Skye gets her wish -- and a prayer from 'Duck Dynasty' cast in Fairhope (video)
By Carol McPhail, November 15th, 2013 |

FAIRHOPE, Alabama – The Robertsons of "Duck Dynasty" fame laid their hands on Skye Loustalot's stretcher in Fairhope and prayed for her.

The oldest son, Alan Robertson -- a minister not often seen on the hit TV show -- led the prayer for Skye, a 13-year-old girl from Semmes who is battling osteosarcoma.

As they prayed, tears filled her eyes.

"I pray that you'll bless her with healing and restoration," Alan Robertson said. "I pray for her family tonight, Father. I pray you'll lift them up in a very powerful way.

"Give her courage."

Earlier, Skye braved a drizzle to watch her favorite TV stars at Bay of the Holy Spirit Jubilee in Fairhope Friday night. She arrived at the outdoors event from her home in north Mobile County by ambulance, an arrangement made by staff at USA Children's and Women's Hospital.

"She was so afraid she wasn't going to make it," said Kimberly Wagner, coordinator of the Mapp Child & Family Life Program. The hospital had just discharged Skye on Sunday. Two weeks earlier, she had undergone surgery to remove a mass in her abdomen, Wagner said. Ambulance staffers who knew Skye had offered to bring her to the event.

Dressed in a bright pink hoodie, the teenager sat on a stretcher in a VIP area, hands folded, enwrapped in the Q&A session involving several of the Robertson family onstage. Her favorite part, she said, was when "Uncle Si" Robertson admitted to not watching the show.

He watches crime dramas mostly.

"I loved it," Skye said.

The Duck Commander family already knew Skye. A few weeks ago, they had filmed a short video especially for her in which Si Robertson says, "We love you, and we’re praying for you."

Skye’s story was brought to the attention of the Robertsons after she underwent surgery to have her leg amputated in September. The staff at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital wanted to do something “extreme to get this child’s spirits picked up,” said Kimberly Wagner, coordinator of the Mapp Child & Family Life Program.

They contacted Karin Wilson, owner of Page & Palette bookstore in Fairhope, who was putting together Friday’s event. Several members of the cast were scheduled to appear, as were authors Jill Conner Browne and Andy Andrews.

Skye's caregivers were hoping for a phone call or a Facebook friend request from the Robertsons, but what they got was a special video message for Skye and a plan for a meet-and-greet at the event.

In the video, "Miss Kay" Robertson promises: "And we're gonna see you November 15th in Fairhope, Alabama.

'We love you, and we're praying for you,' Si Robertson tells Semmes teen, who's fighting cancer
By By Carol McPhail, October 30th, 2013 |

Skye Loustalot

MOBILE, Alabama – Skye Loustalot, 13, is probably one of the biggest fans of “Duck Dynasty” -- ever. She proudly lists her collection of fan gear, which includes T-shirts, a blanket, dolls, books, a small cooler and a pillow with images from the Duck Commander family.

Now, the Robertsons, who star in the hit reality show on A&E, are fans of hers.

“Hey, Skye, look here. We love you, and we’re praying for you,” declares “Uncle Si” Robertson as he points at the camera, in a video made especially for the Semmes 7th grader, who is battling cancer.

Kay Robertson adds: “And we’re gonna see you November 15 in Fairhope, Alabama.”

Loustalot, diagnosed with osteosarcoma this past summer, will get the wish of a lifetime when she meets several of the Robertsons at the Bay of the Holy Spirit Jubilee, to be held next month at Oak Hollow Farm in Fairhope. The event is sponsored by Page & Palette bookstore and Alabama Media Group.

In addition to the video -- which Skye has watched repeatedly -- she and her family will get front-row seats and will take pictures with the stars.

Skye plans to wear one of her Duck Dynasty T-shirts and bring a sharpie for autographs, but she hasn’t decided on what to say to the family. “I have no clue,” she said as she awaited surgery this week at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital.

Skye’s story reached the Robertsons in September after the teen had undergone surgery to amputate her leg.

Kimberly Wagner, coordinator of the Mapp Child & Family Life Program at Children’s and Women’s, said the staff put their heads together to help Skye. She recalled saying, “We’ve got to do something extreme to get this child’s spirits picked up.”

The staff knew an event was coming up and reached out to Karin Wilson, owner of Page & Palette. Wilson sought help from a friend whose brother, Mike Odair, is a producer on the show. “She texted her brother, and he said, ‘I’m all over this.'”

They were hoping that the Robertsons would friend Skye on Facebook or call her. What they got instead was a personalized video and a promise to meet the teenager and her family at the festival.

“It went way beyond our expectations,” said Wagner.

The video was a big surprise for the teenager. “I loved it when Si said my name,” Skye said. “It’s lucky for him to say my name.”

Skye’s favorite Duck Dynasty character is Jase. “He’s laid back and stuff,” she said. “He doesn’t act like his brothers, but he does irritate them.”

When she settles in to watch the show, she has her stuffed monkey and a bowl of popcorn beside her. Her favorite episode is a recent Halloween one in which the Robertsons transform the warehouse into a “scarehouse.”

She likes the part at the end when “Jase scares Willie with the candy,” she said.

Debt, parenting, marriage woes? 'The Noticer Returns' offers perspective
By Carol McPhail, October 8th, 2013 |

MOBILE, Alabama – It's hard to imagine Andy Andrews – best-selling novelist and sought-after speaker-- as the young man he was years ago, homeless and living under a fishing pier in coastal Alabama.

The picture of beach casual in a sky blue shirt and kahkis, Andrews is engaging and beaming as he talks about his new book, "The Noticer Returns," and how a simple change in thinking can help anyone create an extraordinary life.

If you're thinking like everyone else is thinking and doing what everyone else is doing, you're probably doing something wrong," Andrews says as he made the rounds this week to promote the book and an upcoming talk and signing Oct. 17 at Fairhope United Methodist Church. "A common theme is that you can't believe everything you think."

The antidote to an average life is a change in perspective, he explains, something Andrews learned in real life from a white-haired drifter named Jones, who was also a main character in his earlier book, "The Noticer." Jones helped Andrews find the perspective he needed to rebuild his life in the midst of homelessness and the loss of his parents.

That book, a mix of real life and fiction, sold more than 1 million in copies and was a New York Times bestseller.

The sequel, "The Noticer Returns," reunites Andrews with Jones. It also follows several Fairhope residents as they encounter the old man with the suitcase. Jones gently guides them toward the right way of thinking to face challenges with finances, parenting, marriage and health care.

In the book, for instance, Jones comments on the importance of "the little things" that make a big difference. "You are making little bitty brushstrokes every minute you walk around on this earth," he says. "And with those tiny brushstrokes, you are creating the painting that your life will ultimately become, a masterpiece or a disaster."

The book also addresses how individual changes can transform an entire society. Take, for instance, the "Greatest Generation," the group that came of age around World War II.

The credit for that generation's achievements, says Jones, should really go to the parents who raised them. He adds that today's parents can raise an extraordinary generation by laying out specific standards for their children and methodically instilling in them the character they need to reach those standards.

"Parenting is the fulcrum our entire society rests on," Andrews says.

"The Noticer Returns" is in line with Andrews' other writings, which address how to live a life of purpose. "So often, we are merely one idea away from solving a gnawing problem that seems impossible to resolve," he said.

Among his other books are "The Traveler’s Gift" and "How Do You Kill 11 Million People?" Andrews has addressed members of Congress and their spouses, and has spoken at the request of four presidents. He also consults with corporations and other organizations, including sports teams.

But he rejects the notion that he's a motivational speaker. "I think motivation is a myth," he says. "I'm more into proof (of principles) than I am encouragement. Encouragement lasts until Monday or until the guy is out of the room.

"If something is proven to us, the guy hasn't got to be in the room," he said.

Andy Andrews will sign and discuss "The Noticer Returns: Sometimes You Find Perspective, and Sometimes Perspective Finds You" Oct. 17 at Fairhope United Methodist Church. The event, hosted by Page and Palette, is set for 6 p.m. in the church’s Christian Life Center, 155 S. Section St. Tickets are $5 and may be used toward the purchase of the book.