Vacherie woman brings brightness to kids in hospital

Susan Dufrene (L) and Nicole Oncale (R) working on gowns.
Susan Dufrene (L) and Nicole Oncale (R) working on gowns.

VACHERIE, LA (AP) - A Vacherie woman's knack for sewing is helping bring joy to kids in area hospitals. Susan Dufrene makes personalized hospital gowns for her organization "Lara's Gowns for Smiles".

Colorful fabric starting pilling up around Susan Dufrene's home back in May after her seven year old step grand-daughter, Lara, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. To help little Lara feel better while she endured chemotherapy, Dufrene made five customized gowns for her to wear.

"Everybody, the nurses the doctors, nurses, other patients, their mommas...were all asking, 'Where did you get those pretty gowns?' They're bright, colorful...all kinds of patters and prints, and they wanted some," said Dufrene.

That's how "Lara's Gowns for Smiles" came to be. Dufrene has made nearly 600 gowns in all shapes, sizes and colors for hundreds of children at area hospitals at no charge.

"They're thinking about cars or Disney or peace signs, love, hearts," said Dufrene. "Anything other than being ill with cancer or any other childhood diseases."

Nicole Oncale, Dufrene's daughter, says she's not a talented seamstress like her mom. Instead, she serves as the official fabric cutter.

"It's a really warm feeling that I get," said Oncale. "Just to know I can give a smile."

The ladies say all this cutting and sewing sometimes means blisters and some headaches to keep up with the demand. But Dufrene says she can't think of a better way to share her talent with others.

"Just to say I'm going to sew and make a dress, that don't interest me," said Dufrene. "This interest me 'cause I know it's going to a good cause. And if anybody can help, I appreciate it."

To find out how you can help Dufrene and her family continue to make these kids smile through illness, click here.

Copyright 2012 WAFB. All rights reserved.