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Signature Chefs Auction NOLA

DATE: Friday, October 4, 2019  |  Time: 7:00 PM
LOCATION: Omni Royal Orleans
ADDRESS: 621 St Louis St, New Orleans, LA 70130
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Chair John Nickens, CEO Children's Hospital

John R. Nickens IV is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Hospital New Orleans, and oversees pediatric services across the LCMC Health system. Mr. Nickens brings over 25 years of pediatric healthcare experience to his role at Children’s Hospital, having most recently served as Executive Vice President at Texas Children’s Hospital. Mr. Nickens has extensive operational experience in both pediatric and maternal health services, oversaw the implementation of two electronic medical record systems, and played a big part in bringing Texas Children’s to a top ranked children’s hospital, currently ranked #3 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. He also brings a strong background in academics, from his tenure at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Mr. Nickens is leading Children’s Hospital New Orleans during an unprecedented period of growth with a $300 million campus transformation effort currently underway and an inspired vision to transform the face of pediatric healthcare for Louisiana and the Gulf South. In his short time at Children’s Hospital, he has expanded access to vital pediatric services across the state, launched the hospital’s first electronic medical record, recruited some of the nation’s top pediatric experts to join its mission, and welcomed Tulane University School of Medicine to an already vibrant academic medical community with LSU Health New Orleans.

This years Ambassador Family: The DiFranco's

We are honored to be this year’s ambassador family for March of Dimes New Orleans Signature Chefs Auction. This is a great opportunity to bring our community together and support an organization that plays a vital role in so many families’ lives.

Finding out we were expecting a baby was one of the happiest moments of our lives. Learning we would welcome twins- we were over the moon! Jack and Emma Kate were due in late October 2017. What we were not expecting was a trip to the emergency room on Father’s Day, more than 4 months before their due date.

 Doctors confirmed I was having contractions and in preterm labor, just 21 weeks into the pregnancy. Their plan was to slow down labor and put me on hospitalized bed rest to prolong my pregnancy.  Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse as my water broke for our son Jack. We learned he would likely be delivered in the next 24 hours and Emma Kate would follow soon after. The twins were extremely fragile and their lungs were not yet developed. We were told neither baby would survive. Despite the dire news, Jack had other plans.

 So long as Jack’s position remained steady, the delivery would be delayed. As a result of his strength, the twins made it to 23 weeks gestation. Unfortunately, the stress on his body was overwhelming, and we lost our brave baby boy, our hero. There is not a day that goes by that we do not thank God for the gift of our son. 

We now had to focus on our unborn daughter. We hoped to delay her delivery as long as possible, but a few days later, Emma Kate was born. She was more than 4 months early, weighing just over a pound. She was immediately rushed away by the medical team. Once she was stabilized, we met our precious baby girl for the first time.

 In the NICU, Emma Kate was connected to countless machines and monitors, which alarmed at the slightest change in her condition. Due to her critical state, we were unable to hold her for the first three weeks of her life. She had many obstacles to overcome, but she slowly began to thrive. Due to the medical advances the March of Dimes contributes and the outstanding staff at Tulane Lakeside Hospital, our daughter’s life was saved and we are forever grateful.  After 129 days in the NICU, Emma Kate was able to go home. In true New Orleans fashion, she had her very own second line parade as we left the NICU one last time.

Emma Kate is now a strong, active, beautiful, silly, smart, happy, and healthy 2-year-old. She also has a guardian angel, who watches over her each and every day. The March of Dimes community rallied around us and has helped us realize we are not alone.
Every year, 15 million babies are born prematurely worldwide, and 1 million will die before their first birthday. March of Dimes empowers families with programs, knowledge, and the tools to have healthier pregnancies. They support families, like ours, through all stages of pregnancy, even when things don’t go according to plan. We hope you will join us, October 4, 2019, or consider making a donation to help fund March of Dimes mission.

Board Members

Lauren Mastio, Market Board Chair                   Bart Kelly
Michelle Burtch                                                   Nicole Kerley-McGuire, MD
Karen Eastman                                                   Francis Maness
Grady Fitzpatrick                                                Jane Miller, MD
Courtney Garrett                                                 Paige Prechter
Juan Gershanik, MD                                           Karen Villavaso


Signature Chefs events feature local culinary talent who create a selection of fine cuisine for an exclusive audience. Our chefs are artists, innovators and philanthropists, and we look forward to sharing their talents at the event.

Chef Tom Wolfe, Lead Chef

The Rib Room

Chef John Bel


Chef Brack May


Chef Brad McGehee

Blue Line Sandwich Co.


Signature Chefs events feature local culinary talent who create a selection of fine cuisine for an exclusive audience. Our chefs are artists, innovators and philanthropists, and we look forward to sharing their talents at the event.

Chef Bill Prat


Chef Mark Quiteny

Metairie Country Club

Chef Gregory Rosary


Chef David Whitmore

Jack Rose

Christina Rando