“There it is, in concrete glass and steel. To offer help to all children of the world regardless of race, creed or economic status."
You hear Danny Thomas’ voice, and you see the historic video, all of which takes a number of longtime Acadiana supporters back 25 years.
Danny Thomas' dream of a hospital --- spun off an idea for the St. Jude Acadiana Dream Home project in 1995, and when organizers Fred and Emile Reggie needed a lot for that Dream Home.
They called developer and builder Bob Austin to talk about his new Austin Village subdivision. The Reggies said, “We need a lot.”
“I said, 'O.K., we've got several’,” recalls Austin. “Which one do you want? Here are some kind of different price ranges.”
Fred Reggie says the original plan was to ask Austin for a lot he and his father could purchase at a discount. But that plan changed at the last minute. “Right when I was going to ask him to discount a lot, a light went on and I said, ‘Bob, we're here to ask you to donate a lot in Austin Village."
Austin’s response? Surprise and laughter, laughter and surprise. "'We want you to give us that lot,’ they said, and I remember saying, ‘Well ….’."
After that, adds Reggie, " Bob was just very quiet.”
Austin then asked for a reset, just to make sure he understood the very direct request that had been sent his way. "I said, 'Wait a minute: You want me to just give you a lot, so you can build a house on it and then raffle it off,' he recalls. “They said, 'Yep, that's what we want to do, and all proceeds will go to St. Jude’."
A few days later, while Reggie was at the St. Jude National Convention in St. Louis, and Austin called and said ‘yes’, he would donate a lot valued between $35,000 to $40,000. The future home of the first Dream Home? Lafayette, at the corner of Digby Lane and Verot School Road near Comeaux High School.
That $200,000 home cost only $35,000 for Village Builders to construct, and much of the labor? Donated. Almost all of the materials? Donated… although Reggie says the legendary Doug Ashy needed a little convincing to get involved. “Doug leaned over and said, ‘A house? You're gonna give away a house’?"
Doug Ashy Building Materials has been on board ever since.
And now, this year marks 25 years for the St. Jude Acadiana Dream Home, all for the children of St. Jude.
“It’s amazing to see something that you're involved with, from day one. I can't believe it,” says Austin.
Let’s go back to Danny Thomas: “You and I have vowed that we will do everything in our power; that’s spiritually, physically, mentally and financially to bring about the defeat of these catastrophic diseases.”