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Angels Ascending: Louisiana Child Advocates Chosen for Top Honor

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation has selected nine Louisianians to receive The Angel Award®, one of Louisiana’s oldest and most-recognized celebrations of everyday people doing extraordinary good work for our state’s children.

This year’s honorees are Alecia B. Bergeron (Baton Rouge), a beloved teacher at Blue Bridge ASL Academy who left retirement to teach ASL to deaf and hard-of-hearing children ages 0-5 and their families, a service that previously did not exist; Kim Bowman (Baton Rouge), who co-founded the Bella Bowman Foundation with her husband, Trey. After losing Bella, their eight-year-old daughter, to cancer, the Bowmans have provided comfort to children with chronic or terminal illnesses and loving, lasting memories for their families; Fr. Michael Champagne (St. Martinville) a priest who has worked with his religious order to provide services to the poor of St. Martinville and the surrounding area, including food, shelter, education and life-skills training to hundreds of children; Jan B. Daniels (Monroe), a youth development coordinator at the Children’s Coalition for Northeast Louisiana where she teaches students and caregivers how to recognize when a student is considering suicide, what to say to express support, and how to access mental health providers; Robert J. Fritscher (Madisonville), the founder of JoJo’s Hope. Motivated by the loss of a beloved nephew to drowning, Fritscher applied his lifelong love of swimming to provide free aquatic lessons and therapy to thousands of children, focusing on those with physical and developmental disabilities; Jennifer Johnson Karle (Natchitoches), the CEO of Cane River Children’s Services for nearly 30 years. Karle has grown the agency to provide a group home, transitional living, counseling, child advocacy, foster care, and other life-saving services to thousands of young women who are victims of abuse and neglect; Leslie Lacy (Baton Rouge), the founder of Fostering Hope Louisiana, which provides braces for children in foster care while offering oral health and life skills training; Melissa Sawyer (New Orleans), co-founder and CEO of the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), the first comprehensive juvenile re-entry program in Louisiana to provide education, skill-building, and whatever children need to achieve their full potential and avoid interactions with the criminal justice system.

Each of the honorees above will receive a $25,000 grant made to the Louisiana-based nonprofit of their choice.

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 Velika S. Trahan of Lake Charles. Known to many for her years of community service, Trahan is being honored particularly for her work with Family and Youth Counseling Agency as a volunteer, fundraiser, and committee member. Her service has helped Family and Youth provide mental health services to thousands of children across Southwest Louisiana. FYCA will receive a $10,000 grant in Trahan’s name.

“Our Angels come from all walks of life, but they are distinguished by their commitment to showing up and working hard for children – even in difficult or painful situations. We are proud of each of these honorees and look forward to celebrating them,” said Michael Tipton, president of the Blue Cross Foundation.

The 2022 Angel Award honorees will be recognized at an invitation-only gala on Oct. 17 in Baton Rouge. Following up on two successful years of broadcasting partnership with Louisiana Public Broadcasting, the Blue Cross Foundation will also produce a one-hour television special about the honorees, which will air in November 2022 (date to be announced in September).

More information about the Angel Award is available online at http://www.BCBSLAFoundation.org.