Photo by Jeannie Frey Rhodes

Angelle Bourgeois, Louisiana Pediatric Cardiology Foundation

Angelle Bourgeois doesn’t even play tennis.

But when pediatric cardiologist Michael Brumund asked Bourgeois to chair a new tennis tournament committee to raise money for the then physician-run Louisiana Pediatric Cardiology Foundation, she agreed without hesitation.

Ten years later, the LPCF Mixed Doubles Tennis Classic and Gala has raised $1 million for the LPCF, a nonprofit organization providing financial and emotional support for families with children suffering from congenital heart defects or heart disease.

“I’m amazed how successful a little old tennis tournament can be,” Bourgeois says. “I love knowing that 100 percent of what we raise, other than expenses, goes straight to the foundation.”

The organization has grown to include on its seven-member board parents like Bourgeois who volunteer their time to ensure south Louisiana children who have congenital heart defects and their families have financial and emotional support.

Without a pediatric heart surgeon in Baton Rouge, local children and their families must travel to New Orleans and even out of state to Texas and Massachusetts for medical care, Bourgeois says.

These travel and medical expenses can be daunting.

Bourgeois knows firsthand because she experienced the uncertainty and fear that come with a very sick child. In June 2003, Bourgeois and her husband learned their unborn son would most likely die from a congenital heart defect soon after birth. The couple, already the parents of a toddler son, had only three choices: They could abort, put the newborn through complex and difficult surgeries soon after birth, or take him home to die.

“We were just devastated,” Bourgeois remembers. “Crying all the time.”

Jean-Paul was born in November 2003 and, miraculously, the pediatric specialists decided surgery could benefit him after all. In just a five-year period, Jean-Paul underwent 18 heart procedures in hospitals as far away as Boston.

“He’s doing phenomenally,” Bourgeois says of her 12-year-old son today. “Academically, socially, he’s normal. He’s a fun-loving child.”

Although the family was blessed to have good medical insurance, the travel, housing and dining expenses added up, she says.

“You’re away from your home, you’re away from your children,” Bourgeois says. “Some families are there for months at a time depending on the defect.”

The LPCF awards grants of up to $2,500 to offset these financial worries. Bourgeois also participates in a monthly LCPF support group for parents who have questions about medical care or hospitals or who just need a shoulder to cry on.

The LPCF also reaches out to kids who may not even know they have a heart defect. The nonprofit organization offers free heart screenings to athletes at area high schools to reduce the number of teenagers who die unexpectedly while playing sports.

The organization has already screened 3,400 high school athletes since 2012, she says.

“We hope we can catch these defects when they don’t even know they have it,” Bourgeois says.

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Quick Glance

What do you love most about the volunteer efforts that you are engaged in?
“I love meeting other moms that are going through the same thing that I’ve been through.”
Is there a big yearly event for the Louisiana Pediatric Cardiology Foundation? 
The LPCF Mixed Doubles Tennis Classic and Gala is held at the Country Club of Louisiana each spring, and the Helping Heal Little Hearts annual fundraiser takes place at the Varsity Theatre each August.
What is something we don’t know about your cause? 
In the United States, twice as many children die from congenital heart defects each year than from all the childhood cancers combined.

If you know someone who would make a great Woman with a Cause in 2016, let us know by emailing [email protected]!