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Fair Grounds Donates Saints Tickets to Young Cancer Patient
A nine-year-old Drew Brees fan staying at New Orleans’ Patrick F. Taylor Hope Lodge while undergoing cancer treatment will attend Sunday’s NFC Championship Game with her mother courtesy of Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
The young girl, McKenzie Meaux, and her mother, Julie Bourgeois, are residents of Church Point, La.
McKenzie has spent much of her life dealing with the effects of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). One year ago, McKenzie received a double cord blood transplant to replace her leukemic cells. All of her cells were eradicated and replaced with stem cells from the only two known matches in the country.
“She’s doing great,” Bourgeois said of her daughter. “Her cells are not coming back and that’s what we want.”
This is the second time McKenzie has stared down her leukemic cells. At age three she went through a similar procedure but the leukemic cells returned. While McKenzie’s current prognosis is positive, it will be another four years until doctors can safely say she is cured.
Until then, McKenzie travels to New Orleans with her mother twice per month, down from the twice-weekly visits she made much of the first year after the operation. The Hope Lodge provides free accommodations for McKenize and her family in a supportive environment.
Fair Grounds President Austin Miller, a member of the Executive Leadership Council for the New Orleans Chapter of the American Cancer Society (ACS) whose mother is a cancer survivor, reached out to the ACS about sharing Fair Grounds’ tickets. In turn, they contacted the Hope Lodge.
“They thought of McKenzie because everyone knows what a huge Saints fan she is,” Bourgeois said. “Usually when they get tickets for sports they give them to boys but she watches every game and she loves Drew Brees. She’s been to one game before and that’s it; she was always in treatment.”
Miller, who grew up in Minnesota as a Vikings fan and later became acquainted with Brett Favre and his wife, Deanna, through the quarterback’s Fourward Foundation, will host McKenzie and her mother Sunday.
“Despite my connections to Brett and Minnesota, my allegiance lies with the Saints,” Miller said. “I have some good friends in that organization, including Greg Bensel and Mickey Loomis, but more than that I really would like to see McKenzie leave the game with a big smile on her face.”