While Mardi Gras is a time for celebrating and watching parade floats go by, some floats have much more meaning than simple festivity.
Trey Gibson, a professor in the arts and media department here at LSUS, is building a float for the Highland Parade, however this is much more than a simple parade float. The float he is building is for the Fight Like Emilie Foundation, which was founded to support research and raise awareness for fighting childhood cancer. The namesake of the foundation is Emilie, a 10 year old girl and daughter of Trey Gibson, who was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a rare and highly aggressive form of brain cancer which 50 percent of children do not survive the year past the diagnosis.
The idea for the float started when Emilie got to be the princess for the Highland Parade in 2017. “...she asked me why there wasn’t a childhood cancer float and I told her that we just have to make that happen,” said Gibson. Emilie would pass away on Halloween night of 2017. “We weren’t ready or able to fulfill her dream until 2019,” said Gibson. Since then, the Fight Like Emilie Foundation worked hard to ensure that Emilie’s wish would be fulfilled. They have also invited children fighting cancer to ride on the floats and toss beads, just like Emilie did in 2017.
In the beginning, their first float was simply the bed of a truck in 2019. In 2020, however, they were given help to build a proper castle float. When the Highland Parade came back from 2021’s cancelation, the castle float became even bigger, and a pirate ship was also added. This year, they are working on a 12 foot float on top of a 20 foot-long trailer for the castle float. Gibson explains, “The castle is all about being warriors, knights, and princes and princesses, which we think Emilie and all childhood cancer fighters are.”
The Fight Like Emilie Foundation has been fighting to end childhood cancer which still effects thousands of children each year. While there are many organizations dedicated to funding child cancer research, only about 4 percent of United States federal funding goes to researching childhood cancer, which The Fight Like Emilie Foundation fights to increase like many other groups.
To learn more about the Fight Like Emilie Foundation, including more events and ways to support them, see their website at https://fightlikeemilie.org.
The Highland Parade that they are participating in will be on February 19th at 2:00 PM. The parade will start at the intersection of Gregg Avenue and Gilbert Drive. For more information about the parade check out their website at https://kreweofhighland.org/