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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.

Benefit for Jennifer Lutz

July 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Andy said Jennifer’s reaction was to be expected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about the event, email Waite at

Missions Trip

July 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John said there were specialized programs within the Emanuel House.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John said they also passed out tracts and bracelets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gift of Love

July 1, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davis praised the ministry’s work.

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

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

Team AJ

June 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She said another concern is the portacath.

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

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

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

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

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

Others are rallying behind AJ through Facebook at and by selling Team AJ bracelets, which come in both adult and youth sizes and are yellow to represent childhood cancer.

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

All proceeds go to the Watt family for medical expenses.

If interested in placing an order, send an email to

Meeting Susie

June 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She brought healing to me,” said Lawrence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To find out about how to vote in the Hero Dog Awards, visit