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Miracle League of High Point

December 9, 2014

Getting to see your child play ball is a privilege most parents take for granted. For parents of children with disabilities, it can be a challenge.

When Peter Fallmann was still in utero, he had a stroke. He is now six-years-old, a student at Caleb Creek Elementary School, and has developmental disabilities, mild cerebral palsy, and seizures. Peter is also a baseball player and has been playing baseball with an organization called The Miracle League of High Point.

Because he is so young, Peter is not eligible to play sports with the Special Olympics, which requires that children be age eight and above to participate. Michelle Fallmann, his mother, related her story of desperation.

“I was desperate to find something, somewhere, for my son to belong to,” she confided. “We tried to get him into regular sports and we were asked to leave because he didn’t do well in those types of situations and couldn’t keep up. Some other teams offered to let him play, but I knew people would get impatient with a child on the team who needed so much extra attention. I got on the Internet and Googled it, looking for some place where Peter could play and The Miracle League popped up. We called and told them about Peter’s situation and asked what we needed to do to join and they said ‘We’re it for you!’ And they were!”

The only requirements for joining The Miracle League is that the child be at least five-years-old, have a diagnosed disability, and an Individual Educational Plan. There are no tryouts and everyone wins and everyone gets a trophy. The teams are set up so there is a fair mix of children with different abilities.

“That way, you don’t end up with one team with just kids in wheelchairs,” said Fallmann. “It’s two innings and everybody wins.”

Programs like this are difficult to find and according to Fallmann, people come from many different parts of the Triad to participate.

“We have people coming from as far away as Asheboro and even further because it’s the only organization around that is like this. The field and even the playgrounds are completely handicapped accessible.”

For Fallmann, there are many positive aspects of belonging to The Miracle League. The first is that, of course, Peter gets to play baseball.

“The Miracle League believes every child deserves a chance to play baseball,” she stated.

The second benefit of belonging to The Miracle League is that, thanks to the volunteers, parents of disabled children are able to set aside the caregiver role and just be parents.

“For me,” Fallmann explained, “this lets us be parents and sit in the audience and cheer for our kids. I get to be ‘just a parent’ for the first time ever. For that one hour of ball, I am that mom rooting for her son, not the caretaker.”

For Peter, there has been a very special benefit – improved hand-eye coordination.

“When Peter first started, he was playing tee ball, but now he can actually hit a pitched ball,” she shared.

“And it’s free,” Fallmann added. “We spend so much on his (Peter’s) medications and therapies that it’s amazing to find something like this that is free.”

Fallmann wants to get the word out about The Miracle League. She said there are probably a lot of other parents out there who are experiencing the same things she has and she wants people to know there is a place for their child to play ball, regardless of his or her disabilities, age, or gender. She also encourages people to step up and volunteer.

“The volunteers stay with the kids, so if they have a meltdown or problem in the middle of the field, it’s no big deal. We are short volunteers, so maybe if some churches could send people out to volunteer, that would be so helpful.”

If you would be interested in volunteering or getting your organization involved in volunteering for The Miracle League, contact Wendy Brosnan at (336) 883-3481 or visit www.hpmiracleleague.org and go to their volunteer page.

Serving the Community

December 9, 2014

On Saturday, December 6, several Baptist churches worked together to help local parents make Christmas memories for their children.

Each year, since 1983, at least 20 area Baptist churches, from Eastern Forsyth County have gathered together to create the Christmas Store so parents can come in and select gifts to give to their children for Christmas. The Christmas Store was located in the Senior Center, located in the lower level of the Kernersville Public Library. It is just like any other children’s store, filled with toys, books, and games, with one exception, the customers don’t pay. All of the gifts at the Christmas Store have been donated by local churches and businesses.

The Kernersville Library location was not the only location to do this. Karen Taylor, a community missionary with the Pilot Mountain Baptist Association in Winston-Salem, said there were a total of five Christmas Stores in operation, adding that last year they were able to help 2800 children.

“Last year, the Kernersville Christmas Store served 200 needy children,” explained Taylor.

She said in the past couple of years, they’ve seen an increase in people needing assistance.

“We need to remember that we are all just one paycheck away from poverty. You may be helping this year and the next year, you may be the one needing the help.”

Phillip Thompson added, “I am my brother’s keeper. Tomorrow he might be mine.”

Once a parent arrives at The Christmas Store, they are given a large plastic bag to put their selections in. Each parent is paired with a helper, who takes them to the stations and assists them with their gift selections. All shoppers are allowed to select one crochet item (handmade by the ladies of Main Street Baptist Church), two stocking stuffers, and two primary gifts. Once the gifts are selected, the shopper may then bring the presents to a station where they are wrapped by the Freshman Deans of East Forsyth High School.

In addition to The Christmas Store, they also have a food pantry, a furniture ministry, and a firewood ministry, which gets wood to low-income families who heat their home with wood burning stoves, fireplaces, and furnaces.

If you are or know of a family in need, you may contact the Pilot Mountain Baptist Association at (336)759-7622 or visit their website for more information at www.pmba.org.

Principal of the Year

October 15, 2014

East Forsyth High School (EFHS) Principal Trish Gainey has been named the 2015 Principal of the Year for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WS/FCS), selected from a group of five finalists.

The school district recognized Gainey Tuesday morning during a breakfast at Benton Convention Center, and while she was unaware of the honor to come, more than a dozen people from EFHS knew of the recognition beforehand and were present to celebrate with their colleague. They included an assistant principal, teachers and representatives from the school’s PTA and booster club, wrote Kim Underwood in an article released through the WS/FCS marketing and communications department.

Several members of the WS/FCS Board of Education also attended Tuesday’s presentation, including Chairman Jane Goins, John Davenport, Elisabeth Motsinger, Jill Tackabery, Marilyn Parker and A.L. “Buddy” Collins.

“It’s all about all these people behind me. They are the ones that make it happen,” said Gainey as she accepted the honor.

Gainey has been the principal at EFHS since 2002, but she has been a member of the WS/FCS community since 1987.

Gainey grew up in Charlotte and always enjoyed playing sports and being a Girl Scout, detailed Underwood. It was those experiences that developed within Gainey a desire to become a health/physical education teacher, and she went to Winthrop University College in South Carolina in pursuit of that goal. She graduated in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education.

After college, Gainey worked as a physical education teacher at a private school in South Carolina. She decided to go back to school for her master’s degree and enrolled at Appalachian State University, where she worked as a graduate assistant in athletics. Gainey received her master’s degree in physical education in 1979.

From there, Gainey was hired to build the volleyball and basketball programs at Wofford College. She spent five years at Wofford before enrolling at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, earning her Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) After that, it was on to WS/FCS where she got a job at Hanes Mill School.

“It was the best thing that ever happened to my career,” said Gainey in Underwood’s article.

Gainey said Wednesday that she spent three years at Hanes and it taught her valuable lessons that remain within her work ethic and how she deals with students today. Just as important lessons were learned at Glenn High School, where Gainey was an assistant principal for 12 years.

“As I look back, this is my 28th year in the school system. I spent three years at Hanes Middle School and it taught me how to think out of the box and that every child has a reason for not doing something. You just have to look for it, so I learned how to listen. I spent 12 years at Glenn and that’s where I developed a passion for students.”

Gainey said she was appreciative and humbled by the honor. She again credited her success to the people at East Forsyth.

“My job is to balance the ship. I have a great staff, students and teachers. I am also very appreciative of the community,” said Gainey.

During Tuesday morning’s announcement, WS/FCS Superintendent Beverly Emory gave a pre-recorded video message congratulating Gainey for the recognition and talked about the support she and others have received from the EFHS principal.

“From the beginning, she has been a true friend,” Emory said. “She always looks out for the rest of us.”

Others also spoke out about Gainey in the school system article. They included:

“She cares about the kids just as much as if they were her own.” – Farrah Hilton, EFHS Teacher of the Year

“She forms relationships with each member of this faculty, and she cares about our struggles both personal and professional. She offers support, structure, resources, guidance and advice to everyone. She is calm in the most chaotic of situations, patient and wise. She speaks from the heart to her faculty, students and community.” – Beth King, EFHS math teacher

“In all aspects, I think she is fair. She is always available. She goes the extra mile for students.” – Cindy Neugent, EFHS secretary

“She emphasizes building a family at East. She realizes that we all have families and challenges that extend beyond school. She supports us in professional endeavors as well, such as applying for grants and awards.” – Julie Riggins, EFHS math teacher

“It is a well-deserved honor. I have learned a lot from her.” – Brad Craddock, Glenn High School Principal

“She is at everything that the school is involved in. She is a very present principal.” – Sandra Shropshire, EFHS lead secretary

Gainey was nominated for Principal of the Year by EFHS teachers Beth King, Jennifer Haymes and Julie Riggins. Every principal in the school district was eligible for nomination. There were a total of 18 nominees altogether, which was then reduced to five finalists by a selection committee.

Gainey received $500 for her and $500 for the school from Truliant Federal Credit Union, which sponsored Tuesday’s breakfast, as did Allegacy Federal Credit Union and Winston-Salem Federal Credit Union for a total of $3,000.

The 18 nominees were: Ted Burcaw, Kingswood High; Donna Cannon, Diggs-Latham Elementary; Becky Carter, Kernersville Elementary; Rusty Hall, Old Town Elementary; Robert Ash, Speas Elementary; Amber Baker, Kimberley Park Elementary; Fran Cook, Early College of Forsyth; Sara Cook, Middle Fork Elementary; Brad Craddock, Glenn High; Debra Gladstone, Mineral Springs Elementary; Mark Hairston, Ashley IB Magnet;

Donna Horton, Carter High; Judy Jones, Caleb’s Creek Elementary; Frank Martin, Reagan High; Essie McKoy, Petree Elementary; Neil Raymer, Meadowlark Elementary; and Ramona Warren, Sedge Garden Elementary.

Burcaw, Cannon, Carter and Hall were among the five finalists along with Gainey.

As the local Principal of the Year, Gainey will be considered for state Principal of the Year.

Remembering Breiner

October 15, 2014

In August 2013 after their son, Breiner, 4, was killed in a tragic car accident, the Deonanan family’s world was turned upside down.

Tiffany Deonanan, Breiner’s mom and a former teacher who taught first through third grades at Sedge Garden Elementary School (SGES), said Breiner died the morning after the tragic accident.

“It’s been a year and two months. We went through Hospice therapy and our daughter, Ella, 8, went through art therapy,” she said. “If I didn’t have faith, I don’t think I could have gotten through this.”

SGES kindergarten teacher Elizabeth Noell said the teachers and staff at the school wanted to do something special for the Deonanan family in honor of Breiner.

“A year ago we wanted to do something positive and long lasting in memory and in honor of the family, so we created a garden,” she explained.

The garden dedication was held at the school on Thursday. During the ceremony, the front of the school was adorned with orange balloons, a color that is also prevalent in the garden.

“We have orange flowers that will come out at different seasons of the year as well as a flowering plum tree,” Noell stated, noting that the garden is in the shape of a teardrop.

Deonanan said the color orange and the plum tree both have significance to Breiner.

“Orange was his favorite color, and about three to four weeks before his death we went on vacation to his grandparents’ house and he picked all of the plums off of their plum tree that he could reach. Soon after that, the plum tree happened to die. It just seemed (ironic) that the tree died and just a few weeks later he was tragically killed,” she said.

Now, helping other families find a way to honor and remember their lost children, Deonanan is working with Heartstrings to start Parade of Hope, an annual event that will be held on August 8 in downtown Winston-Salem.

“Our team will be Team Breiner,” Deonanan said. “We have a committee with Heartstings in Kernersville working on putting this together.”

Now pregnant with a son, Deonanan said she will also be sharing her testimony at a woman’s conference along with the walk.

During the event, Triad residents will gather in Corpening Plaza to celebrate children that have been tragically lost. According to the Parade of Hope Facebook page, the celebrated children will each be represented by a flag made by the family or custom-ordered through a partnering NC flag company. The parade will circle through downtown Winston-Salem for one mile before returning to Corpening Plaza.

For more information about the Parade of Hope, visit their page on Facebook. For more information about Heartstrings, visit www.heartstringssupport.org, call 336-335-9931, or email info@heartstringssupport.org. Heartstrings is located at 233 West Mountain St. in Kernersville.

Ooh Bra La La!

September 30, 2014

As a way to raise awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center (KMC) is holding their annual Ooh Bra La La! ladies’ night out event on Thursday, October 9 from 5:30 – 8 p.m. at Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden (PJCBG).

Sharon Nelson, Novant Health Community Engagement Specialist, noted that while the event is geared toward women, it is open to anyone.

“As you arrive at the event, the Pink Heals fire truck will be on site for cancer survivors to sign,” said Nelson.

Joanne Allen, president of Novant Health KMC, said she was amazed at the artistic ability of the businesses, organizations and individuals who created bras for the event last year.

“We probably had about 30 bras last year,” she said. “There were the really pretty ones and the fun ones. It’s interesting that there are so many different materials used in making these bras,” she said. “Those that competed last year want to compete again this year and we have new people as well.”

Nelson revealed that one of the new entries this year is from Queen Latifah.

Along with the fashionable bra entries that will be on display around PJCBG for attendees to enjoy, there are a lot of other activities going on throughout the night.

From 5:30 to 7 p.m., there will be raffle tickets, door prizes and a silent auction to benefit cancer prevention and education. Attendees can take advantage of a professional bra fitting, mini-makeovers, chair massages, and schedule a mammogram. There will also be vendors, bone density screenings and more.

“We will have a silent auction with pink themed items,” noted Nelson. “There will also be a photo booth and, if the weather is great, we will be able to use the patio.”

Allen said the silent auction is a small fundraiser to raise money for KMC’s cancer fund.

The event will feature performances by local high schools and maurices in Kernersville is putting on a fashion show, featuring breast cancer patients and survivors.

Rachel Wiley, manager at maurices, said this will be the second year they have held their fashion show with the Pink Heals Foundation.

Cancer survivor Cindy Swaim, who will be among the women in the fashion show, said she is looking forward to being a part of the event and helping to raise awareness.

Swaim was first diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2013 after she found a lump in her breast, something the mammogram wasn’t able to pick up.

“I had never missed a mammogram since I turned 40,” she said, noting that she was 49-years-old at the time. “Even though I could feel it and the doctors could feel it, it didn’t show up on the mammogram. It did show up on the sonogram, however, which was scary.

Now, Swaim advises other women to make sure and check for lumps on their own.

“Know your body and trust your instincts if you feel something is wrong. I would much rather walk out of the doctor’s office with him telling me I am fine than to wonder,” she said.

When Swaim first found out she had cancer, she said she was overwhelmed.

“I was overwhelmed at first, but I can say the breast navigators with Novant were wonderful. You can call them 24/7 and ask them questions. They are like having your own girlfriend that has been through this before,” she said.

Rather than going through chemotherapy, Swaim opted to have a double mastectomy, which was performed on December 18 and she has since recovered quickly.

“I have been a lucky one,” she said. “I did not have to have any chemotherapy. I had reconstruction surgery, a process that took a couple of months and had implants put in on February 28. I was on the fast track and have had a positive take on this.”

Although Swaim has been positive throughout recovering from breast cancer, she mentioned that the initial diagnosis was a hard hit.

“Immediately when someone tells you that you have cancer, you imagine yourself being sick, losing your hair, imagining the worst of chemo and possibly death, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” she encouraged.

Now that Swaim is healing, she is feeling great and is excited about being a part of the Ooh Bra La La! event and sharing with other women that they don’t have to be afraid.

“If you do find something, don’t be afraid. Fix it and move on. The technology and medical staff are so impressive – the way they diagnose you and tell you what stage you are in, and the plastic surgery they do now is remarkable, though it’s not for everyone,” she said. “I had the option to have a lumpectomy, but decided to be bolder and go for the double mastectomy.”

Swaim said even if someone hasn’t gone through cancer, being a part of the Ooh Bra La La! event is a way to honor others.

“This is a great way to honor someone, and it is part of the healing process for me to be a part of this. It is also a great way for young girls to realize the statistics and know it isn’t a death sentence,” she said, adding that her daughter, Caroline, has been a big supporter and is also taking part in the event.

“I have also seen a good side of my husband, Andy, that I had never seen until going through this process,” she added.

A panel of physician experts will be available to answer questions by attendees about women’s health during an “Ask the Doctor” session from 7 to 8 p.m.

“We will have a wide range of physicians from family care to OBGYN, oncologists and plastic surgeons. The audience can ask anything they want about their health or something they are going through,” said Nelson.

During the event there will be food from Kernersville area restaurants, and wine from Grassy Creek Vineyards.

Allen is looking forward to having the event at PJCBG this year.

“Each year it grows a little bit, and we wanted to find a new venue so we could accommodate more women, especially since the hospital is getting busier,” she said. “I am hoping the people that came before will come again, but I am also hoping some new people will come this time.”

PJCBG is located at 215 South Main St. The event is free; however, seating is limited for the “Ask the Doctor” session. Call 336-564-4444 to RSVP to take part in this session.

Tail Waggin’ Tutors

September 25, 2014

When Shelly Switick thought about what she wanted her dogs to do in their retirement, she thought about giving back to the community.

Switick first got her dog, Cooper, a male long-haired miniature dachshund, in 2008 and her dog, Tesla, a female mixed breed, in 2010.

“I rescued Cooper from a kennel when he was about a year old and I got Tesla from the Humane Society when she was about a year old,” she said, noting that Cooper will be seven-years-old in December and Tesla recently turned five.

Switick got the idea to do Tail Waggin’ Tutors from her friend, Jennifer King, who started it with one of her three Labrador Retrievers at the library in Burlington.

“Each library calls it something different,” Switick noted.

She added that when King’s dog, Emmie, heads to the library, she holds her head up high as she walks past her Labrador siblings.

Much like Emmie, Switick explained that her dogs also enjoy Tail Waggin’ Tutors.

“They enjoy being petted and having their ears rubbed. They probably feel like it’s their birthday and all these people are there just to see them, but it’s really all about the kids,” she remarked.

Having visited both the Kernersville and Walkertown libraries, Switick is fairly new to offering Tail Waggin’ Tutors; however, she and her two dogs have undergone hours of training to prepare for it.

“We just started this month,” she said. “Cooper is working at the Kernersville Library and Tesla is working at the Walkertown Library.”

Switick said they began training about a year ago through Therapy Dog International.

“There are about 20 steps they had to pass and there are classes you have to take to work up to it,” she said. “They are now therapy dog certified and can go into hospitals and rest homes as well.”

Being performance dogs, Switick said Cooper and Tesla like to play sports, and now that they are getting older she wanted to give them a job to do in their retirement.

“This is something they can still do with me and help the community, while hanging out with kids and doing something they love,” she remarked.

When Cooper and Tesla aren’t working, Switick said Tesla enjoys sunbathing and playing ball with her dad, and Cooper enjoys swimming and eating.

While Cooper and Tesla enjoy their job, Switick reminded that Tail Waggin’ Tutors is all about the children.

“I’ve only gone twice, but each time we’ve had a big crowd,” she said.

During her most recent visit, Switick said a little girl raised her hand to go first. Walking past her brothers and the crowd to go up front and read aloud, she said the girl became a little nervous.

“She sat down, leaned in and laid next to Tesla. She took her time and throughout reading the book got better and louder and became more comfortable reading to Tesla,” she explained. “It is heart-warming to see that positive experience.”

Kernersville’s Youth Services Librarian Stefanie Kellum said the first event went well.

“We had six kids that read for about 10 minutes each,” she said. “They loved it. A couple of kids were a little nervous at first with reading, but were comfortable after cuddling up with Cooper.”

After reading, Kellum said the children were able to pick something from a prize bucket.

Walkertown’s Youth Service Librarian Margaret Adam said they had eight children signed up to participate in the event at the Walkertown Library.

“Reading is so important to children. I think we will benefit by having a dog in the library,” she said. “We are looking forward to reluctant readers having a non-judgmental listener and for children who don’t have dogs to have a time to sit and pet and read to a dog.”

Children can read to Cooper at the Kernersville Library on Wednesdays, October 8 and November 12 at 6 p.m. and can read to Tesla at the Walkertown Library on Mondays, October 20 and November 17 at 7 p.m.

To reserve a spot for you child, call the Kernersville Library at 336-703-2930 or the Walkertown Library at 336-703-2990.

All for Lanxton

September 25, 2014

A Kernersville couple is holding a yard sale today at McDonnell Landing with proceeds going toward their son’s medical bills and the fight against sickle cell disease.

Kota and Thomas Brown knew their infant son, Lanxton, had had his fair share of illness in the first few months of his young life, but couldn’t understand why he seemed more susceptible to simple colds and fevers more so than other children of a similar age.

When Lanxton was nine-months-old, Kota took him to their pediatric office to have yet another cold and fever checked out. The Browns’ regular pediatrician was out that day so Lanxton was seen by Dr. Kirk Walker.

“Dr. Walker thought he heard a heart murmur and he asked if Lanxton had ever been tested for sickle cell disease,” said Kota.

Sickle cell disease is only passed down if both parents carry the sickle cell trait. While Kota knew that her husband Thomas was a carrier, she herself was of the belief that she wasn’t; however, a blood test ordered by Dr. Walker that day revealed that Lanxton did in fact have sickle cell disease.

The Browns discovered that Lanxton’s pediatricians may have known from the start that he had sickle cell anemia because it is included in newborn screenings. Lanxton’s screenings were never forwarded to the family’s pediatrician because of an apparent spelling error on his records, said Kota. Because she didn’t think she was a carrier, Kota never considered the possibility that Lanxton might have the disease.

“We were putting him in danger and didn’t even know it,” said Kota, admitting that she and Thomas have struggled with feelings of guilt over not having learned sooner what was wrong with their son.

Sickle cell disease is a blood disease that primarily affects those of African American and Hispanic descents in the United States. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that between 90,000 to 100,000 people in the U.S. have the disease, with it occurring in about 1 of every 500 African American births.

According to the CDC, sickle cell disease causes red blood cells to become hard and sticky. The cells take on a C-shaped similar to that of a “sickle,” which die early and cause a constant shortage of red blood cells. When a person doesn’t have enough red blood cells, they have a condition called anemia. Also, when the misshaped blood cells travel through a person’s small blood vessels, they can get stuck and clog the blood flow. Whenever this happens, it results in severe pain and organ damage and can cause serious infections.

Following Lanxton’s diagnosis, he was immediately placed on a regular regimen of antiobiotics, as well as chemotherapy treatment, all of which continue today more than four years later. Pain medications, including morphine, are a normal part of his young life.

Lanxton has the most severe form of sickle cell disease, known as Sickle Cell Anemia SS. He has been admitted to the hospital more than 30 times, sometimes for just a few days and other times for weeks, as the family has combated the effects of the disease. All the while, he has stayed a fighter, said Kota and Thomas.

“He is a true fighter. He’s a very strong kid,” said Kota.

Kota and Thomas themselves are both on disability and stay home with their son, whom they homeschool. Children with sickle cell disease tend to miss huge amounts of school, even more so than those undergoing treatment for cancer because the disease never goes away. There is no cure, only ways to maintain quality of life.

“It’s a struggle every day,” said Kota.

Kota said that the couple has never asked for help before, but because some of the treatments they want for Lanxton, such as massage therapy for the constant pain in his limbs, aren’t covered by insurance, they wanted to do something. The yard sale was a start. Kota has also started a blog on CaringBridge, and Thomas has set up a website named www.lanxtonsjourneyandsicklecell.org to share Lanxton’s story with the world.

“I want him to get the therapy he needs so he doesn’t have some of the complications that come with sickle cell disease,” said Kota.

Kota said that the money they raise from today’s yard sale will go toward paying for medical care and physical therapy not covered by insurance, as well as toward setting up a life insurance policy for their son. The couple also plans on donating 20 percent of their yard sale proceeds to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America.

“Everything we do is for him,” said Kota of Lanxton.

Today’s yard sale will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at McConnell Landing. There will be summer, fall and winter clothing, shoes and other items for sale. There will also be a lemonade stand and beef hotdogs for sale for $1 each.

Those who can’t make it out to the yard sale but want to contribute in some way may contact Kota Brown at lanxmomma@gmail.com. Kota’s blog on CaringBridge can be accessed at www.caringbridge.org/visit/lanxtonsjourneyandsc.

Out of the Darkness

September 25, 2014

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is holding an Out of the Darkness Community Walk at Triad Park on Saturday, October 4 at 9 a.m. in hopes of creating awareness and raising more funds for aggressive mental health research within the community. Check in is held at 8 a.m.

The event will include live music, food, a memory area, and local mental health resources.

In 2013, AFSP participants raised over $9.3 million. AFSP is the leading non-profit organization that is dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research and education, and to reaching out to people with mood disorders and those impacted by suicide.

Kernersville resident Bill Apple and his daughter, Mara Apple O’Neil, know all too well about the loss of a loved one due to suicide after losing their daughter and sister, Lindsay Apple.

O’Neil explained that after her sister took her life four years ago on October 25, 2010, she decided to get involved with AFSP in order to help those suffering with depression and the family members dealing with the loss of a loved one, just as she had.

She noted that she even served on the executive board of the AFSP and helped them become the 65th chapter to be chartered in the U.S.

O’Neil explained that often a family member or friend, unless educated, doesn’t always know what the symptoms are for someone that is thinking about suicide.

“You don’t know what you are seeing until after the fact,” she said. “We knew Lindsay was depressed, but she had gone through periods of depression before and she had pulled out of it through exercise, counseling and medication. We honestly thought it was just another one of those situations.”

O’Neil said they also thought her sister’s depression was situational because she was out of a job, something she said would make anyone feel down in the dumps.

“We just didn’t realize the severity of her depression,” she said, noting that being out of a job is a risk factor for suicide victims, along with withdrawing from friends and family.

Along with the previous bouts of depression and being out of a job, O’Neil mentioned that Lindsay had been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and as it worsened over time, she had more and more anxiety with going out into public.

O’Neil said this year will be the fourth year she has participated with the Out of the Darkness Walk. Though she will not be physically walking this year due to the birth of her child, O’Neil formed a team to walk and has raised funds for the event in support of raising awareness and prevention of suicide.

“The grief, guilt and mixture of emotions, it was a difficult thing to go through,” she said about her sister’s suicide. “I felt I needed to channel all of it in a positive direction and thought that if I could help someone learn something or be there for someone with a similar loss, I wanted to be able to do that.”

Along with wanting to help others, O’Neil hopes to change the mindset of many people about suicide and the idea that there is a certain type of person that becomes a victim of suicide.

“There is still a lot of stigma around mental health issues and suicide,” she said. “Lindsay had a good family, a graduate degree, was popular, gorgeous, a leader, artistic, and very well liked and bubbly. People have told me she had a lot of things going for her and didn’t seem like the type of person who would commit suicide, but that doesn’t mean she was immune to depression and death.”

She continued, “There is a preconceived notion that there is a certain type of person that takes their life, but it can happen to anyone. Mental health issues do not discriminate in any way.”

Apple noted that depression is often a biological issue and can affect multiple people in one family.

Apple recalled that Lindsay did show signs of depression, but they were very subtle.

After Lindsay’s death, Apple said he too had a difficult time, so he sought counseling; although he had a great counselor, he realized he needed more help.

“I found counseling, but I found it wasn’t helpful enough because I was emotional and was not able to function on a daily basis like I needed to,” he said. “I decided to consult with a psychiatrist that found my depression to be a chemical imbalance.”

After being given medication, Apple said he was better able to manage his depression and the feeling of loss.

Apple feels that others should know that sometimes depression is a biological and chemical issue that can be aided through medication.

He explained that he realizes that his daughter felt she had no way out.

“People who (take their lives) aren’t focused on the impact it will have on those they leave behind,” he said. “I really don’t think victims are capable of evaluating it from that perspective.”

Both Apple and O’Neil feel it is important for others to learn about the risk factors for loved ones and for themselves and to seek help.

In an article entitled, “There’s Nothing Selfish About Suicide” written in the Huffington Post by Katie Hurley, a child and adolescent psychotherapist and parenting expert, she talks about her experience with suicide loss and how others can help prevent future victims of suicide. To read the short article, click here.

According to O’Neil, from information she found from the Centers for Disease Control, in 2011 in the U.S. there were 39,518 suicides and one person dies from suicide every 13 minutes.

“Suicide is also the 10th leading cause of death and there are many attempts far more often than that,” O’Neil added.

Money raised from Saturday’s event supports the activities of AFSP, including funding research into genetic, biological, behavioral factors and prevention and treatment of suicide; a Landmark study on treating complicated grief among survivors of suicide loss; expansion of the Interactive Screening Program to over 70 colleges, the VA, NFL, a major Metro Police Department, and a Fortune 500 company; increased use of More Than Sad Program on teen depression and the companion program for school personnel on suicide prevention; sharing After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools, which provides information, tools and guidance to schools that have been touched by a suicide; and more. To find out about other activities supported by AFSP, visit www.afsp.org.

To register for the walk, visit www.afsp.donordrive.com. Registration cut off is Fri., October 3 at noon. To donate to O’Neil’s team, type in “Loving Lindsay” into the search box on the event website.

If you or a loved one need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Miss Teen USA Kernersville

August 12, 2014

Caroline Swaim, a senior at East Forsyth High School, is looking forward to representing her town as the Miss Teen USA Kernersville this year.

Swaim first got involved with the Miss Teen USA competition through a good friend.

“She started a 5K called Head Bands 4 Hope. The 5K is for children who have cancer.”

Swaim is looking forward to be involved with her friend’s 5K by passing out headbands to the children with cancer and also participating in the run.

In order to be Miss USA for Kernersville, Swaim had to compete against three other girls her age and was picked by the Miss Teen USA program to represent her town.

“I have one year and then I have to give up my title,” she said, noting that isn’t the end. “In October, I will be competing again, but for the title of Miss NC Teen USA.”

Swaim explained that some of the qualifications to be part of Miss Teen USA include: being a good student, being involved with her town, being able to speak on her town’s behalf, trying to make an impact as her town representative and serve as a role model.

In order to make an impact in the Kernersville community, Swaim plans to read to children at Cash Elementary School.

“I plan to read to kindergarten students and talk to the third and fourth graders about why it is important to get good grades and to get involved with their community while they are young,” she said.

Swaim said she will also be involved with other programs throughout the year.

“While involved with Miss (Teen) USA, I will also be involved with a program called Girl Talk, which is a program where I will work as a mentor to younger girls to teach them why it is important to be yourself and be proud of who you are because it is a huge issue with young girls today,” she explained, noting they are encouraged to be a part of the program though Miss Teen USA.

Swaim said they are also encouraged to get involved with the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

“This is something I can relate to because this past October, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said, noting that her mother has now beaten the cancer. “My mom is the one that has really encouraged me to be a part of Miss (Teen) USA.”

Swaim feels that the experience of working in the community and being a part of Miss Teen USA will be beneficial to her future.

“From this experience, I think I will gain a lot of new friends, meet lot of a lot of business leaders and learn how to really carry myself,” she said.

Swaim is enjoying the experience so far.

“I am enjoying helping out and the support I am receiving from the community,” she said.

Along with being involved with Miss Teen USA, Swaim has also participated with the Deans for three years, National Junior Honors Society, Junior Civitans, Varsity Lacrosse team for the past three years, cheerleading during her freshman year, danced for 13 years, volunteered at the Winston-Salem Open for over 80 hours as a ball girl, is involved with Kernersville Connections through the Kernersville Chamber of Commerce and takes part in other community service in her spare time.

Home for a Visit

August 12, 2014

After a year-long deployment to Afghanistan, Capt. Bryant Morrison is visiting family in Kernersville before heading to his new assignment at Fort Eustis near Newport News and Williamsburg in Virginia.

As a JAG attorney for the U.S. Army, it is part of Morrison’s job to make sure both soldiers and operations follow the letter of the law regarding legal questions regarding issues ranging from estate planning here at home to operations and rules of engagement overseas.

“I love my job,” said Morrison on Tuesday morning as he talked about the years since he graduated from East Forsyth High School, always with the goal of becoming an attorney.

Morrison grew up in Kernersville, the son of James and Patti Morrison and the late Martha Pearson. He graduated from East in 2002 and studied for his undergraduate degree in sociology at East Carolina University before earning his law degree from the Charlotte School of Law in 2010. He joined the Army on July 4, 2011.

While Morrison said he knew from an early age that he wanted to be an attorney, he didn’t decide to join the military until after completing an internship with the Army in South Korea.

“I fell in love with the job, the service and the sense of camaraderie,” said Morrison.

During his internship, Morrison lived in Daegu, South Korea, where a buddy of his lived at the time. Over the course of the 10-week assignment, Morrison worked in areas of the law that included client services, labor law and military justice. Living and working in a foreign country was eye-opening for Morrison.

“It was an enjoyable experience. I really enjoyed the different cultural experience. It opened my eyes to a big world. I was always kind of quiet, and it broke my shell and let me experience what the world has to offer,” he said.

After working for the Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG) offices at Fort Carson in Colorado, where he was responsible for military administration issues and serving as an advocate for soldiers regarding issues such as estate planning and prepping for deployments, Morrison was deployed himself to Afghanistan with the 4th Infantry Division last year and spent 12 months living at Kandahar Airfield in southeast Afghanistan.

The airfield is a small city unto itself, serving a population around 30,000. Morrison spent his working hours focusing on operation law, including syncing in with operational planning and making sure our forces were following international law regarding such things as laws of conflict and rules of engagement.

“It’s a small city, but without a lot of the comforts of home,” described Morrison. It’s a small self-sustaining city, with probably the same number of people or a little more than Kernersville.”

Much of what Morrison was involved in cannot be discussed, but he did talk a little about the United States’ overall mission in Afghanistan. His perspective has been shaped by being there and seeing the work our soldiers are doing.

“My perspective is shaped by being there. I feel like we’re doing a good job there as far as supporting the Afghan security forces. It’s a capable force as far as providing security to their country,” said Morrison. “The Afghans are more responsible than they’ve ever been. They’re doing a good job.”

Morrison said one of the things he enjoys most about his job is the pride he feels in the work he did in Afghanistan.

“There’s a sense of pride and satisfaction in the work I was doing. I was doing a job and trying to help our forces and the Afghan forces better their country,” he said.

Morrison met his wife, Cassie, while both were students at East Carolina. The couple has a 16-month-old daughter, Harper, who was just under four-months-old when her father left for Afghanistan. He was greeted by both his wife and daughter when he returned to Fort Carson earlier this month. A photographer documented the father/daughter reunion, but Morrison said that with today’s technology, he was able to communicate with both quite a bit while overseas and he came home on leave in March.

As far as requesting assignment to Virginia, Morrison said he and Cassie wanted to split the difference in miles between his hometown of Kernersville and hers in Maryland.

“We knew we wanted to be on the East Coast and between families,” he said.

Morrison said he sees himself staying in the military for at least 20 years, making a career of his military service. Afterward, he envisions himself perhaps teaching.

“I plan on staying in the JAG Corps and making it a full career,” he said. “I think we’d like to settle in the Charlotte area and I would eventually like to teach one day. That’s my ultimate dream.”

The here and now is pretty good, too, though.

“I’m loving it,” said Morrison.