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Football Camp for Her Expo scores big on the north shore

Carol Wolfram, | The Times-Picayune By Carol Wolfram, | The Times-Picayune

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on September 26, 2013 at 9:30 AM, updated September 26, 2013 at 9:35 AM
All roads led to Slidell for the nearly 300 women intent on attending the Football Camp for Her Expo: Learn From the Pros! held Sept. 24 at the Northshore Harbor Center near Slidell. And every one of them was was paved with black and gold, and a hint of pink.

Held for the first time on the north shore after having been presented in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Shreveport, the high-tech, hands-on football tutorial tour is  directed by Slidell resident and sports marketing agent Darren DeWalt. Dewalt has been battling a rare form of cancer, lyposarcoma, for the past six years, and with his wife, Cherine, developed a foundation, Get Checked or Check Out, to encourage women to make their health a priority.

The Football Camp for Her Expo, themed "Let's Get Physical" this year, raises breast cancer awareness and money to support those impacted by the disease. The 2013 edition of Football Camp for Her Expo was dedicated to the late Julie Lavigne, a former Football Camp for Her Expo model, teacher in both St. Tammany and St. Bernard parishes, and mother of twins, Nadia and Kai. Lavigne lost her battle to cancer during the past year. "We want to be sure the twins are taken care of," DeWalt said.

Fielding questions and walking through offensive and defensive formations with women as interested in capturing snapshots of their football idols as increasing their football IQ were New Orleans Saints receiver Lance Moore, Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, and former Saints safety and five-time Pro Bowl honoree Darren Sharper. Saints wide receiver Kenny Stills also supported the cause, autographing season tickets, banners, footballs, and shirts - on and off bodies - in the Northshore Harbor Center lobby for nearly an hour before the program began. 

The majority of the women attending were knowledgeable football fans - from Irene Gosey of Slidell whose reading material on hand included "Get Your Own Damn Beer, I'm Watching the Game!: A Woman's Guide to Loving Pro Football" by Holly Robinson, to long-time season ticket holder Debbie Volpi of Madisonville, who reflected on the much anticipated return of coach Sean Payton. "Keep on doing what you're doing," she said. "We believe in that."

Moore was equally optimistic. Asked by DeWalt if the 3-0 season start feels as good as the Saints Super Bowl run, which also began with a 3-0 record, Moore said that it actually feels better because "the level of expectation is higher."

Sharing the spotlight with the NFL sports stars were women from throughout the community who modeled Saints designs from Geaux for the Gold during a half-time fashion show. Among those applauded were Sedette Duhe, Rene Redmann, Toni Naquin, Beth Gendusa, Anjanette Kelley, April Byrd, Sharon Carter Sheridan, Lisa Farris, Norma Lee Gautreaux, Debra Rehage and Marcie H. O'Dwyer. All are breast cancer survivors.

"We have to make sure you do your checks and balances, because we don't want any of these lovely ladies leaving us," DeWalt said. "Never give up the fight."

Slidell Football Camp for Her benefits raises awareness, funds for breast cancer research

on September 10, 2013 at 1:15 PM, updated September 10, 2013 at 2:54 PM

On the surface, Football Camp For Her events seem like a fun way for ladies to increase their knowledge of the sport. But, actually, it's about much more -raising awareness of breast cancer and other life threatening illnesses.

The night of fun and fundraising is the brainchild of Slidell resident and sports marketing agent Darren DeWalt, who has been battling a rare form of cancer, lyposarcoma, for the past six years. He was diagnosed with the disease after initially seeking treatment for what he thought was a sports hernia. He's been through radiation and chemotherapy, had surgery, and even clinically died twice before being brought back to life.

"I understand there must be a reason why I'm still here and how important it is to give back," said DeWalt, who represents former NFL player Darren Sharper.

DeWalt and his wife, Cherine, developed a way to give back through their foundation, Get Checked or Check Out. Football Camp for Her is one of the foundation's major initiatives. "The title is exactly what it is: You need to get checked or you could check out," DeWalt said.

For the first time, Football Camp for Her will held on the north shore - presented Sept. 24 at the Northshore Harbor Center in Slidell. Camps have been held for the past four years in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Shreveport.

"We wanted to bring this to the north shore ladies, to bring the Saints to their doorstep," DeWalt said.

The night will start with a "Get Crunk" cocktail reception from 5 to 7 p.m., where women will get to enjoy food, visit with different vendors, and get autographs from a few surprise New Orleans Saints players.

"I understand there must be a reason why I'm still here and how important it is to give back," said Darren DeWalt.

Then, Saints players Lance Moore, Cameron Jordan and Pierre Thomas will teach offensive and defensive strategies, rules of the game, position by position explanations, and use of equipment.

"This year the theme is 'Let's Get Physical.' The workshop will be very active, but at the same time it's about breast cancer and check-ups," DeWalt said.

The highlight will be the fashion show that occurs during the program's halftime, he said. All the models are either cancer survivors or patients.

"It really lifts their spirits," DeWalt said.

Tickets for Football Camp for Her are $99 per person, and proceeds will go toward cancer efforts in the local community, including contributing to a fund that will help the family of a camp fashion show model who passed away earlier this year.



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