PROFILE
Tara!

Tara Bounds, 25, a native of Central Louisiana, was born with Down syndrome and a heart defect that required two open-heart surgeries before she reached the age of 5. Growing up as a cherished child allowed to run free in the sunshine with the proud and unwavering support of her mom, Phyllis Mitchell, Tara has since participated in 17 Special Olympics Games. She has excelled in the Olympic events of athletics, softball, bowling and golf.

Tara was selected to compete in the 2006 National Summer Games held in Ames, Iowa, capturing a pair of silver medals and one gold, along with a nomination to represent America at the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games. Only two athletes from Louisiana were selected to join the 350-member-strong Team USA. Tara was one of them. By the time she arrived in Shanghai, China, last October, Tara was in a competition field consisting of 7,000 international athletes. After completing a week of training to prepare for the world games, Team USA chose the lady from Louisiana as its ambassador in Washington, D.C. She took part in a Rose Garden press conference and departed Washington with the personal good luck wishes of President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush.

The good people of the Central Louisiana region assisted Tara in raising the $7,500 needed for the trip to China. She arrived with her mother and brother as her entourage, shone in the preliminary events and moved to the final competitions. She won pure gold in the softball throw and bronze in the 50-meter run.

Now a world champion, this home-grown “bounding” success returned to the Bayou State only to be inducted into the Louisiana Special Olympics Hall of Fame. She is quick to acknowledge all the people who helped her.

“I appreciate all the love and support from [my] family [and] the time they took to help me train for China,” she says. “I’m preparing for the next World Games that will be in 2010 in Athens, Greece. I try to do the best that I can with nothing holding me back. I am proud that I made my family, town and country proud of me!”

LOUISIANA GROWN
Passionflowers
I have wonderful memories of long Easter weekends spent in the countryside of Avoyelles Parish. We’d leave New Orleans on Holy Thursday morning at the crack of dawn and drive down the old Airline Highway to Baton Rouge. Outside of the state capital, we’d take the fork in the road and ride onto the lovely tiers of New Roads rising above False River. One Good Friday we hauled in nets of crawfish from Horseshoe Lake. In a spring sunset that filled the fields and sky with rainbow-colored light, we ate them boiled and spicy on a picnic table beneath my great-grandmother’s mulberry tree. Before it was deemed dangerous, the kids and dogs would pile in the back of a pickup truck and go for rides filled with hilarity along levees and into swamps. On Saturday nights, my older brother and cousin would take their girlfriends to Chep’s in Mansura for dancing. It was on a pasture fence in Bordelonville that I made my acquaintance with passionflowers one Easter holiday.

My comparison of it to a jellyfish growing on a vine was immediately corrected by an outraged cousin who explained its meaning to me. This creeping perennial vine, laden with purple-tinted flowers and orange berries, is named for the passion of Christ. Its corona is composed of 72 radial filaments that are believed to signify the crown of thorns, while the three-thronged pistil symbolizes the three nails used to hang Jesus to the cross. Five anthers found in the lower portion of the bloom correspond to the five wounds Jesus suffered. The 10 sepals and petals represent the 10 apostles who remained faithful to him, sans Judas, who betrayed him, and Peter, who denied him.
Passionflowers can be either perennials or annuals, depending upon the variety. This vigorous climber likes plenty of direct sunlight –– morning light is generally the best for any plant, especially in Louisiana. Passionflowers attract native gulf butterflies in droves, in addition to ants that kill off passionflower predators. In some butterfly sanctuaries, it is the plant of choice all for the love of butterflies. Native Americans used the roots of wild passionflowers to cure insomnia and epilepsy and to ease pain. Its berries and foliage, however, can be toxic.

FORK IN THE ROAD
Big Daddy’s If you’re in need of some sustenance after a hard day of gaming at the Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, the on-site Big Daddy E’s Restaurant is a perfect shell to slip into for a quick seafood and/or protein fix. Spicy Buffalo wings or pasteurized oysters on the half shell with just the right amount of salt are washed down perfectly with chasers of ice-cold domestic or imported beer. Alaskan snow crabs and cups of oyster-artichoke soup provide ample fortification for yet another siege at the roulette wheel.

Big Daddy E’s Restaurant, Paragon Casino Resort, 711 Paragon Place, Marksville, (800) 946-1946

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