Katy, TX Blog (June 5, 2017) – Seven Lakes High School graduate Caitlin Ricketts is now traveling the world modeling for top name brands
Written by Debbie McDaniel
As a young girl growing up in Katy, Texas, Caitlin Ricketts only dreamed of the life she’s now living as a model for the Wilhelmina Agency in New York City. “I love being from Katy and I’m so happy I have all of my family still in Katy to come home to,” she says. She grew up in Katy ISD, attending Roosevelt Alexander Elementary School, Beckendorff Junior High School, and Seven Lakes High School. “I have lived in New York City for years now, but Katy will always be my home and a place to bring me back to reality.”
A Big Break
Ricketts was introduced to modeling at a young age. “I started modeling when I was a baby for brands like Foley’s and Palais Royal and stopped when I was about 5 years old. It wasn’t until I was 14 when my older sister Chelsea convinced me to try it out again and go to an open call for Abercrombie.” Ricketts shares how she ended up booking the job, and saw that she loved it. “I realized then how much fun and exciting it was!” The Abercrombie job jump-started her career. “It just took off after that,” she adds. Ricketts went on to sign with the New York agency Wilhelmina Models when she was 16. She moved to NYC and has been there five years now, modeling full time. “Since then, I’ve worked for brands like CoverGirl, which was one of my big dreams, Maybelline, and Garnier, and have had the opportunity to live in so many amazing countries such as South Korea, London, Japan, and Australia,” she says.
Traveling, People, & Projects
She shares that while traveling is one of the most exciting parts of her job, it can also be one of the most challenging. “I’m thankful for the chance to travel the world, and even though it can be hard to be gone for months at a time, I wouldn’t change a thing about it,” says Ricketts, who has been to 26 countries in the last few years. “My next stop is Iceland and I can’t wait.” Another fun part of her career are the people and projects. “I have had the chance to work with so many talented people like Bruce Weber and Bobbi Brown. I also had the pleasure of being a part of so many fun ads for brands such as LeSportsac and Kendra Scott, and magazines like Glamour and Shape.”
A career in modeling may seem glamorous, but Ricketts still embraces the Texas girl she truly is. “I love Tex-Mex, burgers and fries, and of course, some good ole’ Texas barbeque,” she laughs. “I grew up going to the rodeo every year and spent Friday nights dancing with my high school drill team during football season. I still cheer on the Texans from NYC and am a big fan of JJ Watt.”
Ricketts says she treasures her family, and also loves a glass of red wine and an episode of Game of Thrones. A great sense of humor is vital in her life and industry, and she recalls one of her most embarrassing moments. “I embarrass myself daily, but one memory that sticks out the most is when I dropped a shampoo bottle in a store and it busted open. I then ended up slipping in the mess and falling on my face right in front of the checkout line.”
Being looked to as a fashion icon isn’t always easy, but she describes her style as a mix of being very feminine and girly one day, to being very tomboy and gothic the next. “My style is ever-changing,” she adds. Ricketts encourages other young women to embrace their dreams and go after them no matter how big or small they might seem. She says her favorite quote has always been, “Here’s to strong women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.” KM
- Glamour Magazine
- Seventeen Magazine
- Shape Magazine
- Kendra Scott
- Marie Claire Magazine
Katy, TX Blog (May 23, 2017) – From dining and dancing to shopping and painting, here are some of our favorite places to connect, unwind, or kick up your heels in Katy.
DINNER & DRINKS
LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch
23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd.
281-395-5533 | lacenterra.com
You can’t go wrong having dinner at local favorites like Dish Society or Las Alamedas. Take in social hour at Perry’s Steakhouse Monday through Friday from 4 to 9 p.m., or relax on the patio at World of Beer.
Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar
23139 Grand Circle Blvd.
832-430-2253 | whiskeycakekaty.com
Sorry boys, Wednesdays are all about the ladies. They have half off all wine bottles and glasses and other food and drink specials during their social hours on weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and 9 to 11 p.m.
Agave Rio Restaurant & Patio Oasis
1138 FM 1463
281-665-3337 | agaverio.com
This tropical patio oasis has an adults-only patio section with live music on weekends. Catch up over wine and yummy appetizers, and make sure to try their Agave Mule signature cocktail. You’ll feel like you’re at a resort!
The Cellar Door
829 S. Mason Rd.
281-599-3303 | cellardoorkaty.com
Jazz it up with a live performance by trumpeter Preston Smith every Sunday night at 6 p.m. They have incredible wine selections and a delectable menu.
Dekker’s Mesquite Grill
8506 Syms St., Fulshear
281-533-0909 | dekkersmesquitegrill.net
Dekker’s has a super spacious outdoor deck that’s perfect for a girls’ gatherings, great food, and happy hour Monday through Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m.
MidPoint Bar & Eatery
20920 Katy Fwy.
281-829-3749 | midpointbar.com
Fancy a milkshake? This local favorite features “adult” milkshakes in flavors like pineapple upside down, chocolate stout, and salted caramel in addition to an extensive wine and food menu.
Cinemark 19 and XD
1030 West Grand Pkwy. N.
281-371-6008 | cinemark.com
With their new plush comfy recliners, huge screens, and reserved seating options, Cinemark has it all…including cocktails!
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
531 S. Mason Rd.
281-492-6900 | drafthouse.com
Alamo has all of those classic “slumber party” movies like Clueless, Mean Girls, and Pretty in Pink, plus chairside service and a great menu make for an unforgettable evening.
A Painting Fiesta
6734 Westheimer Lakes N. Dr.
832-437-4359 | apaintingfiesta.com
Throw on a smock and enjoy one of their many fun, step-bystep painting classes. You can also decorate your very own wine glass with friends, so BYOB.
Arthur Murray Dance Studio
3750 S. Mason Rd.
832-916-5500 | dancelessonshouston.com
Schedule a girlfriends’ group class and have a great time learning salsa, line dancing, and more.
No Label Brewing Co.
5351 1st St. 281-693-7545 | nolabelbrew.com
Schedule a tour of the brewery to find out how craft beers are made or participate in one of their Paint on Tap events.
5614 2nd St.
281-391-2299 | ktantiques.net
Venture to historic Katy and check out the vintage treasures at KT Antiques. Fun collectibles, jewelry, decor, dishware, vintage signage, and much more.
TEA & TREATS
Leafology Tea Lounge
9006 S. Fry Rd. | 832-913-8707 27131
Cinco Ranch Blvd. | 832-913-6030
Leafology has elegaant padded booth seating, free wifi, and too many delicious specialty teas, smoothies, and slushies to list. They also have affordable food. A dozen of their famous potstickers costs only $3.59! Hang out as long as you like.
3522 S. Mason Rd.
281-392-2203 | proudpie.com
For girls with a sweet tooth, Proud Pie serves delicious, amazing pies in flavors like bananas foster, snickerdoodle, state fair caramel apple, and bourbon pecan, to name a few. They sometimes offer Pie Bingo so call ahead!
1645 Winding Hollow Dr.
832-321-5849 | cocohodo.us
Cocohodo is known for their Korean walnut-shaped pastries, but they also serve specialty crepes and liquid nitrogen ice cream for every palate. KM
Katy, TX Blog (May 22, 2017) – LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch will now be offering shuttle and valet to the public for free.
- Valet: Thursday – Sunday, 4 – 11 p.m.
- Shuttle: Daily, 12 – 8 p.m.
Courtesy of LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch
Katy, TX Blog (May 8, 2017) – After weighing two pounds at birth and suffering multiple organ failures, Logan Buelna proves that life is worth fighting for
Written by Meagan Clanahan | Select photography by Candace Cook
For Dr. Molly Obergfell and Dr. David Buelna, the early stages of their first pregnancy with their son Logan was picture perfect by all medical standards. After meeting at Kingsland Animal Hospital where they were both employed as veterinarians and subsequently marrying in 2013, they were overjoyed to be expecting their first son. They never expected the twists and turns that would come when he burst onto the scene in the early hours of June 18, 2015.
It was early June when Molly started to feel like something wasn’t right. One Saturday she landed in the hospital, but was sent home being told she had Braxton Hicks contractions. The next week she noticed that she felt extremely sluggish, but chalked it up to working long hours and not knowing what to expect during a first pregnancy. Little did she know that she would find herself in the emergency room fully dilated at just 25 weeks pregnant. Her doctors at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital did everything they could to slow down delivery including doses of magnesium and steroids, but it was too late. Logan David Buelna made his appearance weighing in at a tiny 2 lbs., 2 oz. and 13 inches long. Molly tearfully recalls those first moments. “They took him immediately to intubate him and get him stabilized,” she remembers. “There was plastic stuff all around him and I could barely see him.” Because the NICU at the local hospital could not accommodate a micro preemie, plans were immediately made to chopper him to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Medical Center. “I was still recovering, so I had to stay behind while David made the trip with Logan,” she says. “I had one chance to see him and he grabbed my finger before they left. Not being with my baby was the longest night of my life.”
Seven long days passed before they were even able to hold their precious son using skin-to-skin, a.k.a kangaroo care. A few weeks into their NICU journey, he went into congestive heart failure because his PDA (patent ductus arteriosus) never fully closed, thus leading to multiple organ shut down, including his liver and kidneys. The Buelnas made the difficult decision to transfer Logan to Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) for heart surgery on his PDA. Once at TCH, doctors were able to stabilize him, repair his heart, and get the rest of his organs functioning again. From there, it became a feeding and growing game, as well as also working on his ability to breathe without the use of the CPAP and oxygen.
The Will to Fight
While both David and Molly spent every weekend at the hospital with Logan, Molly was the primary caregiver for Logan during his NICU stay while David held down the work front. She spent weeks pumping precious breast milk for Logan, setting her alarm every three hours for a session, day and night. With the exception of a few frightening nights, the Buelnas made a deal that she needed to come home every night, but she was right back crib side every morning for rounds to catch up on the latest news. “Just seeing our baby down there, it broke my heart to leave him every day,” she recalls. “He was fighting so hard, you could see it. He wanted to be with us. I was his advocate, I had to be there. His will to live was my will to fight.”
As his official due date drew nearer, Molly and David began to breathe sighs of relief. After passing his mandatory carseat test with flying colors and receiving good news on his retinal optic tests, it was finally time to go home, three and a half months after their journey began. After stocking their freezer with over 400 bags of breast milk from Molly, the family was finally released from TCH with their tiny fighter weighing almost five pounds more than he did at birth.
One would never guess today that Logan had such a tumultuous start. While still on the smaller side of the charts, he is a rambunctious, happy, and healthy 19-month-old who is the resident comedian of the household and a daddy’s boy through and through. He has surpassed all medical expectations and was released from all outside therapies including occupational and physical. The future is bright for this little warrior and he’s especially enamored with his new little brother, Eli, whom his parents welcomed full term in November 2016. KM
Katy, TX Blogs (May 5, 2017) – “After 26 years in international education, one of the things I have enjoyed the most has been the rich, diverse and rewarding discussions with colleagues around the world. One of the common themes across Nord Anglia Education in recent years has been, how do we educate our students for their future?
Part of that discussion has been increasingly around the design of school buildings and learning environments. How can we expect to develop learning to meet the needs of 21st century learners when the buildings we work in still follow the same ‘industrial’ concepts used for years?
So, imagine being given the opportunity to be part of designing, building and opening a brand new, state-of-the-art, ‘school of the future’. Along with the Nord Anglia Corporate Development team and lead architect, Ed Schmidt, that’s exactly what we just did in Houston.
The basic premise was quite simple, instead of building a school around a standardized model of education and the requirements of teachers and teaching, what happens if you build it around the varied and personal needs of learners and their learning?
The usual concept for school buildings has traditionally been classrooms, each belonging to a teacher, all connected by corridors. Students move from room to room either based on their age or based on the subject they are being taught at that time. Rooms, furniture, displays are usually fixed. Of course, this model matches the traditional, industrialized and standardized model for education that has been in place for many years. In addition, rectangular boxes, joined by straight corridors are cheap and easy to build.
But, the real world does not work in isolation and we know that learners do not learn best in isolated classrooms. Connectivity is everywhere and modern schools must be willing to adapt.
Imagine the conversation with our teachers a few years ago. It went something like:
We are going to have a new campus (lots of cheers).
But, teachers will not have their own classrooms (fewer cheers).
There will not even be offices for individual administrative staff (even fewer cheers).
There will be no teacher’s desks, teacher’s white boards or even fronts to rooms (deafening silence and obvious shock in the room).
I have to give full credit to our staff. They have been incredibly open minded, hardworking and willing to try new ideas. This transition could have been very tough without such a team and they deserve a great deal of the credit.
Our new 275,000 square foot campus opened this summer. Spanning 34 acres and accommodating over 2000 students, the school features an array of facilities and exciting learning areas that enrich the student experience.
- The entire campus was designed and built around the varied and personal needs of learners and their learning
- All learning spaces are variable and flexible
- Teachers are not assigned to a specific room. Instead the campus is built in ‘neighborhoods’ to which teachers are assigned
- Each neighborhood has eight learning spaces, with flexible and moveable furniture
- Learning environments within neighborhoods can be adapted, changed and developed to support teacher and student needs
- Many teachers allow the students to design the learning environment most appropriate for the learning at that moment
- The interior is mainly glass, very transparent and very light
- Each neighborhood has a variety of floor to ceiling collaborative writing walls, interactive projectors as well as large screen TVs
- All projectors and TVs are connected wirelessly via Apple TVs; this 1:1 environment allows any student to project their work in any place at any time
One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is that every time I walk around the building the layout is different. The neighborhoods change every hour, depending on the needs of the learners.
Architectural Learning Concept
In his book ‘From the Campfire to the Holodeck: Creating Engaging and Powerful 21st Century Learning Environments,’ David Thornburg talks about the need to create a balance in spaces such as caves, campfires, watering holes and mountain tops. Each has a particular learning function, from quiet reflection to research, discussion, collaboration and presentation.
Similarly, every area in our school purposefully has possibilities.
The center of the building is the Agora, the Greek ‘Market Place’ where anyone can come to share ideas, research and collaborate. This is the heart of the building, from where you can see the whole school in motion. The glass allows visibility in to all learning spaces and sometimes I just like to sit here and observe.
At any time in the Agora you will see younger children reading, older students researching, a class being taught, teachers lesson planning and a few parents chatting over a coffee, all at the same time. You will also see several administrators working, since this has become the chosen ‘office space’ for the leadership team. It’s a great place to be easily found.
While we need more time and a larger study to measure the full impact of the new learning environment, some things have been immediate and obvious. We have had many visitors come in the new facility since it opened and everyone seems to have the same feedback: students in all year groups are highly engaged and move around the building with a high level of purpose and ownership of their learning.
This is very clear to all of us who work in the building on a daily basis. We need to study it in more detail, but we believe it has a lot to do with the fact that the entire building is built for learners; it is their school. In this school, learning is not something that is done to students. Instead, it is something that we empower our students to embrace and nurture, encouraging them to take responsibility for their individual growth on every level.
I have to say that this project has surpassed our expectations in many areas. We learned so much from our NAE colleagues around the world and from visiting other schools, so we would like to warmly invite anyone who is in the area to come and take a look. We never get tired of showing people around.”
Courtesy of Andrew Derry, BISH Principal
Katy, Texas (May 2, 2017) – The Katy Flyer was built by American Car & Foundry in 1953 as 44-seat coach No. 5468. It was renamed the Katy Flyer in 1993.
In 1896, the Missouri Kansas & Texas Railroad announced the inauguration of the Katy Flyer, with service between St. Louis, Mo., and southwest Texas. By 1905, “The Fast Train to St. Louis” raced between Galveston, Texas, and St. Louis in about 37 hours. The Flyer carried a boilerbuffet-sleeper for the convenience of those passengers who wished to have their meals served aboard the train. Other passengers were permitted to detrain at Parsons, McAlester or Dallas, Texas, to eat at the company-owned dining station where “the price is only fifty cents and the railway spares no pains or expenses to please the most fastidious.”
By the mid-1920s, the Texas Special and Katy Limited were receiving most of the attention on the Katy. Nevertheless, Nos. 5 and 6 still carried the St. Louis-to-Galveston passengers, handling not fewer than six sleepers, many of them destined for San Antonio, which Katy proclaimed “The Winter Playground of America.” In 1936, for the Texas centennial, the temporarily renamed Katy Centennial Flyer carried tourists to a variety of celebrations on the Katy’s service area.
By the end of World War II, the Katy Flyer was on a downward slide, meal services were cut back, and by 1961 the train name disappeared, with Nos. 5 and 6 offering only coach service. All passenger service ended June 30, 1965. Nonetheless, Katy and its passenger train service played an important role in opening and promoting the Texas Southwest. No Katy train was more prominent in this effort than the Katy Flyer.
Courtesy of Union Pacific
Katy, TX (April 26, 2017) – Katy ISD namesake and career educator, Catherine Bethke, continues to fuel a love for reading and passion for learning in students.
Written by Lacey Kupfer Wulf | Select photography by Anetrius Wallace
Catherine “Gigi” Bethke has devoted her life to young children, literacy, and reading. She developed reading intervention programs and a literacy library to help all students feel the same love of reading she has, allowing her to reach students beyond her kindergarten class. Carrie Lowery, principal of Catherine Bethke Elementary (CBE), adds, “When students are comfortable with literacy skills, their world is opened up for learning geared toward their passions.” It is little wonder why Bethke was chosen as the namesake for Katy ISD Elementary 39, which opened in August 2016.
As the sixth of 12 children, Bethke had plenty of practice teaching – helping her younger siblings with homework, and reading aloud with them. That love of teaching never faded. She says, “Even now at Bethke Elementary, my enthusiasm for teaching is renewed when I look into the beautiful faces of the children, hear their sweet voices, and feel their arms around my waist.”
A Special Gift
Bethke’s reading programs included more than just reading books, “We read daily affirmations, recited jivy jingles to help them with word attack skills, and sang songs to help them with comprehension in addition to standard reading practice.” These other activities not only helped students improve their reading skills, but also built students’ confidence in their ability to learn. “She has a gift for making everyone feel special,” adds Lowery. As Bethke’s former student and special education resource and in-class support teacher at Bethke Elementary, Christin Puyol adds, “When you go through your teaching certification courses, they often ask you to picture your favorite teacher and think about what you liked most about that class. I always pictured Mrs. Bethke’s class because I felt so welcome.
Through the reading intervention program REACH (Reaching Empowers All Children), which she created and coined, Bethke has learned how to help those students in first through fifth-grade who have negative feelings about reading and learning in general. She says, “An educator needs to take the time to build a trusting relationship with kids so they will be willing to put forth their best efforts.” She also believes that preventing these negative feelings from developing in the first place is the best course of action. “In the beginning it is necessary for the teacher to accept and celebrate small successes because they lead to reading gains.” Bethke’s example and experiences show that this teaching philosophy works.
“When I was told that a school would be named in my honor, I felt blessed, humbled, and amazed,” Bethke says. “I feel a huge responsibility to help CBE become another successful Katy ISD campus.” She is already impressed by the strong leadership, dedicated teachers, and parental involvement. “I am very proud of this beautiful school and I am delighted to have a permanent link to Katy ISD.” Even the kids have had to adjust to the new school name and mascot. Bethke says, “It is not unusual to see and hear some of the sweet kindergarten or first-grade students eagerly waving and smiling at me as they call out, ‘Hi, Mrs. Bison!’ or ‘Hi, Bethke Bison!’”
Even after retiring in 2012, Bethke continues to volunteer at Alexander Elementary, where her two granddaughters attend school, and Bethke Elementary three times a week tutoring, reading to classes, and teaching junior achievement. “Every time I hear her read a book to students, it reminds me of the excited feelings I had in kindergarten during story time,” Puyol adds. Bethke also works as a substitute GT proctor for Katy ISD. “I still want to be involved in a school setting as long as I feel I can contribute effectively,” she says. For Bethke, teaching has many rewards. “When struggling readers beam with pride because they can read a word today that they didn’t know yesterday, or when they leave the classroom hugging a book they can read, it is extremely gratifying,” she says. “I think my favorite is just four simple words: I love you, teacher.” KM
Katy, TX (April 13, 2017) – One of the most commonly used modalities in stretching routines is the foam roller, which mimic a therapist’s myofascial release techniques and has been shown to increase range of motion, reduce soreness, improve tissue recovery and decrease the overall effects of stress placed on the body. Rollers come in several different lengths, densities and surface structures.
When to Use
Foam rolling should be done before dynamic or static stretching exercises to increase body temperature and improve the tissue’s ability to lengthen during a stretch.
How to Use
When using the foam roller before exercise, roll eight to 10 times at a moderate pace along the muscle and follow with dynamic stretching. When using post-exercise, slowly roll the targeted area until the most tender spot is found. Hold on that targeted area for 20 to 30 seconds until discomfort is reduced. If discomfort becomes intolerable, back off the area.
The most common troubled areas cyclists experience are the iliotibial bands (IT bands), hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, hip adductors, calves and the back. These areas are very susceptible to tightness, which can lead to injury. With rigorous training programs and competitions it is vital that these areas are addressed to decrease the chances of injury and potentially increase performance.
Individuals who have been medically diagnosed or are experiencing symptoms related to osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, varicose veins or pregnancy, or who are unsure about their condition, should consult a physician before beginning to apply soft-tissue therapy.
Courtesy of Memorial Hermann Hospital
Katy, TX (March 29, 2017) – Katy Magazine gives a shout-out to all the good news happening in our community.
Compiled by Katy Magazine’s Editors
Katy ISD’s Lunch Angel
An anonymous donor contributed $650 to pay off negative balances for free and reduced lunch students at Mayde Creek Junior High, Cardiff Junior High, Mayde Creek Elementary, and Mayde Creek High School.
Katy Million Meal Pack-A-Thon
Host churches Redeemer Community Church, The Fellowship, and Westland Baptist Church held an event where 626,000 Feed the Hunger meal packages were packed by 2,500 Katy area volunteers.
Katy High School Faculty
Faculty and staff raised $4,450 to donate to The Ballard House.
Katy ISD’s Santa Cops program helped 674 children and more than 330 families by providing toys and clothing.
The chicken finger restaurant sold white plush puppies to patrons. The sales of the puppies went to help the animals at Special Pals Shelter.
Fort Bend Rancher’s Ball
The ball raised almost $290,000 through the hard work and dedication of Katy residents as well as Commissioner Andy Meyers. The money has been donated to Katy Christian Ministries, Simonton Christian Academy, and Katy Contemporary Arts Museum.
Watercrest at Katy
Residents of Watercrest at Katy raised $1,746 to donate to Katy Christian Ministries.
During an evening charity event, the upscale clothing boutique donated 20% of its sales to Clothed by Faith.
Cinco Ranch Giving Circle
The members, made up of Katy area residents, collected $1,521 to donate to Child Advocates of Fort Bend.
Employees brought clothing items to their company party and donated everything to Hope Impacts.
The company collected teddy bears to donate to the Joe Joe Bear Foundation.
Fulshear Police Department
For every Red, White, & Rescue calendar sold, the police department donated funds to Special Pals Shelter.
Camp Bow Wow
Katy Employees and patrons dropped off pet food, toys, and other needed items for animals in foster care.
Monty Ballard YMCA at Cinco Ranch
The health and fitness club partnered with Cigna to offer free health screenings to help people find out their four health numbers: blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and BMI.
BH Hair Studio
The salon gave away free makeovers to five lucky patrons.
Girl Scout Troop 129068
Scouts prepared pancakes, bacon, and eggs for dinner, then served them to residents at The Ballard House.
Katy Triathlon at Firethorne
The event raised more money than expected and is increasing scholarships from $1,500 to $2,000.
Houston Methodist West Hospital
Volunteers from the hospital visited families delivering teddy bears donated by Beckendorff Junior High, tigers from Katy Junior High, and blankets donated by National Charity League Katy Chapter.
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Katy, Texas (March 22, 2017) – Officer Luis Santiago with the Katy ISD Police Department delivered 20 “Teddy Cop” Bears to some of our students today! Their goal is to give every PPCD, ECAP, YCAP, Lifeskills & TIP child in our school district a Police Officer Teddy Bear … specialized with a uniform and Katy ISD Police Officer badge!
In the first 5 months since the program was started, they raised over $11,000 to purchase 497 bears for students at 23 KISD elementary schools. They still need to purchase about 600 more bears for 14 more of the KISD elementary schools.
We are asking for your help to PAY IT FORWARD! Please consider making a donation for this wonderful program! You may send donations to the NCE front office. We will accept cash or checks (payable to Katy ISD), or you may purchase a gift card from the Build-a-Bear Workshop at Katy Mills Mall where the bears are made.
Here are a few pictures from this morning! More pictures can be seen by visiting the Nottingham Country Elementary School Official Facebook page.
Thank you in advance for your help, and thank you Katy ISD Police Department for the bears!!
Courtesy of Katy ISD
Katy, TX (February 27, 2017) – Parker Brown, a 5-year-old Katy boy with hydrocephalus who loves cars and blowing bubbles, shows others that living with a disease can’t stop him from enjoying life.
Written by Lana Timbs | Select photography by Christi Harwell
The path of life is different for every family, with unique plans for everyone. A big part of the Brown family plan was revealed over five years ago, when Dave and Leah Brown found out they were going to be the parents of a very special little boy.
At Leah’s 20-week ultrasound, where doctors commonly check the anatomy of the growing baby inside the mom, it showed that Parker had an excess of fluid in his brain, a condition called congenital hydrocephalus. The fluid surrounding Parker’s brain was not allowing his brain to grow as a normal one would, and was causing great damage. Fluid was pushing his brain to the outside of his skull, making the brain appear almost non-existent.
Parker Mason Brown was born at 36 weeks on September 16, 2011 via C-section. Two days after his birth, Parker had his first brain surgery, where the doctors removed two pounds of fluid, and inserted a brain shunt. A shunt is a device with tubing that allows the cerebrospinal fluid from the brain to flow out through a tube down to the abdomen where the fluid is absorbed back into the body. Parker’s first shunt was placed at the back of his skull, near his neck area.
Parker was at Texas Children’s Hospital in the care of the NICU for 16 days following his birth. “Saying that now, it sounds very short, only 16 days, but when you are going through all of that, those days feel like a lifetime,” says Leah. Leah and Dave learned how to feed baby Parker through the use of a feeding tube enabling them to bring him home.
Getting Through as a Family
A side effect of hydrocephalus is epilepsy, and at 3 months old, Parker began having seizures. His seizures, controlled with a daily medication, usually occur now when he outgrows his dosage. “You learn to deal with it and how to handle it,” says Leah, as this is just part of her everyday life.
At 6 months, his brain shunt failed. Shunt failure is very common, and Parker had a second brain surgery to receive a new one placed near the front, right side of his head. When Leah discusses the shunt and the procedure, little Parker will reach to the top of his head and feel for it. He doesn’t mind if others see and touch it; he’s even proud to show off the scars on his neck and abdomen.
Currently, Parker attends a PPCD (preschool program for children with disabilities) in Katy. He has a daily routine and seems to love school. Leah and Dave want Parker to be around other children his age because he rarely is and interacts mostly with adults. When asked what his favorite part of school is, Parker says, “riding the school bus,” which makes sense, as Parker is infatuated with cars and garages. He loves to go for rides around the neighborhood, and different neighbors will swing by to take him for a ride. Parker says shyly, “My favorite car is a Corolla.” He loves them so much that a Corolla even made his Christmas list!
Parker works with physical therapists to build up his weaker muscles, on applied behavior therapy for life skills, and occupational therapy for motor skills. Parker is about the size of his little sister Emery who is 2 years old. Leah says that Emery and Parker are starting to interact some, and Emery has a sense that Parker is not typical. She often lends him a hand with things; for example, when they are playing with bubbles. Parker has a tremor with his arm and hand so sometimes it is hard for him to hold the bubble wand, so Emery will help her brother out.
The Most Loving Boy
Sweet and cuddly definitely describe Parker. He loves to touch, feel, and be loved on. Leah recalls a time when they were out shopping, waiting to check out, and Parker reached out and started rubbing on another shopper’s behind. “It is quite embarrassing. People look at us as if we are crazy because my son is rubbing on them. They don’t realize that he doesn’t know not to do that to strangers,” says Leah.
In the words of Leah, “Parker is truly one-of-a-kind, no one in the world is like him.” She means that literally, as no one in the world has the same amount or type of brain damage as Parker. KM
LANA TIMBS is an Aggie and mother of two who loves spending time with family and friends.
Katy, TX (February 20, 2017) – Childhood cancer survivor and Seven Lakes High School graduate, Samantha Loos-Polk, goes back to where it all began.
Written by Anna-Catherine Rose | Select Photography by John Glaser
The afternoon Samantha Loos-Polk was training at the gym was like any other. In preparation for an upcoming Taekwondo tournament, the then 13-year-old freshman at Seven Lakes High School and second-degree black belt was performing strength and conditioning training. But when she swung a dumbbell as part of a squat exercise, she immediately felt pain in her back and knew something wasn’t right. The events that followed, and the diagnosis that awaited her, would change the course of her life forever.
More Than a Routine Injury
Aside from sore muscles following her injury, Samantha was also unusually fatigued. Accustomed to a rigorous schedule with her studies, choir, and martial arts, she suddenly wasn’t able to keep up. “I was exhausted all the time, and it was difficult to walk from class to class,” she remembers. She also began to develop bruises on her legs, along with tiny red spots on her wrists and eventually throughout her body.
Concerned and on a mission for answers, she and her parents, Margaret Loos-Polk and James Polk, visited a battery of doctors, and she eventually underwent blood tests. Around 4 a.m. the morning after her tests, Margaret received a call instructing them to take Samantha to a hospital immediately. Her platelets were extremely low, so much so she could have bled to death.
Samantha was eventually taken to Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH). It was here, in room one on the ninth floor of the West Tower, her symptoms were given an official name: acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She soon underwent 10 days of intensive chemotherapy. And while the treatment effectively fought the cancer, it wreaked havoc on her immune system.
When Samantha was eventually released, she was very weak and in constant pain. A few days after being home, she developed a fever and was rushed back to the hospital. After a series of tests, doctors determined she had acquired a rare type of fungal infection called Fusarium. It was prevalent in her blood, in and around her lungs, kidneys, left eye, and skin. From here, Samantha endured eight eye and four nose surgeries over the course of a nine-month stay at TCH. To date, she is the longest-known survivor of this type of infection.
Samantha’s journey nurtured a passion within her to help others with similar obstacles. So inspired by the level of care she received from the nurses at TCH, she set her mind on achieving a nursing degree, with a specialty in pediatric oncology, from University of St. Thomas. She reflects, “I knew I wanted to pursue a career that made a difference in people’s lives prior to my diagnosis, but I didn’t know what exactly that would look like until I survived cancer and the fungal infection. From that point on, I knew the superhero I wanted to be was a nurse.”
And now, from the very place she was diagnosed and treated, the ninth floor of the West Tower of TCH, she cares for and comforts young patients facing cancer. “I know I can help others in their battle because of my personal understanding of what they’re going through. My unique perspective enables me to treat patients holistically and ensure their families are provided much needed support,” she says.
When asked about her greatest source of encouragement during her toughest times, she credits her parents, who were by her side every minute of every day. She is also grateful for several organizations that ministered to both her and her family, including Harley’s Helpers Angel Ministry, Snowdrop Foundation, and B.I.G. Love Cancer Care. These groups supplied parking tokens, gas and gift cards, groceries, laundry baskets, blankets, and regular visits. In fact, Samantha was awarded three scholarships from two of these organizations.
The Path Ahead
Samantha is now a five-year cancer survivor. She undergoes yearly checkups at TCH, along with regular assessments by her ophthalmologist. During her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and boyfriend, Ryleigh; snuggling with her cat, Binx; reading; and watching movies. She also serves as co-secretary of St. Thomas’ Sigma Theta Tau International nursing honor society.
Her story is one of struggle, determination, perseverance, and triumph. It’s also a poignant reminder that adversity, when met with hope and a fighting spirit, can be an unexpected but most impactful teacher. KM
ANNA-CATHERINE ROSE lives in Katy and is a firm believer that struggle is what connects us and is always accompanied by a purpose.
Katy, TX (February 6, 2017) – With a brand new music video, “The Real Me,” out and an EP on the horizon, this Seven Lakes High School senior is headed for stardom.
Written by Ashley Lancaster
Ever since attending her first concert with her father, Greg Conklin, at the age of 4, Taylor Thi has been consumed with a passion for performing and songwriting. “We saw James [Vernon] Taylor, and I was so amazed by all the cheering that I turned to my dad and asked him why everyone was making noise. He said, ‘See that man up there? They’re clapping for him.’ Ever since then I’ve wanted to be a singer.”
Although she began formally training at the age of 15, she considers her sixth-grade performance her official debut. “I performed ‘Material Girl’ by Madonna at the Beckendorff Junior High pop concert,” she says. And she has been strategically placing herself in local gigs in order to build a following ever since.
“The rush of adrenaline is unexplainable; you can walk on stage and be whoever you want to be. You can be confident, a completely different person and just let loose,” she adds. “You forget everything and just feel free in that moment.” Thi spends hours at a time writing notes and lyrics. “Every song I write has a special meaning to me because I never want to write about something I don’t mean or feel.”
The young songwriter finds strength to pursue her dreams close to home. “My family has always been my biggest supporters no matter what. I’m extremely family-oriented and they are the ones I show all my music to first. Everything I do, they see or get to hear before I announce or release anything,” she says.
Thi comes from a family not afraid to pursue their wildest dreams, and credits her father for giving her the courage to try. “He was from a small town, lived on a farm, and grew up being told by everyone he knew that he would never achieve his dream of being a pilot. He has now been a pilot for 41 years. Every time someone tries to tear me down, I think about my dad, and I know I’ll prove them wrong.”
Thi recently directed her own music video for her original song, “The Real Me,” which received over 20,000 views on YouTube. “It was such an amazing experience,” she says.
Armed with a notebook full of material, Thi plans to continue working on singles and eventually produce her first EP. But her future plans also include receiving an education. “I would love to go to college for audio engineering or songwriting,” she adds. “I’m still deciding, but I’m positive I’ll be around music no matter what.” KM
Katy, TX January 17, 2017
Models don’t just live in Milan, Paris, or New York. There are stunning and talented models who were raised or live right here in Katy.
Written by Lacey Kupfer Wulf
Modeling is not an easy profession. It comes with harsh criticism, working long hours in uncomfortable clothing or weather, and demanding bosses. These five beautiful girls and women share how to look past the hard stuff and revel in the spotlight of being a top model.
Tatiana LaBello, formerly Tatiana Anderson, is a model with ambition. By age 9, she had over 150 trophies in modeling, beauty pageants, dance, pep squad, cheerleading, and baton twirling. She even taught aerobics classes in Katy at age 14. After graduating from Katy High School, LaBello became a professional cheerleader for three major sports teams: the NFL Denver Broncos, the NBA Houston Rockets, and the USFL Houston Gamblers; wrote a fitness book, and received many fitness pageant titles.
Her greatest claim to fame, however, is being the host of ESPN’s top-rated fitness show Kiana’s Flex Appeal. She also hosted a lifestyle show with Robin Leach on CBS and was interviewed on extra, Inside Edition, and appeared in episodes of Friends, Baywatch, and She Spies. Now, as a healthy lifestyle coach and owner of LaBello Lifestyle, she has relocated to Houston to be closer to family. She says, “True beauty comes from the inside. We need to work equally on the inside, mentally and spiritually, as much as the outside.”
On a Whim
When Amy Gonzales heard about a casting call for a local Houston magazine, JMG Magazine, she decided to try out. She says, “I was so nervous when I walked in and saw so many tall, beautiful girls who knew exactly what they were doing.” Despite her lack of modeling experience, she was chosen and was shooting outdoors in 100-degree weather two weeks later. “It was quite the warm welcome to the industry!” she says.
Since that first experience, she has modeled for JCPenney, Paul Mitchell, Mary Kay, and local designers in Houston and Dallas. Gonzales says, “Every job is different which is so fun for me! It doesn’t feel like work when you’re having fun doing it.”
Like many little girls, Brianna Key grew up with a dream to participate in pageants and be in magazines. Although she did some modeling as a child, her career really started at age 12 after appearing in ads for Wimpy’s Hamburgers in downtown Houston, and participating in music video pilots for the Disney Channel. She is a former Texans Cheerleader and has won Miss USA titles like Miss Texas Continental and has modeled for Sierra Pacific Bridal and Cane Island.
In her work, Key has been told that she is too short or not good enough to be a model. “Once I step outside that room, I have to realize who I am and be proud of who I am. I can’t control what I look like, but I’ve come pretty far. I have defied standards,” she says. “I’m good enough for myself, and that’s what matters.” At age 25, she now owns her own business, Key Designs, and takes modeling opportunities as they arise.
Born with a Talent
At 9 months old, Kyrie McAlpin danced on top of the table when her great-grandmother played music and acted out songs she listened to. She says, “I was born with that natural talent. I love modeling, acting, and dancing.” After attending Drama Kids Camp and taking acting and modeling classes with the Neal Hamil agency, Kyrie’s career has taken off. Her credentials include Academy Sports and Outdoors weekly ads, a Nationwide Insurance commercial, and a Macy’s showcase.
Five-year-old Kyrie’s mom, Kadene says, “Be yourself and get as much training as possible. You can never have enough.” Although Kyrie occasionally travels for gigs, including to California to play a young Mary in a Mary J. Blige music video, she and her family live in Katy for the amazing schools.
A Young Pro
Unlike most toddlers, who often fight standing still for pictures, 3-year-old Cami Valverde loves having her picture taken. Her mother Patty says, “She sees a camera, and she starts posing, and she loves to look at the pictures to see how they came out after we are done.” Cami started modeling clothes and headbands for small clothing shops at just 9 months old.
Her pictures have been printed in magazines like Semana News, Magnificent Magazine, Big City Kids, and Stylish Milk Magazine. She is also on Instagram for brands like Cherokee, Munchkin, and Igloo Coolers. Patty says, “She is so free-spirited, so I think her poses are always fun and different with a little bit of sass.” KM
LACEY KUPFER WULF is a wife, mother of twin toddler boys, and a freelance writer.
Katy, TX (January 10, 2017) A Katy ISD student’s dream of sending something into outer space has become an “out-of-this-world” reality when her artwork is selected by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to become a part of a space calendar.
Katy Junior High sixth-grader, Sylvie Mei Lim, competed against submissions from across the world. Yet her artistic masterpiece ended up winning the first spot in the Children’s Artwork Calendar for the month of January 2017. Drawings from Spain, Romania, India, Portugal, London and now even Katy, TX, will be beamed into orbit for astronauts to enjoy during their stay in the International Space Station (ISS).
Katy Junior High sixth-grader, Drew Alvarez, was also selected for an Honorable Mention. The odds of two Katy ISD students being recognized and being the only two from Texas, is kind of “extra-terrestrial”. Congratulations!
Click here to see Lim’s drawing and full calendar.
Courtesy of Katy ISD
Katy, TX – December 16, 2016 From Jeff Stocks, Principal of Taylor High School:
The publishers of Katy Magazine honored 10 extraordinary citizens at the Katy Area Economic Development Council’s general assembly meeting
Katy, TX December 13, 2016—Today, Katy Magazine officially announced their People of the Year award winners at the Katy Area Economic Development Council General Assembly meeting held at the Education Support Complex. Ten outstanding Katy area residents were presented with awards in front of a large audience of business and community leaders at the Katy Area Economic Development Council’s monthly assembly meeting. The 10 honorees are also featured in the Dec/Jan issue of Katy Magazine and will be showcased in their upcoming Katy Business Magazine launching in early 2017.
This list of honorees includes Katy area residents from all walks of life– extraordinary educators, volunteers, heroes, and community leaders across Katy. The oldest honoree is 93-year-old Avadele Short, an active volunteer who’s logged more than 10,000 hours serving at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital. The youngest honoree is Nolan Stilwell, age 27, a beloved Katy entrepreneur who thrives despite having Down syndrome. One honoree, Stan Stanley, was named posthumously, for his dedicated service and humanitarianism in Katy.
The 2016 Katy People of the Year Honorees are as follows:
- Andy Kahan, a dedicated crime victims’ rights advocate
- Avadele Short, a 93-year-old avid hospital volunteer
- Bob Bryant, Katy ISD’s former director of Fine Arts and new school namesake
- David Morrison, a community superhero who volunteers as HolyBatman to brighten the lives of children
- Karen Sparks, Katy ISD Restorative Practices Coordinator who has inspired hundreds of students
- Kay Callender, founder of Keep Katy Beautiful whose projects have won many awards
- Nolan Stilwell, creator of Sweet Heat Jam Co. and who also has Down syndrome
- Peter McElwain, Katy ISD’s leading planner and architect who is retiring after 18 years
- Stan Stanley, founder of the Katy Area EDC, school namesake, and community leader (Posthumous honoree who passed away March 29, 2016)
- Tina Hatcher, founder of Hope Impacts, an organization that helps transform the lives of Katy’s homeless
“We couldn’t be more honored to celebrate these extraordinary citizens who are definitely making Katy a better place for all of us,” says Publisher Katrina Katsarelis. “Each honoree exemplifies the loving, caring spirt of Katy, Texas.”
Last year’s 2015 Katy People of the Year recipients included: Da’dra Greathouse, singer, songwriter, musician, and speaker; Rebekah Gregory, Boston Marathon bombing survivor; Andy Dalton, NFL quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals; Christina Dismuke, 2016 TASA Region IV Elementary Teacher of the Year; Alton Frailey, former Superintendent of Katy ISD; Coach Gary Joseph, head coach for the Katy Tigers; Shari Nightingale, founder of Lindsay’s Light; Mayor Fabol Hughes, elected mayor in 2013 and reelected in 2015.
CONTACT: Katrina Katsarelis, Editor-in-Chief & Publisher Katy Magazine 281.579.9840 email@example.com
Katy, TX – December 7, 2016
Cox Media Group Houston stations – including The Eagle (106.9 and 107.5), Country Legends (97.1) and The New 93Q (92.9) – hosted a two-day live event at Texas Children’s Hospital in December which helped raise more than $655,00. These critical funds will help benefit patient care, education and research at Texas Children’s Cancer Center, the building of a new pediatric tower in the medical center for the most critically ill children, and the opening of a community hospital in North Houston – Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands.
Courtesy of Texas Children’s Hospital
Katy, TX – November 14, 2016
Written by Tassie Hewitt | Select photography by Anetrius Wallace and NBC Studios
Inspiring athlete and amputee, Artis Thompson III, is a winning example of dedication on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior
Artis Thompson III, whose goal is to be the next American Ninja Warrior, stretched his physical and mental strength to the limit and inspired amputees and others all over the world. He competed on the NBC reality TV show and says he will be going back for more. This powerful Katyite demonstrated that no obstacle is too great.
Thompson, who is also a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in Katy, accepts no excuses from his clients, or himself. He boxes and plays semi -professional football with the Fort Bend Storm. Like many athletes, he spends hours in training, sprinting, doing calisthenics, and working on his upper body strength, all with a prosthetic leg.
A Devastating Loss
He lost the lower part of his le leg in a motorcycle accident in 2012, just three years after his brother died in a motorcycle accident. “I lost my leg, but I didn’t lose my life,” says Thompson, who refuses to allow his physical challenge to slow him down. “You have to keep on going, push through, and live life.”
Determined to Succeed
Thompson said his biggest challenge was not losing his leg, but blocking out negativity from others. He was motivated by his aunt and some of his clients to audition for the show. “When I first started, there were a lot of people who said I couldn’t do it or that I shouldn’t do it. But it’s all about me, how committed I am, and how hard I want to work,” says Thompson.
American Ninja Warrior is a sports entertainment competition that challenges contestants with grueling obstacle courses designed to test their strength, balance, and endurance. Contenders compete in log runs, wall climbs, and spider crawls. They leap from platform to platform, swing from great heights, and propel their bodies over barricades. In the history of the show only a few have successfully completed the course.
One in a Million
Participants are required to submit a video displaying their athletic ability and desire to win. “Having one leg is a great story, but I had to show them in my audition tape that I could still climb the treacherous Warped Wall. I had to demonstrate that I’m able to do everything in the show,” says Thompson. In season seven, Thompson succeeded in making it to the third obstacle. One year later, in season eight, he made it as far as the fourth obstacle when he fell into the water during a log run. “They were amazed and said no other amputee who’s gone on the show has been a true athlete. I was the first amputee they really thought had a chance to win.”
Playing to Win
Thompson’s goal was to make it to the finals, and despite his motivating achievement, he is disappointed in his performance. “I went on the show to win. Anything short of this success in my eyes is a failure,” says Thompson. “My plans for the future are to keep training, go back into it stronger, and never give up until I complete it.” In the eyes of his fans, however; he is nothing less than a winner. “People from all over the world have reached out to me to say they’re inspired by what I’ve done,” says Thompson. “I’ve had amputees tell me they’re motivated to start working out. They’re motivated to do something with their lives.” In the spirit of a true warrior, Thompson plans to keep hurdling over every obstacle that comes his way. “You never know what’s going to happen next, so make the most of every day. My advice to others is to live life for yourself, reach forward to your goals, and never give up.” KM
Katy, TX – November 2, 2016
Teenage Katyite turned Hollywood actor shares about her Katy roots and life on the silver screen
Written by Kennan Buckner|Photography courtesy of JPI Studios and Marlow Photography
A typical day for recent high school graduate Paige Searcy includes getting her hair and makeup done, running lines with her co-stars, and taping scenes for Days of Our Lives. Searcy was born in Katy and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. “I attended Franz Elementary School which is right down the street from my old Katy home,” she says. “Two of my favorite Katy memories are my sixth birthday party at our community pool on Lavenderwood Drive, and sitting in the passenger seat of my dad’s Golbow’s Garage tow truck chasing down cars that needed a tow.”
Last year, Searcy landed her role as Jade Michaels, the love interest of Joey Johnson played by James Lastovic, on Days of Our Lives. “I like to say that my life has been a series of very fortunate events, each event leading to an even greater opportunity. When I first moved to L.A., my intentions were not to start acting,” Searcy says. “I missed my hometown of Katy and wanted to move back as soon as possible, but fate had a separate plan for me and led me to the amazing path I’m on right now.” Searcy’s passion for being on stage began when she joined the musical theatre program at Millikan Middle School. “Actors like Juliette Lewis, John Travolta, and Natalie Portman have definitely influenced me to become an actor,” she says. “They star in some of my favorite flicks including The Professional, Urban Cowboy, and Black Swan.
Landing the Role
Searcy says the audition process started out a little shaky. She was supposed to receive an expedited passport so she could travel to Canada for a role in a lm, but due to computer difficulties, it didn’t arrive on time. Discouraged, Searcy never would have guessed the closed door would quickly lead to the role of a lifetime. “The same day I went home disappointed, I came across another opportunity that absolutely paid off,” she says. That’s how she landed the role on Days.
Auditions can be nerve-racking, but Searcy learned to face her fears. “I was so hard on myself to get all of my lines right that I forgot the intentions of the scenes I was doing and that resulted in some, what I’d like to call, ‘interesting’ failed auditions,” she shares. “I remember the day I got the audition for the role of Jade on Days of Our Lives; I was expected to learn my lines the night before and meet the amazing casting director Marnie Saitta the next morning.” The two immediately hit it ff. “She saw something in me that she was proud to present to producers who loved my audition, call back, and chemistry read with James Lastovic.”
Working with her movie star crush has been a dream. “James Lastovic has been a pleasure to work with. He is my absolute favorite on the show,” says Searcy. Lastovic even attended her real-life high school graduation. “We’ve come a long way since we first started working on the show together.”
“Some say they hate watching themselves act on TV, but honestly, I think it’s pretty cool. I can see what choices I made that I like and don’t like and learn from them,” Searcy says. “My family and friends think it’s incredible and fascinating. Who would’ve thought the shy, little Paige from the suburbs of Katy, Texas would make it to Hollywood to become a television star?” A few of her hometown supporters in Katy consist of her father Dylan, sister Brianna, grandmother Norma, grandfather David, and her mother’s friend Inga who watches Days religiously.
Searcy is excited about her role in an upcoming independent film, calling it her favorite so far. She will play Charlie, “a young prostitute trying to find herself in the cold, hard world working the streets of the Bronx in New York, while Wednesday, Keke Palmer, her female pimp, encourages her to leave the life of prostitution.” The movie is anticipated to release next year.
Searcy encourages others who aspire to acting, or any career to, “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t, because you can do anything you set your heart and mind to. Never give up.”
Katy, TX (October 25, 2016) Centerra Ranch Montessori School in Katy invited local law enforcement officers to their facility to show their appreciation and respect. Officers visited with students, let them sit in their vehicles, and explained the various technology they used. Students had a great time meeting officers and learning more about what they do. Owner Angeline Labbè-Auzenne adds, “We wanted our children to tour their police cars in hope of dismissing any anxiety our young children may have recently developed.”
In addition to their tours and high fives, the officers were also served a fajita lunch complete with cupcakes and caramel apples. They were also presented with a pledge from the staff and students at Centerra Ranch Montessori School which read, “Today we pledge to remind the few if ill of you they speak, that you are all that stands between the monsters and the weak.”
To show their avid appreciation, students presented the officers with “thank you” cards and messages.
Katy, Texas – August 29, 2016 – Memorial Hermann recently teamed up with the YMCA of Greater Houston to help make sure hundreds of area students have the supplies they need to start the school year. Memorial Hermann physicians, employees and volunteers donated money and school supplies as part of the YMCA of Greater Houston’s Operation Backpack 2016.
Memorial Hermann campuses have long supported Operation Backpack but this year Women Leaders of Memorial Hermann along with Memorial Hermann’s Partners in Caring, worked closely to consolidate the initiative across the system. Collection sites were set up at 10 locations across the Memorial Hermann system and employees could also donate online through the Memorial Hermann Foundation.
Memorial Hermann physicians, employees and staff collected supplies to fill more than 1,200 backpacks to be distributed to students in need throughout metro Houston. In addition, employees donated more than $1,200 to the YMCA of Greater Houston to further support Operation Backpack.
“Operation Backpack is such an important program and it’s been exciting to see our participation expand throughout the Memorial Hermann system this year,” says Erin Asprec, Regional President of Memorial Hermann and co-founder of the Women Leaders of Memorial Hermann. “We want students to begin the school year empowered with feelings of hope and joy and not stress or anxiety over not having the school supplies they need to be successful.”
Memorial Hermann set up donation boxes at Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center in Cypress, Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital, Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital, Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, Memorial Hermann Pearland Hospital, Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital- Katy, Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital, Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital, Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital and TIRR Memorial Hermann. A donation box was also placed at the regional office of United Surgical Partners International in Houston, a partner of Memorial Hermann.
“Our mission is to “Advance Health” and that includes the emotional health of children and families in our community,” said Kyle Price, Sr. Vice President and CEO, Memorial Hermann Southeast. “We want to help students to arrive at school with confidence and the tools they need to learn and to excel.”
The YMCA of Greater Houston area set a goal of distributing 100,000 backpacks to students throughout the community this year. The backpacks not only include school supplies but also notes of encouragement to the students. Donations to Operation Backpack are still being accepted through the YMCA of Greater Houston.
Content Courtesy of Memorial Hermann
DEFINITION OF JOY: (NOUN) A SETTLED STATE OF CONTENTENTMENT, CONFIDENCE, AND HOPE
Your kids are arguing, the house is a mess, and you have to get everyone fed and make sure homework is finished before heading to evening extracurricular activities. Oh, and don’t forget to get that laundry out of the dryer before it wrinkles. If you’re like most Katy families, life can get so busy, it’s sometimes a struggle to and joy in everyday things. Here are 25 ways to practice seeking joy in every little moment and become a happier and healthier you.
1. Practice Daily Gratitude
From your first thought in the morning to your last one in the evening, always look for things you’re grateful for.
2. Redirect Your thoughts
Our moods go where our thoughts lead so each time your mind starts heading in a negative direction, practice redirecting it to something positive.
3. Spend Time Outdoors
Studies show that being in nature revives us and positively aspects our minds. Plus, it gives us a healthy dose of oxygen and vitamin D.
4. Crank up the Music
Listening to your favorite music lifts your mood and relieves stress because it releases serotonin (one of the hormones that contribute to happiness).
5. Accept Yourself
There will always be someone smarter, richer, more attractive, or with more accomplished children than yours. Make a decision to stop comparing and just accept and love yourself.
6. Choose a Good Attitude
If you’re in a bad mood, it’s most likely because you are dwelling on something that upset or hurt you. Refocus on something else and let it go.
7. Be Tolerant of Others
Whether it’s the purple-haired check-out clerk, a street person, or your bragging neighbor, understand that every person is on their own life journey which is always different from yours.
8. Get Inspired
Read books or go to seminars on something that really interests you. Whether you want to be a better parent, learn a new skill, or grow spiritually, there are a lot of ways to self-improve.
9. Come from Love
In all difficult interactions you have with your spouse, children, their teachers, or even a fast food worker, make sure you are coming from a place of love in the way that you treat them.
10. Help Someone
Getting out of your own head and helping someone else is a great mood booster. Bring soup to your sick neighbor, give a blanket to a homeless person, or just visit a friend who is hurting.
11. Let Go of Grudges
If you are hurt, let the person know in a calm way so they have an opportunity to apologize or gain an understanding. Then let it go. Grudges and unwillingness to forgive are always barriers to joy.
12. Energy Creates Energy
Do some kind of physical activity for 20 to 30 minutes a day. Not only does exercise create those happy endorphins, it can really boost your confidence.
13. Have Quiet Time
If you can take even 10 to 15 minutes to meditate, pray, or even just sit quietly, studies show this helps you be more at peace and lowers stress. Even if you have to go in the bathroom or closet, do it.
14. Stay in Peace
Instead of screaming at the driver who cut you off, just take a deep breath and say nothing. In all stressful circumstances, you can choose to remain calm.
15. Live in the Moment
Put down the technology or remote and savor the moment. Enjoy your child’s laughter, listen fully to your spouse, or stop to stare at a beautiful sunset.
16. Let Go of Toxic People
Love those bitter or angry family members from a distance or they could infect you with negativity and hate.
17. Be a Visionary
Write down or create a poster with everything you wish to accomplish in life and look at it daily or weekly. Dream big and put down that beautiful house, car, and vacation. You have to see it to achieve it!
18. Simplify Your Home
Clutter adds stress to your life and costs you more time searching for items. If you haven’t used something in a year, it’s time to give it away.
19. Have Me Time
Find time to be alone. Solitude actually energizes your soul and helps you be a better parent and spouse.
20. Use Encouraging Words
Words are powerful and can be used to help or harm someone. Are you speaking words of love to your family and friends or causing pain and worry? Don’t say anything out loud that you don’t want to come true.
21. Stop Worrying
Most strife is brought on by worry and fear. Quit freting and obsessing about all those little things you have absolutely no control over and just enjoy today.
22. Give Three Compliments
When was the last time you told your child’s teacher what a great job she is doing? Never be too busy to let people know how awesome they are.
23. Put Things in Perspective When something disappointing happens, don’t overreact. So what if your son got a B on his science project – at least he’s not in the hospital.
24. Keep Growing
You are never too old to try a new hobby, learn a new technology, or admit you’ve made a mistake and self-correct.
25. Reach out for Help
When you feel down, see a counselor or talk to a pastor or loved one. Whether it’s your marriage, parenting struggles, an addiction, or depression, there is never shame in getting help. KM
Katy, Texas – December 8, 2015
This week, State Representative Mike Schofield proudly presented an ornament painted by local artisans to be hung on the Christmas Tree erected in the House Chamber in Austin.
Heather and Shaun Carson are local artists who own the Carson Art School in Katy, TX, located in the heart of House District 132. They graciously hand-painted the glass ornament, adorned with the Holy Family and the words “Unto us a Savior is Born”. This ornament is one of 150 created by each House District to be hung on the House Chamber Christmas tree.
“I am so proud to be able to share the overwhelming talent of these artists with Texas Capitol visitors from all over the state and the country,” Schofield said. “This particular ornament truly embodies the real reason for the season and is a perfect reminder during these busy times that faith and family come first.”
Mike Schofield is the State Representative for Texas House District 132 in Katy and Cy-Fair. Mike served as an adviser to Governor Perry from 2003 to 2013, where he advised the governor on legislation ranging from lawsuit abuse and property rights protection to maintaining a fair election system and Voter ID.
Content Courtesy of House District 132
Katy, TX Blog (November 16, 2015) – From Katy ISD Leadership – “As you may already know, on Friday the world was shocked to learn of the terrorist attacks in Paris.
Today, as a mark of respect for those victims, our flags were flown at half-staff and will remain as such until sunset on Thursday. Furthermore, many Katy ISD schools and facilities participated in a moment of silence today at 12:00 noon to honor the memory of the victims.
Even though this took place in another country, its impact reaches across the world and gives us reason to pause and think about our families and our children, as no community is immune to random acts of violence.
Here in Katy ISD, we take proactive measures to not only be prepared to respond to random acts of violence, but to prevent – to the extent that we can – them from occurring in the first place.
The safety and security of students and staff members on our campuses is of the highest priority and by working together to create healthy and positive relationships with teachers and the school, we can ensure that we provide safe teaching and learning environments.”
Katy, Texas- October 20, 2015
Catching up with the NFL quarterback and former Katy Tiger to find out how he makes it work as a first-time dad, devoted husband, and fearless leader of the Cincinnati Bengals.
During the last interview with Andy Dalton, he was a young athlete from Katy on the brink of a promising future in professional football. Now, he is a seasoned pro quarterback, family man, and philanthropist ready to reflect on the last four years of life, love, and football.
Straight out of college at Texas Christian University, Dalton was thrown into a scenario he’d never faced, in the form of the 2011 NFL lockout. “It was rough, but I didn’t really know what I was missing. We just forged ahead and did the best we could with the resources we had to prepare for the upcoming season,” he says. In his rookie year, Dalton led the Bengals to a 9-7 season, their best outing since 2009, and got them a wild card spot in the 2011 to 2012 NFL playoffs.
Still, even among the excitement of playing for the big leagues, there have been a few personal thrills that he will never forget. “Growing up, I went to Texans games at Reliant Stadium, and I played there as a Katy Tiger and as quarterback for TCU; but the coolest feeling ever was playing at NRG (formerly Reliant Stadium) for the Bengals and getting the win on my dad’s birthday.”
Family Over Everything
Dalton credits his rm family foundation for his success in life. He recalls the sacri ces made on the part of others that helped him get to where he is. “I was able to get a chance to play in college because I had talent but also because my parents sacri ced their time to take me to 15 football camps to get ready for college. My mom made my scouting tapes,” he says. Now, when he comes home, Dalton gets to experience his entire extended family – cousins, siblings, aunts, and uncles – showing enthusiasm and getting involved, something he says has been amazing to witness.
With their son Noah to care for, family time is now more important than ever, and he and his wife Jordan enjoy the hours they get to spend together. “Jordan has been so amazing and supportive. I feel blessed to have her on this journey with me.”
During the off season, the Daltons do the best they can to cherish time with friends and family. “We don’t get to see them as much as we like, but we make it work. We’ll fly them out for games or visit during the off season. But without a doubt, every time I come home to Katy, I have to go to Los Cucos at least once,” he says.
Culture of Winning
Forever a Katy Tigers fan, Dalton admits to watching the football games from his iPad while he’s on the road. When asked what he thinks is the secret ingredient behind the athletes that emerge from Katy’s football program, he says, “Gary Joseph and the coaching staff get guys to buy in to the belief that you’re going to win a championship. The way they run the program just makes it fun to be there. The success of the program, winning so many state championships, the whole culture is winning. The hard work they put into it carries over into life, and the kids carry that with them later on.” It’s that mindset that Dalton carried with him throughout his college career and into the NFL. It is part of the reason he has been such a success, both on and off the field. Dalton advises young athletes pursuing a professional career to put their education at the forefront. “I think that it’s important to complete your education no matter what. In college and in sports, you have to weigh where you’re at and where you’re going to end up. Education is extremely important, and the NFL has so many programs like tuition reimbursement that make it possible to get your degree. There are people here on staff saying, ‘Hey, we want you to have an education.’ The NFL has always been very supportive of that,” says Dalton.
Written by Ashley Lancaster | Select photography courtesy of the Cincinnati Bengals
Katy, Texas- October 12, 2015
Lakewood singers, Katy residents, and siblings Steve Crawford and Da’dra Crawford Greathouse journey from award-winning gospel group to center stage at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church
From the moment they were born, Steve Crawford and Da’dra Crawford Greathouse felt an incredible connection to music that they credit to their family. Greathouse remembers singing in front of a congregation when she was 3 years old, standing on a table with her mother holding her hand. “Both my grandmother and my father were musicians. In our family, if you were old enough to stand still, you were out front singing,” Crawford adds. It was that deep love for gospel music that inspired them to create the gospel group, Anointed, and later become headlining worship leaders for Houston’s Lakewood Church.
During their childhood, the siblings sang with various choirs and performed as the Crawford Family Band where they were encouraged to create their own music. “Mom made sure we got to be kids, too. We had time to watch Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk before our rehearsals and shows,” says Greathouse.
A Song to Inspire
One night, the two were at a gospel concert when Greathouse suddenly felt a calling for a musical group. After meeting with her brother and friends Denise Walls and Mary Tiller, Anointed was officially in business. “Our purpose was to branch out to other people our age. We gathered around the piano, sang together, and the sound was amazing,” Crawford says. Steve describes their sound as a synergy between gospel, jazz, and pop music.
Crawford and Greathouse truly believe music has the ability and power to inspire people – to give them hope. “Music can affect moods and emotions. It can encourage and lift people up, or it can bring them down. Lyrics are just as important as the melody. Words have a power to them,” says Crawford.
The Call to Lakewood
In 2006, Lakewood Church was looking for someone to fill in while their worship leader went on tour, and they thought of Anointed. The duo flew to Houston that June to visit Lakewood, where they performed at the first Saturday night service after arriving. Afterward they were offered a job.
Spreading Their Wings
in Katy New to the Houston area and Texas altogether, Greathouse remembers that a friend suggested that if she had kids, she should live in Katy. “I’m so glad I took that advice because we love it here,” Greathouse says. Her son Evan plays center for the Katy High School Tigers varsity football team. Evan also plays drums for the children’s program at Lakewood.
Her younger son, Eran, sings and leads worship at a Saturday service for first- and second-graders. Steve also moved his family to Katy and enjoys living here. His son Steve Jr. plays soccer with the Albion Hurricanes, and his daughters, Aniya and Sydney, sing in the children’s choir at Lakewood. Throughout their musical careers, Crawford and Greathouse have remained grounded in faith and family, values taught by their mother and father. It is these same values that they hope to instill in their own children. “Family is everything,” Crawford says. “My children are my legacy and I want them to have integrity, respect and love others, and love God.” KM
CHERRI NORTHCUTT is a freelance journalist. She has been living in Katy for 15 years with her husband and daughters.
Do you have an inspirational story? Email us! firstname.lastname@example.org
Katy, Texas (September, 17, 2015)
Iconic Katy Family spans five generations, more than 120 years, making a lasting imprint on the community.
Written by Wendy Teng and Katy Magazine’s Editors
The Stockdicks put their footprints on Katy land long before the town of Katy even existed. In honor of the family’s contributions to Katy, many Katyites have recognized area sites named in their honor like Stockdick Road, Stockdick School Road, and Stockdick House at Heritage Park.
The First Pioneer in the Family
In 1895, Adam H. Stockdick settled in the area. “There was nothing here but a shed over a water well. Most settlers had to camp in tents or railcars until their homes were built. Living conditions could be very tough,” says greatgranddaughter Rosanne Stockdick Lopez. Adam came to build a home for his family who was still in Iowa at that time. Although he was a school teacher, he was not able to make an income with his teaching certificate.
To support his family, he began farming and became the first land agent for the MKT Railroad. Writing letters to friends and family, he attracted and brought many settlers to colonize and develop the area with businesses. Adam’s great-grandchildren Janet Stanberry and Ronald Scott share, “Adam influenced many families to move from Iowa to Katy based on the fertile farming land available.” The drilling of the earliest deep water wells for rice farming is another remarkable achievement by Adam that was documented in 1902.
In total, it is estimated that Adam was able to bring 15 pioneering families to settle. After he left the MKT Railroad, Adam opened his own real estate company and sold land to families coming to the small town. He was one of the first individuals in Katy to see electricity, phone service, and indoor water piped to homes. Stanberry and Scott say, “He saw transportation go from horse, to horse and wagon, to motorized vehicles, to airplanes, to landing a man on the moon in 1969.”
Building Katy Schools
“Education has turned out to be our family’s greatest legacy,” says Lopez. One of Adam’s sons, William Chester Stockdick, started the South Mayde School for children in 1905. About a decade later in 1914, he and A.J. Peek started the Stockdick School on Stockdick School Road. They also served as trustees. Both of these schools were only one-room buildings, but they offered an opportunity for children from the surrounding farms to get an education. The two schools closed in 1931 due to the availability of roads and buses from Katy ISD that were then able pick up students from the country and take them to school in town.
Other than helping to build some of the first schools in Katy, many of Stockdick’s descendants chose careers related to education through teaching, administration, and becoming school board members. Lopez’s daughter, Bethany Lopez Cobb, is a fifth-generation Stockdick who has taught in Katy ISD for more than a decade.
A Generational Story
As a child, Lopez’s life revolved around the farm. Her childhood days were spent on the family farm on Stockdick School Road because her dad was a rice farmer and cattleman. “Summers were always started with rice harvest. I drove a rice truck just as soon as my feet could reach the pedals and I could see over the steering wheel,” Lopez says.
Lopez also had responsibilities working with cattle. She called it her “cattle job,” and it included working on a card catalogue of every cow, calf, and bull on the farm, helping fill syringes for inoculations, treating pink eye, and applying fly dust. “I remember as a young child when the roads in Katy were paved for the first time. I remember the farms finally getting telephone service. Our lives have literally seen the space age and the high-tech age come about,” says Lopez. “What an amazing journey.
Business was always a way of life in the family. “Lives changed constantly due to bad weather affecting crops, injuries, death, tragedy, and aging. One did not have the opportunity to ‘stop working’ if you wanted to succeed at anything in life,” says Lopez. She has juggled several career changes, somewhat like her ancestor, Adam. Lopez was originally a teacher, but when she moved to Katy in 1975, there were no job openings at Katy Elementary School, which was the only elementary school at the time. For the next 20 years, she and her dad worked together in the family business selling homes.
The business closed in 1994, and she and her husband opened ABC Country Store. Unfortunately, due to her husband’s health, the store closed in June 2008. Now, Lopez is a dedicated substitute and tutor for Katy ISD. She is also on the Katy Heritage Society Board and prepares history presentations of the City of Katy for Katy ISD elementary schools.
The Stockdick descendants agree that Katy’s small-town feel with strong family cultures are what keeps the growing community strong. “This strong sense of established roots gives self-confidence to children. They learn early on to respect the elderly, appreciate their own history, and understand why they need to learn about history,” Lopez says. Katy is a wonderful place to raise a family, Cobb adds, “I want future generations to know that support and how it came to be because of all the generations before who worked hard and relied on each other.” As part of the older generation of Stockdicks, Lopez and her family are working to document the Stockdick family history. With a collection of letters, journals, and pictures, the family is able to piece together a more detailed family legacy for future generations. KM
WENDY TENG is a freelance writer. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, blogging, volunteering, trying new restaurants, and learning about new organizations.
Two years ago, a terrorist’s bomb at the Boston Marathon blew Rebekah Gregory’s life apart. Now, the local mom is using the tragedy to inspire others and live a life without limits.
Written by Susanna Donald | Select photography courtesy of Rebekah Gregory
When the first bomb exploded at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, Rebekah Gregory and her 5-year-old son, Noah, were just three feet away. They were waiting to see her boyfriend’s mom cross the finish line, and Noah was bored. “It was so crowded, and I wanted to keep him right by me,” she recalls. “I told him to sit on my feet and pretend he was a scientist looking at rocks in the pavement.”
That decision saved Noah’s life. Moments later, Gregory’s legs shielded her son from the brunt of a massive explosion that killed three, injured more than 260 others, and filled the nation with an all-too-familiar fear.
The blast hoisted Gregory into the air. When she landed, she looked down and thought her legs were completely gone. “All I was thinking was, ‘Where’s Noah?’” she says. “My eardrums were blown, but somehow I could hear Noah screaming ‘Mommy! Mommy!’ somewhere behind me.”
When she reached for him, she saw bones jutting out through a gaping wound in her hand. Chaos and trauma was surrounded by fragments of bone and bomb. “I prayed, ‘Lord, if this is my time, take me, but let me know Noah is okay.’” When someone brought Noah to her side, she believed it was a sign that it was her time to go.
The Battle Begins
Doctors placed Gregory in a medically-induced coma for a week. “The first person I saw when I woke up was my mom,” she remembers. “I wrote a note because I couldn’t talk with the tube in my throat. I wrote, ‘God isn’t finished with me yet.’” Both of Gregory’s legs were injured, along with her hand, and the left leg was all but destroyed. The bomb obliterated muscle, nerves, and half of her fibula. Noah suffered a deep cut on his right leg, shrapnel in the back of his head, and some internal bleeding. He was out of the hospital in five days, while Gregory’s battle was just beginning.
Losing a Leg
After 39 days in Boston, Gregory moved to Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital where Dr. William McGarvey took over the monumental task of helping her keep her leg. “We discussed amputation at the beginning, but Rebekah was initially committed to trying to preserve the limb,” says Dr. McGarvey, who performed seven of the 17 surgeries Gregory had on her left leg. But her continued pain and disability became very burdensome. “My leg is not my life,” says Gregory. “I said that from the beginning. After the 17th surgery, I realized how silly it was to be holding onto something that was only holding me back from getting on with my life.” Her pain was constant and excruciating, despite multiple daily doses of pain medication, and she was mostly confined to a wheelchair. More surgeries loomed on the horizon, but none promised that she would be free from pain or that she would walk again.
The Goodbye Party
In November, Gregory went to see Dr. McGarvey for a routine follow-up. She told him matter-of-factly, “I’m ready for my amputation.” The surgery was scheduled for November 10. With her trademark optimism, Gregory threw a goodbye party for her leg, treating it to one last pedicure. “It was a celebration,” she says. “And I was so relieved when I woke up from the surgery. I thought I would be scared, but it really was like the biggest weight was lifted off of me. My life wasn’t in limbo anymore.”
On December 31, Gregory took her first steps on her new prosthesis, which she affectionately named “Felicia.” Noah, who was initially hesitant about the amputation, now says it’s cool because he has a “robot mom.” Gregory’s amputation is considered “fresh,” meaning that the residual limb hasn’t hardened enough for rigorous pressure from the prosthesis. Blisters form. The limb swells, then shrinks, then swells again. There are major setbacks. But Gregory survived the largest domestic terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, and she isn’t stopping now. She began training to run the 2015 Boston Marathon the week before her amputation. According to Gregory, running the marathon is more than a goal – it’s a promise. She trains five days a week, in addition to her rehabilitation work at TIRR Memorial Hermann. Two weeks after getting her prosthesis, Gregory began jogging – an incredible achievement. “I push myself,” she says. “Waiting is hard. I was in limbo for so long, and now that I can move, I don’t want to stop.”
In between rehabilitation, training, and being a full-time mom, Gregory also travels around the world sharing her inspiring story. “I realized after the bombing that I had been given a platform,” she says. “I don’t want to waste it. I want to do my own small part in changing the world for the better. I feel like this is my purpose.”
Life Without Limits
For Gregory, life without her leg isn’t defined by her limitations. “My bucket list? It’s unlimited,” she laughs. “I want to run the marathon of course. But I want to travel, to climb mountains, to do anything and everything I can, and not take a moment for granted.” And she doesn’t. She smiles as she talks about walking around the mall for the first time, or going up the stairs in her house. “I didn’t want to get blown up, but now I get to hug my son a little tighter, and love my family a little more, and really value every minute.” KM
SUSANNA DONALD is a freelance writer who lives in Fulshear with her husband and two sons.
A handful of dedicated Katy High School students eagerly await the rush of teachers and staff to come. The time is 10:15 AM. With tables decorated, and salad, desserts and 30 pizza boxes set out, KHS Student Council is ready to host their second annual Teacher Luncheon.
The previous year, a simple pizza lunch was served solely to teachers and hailed as the first time the entirety of the teachers had been fed students.
This year they upped the ante. Teachers, office staff, paraprofessionals, custodians, nurses, cafeteria workers, KHS parent volunteers and other faculty were invited to attend the “Teacher Luncheon”. Every staff member here has a hand in the students’ education and deserve to be honored.
Starting in January, the preparation began as KHS Student Council Members Kat Rogers, Kaitlin Miller, Olivia Williams, Marie Ann Barron, and Piper Harris ventured to local businesses in request of donations. Most impressive was the collective 75 pizzas donated by Pizza Shoppe, Cici’s, and Pizza Inn.
KHS Student Council’s exponential growth and success since its meagre state three years previous has been through a multitude of projects around Katy High School and the Katy Community. Eager to continue its vision and tradition, Katy students look forward to partnering with even more local businesses and projects to keep Katy beautiful.
Class of 2015
KHS Student Council Vice President
School officials and politicians are normally at the helm of discussions on the state of education, but Houston Community College is providing an opportunity for Katy moms to chime in. In an informal and filmed discussion, HCC gathered Katy mom bloggers and social media influencers to discuss their concerns and possible solutions to pressing issues in areas of education such as standardized testing and college affordability. The college gave the women a platform to voice their opinions and will dedicate an entire week allowing the community to chime in.
Their discussion will be aired on the college’s social media channels from May 4 until Mother’s Day, May 10. The social media community at-large will also be able to interact with this discussion by adding their thoughts to the HCC posts or using the hashtag #KatyMomsChat.
“Engaging with our communities is important,” said Dr. Zachary Hodges, HCC Northwest president. “In education, we need more external voices to contribute to the internal work in our classrooms. So, we’re hoping that the #Katymomschat project will give us new ideas to enhance the learning environment for our students. Katy has a rich learning environment and continues to be a great partner in our education efforts.”
Since 1979, HCC has provided education and opportunity to Katy residents. Almost 4,000 Katy Independent School District students attend HCC. A booming dual credit program in Katy ISD enables students to earn college credit while still in high school at a discounted tuition rate. As with all communities that the college serves, HCC has a strong connection to Katy and is active in groups such as the Katy Chamber of Commerce, Katy ARTreach, Katy Visual & Performing Arts Center, Katy ISD and the Katy Economic Development Council.
“Education is a very important topic that gets me excited,” said Rebecca Fox, Katy ISD board member. “Parents have a lot of opinions on what kind of education their child is getting and to be able to discuss those topics with other passionate moms is incredible. Houston Community College is an important piece in figuring out that puzzle and has been instrumental in giving families options.”
Katy is representative of the skyrocketing growth that continues across the Houston-area. Katy ISD is the second fastest growing district in the state and is adding nearly 3,000 new students each year. Over 70,000 students are currently enrolled in Katy ISD and that number is expected to soar to nearly 95,000 by 2023. The school district is nearly three times the size of Washington, D.C. and experiencing a population boom as more people move in. New housing construction reflects that trend as the number of students added to the district because of subdivisions being actively built has grown by 81 percent since 2013.
Courtesy of: HCC and Katy Moms Chat, you can visit their website: hccs.edu/katymomschat
Nikki Wood– University of Montevallo in Alabama and will play Division II lacrosse on a scholarship.
Samantha Farrell– University of Montevallo in Alabama and will play Division II lacrosse on a scholarship.
Marisa Braden– University of Texas, Club lacrosse
Tobi Dipelou– University of Oklahoma, Club lacrosse
Their program continues to grow and has a number of former players playing college lacrosse. Currently their program has three former players playing lacrosse at the college level. They also have a number of girls who have continued to play at the club level at their college.
Courtney Brown– Liberty University, Division I, 2013 class
Katy Brown– Concordia University, Division III, 2013 class
Lacey Bowersox– Southwestern University, Division II, 2014 class
Bethany Moore – Texas Tech University, Club lacrosse, 2014 class
Mallory Claypool – University of Texas, Club lacrosse, 2014 class
Courtesy of: Katy Cavaliers Boys & Girls Lacrosse Club 23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd., Suite H-120, Box 278, Katy, Texas 77494. www.katycavalierlacrosse.org
I married a beautiful lady here in Katy, last December. She encouraged me to write poetry, after my brain surgery a year ago, to keep my mind (what’s left of it) sharp. So I began to try & then began to post what I wrote on my Facebook page.
I call them T.P.O.T.D, which stands for “The Poem Of The Day” in abbreviation. I refer to my postings as “Fruit from the Poet’s Tree” and today’s plucking was inspired by how much I’ve come to love Katy. I was born in Austin & still maintain a house there. I tell Roxanna (my sweet, amazing bride) that it’s now our vacation home, since we are in Katy the vast majority of our time.
I’ll always love Austin too, but never wrote a poem about it. That brings me to why I am writing “a letter to the editor”. Below is my T.P.O.T.D. I hope this doesn’t waste your time. I appreciate your efforts to publish a fine magazine, which I always enjoy reading.
Katy Was a Rail-Road Town
Back when folks were
“West-ward HOO & Bound!”
looking for a future & a
brand new town to found.
And I certainly should mention:
’twas the Missouri Kansas Texas extension,
called then by the old brand of
“Union Pacific – Southern Branch”
It went passing along & thru quite a few
farms to market &/or ranch,
soon, that name got grounded
& dropped out of contention,
in favor of a line that became simply known
as the M.K.T. Folks in Texas just liked the way
that “M.K.T.” sounded.
Yes, most of them would agree.
As the Metro-plex of Houston grew
& Katy, Texas was still brand new,
just how fast Katy would grow?
But it sure would not be slow.
As the railroad started laying tracks back in 1895,
The town that James Oliver Thomas was busy
laying out, began to come alive!
Giving it the name of Katy,
He knew that it would thrive,
long before that first M.K.T. railroad train
was scheduled to arrive.
Expecting vast prosperity, folks began to come.
either by the new locomotives,
or in wagon-trains came some.
The original depot station
still stands & holds the memory
of the founders, then filled with elation,
That made Katy come to be.
So, if in the vicinity,
stop in so you can see
the beauty long ago
brought here by the M.K.T.
Yours Truly, George Knaak
Growing up in Katy was one of the best things my parents could have done for me. I was raised a Winborn Eagle, A Katy Tiger, and a member of girl scouts, KYF, and more. Although I didn’t get to fulfill my dream of being a Katy Tiger, I was still able to appreciate everything Katy had to offer. However, besides a great education and amazing town experiences from little league games to the Katy Rice Harvest Festival, my most favorite treasures are my friends.
Diane Winborn Eagles to Texas A&M Aggies
(Left to Right: Ashley McElmurry ’15, Brecklyn Gordon ’15, and Stephanie Ellis ’15)
At the age of four years old, my parents enrolled me in Williamsburg Country Day School and it was there that I met some of my best friends. Soon after, I began my six years at Diane Winborn Elementary, and met some of the best friends that I still have today.
Growing up in Katy made it easy to grow with these friends. We all did girl scouts and attended local town events. We joined the community and participated in almost everything together, even leaving home. Fast forward through high school, and we have arrived at June 2011. We all graduated from High School and were ready to leave Katy. Most of us went to the same place, the place I have called home for the past four years.
One by one, we all traveled to College Station. Some of us went straight to Texas A&M and some of us enrolled at Blinn in hopes to one day be an Aggie. With all these people here, the transition was supposed to be easy. However, I found myself missing home. I started going home a lot, and taking advantage of all of my childhood experiences. I went and rode the rides at the Rice Harvest Festival, sat at Starbucks in La Centerra, and walked around Katy Mills Mall as if I was 13 again. Although this was fun and all, I knew I had to let go, and fully immerse myself in this Aggie town. Lucky for me, I still had a few of my best friends left with me to make these past couple of years easier.
As my roommate and hometown best friend was receiving her ring the other day, it dawned on me that I had to do something I have never done before. I needed to stop and appreciate everything my hometown has done for me. It brought me friends for life and as we all realize that we are permanently connected through the Aggie Network, we acknowledge the fact that we are connected from our hometown roots as well.
Now as a senior in college, I can say that it is time to come home. When I graduated high school I thought I was ready to leave my little home called Katy, Texas. Now, as a more wise soon to be college graduate I can say that I finally appreciate home. So from Katy to College Station, and back home again I go.
By Ashley McElmurry
Katyites Steven and Stephanie Poss’ premature son Beckham faces a life-threatening “medical mystery” and survives
Written by Stephanie Poss | Select photography by Kristen Richards
It’s been said, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” The greatest news in the world was that our family of three would be growing to a family of four. Beckham Neil Poss was due to arrive in mid-October 2013. As any expecting parents, my husband Steven and I could not be happier. We immediately started preparing his room and our daughter for the change of not being an only child anymore. During pregnancy, I threw up so much I ended up on complete bed rest. I went into preterm labor in early August, and we began shots to help build his lungs and trying to stop the labor.
On August 24 Beckham arrived, weighing just over five pounds. Beckham was quickly rushed to the NICU. When a child is born, you want to hold and cuddle them, but a NICU mom can’t. Each day he improved. As parents, we lived for the few times we got to hold Beckham. We struggled to not feel helpless. One month after being born, he was released to go home. He was strong enough, or so we thought.
The Longest Days
I have never felt more ill-prepared than when I took Beckham home for the first time. Something in my heart kept telling me he was not ready, but I tried to silence that voice because the doctors believed he was. On October 1, 2013, I woke up excited to celebrate my birthday and found out it would be the toughest day of my life.
I was holding Beckham as he was sleeping and noticed a strange violent movement. It was like nothing I had seen before. I called the doctor’s office, trying not to sound crazy. As I was on the phone, Beckham went into a seizure again and stopped breathing. The nurse dispatched 911 to my house and walked me through how to help him. All I could do was try to follow her directions and pray God would take over. After many tests at Texas Children’s West Campus, it was decided Beckham needed more intense treatment at Texas Children’s in the Medical Center in the Level II NICU. My husband and I had no answers.
The doctors did not know what was wrong. All we were told is he was a “medical mystery.” I have always been a Christ follower, but I never knew what it meant to truly trust the Lord with my whole heart until He was truly the only thing keeping my son alive. There in the NICU, we begged God to save him. In the depths of our despair, we clung to the miracles that began to unfold. A sorority sister I had not seen in close to 10 years showed up and had a blanket made for Beckham that was blessed at a church. This became the one thing that never left his side. This same friend was able to help get us into the Ronald McDonald House so we could stay close by.
As the days in the hospital turned into months, we saw an outpouring of support. Taylor High School students had a fundraising week. They had meals, made shirts, had dodgeball tournaments – you name it, they did it for us. They raised over $8,000 to help us with our bills. Taylor and our church, Parkway Fellowship, set up a meal calendar providing dinners from October through January. The Houston Aces soccer team dedicated their preseason to Beckham. The Joe Joe Bear Foundation brought Beckham and Brooklyn gifts. Musician Justin Michael Bell did a benefit show. Friends and family cleaned our home.
Waiting for Answers
My sister-in-law had a great idea to set up a Facebook page so we could update it, and then all of our friends and family could see what was going on without us having to talk about the details repeatedly. She also set up a medical fundraising page and gifts started to pour in for our little warrior. As bills were mounting, and all of our resources were depleting, my husband and I prayed about what to do next. We still were no closer to any answers.
The best minds in medicine could not figure him out. All we had been given was a medical label of “failure to thrive” – a label the doctors gave him, but we would not allow them to speak in Beckham’s room. Yet my husband and I both felt a peace that can only come from our heavenly Father. We were reassured Beckham was going to live. In November, Beckham was released to come home with a feeding tube and a home health nurse. The thought of having medical staff in my home was horrible, but I tried to remember that it would be better than not having him home. The next day we met Tara, Beckham’s home health nurse, one of the angels who touched our lives.
Tara was a member of the family from the first moment we met her. She taught my daughter how to turn the feeding tube on and off and how to use the stethoscope. Beckham was on specialized formula because he could not digest. Once we were out of the hospital, our insurance denied this. Our formula bills were almost as much as our mortgage. We were struggling. Steven and I began to sell items, give private coaching lessons, anything we could do. In December, Beckham got the flu and was hospitalized again. The staff at the Texas Children’s West Campus became friends. We got to come home and then he was sick again and was hospitalized until two days before Christmas.
Friends and Miracles
As parents, you worry not only about the health of your children, but also their happiness. With all funds depleted and no end in sight, we were burdened with not making our mortgage and celebrating Christmas. Again, God reminded us to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10). The next day Brian Bruenke, one of our pastors told me they felt led to pay our mortgage. Our spirits were renewed. God was keeping us going. A group of friends from Taylor High School brought gifts for my children.
I had to quit my position as a teacher at Taylor High School. In an amazing turn of events, Dagley Insurance and Marcus Henneke offered me a position which allowed me to work from the hospital. With Beckham still needing home health, we wanted to get back to normal. Katie Collins, a previous student of mine, just happened to be working at my daughter’s day care at the time. She became Beckham’s nannie so I could work full-time. We were told Beckham would have to be on a feeding tube for at least a year.
If he was ever strong enough to be off it he would need a massive amount of therapy. By April, only six months after being on the feeding tube, Beckham began to have oral feedings. A few months later he was tube free. Today, weighing 23 hard-earned pounds, Beckham is completely caught up to his peers! A true miracle. KM
Editor’s Note : Katy Magazine would like to thank the Poss family for sharing their amazing story of hope and faith with the community.
Katy couples whose love has withstood decades share how living happily ever after is not a fairy tale, but a choice of commitment
Written by Tassie Hewitt | Select photography by Juliana Evans
Demanding jobs, health issues, and money worries might mean the honeymoon is over for some couples, but these Katy husbands and wives have found the secret to wedded bliss. They agree that while falling in love is easy, staying in love requires commitment and hard work. It was 1941 when Boyd and Emily Baker met at a Christmas party in Flint, Michigan. “I was asked to sing ‘White Christmas,’” says Boyd, who was 15 at the time.
“About the middle of the song, I looked down and there was a pretty young lady in a blue flowered dress. It was love at first sight.” Emily, age 13 at the time, grew up as the oldest of 17 children in her family. The couple courted for seven years, during which time Boyd went away to college and was drafted into the Navy. “Every time I returned, she was there,” says Boyd, who grew up during the Great Depression. “I never had anyone as faithful in my life. I was lucky.” The couple, now married 66 years, started out living in a 500-square-foot trailer at a time when $13 bought a week’s worth of groceries.
Boyd, pastor emeritus at Grace Fellowship United Methodist Church, believes couples today need an “attitude of gratitude” and mutual trust to keep their marriages strong. He recently authored a book titled, A Pocket Full of Prayers. “I think they start out getting too much,” says Boyd. “In Katy, we’re economically in good condition. I don’t think people appreciate what comes too easy.” Five children, nine grandchildren, and two great grandchildren later, Boyd says even at ages 88 and 86, he and his wife still enjoy being together. “I see her asleep, and I thank God,” says Boyd. “I have a heartfelt feeling of love today and in a different way than before. I think God had his hand in all of this.”
To Love and to Cherish
“Putting one another first before anyone or anything has been the success of our marriage,” says Dusti Luna, a kindergarten teacher at Morton Ranch Elementary who has been married to her husband, Pete, who works for the Department of Public Safety, for 20 years. “We do sweet little gestures to keep the romance alive.” “I know it sounds crazy, but I saw her in class and I just knew she was the one,” says Pete, who met Dusti in college. “It was just something in my heart.” Three years later he snuck into her apartment while she was in the bathroom, placed a ring on her dresser, and hid in her closet.
When she found the ring, he jumped out of the closet, got down on one knee, and popped the question. “He’s my rock,” says Dusti, who didn’t know anyone when she first moved to Katy. “The minute I met him he started protecting me. He took care of me then, and he still does.” Dusti says good communication and respect for each other are the keys to a successful marriage. The Lunas learned when they were newly married and facing the challenge of having opposite work schedules that it is important for couples to have quality time to share conversation and focus on each other. “We would make date nights, and his mom would watch the kids,” she says.
“There are a lot of people who stay married for comfort, but we truly want to be together. We want to travel; we love to go dancing.” The Lunas have two children who attend Katy High School – Austin, 18, and Cheyenne, 15. “We’re constantly teaching our son to treat his girlfriend with respect, and we’re modeling for our daughter how she should be shown respect,” says Dusti.
In Sickness and in Health
For some couples, it is the challenges that make their marriage stronger. When Nancy and Steve McMillan met at work over 35 years ago, they never dreamed the obstacles they would face as a married couple. “It’s one of those things where you just know,” says Steve about when the pair met. “I came around the corner, and she was about 15 feet away. All the air went out of me. I never really believed in that before, but it sure happened to me.” “He asked me out to lunch, and the rest is history,” says Nancy, a secretary in the communications department at Katy ISD.
“He still takes my breath away.” Steve, who works for a wireless network company, is a two-time cancer survivor who battled leukemia in 1995 and colon cancer in 2008. Through the tough times, the couple relied on their faith, family, and friends to keep tman, and he’s very faithful,” says Nancy who believes the secret to a good marriage is putting God first. “That makes me want to be faithful.” Part of what keeps the couple strong is their desire to have fun together, even long after the children, Sarah, 28, and Stephen, 31, have grown. They make it a point to have dinner with each other every night. They stay connected with phone calls during the day.
“The secret to a good marriage is wanting it to succeed and not throwing it away when it gets hard,” says Nancy. “We were really challenged, and it brought us so much closer. It made our marriage stronger.” Steve’s advice to young married couples is to be committed to common goals and to remember what they loved about each other at the beginning of their relationship. “It’s a growing thing,” says Steve. “Nobody gets where we are the first five, 10, or 15 years.”
For Richer or for Poorer
Some couples not only grow old together, they grow up together. “It was love at first sight,” says Ross Ramos, when he and Margie met at a café in the summer of 1969. The teenage sweethearts dated a short time before Ross, then 17, proposed. “I was baby-sitting,” says Margie, who was only 16 at the time. “He came to see me and said we were going to get married.” Soon after, the couple moved to Houston to start new jobs. “I remember packing our few belongings into a Ford Mustang. Our first challenge was working toward paying our rent and bills and having money,” says Margie who is now vice president of real estate loan Nancy hem strong.
“Steve is a fighter. He’s a strong, godly man, and he’s very faithful,” says Nancy who believes the secret to a good marriage is putting God first. “That makes me want to be faithful.” Part of what keeps the couple strong is their desire to have fun together, even long after the children, Sarah,28, and Stephen, 31, have grown. They make it a point to have dinner with each other every night. They stay connected with phone calls during the day. “The secret to a good marriage is wanting it to succeed and not throwing it away when it gets hard,” says Nancy. “We were really challenged, and it brought us so much closer. It made our marriage stronger.”
Steve’s advice to young married couples is to be committed to common goals and to remember what they loved about each other at the beginning of their relationship. “It’s a growing thing,” says Steve. “Nobody gets where we are the first five, 10, or 15 years.” For Richer or for Poorer Some couples not only grow old together, they grow up together. “It was love at first sight,” says Ross Ramos, when he and Margie met at a café in the summer of 1969. The teenage sweethearts dated a short time before Ross, then 17, proposed. “I was baby-sitting,” says Margie, who was only 16 at the time. “He came to see me and said we were going to get married.”
Soon after, the couple moved to Houston to start new jobs. “I remember packing our few belongings into a Ford Mustang. Our first challenge was working toward paying our rent and bills and having money,” says Margie who is now vice president of real estate loan operations at Wallis State Bank. “We started out with nothing.” The Ramos’, who have three daughters, all graduates from Katy High School, Laura, 44, Tammy, 40, and Melissa, 32, just celebrated their 45th anniversary and owe the success of their marriage to hard work, patience, and good communication. “We’re so much alike,” says Margie. “My husband is a very hard worker and so am I. We’re both from the same background and come from the country. Everything we have today is because of both of us working.”
When they are not working, the couple enjoys spending time at their horse ranch and traveling. Yearly weeklong cruises and vacations at resorts keep them connected. Even though it has been decades since they said “I do,” the couple looks forward to retiring together and moving into the country. Margie says, “We both feel young at heart.” Though life can challenge any marriage, the decades these couples have spent together made them grow closer instead of apart. They respect, protect, and love each other. They never give up. KM
TASSIE HEWITT is a freelance writer who believes in true love, and is inspired by her parents who are still on their honeymoon 52 years later.
Katy artist Kathleen Wedemeyer makes it her business to turn other people’s trash into treasure and inspires with her messages of hope and faith
Written by Tassie Hewitt | Select Photography by Country Park Portraits
What started as a hobby 25 years ago for crafty Katy resident, Kathleen Wedemeyer, turned into her livelihood and passion, as demand for her handmade antique vintage creations took her artwork out of local craft shows and into homes across the country. She dutifully named her brand, Hope and Glory.
Hope and Glory
The artist, who makes an art out of turning junk into gems, admits to being creative from a young age. “I remember going through trash cans at the house and wondering what I could make out of stuff,” she says. She once sold Christmas ornaments made out of dried okra to supplement her family income. “I can almost pick up a stick off the ground and make something out of it.”
Wedemeyer, who has a background in commercial art, scavenges thrift stores for old silver and jewelry for use in her work. The frugal artist, who professes to being cheap at heart, transforms antique ceiling tile and discarded bead board into the collection of crosses, architectural angels, collages, and frames, for which she is so well known.
“I love metal,” she says. Wedemeyer studied welding so she could expand the scope of her work. “I love rusty metal that tells a story because it’s been through the process of time.
Where the Heart Is
Katy became home to Wedemeyer after her business grew and her old neighborhood’s deed restrictions stifled her creativity. She needed space to spread out and allow storage for her growing collection of materials. “I bought a big trailer full of ceiling tin one time, and I was thinking, ‘How am I going to get that home?’” she says. “So then, I just bought the trailer, too.”
The artist, whose one-acre backyard in Old Katy is home to chickens and dogs, vintage bikes, and a ’70s travel trailer, grew up in southeast Houston, but does not regret her move to Katy 15 years ago. “Old Katy still feels like a small town,” she says. “I love this house. It has character.”
Wedemeyer’s 2,000 square-foot workshop, located behind her historic home, is crammed with bits and scraps and pieces of her finds. The workshop was built by her architect husband, Ron. It’s where she spends at least three days a week creating the artwork she hopes will inspire purchasers. It is also where her husband taught her to use power tools, a skill that launched her business in a whole new direction.
Wedemeyer finds inspiration for her work everywhere. “There are times I will hear a message at church and thatwill become a banner one of my angels is holding,” she says. “There are dark things in life, and people need hope.”
In 2011, the owners of Creative Co-OP discovered Wedemeyer’s artwork and asked permission to reproduce some of her more popular pieces. As a result, Hope and Glory licensed creations can be found in stores throughout the country, as well as online. “I even have little crosses at Buc-ee’s, now,” Wedemeyer laughs. “It was a nice opportunity to take some things off my plate so I could go on to create new things.” Despite her accomplishments, Wedemeyer says it is important not to judge success in purely economic terms. “There have been many shows I went to and didn’t make a penny, and yet I met a new best friend,” she says. Her artwork is more about the message than the money. “I love the power of words to inspire people. I hope to glorify God in what I do. He is the master artist, and we’re all His masterpieces.”
When she is not creating or selling her artwork, Wedemeyer finds time to share her enthusiasm for art with the community. She teaches Power Tools 101 in her workshop where she empowers women with the courage and skills to master the sander, drill press, and nail gun. She hosts art workshops and retreats and belongs to the Rowdy Art Sisters art club where members meet to trade techniques and stir up each other’s creativity. She has a passion for mentoring other artistic women. Above all, Wedemeyer cherishes the oneof-a-kind in art and in life and has the ability to find beauty in anything. “I think every person you meet has a treasure inside,” she says. “I love mining for treasure.” KM
TASSIE HEWITT is a freelance writer who believes in angels and the power of words.
More than just a place to stay, Katy’s Ballard House provides patients, caregivers, and families in need with Texas-sized hospitality in a home away from home
Written by Susanna Donald | Select photography by Kristofor Rodriguez
Katy, TX News – It’s no secret that Katy is surrounded by premier medical facilities. People travel from all over the country – and the world – in order to get treatment here. But what happens when an out-of-town patient needs long-term care? Where do they sleep when they don’t qualify for a hospital bed? Being critically ill or having a loved one in the hospital is hard enough. Now imagine compounding the problem by sleeping in waiting rooms or spending money that should be going toward medical bills on a long-stay in a hotel.
Passion for a Mission
In 2011, Erin Ballard heard about this problem while she was undergoing treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Katy. Her oncologist, Dr. Suni Patel, told her about Cinco Charities, a non-profit dedicated to providing temporary housing for patients and their caregivers coming to Katy area medical facilities for treatment of life-threatening illnesses. Since 2006, Cinco Charities had housed these families in nearby hotels, with the ultimate goal of building a free-of-charge hospitality house that would be open to patients and their families.
Ballard, inspired by the mission of Cinco Charities, donated one of her rental houses in Katy for the non-profit to use, and her passion for the mission was contagious. Erin’s husband, Monty, started the Ballard Foundation in order to help Cinco Charities move toward their goal of the freestanding hospitality house in Katy. Two years later, the Ballard House opened its doors to five families in need of a place to stay. “The generosity of Monty and Erin Ballard has made it possible for so many families to have free lodging,” says Ginger Hopper, Ballard House’s executive director. “The size we envisioned for our ‘house’ was half the size they helped us build.”
Comforts of Home
With 24 guest suites, free onsite laundry facilities, a common kitchen and dining area, stocked pantry, library, chapel, beautiful backyard, and more, this 20,000 square-foot hospitality house truly offers guests the comforts of home. Patients can qualify to stay at Ballard House regardless of age or financial situation. To date, Ballard House has never charged guests anything because of the kindness of sponsors, donors, volunteers, and the Katy community.
Beyond the amenities, though, are the unique relationships that are formed between the families who are staying at Ballard House. “Families find themselves meeting total strangers who become like family in a very short time,” says Hopper. “We see folks walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but there is so much hope, joy, and love. The Ballard House is a happy place.”
Making a Difference
Before guests come to stay at the Ballard House, they often find themselves drained financially and physically from traveling back and forth for treatment. Being able to stay somewhere free of charge allows patients to rest, recover, and use their funds for paying medical bills and taking care of things at home.
When Pamela Hockett found out she had breast cancer, she immediately began researching treatment options. “It was clear that MD Anderson, seven hours away, was the only medical facility that offered the treatment I needed,” she says. “The realization that I needed weekly treatment so far from home added an additional burden. Suddenly, I was faced with the possibility of not getting the treatment I needed due to the financial strain of needing housing and daily living expenses.” Hockett had already lost her job and was planning to be married at the beginning of June – incidentally, only a few days before she would start treatment.
Hockett’s social worker at MD Anderson told her about the Ballard House, and soon she and her husband-to-be Michael were offered the room where they would stay as husband and wife and where she could rest and recover from the lifesaving treatment she would receive. “The Ballard House gave us so much more than a room,” Hockett says. “It was hope, and hope makes all the difference.” KM
Tommie Cross-Holmes, a Mayde Creek graduate, is accomplishing his dream of modeling in New York City
Written by Cherri Northcutt | Photography courtesy of Tommie Cross-Holmes
Growing up as a student at Mayde Creek Elementary, Tommie Cross-Holmes never imagined that he would one day live in New York and have a successful modeling career. “As a kid, I was always playing outside with friends,” Tommie remembers. “My mom even got walkie-talkies so she could let me know when to come in for dinner. The only problem was, I had to stay within range,” he says.
“Tommie loved to read and play football,” his mother, Denita Holmes shares. In fact, his love of sports led him to Katy Youth Football where he met some of his lifelong friends. His dad played golf, so Tommie started playing in seventh grade. Tommie adds, “I also played football and ran track through junior high and high school.”
Dreams of Broadway
At Mayde Creek High School, Tommie was also active in choir. “He performed in Kantori and Encore choirs, and played the Beast in Beauty and the Beast his senior year,” Denita says. An active, good-natured young man, Tommie had dreams of playing for the NFL and singing on Broadway.
After graduating from Mayde Creek in 2009, Tommie was accepted into the musical theatre program at Sam Houston State University. While there, he also found time to play intramural football, basketball, soccer, and kickball. He was on the rugby team for the university as well as a camp counselor for incoming freshmen in his sophomore and junior years at college. “I like to meet people and be active,” Tommie says.
Getting the Callback
For years, Tommie’s mother and several of his friends encouraged him to give modeling a try. “I said, ‘That’s not for me,’” Tommie recalls. “Finally in 2010, I decided to give it a shot.”
Page Parkes in Houston was the second agency Tommie went for a meeting. “The only pictures we had were my senior photos from high school,” Tommie admits. After meeting with Parkes, the agency signed him that day. “They set me up with my first test shoot,” Tommie remembers. “I felt like a superstar in my own way.”
“We were drawn to Tommie’s sweet nature, cool look, and we loved the hair,” says Erik Bechtol, agency director at Page Parkes. “He’s always happy and has a love of the business that makes people want to be around him.”
At an agency review, Tommie showed off his modeling and acting talents for other agencies and clients. “I was so nervous,” he recalls. “At home later I was freaking out that I wouldn’t get a callback.” He did not need to worry. The next day Tommie learned that he had callbacks for eight modeling opportunities and 10 callbacks for acting. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy,” Tommie says. He began modeling under the name Tommie Cross.
The Move to NYC
In August 2011, Tommie went to New York to test the waters. In his first few days, he went to casting calls and met potential clients. He then booked his first campaign for Off Broadway Shoes. A few days later he booked a TJ Maxx advertisement. Jobs with Seventeen Magazine and GQ quickly followed. “I thought that if it was going to keep going like that, I’d better find a place to live,” Tommie says.
Three weeks into his trip, Tommie found an apartment, and he’s been in New York ever since. Tommie’s “trial run” has turned into a permanent move.
Last February, Tommie met his goal of getting work with a national modeling agency when he signed with Wilhelmina Models in New York and Los Angeles. His proudest moment as a model so far was a recent commercial for Sony. “I did a Sony campaign with video game characters of me that played on the billboard in Times Square,” he says. “That was a great moment.”
Calling Katy Home
Tommie enjoys occasional visits with his family and to his hometown. “New York is just go-go-go, 24-7,” Tommie shares. “I love coming home to Katy to just chill and relax.” In Katy, he still loves playing football with old friends and watching his little brother Samuel grow up. Samuel is now a freshman at Mayde Creek High School. “I like to go back to Mayde Creek and talk to Coach Carter,” Tommie says. “I miss driving instead of always taking a subway everywhere.” Tommie also enjoys reconnecting with his childhood friends in Katy. “I’m still the same person. I don’t let success go to my head.”
Remember Your Roots
Tommie believes in setting goals. In the future he says, “I want to get the acting side of things going. In three years I want to shoot a TV pilot and in five years I want to be on my first feature film.” This January, he will be in Los Angeles working with Wilhelmina, LA. Tommie believes that the attitude you display determines how successful you will be
in the industry.
“Modeling isn’t for everyone,” Tommie admits. “You have to get used to rejection.” Even so, he encourages people to stay positive. “Don’t be scared; get out of your comfort zone. Get out there and try.” He encourages others to not be afraid, and to remember their roots. “No matter how successful you get, don’t forget who you are, where you came from, and the people who were with you when times were hard.” KM
CHERRI NORTHCUTT has lived in Katy with her husband and two daughters for over 14 years.
An inside look at Katy ISD’s dedicated board of trustees
Written by Shetye Cypher | Photography courtesy of Katy ISD
As one of the fastest growing communities in the nation, Katy ISD is the perfect combination of long-standing tradition and a cutting edge approach to learning. Through collaboration, commitment, and a desire for greatness, the Katy ISD board of trustees is always striving to provide the best educational experience possible for Katy students.
Bryan Michalsky, President
- Is the CFO of Cotton Holdings, Inc.
- Has lived in Katy for six years
- Was a Bearkat cheerleader for Sam Houston State University
- Was elected to the board in May 2012
Both lifelong educators, Bryan Michalsky’s parents instilled the importance of a good education early on, which he feels
had a huge impact. “I love children, which to me is the first prerequisite to serve on the board,” he says. He also truly believes that the board has made strides in engaging the community over the past two years since he has served.
In addition to his passion for education, his professional experience provides him with the knowledge to make sound financial decisions. He loves that Katy ISD provides its students many opportunities to learn and succeed. “From athletics, to fine arts, to FFA, Katy ISD does a remarkable job of educating the whole student and preparing them for a fulfilling life,” says Michalsky.
Henry Dibrell, Vice President
- Plays the drums and was in a band that traveled around the U.S.
- Is a licensed minister
- Is a flag football coach at CrossPoint Community Church
- Was elected to the board in May 2011
Henry Dibrell refers to the involvement of parents and community volunteers as the “secret sauce” behind Katy ISD’s success. “We have an opportunity in Katy to change the face of education for all young people,” he says. “Katy is a great community. We have a bright future. As we continue to grow, we must work together to ensure that greatness continues and is passed down to the next generation.”
Dibrell decided to run for the board out of a passion for seeing young people achieve. He believes the board’s mission is to make sure every child in the community has access to unparalleled learning experiences. “Education is the great equalizer in our society. In this great nation, if you have a good education and work hard you can achieve great things. The key to the preservation of our liberties is an educated populous,” he says.
Rebecca Fox, Secretary
- Has served in PTA’s, the VIPS executive board, and the Katy Council of PTA executive board
- Has lived in six countries
- Works as a motivational speaker
No matter the strengths, challenges, or interests of students, having talented educators ready to teach and inspire is what Rebecca Fox loves about Katy ISD. “I love children of all ages and watching them learn new things. Giving them opportunities that meet their individual strengths makes me excited,” she says.
Fox could not be more proud of the amazing programs that Katy ISD offers students, from fine arts to special needs. “I have attended countless graduations and shaken thousands of hands, and I still get misty-eyed every time I hear the music as they walk the stage and throw their caps into the air. It’s my favorite time of year. I am so proud of them, and happy that they are prepared for the future.”
Charles Griffin, Treasurer
- Retired from the U.S. Air Force
- Coached by Gary Joseph at Katy High School
- Third-generation Katy grad
- Elected to the board in May 2012
In Charles Griffin’s travels around the world, he has seen the value of a great education. Having lived almost his entire life in Katy, he wants to help restore the trust of the community in the district. “I grew up in Katy and moved back here so my children could have the same great experiences. I wanted to give something back to the district having received so much myself,” he says.
Griffin believes that being a leader includes being honest, loyal, steadfast, and of sound character. He feels the current board’s vision statement works well. “It was put together by this community and covers all the important needs of our students, community, and the district,” he says.
Courtney Doyle, Sergeant-at-Arms
- Mother of six children
- Active in PTA and as a community volunteer
- Secretly wants to adopt six more children
- Was elected to the board in May 2014
Courtney Doyle feels she is acutely aware of the importance of all kids being given an opportunity to learn. She felt running for the board was a unique opportunity to add another woman’s voice to the leadership. “I want to continue to aid in opening the lines of communication between
the district and the community. We not only have to communicate our goals to those who have been in Katy forever, we have to engage and find unique opportunities to communicate effectively to families who are new to the area,”
Doyle loves walking the halls of the schools and spending time at extracurricular events. The students brighten her day and her outlook on the future. “Children have a way of sharing hope without even knowing they are doing so. They are innocent, quick to love, quick to laugh, and eager to be great,” says Doyle.
Ashley Vann, Member
- Graduate of James E. Taylor High School
- Third-generation community servant
- Vann and her mother were the founding members of the National Charity League – Katy Chapter
- Was elected to the board May 2014
Ashley Vann feels that being a Katy resident means that you are a part of something great. “People move to the Katy area for the Katy ISD schools, and I love being a part of this district – its past, its present, and its future,” she says.
A James E. Taylor High School graduate, Vann has served in leadership positions for over a decade in Katy ISD. She is a third generation community servant who felt a calling to do more for the school district. “I campaigned honestly and tirelessly. I communicated clearly, and truly committed to do this job with all of my heart the minute I filed,” says Vann.
Vann also loves that even though the district is significantly larger than when she was a student, it still feels like a small town. “As a product of public education, I always believed my children would be, too,” says Vann. “Education is more than just the classroom. It is hands on learning outside the four walls of a school building. It is achieved through mentoring, the many co-curricular activities that are available, and the fundamental basis and commitment that exists at home.”
Joe M. Adams, Member
- Has been a proud Katyite since 1986
- Has held every board position at least once
- Is a private pilot and owns his own plane
- Has been a member of the board sine 1989
Joe Adams believes that the board’s job is managing the district along with the superintendent. He says the board wants to continue to improve the district so all students have opportunities to excel. “Education is important for our students because they are our future. One day they might be my doctor, my mechanic, or even the president of the U. S.,” says Adams. “We need to make sure every student is prepared for the next step in life, whatever that might be.”
Adams is confident in the opportunities Katy ISD can offer. “I cannot tell you how many times people have told me that their children have done well in college because of the education they received in Katy ISD,” says Adams. “We need to be proud of our district, our leadership, administration, and teachers. We are all in this together and it is important for us to be successful.” KM
Shetye Cypher is a freelance writer who is also the journalism teacher and publications advisor at Tompkins High School.
Katy, TX News (December 16, 2014) – Bo Levi Mitchell, a 2008 graduate of Katy High School, recently led the Calgary Stampeders to a 20-16 win against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and took home the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award during the 2014 Grey Cup Canadian Championship Football Game.
The 2014 Grey Cup win adds to Mitchell’s impressive list of athletic awards including the Katy High School State Championship in 2007; a National Championship at Eastern Washington University in 2010; and the 2011 Walter Payton Award, which is given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
Click here for more information on the 2014 Grey Cup.
Katy, TX News (December 6, 2014) – The Katy ISD Communications department has issued a letter regarding the tragic deaths of Terra Kubala and Trent Weber:
“Dear Parents and Guardians,
The faculty and staff of Seven Lakes and Cinco Ranch High School are deeply saddened to learn of the deaths of two students who tragically lost their lives in a vehicle accident over the weekend. We ask that you please join us as we extend our deepest and heartfelt sympathy to the families as they mourn their loss.
Grief counselors will be on campus on Monday to help our school community deal with this loss. We will be doing everything we can to help your child and our staff through this heartbreaking experience.
Over the next few days, you may wish to encourage your child to express his or her feelings and listen attentively. It will be helpful to recognize the various steps that we all go through in the grieving process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
If you have any concerns regarding your child’s reaction to this loss, please contact your child’s teacher, school counselor or any member of the administrative staff. Thank you for your concern and support during this difficult time.”
*Katy Magazine would like to express their deepest sympathies for the families of these students, and send wishes for comfort and healing in this time of incredible loss.
Katyite Joshua Martinez shares the story of his battle with colorectal cancer
Written by Clare Jensen | Photography by Anetrius Wallace
Katy, TX News – People often take their lives and daily activities for granted, discrediting illness as too far removed to affect them. But then one day, they are taken by surprise, and the certainty of having a next breath becomes not quite so certain. This was the case for Katyite Joshua Martinez.
From Colonoscopy to Cancer
Joshua Martinez, an elementary school assistant principal with a wife and four kids, had no symptoms of cancer in June 2012. His son Ian, a medical student, encouraged both his parents to have colonoscopy screenings since they were in their mid-fifties. Within a few weeks, Martinez was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer.
The entire family was both shocked and devastated. Roxanne, the Martinez’s oldest daughter, describes her reaction to the news. “My worst nightmare: cancer hitting my family. My heart stopped. I cried. Later, I composed myself and realized we have to have a fighter’s attitude toward it.”
Having incorporated faith into their daily lives prior to the cancer diagnosis helped Martinez and his family adjust to their new perspective. “The one constant throughout it was prayer. Whether individually or corporately as a family, we prayed often,” Martinez says.
Following the diagnosis, treatment started almost immediately with chemotherapy, two surgeries, and hospitalizations. The side effects of chemotherapy were far beyond mere inconvenience or embarrassment. Besides nausea and exhaustion, Martinez suffered from numbness and tingling in his hands, depression, and complications with his ileostomy, which diverted his intestines to a removal bag. According to Martinez’s oncologist, Dr. Sunil Patel with MD Anderson in Katy, “The treatment wasn’t easy for him. He pushed through it because of the support
system that was in place. If his experience would be a lesson for anyone, it would be to rely on that base of support that you have in times of need.”
Martinez credits his wife Berta as his biggest supporter throughout the process. From his dietary cravings to his mood shifts, she tended as much as possible to both his physical and emotional needs. Dr. Patel admired the couple’s strong relationship. “She was very concerned and asked a lot of questions to help him get through it when the initial diagnosis was hard for him. [She] was very positive, and he relied on [her] in a significant way.”
His children also played instrumental roles in distracting their father from his cancer. His daughter Rhiannon knew how much her dad dreaded the chemotherapy treatments. In order to show her support, she decided to present him with a superhero shirt and themed gift every time he had a treatment. For example, an Ironman shirt was accompanied by a “gadget,” a stand for Martinez’s iPad. “My dad grew up during a time of comic books and superheroes, something we’ve been able to share every time the latest superhero blockbuster came out. I wanted him to know how heroic a thing it was that he was doing, battling cancer.”
A Musical Miracle
When he successfully completed treatment at MD Anderson in Katy, Martinez says, “We were elated and thankful to God for bringing us through this.” After a celebration dinner, his family surprised him with a mandolin, an instrument he had been interested in learning prior to his diagnosis. During his illness, his daughter Bianca would write songs of encouragement for him, and music often helped him out of depression. Now the mandolin, in addition to his guitar, represents both the victory over cancer and the love that surrounds him.
Currently, he is working to include the mandolin in a new song he is writing. “It’s dedicated to my wife as she inspired it by her Christ-like actions. Basically, it is about the spiritual struggle I went through and how she was able to help me out of the pit of despair.” The faith, music, and love that inspired the Martinez family throughout the chemotherapy and surgeries continue long after the treatments have vanished. Once Martinez reaches five years from his diagnosis, he will be considered a survivor. He says the cancer experience has changed him for the better. “There’s a reason for all we go through in life, and we’re not guaranteed our next breath, so we do the best we can with the opportunities given.” KM
Clare Jensen is a senior at Rice University majoring in English and history. She calls Katy her home, and enjoys keeping in touch with the community.
Katy mom Lara Massey shares her story of living through her worst nightmare, the tragic accident involving her 6-year-old daughter, and how Preslee Nicholson’s journey of recovery has brought hope to many
Written by Lara Massey | Select photography by Sassy Massey Photography
Katy, TX News – Arriving four weeks early, Preslee was born a fighter. After spending her first seven days in NICU, she came home weighing a little less than five pounds. The first few months of her life were just a glimpse of her strength and will to live. When Preslee was 2, her dad and I divorced. He was awarded visitation at various times, mostly during summer vacation for six weeks. In time, I remarried, and in a few short years our family welcomed Kaylee and Jax. Our lives were complete.
Friday, July 5, 2013 was normal. Our family spent the day swimming at my parent’s house counting the days until Preslee returned home in two weeks. I knew Preslee would be traveling that day, and I was nervous. She was making a cross-country journey from Texas to Virginia with her dad’s girlfriend to visit family. I talked to her that night and told her I loved her, to be good, and that I would call her in the morning. By then, she would be in Virginia. I went to sleep that night uneasy, I always worry. I kept thinking that if I could just sleep, I’d wake up in the morning and Preslee would be off the road, safe and sound.
At 6 a.m. my cell phone rang. I heard a voice on the other end asking, “Are you the mother of Preslee Nicholson?” My heart stopped, and I said, “Yes.” The doctor told me that my daughter had been in a terrible accident. The words, “her heart is still beating, but she is non-responsive. She is not breathing on her own and has critical injuries,” kept repeating over and over.
Our lives changed in an instant. I woke up my husband Jarrod, and told him Preslee was hurt. I remember him flying out of bed and dropping to his knees, praying through his tears. I wasn’t crying – I don’t know why. We left the house with nothing except my purse and one phone charger. I threw up in the front yard, but I didn’t cry.
Flying to Our Baby
After dropping off our two younger children with my parents, we got a flight and were in Winston-Salem, bedside by 2 p.m. To this day, I don’t know how I emotionally survived two flights across the country not knowing if my baby would be alive when I got there.
As our plane landed, the hospital informed me they were going to have to open Preslee’s abdomen to relieve pressure and “to be aware.” I wasn’t even sure what that meant. I remember the drive to the hospital, I kept wondering with each curve of the road “Is this where it happened? Was my baby crying for me?”
Arriving at the hospital, I made my way to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). Before I saw Preslee, her doctor informed me that it had been a single car accident. My daughter was found on the floorboard in the back seat, pinned down by one of the doors that had been inverted from the impact of the crash. Numb with fear, her doctor led me down a hallway to the last room. The room was large and filled with machines, a big bed, and my little girl. She was asleep, hurt, and swollen with a sheet covering her abdomen that now contained a wound vac with suction pulling blood and fluid out of her little body. She was on an oscillator to breathe.
Her skull was fractured, her femur was split in two, and her arm and wrist were broken. Her lungs were collapsed. Her liver and arms had deep lacerations. Her ligaments in her neck were torn, and her thoracic vertebra had compression fractures. She couldn’t breathe on her own, sit up, or walk. She was heavily sedated due to pain. She’s my gymnast, my partner in crime, and she’s only 6.
I asked over and over if my daughter would be okay. The only response was that they were going to try their hardest to save my little girl’s life. For now, we had to look at time in one-hour increments. If we get through this hour, we will look to the next. The doctors didn’t know if she would have brain damage, be paralyzed, wake up, or if she would even survive. I prayed harder than I’ve ever prayed in my entire life. I reached out to my family and friends back home in Katy. I told them to pray. I told them to tell their friends to pray. Please God, save her. Please do not make me go home without my daughter.
Praying for Preslee
From then on, the clock was ticking. In the coming days, we would see small improvements only to have a set back. Meanwhile, my friends set up a website, “Pray for Preslee Lynn.” It soon became “P4P.” Before I knew it, packages were being sent to the hospital, 20 to 30 letters a day, P4P car decals were made, and people started sending us clothes and personal items since we left home without anything. Ministers from all over North Carolina were stopping by to pray with us – it was amazing.
We spent the month of July in the hospital. Slowly, we moved her from the PICU, to intermediate care, and then to the general care floor. Preslee was weaned off of her medications. She started to show her doctors she knew exactly what they were saying and that she was determined to get out of there.
I sang to her in the hospital, painted her nails, put her hair in pigtail braids, and gave her feet spa treatments while she slept. I left music on 24/7, read books to her, and told her I loved her constantly. After 22 days, we were ready to go home. I was so happy, but knew we had a long road ahead of us. Preslee was in a turtle shell, a neck brace, arm cast, and couldn’t do anything on her own. She was miserable, but she was alive. We couldn’t fly, so God sent to us the amazing crew of Life Star Emergency Services. We made it home in approximately 21 hours via ambulance.
Coming Home to Katy
Arriving home, there were balloons, gifts, meals, and packages from wonderful people who were following our journey. My small town of Katy amazed us with support.
Doctor’s appointments started the next day. Within one week of being home, her neck brace came off. Within two weeks, her cast was gone. She started first grade in a wheelchair and turtle shell. By mid-September her turtle shell came off, and she was able to start putting pressure on her leg; and by the end of the month, the wheelchair was gone. Within three days of being out of her wheelchair, she was walking. Within two days of being out of her turtle shell she climbed the rock wall at the mall.
She started gymnastics again, loves swimming and diving, playing with her siblings, and touching lives. I don’t know what is in store for the rest of Preslee’s life, or for mine, but I know I made it through my worst nightmare. I still question why. But something amazing and beautiful came from this tragedy. A little girl changed the hearts of so many, and let God shine through her. KM
EDITOR’S NOTE: We would like to thank Lara Massey for sharing her story of faith and strength. If you have an inspirational story you would like to share, email email@example.com. As one of our former Katy Magazine cover girls, we will always be cheering for Preslee!
Local students are giving back to others here at home and around the globe
Written by Holly Leger
Katy, TX News – As a teenager, it’s easy to get caught up in the world of adolescence. But these Katy teens received a reality check after going on mission trips – some around the world, and others in their own hometown. Katy Magazine reached out to these young men and women to hear their inspirational stories.
A World Apart
Johannesburg, South Africa may look like any other large, well-to-do city, but as the youth group at Parkway Fellowship discovered, the outskirts of the city are the polar opposite. The teenagers walked through squatter camps, performing door-to-door ministries.
Parkway student pastor Chris Sedgwick says the camps have very small square footage, yet house hundreds of thousands of residents and refugees. “It’s very hard conditions,” Sedgwick says. “It’s a maze of shacks. You have to walk sideways in between houses.”
Seeing True Joy
The youth group split into groups of four, each one assigned with a translator, and walked from hut to hut to help others, share the story of Jesus, and pray.
Skylar Station, a 17-year-old youth member, says that although she was shocked by the poverty she witnessed while in South Africa, she was just as surprised by the level of pride and joy the people showed for their homes and family. “Even though they’re in these horrible conditions, they’re still happy,” Station says. “They haven’t lost sight of hope.”
Traveling with the student organization at Second Baptist Church, 17-year-old Ansley Harris went to Belize City, Belize to help make renovations on a local Catholic school during her spring break.
While Harris and her fellow youth members were painting, the children at the school would periodically come outside during their breaks.
Harris says, “That’s when we would stop our work, go build relationships, and get to know the kids.” Harris reached out to the parents, too. A mother came to bring her children lunch each day, and Harris said she bonded with their family the entire week.
“Each day, I got to hear more of her story and tell her more of mine,” Harris says. “It was neat to pray over her and tell her why I believe what I believe. She was already a Christian, but we went into depth. It was a cool experience, and to talk to her kids about it, too, was neat.”
Harris says the experiences she had in Belize, as well as others she’s had this year while doing local mission work, helped her learn the world doesn’t revolve around her. Instead, she realized she is on Earth to serve, just as Jesus did. “For me, it was kind of a news flash and a slap in the face,” Harris explains. “Like, ‘Hey, Ansley! What are you doing to serve others? What are you doing to share the gospel?’ It was a super humbling experience.”
Close to Home
If you double dog dare 18-year-old Josh Corley to do something, he doesn’t back down. That is, if it’s a dare at Grace Fellowship United Methodist Church.
In 2013, Josh applied for Grace’s Double Dog Dare Grant, which offers money to members who would like to plan a mission project. For Josh, that mission plan was easy: help the homeless men and women in the Katy area.
His mother, Dora Corley, says she was not surprised by her son’s decision. “Josh has always had a heart towards homeless people,” Dora says. “I’ve asked him why, and he replies, ‘You see them all the time, and they’re real people. But we’ll never know who they are, because we just drive by them.’”
Assisting the homeless was just part of Josh’s plan, though. He has Asperger’s syndrome and wanted to do the mission project with other special needs families at The Bridge, a ministry offered at Grace.
Building a Bridge
The Bridge provides services for approximately 50 individuals. Josh said he knew a big group like that could make a big impact, as well as prove to others what they’re capable of doing.
“The special needs kids can actually do stuff,” he says. “We’re not just sitting around.” With the $500 Josh received from the grant, he bought Ziploc bags, toiletries, and other essentials. When the project was completed, Dora asked Josh what he thought of the day’s work. “He said, ‘I feel great inside.’” KM
HOLLY LEGER is a freelance writer who was constantly reminded during this story what a great spiritual gift serving can be.
The mother of Julian Salinas, a young bowler formerly featured in Katy Magazine’s summer 2011 Notes and News section, recently updated us on her son’s current endeavors.
As a fifth grader at Hubenak Elementary, Salinas is staying busy both academically and through outside extracurricular activities. Over the past few years, Salinas has continued to practice, compete, and improve his bowling game, helping him become one of the top ranked bowlers in his age bracket in Texas. Salinas currently bowls with three different leagues – COYSL Youth League at Times Square Entertainment in Katy, SSS Sport League at Copperfield, and HS Travel League with the regional high school bowlers in Katy/Houston.
Through bowling, Salinas has won awards and over $2500 in scholarships that will go towards his college fund. During summer he will compete against the best bowlers in the country in the USBC Junior Gold Championships in Buffalo, NY.
Katy families share their thoughts on “The Importance of Grandparents.” Four ways they enrich the lives of their grandchildren.
Written by Heather Lowrie | Select photography by Sara Isola
A grandparent inspires, educates, and loves unconditionally. This special relationship is created in love and forged by family ties that can’t be broken. Carl and Norma Lenz remember how they felt when they got the wonderful news that they would be grandparents. “An overwhelming feeling of excitement and awe came over us,” says Norma. “That was shortly followed by an awareness of the responsibility to be the best grandparents we knew how to be.” Whether you have been a grandparent for years, or you are waiting for the arrival of a new grandbaby any minute now, the unique relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is something that must be experienced to truly understand.
Beck’s Student Discovery Contest
Julia Yang recently won Beck Junior High’s first Student Directory Cover Contest. The theme was “Just Think.” As part of her prize, Yang received a Beck Junior High hoodie and a decal. Pictured is Yang with principal Carra Fleming.
Rachel’s Challenge at Beckendorff JH
Larry Scott, the uncle of Rachel Scott who was the first student killed at Columbine High School in 1999, shared with Beckendorff Junior High students about the program Rachel’s Challenge. The challenge is based on five ideas: look for the best in others, dream big, choose positive influences, speak with kindness, and start a chain reaction. Pictured are PTA vice president of programs, Amber Willingham; Larry Scott; principal Mindy Dickerson; and PTA president Ashley Vann.
CRHS Concerto Winner Ethan Le
Ethan Le, a sophomore at Cinco Ranch High School recently won the Clear Lake Symphony 2014 Youth Concerto Competition. As the winner, he will be performing the first movement of Beethoven’s “Violin Concerto in D major” at the Clear Lake Symphony on March 21 at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.
Seven Lakes Gives Quilts to Texas Children’s Hospital
The Seven Lakes High School fashion design class donated their lap quilt creations to the Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus. Pictured are Katy Williford, child life specialist; Jordan Groth; Samantha Gautier; Krista Caballero, child life specialist; Kaitlyn French; Emily Grass; and Sarah Rowe, child life specialist.
Cinco Ranch Robotics Team Invited to Texas Bowl
For the second year in a row the Cinco Ranch High School Robotics Team 624 “CRyptonite” was invited to the Texas Bowl. The team represents the For Inspirations and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics, showcasing their Frisbee shoot robot, Thor. Pictured are Johnny Goforth, Shayan Baig, Dylan Bray, and Justin Kleiber.
Mission Possible at Taylor High School
The Taylor High School student council partners with school staff to help raise funds for the Stephen and Stephanie Poss family. Both Stephen and Stephanie work at Taylor High School and recently had a son, Beckham, prematurely. Taylor students and staff have raised over $5,000 to go towards the family’s rising medical bills.
Beck JH Welcomes Principal
Beck Junior High welcomes their new principal, Carra Fleming from Holland Elementary School where she also served as principal. Former Beck principal Jeff Stocks now serves at Taylor High School. Pictured are seventh-grade assistant principal Dan DeYoung, eighth-grade assistant principal Marsha Dufner, Beck PTA president Maggie Boyle, new Beck Jr. High principal Carra Fleming, and sixth-grade assistant principal Kevin Webber.
KYB Owls Meet Rice Lady Owls
The KYB Owls basketball team recently got to do a clinic with the Rice University Lady Owls. Included in the meet-up was Rice’s No. 40, Megan Palmer, a Cinco Ranch grad.
Nine-year-old Kaylee Fowler becomes an ambassador for her spectrum mates by raising over $65,000 for Autism Speaks
Written by Clare Jensen | Photography by Lara Massey
Katy, TX News – Kaylee Fowler calls herself a bookworm, ballerina, scientist, inventor, chef, comedian, and child of the Lord. For the second year in a row, she was the top fundraiser for the Autism Speaks walk in Houston raising over $65,000 in 2013. Her team, God’s Little Lambs, seeks to help local families in need by raising autism awareness. Kaylee’s fundraising efforts were inspired by a desire to increase understanding for her “spectrum mates” – because she has autism as well.
Autism is often characterized by repetitive behavior, difficulty with communication, and challenges in social interactions. Within the spectrum of autism, Kaylee has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a highly functioning form of autism.
One of her special qualities is that she focuses on specific interests so intensely that she learns expert level details before continuing to another topic. For example, at the age of 3, she became consumed with maps, and methodically proceeded to learn everything she could about geography, from continents to capitals. Once she learns something, it is imprinted in her memory for an extended period of time, often verbatim from her original understanding. Kaylee’s extensive vocabulary has allowed her to read full-length novels since the age of 4 or 5.
Fundraising for Love
Her fundraising efforts were fueled at the age of 5 with the gift of Easter baskets to children at Healthbridge Children’s Hospital in Houston. In addition to raising the money through crayon-colored fliers and a driveway juice stand, Kaylee also carefully selected gifts for each child’s basket. Upon delivery, the receptionist suggested that Kaylee give the children their baskets personally. Kaylee declined saying, “No, thank you. It’s not about me. It’s about God’s love. Please, just let them know it’s from one of God’s little lambs to another.”
The donation of these Easter baskets provided Kaylee with the name for her Autism Speaks team: God’s Little Lambs. Autism Speaks is a nationwide organization that dedicates itself to helping those with autism, from raising awareness to raising money. For the 2013 Autism Speaks walk, Kaylee set her goal at $50,000. Through a church carnival and benefit concert, she was able to exceed that goal by over $15,000.
The Fowlers are also in the process of making God’s Little Lambs into a non-profit organization. “Kaylee wants to fundraise as much as she can now for the researchers, so by the time she’s old enough to become a geneticist, they’ll have the pieces ready so she can help solve the puzzle,” says Kaylee’s mom Lexy.
Kaylee’s actions, however, are not only centered around raising funds, but also to increase understanding for spectrum mates with more severe forms of autism. Kaylee says, “I wouldn’t want people to ignore me if I needed help just because it looked complicated.” Lexy adds that her daughter “has always accepted that, embraced it, and tried to learn effective communication with others.”
John Fowler encourages people to educate themselves. “Kaylee and her spectrum mates may communicate differently or not at all in some cases, but they are still children of God,” he shares. Developing understanding and cultivating natural interactions are the simplest and best gifts to Kaylee and those diagnosed with autism.
Once on a family outing, the Fowlers saw a shirt that read “Asperger’s: it’s not a glitch, it’s a whole different operating system.”
The differences of her operating system have inspired her with proactive eagerness to help God’s other little lambs. John says, “The beauty and innocence of the world that Kaylee sees and shares with everyone, at every corner, is nothing short of amazing. She has taught me that there is no excuse for not giving life everything you have, every moment of every day.” KM
CLARE JENSEN is a junior at Rice University majoring in English and history. She calls Katy her home and loves the community.
Morton Ranch student Caraline Miller survived brain cancer and child abuse, but chooses to be victorious, not a victim
Written by Zilah Miller | Select photography by Juliana Evans
Katy, Texas News – After moving from Katy to Chicago in 1998, my 2-year-old daughter Caraline and I encountered more than a change in climate. Six months after settling into our new home, I knew something was amiss. My jolly, active little toddler began to sleep 12 to 18 hours a day. When awake, nothing she ate stayed down.
Misdiagnosis Mix Up
The first occurrence landed us in the emergency room with a diagnosis of carbon monoxide poisoning. After two days, we were back at the ER with Caraline complaining that her neck hurt. A spinal tap revealed no meningitis, and this time, the doctor diagnosed her with stomach flu. Another two days passed, and I took her to our primary care doctor. I told him that Caraline rode her wheeled horse down the staircase in December, tumbling all the way down, and asked if the neck pain and vomiting could be related to the fall. Our doctor ordered a CT scan.
We Have a Problem
When the results of the scan finally came in, the doctor flew across the waiting room and came to his knees in front of Caraline and me. He said, “Peanut, we have a problem.”
As I sat in that dark room with a wall filled with scans of Caraline’s brain and tears rolling down my face, the doctor told me there was a mass the size of two golf balls in her little head. Caraline placed her small hands on either side of my face and told me, “Don’t cry, mommy. I will be okay.” This beautiful little girl was comforting me. Even as a toddler, Caraline had the ability to comfort others.
Twenty-four hours later, she had lost her ability to speak and all her motor skills were gone. My brother John sat in the chair in ICU as I lay holding Caraline. My mother, who never flies, flew from Mississippi to Illinois, and my sister Laura arrived from New York. The next morning, Caraline had surgery to remove the tumor. It was malignant and ended up being larger than expected. Dr. Ruge, her brain surgeon, was able to completely remove it, but said she could have potential issues after the surgery.
We believe in the power of prayer. Caraline’s body was able to recover, the shunt was removed, and she was up and eating in a day. The first thing she asked for was Chicken McNuggets. She told us about all the people in her ICU room, and we know it was the angels watching over her because only two people were allowed in her room at one time.
Two weeks after the surgery, we went home. Over the next two months, Caraline had chemo; then, she traveled to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Tennessee for seven weeks of radiation. Through it all, she continued to recover – even thrive. We expected complications from the chemo and radiation: partial blindness, drop foot, hearing loss, lack of motor skills. None of these complications occurred. Caraline was diagnosed with short-term memory loss in second grade, but she takes medication that helps with this issue.
A Badge of Courage
Cancer is only part of Caraline’s story. In 2000, Caraline was deliberately burned, over 40% of her body, with boiling water and oil by her biological father while she was in his care. The third-degree burns required daily skin treatments, removal of skin, and skin grafts at Shriner’s Burn Unit in Galveston. She carries the scars today, calling them her badge of courage. “I was given the option to attempt a surgery and have the burn scars on my thighs removed,” Caraline says. “I chose not to have the surgery because my burns make me who I am today. Without my past, what is the future?”
You can only imagine the heartache we went through to have just come through cancer only to have her hurt like this. The incident occurred less than one year after she completed radiation. But Caraline won’t let herself be a victim. Today, she is a lifeguard in the summer and confidently wears shorts and swimsuits. “I don’t really have a feeling for the way that I look,” she says. “I know that I want to be happy and not sad or mad about life every day.” When Caraline shared her story with the students at the Krause Center, she reminded them that everyone’s life has stumbling blocks, but we all have the choice in how we move forward after bad things.
After the burning incident, God provided a new dad for Caraline in the form of my sweet husband, Michael Miller. Michael officially adopted Caraline in July 2002, before she began kindergarten, and has been supportive in every way possible.
Today, Michael uses Caraline’s story to encourage his football players to find strength through adversity. Caraline’s story has been shared with Fellowships of Christian Athletes, Sunday schools, friends, colleagues, and others who are going through health-related issues. In fourth grade, Caraline dreamed that she was in an auditorium encouraging the audience to be survivors and not victims. This dream is what she aspires to do with her life – to motivate people to come through adversity and to influence those who don’t know how to move forward in life. “Things happen to people of all ages,” she says. “I am here for anyone who wants to listen.”
Beyond the Scars
Now, as a student at Morton Ranch High School, Caraline has a long list of accomplishments that tell a story far beyond her scars: National Junior Honor Society member; recipient of the Panther Spirit Award in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades; recognized as Katy Elks Outstanding Eighth Grade Student; National Charity League member; awarded 2013 Outstanding Newspaper Reporter; sports editor for the Maverick Star Newspaper; ninth grade volleyball team manager; and ninth grade tennis team, just to name a few. In March 2014, Caraline will celebrate 15 years of being a cancer survivor.
Caraline walks with her scars every day – physically and mentally. Cancer can strike anyone; it has no feelings or preference. But the fact that another person could harm a child the way Caraline was harmed is impossible to understand. Still, in our home, we love the song called “Blessings” by Laura Story that says, “What if your blessings come through raindrops?”
A Bright Future
Through all her adversities and successes, we give thanks. I know that Caraline will make a difference to the people she meets and the ones who hear her story – she already has. At our house, we say, “Make a choice: be a victim or be a survivor. One will have you miss out on the joys of life, and the other will open doors to exciting adventures.” KM
We would like to thank Zilah and Caraline Miller for sharing their amazing story with us. Do you have an inspirational story to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katy’s legacy of strong churches continues today through the unity and service of local congregations
Written by Meagan Clanahan and Susanna Donald | Select photography by Nicole Prosser
Katy, Texas News – In Katy’s earliest days, dozens of different cultures and religious heritages influenced the budding community. When a group of settlers led the charge to put aside religious differences in the name of Christian unity in 1898, Quakers, Baptists, Presbyterians, Apostolics, Methodists, and others came together to form the Union Sunday School. The Methodist Episcopal Church (now First United Methodist Church Katy) and Zion Baptist Church (now First Baptist Church) were also formed that year, and Katy’s first church building opened in 1904. From those humble beginnings, Katy’s legacy as “a city of churches” was born.
What’s in a Name?
While no one knows who first coined the phrase “a city of churches,” the sign welcoming residents and visitors into town in the 1950s displayed the epithet. As people continued to migrate west of Houston, more and more churches established themselves in Katy as well.
“Early on, Katy’s reputation as a city of churches was less about the number of places to worship and more about the fact that almost everyone who lived here was so actively involved in church life,” says Carol Adams, a Katy Heritage Society board member. “In fact, church membership was so important that a list of the members who attended each church were enclosed in a time capsule in 1929 and placed in the cornerstone of the new school building,” Adams explains. The list is currently on display at Katy Heritage Park.
Today, with more than 500 churches registered in the Katy area, the “city of churches” title is as much about the number of churches as it is about the importance of church to many Katyites. Katy offers residents and visitors alike a wide variety of churches to choose from: small, large, mediumsized, contemporary, traditional, contemplative, brand-new, established, family-oriented, non-denominational, formal, causal, Protestant, Catholic, and everything in between. Large churches like Second Baptist and Grace Fellowship United Methodist Church have started new churches and campuses to extend their reach into new, growing areas of Katy. Twenty-six local churches meet in various Katy ISD schools on Sunday mornings, while others meet in venues like movie theaters and other rented spaces.
Katy Churches Today
While Katy’s population boom has contributed to the growth of new churches and the attendance spike for established churches, people are also seeking true connections with others. “In the mobility of our society, we sometimes hold people at arm’s length,” says Doyle Lowry, executive pastor of Kingsland Baptist Church. “But people want relationships that are real and faith that is real, not just an organization or fancy program.”
Everyone is searching, says Lowry. “People want to know, ‘What is the meaning of this life?’ Churches have grown because of a need for us to connect with others looking for that same purpose.”
While helping people discover purpose and meaning, Katy churches have also had to adjust to the fast-moving pace of Katy society. Many of Katy’s newest churches are mobile churches, meeting in rented facilities closest to the rapidly growing neighborhoods in the area. Multiple worship times, shortened services, and casual dress codes are all mainstays of many Katy churches today. However, according to Mike McGown, pastor of Parkway Fellowship, “It’s not a watering down of the gospel. We are just putting it in terms that everyone can understand. We strive to make God’s message practical. What you hear on Sunday can be put into practice Monday morning.”
As Katy churches have expanded, pastors continue to discover methods to build meaningful connections. Parkway Fellowship believes small groups, typically gatherings of six to 12 people who meet in homes during the week, are the most important method for this growth. “Small groups are where you get into the nitty gritty and deal with real issues, all in a caring environment,” say McGown. Different Katy churches offer variations on small groups, from Sunday school classes and Bible studies to ministry teams and discipleship courses.
Besides offering places for coming to know Christ and developing significant relationships, many Katy churches also create and cultivate care ministries. “These ministries show people that God’s love for them is real, no matter the circumstances,” says Mitch Peairson, executive pastor at Grace Fellowship UMC. “People still face real problems, troubles, and marriage struggles – we are just as prone in Katy as anywhere else,” he says.
Many Katy churches go beyond the walls of their buildings and reach out through local service projects, international mission trips, outreach activities, and work weekends. Some churches, like Grace Fellowship UMC and Kingsland Baptist, close their doors one Sunday each year and send their congregations out into Katy to work with the less fortunate and the overlooked. Throughout the year, Katy churches deploy thousands to work on projects like home repair, nursing home visits, playground construction, and food pantry assistance. Compassion Katy, headquartered at The Fellowship at Cinco Ranch, partners with over 20 local churches to provide hours of donated time and thousands of dollars in materials during their biannual Katy ServeFests.
Katy churches don’t stop with local missions, though. Kingsland Baptist alone logged 15 international mission trips in 2012, spanning the globe from India and Cambodia to El Salvador and Nicaragua. Large churches and small churches alike mobilize their congregations to reach out, sending teams of youth and adults to serve in countries around the world.
Many Churches, One Mission
When the early settlers came together back in 1898 to form the Union Sunday School, they couldn’t know how their example would set the tone for what was to come. Today, Katy carries on its “city of churches” nickname through the unity among the local churches and especially the pastors.
For more than 17 years, pastors from every denomination across Katy meet every Wednesday at noon to pray for each other’s churches, congregations, and the city as a whole. Representatives from the largest church to the smallest, come together in unity for the sake of the mission of churches. Katy pastors also meet each year to pray for Katy schools and teachers in front of the Katy ISD administration building. For the past three years, they have also organized the National Day of Prayer, where thousands of Katyites gather in the Katy Merrell Center to pray for the community and nation. Jim Leggett, senior pastor of Grace Fellowship UMC, says, “I think God honors it when churches come together in unity.” In that case, Katy is blessed indeed. KM
MEAGAN CLANAHAN is a Katy wife and mother who is blessed to live in this “city of churches.”
SUSANNA DONALD is an editorial assistant at Katy Magazine who loves learning about the history and significance of local churches.
More than 17,000 pounds of food distributed to families in need in the Katy area
Written by Kenzie Stanfield | Select photography by Marissa Hugonnett
Katy, Texas News – Once a month at a community park you will see volunteers gather with boxes and brightly colored bags. To the untrained eye it may look a little like a party, but for many in need in the community it’s food distribution Saturday.
Reaching the Hungry
The Eternal Food Ministry (EFM) is a faith-based, non-profit, mobile food pantry that serves a large portion of West Houston, including parts of Harris, Fort Bend, and Waller counties. According to Pastor John Taylor, evangelist and mission leader for EFM, “The primary goal is to reach the hungry and food-insecure with necessary food supplies through soliciting, collecting, and packaging of food for distribution.”
Physical and Inner Hunger
The beauty of their ministry is to not only provide an adequate food supply, but also to improve the wellbeing of those whom they serve through nutrition related counseling, education of available health and social services, and most importantly, to feed an inner need through the good news of Jesus Christ. Their mission is providing for the physical needs in order to meet the inner hunger.
The pantry had humble beginnings, as most food ministries do, springing from a local church on Fifth St. in Historic Katy in 2009. As head of the church’s community outreach, Taylor sought to work with various groups and local organizations to expand the food distribution program to benefit those who would most need the service.
Eternal Food Ministry was incorporated as a 501(c3) in May 2010 and in less than two years, they opened their doors to their first emergency food pantry. It is able to serve those who require immediate food assistance in addition to EFM’s monthly mobile food service.
Love and Serve Others
The driving force behind all that EFM does is the love of God, engrained in their hearts as Christians. “We believe as a body of Christ, that our lives should be of service to others, especially the less privileged,” shares Taylor. His passion and dedication to serving our community speaks to the specific calling of this ministry and their sense of commitment to tangibly love and serve others.
As are most ministries and non-profits, EFM is heavily dependent on their amazing volunteers because of their various areas of service. Not only do they have the monthly mobile food distribution program and the intermittent emergency food program, they also administer a “feed the children” food program, aimed at school-age children who struggle accessing nutritious and balanced food – especially on weekends, holidays, and during the summer. In addition, EFM also runs the Eternal Food Ministry Resale Store.
As evidenced by the tremendous amount of work that is done, volunteers are crucial to the entire mission of EFM. “They are the heart and soul of our ministry and are present in all aspects of our daily operations,” says Taylor. Volunteers are on hand to help with everything from administration and managing food drives, to food packaging and distribution. They staff the warehouse and resale shop, coordinate fundraising, and even help with media and marketing.
Undoubtedly, there is always a need. But also one that can quickly be met by those willing to get involved and serve. Presently, the biggest need is acquiring a larger facility for both food storage and packaging. EFM is hopeful other community organizations will join hands to assist in the effort to help meet the constant food needs of the Katy area.
The work of EFM benefits the entire Katy community and has an impact that is impossible to ignore. Taylor shares, “In all areas, we have seen people’s lives being touched by the love of God and the love for one another in this community.” KM
KENZIE STANFIELD loves to support both local and overseas ministries that directly impact lives. She is married to her high school sweetheart and they are expecting their fifth child.
Autistic teen, Grant Manier, transforms scrap paper into stunning works of Eco-Art
Written by Meagan Clanahan
Katy, Texas News – From magazines to wrapping paper and tissue boxes to puzzle pieces, 18-year-old Grant Manier sees more than just paper. He sees a medium that can be brought to life through hours of work fashioned into amazing collages. He is now one of the country’s most exciting emerging artists with statewide accolades. Even more amazing, he’s done it all with a diagnosis that most would consider a disability.
An Early Love of Paper
By the age of 3, Manier (pronounced maun-yay) showed an extreme fascination with shredding paper and creating tiny little drawings. In the same breath, he was also exhibiting signs of extreme anxiety, social challenges, and an obsession with lining up toys in perfectly straight lines.
At 5 years old, he was diagnosed with Asberger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Struggling academically and bullied by his peers, Manier retreated and used paper shredding as a coping technique. While some of his teachers complained that it was disruptive in the classroom, mom Julie Coy-Manier sought to channel the tearing into positive behavior. Realizing that mainstream schooling was not working for Grant, his mother decided that homeschooling was the next best option. Once at home, Julie encouraged her son to create pictures out of the recycled paper filling up their living room.
Shredding with a Purpose
Much to his mom’s dismay, he preferred to produce his art in front of a blaring TV. However, she soon discovered that TV was not the nuisance, it was the muse.
“He needed the noise to concentrate,” she explains. “He wasn’t even really paying attention to it.” While she knew that Grant had artistic talents, Julie was floored when she saw the first finished piece of Eco-Art. Entitled “Sun God” and painstakingly shaped out of almost 4,000 pieces of shredded paper – 14-year-old Grant had discovered his passion.
Soon he was spending upwards of 30 hours per week on his “eco-impressionist” pieces. He follows the same method for every painting: tear, glue, shade, glaze, and repeat. “I never know how each one will turn out. I just keep going and see what comes of it,” Grant says.
He finds inspiration and ideas from nature, academic subjects, his Native American heritage, and even from his friends. His “coolages,” as he refers to them, have brought Grant peace and purpose. “Art is my meditation,” he explains. “Sometimes I’ll go do something else, but I always come back an hour later to do more.”
Seeking a school that would allow Grant to continue to develop his social skills, keep up with his academics, and allow flexibility for his art growth, the Manier’s enrolled at Focus Academy in Katy.
“At the beginning when he was starting art shows, he wouldn’t even look up,” says Focus executive director, Jacquelyn Mulkey. “Now he is able to tell us about his art instead of just doing it. The confidence boost is amazing.”
Grant echoes her sentiments. “I can relate to the kids here,” he says. “Many of them have the same issues as me – so it works.” The other students also look up to him according to Mulkey. “They see Grant having success because of his disability,” she articulates. “Not in spite of his disability.”
Creating a Future
Because the class structure at Focus Academy allows him to attend classes three times a week and complete the rest of his coursework at home via computer, Grant is able to take his art to a new level. That includes participating in art shows, leading live demonstrations state-wide, and selling his pieces.
To date, he has sold four original Eco-Art pieces and has generated over $65,000 in sales of reprints, note cards, and calendars. He has also become an Autism advocate and is committed to giving back financially to multiple organizations across Houston. As the demand for his work has grown, he has even commissioned a local organization called Different Abilities to help mass produce and package his products. “Grant is an outstanding young man with a gentle soul. His incredible and imaginative art is a gift from God,” says District 7 Senator Dan Patrick.
According to Grant, he’s unsure what the future holds for him and prefers to live in the present, but he also feels art will always be in his life. With 85% of ASD adults unemployed, Julie sees it a little differently. She hopes that his art will be an ultimate source of income as he makes his way into adulthood.
“The greatest fear as parents of children with ASD is their future,” she states. “Initially, we saw this as an outlet. As people began to impress upon me the skill level Grant was at, I realized it could be his future, too.” But regardless of where it may lead, Julie has only one ultimate wish for her son, “I just want him to be happy.” KM
MEAGAN CLANAHAN is a Katy freelance writer who loves telling the stories of inspirational people in our community.