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Songs in Their Hearts

July 22, 2014

Some of the best things in life come to those who wait. Just look at Van and Jennifer Manuel, a local couple who perform together as a popular musical duo.

“That man did not know I could sing until I was 38-years-old, even though I was singing all the time, when I was vacuuming and cleaning or cooking,” laughed Jennifer as she talked about her and her husband’s journey into music.

Music had always interested Jennifer, even as a young child. She begged her mother to let her take piano lessons, but as the youngest of five children, that ship sailed. Her mother figured the lessons would just be wasted after having watched four others try and then abandon similar interests.

“My entire life I wanted to play an instrument and I begged my mother to play piano,” recalled Jennifer.

The family did have an old chord organ, though, and whenever she had a chance, Jennifer would play using old songbooks; however, she only played when no one else was home. When her mother got rid of the organ, Jennifer protested.

“I asked her what happened to the chord organ and she said she got rid of it because no one ever played it. I told her I played it all the time,” said Jennifer.

When Jennifer’s daughter began playing the harp, she decided to pick up an instrument again, to be able to play along. This time, she chose the fiddle. When Van expressed his interest in music, Jennifer bought him a guitar and he began taking lessons. He even started playing in public.

“Van started playing at church in the praise band and I would sing a song,” said Jennifer, with the emphasis on “a” song. Just one, no more than that.

Then, the couple began playing together and one thing led to another. They were asked to perform at a sweetheart banquet at the church and when Jennifer was practicing with the praise band, she realized that getting through more than one song required speaking in between each.

“I was nervous, thinking, what am I going to say in between songs,” admitted Jennifer.

Jennifer ended up creating a character she called “Camille.” Van was “Dwayne” and the two began performing at other churches as “Dwayne and Camille.”

“That got us out further from just our church, and over the years we’ve made friends who play music,” said Jennifer. “We started playing more and more.”

Jennifer also built her song list. She said just the other day she decided to make a duplicate of her songbook, one for the couple’s home in Kernersville and another for their vacation house in Beaufort.

“There are 89 songs in there,” laughed Jennifer.

Seven years ago, Jennifer gave up the fiddle because she said she wasn’t good at it. At the urging of friends, she picked up the guitar, learning to play rhythm to Van’s lead.

“Van bought me a guitar, and with him teaching me to play I would sit on the front porch for hours,” remembered Jennifer. It also got her through what she called a dark time in her life.

“Feeling the music, singing the songs, mostly sad, I guess I was cathartically singing away the sadness,” said Jennifer. “Then my music got happy, with songs like ‘I Can See Clearly Now.’”

Jennifer said she loves playing music with her husband, and they will play just about anywhere. Van also has a combo band called Dogs Like This that also features friends Craig Burris and Mike Burris.

Today, Jennifer and Van perform throughout Kernersville. Just last weekend they provided entertainment at the downtown Cruise-In. They’ve also performed in their home away from home in Beaufort.

Jennifer related a funny story about performing at the farmers market there.

“Someone suggested we open our guitar cases for donations. We got organic chicken, apples, harvest bread and crafts. It was the best haul we’ve ever gotten,” laughed Jennifer.

For Jennifer and Van, it is about the love of music more than anything else.

“We just like playing and we have fun together,” she said.

Festival to Benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

July 22, 2014

Like nothing the town has ever seen, The Brewer’s Kettle is introducing the first Food Truck Festival in Kernersville this Saturday, July 26 from 3 – 9 p.m., to help benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

“This is something I have been planning on doing for a while, and I thought it would be something that would benefit Kernersville,” said Andy Kennedy, owner of The Brewer’s Kettle in Kernersville.

The event will feature 11 food trucks, live music from three bands, vendors, a silent auction, hosted by Belle Raisers, and craft beer and wine.

Kennedy said he chose to have the event benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation because of his connection with Mark and Jessica Hanson, whose daughter Annabelle has the unforgiving disease.

Annabelle and her twin brother, Dominick, who does not have cystic fibrosis, were born one month early on May 19, 2011. Although they were early, Mark and Jessica were given no indication that there were any health issues with Annabelle, so they were released to go home. The only thing they recalled was that Dominick was one pound heavier than Annabelle, which they noted wasn’t unusual for twins who are born early.

It wasn’t until one month later that doctors called to tell them Annabelle had cystic fibrosis. At this point Dominick was three pounds heavier than his sister.

For Mark and Jessica, the idea of their daughter having a shortened life span and a more complicated life weighed heavy on their hearts.

Jessica explained in an earlier interview with the Kernersville News that cystic fibrosis affects multiple organs in the body, most specifically the lungs.

“People with cystic fibrosis are more susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections. Things that regular people are able to cough up, she isn’t able to do as well,” she said.

Fortunately, with the help of modern medicine and medical devices, Annabelle has managed to stay relatively healthy, but Mark and Jessica know she may not be healthy forever as the median life expectancy for someone with cystic fibrosis is 37 years.

Mark noted that recently there has been a new development in the drug industry for people with cystic fibrosis that could potentially improve Annabelle’s life.

According to www.cff.org, “Phase 3 clinical trials of ivacaftor (Kalydeco) in combination with lumacaftor (VX-809) for people with two copies of the F508del mutation of cystic fibrosis showed significant improvements in lung function and other key measures of the disease, according to Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc.”

“Based on these results, Vertex plans to submit a New Drug Application (NDA) by the end of 2014 to FDA for review, with possible approval in 2015,” the website said. “Results from the two 24-week clinical trials mark an important milestone for nearly 50 percent of people with cystic fibrosis – specifically those with two copies of F508del, the most common CF mutation. The potential treatment is the first to combine two pills to address the underlying genetic cause of CF in people with the F508del mutation.”

“This will be a significant improvement in the quality of life for Annabelle (and others with CF), but it’s not a cure,” Mark said.

For now, though, Annabelle has to use an inhaler and wear a large “smart vest” twice a day for 40 minutes. The “smart vest” vibrates and is designed to loosen anything that might be in her lungs. She also has to take dietary supplements as well as a high fat and high salt diet in order to maintain her weight.

Mark said he is looking forward to Saturday’s Food Truck Festival fundraiser at The Brewer’s Kettle.

“I’m looking forward to having a day out with good food and having another opportunity to raise awareness and funds to help advance the science (to help patients with CF),” he said.

Kennedy said they already have a number of items for the silent auction, including local artwork, gift package for Gone Jerky, a spa package, a new grill, beer and wine, a guitar, and more. There will also be tickets sold to raffle off a unique hammock from Boonedox Gear & Tackle and a Les Paul Gibson Guitar.

The food trucks that will be featured at the event include: Bandito Burrito, Crazy Rib Man, El Azteca, Food Freaks, Frog’s Toadly Good Eats, King Creole, My Dream Cakes, The Ice Queen, Tipsy’z Tavern, Urban Street Grill, and Wright Up Ur Galley.

Music for the event will begin at 3 p.m. with James Vincent, followed by The Brothers Hermanos at 5 p.m. and Disco Lemonade at 7 p.m.

Kennedy noted that attendees should bring cash for the food trucks.

The Brewer’s Kettle is located at 308 East Mountain St. For more information, call 336-992-3333, visit their website at www.thebrewerskettle.com or find them on Facebook at: The Brewer’s Kettle Kernersville.

Benefit for Jennifer Lutz

July 18, 2014

When Tara Waite heard her long time friend Jennifer Lutz was diagnosed with colon cancer, she knew she wanted to do something to help her, so she decided to hold a fundraiser in her honor. The fundraiser will be held on Saturday, July 19 at Smokin’ Harley-Davidson beginning with a Poker Run and multiple other activities.

According to the Mayo Clinic, colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), the lower part of your digestive system, while rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon. Together, they’re often referred to as colorectal cancers.

“Most cases of colon cancer begin small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps. Over time some of these polyps become colon cancers. Polyps may be small and produce few, if any, symptoms. For this reason, doctors recommend regular screening tests to help prevent colon cancer by identifying polyps before they become colon cancer,” the Mayo Clinic stated.

Jennifer and her husband, Andy, who own Southern Smoke Eatery and Tavern, first found out she had cancer after seeking help for what Jennifer thought was a common stomach bug on Memorial Day; however, it wasn’t that simple.

“After two visits they found that she had something inside her, and after having several tests doctors found a mass in her colon,” Andy explained, noting that the next day they performed surgery to remove the mass.

Andy said Jennifer’s reaction was to be expected.

“At first, she was scared and shocked, but she is dealing better with it now,” he said.

Although having colon cancer was new to Jennifer, her grandmother, mother, aunt and uncle have all had colon cancer.

“It runs in the family. We just never thought she might get it this young,” Andy said, noting that Jennifer is only 31-years-old.

The Lutz’s have a soon to be two-year-old son.

Andy said the odds are good since Jennifer’s aunt, uncle and mother are all survivors of colon cancer, and her mother is also a survivor of breast cancer. Unfortunately, they lost her grandmother to multiple cancers.

After having surgery, Jennifer started chemotherapy last week and will stay on it for six months.

“The chemo is more of a preventative thing since they found some in five of her lymph nodes. Due to age and the size of the growth, they want to make sure it doesn’t spread anywhere else,” Andy said.

He noted that through all of this, everyone they know has been very supportive, especially Waite.

After hearing that Jennifer was diagnosed with colon cancer, Waite wanted to do something to help. So, she contacted Smokin’ Harley-Davidson to put on an event, which will be held on Saturday, July 19, with events including a poker run, poker walk, corn hole tournament, live music, and a raffle.

Registration for the poker run will be held from 9 – 11 a.m. with kickstands going up at 11:10 a.m. The ride begins at Smokin’ Harley-Davidson and heads into Winston-Salem, with the first stop on First Street, a second stop on Second and Greene Streets and a third stop at the Ole Watering Hole, before returning back to Smokin’ Harley-Davidson. The cost to ride is $15/bike and $20 for two or more riders.

The poker walk will begin once all riders are back from the poker run.

“Doug Thomas came up with the idea for the poker walk for those that don’t have a bike or cannot ride and would still like to be involved,” Andy said.

Live music will begin at 1 p.m. by Thrillbilly, followed by Double Down at 4 p.m., and Carolina Cowboys from 8 – 11:30 p.m.

Registration for the corn hole tournament will be held at 12 p.m. and the tournament will begin at 1 p.m. The cost to play is $15.00. Fifty-percent of the money from the tournament will go to the winner, with the other going to Jennifer’s medical bills.

Proceeds from the event will help pay for Jennifer’s medical bills.

For more information about the event, email Waite at bntwaite@gmail.com.

Missions Trip

July 18, 2014

The youth at Triad Baptist Church have been waiting for the past four years to take a mission trip outside of the country. This year they were finally able to do that when they visited the Dominican Republic to share the gospel and give hope to those less fortunate.

Sarah McGraw, 18, her brother, John, 15, and High School Student Pastor Jared Hoots, along with 36 other high school students and 11 other adults headed out for their trip on June 22, returning six days later on June 28.

Hoots said he had been to the Dominican Republic three times before, but he hadn’t worked with SCORE International, the organization they went with for the event mission, called Kosmos.

For Sarah and John, it was their first time visiting the country.

“We have both always wanted to go on a mission trip, our parents knew that, and they felt it would be a good opportunity for us,” Sarah said.

Sarah noted that one of the first places they worked at was Pasitos de Jesus, an orphanage for girls.

“We also gave out food, through a project called Feed a Village, in bags to certain families selected by a church in the area,” John added. “We also gave them our testimonies when we gave them the food.”

Sarah recalled how interested the families were in hearing what they had to say.

“They took the time to listen to what we had to say, and not just wanted to listen because we were giving them things,” she said.

Another place the mission team worked at was the Lily House, a rescue ministry reaching women enslaved in prostitution in the Dominican Republic.

“They would teach them different life skills, such as baking and making things they could sell so they could help their families and become self-sufficient and could get out of prostitution,” Sarah said.

Hoots said the children often stayed at the Lily House with their mothers.

“We also went to the Emanuel House, which was after school care for children,” Hoots said.

He explained that students in the Dominican Republic are only in school for a half day and they must have their birth certificate in order to attend.

“The Emanuel House is a place for children to go, where they have an extra half day to do their homework, have recreation, and devotion. It’s also a safe place for them to go,” Hoots added. “It was also available for children who didn’t have their birth certificates.”

John said there were specialized programs within the Emanuel House.

“They had groups for special needs kids and groups for deaf kids,” he said, noting that all of the students at the Emanuel House are sponsored. “The sponsorships are the way they pay for their meals and uniforms.”

Hoots said the Emanuel House hopes to have an organization built next year to provide a full day program since the Dominican Republic will be going to a full-day school program next year.

“The organization will cost them $50,000, which will help them become a school and to help them build a whole new wing,” he said.

Sarah said another day on their mission trip, they put in water filters for two families in a nearby village, while working with the Emanuel House.

“One of the ladies that took us through her house was so proud of her house even though she had so little,” she said.

“Their kitchen was half the size of a regular bathroom in the U.S. and the restrooms were pretty much a bucket on the floor,” John added, noting they were in the more poverty stricken area of the Dominican Republic. “For their beds, they just had a mattress sitting on the floor with a pillow and most of the homes had bars on the doors and windows so no one could break in.”

“A lot of the families hadn’t eaten in several days and a lot of us had snacks in our bags, so we gave them to the families, though we knew it wouldn’t be enough,” Sarah said.

Hoots said the organizations they worked with in the Dominican Republic were well run.

“They were all well run and filled a spiritual and physical need,” he said. “Our goal while we were there was to make sure we always shared the gospel with the people we met and they were very receptive,” he remarked.

John said they also passed out tracts and bracelets.

Sarah explained that since they were new to mission work, while they were at the Lily House they were taught how to do mission work successfully.

“They taught us how to do mission work so the people didn’t become dependent upon us and so they would be more receptive,” she said.

Through their experience in the Dominican Republic, John said he learned to be more thankful for what he has here in the U.S.

“The experience taught me to be thankful for what I’ve got because they have so little over there,” he said.

Sarah noted that the experience taught her to open up more about her faith.

“It helped me to be able to share my testimony better and to share my faith,” she said. “It helped me to break out of my shell.”

Sarah explained that through her experience, she also learned that God uses even the smallest of talents to help people.

“While we were at the Lily House, we came in and got some ice cream and were going to get our nails painted,” she said. “While I was getting my nails done I asked the lady that was painting my nails if I could return the favor and the woman seemed shocked by the question.”

Sarah then asked her if she had any designs. After finding out the woman didn’t have any, Sarah decided to show her a few simple designs she could use in the future.

“She was so excited because this would now allow her to charge more and make more money for her family,” she explained.

Although they had many great experiences, John and Sarah said there were challenges.

“It was hard seeing all of the children running around and their parents not knowing where they were. They would ask for food and water and just wanted to help all of them,” John said.

Sarah said her favorite part about the trip was spending time with the children.

“I enjoyed being with the kids and spending time with them,” she said.

John said during the mission trip, they had the chance to grow not only as individuals but as a youth group as well.

“Every night, we would come back to the mission conference and have a service and then have church time to talk about the day,” he said. “It helped bring us closer.”

Sarah said she and her brother also grew closer through the experience.

“I am glad I got to go with my brother. We never really got to bond like we did while we were there,” she said.

The Gift of Love

July 1, 2014

A dedicated group of quilters at Kernersville Seventh-day Adventist Church needs the community’s help in donating materials so they can continue making prayer quilts for those who are ill and in need.

And if anyone wants to join them, they can do that, too.

God’s Helping Hands Prayer Quilt Ministry first began at the church in March 2012 after member Rena Whitley heard about a similar ministry from a friend in Florida. When she got to talking to Linda Hosier about starting a group in Kernersville, Hosier mentioned another prayer quilt group that met at a church in Advance.

From there, the women enlisted the aid of several of their fellow church members and friends and a ministry was born. Since then, the group has made and then given away more than 70 prayer quilts.

“They go to people in need. We’ve sent quilts to Florida, West Virginia and Pennsylvania,” said prayer quilt ministry member Barbara Peterson, who along with her husband, Duane, himself a former pastor at Kernersville’s Seventh-day Adventist Church, volunteer their time to helping make the quilts.

Most of the people who receive a quilt from the ministry have been experiencing some type of illness. Several of the recipients have since passed away, while others are on the road to recovery. Peterson was presented a quilt from the group when she underwent back surgery.

“Most of the quilts do go to more of the elderly, but we have given some to young people who needed them,” said Whitley.

“Our first two quilts went to cancer victims,” added Peterson.

Whitley has been quilting for almost 40 years. Others in the group have varying degrees of experience. One of the newest quilters is Oloma McDowell, who started quilting four years ago, and is a regular member of the group.

On Tuesday, member Cynthia Key brought her 12-year-old granddaughter, Sierra Napier, who helped her grandmother work on a brightly colored quilt while others ironed and sewed from the machine or by hand. Church Pastor Don Davis even helped tie several of the knots to one quilt, and member Gloria Davidson sifted fabric through a table top sewing machine.

Each quilt features any number of knots that are tied by hand as a prayer is said. Sometimes, group members, like Davis and Duane Peterson on Tuesday, tie most of the knots, but the group also invites the congregation to tie them and as each one is knotted, a special prayer is offered to the recipient.

Some of the quilts have dozens of ties waiting to be knotted, while others have just a few, but not one leaves the building without each one tied with a prayer.

On Tuesday, group members worked on half a dozen quilts while they talked about their ministry. The quilts come in a variety of styles and designs either hand stitched or machine sewn. The group once made a quilt entirely from the fabric from men’s ties.

For a while, Marsha Pierce helped the group with her long arm quilting machine, but since injuring her ankle, Pierce is unable to participate anymore. She had a machine so big that it took up her entire living room, added Peterson.

Working non-stop, the ladies can make one quilt in about eight hours, said Whitley, who had always wanted to learn how to quilt growing up, but her mother never taught her. Whitley decided in 1975 that she would teach herself.

“She dreams about quilts,” laughed one of the members.

McDowell said what she loves most about the group is that they are using their talents to glorify God.

“If God can’t be glorified by the work of your hands, then you don’t need to do it,” said McDowell.

“It is for the edification of the Lord and to show we love them (quilt recipients) too. We want to spread His love,” said Hosier.

“There is no magic in the quilts. It’s a reminder to people that they’re being prayed for,” said Whitley.

While the group members use their own equipment and supplies, most of the material used to make the quilts has been donated. They could always use more, they said.

“Most of the material has been donated. Occasionally, we have to buy some materials because we may not have the right colors,” said Whitley. “Mostly, we need batting, thread and monetary donations. Of course, we could always use more material, but things we really have to have are batting and thread.”

Whitley said the group would welcome anyone from the community who is interested in joining. They don’t have to be members of Kernersville Seventh-day Adventist Church.

“We would welcome anyone who would like to come to quilt,” said Whitley.

Davis praised the ministry’s work.

“I think it’s wonderful. Anytime people have a talent and can use it to help others, that’s a wonderful thing,” he said.

God’s Helping Hands Prayer Quilt Ministry meets the second and third Monday of each Monday at 1 p.m. at the church, located at 896 Old Winston Rd.

Team AJ

June 24, 2014

After developing cancer in his left eye and fighting it roughly two years ago, AJ Watt, a rising fourth grader at Cash Elementary School (CES), is once again fighting rhabdomyosarcoma.

AJ’s mother, Angela Watt, a teacher at CES, explained that the family first noticed there was something wrong in May 2012 when AJ developed a growth on his left eye and it had become swollen.

“We thought he got hit in the eye and then we thought he had a sty, so we tried hot and cold compresses, but (the growth) just kept getting bigger everyday,” she said.

Concerned, Angela took AJ to see their pediatrician, but was then referred to a specialist.

“There was one pediatric eye specialist at Baptist Hospital and it took a while to get in to see him,” she said, noting it wasn’t until the middle of June that they had an appointment. “He immediately called his colleague over (Dr. Patrick Yeatts), who specializes in eye sockets and lids. He took one look at it and knew immediately it was rhabdomyosarcoma.”

Angela explained that they performed a biopsy of the growth, as well as a bone marrow biopsy, and inserted a portacath so AJ could receive chemotherapy.

After performing the biopsies, AJ underwent surgery to remove a large portion of the tumor.

“They didn’t remove all of it because they didn’t want to ruin his vision and they wanted to see if the chemo would shrink it and it did,” she affirmed. “AJ received 40 weeks of chemo, and every third week he went in overnight to the hospital to receive more chemotherapy.”

AJ, then a second grader, explained that when he found out he had cancer he was a bit scared.

“I was a little scared,” he remarked as he noted how the chemotherapy makes him feel. “The chemo makes me have low energy and I just feel like resting and I feel sick to my stomach.”

Not only was AJ scared, but his friends were too.

“My friends and classmates were scared, so they started doing things for me,” he explained.

Angela said a counselor from Brenner Children’s Hospital even came to his classroom to talk with the students about AJ.

“He came and talked to the students about why AJ got to wear a hat to school and told them they couldn’t catch what he had,” she said. “It was a cool way to explain it on their level, and it allowed them to ask questions.”

After having completed his chemotherapy, later that fall AJ underwent a total of 25 sessions of radiation over five weeks, Monday through Friday.

Angela explained that after all of his treatments, AJ was cancer free for almost a year.

“The chemo had shrunk the tumor down to almost nothing and we thought we were in the clear,” she said, noting that throughout time AJ had to be screened every three to four months. “You have to be cancer free for five years before you are considered clear.”

While it was looking good for AJ, during one of the routine scans in May 2014 the cancer showed up again.

“What they saw was residual cancer cells, which meant the cancer had started to grow again,” she stated.

With the new finding, doctors performed another biopsy. AJ is now undergoing a new kind of chemotherapy, which he will take for another six months to a year.

“It is a very aggressive cancer with not a lot of research available, so we’re lucky it’s just in his eye,” Angela remarked. “If it comes back a third time, the chances of getting rid of it are only 20 percent.”

Angela noted that while removing his eye would likely eliminate the cancer completely, they worry it may eventually come to that.

Angela said it has been a very emotional time for the family.

“The prognosis was always very good, but very emotional,” she said, as she explained how hard it can be to juggle three children, her job as a teacher and making trips to the hospital, all the while worrying about her son.

She said another concern is the portacath.

“We had to be careful of germs and fevers since it was an opening to his body,” she said. “Every time he got a fever we had to take him to the E.R.”

Angela noted that since finding out AJ has cancer, they have started participating in walks for Kids of Childhood Cancer that benefit Brenner Children’s Hospital, as well as a walk at Tanglewood Park that benefits Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Throughout the past two years, AJ has had a lot of support from the community.

“We all wore t-shirts at school and at home that we designed to show our support for AJ and the Make-A-Wish Foundation sent us to Disneyland in California last July, so we could be with family out there and so they could join us,” she explained.

A fundraiser was held in AJ’s honor earlier this month at Main Street United Methodist Church by the staff at CES.

Others are rallying behind AJ through Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Team-AJ/838468142848149 and by selling Team AJ bracelets, which come in both adult and youth sizes and are yellow to represent childhood cancer.

Bracelets are $5 and can be bought in bulk for cheaper.

All proceeds go to the Watt family for medical expenses.

If interested in placing an order, send an email to TeamAJWatt@gmail.com.

Meeting Susie

June 17, 2014

Even though her ears are no longer able to perk up when she listens and her back is scarred where second and third degree burns scorched her body, Susie is still a tail-wagging happy canine. If it wasn’t for the physical signs left behind, one might never know she had been abused and left for dead.

But she was, and fourth graders at Kernersville Elementary School (KES) heard Susie’s story on Wednesday, June 11 as they wrapped up a six-week program about pet responsibility. They even got to meet the famous pooch.

Susie and her fellow doggy companion, Babygirl, were at KES with their owner, Donna Lawrence, and others from Susie’s Hope, a non-profit organization founded in honor of its namesake to foster awareness of the animal abuse that exists in society and to provide education about the issue to people of all ages.

Both Lawrence and Susie have stories forged in terror. Five years ago, Lawrence was attacked by a dog and almost killed, creating in her a fear of dogs that she might never have recovered from had it not been for Susie.

A little less than a year after Lawrence’s attack, Susie was found nearly dead in Greenfield Park in Greensboro in August 2009. She was only eight-weeks old and had been beaten, set on fire and left for dead, Lawrence explained to the group of students.

When one of the children asked if they ever caught the person who abused Susie, now a certified therapy dog, Lawrence said they did, but because North Carolina’s laws were so old, they didn’t adequately punish people for animal abuse. Her abuser was charged only with a misdemeanor and let go.

It didn’t matter that Susie had second and third degree burns over 60 percent of her body. She had been beaten so severely that her teeth had been knocked out and her jaw broken. She was only eight-weeks old and it was learned that her owner became angry when Susie licked his newborn baby.

“She was a mess when she was found,” said Lawrence.

Because of the risk of infection to her injuries, Susie was placed in foster care and required daily treatment for the next three months. The Guilford County Animal Shelter set up Susie’s Fund to help pay for her care.

The people who saw Susie knew she had to be saved because despite everything – that included 10 days suffering in the park before anyone found her – Susie had a will to live, said Lawrence.

“She had a strong will to live. She was a born leader,” said Lawrence.

Lawrence said she was terrified of dogs after being attacked, but when she met Susie, something special happened.

“She brought healing to me,” said Lawrence.

Lawrence and Susie became advocates for changing the punishment in N.C. for first-time offenders who commit animal abuse. Together they lobbied the General Assembly and met with Gov. Beverly Perdue. When Perdue signed the stricter legislation into law, she asked that Susie’s paw print be there with her own signature.

“It passed unanimously and Susie’s paw print is on the bill,” said Lawrence. “It was a big deal. This dog brought big change in North Carolina. It used to be that it was a slap on the wrist to abuse an animal, but because of Susie, they go to jail.”

Since then, Lawrence and Susie have traveled near and far to get their message across. Susie has also starred in her own movie, “Susie’s Hope,” and Lawrence has written two children’s books about Susie and she even has a couple stuffed animals made in her likeness.

Lawrence, Susie and Babygirl visited KES as part of the Guilford County Pet Responsibility Program, an educational program based on a similar one developed in Moore County, N.C. The program is taught entirely by volunteers, and includes a total of six lessons for fourth grade students. During the lessons, students learn about the basic needs of animals (nutritious food, fresh water, warm and dry shelter, exercise), the importance of having pets spayed or neutered to prevent pet overpopulation, how to keep their pets safe and healthy, and how to safely handle encounters with unknown animals.

According to the organization’s website, students discover they can be advocates for animals by sharing the information they learn about responsible pet care with their friends and family, so their communities can be a safer place for people and animals. Guest speakers (including animal control officers) and visits from insured therapy dogs and their owners enhance the learning experience.

Following Wednesday’s presentation at KES, students and teachers visited with Lawrence, Susie and Babygirl and had their pictures taken showing their support for a contest Susie is competing in that requires voting support from the community.

Susie is trying to move on to the second round in the Hero Dog Award competition sponsored by the American Humane Society. Lawrence said Susie was among the top 24 semi-finalists, but she hopes that with enough votes, Susie can move on to the top eight, each of which will be invited to California to walk the red carpet at the awards ceremony. Voters and a panel of judges will decide the final winner.

“Ask people to vote for Susie,” Lawrence encouraged the students.

To find out about how to vote in the Hero Dog Awards, visit www.herodogawards.org/.

A Hero’s Welcome

June 17, 2014

More than 100 World War II veterans received a hero’s welcome on Friday evening, June 6 at Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem. For many, it was the first time they’d been so warmly welcomed home since returning from the war.

“That was great,” said Robert Grier, one of at least eight Kernersville residents who traveled to Bedford, Va. to visit the D-Day Memorial there on Friday, June 6, the 70th anniversary of the largest military amphibious invasion in history.

The group left Hanes Mall at 6 a.m. Friday morning and then returned 12 hours later to hundreds of flag-waving supporters cheering their arrival.

The Patriot Guard provided escort for the five charter buses, each named for one of the codenames of the Normandy beaches – Juno, Gold, Omaha, Utah and Sword – where the assault began, and lined the sidewalk around their arrival point at 6 p.m. that evening.

Two red carpets lined their path into the mall and honor guards and patrons lined the way to center court. Women dressed in 1940s attire greeted each of the veterans as they made their way inside. Many sported lipstick on their cheeks by the time they got through the opening line.

It was an emotional moment for many, both veterans and those there to welcome them.

“I saw so many with tears in their eyes,” said Grier.

Grier was in the Army Air Force serving in the China, Burma and India theater during World War II. That campaign is oftentimes referred to as the “forgotten theater,” but on Friday, Grier was thrilled at having had the opportunity to visit the D-Day Memorial on such a momentous anniversary. He knows there aren’t too many anniversaries left for veterans like himself, all in their late 80s and 90s.

“What stood out most was being alive to do it, and I know there won’t be another,” Grier said of an 80th anniversary.

He continued.

“It was a great trip and they 100 percent honored us,” said Grier of a day when thousands of veterans, their families and dignitaries from around the country converged on the memorial to pay homage to those who lost their lives in the invasion.

According to organizers of Friday’s trip, the D-Day Memorial staff anticipated a crowd of over 10,000 people. In honor of the 70th anniversary, there was a special D-Day ceremony, honor guard, guest speakers and a USO show.

Harvey Griffin grew up in Kernersville, raised on a farm just a little ways out of town. He was 18-years-old when he was drafted into the Army and was a part of General George S. Patton’s 3rd armored division that advanced into Germany during a campaign that lasted from late summer of 1944 and through to the end of the war in Europe.

On Thursday last week, Griffin said he was looking forward to visiting the memorial.

“It means a whole lot to me. I am going to feel honored,” said Griffin. “I am looking forward to the trip.”

World War II Army veteran Ivey Redmon was making his second trip to the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, but it had been several years since his first visit.

“It’s a beautiful place,” said Redmon.

Redmon was in service in Florida when the D-Day invasion began and by the time he arrived in France, the Allied forces had already established a threshold against the Axis forces. He traveled through Belgium and Holland before moving into Germany.

“We traveled 2,000 miles in 17 months,” said Redmon.

Thinking back on the war makes Redmon think about those who did not make it back.

“I know a lot of guys that didn’t come back,” said Redmon. “I was lucky enough to come back without any injuries.”

T.D. Brann of Kernersville attended Friday’s trip. Like Redmon, he had been to the memorial before, but this time was different.

“I have never seen such a demonstration as that before in my life,’ said Brann as he talked about the throngs of veterans, their family members and others who visited the memorial on Friday. “It was a huge presentation of people, thousands.

Brann, an Army veteran, was in Fort Hood, Texas on D-Day but it wasn’t long before he and his fellow soldiers were on their way to Europe, joining in the last push of the war, with troops making their way into Germany. Brann would go all the way to Berlin and remain there as a military police officer even after the end of the war in Europe.

He was appreciative of the people who turned out Friday to welcome the veterans back to Winston-Salem. When Brann was discharged from the Army, there were no parades or fanfare for returning soldiers. He and a buddy just caught a bus home, he said.

“I thought it was the most wonderful thing anyone had ever planned for us,” said Brann.

Burch Idol of Colfax also made the trip to the memorial on Friday, as did Army veteran Harvey Rachael and Navy veteran Rodger Williams, both of Kernersville.

“It’s a beautiful place,” said Idol, who was making his second trip to the memorial. “I think knowing the circumstances, a lot who didn’t make it back, it was quite an honor to be with this group.”

It was Rachael’s and Williams’ first trip to the D-Day Memorial.

As World War II veterans, both wanted to be a part of the special occasion.

“I wanted to be a part of it. It was a beautiful service,” said Rachael, adding that the welcome home was “wonderful.”

Williams thought the program at the memorial on Friday was great and the arrival to waving flags and cheering crowds was just as memorable.

“Coming home, that was good,” said Williams, who had previously participated in a Flight of Honor trip to visit the World War II veterans memorial in Washington, D.C.

Williams should know a great homecoming when he sees one. Who met Williams and his ship when it returned to the United States after World War II? None other than President Harry Truman.

Friday’s D-Day Honor Trip was made possible by Rotary District 7690, the same organization responsible for the Triad Flight of Honor trips.

Bringing Joy to All Walks of Life

March 25, 2014

Erica Fox uses her talent to help inspire and enrich the lives of others.

Fox, a 1999 East Forsyth High School graduate, had always wanted to be a teacher, but after attending the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, she followed a different passion and became a fine arts major with a concentration in sculpture.

Although she had a passion for art, it fell by the wayside when she started a family. She and her husband have three children: Austin, Brett and Colton.

It wasn’t until she decided to leave her job and stay home with her children that art entered her life once again; this time her passion shifted toward painting.

“I used painting as a form of relaxation,” she said. “I painted to learn more about it since I had spent most of my time in college working with sculpture.”

When Fox realized that painting allowed her to express herself, she wondered if she could use painting to help others.

“Painting helped me through my own unique self-expression,” she remarked. “Once I realized that, I started praying about how God could utilize my art to help others. I started to brainstorm about the people I wanted to help.”

Fox said she was really close to both of her grandmothers, so she decided she would like to work with people going through the late aging process as a way to remind her of the time she had with her own grandmothers.

Since she had no formal training in painting, Fox taught herself how to paint by watching videos, through observation, practicing, and by watching senior adults who are established painters.

After reaching out to several organizations, Fox began working with Arbor Ridge at Kernersville in October 2011 and created “Creative Expressions Through the Ages.”

“I started out going once a month, and now I go three Wednesdays a month for one hour,” she said, noting that she now gives classes at other locations. “I think they would do it every day if they could.”

Fox not only works with small groups, but also provides private art lessons for residents who are unable to attend the group classes.

“Families will contact me and request I work with their mom or dad on a weekly basis as a therapeutic activity for them to enjoy,” she said, noting she always travels to her students. “Giving them something enjoyable to focus on during the hour we meet really helps relax their mind, body, and soul.”

When working with aging adults or those with physical and cognitive disabilities, Fox said they start with inspiration, whether from her sources or their sources, such as clippings of pictures from magazines or other things they like.

“Most of them do realistic or impressionistic paintings, and we spend time sketching our work before we paint,” she said. “I am there to help guide and encourage them. I constantly praise them and sometimes have to tell them not to take it so seriously.”

Fox also plays music while giving a class.

“I usually try to play music they like or music from their era,” she stated.

Fox said her students get enjoyment and relaxation out of her classes.

“When they become focused on the painting, they forget about their ailments or the situations they are in,” she remarked.

Fox enjoys giving her students, which she calls her friends, the opportunity to share their stories and past memories with her.

“To bring these memories back to life again, making them tangible in the form of art, gives them an extraordinary sense of hope, fulfillment, and identity in the life they are still living,” she remarked. “Going through the late aging process can be rather isolating, so I like to use the encouraging, ‘I am; I have a purpose; and I still matter’ motto that helps uplift their sense of belonging.”

Along with working at retirement and assisted living centers, Fox works with the severely disabled and people battling hardships of homelessness. She will soon be working with people in rehabilitation centers to offer them a form of therapy through art.

Fox stated that although there are obvious challenges to her job, she loves everything about it.

“I enjoy forming relationships, friendships and hearing their stories,” she said. “I love knowing that I am giving them the opportunity to do something beneficial to them, not only mentally, but physically and spiritually.”

Fox is working on her master’s degree in art therapy so she will be able to use art and psychotherapy together as a form of counseling.

“After I get my masters, I hope that through what I do, I can eventually use art to benefit the lives of people of all ages,” she said.

When Fox isn’t working to bring joy to the lives of others, she continues to enjoy painting on her own, mostly painting with acrylic and creating abstract pieces.

“I also like to make story paintings because I also love to write,” she said. “I like to write a story that goes along with the painting.”

She noted that she created a story painting for her church and donated for “A Christmas in the City” event to Crisis Control Ministry.

The painting for “A Christmas in the City” depicted Christ holding up the city of Winston-Salem.

If interested in learning more about Fox, visit her on Facebook at CETTA – “Creative Expressions through the Ages,” or contact her at fox3seven@yahoo.com or 336-782-5979

Eager Reader

January 30, 2014

Tammy Chisolm can tell you the exact day that reading became a delight for her son, Kayden.

It was the day in December that Crystal Browning, his first-grade teacher at Sedge Garden Elementary School (SGES), sent home several short picture books that she had made just for Kayden. Browning chose the stories so that they were at Kayden’s reading level, and, before printing them out, she edited the stories so that one of the characters in each story was named after him. In one story, Kayden rode a dinosaur. She then turned the printed stories into little books.

At home that night, Chisolm said, Kayden – much to her surprise – devoured those books. When Browning sent home several more custom-made books the next day, he devoured those, too.

“He hasn’t stopped reading,” Chisolm said. “He read for an entire weekend.”

Kayden loves math. But learning to read has been a struggle, Chisolm said, and Kayden has not always behaved as well in school as he should have. The people at SGES have all worked hard to support him, she said, including Don Wyatt, the school’s assistant principal, and Bryant McCorkle, the school’s home/school coordinator. Mrs. Browning has worked especially hard. “Her patience has got to be beyond human.”

Chisolm was so excited by Kayden’s transformation from struggling reader to enthusiastic reader that she sent an email to Superintendent Beverly Emory’s office praising Browning and the others at SGES and asking that every member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education be told about what the people at SGES had done for Kayden.

It began this way: “I am emailing you this morning as the HAPPIEST mother in all of Winston Salem and Forsyth County Schools.”

She went on to write about what happened when she handed Kayden the first book that Browning had made: “Once he saw it was a story about himself, he was eager to see what he did in the story. He read the book start to finish with no assistance. He asked to read another, which was a small miracle. He read another and again asked to read more. He kept pointing to the pictures saying ‘Look mom, I am riding a dinosaur!’

“Once we got to the fourth book, he noticed his best buddy was in it. He could not stop laughing in excitement because he and his buddy were in a book together. After four of the books she made for him, I told him we could stop for the night. He begged to keep reading! I thought only a miracle would make my head-strong little boy want to read! And a miracle Mrs. Browning was for us!! The time, effort and detail she took putting into those books left me in awe. She is already a very organized and hard-working teacher but to see this level of dedication to a failing student brings me to tears.”

In person, Browning was quick to spread around credit for the success of Kayden and other students at SGES.

“I am just one piece of the puzzle,” Browning said. “My colleagues do these same things.”

People, such as Alicia Flynt, the school’s primary reading teacher, also work to help Kayden and other students, she said.

“Every child gets reading on their grade level at this school,” she added.

And having parents, such as Kayden’s mother, who work with their children at home and who communicate with the people at the school, makes all the difference, said Browning and SGES Principal Ramona Warren.

“It is so important for the parent to have the child practice at home,” Warren said.

And Kayden’s and other students’ willingness to work hard is crucial, Browning said.

The books that Browning sent home with Kayden were part of a series created by a company called Pioneer Valley Books. Each story in the series targets a particular reading level and is designed so that the child’s name can be inserted into the story before it is printed out.

“I didn’t create the books,” she said. “I just personalized them.”

Browning makes the books for many of the 21 students in her class. Handing a child a book in which he or she is a main character can be quite powerful, she said.

“I wish you could see when the kids get their very first book and they notice their name – that is priceless,” she remarked.

At this point in the first grade, there can be quite a range of reading levels, Warren said.

“She has children in here who are starting to read chapter books and some who still need phonics,” she explained.

Browning has been a teacher for about 20 years. She is in her seventh year at SGES, the school she attended when she was in kindergarten. She met her husband Andy Browning, when they were both third-graders at Cash Elementary.

Both grew up to become teachers.

“It’s a family affair,” Browning said.

Andy is the band director at South Davidson middle and high schools. They live with their son Daniel, a ninth-grader at South Davidson, and son Joseph, a fifth-grader at SGES.

“He goes one direction and I go another,” she said.

Browning has known she wanted to be a teacher since she was in first grade.

“I played school all the time,” she recalled.

For her classroom, she set up a chalkboard and bulletin board in the basement. Early on, she drafted her younger sister, Amy, as her student. When her sister wasn’t as cooperative as Browning would have liked, she moved on to teaching imaginary students.

She graduated from East Forsyth High School in 1989 and went on to High Point University, where she majored in elementary education. After teaching third and fourth grades, she ended up teaching in kindergarten, where she discovered that she finds helping beginning readers particularly rewarding.

“You can see the joy she takes for that child and his or her progression,” Warren said.

“It is my passion,” Browning remarked.

Others at SGES are the same way, Warren said. People at the school work as a team to help each other find ways to help students, Browning said.

As an example, she pulled out some illustrated math cards she uses. They were created by kindergarten teacher Kristine Brixius, who has made a series of materials that are available online on a teacher-to-teacher website called TeachersPayTeachers.com.

Learning to read can be hard, Browning said, and, in the beginning, many children think they don’t like reading because they don’t know how. She likes being present when they start to make connections and discover that they do, indeed, enjoy reading and may even start sneaking a read when they are supposed to be doing something else.

Browning doesn’t stop working to help children when the school day ends. Browning’s “school brain,” as she calls it, seldom shuts down, and, while she is driving home or fixing supper or watching a baseball game, she will find herself thinking about the best ways to help a particular student learn.

“It’s my life,” she said. “It’s what I love to do.”