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The Stang Society

January 8, 2015

A local car club for owners of the iconic Ford Mustang in all its varied incarnations since its introduction to the American public more than 50 years ago is rapidly growing in numbers thanks in no small part to the power of social media.

The club was created by four area friends who just so happened to have each purchased a Mustang around the same time early last year. As they sat around and talked about their new interest one night, someone suggested they start a club. That’s when the Stang Society was born.

Those four friends were Justin Whapham and Derrick Rice, both of Kernersville, Nick Ring, of High Point, and Brandon White, of Delaware. Today, their club boasts thousands of followers on Instagram and weekly local meet ups can bring out dozens of other Mustang owners just as enthusiastic as they are about the famed pony car.

“We were just hanging out and someone said, ‘Let’s start a car club.’ Someone else said, ‘Let’s do it but if we do, make it big,’” recalled Whapham as he talked about what is becoming a growing group of Mustang lovers.

In order to promote their club, the four friends took to the Internet, using the photo sharing site Instagram to showcase photos of their cars. It didn’t take long for the club’s page to go from its four founders to soon over 6,000 followers. Today, the group offers regular contests, traveled to Mustang Week in Myrtle Beach this past July and held a meet up in Charlotte where about 70 cars and their owners attended.

“We just posted photos of our cars and this came from just a bunch of friends to people starting to like our stuff. Now we have over 6,000 who are asking us, ‘Hey, can you hold a meet,’” said Whapham. “It has spring boarded from a local car club in Kernersville to people all over knowing about us. We’ve linked up with a lot of good great people and we’re growing each day. At our first meet, we had four cars in the Bojangles’ parking lot and then fast forward to 70 cars in August in Charlotte. It’s so cool.”

As the Stang Society continues to gather steam and become more widely known, Whapham said he and his fellow co-founders would like to participate in charitable events and support causes that give something back to the community.

“We want to give back,” said Whapham.

Whapham said seeing the club grow each week over the last year has been fun to watch and he, Ring, Rice and White have had an amazing opportunity to meet a lot of really interesting people. It’s even opened doors for them in ways they didn’t think possible.

“We’ve met so many cool, really neat people, and it shows how powerful Instagram is, especially when it comes to car culture,” he said, noting that, Mustang parts catalog, has over 100,000 followers on its Instagram account.

Whapham has always been interested in photography and videography. Through the car club, he has been able to shoot some amazing photographs and video footage of the Ford Mustang and the enthusiasts who love it. He hopes one day to be involved with photography and videography through NASCAR, and Ring’s interest in media has only been reinforced through his marketing work with the Stang Society.

Anyone who owns a Mustang can be a member of the Stang Society, said Whapham. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Mustang that needs a complete overhaul, one that is used as an everyday vehicle or a Mustang in the most pristine of conditions that it is only taken out of the garage on special occasions.

“We love every Mustang. We’ve seen them all. They don’t have to be showroom quality to be a part of the club,” said Whapham.

Whapham said he and his friends hope to see their club gain a national following. That’s not too far-fetched a goal considering that the Stang Society is already reaching the masses on a regional level in the Southeast. He said they’ve even talked about someday holding a North Carolina car rally that stretches from Kernersville to Texas, where hundreds of Mustangs travel in a chain to their rally location.

“We’ve found our passion. We’d love to see it grow on a national scale. We want to do good with it. We want to show people that we’re a positive influence,” Whapham.

Since the onset of winter and colder outdoor temperatures, the club hasn’t held any meet ups regularly, but did get together on New Year’s Day for a photo shoot on Hwy. 66. The event turned into something of a cruise out, with members getting in their cars and driving from Sheetz to Bunker Hill United Methodist Church a little further south.

“It morphed into a cruise in, cruise out,” laughed Whapham.

He said as the weather improves in spring and summer, the club will become more active.

Those interested in learning more about the Stang Society can find the club’s Instagram page by searching Stangsociety, all one word on the site.

A Fitting Tribute

January 8, 2015

Two Kernersville police officers were among a sea of thousands who made the journey to New York City to pay their final respects to a fallen comrade during the funeral of NYPD Officer Wenjian Liu on Sunday, Jan. 4.

Officers Dave Mundy and Eddie Shumate, who are members of the Kernersville Police Department’s (KPD) honor guard, were able to arrange their schedules and then fly to New York courtesy of JetBlue airline, which offered to fly two officers from every law enforcement agency in the country to New York City for Sunday’s funeral.

“We were very fortunate to be able to attend,” said Shumate as he talked about the experience and the opportunity to show his respect and support for not only Officer Liu, who was killed execution-style along with his partner Officer Rafael Ramos on December 20 as they sat in their patrol car, but for all the officers of the NYPD.

Shumate said the reception he and Mundy received upon their arrival in New York City was moving.

“We packed up our honor guard uniforms and arrived early Sunday morning. We were met by a sergeant with the 113th Precinct and escorted to our hotel and then to the precinct. They were all very welcoming with open arms,” said Shumate.

Shumate, Mundy and other law enforcement officers from across the country were provided breakfast and lunch and then taken by bus to and from the funeral. The two stood in a crowd of thousands along the funeral route from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and watched and listened to the service from giant screens provided to those outdoors.

“We got to hear all the speakers on behalf of Officer Liu,” said Shumate. “We also got to participate in the last salute to Officer Liu as the processional came by. It was a very humbling experience to participate in that.”

As sad as the circumstances were that brought Shumate and Mundy to New York City, Shumate said it was a joyous experience at the same time to be among other officers from all over the United States and Canada.

“It was amazing. It was like we had an instant bond,” said Shumate, who has been with the KPD for five years.

Mundy, who will celebrate his seventh anniversary as a member of the KPD on January 9, said he wanted to be in New York City to show his support for his fellow officers.

“For most agencies, it’s a really tough time for law enforcement and citizens. We haven’t really seen that here (in Kernersville), but I wanted to be there to show that someone has their back and has support for them,” Mundy said.

Like Shumate, Mundy was moved by the experience.

“It was an exceptional and very humbling experience,” said Mundy. “It was almost like the NYPD officers were there for us and not the other way around. For the 24 hours we were in New York and Brooklyn, everywhere we went, we went in a patrol car.”

Mundy said as he and Shumate stood in the deep throng of officers gathered along the funeral procession route for Officer Liu, one thing he noticed was the camaraderie.

“Everywhere you turned, someone was thanking you for being there,” said Mundy.

This was Mundy’s first time attending a funeral for a fallen officer. The experience was one that he found difficult to find the right words to convey.

“It is hard to describe. It was something,” he said.

Officer Shumate expressed his appreciation for those at the KPD who helped make it possible for he and Officer Mundy to attend the NYC funeral.

“I am very thankful that Chief Cunningham allowed us to pursue this, as well as Captain Bowman and Captain Leonard and Carol Hauser,” Shumate said.

He also wanted to make mention of something Officer Wiu’s father talked about during the funeral service in describing how his son always called at the end of his shift to tell him he would be coming home okay.

“He would call him and tell him he had finished his shift and was coming home,” said Shumate of the possibility officers face of not coming home from work one day. “That’s what we all do when we walk out the door each day.”

Pay It Forward

December 19, 2014

Dottie Cornatzer teaches Occupational Course of Study (OCS) with the Exceptional Child program at East Forsyth High School (EFHS). She is a firm believer in community service and paying it forward, a philosophy she passes on to her students.

“Years ago, when I was a single mom and we were very poor, I needed help for my children during the holidays. We were able to reach out and get help through the Salvation Army and different organizations. Once I graduated from college and became a teacher I wanted to give back. I wanted my students to see what a difference they could make in their community. I wanted them to learn to pay it forward.”

Cornatzer has made good on her vow and leads her students in frequent community service activities. Recently, two groups of Cornatzer’s students have made an enormous impact on the community.

The Leo Club

On Sunday, December 14, the Leo Club (a junior affiliate of the Kernersville Lions Club) partnered with Outwest Steakhouse & Saddleroom to serve a hot meal at the Bethesda Center homeless shelter. The Leo Club is a volunteer service learning group at East Forsyth High School.

“The Leo Club is an international organization,” stated Cornatzer. “This is something that is far and wide and we, as members, try to make as big an impact on the community as possible. You know the saying by Ghandi, ‘Be the things you want to see in the world’? That’s the kind of people you see involved with the Leo Club.”

The club worked with Morris Chapel United Methodist Church in Walkertown to help coordinate the meal. Morris Chapel has a ministry that provides meals at the Bethesda Center. Caitlin Smith, Leo Club president and junior at EFHS, made the initial contact with Outwest Steakhouse and asked if they would donate the food. Morris Chapel then picked up the food and delivered it to the Bethesda Center, where 21 students and adults helped to serve a hot meal of beef tips, gravy, mashed potatoes, steamed green beans and carrots and mushrooms.

“I won’t say anyone actually cried,” confided Cornatzer, “but I saw a lot of people who were emotionally moved when they saw the food. They’re used to getting much simpler fare.”

Cornatzer said desserts were provided as part of the meal, too. The treats were donated by people in the community. A student named Victoria Rivera was instrumental in getting volunteers from outside of the club to bake desserts such as pumpkin bread, cupcakes, and brownies. In the end, there was enough food to provide not just an evening meal, but breakfast for the homeless as well.

“It is like the parable of the fish and the bread,” said Cornatzer. “The food just never ran out. The homeless ate, the staff ate, the volunteers ate, and it never seemed to run out. There was even enough left over for breakfast, so the people had a nice, full belly of warm, good food before hitting the streets again. I’d really love to give a big shout out to Outwest Steakhouse for all they did for these people.”

Students didn’t just feed the homeless, they provided them with warm hats they learned to make in the apparel crafts class at school. Student and Leo Club member Joyce Zhong headed up the effort to get the hats made in time to deliver them on Sunday.

Cornatzer encourages people to donate to the Bethesda Center. She said they don’t need food as much as they need other things, such as cleaning supplies, Clorox, laundry detergent, dish soap, paper towels, and personal hygiene items. Monetary gifts are also always welcome.

“We would love to have people participate as much as they can, if not with us, then with some other community service group such as Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, or whatever they feel comfortable with.”

She said the group’s next project is planned for January 10 at 9 a.m. The Leo Club will be working with Park Ranger Austin Paul at Hanging Rock State Park (weather permitting). They will be helping to clean and refurbish a newly acquired property called Camp Sertoma in Westfield, N.C. Everyone is invited to come and help.

The OCS Salvation

Army Volunteers

In addition to the Leo Club, Cornatzer and her co-teacher, Ashlyn Smith, encourage the students in her OCS classes to give back to the community. To date, the students have accumulated over 530 hours of community service learning hours by volunteering with the Salvation Army. The students go to the Salvation Army distribution center and go through the new toys people have donated for the Christmas Angel program. They sort the toys by age and gender and then fill each child’s Christmas Angel order. The students also help with the Red Stocking and Give a Kid a Coat program.

Christmas is not the only season Cornatzer’s students help the Salvation Army, but it’s a crucial time when the needs are high. She feels it sets the tone for the rest of the year for the students and thinks it helps them gain some perspective on their own lives.

“The Christmas season is where we get our big push so we can have our attitude of gratitude for the rest of the year. I try to teach my kids that life throws so many curveballs, but look how lucky we are. We still have a roof over our head and clothes on our back. It helps the kids to see how blessed they are,” she said.

During the rest of the year, Cornatzer’s students make birdhouses, pottery, and crafts, which they sell. The money they raise goes to help them pay for field trips or to buy clothing for job interviews or apprenticeships. Cornatzer explained that in her classroom, there is a clothes closet and a washer and dryer where students can obtain nice clothing for interviews or just wash what they have. She said this service is available every Friday to any student in the school, not just the OCS students.

“Food stamps don’t pay for laundry and personal hygiene items, so we have that here. Whatever the child needs, we try to fill that need,” she noted.

Several of Cornatzer’s students wished to comment on their experiences working with the Salvation Army.

James Cardwell said, “Thank you to Salvation Army for letting us come out and be a part of it.”

Matthew McCarroll added, “I get joy from helping other kids in the community and helping to give them the Christmas spirit.”

Paul Lowe contributed, “It’s fun to go and help children.”

“It’s a group effort,” Cornatzer pointed out. “Even HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) has helped. Everyone has been working together for the common good. I just can’t say enough about what all these kids are doing for our community. Paying it forward, that’s what it’s all about.”

To volunteer or to make a donation to the Bethesda Center Homeless Shelter, visit their website at or call (336) 722-9951.

To volunteer or make a donation to the Salvation Army visit their website at or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769).

Miracle League of High Point

December 9, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serving the Community

December 9, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Principal of the Year

October 15, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ooh Bra La La!

September 30, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tail Waggin’ Tutors

September 25, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All for Lanxton

September 25, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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