As a child growing up in Assumption Parish, Gina Dugas remembers joining her cousin Jason Blanchard, who has cerebral palsy, frequently on his visits to McMains Children’s Developmental Center in Baton Rouge. “I made that trip with them several times,” she explains, which is why serving on the board of directors at McMains for the past nine years has had such personal meaning for her.
“I have a real soft spot for children with disabilities and serving them beyond what can be offered just through the school system,” says Dugas. While her service on the board has varied from roles including president and vice president to member of the finance, human resources and strategic planning committees, her heart and motivation is in the way McMains creates exceptional moments in the lives of families with children with disabilities who might not experience them otherwise.
An example of this type of moment is the Wheels to Succeed program that involves a fundraising bike ride in St. Francisville to supply children with special-needs adaptive bikes. “I’ve been there when bikes have been presented. It’s incredibly moving,” she says. “If you could see their faces, before they actually sit on the bike, it’s pure elation.”
Dugas, currently senior vice president and chief financial officer at Woman’s Hospital, is new to healthcare professionally; she spent nine years doing public accounting in the audit sector and 16 years at the LSU Foundation as associate director of business affairs and then chief financial officer.
“Woman’s Hospital’s mission and purpose was a huge draw. Improving the lives of women and children was a natural next step for me,” she explains.
Her efforts at McMains are driven by the role she has seen it play first in her cousin’s life and now in the families it serves. She believes the holistic approach used to serve the entire family goes beyond serving just the child alone.
“There are a multitude of opportunities to receive therapy, but McMains helps them achieve a much higher quality of life as a family,” she says. “Our focus is centered on creating opportunities for the children to become as independent as possible.”
That focus is especially apparent as McMains approaches its 65th anniversary in 2019 and Dugas’ cousin, who was treated as a child by Dr. Frank McMains himself, is now an adult who owns a home, has a job and drives a golf cart. Dugas credits his ability to live and work independently to the therapy he received and the family approach she feels helped him achieve his full potential.
“It’s about empowerment,” she says.
What do you hope to achieve?
I hope to be able to achieve growth for McMains—growth of its outreach and impact on the community. The more independent and productive we’re able to help these children and families to become, the more significant and meaningful an impact we will have made.
Is there a big/yearly event for your cause?
In spring, it’s our annual Sips and Suds, with a live auction, great food and wine as we gather together and celebrate McMains and the families we serve. In fall, we have our Capable Kids fundraising campaign. New community members are invited to this exposure event. In 2019, we’re going to celebrate our 65th anniversary. It’s going to be really special.