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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 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 Kota’s blog on CaringBridge can be accessed at

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

To register for the walk, visit 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.

Finding a Great Home

August 12, 2014

When Rachel Scheopner, 15, from Oak Ridge, decided she wanted to volunteer at a local animal rescue, Finding Great Homes Rescue, she didn’t know she would be giving one of the rescues a forever home.

Rachel’s mom, Jennifer, said Rachel first started volunteering at Finding Great Homes Rescue earlier this summer.

“She wants to eventually be a veterinarian,” she remarked.

Rachel explained that she volunteers at the rescue once or twice a week.

“When I am there I walk dogs, wash them, and play with them,” she said, noting that she hopes to be able to continue volunteering on the weekends after school starts.

Jennifer said they already have a dog, a six-year-old schnoodle named Olive, but their family had been thinking about getting another dog for a while.

“We thought Rachel was ready to take on that responsibility as the main caregiver of the dog,” she said, noting they weren’t looking for another schnoodle in particular, but that is the type of dog they fell in love with. “With our first dog, we had done a lot of research and found that schnoodles were good family dogs, which you want when you have young children. They don’t shed; they’re good with children; and they’re intelligent. They’re just all around good dogs.”

Jennifer has three children, including Rachel, and two sons, Nicholas, 17, and Jacob, 10.

Rachel said she actually wanted a large adult female dog because she didn’t want to have to train a puppy.

“When I saw Elvis, he was just so cute,” she stated.

Jennifer said they also wanted to make sure Olive would get along with the new dog.

“We brought our older dog to the rescue to see if they would get along and she was afraid of some of the bigger dogs, but was indifferent to Elvis because he was small and didn’t pose a threat,” she explained.

Jennifer and Rachel said Elvis was lucky having been brought to the rescue as a puppy.

“We got there about an hour after he arrived, but it took us a few days to decide if he was the right fit for our family,” Jennifer explained. “Elvis has been home for a couple of weeks with us.”

Jennifer said with Olive they had a little bit of trouble going through housetraining, so they decided to send Elvis to a trainer for housetraining, basic obedience and how to walk on a leash.

Rachel noted that he is a very well tempered dog, just like Olive.

“He’s really gentle for a puppy and doesn’t bite. He’s cute and he’s funny. He learns fast and has already learned some tricks,” she said.

“I like that he is already blending well with our family,” added Jennifer.

Jennifer and Rachel both agreed they were glad they adopted a dog from Finding Great Homes Rescue.

“I feel that they are a lot more hands on with the dogs than at a regular animal shelter,” Rachel noted from experience.

“It’s very clean and the dogs get a lot of room and playtime outside,” Jennifer added. “The owner keeps the dogs, the cages and the yard very clean and the dogs seem to be socialized very well.”

Robin Manly, owner of Finding Great Homes Rescue, said starting the rescue wasn’t intentional.

“We opened in July of 2009, but we never really decided to open one,” she said, noting that they started out by searching for homes for 40 Jack Russell Terriers, all of which she found homes for. “People still wanted dogs when we ran out, so I started looking at a shelter for Jack Russell Terriers that needed to be rescued for people to adopt.”

Eventually, Manly branched out and began rescuing all types of dogs, though she often looks for those that are easy tempered and great for families with children.

“I still rescue Jack Russell Terriers, but not everyone can take care of them, so over the years I started taking on more and more breeds and learning about them so I am knowledgeable about them.”

Manly noted that she is licensed and inspected by the state for 25 dogs, and is glad she didn’t opt to be licensed for more.

“It’s easier to take care of 25, but it gets crazy if you take on many more than that. It seems 25 is the tipping point,” she said, adding that she lives on the premises with the dogs. “Because I live at the facility, I really know the dogs and because I am an executive recruiter that hires people for Fortune 500 companies, I am good at matching people and families with a dog that fits them really well.”

Since she opened in 2009, Manly said she has rescued 4,200 dogs.

For more information about Finding Great Homes Rescue, call 336-414-1373, send an email to or visit

Global Heart Meditation

July 31, 2014

Felicia Katsilis is offering a free four-week meditation class, Global Heart Meditation, in order for people to reap the benefits from it.

If you met Katsilis today, you would think she’s outgoing, but that hasn’t always been the case.

Katsilis explained that in the past, she suffered from social anxiety disorder and depression, but after learning how to meditate she was able to overcome those obstacles.

“After I started meditating, I was able to go up and talk to people and now I enjoy talking to people. I didn’t think I did before,” she said. “I also used to be really angry all the time and now I don’t react to people’s anger and am no longer angry.”

Not only has Katsilis noticed the change in her personality, but she said others have as well.

“People who know me have said they can see the positive changes in how I react to people (and situations),” she remarked. “It’s nice to not be a slave to your emotions. I am able to naturally control them now without any effort.”

Katsilis said she first learned about meditation from a friend in high school.

“My anxiety with tests was so bad in high school that even though I knew the material, I wouldn’t do well on my tests,” she remarked.

Katsilis said she saw one of her friends in a state of meditation one day before class and she asked her what she was doing. After trying it one day before a test, Katsilis said she actually did better.

Since then, Katsilis has taken all types of mediation classes, looking for one that worked for her, and has learned that not all meditation is alike.

“I have done Oprah’s 21 day meditation challenge, guided meditation from other teachers, and other forms of meditation,” she explained. “I have tried pretty much every type of meditation except transcendental mediation because it is so expensive. I feel that meditation shouldn’t have to be expensive, that anyone can do it.”

Katsilis said most of the meditation classes she has taken have felt nice, but none of them seemed to work for her until she found a form of guided meditation, where she could pick her guide and where she wanted to go.

After having done meditation more consistently for the past five years and seeing its benefits, Katsilis decided she wanted to share its benefits with others.

“After a couple of years of sticking with it and seeing the benefits, I thought about sharing with other people. I felt that if other people learned how to meditate, it would help alleviate their stress,” she explained. “We live in a very stressful time, and I wanted to share this with others.”

Along with some of the benefits she has experienced, Katsilis named a few other benefits of meditation: helps sleep, eases stress and anxiety, physically changes the brain, reduces depression, decreases pain, boosts cognitive function, builds focus and concentration, helps relationship satisfaction, fosters a healthy body image, boosts immune system, lowers blood pressure, and more. All of these have been backed by studies and were published in an article by the Huffington Post. The article can be found at or on Katsilis’ website,

“It can also help someone stop smoking or drinking,” Katsilis added.

Katsilis said the type of meditation she offers is for everyone who is interested in trying it.

“With this type of meditation, you don’t have to change your spirituality and you don’t have to learn a new philosophy like you do with other types of meditation,” she said. “A lot of people think of meditation as new age or Buddhist, but learning meditation can be neutral.”

Katsilis said wherever a person is in their life, the type of meditation she offers can help guide a person where they want to go in life and meet their individual needs.

“People have their individual experiences, so their meditation should be individual too,” she remarked.

Katsilis explained that during the free Global Heart Meditation class, she will ask participants to pick a place that is safe and comfortable and then she will begin guiding them from there.

“They get to decide where that safe and comfortable place is,” she said, noting she had a horrible experience in the past from someone else picking where she would begin her meditation from visually.

She also explained that during each class, she will have participants do something different and work them up to learning how to meditate on their own.

Katsilis said the reason she chose to make the class a four week class is because, according to research, it takes that long to learn a new habit.

“It takes between 21 to 30 days to develop a habit. This class will help people develop the habit of meditating on a regular basis,” she said.

The classes will be offered at the Walkertown Library, starting on Friday, August 1 as well as the following three Fridays, August 8, 15, and 22 from 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Another class will be held at the Central Library in Winston-Salem, starting Monday, August 4 as well as the following three Mondays, August 11, 18, and 25 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

For more information about Global Heart Meditation or to register for a class, visit, send an email to or call 336-310-5828.

Quen Taylor Blood Drive

July 31, 2014

“You just don’t know how good it feels when you are laying in a hospital and see that unit of blood coming through the door. Giving blood is the most wonderful thing you can do, everyone can try. The recipient can’t duplicate the gift they have received…the gift of life.” – Quen Taylor

The 14th Annual Quen Taylor Blood Drive is one of Kernersville’s longest standing and largest blood drives, and organizers hope the community turns out to honor the words of the late Quen Taylor.

“This is one of the biggest things we do here in the community,” said Christine Duvall, branch manager of Bank of North Carolina, a founding sponsor of the blood drive. “It is an easy way to help save lives. You may never know when you’re going to need blood, and it is important to keep this drive going and that the people know it’s happening. It’s also important for the family to keep Quen’s name alive and all the work he did.”

Taylor passed away in 2001, but left a legacy that lives on today, especially regarding just how important it is to give blood.

Taylor was known as the “voice” of Wake Forest University (WFU) basketball and football, where he was an announcer for 27 years. He was diagnosed with acute leukemia in 1998. Due to the severity of the leukemia, he sometimes needed to receive four or five pints of blood a day through blood transfusions.

Despite his condition, Taylor never let it detract from his love of covering WFU games. In fact, he was even known by friends and family to convince his doctors to allow him to leave the hospital to cover a game and then return in time to finish a treatment.

Kernersville resident Wayne Mabe counted himself among Taylor’s friends. During a visit to Taylor in the hospital, Mabe asked him if there was anything he could do. Taylor replied, “Make sure people keep giving blood.”

“Quen always said people didn’t really know what it was like to see a nurse bring in a unit of blood for transfusions because he felt it was the unit of life,” Mabe said. “So he encouraged me to make sure people give blood.”

That’s exactly what Mabe decided to do, organizing the first memorial blood drive in Taylor’s honor not long before his friend’s passing in 2001. In the years since, hundreds have continued to support the annual effort, with almost 2,000 units of blood collected over the last 14 years.

This year’s blood drive will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Kernersville, located at 401 Oakhurst St. Its arrival couldn’t come soon enough for the American Red Cross.

On July 25, the Red Cross announced it is facing a looming blood shortage, leading to an urgent need for donors of all types to roll up a sleeve and give. Nationally, donations were down about eight percent over the last three months, resulting in about 80,000 fewer donations than expected, said a spokesman for the organization.

Platelet donors and blood donors with types O negative, B negative and A negative blood are especially needed. Type O negative is the universal blood type and can be transfused to anyone who needs blood. Types A negative and B negative can be transfused to Rh positive or negative patients.

With schools out of session and many regular donors busy or on vacation, it’s important to remember that patients don’t get a break from needing blood — the need is constant.

Donations during last year’s blood drive were down from about 175 in 2012 to 132 pints in 2013. Duvall said that this year, the drive hopes to collect between 130 and 140 pints, but in year’s past that number has been well over 200 pints.

Duvall encourages anyone planning to attend the blood drive to call and schedule an appointment. Appointments can be made by calling (336) 996-1776.

All presenting donors will receive two free tickets to either a WFU basketball or football game. There will also be drawings for two $50 Visa cards, with one taking place during the morning hours and another in the afternoon.

Operation: Back Pack

July 31, 2014

For one local doctor, seeing children unprepared for the start of the school year due to limited resources is one of the most frustrating and heartbreaking sights. That is why he is asking the Kernersville community to support the fourth annual Operation: Back Pack.

Dr. Chad McIntyre and his staff at the Triad Upper Cervical Clinic will be accepting back packs and school supplies at their office, located at 432-A West Mountain St., between now and Wednesday, Aug. 20. People can drop off their items between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“This project is near and dear to my heart,” said McIntryre, who noted that all of the items will be delivered to Kernersville Elementary School (KES) in time for their open house on Thursday, Aug. 21. “We want our teachers and students to be focused on instruction rather then worrying about having the supplies they need.”

McIntyre said Operation: Back Pack has steadily grown each of the past three years. They collected 76 back packs the first year, 90 in their second year and 144 last year. McIntyre said the project receives support from people all across the state and region. He explained that many of his patients, who come from as far away as Wilmington, Raleigh and surrounding states, will bring materials with them to their appointments or send care packages to the students at KES.

“Last year, we had someone stop by our office and ask if this was where they could bring school supplies to help the children. When we said yes, she carried in all kinds of back packs filled with supplies,” McIntryre said. “It was overwhelming to see that kind of support from our local community. She didn’t even have children of her own.”

McIntryre said by mid-August, he hopes the floor of his office is covered in back packs and school supplies. McIntryre said these students – and their teachers – work so hard every year to outpace their goals, and he doesn’t want the lack of basic school supplies to stall their progress.

“By doing our part to help, we know every child at Kernersville Elementary is starting off the year on the right foot, and it will help put our teachers at ease too,” McIntyre said. “We want these families to know people care about them and their success.”

Some of the supplies that are needed include crayons, glue sticks, tissues, hand sanitizer and washable markers. Students also need wide-ruled loose leaf paper, composition spiral notebooks, No. 2 pencils, pencil pouches and pocket folders. The only item they cannot accept is back packs that have wheels.

“Our school district does a good job of including only the essentials on their back-to-school supply list, but for families with multiple children, this can still get expensive,” KES Principal Becky Carter said. “Receiving this kind of generosity from Dr. McIntyre, his patients and other community members goes a long way in helping our families. We distributed all 144 back packs last year and will most likely need even more this year.”

She continued.

“Thank you to everyone for their support. I know the families who receive these supplies are very appreciative,” said Carter, who noted that all of the supplies are given away anonymously throughout the school year as needed.

For more information about Operation: Back Pack, contact Dr. McIntyre at (336) 992-2536.

Songs in Their Hearts

July 22, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Festival to Benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

July 22, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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