Becky Prejean has spent nearly four decades making dreams come true for children in Louisiana suffering from life-threatening illness, but she is still brought to tears when asked about her favorite memories with the organization. “There are just so many. But the memories I will always cherish the most are those of children who are no longer with us,” she explains.
Prejean has served as executive director of the Dreams Come True of Louisiana organization for 23 years. And while the organization maintains the same goal that it had when it was founded in 1983, what has changed is the number of children the group serves. “When I first began, we were getting three to four applications a year, and now we’re getting around 65 to 70 a year,” Prejean says, noting that applications come in from all over the state.
One of those applicants was Miya Norse, a 13-year-old suffering from bone cancer. A story that has stuck with Prejean over the years, Dreams Come True of Louisiana was able to give Norse an immersive Saints football experience, meeting Drew Brees and other key players.
“We couldn’t stay the whole day because Miya was feeling bad, and she was put in the hospital a few days later,” Prejean recalls. “After she was put in the hospital, I got a call from Miya’s mom. I had let them know there was still money in their budget if they had anything else in mind. And she said Miya asked if our team could plant some flowerbeds.”
Prejean and the Dreams Come True of Louisiana team did much more than plant flowerbeds, creating a sacred space garden at Miya’s home complete with a custom-built gazebo and outdoor furniture, all of which was donated.
“When these children know that they’re dying, their dream is to leave stuff for the family,” Prejean says. “I’ve seen it many times. For example, once I was fulfilling the dream of a 14-year-old boy who wanted a shopping spree. He was grabbing items like shower curtains and rugs, and I thought ‘This is really odd.’ But that’s when he pulled me to the side and explained his situation.”
There are also the typical childhood dreams of family trips to Disney World or even custom treehouses, all of which are brought to life by the Dreams Come True team and through the generosity and love of local vendors and volunteers.
“Today, our main goal is just to grant every single dream that’s approved,” she says.
One of her means for doing this is through the annual Kids on the Katwalk event, which was started by Prejean in 2011. Making the organization’s “dream kids” models for a day, the event gives kids a moment in the spotlight, while also raising money and awareness for Dreams Come True of Louisiana and the group’s mission to enrich the lives of children suffering from a variety of illnesses.
“The first one was just a Sunday afternoon get-together to make the kids feel special,” Prejean recalls, describing how happy they were to get their hair and makeup professionally done. “When I saw how excited the kids were, I knew we needed to expand this, and it eventually became a fundraising event.”
The 2023 Kids on the Katwalk event looked significantly different than the first fashion show, which was held in a small beauty shop in Baton Rouge. This year’s event took place at the Country Club of Louisiana, with kids modeling clothes from local boutiques while being escorted by local celebrities like East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux and District Attorney Hillar Moore.
“We’re now busily preparing for the holiday season and our annual Dreams Come True Christmas parties taking place in Lafayette, West Monroe and Baton Rouge,” Prejean explains. “The Christmas events are truly so much fun, and the kids are always looking forward to meeting up with the friends they’ve made through Dreams Come True. I’ve seen such strong relationships grow from these events.”
Whether through the holiday parties, Kids on the Katwalk or any other event hosted by Dreams Come True of Louisiana, Prejean says the goal is always to create a sense of normalcy and fun for the children the organization serves.
“Everyone walks their own path, but in the end, they all have life-threatening illnesses that make them feel different than others,” Prejean explains. “At Dreams Come True of Louisiana, they are in a normal setting.”
Prejean says she has learned so much through her time with the organization, and that’s thanks to the children the organization serves. Their bravery and positivity is an inspiring force that motivates Prejean, both within the context of the organization, as well as in her personal life.
“People really take things for granted. A lot of these children can’t eat real food or even go outside, along with all the other seemingly normal activities people do every day,” she says. “It’s so important to be grateful for what you have because it could be the dream of someone else.” dctofla.com