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Non-Profit of the Week – Single Mothers Outreach

| Community, Entertainment, SC Living | April 5, 2018

Single Mothers Outreach (SMO) is a non-profit organization based in Santa Clarita which serves struggling, single mothers living in the area. SMO provides several programs and services to help mothers get back on their feet financially and emotionally. Services and programs include case management, donations, holiday programs, workshops, therapy, clothing, Financial Peace University, workforce development and much more.

Single Mothers Outreach was founded in 1995 by a divorcee who sought to find women like her in need of a support group. As SMO continued to grow, it eventually acquired its 501(c)(3) non-profit status and opened its storefront office in Canyon Country in 2002. After serving mainly as a crisis organization, the board of directors shifted the organization by focusing on providing such programs and services to ultimately empower moms to rise above their difficult circumstances.

The organization’s mission is to “empower single parents and their children by providing hope, support, and resources so families can become self-sustaining and thrive.” SMO seeks to ensure that members are able to become established and feel a sense of accomplishment.

Today, SMO is located at the Savia Community Building owned by Real Life Church. In addition, in 2013, SMO opened Closet on Main to assist in raising funds for the organization. Closet on Main is a high-end, secondhand boutique where all the proceeds go toward providing funds for families who are in desperate need of a helping hand. Many mothers have been physically and emotionally abused and SMO is a place of hope and support for them. This organization seeks to provide a sense of hope and love for families.

Make-a-Mother’s Day
Each year Single Mothers Outreach celebrates members on Mother’s Day, as many of these moms have no one to honor them or celebrate with them. SMO provides a morning full of games and activities, brunch and gifts. SMO hopes to make this day a special one to make members feel loved and appreciated for their selfless work. This year’s Make-a-Mother’s Day will take place on May 5, 2018.

Hero of the Week  – Single Mothers Outreach Client, Jenn

I moved to Santa Clarita about a year and a half ago, after I had been in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship that ended when I realized my ex had committed a crime against a child. I stood up for the teen in my community and began the divorce proceedings. After four years of fighting against his plans to keep us trapped and homeless, we were able to break free from that cycle. We were free and decided to have a fresh start in California.

I was told about Single Mothers Outreach (SMO) from a single mom I met and I am so blessed and thankful for finding her. We had no belongings when we moved, as we had lost our home and many other things – we only had what we could fit in our car. I have three children, so you can imagine, not a lot fits in a vehicle with four people; however, it did bring our family closer.

We finally found a home and started receiving assistance from SMO. We receive clothing vouchers to shop at Closet on Main, which helps cut down on the expense of clothes and shoes. We were also part of the Adopt-a-Family holiday program this past Christmas and my girls and I were so pleasantly surprised with all of the gifts we received, it truly made the holidays so much nicer. SMO also spends a day blessing single moms with a Mother’s Day brunch (see Make-a-Mother’s Day above), which is amazing. We also get to participate in donation days where we receive items to use for home and school, including backpacks and school supplies.

The volunteers at SMO are fabulous and very kind anytime you have a question or need help. I love to see the emails when there are items that are given to moms in need to help their struggling families – including furniture and diapers. This organization is such a great inspiration and blessing for so many and I am very proud to say that they are the best thing that has happened to my family after the horrific experience we had to endure. I am currently taking Financial Peace University classes and it has changed my whole life. My daughter took it as well, and she is on the road to saving and giving back to the community. Thank you SMO for all you do for so many.

Women of the Blues to Benefit Single Mothers Outreach

The Santa Clarita Valley Blues Society will host a spring festival on May 12, 2018 as a pre-Mother’s Day fundraiser to benefit the Blues Society and Single Mothers Outreach. Several artists are slated to entertain the community at “Women of the Blues” held at Wolf Creek Brewery, located at 25108 Rye Canyon Loop in Santa Clarita. The Santa Clarita Gazette is a media sponsor for the concert.

Performers include Truth Jones, Kelly’s Lot, Bridgette Rios Purdy, Laurie Morvan Band and Teresa James. The concert begins at 3:30 p.m. Tickets for members of the Santa Clarita Valley Blues Society cost $15 and $20 for the general public. Tickets purchased at the gate cost $25. For more information about the Women of the Blues event, visit SCVBlues.com.

Roads or Wallets Expanding?

| News | March 9, 2018

The public doesn’t seem to want the Dockweiler extension. The Via Princessa extension can’t yet happen. There remains a potential conflict of interest with the mayor. Doing nothing to combat traffic concerns isn’t an option.

If last week’s City Council meeting indicated anything, it’s that there are no good choices the council could make right now. What was on the council agenda as a recommendation to hold a public hearing and then adopt a resolution certifying the final environmental impact report for the proposed extension of Dockweiler Drive to Arch Street, instead became a public grievance with no council action taken.

All 20 speakers opposed the plan, including John Fassa. “Right now, all this traffic funnels down Railroad and Newhall Avenus. It’s definitely a problem, but a shortcut through Placerita doesn’t solve it,” he said. “If your goal is to solve the traffic problem in Newhall and you care at all about your constituents, then the right thing to do is investigate real solutions and reject the Dockweiler extension.”

Additionally, five people who couldn’t attend sent comments in opposition, businesses on Pine Street sent a petition opposing it, and the council took note, tabling the matter until April.

“If this many people are here who don’t know why we want this road and why the city needs this road, then I think we have some homework to do and some outreach to do,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Marsha McLean, who ran this part of the meeting after Mayor Laurene Weste recused herself because her property is close to the proposed extension.

On Monday, Councilmember Bob Kellar said, “I do not want to be wrong. I’m trying to weigh all the factors and make the right decision for the City of Santa Clarita. Sometimes, those decisions aren’t easy.”

This is one of those times. Traffic continues to worsen, but the city can’t just put in roads wherever it wants to. Geographic factors such as hills, riverbeds, mountains, canyons and wildlife must be considered.

In the Beginning

The city has wanted to extend Lyons Avenue since 1991. It currently has a $30 million plan to extend Dockweiler 0.44 mile toward The Master’s University and connect at 13th and Arch streets, according to the council agenda packet. Additionally, Lyons Avenue was to be extended over the railroad tracks, the 13th Street crossing would be closed, and a new crossing would be built at Lyons and Railroad avenues.

But two alternatives emerged. Alternative 1 called for leaving the 13th Street crossing intact, in addition to the Lyons/Railroad crossing, but Hennawy said it doesn’t reduce traffic, and the city can’t get the Public Utilities Commission, Metrolink or Metro to approve it, which is important because Metro has given the city $11,374,000 in grants to build the Dockweiler extension. According to city spokesperson Carrie Lujan, one grant of $5.9 million expires in June 2022 and the rest in June 2024. Construction must be completed before those dates, she said in an email.

Alternative 2 remains viable and calls for Lyons to not be extended. Instead, Dockweiler would extend all the way to Arch, and the crossing at 13th would be upgraded. This is preferred to the original plan, Hennawy said.

Why not Market Street or Via Princessa?

But nobody seems to want any of it. Instead, people suggested several alternatives, including extending Market Street to Dockweiler, an alternative that the city previously rejected for several reasons. First, the city approved a .64-mile extension of Dockweiler to the western edge of The Master’s University in 2009 as part of the school’s Master Plan. That has yet to be built, and extending Market Street would conflict. Also, according to the agenda packet, street grading would have to be reduced from its current 11.15 percent to 6 percent, and traffic would increase by 200 percent and would require a complete redesign of the intersection of Market and Main streets. Finally, the city would have to purchase 17 land parcels and relocate 31 residential units, the Newhall Metrolink Station, Newhall Community Center, Veterans Historical Plaza and the Santa Clarita Courthouse.

A more popular suggestion was to forego Dockweiler and, instead, extend Via Princessa. “It is abundantly clear that Via Princessa is a far-better and much-more-needed east-west connection for the entire city than Dockweiler,” said the first speaker, Tony Mathess. “If you’re going to build Dockweiler, call it what it is: another entrance to Master’s College to service their expansion.”

Except that there’s no money. The Metro bonds are tied to the Dockweiler extension, Hennawy said, and it would take at least another year to secure new grants to extend Via Princessa.

But Via Princessa can’t be extended because it would go through the 996-acre Whittaker-Bermite site, which since 2007 has undergone a soil-cleansing and decontaminating process to remove all harmful chemicals, such as perchlorate.

“Trust me, this council knows, this city knows, staff knows, the importance of Via Princessa,” Kellar said at the council meeting. “But I really think we’ve got two different topics we’re talking about here. Via Princessa is still a pipe dream until we get Whittaker-Bermite cleaned up. But I will tell you, you bet when we get that cleaned up and we can move forward with Via Princessa and complete that road over the Wiley Canyon bridge, that is going to be one of the most meaningful roadways that we have created here in this city. I don’t question that.”

The problem, as it always is with Whittaker-Bermite, is when will the soil be clean. Jose Diaz, senior project manager with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, which oversees the cleanup, said on Monday the process is expected to be completed by the end of 2018, but he said in November 2016 that it would be done by Sept. 28, 2018, and community leaders have shown the Gazette proof that it was supposed to be completed in 2015.

Plus, Diaz said, “Even if we finish, who knows when the EIR will be approved and development will start.”

A Windfall for Weste?

Weste has a different view of Via Princessa: It’s too far north and, therefore, “irrelevant to any discussion.”

Maybe so, but several people believe Weste would gain significantly from a Dockweiler extension because her property is nearby.

“The question has been incorrectly framed as which is the least offensive route to take from Dockweiler to downtown, and everybody knows it’s been framed that way because the mayor wants that project there for her own gain,” Fassa said.

“City Council members are elected by the people to do the wish of the people, not the wish of a few council members or one,” Manny Santana said.

Weste has denied she’d gain anything because the city owns the right of way, and she repeated that Monday.

“I think people have a hard time understanding that,” she said. “The city manager said that in the meeting. That’s pretty clear. They (the city) own it. I do not own it.”

City Manager Ken Striplin said that the city has the right of way for this project. McLean then asked if anybody would get monetary value, and Striplin said no, but then added that property acquisition is another, long-term issue.

Lujan explained in an email the difference: “Right of Way is the existing legal right to use property for road purpose. Property acquisition is the process to acquire the additional Right of Way for the proposed road improvements.”

Weste insisted her property is not for sale. Kellar said he isn’t aware of any negotiations or discussions between the city and Weste.

“I have never had discussions with Laurene and never will,” he said. “Ultimately, the City Council has to sign off on the project in its entirety.”

That’s not easy when there are no good options.

Four New Hart District Assistant Principals

| Community | February 22, 2018

At last week’s meeting of the Governing Board of the William S. Hart Union High School District four new assistant principals were confirmed. They are Kullen Welch at Hart High School, Genevieve Peterson Henry at Saugus High School, Kyra Madsen at Placerita Junior High School and Janelle Olivier at a school to be determined.

Kullen Welch has taught in the Hart District since 2002, both at Hart High School and Rio Norte Junior High School. He also taught at Rosamond High School in Southern Kern Unified School District for two years. Besides his regular teaching duties, Welch has been on the site professional development team, District Advisory Committee, school leadership team and Curriculum Council. He has also been a professional development coach, department chairperson and was selected Teacher of the Year. Welch has coached baseball, basketball and track, while administratively he has been a summer school administrator, summer school coordinator and filled in for extended periods as an assistant principal. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from The Master’s College in Physical Education and a Master of Arts degree from the University of LaVerne in Educational Administration.

Genevieve Peterson Henry has been an English Language Learner Teacher on Special Assignment in the Hart District since 2014, where she coordinates the District’s EL program. From 2008 to 2014 she taught English and ELD at Golden Valley High School, where she was also ELD coordinator, leadership team member and track/cross country coach. Before coming to the Hart District, Peterson Henry was a Humanities English teacher at Verdugo Hills High School for 11 years. She also served for the last two years as a summer school administrative intern. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from CSUN.




Kyra Madsen will begin her role at Placerita Junior High School on July 1, 2018. Madsen began teaching at Rio Norte Junior High in 2006. While at Rio Norte, she was an administrative intern, instructional coach, department chair, team leader and professional development team coach. She also served as a summer school administrator at both West Ranch High School and Placerita Junior High. This past school year, Ms. Madsen has served as assistant principal in the Palmdale School District where she was responsible for professional learning communities, student testing and data, GATE, school site safety and ASB, to name a few. She has a bachelor’s degree from Cal State Northridge and a master’s degree from University of La Verne.


Finally, due to an upcoming retirement, Jannelle Olivier will be appointed assistant principal effective July 1, 2018. She is currently a math teacher and leader at La Mesa Junior High School, but prior to that she was a vice principal with the San Diego Unified School District before she and her family relocated back to Santa Clarita where she and her husband grew up. She served in a number of roles in San Diego since 2002, beginning her career as a math teacher and quickly becoming a teacher-leader as AVID Coordinator, teacher leader/master teacher, academic coach, categorical coordinator and as a common core cluster support teacher for secondary mathematics. Since 2015 she served as vice principal at both the junior high and high school level with responsibility for a variety of areas including the instructional program, professional development, master schedule, assessment and data, school safety and WASC, to name a few. Olivier has a Bachelor of Science degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a master’s degree from University of California, San Diego.

Non Profit of the Week – The Compassionate Friends of Santa Clarita

| SC Living | November 30, 2017

by Alice Renolds

When a child dies, at any age, the family suffers intense pain and may feel hopeless and isolated. The death of a child is probably the most traumatic, life-changing event that you will ever experience. That is why we are here to help and support. The Compassionate Friends of Santa Clarita is a self-help organization made up of bereaved parents who have experienced that deep searing pain. We provide highly personal comfort, hope, and support to every family experiencing the death of a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, or a grandchild and help others assist the grieving family.

The Compassionate Friends was first established in England more than 40 years ago by two sets of bereaved parents. It quickly spread to the United States and was incorporated in 1978 in Illinois. There are now over 700 chapters serving all 50 states. The Compassionate Friends is the world’s largest self-help bereavement organization with a presence in at least 30 countries. The Santa Clarita chapter has been supporting bereaved families here locally for 18 years. Diane Briones started the chapter after her 20-year-old daughter was killed in a horrific car crash and needed a support group and there was none here in Santa Clarita. Alice Renolds started attending the group following the tragic death of her two sons in a reckless driving incident and has been the Co-leader now for 16 years.

Our Chapter meets the first Thursday of every month here locally in Santa Clarita. Our monthly support group meetings are the heart of TCF. These gatherings provide a caring environment in which bereaved parents, adult siblings, and grandparents can talk freely about the emotions in which they are going through and receive the understanding support of others who have “been there.” We usually have between 20 and 30 members attend our meetings. The meeting may also include a brief program, panel or speaker. As we meet together, we learn from each other through our shared experiences. The bereaved members not only obtain support through our monthly meetings, but also from our newsletter, our website, Facebook, telephone of friends, and our library of books.

The death of a child is devastating and it’s important to the family and their friends that the child always be remembered. That is why we have two events yearly: a balloon release in the spring and the Candle Light Remembrance Program. The Compassionate Friends of Santa Clarita will participate in an annual worldwide event designed to honor the memories of all children, regardless of age, who have died. On Sunday, December 10, the local chapter is joining hundreds of organized memorial services around the world for the 21st Annual Worldwide Candle Lighting, an event now believed to be the largest mass candle lighting in the world.

The local candle lighting will be part of a special service held at 6:30 p.m. at La Mesa Jr. High School, 26623 May Way in Santa Clarita. It will feature poems, selected readings, music, a slide show and performances with featured singers. Annually, tens of thousands of families, united in loss, light candles for one hour during the Worldwide Candle Lighting. As candles burn down in one time zone, they are lit in the next, creating a 24-hour wave of light, which continues the observance around the world. With the theme “that their light may always shine,” the Worldwide Candle Lighting has grown larger every year.

To contact The Compassionate Friends of Santa Clarita, call Diane Briones at 661-252-4654 or Alice Renolds at 661-252-4374, or visit www.compassionatefriends-scv.org.


by Alice Renolds and Dianoe Briones

Fourteen years ago, Carol Costin lost her 28-year-old son Jeffrey in a horrible car crash in Texas. She moved to California shortly afterwards, because her only surviving daughter had moved here and she needed to be close to her. She left her family, friends, job, house and everything she knew. Carol, her husband and daughter attended support meetings of The Compassionate Friends of Santa Clarita and still do today!

In fact, Carol is a hero to our chapter. She is a member of our steering committee and took over the job of treasurer without hesitation when the job became suddenly vacant. Now with her years through this journey of grief she contributes so much to our local meetings. Carol is able to share her loss, but can show families that there is hope for healing, although it’s a loss we never fully get over. Carol is one of three different facilitators for our meetings. She gives so much love, understanding and support to all the grieving families.

Our local chapter will participate in the annual Worldwide Candle Lighting Program to be held at a new location this year, La Mesa Jr. High School, located at 26623 May Way in Santa Clarita on December 10 at 6:30 p.m. It is open to the public and we would love to share this evening with all of you.

For more information on The Compassionate Friends of Santa Clarita visit www.compassionatefriends-scv.org

No Hollywood Ending for Harvey Weinstein

| Opinion | October 20, 2017

Hooray for Hollywood.

Actors, actresses, producers, writers, directors, executives, and those who run around and do their dirty work are jumping up and down on the casting couch, attempting to trample it once and for all. Too little, too late.

The salacious details emerging over film producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual assaults on actresses, writers, models, and journalists in The New York Times and The New Yorker sound as though they’ve sprung from the pages of The National Enquirer, “TMZ” or “Access Hollywood.” The facts of each incident, as reported by Weinstein’s victims, read like scenes in a bad episode of “Law and Order: SVU.” But this is no screenplay, nor is it a story about the dark side of Hollywood.

Sexual misconduct by people in power has made the news repeatedly in recent years. We have heard allegations of assault against the likes of the president, comedian Bill Cosby and many other well-known performers including, most recently, the brothers Affleck. These allegations have repeatedly been denied, ignored, swept under the carpet, or buried in as deep a hole as a backhoe can dig. Intimidation, threats of reprisals, and legal action have been taken. Careers have been threatened. Payoffs have been made.

Sexual impropriety is not a partisan issue. It is perpetrated by Republicans, Democrats, Independents, liberals and conservatives, men and women — famous and otherwise. It takes place in boardrooms, around the water cooler, and in barrooms, restaurants and fancy hotel suites.

Reports of environments hostile to women have emerged of late in seemingly progressive bastions like Silicon Valley. There, the behavior is part of what has been labeled “bro culture.” It has been conspicuous at the headquarters of Über, but has also been found in the offices of other one-named tech brands, as well as many of the venture capital firms who fund them.

Similar episodes have long been experienced by government workers, by women and men who serve in our nation’s armed forces and law enforcement agencies. Sexual assaults occur at colleges and universities. The sports world – especially at the college and amateur level – is rife with tales of harassment and assault.

Sexual harassment and abuse is not only a physical act. With these latest revelations, we must also address what constitutes “locker room talk” or “boys being boys” and acknowledge that words and suggestive comments may be just as gut-wrenching and violating to the victim as any bodily intrusion; sticks and stones be damned. Any man or woman who has ever made an untoward sexual remark or gesture toward or in the presence of a member of the opposite or same sex is complicit in this behavior.

It would be hypocritical of me to address this topic without confessing my own culpability. Despite having attended a formerly all-women’s college and being steeped in feminist ideology and the concept of gender equality, I have made tactless, inappropriate remarks and insensitive comments in the past that I deeply regret. It requires effort, understanding and mindfulness to keep impulsive language at bay. I do my best. If you are a man or woman who has done so and choose to remain in denial or ignore your own past actions, I urge you to look in the mirror at your earliest opportunity.

The aggressive behavior attributed to Harvey Weinstein is especially disheartening for those who have benefited from his financial and professional largesse. Perhaps even more so, due to his support of liberal social and political causes many of them hold dear. But sexual harassment and abuse is apolitical. It is as equally unacceptable for Hollywood producers and others in powerful positions as it is for the president.

The growing number of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged victims may take some solace in knowing they are not alone, that their stories are being corroborated, and their courage to come forward may be a defining moment in the battle to confront sexual assault, intimidation, and harassment in the workplace and in our society. It would be nice if episodes like this will one day be nothing more than a bad flashback, a distant memory that fades out and away. That, unfortunately, is unlikely. It would be too much of a happy Hollywood ending.

Non Profit of the Week – In Care of Hope

| SC Living | October 19, 2017

In 2009, local business owner Brian Schneider was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After undergoing eight rounds of chemo and 17 sessions of radiation, he was told he was in remission on April 13, 2010.

He wanted to give back, so together with family and friends they formed “Hodgkin’s Haters,” a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Light the Night team for the local Santa Clarita fundraising walk. They held numerous fundraisers as Hodgkin’s Haters’ “Party For A Cure,” which included celebrity bartending at the local Drifters Bar in 2012 and the Party For A Cure Casino Nights at the W in Hollywood for the following two years.

They developed a desire to hold more events locally, so in 2015 they held their first Par Tee Fore A Cure golf tournament at Robinson Ranch (now Sand Canyon Country Club). Parker Christensen, a local 15-year-old Hart High School football player and Hodgkin’s lymphoma fighter was the first Honorary Warrior. He came out to the tournament and shared his personal journey during the awards banquet and helped bring awareness to blood cancers. Parker is now 17 and enjoying his new cancer “free”dom.

In 2016, due to the unfortunate Sand Fire and the damage to Robinson Ranch, the second tournament was moved to the Valencia Country Club and was, again, a success. A courageous 3-year-old, Kylie Lynn Branch, was the honorary Warrior for 2016, and hid behind her mother, Katie, as she shared Kylie’s story and told participants about the treatments that lay waiting for her.

It was clear at that time that more needed to be done to eradicate this terrible disease. The tournament was gaining momentum and getting larger each year, but still encountered road blocks when trying to obtain large sponsorships and donations from local businesses. It was determined that becoming a nonprofit is what was needed in order to reach a higher level of financial support. In 2016, Brian and Sandra Schneider founded In Care Of Hope, a 501(c)(3) organization, and they chose the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) as their charity of choice, which means LLS receives nearly 80 cents of every dollar donated. The support raised goes directly for blood cancer research and patient services.

In Care Of Hope hosted the Hodgkin’s Haters’ 3rd Annual ParTeeForeACure Golf Tournament at TPC Valencia Golf Club last week. Although it was an extremely windy day, golfers comprised of local contractors, business owners, and contractor vendors from as far away as Orange County came out in full force to enjoy a day of golf, on-course contests, raffles, and laughs, all the while chipping away at a cure!

Sponsors from local businesses such as Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, Valencia BMW, Roma Jewelers, and Phyl-Mar Electrical Supply, In Care Of Hope / Hodgkin’s Haters, along with all who participated, sponsored, donated, and volunteered raised over $17,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society! This brings the total raised by the Hodgkin’s Haters since 2011 to more than $100,000 for LLS. (See all sponsors at Hodgkins-haters.com.)

With the help and support of many local volunteers, friends, family and cohorts each year, the ParTeeForeACure Golf Tournament becomes more and more successful. In Care Of Hope will be hosting the 4th Annual Hodgkin’s Haters ParTeeForeACure in September of 2018. If you’re interested in sponsoring, volunteering, and/or participating in any way, it’s never too early or too late to get involved.

In Care Of Hope Organization is all about giving back and is now in the early stages of planning an event with actress Kristen Renton for a cause near and dear to her heart, saving the Manatees. For future In Care Of Hope events, visit www.Incareofhope.org.

Hero of the Week – Kylie Lynn Branch

She is our four-year-old Warrior Princess. In January of 2015, at just two years old, Kylie was diagnosed with T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, and her life changed rapidly after that. Instead of her Mickey Mouse birthday that was planned, she was put on a clinical trial for her uncommon form of cancer. Her first days battling the disease consisted of several procedures, numerous pokes, and lots of tears.

She endured 11 months of intensive chemotherapy and 2 ½ years of chemo in total. She hated it all, but forgave quickly. She feared the new people in her life that wore scrubs and stethoscopes, but learned to love them and call them her friends.

Over the next several months Kylie went through so many obstacles that she had to learn to overcome. In the beginning her body became septic, went into shock and started to shut down. She was sent to the ICU for days to recover. Kylie endured numerous infections, which caused her to spend well over a hundred days hospitalized on and off during her first year of treatment. She suffered chemo burns, an actual open wound from the toxicity of chemo through her body. She lost her voice due to a side effect of her drug treatment. Next, she was unable to walk because of the effect of intensive steroids, which caused her whole body to swell. She was almost unrecognizable. Then, she endured pain in her legs and damage to her nerves because of another chemotherapy drug.

Though she quickly became accustomed to her “new normal” and regular visits to the hospital, she missed how things used to be before cancer came into her life. But that didn’t stop her from being able to smile while she fought through it all. Soon she would have a life that resembled some normalcy again.

Now, Kylie is in remission and celebrated the end of her treatment in May 2017 with a “No More Chemo” party. She is currently kicking butt in physical therapy to gain strength and coordination that was weakened by chemotherapy. She has just started preschool and is really enjoying making new friends like a normal child. You wouldn’t know by looking at her, all that she has accomplished in the past years. But she truly is a Warrior Princess. Our family will never take for granted each day we have with Kylie.


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Friday Night Films Screening of ‘CinemAbility’ Educates and Entertains

| Entertainment, News | October 12, 2017

Like many award-winning documentary films, the latest release by Gold Pictures seeks to amuse viewers while turning the spotlight on an unfamiliar, and sometimes uncomfortable, topic. A screening of “CinemAbility” at College of the Canyons on Friday is a golden opportunity for Santa Clarita residents to take a fresh look at the ways Hollywood has shaped the worldview of disabled individuals.

But if your mental image is that of a depressing, difficult film, think again.

“It’s funny, it’s uplifting, and entertaining,” said Jenni Gold, director of “CinemAbility.”

Viewers will see Geena Davis, Ben Affleck and Jamie Fox, among other A-listers, in the film.

“I put in as many people as I possibly could to make it attractive,” Gold said. “You hear ‘documentary’ and ‘disability’ and you run for the hills.”

Typically, Gold Pictures’ productions are narrative films. One of the company’s releases is about killer cockroaches that attack a college campus, for instance. In this case, the director said, “CinemAbility” is “a love story to Hollywood,” but also an informative look at how the public’s perception of disabilities has been shaped by media portrayals.

Gold works in Hollywood while grappling with the challenges of muscular dystrophy herself, which is one reason she was interested in the project. She is one of only two members of the Directors Guild of America with a visible disability, she said.

“We have a lot of truth that people either overlooked or never knew,” Gold said.

The movie never would have come to town if it wasn’t for the will of Santa Clarita resident and “CinemAbility’s biggest fan,” Leland Lewitt.

“He was very determined,” Gold said. “He wouldn’t come to any of our screenings — Leland insisted that we come to Valencia. It really meant something to him.”

And despite the fact that scheduling a screening is no small feat, Lewitt was successful.

“I was born with an intellectual disability,” he explained. “When I was attending junior high school, I was called ‘retard’ and made fun of almost daily. This film will show the people in my community that people with disabilities have feelings and deserve to be treated with respect. No one in my community has even heard of this film, and I want to change that.”

The 101-minute film will be followed by a panel discussion, all part of College of the Canyons Friday Night Films program.

“The film fits nicely into our program and Leland is very persistent, to say the least,” said Gary Peterson, COC cinema department chair, who has not seen the film yet. “We are happy to show the film to the community.”

The filmmaker seeks to inform the public about the experience of anyone underrepresented or misrepresented in the media.
“We’re united in one front — inclusion,” Gold said.

It took Gold about 10 years of research, pulling in celebrities and putting the filmmaking pieces together. Once it was “in the can,” she joked that it’s a whole second career promoting it.

“CinemAbility” is only available through specialty screenings and will be officially released in 2018. That means they show the film at corporate events, industry events, etc.

“It’s a slow, grassroots campaign,” Gold said. “We are independent and under-funded.”

Viewers will see both sides of the story, because Gold is careful not to inject her own opinion. She wants audiences to develop their own opinions, never forgetting to keep it light and engaging.

“We realize we’re just here to entertain,” she said. “We can’t educate unless people are having fun.”

Even famous comedy filmmaker Peter Farrelly said that “CinemAbility” got more laughs than some of his films, according to Gold, who added, “People leave in a very good mood.”

The program begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 13 in Hasley 101 on the COC Valencia Campus, 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road in Valencia. It is free and open to all, starting with an introduction by the director and a Q & A after the film. For more information, email Gary.peterson@canyons.edu or visit Cinemability.com.


Always Advocating Alan – September 11, 2001: Never Forget

| Opinion | September 7, 2017

by Alan Ferdman

Sometimes important dates slip by, but next Monday should not be one of them. I hope we will all come to think about what day it is, what happened and why it is important to keep the memory of 9/11 alive.

Another year has passed since September 11, 2001, when 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four jetliners for use as weapons of destruction. This evil team crashed two of the aircraft into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and the last, Flight 93, crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside, when passengers yelled, “Let’s Roll” and bravely attempted to take back the plane. In less than two hours, the two World Trade Center buildings collapsed and the Pentagon Outer Ring had been severely damaged. Approximately 3,000 people died, and over 6,000 innocent people were injured in the worst foreign attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.

I remember exactly where I was when it happened. It was early morning. I was getting ready for work and, as normal, had my bedroom television tuned to the news. I was surprised to learn a first plane had hit one of the World Trade Center buildings. At the time, the newscasters did not know if the crash was caused by a horrific accident or something else. But then, as we watched the second plane impact the second building, the motive became clear. This was a terrorist incident. It was an attack on our country and our way of life. The event ended my rush to get to work, as I sat on the edge of my bed, watching the drama unfold in disbelief. I remember being angry, disheartened, and upset, all at the same time, knowing there was nothing I could do to change what was occurring before my eyes.

But then, I started thinking about the need I was feeling to show solidarity with my friends, neighbors and the rest of the country. Up to that time, I was one of the citizens who put out my American flag on holidays. I retrieved my flag and immediately set it in its holder on the front of my house. Right then, I made a pledge. Flying an American flag only on holidays was going to change. I am proud to be an American every day and, as such, an American flag would fly in the front of my house every day.

Well, I finally did get ready for work and headed to JPL in Pasadena, only to find the facility was on lockdown and closed for the day. Making the drive back and forth gave me time to think. I wanted to do something more than just flying a flag.

I decided the American flag, put up in the front of my house, would fly for an entire year. Each morning I go out to my front atrium for some “wake up” coffee and look at my flag. As my flag becomes weathered and torn by the wind, it serves to remind me of all the brave men and women around the world who devote their time, energy, and sometimes their lives protecting our freedom. I have since put up a permanent flag pole and I replace my flag each year on the morning of September 11. I do not retire my flags, because like those individuals who have served our country, I believe my flags also deserve a place of honor and remembrance. Each year, when taken down, my flag is marked for the year it flew, carefully folded using the appropriate triangle method and placed in a special container, hung on the wall in my home office in clear view. On

The ten flags on display

the 10th anniversary of 911, the Santa Clarita Elks Lodge hosted a remembrance of that fateful day. As a part of the event, I provided a display of my 10 flags, allowing them to fly again, representing an unbroken daily reminder of those who perished, those who were injured and those who came running toward danger to help others in need. I intend to bring my flags out again, to fly and be seen, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

You might wonder why I am so passionate about remembering and highlighting such a terrible event. It comes from realizing that time goes by very quickly. In an instant, 16 years has gone by. When I was growing up, I remember all the times I was made aware of December 7, 1941. Even though it was a year before I was born, our “Greatest Generation” made sure the attack on Pearl Harbor, “a day that will live in infamy,” would remain vividly clear in our minds, as an example of why America needs to stay strong and ready to defend our freedom. Today, I realize my oldest grandchild was very young and my four other grandchildren were not even born on September 11, 2001. The message for our country to stay strong and ready to defend our freedom is no less true today than it was when I was growing up. Yet, today, I notice a trend of the news media marginalizing our history, as well as, our country’s accomplishments. In recent years, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 don’t even seem to get front page coverage in many of our newspapers. I think that is just wrong.

So, even though on September 11, 2001 there was nothing I could do to change what was happening, I realize today is different. While I may be a member of the “Silent Generation,” I will not be silent about remembering September 11, 2001, Pearl Harbor, Independence Day, or other important American historical dates and stories. I refuse to accept Facebook representations of our history, particularly those written by individuals who only take one word and use it to forward their own agendas. I will continue to study our history in order to factually understand our past leaders, celebrate our successes and learn from our missteps.

We live in the greatest country the world has ever known and I have no desire to move to the one in second place, whichever one that might be. We are all Americans, no matter our race, color, creed, religion or political party, and we always band together in time of need.

So, make me proud on Monday. Take a moment to pray for and remember all those who died, were injured or were impacted in any way by the events of September 11, 2001. But, most of all, be strong and never forget.

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