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."
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."