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Miss Mary’s Parade

June 23, 2015

In a parade all their own, Kernersville children six and under will have the chance to march around Town Hall to celebrate Fourth of July during the annual Miss Mary’s Children’s Parade, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club.
The parade, which was started by Mary Mullinax, was first held in downtown Kernersville during the Farmers Market in 1983.
Mullinax, who was teaching preschool children at Main Street United Methodist Church at that time, said she was doing a project in which students painted flags for the holiday and finished off by having a parade in the church parking lot. Mullinax told the children they might be able to use their flag during the Kernersville Fourth of July Parade. However, the next day, one very unhappy little boy learned that he was too young to be in the parade, so Mullinax stuck to her word and invited children ages six and under to march around in their own parade at the Farmers Market’s former location in downtown Kernersville.
The parade, which was originally called the Children’s Parade, was changed to Miss Mary’s Children’s Parade in 1993 in honor of Mullinax, after the Kiwanis Club took over the event. Today, the parade averages anywhere from 40-75 children, depending on the weather.
Kiwanis Club member Bruce Boyer noted that as Kiwanis is a club that supports children, supporting Miss Mary’s Parade only seemed like the right thing to do.
“It really fits,” he said.
Since its inception, many Kernersville residents have enjoyed attending the parade, including David and Kristen Arnold and their youngest son, Justin, 3.
“Last year was our first year. We took our youngest son, Justin, who was two at the time,” David said. “He enjoyed getting to take home the flags and American flag beach ball.”
David shared that he personally enjoyed the size of the event.
“I enjoyed the closeness and smallness of it all. I also liked how the kids were made a part of the whole parade; they were the parade,” he stated. “It’s a great event because it focuses on the kids and teaches them what America is about. It helps our children learn to be proud.”
Boyer said he enjoys Miss Mary’s Parade for many reasons.
“I enjoy seeing the families come together and seeing children dressed in patriotic clothing and being pulled in a wagon by their mom and dad,” he said. “The children may not know much about patriotism, but they will remember it. Patriotism is learned and this reinforces at an early age how proud we are with the freedoms that we have.”
During Miss Mary’s Children’s Parade, the children march and ride around the Town Hall courtyard decorated with American flags.
During the event, children can see Uncle Sam and will receive a small American flag.
The parade will begin with a welcome from Mayor Pro Tem Joe Pinnix, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, Star Spangled Banner, and the crowning of the Kernersville Fourth of July queen, who will then lead the parade. This year’s Fourth of July Queen is Katie Lakey.
Children are encouraged to come dressed in red, white and blue to show off their patriotism and to ride in decorated wagons, strollers and tricycles.
Registration begins at 9 a.m. with the parade stating at 10 a.m. No pets and no motorized vehicles are allowed.
Editor’s note: To read the story about the Fourth of July Queen, see the Thursday, June 25 edition of the Kernersville News.

Special Olympics Competitor

June 23, 2015

Emma Wright recently competed at the state level in the Special Olympics, winning five gold medals.
Emma competes in the Special Olympics as a gymnast. She is a rising fourth grader at The North Carolina Leadership Academy.
“She started gymnastics when she was three-years-old as an outlet,” said her mom, Barbie Wright. “When she was little, she would grab onto things in the house and do pull ups, so we needed an outlet at a very early age.”
Emma started out attending Carolina Twisters, where Kernersville Parks and Recreation Department is located today, but now attends High Point Gymnastics Academy. She has been competing in the Special Olympics for the past three years, starting when she was eight-years-old.
“She did an exposition at the age of seven,” Barbie explained. “She went to all the meets and they scored her, but it was just more practice for her.”
Emma said she competes in four different events.
“I do beam, floor, bars and vault,” she shared. “My favorite is floor, but I also like bars a lot. I am happy when I am on bars.”
Emma practices one-and-a-half hours a week for gymnastics and another hour each week just for the Special Olympics.
“She trains with Coach Brittany Caroll at High Point Gymnastic Academy,” Barbie said. “They came to us and offered to train her at no cost to us.”
Emma mentioned that she enjoys training.
“I like practicing. It’s fun and it gets me in shape,” she said. “I like to do handstands and cartwheels.”
She noted that she had been learning and working on doing a round off back handspring and was successful at the move during the Special Olympics.
“During the Special Olympics, she did it perfectly for the first time,” Barbie shared.
Emma chimed in, “Nailed it!”
“It’s pretty rare for someone with Down syndrome to be able to do a round off back handspring, which makes it pretty awesome. She’s very flexible,” Barbie added, as Emma showed how she is double jointed by joining her hands and taking them from above her head, behind her back all the way down to her waist.
Emma discussed her routine for each event this year. On beam, she walked on the beam, turned around and stepped. Then turned around again, did an arabesque, bent over to touch the beam with one hand as she lifted one of her back legs in the air and then finished with a round off.
During the floor exercise, she performed to “Let It Go” from Frozen. She explained that she did a round off back hand spring, a cartwheel, handstand, front roll, jumped up, did a backwards roll, and did two back kick overs in a row.
“That’s when you go into a backbend and then kick your feet over,” Barbie explained. “That’s pretty impressive because it’s hard enough just doing one.”
On bars, Emma said she hung for a bit, then pushed away into a swing and then did a back hip circle on the low bar. On the high bar, she jumped up, swung, and dismounted.
“I think she got her highest score on the bars and the second highest in the floor exercise,” Barbie shared.
During vault, Emma said she ran and jumped onto the springboard and then did a handstand flat back off of the springboard.
Barbie said the scoring in Special Olympics is different than that of the Olympics.
“In the regular Olympics, they start at 10 and add points, but in the Special Olympics, it starts at 20 and they subtract points,” she shared. “They have both artistic and rhythmic gymnastics and hers is considered artistic.”
When she first started competing, Emma was competing at a level one, but soon rose to level three.
“She was in level one and her coaches suggested that she skip level two and go onto level three. In level three, she can use her own music and routine for the floor, but they give you elements you have to do,” she explained. “In her first year at level one, she won three gold medals and two silver medals.”
Barbie added that they had teams from Raleigh and Charlotte at the meet as well.
“We drove to Raleigh for the state meet,” Emma shared.
Barbie explained that on Friday night, they had a ceremony like in the actual Olympics, representing all of the sports and even lit a torch. The events were held on Saturday.
“This is her second year in a row that she got a gold medal in all of her events and one for all around, which is when they combine all of the scores,” Barbie explained. “The last two years she has done the best out of her age group.”
Although she won five gold medals, Barbie said she will not be heading to Nationals.
“For Nationals, you have to be invited so everyone gets a chance to participate,” she said.
Emma said she enjoyed competing in the Special Olympics.
“It made me feel happy to win. It was exciting,” she said, as she showed how she waved and gave a salute on the podium. “I want to keep doing it. It’s awesome.”
Barbie explained that next year, Emma will stay at level three and they will continue to add elements to each of her events to make them more advanced and to continue to challenge her.
“It will allow her to get extra points,” she said. “One thing we want to work on is to add a back tuck to the round off back hand spring.”

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.