Event of the Week: Heartstrings & Angel Wings 5th Annual Cookout Raffle


Gumbo Cook-Off Supports Premature Babies

Preparing for the arrival of a newborn baby is stressful enough. And, when a baby is delivered premature, Mom and Dad can feel overwhelmed.

Lafayette, LA non-profit Heartstrings & Angel Wings held their 5th Annual Gumbo Cookout Raffle to fund their mission of assisting micro-preemie babies (one to five pounds) and their parents. The organization has volunteers who meet once a month to hand-craft clothes and accessories for those tiniest of tots. Those items are then donated to local neonatal intensive care units.

It’s a mission that means a lot to founder Jennifer Patin.

“We donate the clothing because the babies are born from emergencies, and the parents do not often know where to find clothing so small,” she says. “Also, shirt costs anywhere from $15 to $20, so we save the families a little money.”

“It’s also good for uplifting the spirits of the family members because are viewed more as babies, instead of hospital patients with tubes and wires coming from their little bodies.

“Our family had two preemie babies: one born 15 weeks early and another born seven weeks early,” Patin adds. “The seven-week one was mine, and I feel the purpose of my having a premature baby was to start this organization.”

Forty-six cook-off teams assembled this year to prepare all-you-can-eat gumbo (seafood, or chicken and sausage) for attendees. Their event also featured a raffle, silent auction, two live bands, a magician, and music provided by a DJ.

This event helped them raise around $35,000.

Patin used every means at her disposal to get the word out, including print and Internet advertising, social networking, and media interviews. She believes that their Facebook page, and several features on a local news program prior to the event, helped them out the most.

One of the highlights this year: several of the group’s beneficiaries were able to attend.

“Our family participation was at an all-time high,” Patin says. “It’s hard to say how many families were there, because some cooked and some only attended. Out of the teams we had, I think 18 were families we’ve helped. got involved in order to help that will be in that situation. It’s a great feeling knowing that everyone wants to continue the mission and help others, just as we do.”

While Patin says that preparation for this event “is always stressful and hectic”, she thinks organization and flexibility are two keys to running a fundraiser like this.

“We plan and prepare as much as possible before the event and roll with the punches on the day of the event. The best advice I can offer is to delegate small tasks to others, and not to panic when things do not go as planned.”

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