Veterans group holds ‘A Musical Tribute for Our Troops’

Lisa Yates

For the first ever “A Musical Tribute for Our Troops,” the Ascension Veterans Association (AVA) teamed up with Center Stage Performing Arts Academy, under the direction of Larry Schexnaydre; Ned Fasullo’s Big Band Orchestra; Motiva Enterprises L.L.C. Convent Refinery; and, other local sponsors to create a one-of-a-kind fundraising event.

The event’s chairman, Brent Gautreau, Commander of VFW Post 3693 in Gonzales, said the idea behind the event was to raise money for care packages to send to a local National Guard Troop being deploying to Korea for one year.

“They left yesterday for a month of training,” he said. “They’ll be back in February to deploy for Korea.”

Gautreau said the AVA was a new group that came together to create the fundraiser.

“It’s a combination of different veterans groups such as the VFW, the American Legion, the Purple Hearts, the VVA – Vietnam Veterans Association – and anyone else who wanted to get involved,” he said. “We have David Brignac, General Manager at Motiva and his group which have provided all the food.”

This sold-out event kicked off at 6:30 p.m., Jan. 3, at the Community / Recreation Center in Gonzales. It featured food, drinks, entertainment and tables of silent auction items up for bid.

Larry Roussel, Community Liaison at Motiva Enterprises Convent Refinery, and the team at Motiva served a wide variety of impressive entrées, side dishes and desserts on several tables that ran the length of the room.

“We’re happy to come out and support the troops,” he said.

The event attracted more than 300 people, including veterans, local dignitaries, volunteers and a lot of young people from the community.

Tessa Mayon, 17, a senior at Dutchtown High School, sat at a table of young people at the event. She said she was one of the dancers scheduled to perform that night.

“I’m a senior at Center Stage,” she said. “We did this dance back in 2010, and I was one of the original dancers asked to come back and perform this dance for the troops.”

Another dancer at the table, Kaitlyn Walker, 15, a student at Episcopal High School, said she was another one of the original dancers who performed this special dance several years ago. Although she was no longer a part of the dance company, they asked her to come back tonight to perform this dance.

“It’s a special salute to the troops called ‘Letters from War,’ choreographed by Regan Gainey,” she said.

Missy Jandura, Director of the Donaldsonville Development District, volunteered for the event. She said she was delighted it sold out.

“I expected a good crowd,” she said. “What I didn’t expect to see was the large number of young people here. The crowd is a good mix of the older veterans, middle-aged people and a lot of young faces. It’s nice to see so many young people at the event.”