Over 250 people gathered tonight at the Houma Municipal Auditorium to raise money for MacDonell Children's Home at the 33rd annual Celebrate the Child benefit.

The banquet, which is the only major fundraising event for the charity organization, uses ticket sales and auctions to finance the group's work helping foster children. The event is also used to recognize people who go above and beyond to help others.

"Celebrate the Child is our way of acknowledging those who chose to help increase the capacity and effectiveness of nonprofit and faith-base organizations and to help improve the lives of our most vulnerable citizens through selfless acts," said Kevin Champagne, executive director of MacDonell United Methodist Children's Services.

The group gives out two awards every year to recognize people who have helped out those in need.

They gave the Youth Activist Award to Alex and Colin LeBlanc, two young boys who run a lemonade stand in Raceland to raise money for less fortunate children, while the Ella K. Hooper Award went to Amos Mosely for his over 17 years of dedication to nonprofits and charities throughout the region.

The guest speaker for the event was the Rev. Lisa Fitzpatrick, founder and executive director of the APEX Youth Center in New Orleans. She spoke about her experience raising nine of her own children along with 23 foster children and about how important organizations like MacDonell Children's Home.

"These children need our help. ... I remember what a judge once told me. 'If we had just 500 families that cared about children, we'd make a difference in south Louisiana,'" Fitzpatrick said. "Looking at all the people here tonight, surely we have 500 families that care and we can make a difference."

Dianne Williams, a member of the board of directors for MacDonell Children's Home, said the group not only provides homes and protection for children in the foster care system, but also recreation, education, clothing and health care, which is why Celebrate the Child is so important to raising money for their mission.

Champagne also told of the organization's future goals. He said it will be applying for a federal home loan to buy a house for kids who have aged out of the foster care system and a grant to pay for training for specialized counselors who can help children who are victims of abuse.

"The local communities are very generous when it comes to children and we very much appreciate that," Williams said. "MacDonell takes care of children who are in need of a safe haven and this money that we raise here will help provide for the children's needs."

-- Staff Writer Dan Boudreaux can be reached at 857-2204 or dan.boudreaux@houmatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_boudreaux.