April 24, 2002 - Heart of the Lion

You could call him "The Heart of the Lion." Clutching the key between his toes, Dean Navarre uses his foot to turn the ignition, starting the engine of his tractor. "Clutch -- and I'm ready to go," he says.

Dean is on the last leg of a journey which has taken him and his Kubota tractor to every corner and through the heart of the Bayou State. "The best motivation I've had in my life," he says, "is people telling me that I can't do something -- I can't do it. But it did push me to get a driver's license and drive a vehicle."

Dean was born without arms, so even when he's behind the wheel, he's on foot. He tells of a traffic stop years ago. "Four policemen stopped me with my foot on the wheel of my car. I said, 'Whoa, y'all have got to have a meeting to tell everybody that there is a crazy Cajun in Baton Rouge driving with his feet, and he's legal!'." As a young boy 40 years ago, Dean discovered the Lions Crippled Children's Camp in Leesville. "It let me be a kid. I didn't need arms to get on a horse. They did everything so that we could be a kid."

Dean's journey is to tell folks about the lions camp, collect money, give back. That's why Dean Navarre is "The Heart of the Lion." Dean's thousand-mile trip through Louisiana ends this Saturday in Kenner. So far he has collected $25,000. To learn more about the lions crippled children's camp, follow this link to the camp's home page.