These Treats Are Extra Sweet
October’s annual Beignet Fest serves far more than just locals with a sweet tooth.
Jacob Folse knows the exact date and time of his weekly art class; he joyously counts down the days until his next session. This 12-year-old, who’s been diagnosed with autism, is proud of the artwork he creates and delights in the friendships he’s made there.
His art program is “Brushes, Buddies, and Beyond for Autism” where participants learn how to paint as they create their own works of art. Along the way, in a fun and relaxed environment, they also gain much more than painting fundamentals. They build their social skills, noticeably increase their self-esteem and improve their capacity for learning.
“This program has given Jacob so much confidence,” said Rachel Folse, Jacob’s mother. “He loves it so much. He gets to interact with his peers, which is something he doesn’t have the opportunity to do very often. A program like this is so important because our community lacks these kinds of opportunities for children with autism.”
Programs like “Brushes, Buddies and Beyond for Autism” are exactly what Sherwood and Amy Collins envisioned when they founded the Tres Doux Foundation, known by most New Orleanians as the organization behind the wildly successful annual Beignet Festival, which will celebrate its third year on Saturday, October 6 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Festival Grounds at New Orleans City Park.
A celebration of New Orleans’ most iconic treat, the Beignet Festival offers a wide array of beignets from some of New Orleans’ best restaurants, from traditional sweet options, to more savory delicacies that feature seafood, cheese and more. The free festival will also feature live, local music performances, a Kid’s Village, artists market and a VIP Experience.
In 2016, the festival attracted more than 10,000 people, enabling the Tres Doux Foundation to give away $25,157 in grants to local nonprofits dedicated to providing programs and services to children with developmental delays, including autism.
It’s a cause that hits home for the Collins’ family of four.
“Through our journey with our son (who is autistic), we found a gap in programs for children on the autism spectrum, and we wanted to change that,” said Sherwood Collins, Tres Doux Foundation executive director. “We wanted to provide more opportunities, bring awareness and increase activities for kids and resources for parents. Oftentimes when a good program opens up there are eight spots but 30 people on the waiting list.”
Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder and the fastest-growing developmental disability among children. The complex brain disorder inhibits a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges.
YMCA of Greater New Orleans’ “Brushes, Buddies and Beyond” program for autism
So much more than painting, the program provides a safe, secure environment that helps autistic children socialize and grow in confidence.
“It’s a therapeutic painting party,” said Amy Segar, director of YMCA Children’s Unified Benefits and Services. “One 6-year-old boy, who is non-verbal and who never engaged with anyone until he started coming to this program, now gets so excited and often stays past the class’ one-hour time. He’s befriended a 12-year-old girl and they have such a special bond.”
Tres Doux Foundation
Mission The mission of the Tres Doux Foundation is to celebrate, embrace and enhance the lives of children with developmental delays and disabilities by presenting them as whole beings, and to support organizations that do the same.
4 Friedrichs Avenue,
Annual Budget $225,000
Major Fundraising Event
The Third Annual Beignet Fest is set for Saturday, October 6, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Festival Grounds at New Orleans City Park. Proceeds from Beignet Fest benefit the Tres Doux Foundation, which makes grants to nonprofits serving children with developmental delays. For more information, visit beignetfest.com and follow the event on social media at @beignetfest.
Since Beignet Fest’s inception, the event has partnered with Ochsner Hospital for Children to produce the Kid’s Village, where Ochsner’s speech and behavioral therapists provide sensory-friendly activities for children and information for parents.
Another sponsor of Beignet Fest since its launch is French Market Coffee, which is serving as the event’s title sponsor for the first time this year. The company will be hosting a Coffee Café on site where folks can grab French Market Coffee Cold Brew and enjoy beignets of their choice from 20 different food vendors nearby.
Current Needs: Sponsorships for Beignet Fest range from $500 to $25,000. Individuals can also make donations of any amount on the event’s website.
Volunteers are also essential to the success of Beignet Fest, especially group volunteers, considered as three or more friends, family members, or co-workers volunteering together during the same shift. A volunteer orientation will be held prior to Beignet Fest to help all volunteers understand their assigned roles and navigate the fest. For questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in 68 children (and one in 42 boys) will be diagnosed with autism, making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined.
Amy Collins credits New Orleans’ business community as a fundamental part of the success of Beignet Fest and the Tres Doux Foundation.
“We built Tres Doux from the ground up with proceeds raised from Beignet Fest,” she said. “We’ve been humbled by the businesses who have stepped up to help us — from the large corporate sponsors to small businesses. It’s been at all levels, and every single dollar makes a difference. That is not just a cliché. It’s real.”
Among the event’s partners is Ochsner Hospital for Children, which is among those organizations that receive funding from Tres Doux.
“Caring for children and families is so important to us,” said Thomas Harris, vice president of pediatrics at Ochsner Health System. “We’re proud to partner with an event that not only provides an opportunity for all children to celebrate, but supports critically important causes throughout the city.”
“Tres Doux is so very important to this community, not only for the money it raises, but because they also address a glaring need for providing awareness about autism,” said Amy Segar, director of YMCA Children’s Unified Benefits and Services — provider of the Brushes, Buddies and Beyond program. “Their reach is so far and they inspire others to do so much more.”
“The support and enthusiasm that people have had for our efforts from the very start has been nothing short of extraordinary,” said Amy Collins. “The best part of all of this is giving away these grants. It means we are fulfilling the mission of what we set out to do.
Success of Services
The Tres Doux Foundation has provided $30,000 in grants to area nonprofits to expand programming for children with developmental delays. They include YMCA of Greater New Orleans’ Brushes, Buddies and Beyond Program; Ochsner Hospital for Children; Families Helping Families of Southeast Louisiana’s Prism Project; and Autism Society of New Orleans’ Social Skills Development Workshop Series.
A Good Match
FOR COMPANIES WHO…
… are looking to spend a day volunteering outside. Beignet Fest provides opportunities to volunteer and give back to children with developmental delays. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 68 children (and 1 in 42 boys) will be diagnosed with autism, so chances are good that attendees and volunteers already know someone affected by this disorder.