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Team Roping At Its Best

June 22, 2015

Cole Compton, a homeschooled rising junior and member of the North Carolina High School Rodeo Association (NCHSRA), is preparing to compete in Nationals in Wyoming. He is holding a chicken leg meal and pork shoulder fundraiser to raise funds to be able to drive the 1,800 miles to get there.
Cole’s mother, Shannon Compton, said the NCHSRA is just like any other sport.
“They have to maintain a certain grade point average, and they have to be well rounded just like in any other sport,” she shared.
Though Cole and his family have had horses for many years, it wasn’t until August 2013 that he took an interest in the rodeo and team roping.
“I was introduced to it by Dr. Arthur Taylor, the former owner of Oak Ridge Village Vet. He’s a roper,” Cole shared, noting that they often refer to Taylor as “Doc.”
Shannon mentioned that Cole has progressed very fast in the sport.
“He’s a natural,” she remarked. “It usually takes a long time to get to where he is.”
In 2014, Cole participated in the National competition in Wyoming, driving 39 hours with two horses to get there.
After placing in the State finals, Cole and his partner, Zach Toberer, will once again be competing.
“Every year, the kids have 20 rodeos and they get points at each rodeo depending on how they place in team roping,” Shannon explained. “They have to earn enough points to get to Finals. Finals was a three-day rodeo held over Memorial Day weekend. NCHSRA adds the points from Finals and the previous 20 rodeos throughout the year. The top four teams go to Nationals and compete against rodeo teams from all 50 states, Canada and Australia.”
Shannon said she was surprised there were teams from Hawaii and Alaska, and was very impressed by the Hawaiian team during last years’ National competition.
Cole noted that he and his partner came in second overall during the State Finals.
Along with team roping, several other events in rodeo include barrel racing, goat tying, steer wrestling, saddle bronc, bareback riding, bull riding, tie down roping and more.
Cole shared that all rodeo events come from out West.
“Team roping came from when a team of cowboys would go out and rope a steer to give it medical care,” he said.
He added that during a rodeo, each team draws a different steer so that steer is only used once during the event.
Cole explained how team roping works.
“You have a head box, a heel box and a timed barrier (attached to the steer). When the steer is released out into the arena he is given a head start. Then I ride my horse out. Sometimes it’s hard to hold the horses back because they know their job and they get excited, but we can’t leave before the barrier is broken,” he said. “The heeler can run out into the arena with the steer to haze (keeping him off the wall).”
Cole continued.
“When the header catches the steer (with the rope), the steer turns left and depending on how well the header handles the steer, the heeler has to rope both back feet; otherwise, it’s a penalty. It has to be the back two feet. If we both miss, the steer can run through the areas to the exit gate.”
Cole added that the header and heeler have a total of 40 seconds to rope the steer.
“The fastest time I’ve ever seen (Cole) rope a steer was six seconds, but he averages a seven second run,” Shannon shared.
Shannon said there is more at stake than just having a good time during Nationals.
“It’s important for him to be able to go to Nationals because, just like any other sport, there will be scouts there looking to recruit team members to their college,” she said. “There are many schools out West that have their own rodeos.”
Cole and Shannon will be selling precooked chicken leg quarter meals and whole pork shoulders on June 27.
“This is just in time for those Fourth of July celebrations,” Shannon remarked.
They also have a GoFundMe account. To make a donation to the account, visit If interested in purchasing a precooked chicken leg quarter meal or whole pork shoulders, send an email to Shannon at

Ben’s Bell

May 4, 2015

Pat Moynihan recently came across a simple act of kindness made on the other side of the country; something known as a Ben’s Bell.
Moynihan explained that she stopped at Panera Bread to eat before attending GriefShare at Triad Baptist Church with a neighbor.
“I had a neighbor who lost her husband (recently) and we decided to go to Panera Bread before GriefShare,” she said. “When we stopped the car, I got out and saw something hanging from a small tree. When I walked over to it, that’s when I saw the bell with a tag attached to it. It kind of brightened my day.”
Moynihan said the tag had writing on both sides, English on one and Spanish on the other. The tag read, “You have found a Ben’s Bell. Take it home, hang it in your yard, and remember to spread kindness throughout our world.”
It was followed by a quote from Scott Adams, “Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
“I really just wanted to thank them and let them know someone found the bell,” Moynihan said, not knowing about the project. “We hear all of this bad stuff on the news, but I want people to know there is good out there.”
According to, the mission of Ben’s Bells is to inspire, educate and motivate people to realize the impact of intentional kindness, and to empower individuals to act according to that awareness, thereby strengthening ourselves, our relationships and our communities.
The website states that recent research demonstrates that kindness benefits our physical and mental health, and recognizing kindness in others increases a person’s happiness and satisfaction.
Upon contacting the Ben’s Bell Project, the Kernersville News found that one cannot purchase a Ben’s Bell; they must be found.
According to an employee with the Ben’s Bell Project, “You can only find one that has been hung up by staff or board members, which could have happened since our staff and board members often travel to places around the country. Also, every once in a while when someone feels better, they will take the Ben’s Bell and hang it up for someone else to find, so they kind of travel around on their own.”
After learning about the Ben’s Bell Project, Moynihan said there are people in Kernersville doing similar things.
“I attend Holy Cross, but I also enjoy visiting other churches,” she said, noting one of those was Sedge Garden United Methodist Church. “When I was there, they were passing out a coin and a bracelet.”
The coin reads on one side, “Acts of kindness, encouragement and witness,” and on the other reads, “The Parable of the Sower Matthew: 13.” The bracelet reads, “Thou shall not complain.”
“I carry the coin with me everywhere I go to remind me to spread kindness and when I have a negative thought, I turn the bracelet over,” she said. “I have a lot to be thankful for.”
Since finding the Ben’s Bell, Moynihan said she has hung it on a tree in her yard.
“I have hung it on a special apple tree at my house,” she said. “The thought makes it so nice and it looks nice too. The idea that someone goes to the trouble of making these means a lot.”
Ben’s Bell Project is located in Tucson, Arizona. For more information about the Ben’s Bell Project, visit


May 4, 2015

On January 12, 2010, a catastrophic earthquake that registered a magnitude of 7.0 devastated Haiti, destroying residences, lives, and families.
The THaKO (pronounced taco) orphanage was prompted by that earthquake to house some of the children who had lost their families during the disaster. THaKO stands for Tomorrow for Haitian Kids’ Organization. THaKO was started by Louisa Suggs, who had already been working with the people of Haiti in past years.
THaKO is a non-profit orphanage based in the heart of the village of Carbonel, a remote region of Cap-Haitien, Haiti. In addition to providing the basic necessities to many children in need in the area, THaKO provides basic medical care to local villagers.
Jayne and Fred Thompson and Jeff Smith, who attend Bunker Hill United Methodist Church (UMC), will be going on the next mission trip to Haiti. Fred Thompson is on the U.S. Board for THaKO.
Mission groups from Bunker Hill UMC have been going to Haiti since November 2013. There have been three mission trips so far. Since their visit last year, there have been a few changes.
“The big difference within the last year is that kids have actually started living in the orphanage,” explained Thompson. “Before the orphans could move in, we had to build a structure that was safe for the kids to live in. The orphans were waiting for the orphanage to open. Now, there are currently 22 children living in the orphanage.”
The children of the THaKO orphanage do more than just live there, however, and the missionaries do more than just deliver supplies.
“Since the orphanage opened, there has been an emphasis to improve the quality of life, such as building furniture, dressers, beds, tables etcetera,” stated Thompson. He pointed out that unlike in the U.S., education in Haiti is not free, so they have helped the children get what they need to attend local schools.
“In Haiti, education isn’t free,” explained Thompson. “There’s been a tremendous amount of effort to bring the education to the orphans as well as uniforms and supplies. They (the children) go to two different schools. It’s like a lot of other things in Haiti and other Third World countries, if you really want to provide the best opportunities, you have to find a way to pay for it, so whatever government services that are provided are minimal or lacking in quality.”
The mission team has also installed solar power so the orphanage can provide its own electricity because the power grid in Haiti is unreliable and expensive. The Thompsons said there is also a need for an inverter and to have the storage batteries replaced. They would like the orphanage to be self-sustaining one day, with chickens and a garden.
There will be a mission team going to Haiti from July 24 through August 2. When they go on this trip, they will be building light furniture, cabinetry, and shelving units. They are also planning a fun Vacation Bible School (VBS) experience for the children.
“This has really been an act of love for Louisa (Suggs) and a small band of us who have gotten connected to the orphans after going on a mission trip,” said Jayne Thompson. “It’s amazing how the orphans grab your heart and you have no choice but to respond in love to help them.”
Thus far, the mission trip has gotten a lot of financial support from the church, but it will cost $6,000 to send Smith and the Thompsons and they still need to raise the remaining $4,000. To that end, they’ve set up a funding website for people who are interested in supporting them to do the mission trip.
A bigger need is ongoing support to provide for the needs of the orphanage. They are always looking for people who might want to sponsor a child. $200 is enough to cover a child’s medical, educational, and living needs for an entire month.
All of Bunker Hill UMC is involved in the THaKO mission trip, even the children of the church.
“The kids collect Koins for Kids for the orphans and have committed to raise $100 each month. Their VBS also has that as its mission purpose. They raise money during VBS and send the money,” said Thompson.
Thompson assured that all of the proceeds would not only help the orphans, but the Haitian community as well. They would welcome an opportunity to speak to area groups about the orphans.
“We can’t fly over a lot of supplies, but by buying the goods in Haiti, we help support the Haitian community,” affirmed Thompson. “Any money that is provided has Haitian as well as U.S. oversight and it’s all accounted for. We actually are there to see where the money goes.”
For more information about THaKO or making a donation, email or visit

A Love of Running

March 11, 2015

The Outer Banks, also known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic and where more than 1,000 ships have been documented to have sunk along its shores, is also home to the Graveyard 100-mile endurance race.

Local resident Brian Kochanski conquered the long and arduous race this past Saturday, March 7, spanning 101.5 miles along the bank’s paved Hwy. 12 in 25 hours and 44 minutes.

During the race, Kochanski and the many other runners ran the flat course with a total elevation gain of 139 feet and a loss of 138 feet and were given a 30 hour cut off time.

Along the course, Kochanski had the chance to see three of the famous NC lighthouses and cross the 2.5-mile long Bonner Bridge, which spans the Oregon Inlet to Bodie Island and Hatteras Island at the halfway point.

Kochanski, who began running roughly five years ago and has run two 50 mile and one 100 kilometer endurance races, said he decided to run a 100 mile endurance race as the next step in running.

“I had been looking at this race for a while and thought I’d give it a try on a flat road,” he said about choosing the Graveyard 100.

Kochanski explained that he trained for the run by going on short and long runs throughout the weeks leading up to the race, running his longer distance on the weekends when he had more time available.

When Kochanski started out early on Saturday morning, he said the temperature was in the 50s for most of the day and the wind was low, with quite a bit to look at in the beginning of the race.

“The first 40 miles were pretty much your typical beach towns and the last 60 miles was pretty remote, with only power lines, street signs and sand dunes,” he said. “The wind was okay until the very end and there was a pretty big headwind and the temperature got back down into the 30s.”

Although he prepared well for the race, Kochanski said he underestimated a few aspects.

“I kind of underestimated the pounding on the asphalt for 100 miles and the isolation,” he said. “There were stretches where it was dark with nothing on either side of the road and the nearest town being 11 miles away.”

Kochanski said he wished he’d had an extra pair of shoes, possibly a half size larger as a person’s feet tend to swell during a race of that capacity.

While Kochanski was alone for much of the race, he did have support from family from time to time.

“My wife, Brooke, would meet me at each aid station, reset my water bottle and help me with anything I needed,” he said. “My brother-in-law, Doug Mackie, was with me for the last 40 miles or so. He was the only person I really talked to during the race.”

Kochanski explained that his most enjoyable moment during the race was around mile 58 when Mackie started running with him.

“I kind of got my second wind then and ran well until around mile 73, and when I came around the last corner and saw the finish line,” he shared.

Luckily, he did have Mackie and Brooke there supporting him along the course since his most challenging point was around mile 73.

“I was kind of staggering and falling asleep,” he said. “I ended up getting to one of the water stations, getting in my truck and taking a short nap.”

Kochanski said if it hadn’t been for Mackie, he might have been too tempted to drop out of the race.

“After I woke up from my nap it was tempting not to keep going, but Doug was sitting there in the truck right next to me. He’d come all this way to support me, I couldn’t just give up,” he remarked. “He supported me by just talking to me and being a fresh set of legs.”

And so, Kochanski continued on.

Kochanski explained that running along Hwy. 12 can be isolating.

“It’s so quiet and isolated,” he remarked. “I saw a lot of other runners getting delirious.”

Different than other endurance runs he’d done, Kochanski said upon finishing he was less excited than normal and more relieved.

“I was so exhausted it was more of a relief than anything. I have been a lot more elated with other races, but I was more relieved and need some sleep,” he said Sunday afternoon having had only three hours of sleep since finishing the race.

Kochanski said while there isn’t anything currently planned for the future, he is interested in doing another 100-mile run.

“I’ll do another one, but probably a trail race,” he said.

Creekside Heritage Farm

March 11, 2015

Stephanie Ballard and her fiancé, Brian Neal, enjoy raising heritage chickens and living a sustainable lifestyle in Belews Creek.

Ballard explained that Neal was raised on the farm, where he began farming tobacco at a very early age.

“His grandparents had pigs, chickens and cows for food sources, plus they raised corn, potatoes, beans and other foods. It was their way of life,” she shared.

Ballard and Neal began raising chickens as a hobby in 2012 for the eggs and meat. Not long after that, they decided to start a small business.

“I developed such a passion for them and wanted to share with people how easy it is to raise your own eggs and chickens,” she said. “We are firm believers in producing our own food. It’s much better for you, more cost effective and really not that hard.”

She continued, “We also raise a large garden every year and still can and preserve a lot of our own food here.”

Ballard noted that they also do share cropping with their family and neighbors.

As a free-range farm, Ballard and Neal raise heritage breed chickens. They have 54 hens and six roosters they use for breeding purposes. Each year, they hatch around 600 chicks.

Ballard said they choose to keep their breeding numbers low in order to continue as a small farm and to produce healthy and happy chicks. She added that they are very selective in what they feed their chickens.

“We have Dominique, Rhode Island Reds, Buff and Black Orpingtons,” she said. “I chose these breeds mainly for their heritage.”

Ballard said the Dominique breed was the first chicken ever introduced to the U.S. and remains on the watch list for extinction.

“In the 1970s they were on the extinction list,” she shared. “We wanted to help keep this breed alive. The chickens are breeds that are known to be docile and tolerate the weather here.”

Ballard said the breeds they raise are also great egg producers, great mothers, and are wonderful for people who have never raised chickens before.

“They all have their own traits. It’s hard not to love them all,” adding that the Buff Orpingtons have become their favorite birds on the farm. “They are very social birds, beautifully colored and make great pets. Our Orpingtons are from a seventh generation breeder and we are so excited about keeping this lineage pure and going strong.”

Of all the chickens on the farm, Ballard said one has a special place in her heart.

“I have a blind chicken here on the farm; her name is Essie. She has her own house and does really well. I relate to her because even though she has a disability, it’s never stopped her,” she explained. “Me suffering with MS and bone cancer, I can relate to her. We are a lot alike.”

Ballard said neither she nor Essie let their ailments define them.

“We still get a great eating egg every morning from her. She hears the sound of my voice and will talk to me,” she said. “My chickens are very therapeutic and others have told me the same.”

Along with enjoying the chickens for themselves, Ballard and Neal sell both fresh eggs and baby chicks.

When it comes to taking care of the chickens, Ballard said she and Neal split the chores.

“My fiancé begins our day every morning when the sun comes up, feeding and watering all the chickens,” she said, noting that they both work full-time. “We take shifts collecting eggs, cleaning coops and throwing daily treats. Brian likes selecting eggs for the incubator, so I let him do that. He has a system and it works. I like taking care of the biddies and all my flocks.”

When it comes to planting crops and canning, Ballard said she leaves that up to Neal.

While they currently only raise chickens on the farm, Ballard said they plan to add goats later on to produce milk for soaps and caramels.

“We also plan on adding bees this year,” she said.

Ballard explained that they are very passionate about the environment and sharing that passion with others.

“We are not only chicken people. We are passionate about hunting, fishing and raising a garden,” she said. “We share our knowledge of planting crops, canning and hunting skills. We still believe in crop rotation and no GMO (genetically modified organism) crops.”

She continued, “I like to share with people that living off the land and respecting it at the same time is what our forefathers did. It’s what America was founded on. If you learn how to do this, you don’t have to be dependent on grocery stores.”

Ballard said her granddaughter, Khloe, enjoys playing with the chickens.

“She loves chickens like her Gigi when she visits,” she said.

Along with the therapeutic aspects, Ballard said she enjoys many other aspects of raising chickens.

“I love waking up to the sound of my roosters each morning. I am very passionate in sharing with my customers how to have a healthy back yard flock,” she said. “With the state as well as NPIP (National Poultry Improvement Plan) and AI (Avian Influenza) clean program, I teach people to be responsible chicken owners.”

For more information, visit “Creekside Heritage Farms” on Facebook.

Serving the Chamber of Commerce

March 11, 2015

On April 1, Taylor Thornton will join the Chamber of Commerce as their new program manager.

This year promises to be an exciting year for Thornton; she will also be getting married in October.

Thornton, a former second-grade teacher at Kernersville Elementary School (KES), was thrilled and delighted to be chosen as the Chamber’s new program manager. She has lived here since 2000 and feels that Kernersville is her home.

“I grew up in Kernersville and as a Kernersville resident, I am familiar with the town,” she said.

A graduate of East Forsyth High School, Thornton went on to receive her degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Thornton has been involved in the community for many years. She worked for the Kernersville YMCA as a sports coordinator for five years while in college, before being hired to teach at KES.

Thornton is also familiar with the Chamber. As a teenager, she spent some time with the Chamber as part of Kernersville Connections, a program that allows high school students to interact with local businesses to learn more about them.

“I came to the Chamber as part of Kernersville Connections, so I’ve always felt very comfortable here,” explained Thornton.

Thornton said when she found out there was an opening for a program manager at the Chamber, she knew it would be a great fit for her.

Chris Comer, president and CEO of the Chamber, was impressed with Thornton’s resume and thought she would be perfect for the job. She was especially drawn to Thornton’s listed strengths. Thornton described herself as a young and energetic professional with experience in fast-paced settings, who is highly organized, creative, and outgoing.

The Chamber staff is pleased to have Thornton joining them and Thornton is looking forward to serving the community.

“I’m very excited to be a part of this,” Thornton expressed.

Painting the Town

March 3, 2015

After art fell by the wayside for many years, local resident Larry McRae recently picked back up where he left off with a goal of painting architecture in Kernersville.

McRae began his venture in art as a boy when he and his brother made panels of artwork for their father’s sermons.

“My father was an evangelist and my brother and I would draw charts for him and illustrate the Bible for him to use when teaching. Whatever the topic was, we would do the illustrations,” he said. “People liked it because it was different.”

McRae said he picked up a lot of skills through those drawings, mostly due to trial and error.

“On our own, we would also experiment with different types of art,” he said. “I did watercolor for a while, and I was big into cartoons at one time, and even thought I’d be a cartoonist.”

As he grew older, McRae continued to paint with watercolor; however, once his career took off and he started his Kernersville based residential and commercial design company, McRae & Co., and started a family, his interest in art fell by the wayside.

With all of his children out of the house, McRae was once again able to pursue his passion.

“My daughter, Deah, a second year student at UNC Charlotte, was the last one out of the house. Once the kids were all out of the house, I decided to get back into painting,” he said. “It gives me an outlet to do something productive.”

McRae and his wife, Gail, have two other children, Devon and Daniel.

Although the last time he painted he was focusing more on watercolor, McRae has more recently been interested in oil painting.

Looking at his work, you wouldn’t guess that McRae has no formal training in painting.

“Just like before, everything is a bit of trial and error, but I try to be thoughtful about each stroke. I paint the sky first and set a base for what is happening and then work everything back into it,” he said. “With an oil painting it takes six months to dry completely, so I can manipulate them for a couple of weeks. After they are dry, I put a clear coating on them.”

As a designer with an appreciation for architecture, McRae enjoys capturing different architectural aspects of a structure in multiple paintings rather than painting an entire building or structure, whether it be a pergola, arbor, balcony, or something else.

“Having done so much work on ‘the drawing board’ has probably helped me with painting architectural structures,” he said.

McRae’s interest also lies in capturing real life locations and landscapes that are recognizable, especially to residents living in Kernersville.

So far, he has painted elements from his former home, a portion of The Harmon House balcony, and an arbor at Dewberry Farm in Kernersville.

“I think my next painting will be of The Depot and the caboose, and my emphasis this year will be on nothing but Kernersville because there’s a need and opportunity,” he said, noting that he would also like to focus on Körner’s Folly.

Although his focus is mostly Kernersville, McRae does venture out on occasion and paint other landscapes and architecture, such as Pilot Mountain.

“I went up (to Pilot Mountain) on a clear day with my wife,” he said, noting that he took a picture and then painted the landscape after returning home. “It was so clear that you could see Greensboro.”

In his painting, McRae captured the knob with Sauratown Mountain, Hanging Rock, and Moore’s Knob in the background, all drawn to scale.

While he prefers his paintings to be drawn to scale and architecturally detailed, he said he still aims to make his work look like a painting.

“I like to think of my paintings as a loose realistic,” he remarked.

One of the things McRae said is great about his prints is that it can come on wrapped canvas and is matted, giving it the look of an original without the texture of the raised oil paint.

McRae’s paintings and prints can be found at Ella Grace in Kernersville.

For more information about McRae and his paintings, visit

‘Stories of Faith from Everyday Life’

January 19, 2015

Bruce Boyer, former Chamber of Commerce CEO and president and Kernersville YMCA director, encourages others to strengthen their faith through everyday devotional stories in his newly released book, “Stories of Faith from Everyday Life,” which will be available on Monday, January 26 during a book signing at the YMCA from 5:30 – 7 p.m.

“The purpose of my book is to show examples of how God works in our everyday lives,” Boyer remarked.

Boyer has always been a devout Christian of the Lutheran denomination, but he explained that he had chosen to put it in the shadows in order to concentrate on his career. It wasn’t until his son took a trip to South America and while on a hike was lost in the Amazon rainforest for six days.

“It changed our lives forever,” he said.

Boyer explained that after his son, Dave, was rescued, he chose to be more intentional with sharing his faith with others.

“I started writing these stories about eight years ago with a goal of helping people that had a faith, but that were not very intentional,” he stated. “I would write one short story a week and email it. There are about 100 people who get my emails each week.”

Upon retiring in 2013, Boyer began working diligently bringing together stories that he had written to write his devotional book.

“The devotionals in the book are either stories from years ago that I thought were the better ones or fresh stories,” he said.

The stories include a personal question for the reader to ponder, a scriptural reference, and a concluding prayer, as well as a scriptural verse illustrating a key point from his story.

Boyer included additional scripture references at the back of his book.

“Each chapter has a topic, so if you are someone struggling with fear or are looking for strength, you can find a story to help you,” he said.

As Boyer set out to write his book, he wanted to create something that was easy for any lay person to understand.

“It’s not a deep Bible study that people glaze over. It includes situations, verses and stories that are easy to identify with,” he explained.

Kernersville Mayor Dawn Morgan made reference to Boyer’s writing by saying, “Bruce Boyer’s writings inspire Christians who desire to discover the peace and joy in everyday moments. I highly recommend this book as a devotional. Reading it is an opportunity to help take a breath from the demands of everyday life and consider the Glory of God as shown through acts of kindness and grace in our community.”

Boyer also sought help from his Pastor Rick Meyer, who is also an author.

“He told me that each story should have a question to internalize for the reader,” he said, noting that doing so personalizes the story for each person.

As far as his devotions, Boyer said he first sees something that he believes would make a good story and then finds a supporting verse.

Boyer explained that some of the devotions stem from local community members’ personal stories, including Jenny Fulton, of Miss Jenny’s Pickles, and Analise Arnold, a local musician and three time winner of Kernersville Idol.

“Miss Jenny’s business started after she heard a sermon series at Fountain of Life (Lutheran Church) and it was my canoe up on the alter during the series,” he said. “It encouraged her to get out of her own comfort zone and start her own business.”

Boyer explained that one of his stories was inspired by a picture he took of Arnold’s mother smiling at her while she was singing during the Chamber’s annual Music at Twilight series.

“Just as we bring a smile to God’s face, (Arnold’s) singing brought a smile to her mom’s face,” he said.

Boyer added that during the book signing, they will be serving Miss Jenny’s pickles and Arnold will be singing.

Along with stories from the community, Boyer said local photographer Gene Stafford took the photograph on the cover of the book. The photograph is of Boyer’s home church, Fountain of Life Lutheran Church, located on Hopkins Road in Kernersville.

Boyer explained that he dedicated the book to one of his early mentors, known as The Old Gray Goose (Robert Gray), who was one of his camp counselors at Camp Kenan when he was younger.

“The Old Gray Goose was a tireless servant and wonderful Christian role model,” he wrote in his acknowledgements. Boyer noted that he chose a career in the YMCA largely because of Gray’s example.

Boyer said he plans to surprise Gray with his book.

“He doesn’t know I have written the book. I plan to go with my bother, Brad, to visit him and surprise him with the book,” he said.

Of all the stories in his book, Boyer said his favorite two are those of his son.

“The two stories on Dave are my favorite because it was a life changing event for the entire family,” he explained.

Boyer hopes his book is an inspiration for others to be more intentional with their faith.

“All we can do is plant a seed and nudge people and encourage them. It is God that does the saving,” he remarked.

For more information about “Stories of Faith From Everyday Life,” visit where you can find additional stories and a link to Kindle and to purchase his book.

Boyer’s books will be available at the Kernersville YMCA on Monday, Jan. 26, during his book signing from 5:30 – 7 p.m.

Time for a Hike

January 8, 2015

A local man recently joined the ranks of a small percentage of hikers who have completed the legendary Appalachian Trail in a single trip, earning him the designation of a true 2,000-miler in the process.

Ben Barrow, 25, hadn’t been much of a hiker or camper before watching a documentary about the Appalachian Trail on Netflix, but something about the trail appealed to Barrow’s sense of adventure and a desire to experience new things.

“The Appalachian Trail really interested me. I’d never really hiked before, maybe two or three times, but I like figuring things out. It can be just as much fun figuring out how something works as it is actually doing it,” surmised Barrow. “Researching the hike was just as much fun as actually doing it. I spent about a year-and-a-half just playing around with the thought, do I really want to do this?”

In considering what a hike such as the Appalachian Trail would entail, Barrow had to decide if he wanted to hike the trial in sections over the course of several years, as many often choose to do, or did he want to go as a thru-hiker, attempting to complete the entire 2,180 miles of trail that spans 14 states in less than a year. Either way, he would be one of two to three million hikers who walk a portion of the trail each year.

Barrow’s research included going to local outdoor stores and comparing hiking equipment, considering things like if it was worth it to carry more or less weight in a pack. He took smaller, weekend hiking trips to get a feel for some of what he might experience.

“It’s all about weight,” said Barrow, who started his hike with about 45-pounds of weight on his back, but pared it down to right at 30 pounds, including food and water. “That was a good weight. You have to decide if you want to be more comfortable at camp or while you’re walking. I wanted to be comfortable walking, but at the same time I would not sacrifice the ability to take care of myself.”

“It takes a lot of practice to get comfortable on the trail,” said Barrow, admitting that a couple of times during his journey he considered quitting, but each time he was miles from any main roads or towns, so by the time he’d headed off the trail, it didn’t take long to reconsider and continue on.

“I quit the trail twice, but when you have five to 10 miles to hike out, you might as well keep going,” said Barrow.

Barrow started at the beginning of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain in Georgia on March 9 of last year, with plans to head north to the halfway point and then jump ahead to the end of the trail and work his way back south. It is what those familiar with the Appalachian Trail and its many forms of hiking refer to as “flip-flopping,” where thru-hikers hike the entire trail in discontinuous sections to avoid crowds, extremes in weather or start on easier terrain.

On average, most thru-hikers finish the Appalachian Trail within about six months, but Barrow took a few months longer, finishing in nine months.

“Most finish in six months, but I took my time,” said Barrow, describing those who like himself who want to savor the experience and others whose main goals are to just finish the trail as a notch in their belts more so than a chance to shed the trappings and stresses of every day life and get closer to nature.

Barrow said he hiked eight to 10 hours a day, sometimes traveling with other groups of hikers, sometimes alone. On the trail he became known as “Socrates,” in line with the tradition of hikers earning nicknames during the trek. Whenever he deviated from the actual trail, which sometimes happened, Barrow always doubled back to complete a missed stretch.

Once in West Virginia, Barrow went from being a northbounder hiker to a southbounder. He took a train and bus to the trail’s end in Katahdin, Maine, then began hiking south. It was a way for Barrow to avoid some of the trail’s most crowded portions, as well as some of the worst weather.

Barrow said he was in the bubble with the majority of hikers heading north at the start of his hike, calling it a very social learning experience. It didn’t take long for him to be able to discern between day and weekend hikers to those like himself who were in it for the long haul. A whiff of laundry detergent emanating from someone’s clothing was a good way to tell the difference, he said.

As far as wildlife on the trail, Barrow saw a lot of it, but said it was a matter of reminding himself that he as a human was the most dangerous predator on the trail. One of the biggest challenges was one of the mind.

“You are alone with your thoughts,” said Barrow. “When you’re just out there walking, there’s a lack of stimulus and you think about anything because you’ve got 18 more miles to do for the day. It’s not you versus the mountain; it’s you versus yourself.”

During the nine-months Barrow was out on the trail, he took time to experience the experience, if you will, staying in small towns sometimes for a few days, other times longer. He spent two weeks in Damascus, Va., arriving just in time for Trail Days in May. Other times he would stay long enough to work for a few bucks when needed.

“It was more important for me to experience the trail than try to save it,” said Barrow when asked if he kept a journal during the trek. “It was my experience. I’d rather tell people about it.”

One of the things people tend to let go of on the trail is something all too familiar in today’s modern day life, where everyone is in a rush. Barrow said his biggest challenge was sometimes spending four or five days without seeing another person.

When he did see people, it was a social experience, and Barrow met people from all over the United States. I met people from Ohio, Oregon to Texas and Alaska and people from every state on the East Coast,” said Barrow.

Because Barrow said he chose early on that he wanted to experience the Appalachian Trail rather than just hike it, Barrow said he embraced the chance to leave the trail from time to time to see a waterfall or visit an obscure American town.

“I liked seeing the towns. In every state, every town had a story all up and down the East Coast,” said Barrow, who noted that the smaller the town, the better the people treated others.

What did he learn on the trail?

Barrow said he learned to respect people more.

“A little respect goes a mile,” he said.

He also learned a lot about nature, Her different seasons and Her different colors. Now, it’s all there in his memory and on his camera. He even went to bed one night expecting a mild hike the next day only to wake up to a foot of snow on the ground.

And he learned that with a little power cord, duct tape and a knife, you can make just about anything. One trail friend even fixed his shoes with a piece of dental floss after he ripped the top open.

“You just have to figure it out,” he said.

Barrow finished his hike shortly after Thanksgiving. It was then that he received his 2,000 miler patch.

“This is what I worked so hard for,” said Barrow as he took out the small, half-moon shaped patched, stored in a plastic bag with dozens of others from different sections of the Appalachian Trail.

Barrow said he would recommend the trip to others, definitely.

“I tell anybody that can do it, if they can, do it,” said Barrow.

What’s next for Barrow in his quest for adventure and figuring things out? He thinks he might like to traverse the Colorado or Mississippi rivers or a couple of rivers in Canada. There’s also the Pacific Crest Trail on the west coast or he might try his hand at living on a sailboat for a couple years and learning how to sail across the world.

“The unknown is the most fun,” said Barrow.

Ride to Remember

January 8, 2015

Greg Kiser is a Greensboro Police Department officer who enjoys cycling for exercise. On July 17, 18, and 19, he’ll be riding 252 miles in South Carolina to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive illness that results when plaques and tangles attach to brain cells. It’s a disease that hits home for Kiser because there is a history of it in his wife, Toni’s, family. For Kiser, the implications are huge and far-reaching.

“It’s something Toni’s dealt with for a very long time and being her husband, it’s a worry of mine. We have a young daughter and I’ve had to tell her that I’m doing this ride for her too. This could be my legacy to her later, if she should ever get diagnosed some day. I’m also doing it for everyone out there who doesn’t realize how big a problem this is. Five million people in the U.S. currently have Alzheimer’s, but it could rise to sixteen million by 2050. Unfortunately, a lot of folks who are going to contract this disease might not have the money for a nice place to go.”

He continued.

“The most scary part for me is the thought that there’s going to come a time when my wife is going to look at me the same way she has for 30, 40 years and not recognize me and not remember all the things we’ve done together throughout our lives,” he said. “That just tears me up inside and I don’t want anyone to have to go through that.”

As a police officer, Kiser has had experience dealing with disoriented Alzheimer’s sufferers and their families. He has learned firsthand how confusing and frightening the disease can be for the people who have it and has a special sensitivity to those people who don’t understand what is happening to them.

“It’s not just a disease that makes you forget things. It changes the dynamic of the entire family and affects a person’s reality. Being with the Greensboro Police Department, I’ve gone on calls where there’s been an Alzheimer’s patient who has called and said someone has stolen their car,” he said. “They are absolutely convinced their son or daughter has stolen it, so we respond to the call and come to find out they haven’t had a car in fifteen years. They feel victimized by their family and by local law enforcement because there isn’t anything we can do to help them. You can’t file a report on something that doesn’t exist.”

The condition is also compounded by issues of wandering. Kiser reports that Alzheimer’s patients will wander off to find homes they lived in as a child. He said they have found patients as far as 10 miles away from the facility or family home in which they are currently living. Kiser received special training when it comes to Alzheimer’s patients who are reported missing.

“We are trained to find out where they used to live, and if they are somewhat local because that is usually where they will go,” he explained. “Imagine yourself twenty years from now and you are living in a new place you don’t recognize because you can’t remember anything from the past twenty years. Where will you want to go? Where were you most comfortable?”

Kiser has even gotten calls from people claiming they have been kidnapped and are being held against their will, only to answer the call and discover they have Alzheimer’s and are actually in their own home, but because it is more recent they don’t remember it.

When Kiser first heard about Ride to Remember last year, it was through a friend on Facebook. At that time, he was on sabbatical from cycling, following a collision with a U-Haul truck. Kiser is an endurance rider and when he saw the race was 252 miles, it piqued his interest. He realized it was too late to donate and he didn’t have his bike anymore, but could not stop thinking about it.

“When I saw it was for Alzheimer’s, I wished I’d done a race like that when I was still riding. I thought it looked like fun, but I wasn’t riding at that time. Then, ironically, around August I noticed I was gaining some weight. I decided to start riding again to get back into shape because it was the only exercise I enjoyed. When it came time to buy a bike, it was more expensive than I was comfortable with. My wife understood and was supportive of it and saw that I needed it back in my life and needed it for my own mental balance,” he said. “I told her if I did get a new bike, when I was able to, I would make a charity ride for Ride to Remember in honor of her deceased grandmother and aunt, who is in a facility with Alzheimer’s in New Jersey. She was very excited about that.”

Kiser did get the new bike and started back with 50 miles.

“That almost killed me,” he laughed. “But I kept working at it.”

Then, as luck would have it, Kiser was hit by another car. Fortunately, the driver’s insurance paid for the purchase of a new bike, but he had to wait for it to be shipped to him. While he waited, he put the damaged bike on a stationary trainer and started training while he waited for the new bike to arrive. By the time the new bike arrived, Kiser said that he was able to reach speeds of up to 62 miles per hour at his fastest pace. He knew he was ready for Ride to Remember, so he signed up to participate in the race.

One thing Kiser stresses is that Ride to Remember is not just a race. It is an eight-month-long event that begins in November and culminates with the race in July. It is a process of raising awareness, as well as funds. It is also a family event for Kiser. He said his wife and daughter plan to be at the rest stops cheering him on.

“The ride is more or less our reward for going out and raising the money and awareness,” explained Kiser. “The actual Ride to Remember event started in November, it actually runs from November to July. It’s a bunch of cyclists getting together and doing what they can do to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association. At the end they throw us a party and let us go on a bike ride.”

Ride to Remember is set up to spread over three days in three stages of varying lengths of 67, 85, and 100 miles respectively. It will take place on public roads that run from Simpsonville to Charleston, SC. Many people may not realize the dangers involved in races like this, but according to Kiser, there is usually at least one crash in every race.

“It’s a risk every time a cyclist goes out and rides. That puts a lot of these charity rides into perspective,” he said.

While there are inherent risks for any cycling activity, Kiser feels that the benefits outweigh those risks.

“I’m very appreciative to those who have already donated. I’ve already gotten over $1,000 worth of donations and while that is twice what I needed to be able to ride, I’m still not stopping because the money is going where it needs to go. I want to have as many resources as possible and I have plenty of time to collect more money and I’m going to do so.”

The immediate, short-term benefits will go to the SC chapter (of the Alzheimer’s Association), but long-term benefits of this ride will go to nationwide research. What is good for one state is good for all states, as far as research and finding cures goes,” he remarked. “My goal is to ultimately end this disease and it doesn’t matter to me which state gets the short-term benefits because helping patients with Alzheimer’s is helping patients with Alzheimer’s. The end results will be on a national scale that will help everyone.”

If you would like to make a donation to Kiser’s donations page, visit

For more information about Alzheimer’s visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at