm for 34 years and is a Charter Life Member of the 100 Club of Southeast Texas, a Life-Time Member of the East Texas Peace Officers Association, and a member of several other local law enforcement associations, among other charitable and civic organizations.
“Judge Eddins is an outstanding jurist,” Rogers said. “He has a record of excellence as an attorney. He’s a man of integrity, of character and has a concern for the underserved members of our community.”
This year’s Cajun Queen is Charline Dauphin, a supporter of the Dauphin Educational Outreach Program, which honors her late husband, Sidney “Chief” Dauphin, and has aided more than 8,000 youth and adults in high schools, churches and community groups by teaching healthy decision making, and activities and habits that help reduce the chances of developing cancer. Charline has also been extremely benevolent to Lamar University and many local charities, in addition to helping those affected by cancer via the Charline and Sidney “Chief” Dauphin Cancer Screening and Prevention Center in Beaumont.
“Charline Dauphin has been a major supporter of our efforts for more than 12 years now,” Rogers said. “She learned about the Gift of Life and felt very strongly that it was some-thing her husband would have wanted her to support. She recognized the importance of what we did and became a treasured friend as well as a loyal and faithful supporter of our efforts.”
Bayou Honorary Co-Chairs are Tracy Byrd, Joe Domino, Judge Mickey Shuffield and Dr. Leldon Sweet, and Swamp Master Co-Chairs are Blair and Charlie Foxworth and Shelly and Carl Vitanza.
Champagne & Ribs is the only fundraiser for the Gift of Life’s lifesaving prostate cancer initiative, which has provided nearly 7,500 free prostate screenings in addition to vital prostate cancer information and education to thousands of medically under-served men across seven counties. Gift of Life has helped extend the lives of more than 63 men diagnosed with prostate cancer — three were diagnosed as a result of Gift of Life screenings in 2013 alone, a Gift of Life press release states. The program also offers diagnostic evaluations and cancer treatment, which is entirely underwritten by the Gift of Life for medically underserved men and a sup-port group for men and their families to share information, camaraderie and support.
Henderson said an estimated 1 in 7 men would develop prostate cancer in their lifetime, an unfortunate truth that 61-year-old Beaumont resident Kurt Ploeger said he knows about all too well. Ploeger was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000 at the age of 49.
“I was shocked driving down the freeway when the doctor called and said, ‘Hey, guess what we found,’” Ploeger said.
Ploeger’s cancer was aggressive and took 18 months to find, he said.
“The recommendation was surgery, radical prostatectomy,” he said. “They said if you don’t have surgery, you’ll die in five years.”
Ploeger said his surgery involved nerve-splicing, where the surgeon splices ankle nerves with the ends of the nerves cut from the prostate gland immediately after a prostatectomy is performed.
Although his postoperative recovery was rough, with his surgical wound taking 18-24 months to heal, Ploeger said he had to remain optimistic because he was a single father.
“What choice do you have?” he said. “You just have to stay positive. I had to get surgery and get on with my life.”
Ploeger was able to overcome his cancer with the support of his son, he said. He offered advice to those who might be hesitant to get screened for prostate cancer.
“Go get checked; it’s a no-brainer,” Ploeger said.
And if in the unfortunate situation you find out you do have prostate cancer, Ploeger suggests thorough research of the disease.
“Do your homework, so that you can find out what kind of questions you need to ask,” he suggested.
Henderson recommends that men begin to get medical tests for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) by the age of 50 and receive rectal examinations for prostate cancer starting at 40. African-Americans, who have a higher rate of prostate cancer, are recommended to begin getting tested at an even earlier age.
During June Men’s Health Month, the Gift of Life provides free prostate cancer screenings at three screening sites where Southeast Texas men can receive PSA, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and HIV testing: Saturday, June 14 at Lamar Institute of Technology in Beaumont; Saturday, June 21, at Baptist Hospital in Orange and Saturday, June 28, at the Carl Parker Center in Port Arthur.
In the meantime, come out and support the cause by attending one of the best parties this side of the Louisiana swamp. Champagne & Ribs helps make these screenings Gift of Life offers a possibility.
Sampson credits Champagne & Ribs popularity, which seems to continue to grow each year, to not only the exciting and entertaining event itself, but to Gift of Life’s unshakeable mission as well.
“I think people, by and large, understand that there are no other services, programs or health care initiatives for men who are underserved to receive medical treatment,” Sampson said. “We pay for the cancer treatment of these men who are diagnosed. Our program is there as a security net. I hope that’s a large proponent (for attending).”
In the event of a rain out, arrangements have been made to move Champagne & Ribs to the Ford Park Exhibit Hall. An announcement will be made the day of the event if the move is needed.
“It’s casual, it’s fun and it’s for a good cause,” Sampson said. “It’s almost four hours of eating and drinking and music and dancing. You can just come in your jeans and be with everyone. It’s a no frills, fun and different party.”
Last year’s event was a sell-out with more than 1,600 tickets sold. Get your tickets early by calling the Julie Rogers’ Gift of Life at (409) 833-3663.
To register to attend online, visit cr.giftoflifebmt.org