Photo by Jeannie Frey Rhodes

Women with a Cause 2019: Katie Cheatham

Cause: Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital

More than a decade ago, Katie Cheatham faced the hourlong drive back to New Orleans where her youngest child Mary Claire, then a baby, was hospitalized for an esophageal procedure.

Cheatham had been home to Baton Rouge once over several weeks due to Mary Claire’s hospitalization. Her son Everett, then a toddler, wouldn’t even look at her as Cheatham prepared to leave. “I just want my mom back,” Cheatham remembers Everett telling her.

On that ride to New Orleans, Cheatham says she had a talk with God. “I never wanted another mom to feel like they had to choose a child over another,” says Cheatham. “We had to do something to get better resources in Baton Rouge.”

Cheatham, now 40, soon found a way to serve her daughter and other sick children in Baton Rouge.

In 2012, the Junior League of Baton Rouge entered into a partnership with the planned Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital to assist with the conceptualization of the hospital’s JLBR Family Resource Center. Due to her experience as a mother to a sick child treated far from home, Cheatham, a Junior League member, was appointed to the committee responsible for the strategic planning of the league’s role in the center. “It was like an affirmation that I had been doing the right thing,” Cheatham says. “It was an awesome feeling. More importantly, it was affirmation that it was going to happen, that my prayer was heard and answered.”

Then, in 2018, Cheatham was one of two Junior League representatives invited to sit on the Our Lady of the Lake Resource Center Work Group Committee. For the 18 months prior to the hospital opening, Cheatham joined 25 nurses and medical specialists to plan what services the resource center would provide.

Now that the new hospital and resource center are complete, Cheatham is focusing her efforts on a new way of raising money for the hospital’s services. After directing the hospital’s annual Fiesta fundraiser for the past two years, she is now helping lead the committee for the Big Bash, a May 2020 event aimed at raising money for the hospital’s NICU.

Each year, the focus of the Big Bash will change depending on the needs of the hospital, Cheatham says. The goal of the inaugural fundraiser is to raise $600,000, but Cheatham says, “I would love to see the year where we go over a million.”


How long have you been involved with OLOL Children’s Hospital?
Thanks to Anita Bankston and the late Julie Dickinson, I have been involved for seven years with the Junior League OLOL Children’s Hospital committees and five years with the OLOL Foundation.

What do you love about the volunteer efforts that you do?
I love the people I meet along the way. I now have a very close group of amazing ladies who have power lunches once a month. We are all heavily involved with fundraising in the Baton Rouge community, and we use these lunches to not only bounce ideas off of each other, but to encourage one another in our efforts and to remember to just have fun!

What do you hope to achieve?
I hope that no family feels the need to leave this community to receive effective healthcare for their child. I pray we are able to expand our pool of specialists and subspecialists each year, but that can only happen with the proper resources and facilities afforded to them. I had to leave Baton Rouge for far too long. That is what propelled me into this cause.