Saving Lives, Supporting Families

The Topeka St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway is underway

By Sue Baldani

St. Jude Children’s Hospital is on a mission, and has been for close to 60 years. Founded in 1962, its commitment to finding cures for childhood catastrophic diseases has enabled patients and their families not to just survive, but to live their best lives.

“Life would be so much different if it wasn’t for St. Jude,” says Josh, a local dad whose daughter Bella was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 18 months. “We didn’t know if she was going to live to be two. When doctors kept saying there’s nothing we can do, that really crossed our minds.”

Thankfully, the doctors at St. Jude didn’t turn the family away. “St. Jude, after receiving her information, contacted us directly and said if you come, we would love to see her. They were able to help when no one else could.”

The first step was surgery. Because of the tumor’s location, they were only able to remove one-quarter of the tumor. After 77 weeks of chemotherapy, the tumor finally shrunk.

Unfortunately, about a year later, it started growing again, and after nine more months of chemotherapy, the tumor just kept growing. An experimental clinical trial drug was also tried, but that didn’t work for Bella either.

“Finally, the chief of radiation said he would like her to be treated with proton beam radiation, so he went to Switzerland and studied proton beam radiation for children,” says Josh.

Thus, St. Jude was the first to have the only proton therapy center in the world dedicated solely to children. Whereas traditional radiation passes through the brain, the proton beam is precise, causing less damage to surrounding tissue. After receiving 29 doses, Bella passed with flying colors and didn’t suffer any side effects.

Today, four years after stopping proton beam therapy, Bella is a happy child who likes spending time with her family and her Dachshunds, and playing school with her dolls and siblings, Hannah and Isaiah.

“She’s excelling in school; she has no developmental delays,” says Josh. “A couple of years ago they talked to us about putting her into enrichment [classes.]”

“I cried when the school called me because I thought the opposite would happen, and that this is happening is just such a blessing,” says her mom, Jennifer.

In the beginning, Josh admits he was skeptical that they would never receive a bill for Bella’s treatment, or for anything. Today, he’s a believer.

“Bella has had over a million dollars’ worth of treatment in eight years and a middle class family like ours, we would be bankrupt.”

To continue to find cures for patients like Bella at no cost to their families, it takes people who are willing to support its mission. This month, St. Jude Children’s Hospital is kicking off The Topeka St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway, a community service project that brings together builders and their trade partners to build a dream home at no or at very low cost to give away to a lucky winner.

This year, the home in Kansas will be built by Drippé Homes in the desirable Aquarian Acres development. Only 7,500 tickets will be sold, at $100.00 each, for a chance to win the home, plus other prizes. The campaign, which started four years ago, is expected to raise a total of $2.8 million from the Topeka community by the time it wraps up this June.

“The money you are giving today could help for the cure of your child or grandchild down the road,” says Jennifer.

To buy a ticket, or to help in other ways, go to

Written for Topeka Lifestyle magazine in Topeka, Kansas.

To participate in the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway in other states, go to

The Little Dog and the Drag Queen

By Sue Baldani

Drag queen Langanja Estranja (real name Jay Jackson) has a very busy life. When she’s not strutting her stuff on RuPaul’s Drag Race, working on a movie, meeting her fans at DragCon, or being an activist for the LGBTQ and cannabis lifestyles, she’s starring in what she considers to be her best role, being MawMa to Lil Dabbers.

“So many people told me I was just too busy for a dog,” says Langanja. “I’d been wanting a dog. I grew up with a pet, so I’ve always had an affinity for dogs.”

Five years ago, while performing in Hawaii, her roommate texted her a picture of a little Terrier Chihuahua puppy that a coworker was looking to rehome. Was she interested? “When I got the picture of my now beautiful baby, I was like ‘absolutely!’” 

Since then, Lil Dabbers has gone everywhere with Laganja. “She’s an emotional support dog because I need her with me at all times,” she says. “I’m very lucky that she gets to travel the world with me. She went to Italy when I worked with Google at the Cannes festival. I took her to DragCon, which is a huge event where all of us drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race get together and meet our followers. At 6 weeks old, Lil Dabbers was introduced to the life she was going to live and she loves it.”

Lil Dabbers was on set with Langanja while she was filming God Save the Queens, which recently wrapped and will be released for Sundance either later this year or next. “The film is told in three different vignettes, and in my vignette, I’m acting alongside Alaska, who is a famous queen from Rupaul’s Drag Race. We sing live in the film, so I’m excited for people to hear my vocal abilities.

“I’m also really excited for people to see an authentic story about drag queens. Recently, we’ve seen some authentic stories coming out about queer people, but not really about drag queens. This is going to touch on a lot of the trials and tribulations we go through as performers and as people who don’t necessarily fit into the gender black and white scale of male and female.”

During the making of the movie, Lil Dabbers turned 5, so her celebration was a bit delayed. But MawMa made up for it when they got back home. “She got to go to the beach not once, but twice. She loves the beach. She doesn’t like the water, but she loves the sand. She’s a digger.”

Langanja and Lil Dabbers reside in Hollywood, where Laganja has lived for over 15 years. “ I have a view of the Hollywood sign, so I’m lucky, and I work very hard to have this. I’m very grateful to have developed a life here with friends and family members. I just can’t believe a little boy from Texas is now a full-time female impersonator!”

Of course, as a drag queen, Langanja has an affinity for costumes and getting dressed up. So, she likes Lil Dabbers to have her own outfits as well. “I love the aesthetics of being able to have matching outfits with my dog. My designer who custom makes all my clothing will usually take the leftovers and make her an outfit, so she can have an accessory, a neck piece or a backpack – something she is comfortable wearing but still matches me.” Lil Dabbers’ fashion statements are appreciated by her almost 7,100 Instagram followers.

When Laganja became her MawMa years ago, she made several YouTube episodes that featured her little dog. There was Ganja Walks, which were episodes of her walking Dabbers in different parks and places, and Dabbers Day Out, which showed the Terrier Chihuahua enjoying a bunch of doggie adventures.

Now, plans are being made to start up Dabbers Day Out once again. “We’re partnering with Dogue, (rhymes with Vogue) which is an incredible spa for dogs out here. The owner, Josh White, is also LGBTQ and was recently featured on the show The Pack, with his dog Snow. I became a huge fan of the show because I love dogs. I ended up meeting him here in Hollywood and being able to perform at his surprise 30th birthday. So in exchange, he is going to give Dabbers a beautiful makeover. I’m excited to get her back on the web, and am also very excited to partner with Josh and continue to amplify the LGBTQ voice.”

Having Lil Dabbers in her life is a lot of fun for Laganja, but it goes much deeper than that. “Dabbers has saved my life on numerous accounts,” says Laganja. “As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, Dabbers has really been able to provide something that no human can provide, which is a closeness that even my best friends and I don’t have. To be able to have that support is very hard to put into words.”

She encourages everyone to get a dog, even if they lead busy lives. “Look at me – I made it work. You too can make it work and it will improve your life. When I have a hard day, to come home to her happiness and her warmth is a true blessing. When she sees me, there’s always that love and joy and I’m very, very lucky to have that positive energy in my life.”

To see more of Lil Dabbers, check out her Instagram page, and stay tuned for the all new Dabbers Day Out series, which will showcase the incredible life she lives. “She has traveled the world and met many people, and I feel like she is a very brave dog,” says Laganja. “Her bravery really inspires me to be the same way.”

Follow Langanja Estranja on Instagram and Tik Tok and various other social media platforms, or on her website at Become one of her “buds”, as she calls her followers.

Published in Pet Lifestyles Magazine in New York, New York.