About Martha Michael


A professional writer for decades and the editor of multiple products from Valley Publications, Martha is in a constant search for new challenges. While maintaining her editing post for more than eight years, she also opened an antiques business and authored her first book, “Canyon Country,” by Arcadia Publishing.

Martha manages two blogs—one for business and one that is more personal—and works to market and perfect her craft in every arena. Lack of energy is never a problem, and Martha is daily generating ideas, taking photos and talking to members of the community. She believes strongly that “everybody has a story.”

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All Locked Up – escape rooms

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 15, 2019

It turns out a lot of people like to be locked inside a room with their friends and rely on their wits to find a way out. In fact, many of them put their money down and spend their free time in jails, crypts and police stations … well, sort of.

Escape rooms are creatively designed live action puzzles, where players get an hour to follow clues and find their way out.

If most of your neighbors are still doing the usual “dinner and a movie,” when they go out, they now have a chance to get out of a rut and try something new. As of two months ago, residents on the east side of the SCV can experience the fun and stimulation of an escape room without leaving Canyon Country. All Locked Up just opened behind Denny’s on Soledad next to Betitos in the space where Flair Beauty School existed for decades.

Mike Motherspaw and his girlfriend Danielle Desch wanted to give people of all ages a new option for entertainment and they chose a business that’s close to home – in more ways than one. Both Canyon Country natives, it’s an area that hasn’t had one of these popular live gaming sites in the past. And they chose the business model they did because they’re huge personal fans of attempting all kinds of escape rooms. So far, they’ve been to 45 different sites.

“Wherever we go we end up doing escape rooms – Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego – and we’ve done quite a few in Arizona,” Motherspaw said. “That’s what we do when we travel.”

But they’re not alone. The escape rooms at All Locked Up are already occupied at a pretty remarkable rate, a testament to the pastime’s popularity.

“We’ve met people who’ve done over 200 escape rooms,” Motherspaw said. “There are some real enthusiasts out there.”

If you haven’t been through one yourself, you may be wondering if visit after visit would get boring … but they’re all different. Motherspaw compares it to pizza, pointing out the obvious differences between what you get at a restaurant like Vincenzo’s vs. Costco. And that philosophy goes into designing their rooms at All Locked Up.

“It starts with a theme,” he explained. “One of our two rooms is a garage. Not a cave man’s garage – it’s grandpa’s garage … saws on the wall, it smells like oil, there’s still sawdust on the ground. It’s like an old garage.”

Then there’s the puzzle part of the business, which refers to the challenges participants face to “escape” the room.

“Once you get your theme you ask, ‘What do you find in a garage you could make a puzzle out of?’” Motherspaw said. “Some escape rooms are just keys and locks. Some are very simple. Sometimes we over-think puzzles … sit back and relax, don’t over-think it.”

His partner is the one who’s deep into thinking through and designing the puzzles, he said.

“My favorite aspect is when people go into our rooms and they say, ‘Wow – how do you pull this off?’” said Desch. “We love when people escape – their excitement and happiness when they get out, when they successfully do the room.”

In “The Garage,” which the couple considers a medium-to-hard range in difficulty, there’s about a 40 percent pass rate. That means that 60 percent of groups attempting to escape don’t get out within the hour allotted. But if that sounds too challenging or not challenging enough, All Locked Up has levels of difficulty you can choose from when you take on their other escape room, which is called “The Classroom.” Various paths are built into it, so it accommodates groups in a range of ages and stages.

“Every sound, everything you see, what things you see on the walls – the white boards, the clock above the white boards, like a movie, you forget that you’re in a retail location,” Motherspaw described. “Everything that comes into your brain when you think of a classroom has to be there.”

The Classroom is appropriate for all ages – 6 to 106, Motherspaw says – partly because you can choose the level of difficulty and also because they designed it to resonate with a family-centered community.

“All we care about is that they have a good time,” Desch said. “Even during the experience, we maybe give them an extra clue if they do a dance-off for instance … just as long as everyone who comes through has fun.”

Motherspaw is mostly responsible for the construction, which he said is minimal, involving just wood, dry wall and paint, for the most part. They plan to add “Aunt Debbie’s Apartment” next month and “The Morgue” close to Halloween. Their fifth room will be a rotational room, which means its theme will change regularly. “The Garage is going to stay,” Desch said. “It’s very customized.”

The business owners do their research out in the field. “Every time we leave an escape room we create a pro-con list,” Motherspaw said. “What did we like, what can we avoid, like if we’ve seen that puzzle too many times.”

The escape room themes he’s grown tired of, he said, are science labs and crime investigation rooms such as police stations. The most important aspect of the room design, he said, “is to be immersed in the experience. If you’re in The Garage there’s nothing that reminds you that you’re not in a true garage. Some people are all about the puzzles, but at the same time, it’s important to me that you walk into a room and it smells right, it feels right.”

All Locked Up is located at 18914 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. You can reach the staff at 661-235-6969 or book your escape room experience at ALUSCV.com.

Voice of Empowerment Karli Webster brings it home with personal music on a new EP

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 15, 2019

Many an author with a book launch or an artist with a show has echoed concerns about how much appreciation they can expect from their hometown audience.

But if you’re Karli Webster from Canyon Country, you just got confirmation you really can go home again.

After becoming a solid Season 13 contender on “The Voice,” Webster is pursuing her vocal music career, including a newly released EP, “Bittersweet,” which she shared with an audience at Wolf Creek Brewery in Valencia last month.

Suzy Arias joined her friend to see Karli Webster perform.

Karli Webster (left) visited with locals Daniel Baca, Ysela Coch and Kennedy Poirier before the show

There were more than just a few familiar faces filling the Spiegeltent at Wolf Creek, waiting for the chance to hear the 22-year-old’s latest music. You could see Webster working the room, exchanging hugs with former classmates and chatting with family friends between performances by musicians that preceded her onstage – The Band Lexington and Dakota Spencer.

She stopped at a table to talk to Kennedy Poirier, who attended Valencia High School when Webster was at Canyon High. She said she’s becoming reconnected to the singer through a mutual friend, Ysela Coch, who invited Poirier and another friend, Daniel Baca, to the concert.

A former Sylmar High School classmate of Webster’s father, Ronson, was there for the concert. Valencia residents Lisa Sickafoose and her 18-year-old daughter, Jordan, wanted to hear the latest Karli Webster music after watching her on “The Voice.”

“It was amazing,” said Lisa Sickafoose about watching Karli on TV. “I was biting my nails.”

The release party and the new album were a great forum to show the young singer’s artistic growth since “The Voice.” Webster is defining herself with more clarity, which adds depth to her original music – which, in turn, connects her to the listening audience.

The five tracks on Karli’s new EP “Bittersweet” include original music, one song that the 22-year-old wrote seven years ago.

When she wrote “Catching Air” at age 15, Webster was ruminating over an end to a relationship that taught her the importance of self-worth and personal strength. For the “Bittersweet” EP she reworked the number with songwriters Terra Naomi and Hilton Wright and the album’s producer Dennis Herring, who’s worked with Counting Crows, Modest Mouse and Jars of Clay.

Dan, Jim and Deanne Barton took a table in the Spiegeltent to hear Karli Webster sing.

The song “When It’s Over” communicates her struggle to cope with anxiety and panic disorder.

“What’s a Gal to Do,” which dropped on digital service providers early this month, sends a broad message. “This song is about embracing femininity as power, regardless of who you are or what that means to you,” Karli explained. “I wanted to play off of the ‘sensitive, innocent, hopeless’ narrative that has been consistently used to define women in film, music, and history.”

“Anyone” is the first song Karli wrote after she was released from “The Voice.”

“At this time in my life I had absolutely no idea where my life was headed, but I knew for certain that I didn’t need anyone to tell me who I needed to be, and this song is about that,” she explained.

There’s another thing Karli Webster’s experiences seem to have taught her over the last couple of years, which you could see from the way she seamlessly connected people from the past with her current message along her artistic journey.

And that is: “The longest way round is the shortest way home.”

New Urgent Care a Shot in the Arm for Canyon Country

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 15, 2019

Your son splits open his knee; your daughter sprains an ankle; and you have chest pain. The old school solution may have sent your son to the doctor’s office, your daughter to X-ray, and you to the ER.

But now, Canyon Country has one stop to treat all of those circumstances: Exer More Than Urgent Care in the Facey Medical Building on Soledad Canyon Road.

Injecting the words “new” and “convenient” into a description of the east side of the Santa Clarita Valley is, for some residents, a big win.
But another claim that may be felt even more acutely by residents is that, by contrast to hospitals, “Exer is a fraction of the cost and wait time.”
According to Truven Health Analytics, 71 percent of visits to hospital emergency departments are unnecessary or could be avoided.
“We are going to redefine what urgent care is,” said Exer More Than Urgent Care CEO Rob Mahan. “We’re pretty passionate about what we’re doing here.”

What they’re doing, Mahan said, is offering patients a wider range of services commonly associated with hospital emergency departments, which lowers patient costs. Most urgent cares, for instance, won’t administer intravenous fluids, mostly because it ties up a room, which limits the facility’s profits.

“Low-acuity patients are going to ERs, where there are the highest cost treatments,” he said. “It’s unnecessary to send someone to the ER for an IV. When someone is transferred to an ER (from Exer), we review everything. We look at why.”

Exer More Than Urgent Care has a 2 percent transfer rate, he said, while other urgent cares send up to 20 percent of their patients to hospitals due to a lack of onsite treatment options.

Canyon Country residents won’t have to darken the doors of a hospital for a comprehensive set of services from EKGs and X-rays to pharmacy and lab tests. Exer claims to treat 80 percent of the cases typically seen in an ER and patients can purchase medications on-site for a flat fee of $25. The goal is to bring emergency medicine closer to patients, so Exer More Than Urgent Care partnered with Facey Medical Group to offer the walk-in ER alternative.
You might say it’s just what the doctor ordered, considering the Canyon Country area is a 15-20 minute drive to reach an ER. The new arrival’s proximity to homes may even mitigate occurrences of code blue situations.

Mahan made a strong statement to sum up the facility’s purpose. He said, “We’re going to revolutionize what an urgent care should be.”

Exer More Than Urgent Care is located in the new Facey building at 14550 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country and it is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is the 10th Exer facility to open in Southern California, the second in the Santa Clarita Valley. Other locations include: Calabasas, Pasadena, Northridge, Beverly Hills, Newbury Park, Sherman Oaks, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach and Stevenson Ranch. For more information, visit Exerurgentcare.com/urgent-care-canyon-country.

Dueling Doulas Night Nannies to the Rich & Famous

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 15, 2019

If you’ve ever brought a newborn home from the hospital, you know the familiar cry. It sometimes starts softly and builds as it gains emotion until it’s a loud, piercing, desperate wail.

That’s not a reference to your infant calling for more milk … but rather, it’s your own cry for help as you desperately try to cope with the exhausting work of feeding, changing and rocking your baby while suffering from a debilitating lack of sleep.

Every day there are new moms and dads in Southern California who choose not to go it alone, but instead they get another set of arms to swaddle the baby, someone with the experience to offer them some training along the way. In other words, Lily Marks of Canyon Country steps in.

For more than 15 years, Marks has served as a nighttime nanny to newborns so parents get a break – including a reasonably long stretch of sleep.

“I try to make the parents as comfortable and stress-free as possible,” she said. “I find that when you bring home a baby, they can’t express how they’re feeling, so you have to put it together like a puzzle and guess. I’m helping them figure out what’s best for them. … I try to leave them with tools so they can figure it out on their own.”

A kind of “doula to the stars,” Marks has been a night nurse for major celebrities – (hint: check the “highest paid actors” list) – and musicians, including a member of Linkin Park and his wife, as well as producers, directors and other entertainment industry people.

She can’t reveal the names of clients due to confidentiality agreements, but what Marks is hired to guard is much more valuable than their privacy. And it’s clear she’s made a lot of parents very happy, as many of her clients are hiring her to return when they give birth to their second and third babies.

Lily Marks has 15 years of experience as a doula.

“Everybody’s been super, super nice for the 15 years I’ve done it,” she said. “A lot of them have instincts that kick in and I try to help those come out so they can really listen to them after I leave. A lot of them don’t feel confident to do it on their own and some postpartum creeps in. The other half of the job is being a counselor and building up their confidence.”

The seasoned night nurse owes her career choice to a neighbor she had, back when Marks was a young mother, widowed and raising two young daughters on her own.

“I was a stay-at-home mom and my neighbor was a labor and delivery nurse at Cedars-Sinai,” she said. “I had wanted to go back to school and become an RN and she told me, ‘If you ever want schooling, I teach doula classes at Cedars-Sinai.’ … It was a perfect opportunity to work nights, because I wanted to be home with the girls.”

After being trained, Marks worked for her neighbor’s company, Birth, Baby & Beyond, going to the homes of newborns, helping the women with breastfeeding and teaching them to bathe their infants. She later formed her own company, and now she is contacted by pregnant parents months in advance who want her schedule clear for them when their babies arrive. She can work several nights in a row, but has to book nannies in between so she can rest.

Mary Sloan works her magic with kids of all ages.

Sand Canyon resident Mary Sloan has served as a backup system for Marks on several occasions over the last couple of years.

“You’re there for the baby so the mom can sleep,” Sloan explained. “The baby wakes up, you change the diaper, you quietly go in and give the baby to mom. Some moms like you to bring the baby in to nurse, and some moms pump and you bottle feed. She sends you a text when she’s finished and you go get the baby, burp them and put them back to sleep.”

Getting babies to sleep has never been a big problem for Sloan.

“When they wake up and are crying you’ve got to figure it out,” she said. “I love little babies and kids. I’m comfortable with them; I don’t freak out.”

With three children of her own, Sloan has plenty of experience with kids, babysitting a lot as a girl and spending time with nieces and nephews before she became a mother. Sloan is CPR-trained and when she covers for Marks it could be in Hollywood Hills, Beverly Hills or as far away as Newport, which is the farthest distance Marks has traveled for the job.

Typically, the doula has her own room, either with the baby or next door to the nursery. Or at times, there’s a comfortable couch for the night nurse next to a bassinet in a family room. Either way, the job’s the same.

“You do get some sleep,” Sloan explained. “It’s tough, though. I’ve done two nights in a row, or twice in a week. You’re exhausted the next day.”

There are often other parties involved, including housekeepers, day nannies and mothers or mothers-in-law. Sometimes doula services are gifts to the new mom and dad from grandparents of the infant.

“I make sure to ask if they’re OK with this or that,” Marks said. “I’m here to suggest tools and ideas. I never want to step on anybody’s toes. My concern is teaching parents how to deal with their babies.”

The most challenging factor, Marks said, is getting infants to sleep through the night as quickly as possible. And at times she cares for a baby with colic. “You have to figure out what formula is good,” she said. “And I just hold them; holding them upright is usually best to calm them down. Sometimes time is the best thing.”

For those who are lucky enough to hire a knowledgeable, experienced night nurse, it’s a softer, quieter introduction to parenthood. But imagine the benefits when baby whisperers like Lily Marks and Mary Sloan teach new parents to care for their infants proficiently … especially if it’s true that the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.

Adapt and Overcome – Our firefighters serve where they’re needed

| Canyon Country Magazine | December 19, 2018

If our local firefighters weren’t already heroes in your mind, you may be impressed to hear they provided manpower to battle the recent “Woolsey Fire” in Malibu. And what’s perhaps equally significant is their reaction when you ask about the dramatic scope of that blaze and the massive “Camp Fire” in Paradise, California.

They say it’s just business as usual.

“We support the incident in any way we can,” said Capt. Paul Popp of Fire Station 132, a 20-year veteran of the department, whose “structure defense” engines were sent out to save homes.

When fires break out, like the recent California blazes, the fire captains institute “telephone standby,” which puts personnel on notice, to get all hands on deck. Engineer Tony Carcioppolo was at Fire Station 132 for 12 consecutive days, because some of his staff were sent to the Woolsey Fire. He had to cover for Capt. Popp and the strike team, who went to Malibu, where they did “mop up” duty and patrolled for hot spots.

“We have engines in reserve throughout the county,” Carcioppolo said. “Some of the firefighters who cover the east end of L.A. County and Orange County moved personnel to cover our stations.”

In summer, firefighters carry “strike team bags” with extra clothes, MREs (like the military’s meals) and sleeping bags. They have to respond quickly to brush fires, which occur in the Santa Clarita Valley about 4-5 times per week during fire season.

Each station has a separate jurisdiction and respond to a lot of emergency medical services, or EMS, calls that come in. Station 132, which is located at the entrance to Stetson Ranch on Sand Canyon Road, responds to incidents on the 14 freeway, in addition to brush fires.

When fires break out, adjoining stations send backup, and the L.A. County Fire Dept. joins forces with the U.S. Forest Service.

“We integrate very well together,” Capt. Popp said. “We use common frequencies and common terminology.”

With big blazes such as the Woolsey Fire, there’s an incident command system that serves as the hub of the team efforts.

The strike team reports to “staging,” Carcioppolo said. “With big fires you’re a little more cautious, because there’s a reason it’s so big and you don’t know the area,” he said. “You’re more focused on doing the basics right, to set you up for success.”

Firefighter Aurelio Sanchez and the Station 132 team went to Malibu Lake while the fire was active. One of the challenges, he said, was ineffective radio communication, so they sent a message by computer warning that they were starting independent action. First, a crew from another engine informed them of hazards, and then Sanchez’ team drove the truck uphill, where they joined others in protecting structures – saving as many homes as possible.

As bad as the damage from the Woolsey Fire, the Camp Fire was the worst in California history. It was the result of a bad combination, according to Capt. Popp: high temperatures, wind, and a heavy fuel load.

“You have all the trees and undergrowth,” he explained. “Everything is receptive, so the rate of spread is incredibly fast.”

Preventing Fires
A lot of residential fires begin when an “ember cast” gets under the eaves of a house.

It’s not entirely preventable, of course, but if you have enough advanced notice, the firefighters said, cover the attic vents. That’s where embers tend to enter the structure and burn the whole house.

Clearing brush around your house is, of course, important. But also, you should move combustibles away from your house, such as firewood, as well.

Properties with regularly irrigated lawns help to deflect the spread of a blaze, but hosing down your roof doesn’t help much, the three firemen said.

Local fire stations are calling in extra personnel because of the threat of mudslides. Residents can pick up sand bags from the stations and some of them also have sand onsite. If the station nearest you doesn’t have sand to fill the bags, fire personnel can direct you to one that does.

For more information, you can swing by one of Canyon Country’s stations for written materials. There’s a “personal wildfire action plan” called “Ready! Set! Go!” and a booklet called “Homeowner’s Guide for Flood, Debris, and Erosion Control.”

In the meantime, though the threats will come and go, Canyon Country can rest easy because, as Carcioppolo said, an important part of their job is to “adapt and overcome.” And they’re prepared.

Code Ninjas

| Canyon Country Magazine | December 19, 2018

Choosing an after-school activity for a child leads most parents to the same dilemma: finding an activity that’s safe, educational, and most importantly, they really like it.

Santa Clarita parents are in luck, because a new business opened this month for kids age 7-14, especially those who enjoy computers. Code Ninjas offers after-school coding classes – both a drop-in class and weeklong camps – with all the flare of a martial arts experience.

The classroom is called the “dojo,” like a martial arts studio. The students are “ninjas” and instructors are “senseis.”

When they start, the ninjas are white belts, and as they learn, over time, they work their way through the 10 levels to become “black belt” code ninjas, which takes approximately four years, start to finish. At the black belt stage the ninja is able to design an app and even market it to sell in the app store.

Similar to a gym membership, the kids can show up any time for two one-hour sessions, where they work on building their own video game as they learn to code. Drop-in hours are 3-7 p.m. Monday-Friday and Saturdays 9 a.m.-noon.

“We start out with foundations of coding and it builds to become more advanced as they come through,” said Center Director Heather Cunado. “There’s nothing like it.”

It’s the first of its kind in Santa Clarita and the franchise owner is local resident Matt Reeser. More than 300 Code Ninjas sites are opening across the country.

The Code Ninjas motto is “Kids have fun, parents see results.”

“Our main goal is balancing – to make sure kids have fun while learning to code,” Cunado said.

The first camp will be held the last week of winter break – Jan. 7-11. The morning session is Java Script Camp from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. The afternoon is Minecraft Create Camp from noon to 3 p.m.

Code Ninjas is holding its first “Parents Night Out” beginning this month, just in time for holiday shopping, or whatever else they want to do. Children can be dropped off from 7-10 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 14 and they will spend the evening building video games, doing STEM activities and eating pizza.

The community is invited to the grand opening of Code Ninjas on December 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can see the facility, meet the staff, enjoy refreshments and take part in a raffle.

Code Ninjas is located at 26867 Sierra Highway at Via Princessa in Newhall. You can contact them by calling 661-360-5050 or email SantaClaritaca@codeninjas.com. The website is Codeninjas.com

Better by the Dozen – Boron Family Leaves their Mark on Canyon Country

| Canyon Country Magazine, Sand Canyon Journal | December 7, 2018

The last few issues of Canyon Country Magazine featured Canyon High School’s 50th anniversary celebration, where we met members of the Boron family. Their ties to the area were so compelling that we asked them to share some memories of life at Canyon High School in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Peter and Marilyn Boron and their family came to Canyon Country in 1967 and moved into a new home in a tract named “New Woodlands,” sometimes called “Woodlands II,” in Sand Canyon. Their oldest child was almost 11 at the time, and by May of 1969 they were a family of 12.

Nine of the 10 Boron children graduated from Canyon High School. Oldest son, Steve, chose to attend Crespi High School in the San Fernando Valley, where he played football for coach Harry Welch, who would later coach Steve’s brothers at Canyon High.

Seven girls followed Steve, and then two more boys, in order: Stephen, Peggy, Ann, Mary Jo, Fabienne & Suzette (twins), Stefani, Jenni, Joe and Andy.

Peter Boron, father of 10, was born in 1928 and passed away in 1997 of pancreatic cancer. He worked for Hughes Aircraft for more than 40 years and was influential in establishing Habitat for Humanity in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys and was instrumental in getting the Distinguished Graduate Award started at Canyon High School. Both parents were active in religious education in Canyon Country and a huge presence when Masses were held in the Canyon High gym.

Marilyn Boron added some of her thoughts and memories.
Pete was a very enthusiastic football fan and for a few years moved the chains for Canyon games. He also went to a meeting once to promote girls’ sports at Canyon. I don’t remember who he met with, but I presume that after that, whatever the issues were, they improved.

Our family enjoyed attending Canyon and were active participants in school affairs. I was often late in picking up my kids and their friends, too often, after practices or events. I just forgot!

Stephen Boron graduated from Crespi High School in 1974. Born in 1956, Stephen paid for his own tuition and rode his motorcycle down to Encino to attend Crespi, because he wanted to play football and join their wrestling team. He still holds the records for tackles in a game & tackles in a season.

Steve attended Cal Poly Pomona on a football scholarship and graduated with a degree in engineering. He became a pilot in the United States Air Force and for Delta Airlines. He died in 2005 of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
Peggy Boron-Downs graduated from CHS in the class of 1975. She is a court reporter living in Santa Clarita.

We all went to Sulphur Springs Elementary. At the junior high level, the south side of Sand Canyon at Soledad was bussed to Placerita with kids that lived in Princess Homes, instead of us going to Sierra Vista. I was sorry to leave my junior high friends, but looked forward to meeting new friends in high school.

My fondest memories of Canyon are the art classes with Bob Brown, who was very supportive of students’ creativity; and algebra with Mr. McGreevy. I loved attending the football games and dances afterwards with a live band, and I have a great memory of being nominated to the CHS Senior Homecoming court with a few other wonderful classmates. Our fathers escorted us.
I took business classes and had Ms. Black as a teacher in Gregg Shorthand, which piqued my interest in the field of court reporting.
All of us had a great time when we’d load up the van and go to the Mustang Drive-in. There was a playground at the base of the big screen. Every once in a great while, dad would take us to dinner at Sir George’s Smorgasbord by Friendly Valley – always a treat.

Ann Rhys graduated from CHS in 1976. She is a controller for Rush Truck Insurance Services in San Antonio and lives in Canyon Lake, Texas.

Memories of Canyon High School teachers were, notably, taking driver’s education with Mr. Kevorken and home economics class with Ms. Levand. I learned my math foundation from Mr. Burrill, and I remember a field trip to Rodeo Drive with Mr. Mast’s sociology class.

Ms. Black in the business department repeated a saying – “I don’t want to hear excuses, I want to see results.”

Back then Canyon had a legal smoking area on the balcony of the girls’ gym, and there were occasional concerts at lunch on the quad. Also, we graduated in red, white and blue gowns.

Mary Jo Widing graduated in 1978. She is retired and living in Dallas, Georgia.

I played volleyball at Canyon High School for three years. I enjoyed eating lunch on the quad with my friends and watching them film “Police Story,” a TV show with David Cassidy.

Mr. Burrill taught math, not one of my strongest subjects, but he was always patient. Once he had to go to a conference and chose a student from each class to teach, including me. The day I presented I was pretty nervous, but it definitely gave me more confidence – I still remember to this day.

I was a foreign exchange student and spent my junior year in France. I had my appendix surgically removed while in France and Mr. Diaz, my favorite biology teacher, kept my appendix in a jar in the science class.

We were Borons. It didn’t matter where we went, someone knew us – our brothers, sisters or our parents. And it wasn’t only in the Santa Clarita Valley, but in the San Fernando Valley, Mammoth Mountain, or at the beach. It was crazy. Even as we got older, this phenomenon continued.

Fabienne McGeever graduated in the class of 1979 with her twin sister, Suzette. She is an administrator with Simpatico Systems and lives in Santa Clarita.

Some experience bad high school years, but my memories of this time are great. I was active! Sports, drama, madrigals & concert choir, ski club and honor society consumed my days, but homework and study most nights. I ended up 75th in a class of 500. My twin was top 10!

As a family, we would go bowling, roller skating, participate in track and field at COC, ski trips to Mammoth Mtn., beach camping, church youth group, choir, and working at Magic Mountain was an SCV requirement. Riding a converted motorcycle or the van got the working-age kids where we needed to be at any given time. Who had time to get into any trouble!? Deciding who got what vehicle when was a challenge. We made it work somehow.

Canyon High shaped my life. My best memories are deciphering Shakespeare in Mr. Moos’ class, being a TA for Mr. Mast, and getting challenged in Mr. DeCoster’s English class – and winning the argument. Of course, my mother showed up to corroborate. I still brought in the home baked cookies, as promised, if I lost. There were trips with choir – songs from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Blue Moon” and “Grease” will always stick in my head … performing in “Little Me” and “Go Ask Alice,” and Christmas concerts. Volleyball was prominent and we all loved every minute of it. I wouldn’t mind doing it all over again!

Suzette Cass graduated in the class of 1979 with her twin, Fabienne. She is a computer programmer at NTT Data in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

I have a vivid memory of sports at Canyon High. The boys played football and the female Borons played volleyball. In 1979 there were four Boron girls on the varsity squad! I also played badminton.

The gym was a fun place. I was the girls’ athletic commissioner my senior year. Being in “politics” was not my forte. The sporting experience encouraged me to coach the volleyball team after graduating, and I rose to varsity volleyball coach for one year.

I recall school being engaging. I liked math and the sciences, although I had to teach myself math, with help from Dad. Dean Hurd, who I admired, was a great science instructor. I did get a degree in computer science from CSUN – Somebody must have done something right!

Since I had lots of sisters around, I knew lots of people. I participated in Concert Choir and Madrigals conducted by Bob Scott. Fabienne and I sang a medley of “Grease” songs in the Rock & Roll concert. That was a blast! I also remember singing “Close To You” by the Carpenters as a trio. I could always sing in public, but never wanted to speak in public, though with my current career I have to give training classes. I do think Canyon High prepared me for my future.

Stefani Brown graduated with the class of 1981. She is a teacher at Kirchgater Elementary School in Elk Grove, California.

My fondest memories were playing sports. We had awesome coaches. I played volleyball, basketball and softball and was named “Athlete of the Year” as a sophomore. We went to CIF in volleyball and basketball and I loved playing on teams with my sisters. One year, four of us Boron Girls played on the varsity volleyball team. Everyone treated each other like family. Coach Masters was like a mother: loving, dedicated and pushing us hard to play better than we thought possible!

The teachers at Canyon were excellent! I was learning higher level math concepts and was challenged in my literature and advanced biology classes. I remember Mr. Diaz teaching us how to hold our books close to our hearts because “we were scholars and these were books of knowledge.” On one assignment I wrote in my lab book that although the experiment was a failure, I had learned quite a bit, and the comment in the margin was, “You would make a great teacher!” And that is what I have become. To this day, I tell my students, “No mistake is bad if you learn something from it.”

I have very fond memories from high school and living in Canyon Country. I’d like to thank all of my teachers, coaches, and family who had an influence and impact on helping to mold me into who I am today!

Jenni Boron-Schaeffer graduated in 1982. She served as a military RN, then practiced as a NICU/PICU RN and is now a certified fertility care practitioner in Chico, California.

I had a great experience at Canyon High. Playing sports was a given. I played basketball, softball and badminton, but volleyball was my passion! And I was fortunate to play collegiate ball at University of San Francisco.

I earned a “Scholar Athlete” award and I really liked school too. My brother Joe would call me a “geek” because I would run to each of my classes – I was so excited to get to them!!! I still have a love of learning!

I hung out with a large group of women athletes and always felt like it didn’t matter what “group” you were in; people were friendly. Being #8 out of 10, it seemed like someone knew me wherever I went. I actually didn’t think we looked alike, so I never understood how people knew I was a Boron.

Having kids go through sports, I feel extremely blessed that I had such awesome coaching at the high school level. I didn’t realize how truly fortunate we were at Canyon. I am guessing that Ardyce Masters, our girls’ athletic director, had a lot to do with it. It’s astonishing that it was so exceptional. Many thank yous to all the naturally amazing teachers and coaches!!

I made a wooden plaque in the Canyon High wood shop with my dad’s motto: “Fix it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Joe Boron graduated in the class of 1984. He was part of the CIF streak at Canyon High School and was such a giving soul. Whenever anyone needed help, he was there. He drove a big truck and shared all he had. His shop classes served him well in his chosen field. He became an airplane mechanic for Van Nuys Airport and we miss him every day! He was born in 1966 and died in 2009 of an unknown heart problem or hepatitis C complications from a blood transfusion.

Andy Boron was in the 1987 graduating class. He is a loan officer at Augusta Financial in Santa Clarita.

I’m the youngest of 10 and the ninth Boron to attend Canyon High School. The path for a successful high school career was carved out by seven remarkably talented and athletic sisters and a brother three years my senior. My brother Joe was an inside linebacker and a member of the first team to play for legendary Harry Welch. There was not a teacher or counselor at Canyon who wasn’t intimately familiar with the Boron Family.

Mr. Mast was the cool sociology teacher who took a personal interest in his students. Mr. Flaherty was a favorite. No one thought Mr. Flaherty was cooler than Mr. Flaherty. He reminded me of a mix between Dean Martin and Knute Rockne. He recruited me to play football my sophomore year, a challenge, since I wanted to make my own athletic path and play basketball for Coach Hayes, who was the nicest guy on campus and proof that nice guys don’t always finish last.

If you could possibly respect, admire and love a man that you hoped drove off a cliff before Monday’s practice … that would be Coach Welch. I was lucky enough to be a part of “The Streak.” Welch appointed me defensive captain my senior year and I wondered if it was the fact he coached my brothers that made him choose me, or perhaps he felt it was a natural fit since I was ASB president.

Mr. Diaz deserves every accolade. He was to science what the teacher in “Mr. Holland’s Opus” was to music. Most of us worked at Magic Mountain while maintaining solid grades and being multi-sport athletes. My impression of Canyon High was that we were a blue-collar community with educators who genuinely loved getting to know their students and to have a hand in their future success.

New Business – E’s Closet

| Canyon Country Magazine | November 20, 2018

If you’re bored with your wardrobe, or at least tired of the usual merchandise on racks at chain stores, last month brought you some new options: the local family-owned store E’s Closet.

Not only is it close to home – near the Canyon Country Post Office – it’s a retail clothing shop for the entire family.

Edna Rodriguez, her husband and three children moved to Santa Clarita less than a year ago, to a community she felt would benefit from some retail options.

“It’s brand name clothing at discounted prices,” said the store owner, who has worked in fashion retail for more than 10 years. “I felt I was ready to take this step of opening my own store and offer people quality clothing that I like to wear.”

Rodriguez said her emphasis is on meeting the needs of the whole family, carrying men’s, women’s and a lot of kids’ clothing. There is casual wear, including workout ensembles, in addition to dresses and dressy separates.

E’s Closet depends on a relationship with vendors Rodriguez established many years ago, which she said are dependable resources that emphasize quality. The store also carries accessories, including earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings, to match the outfits on the racks.

While Rodriguez enjoys dress clothes and jewelry, which she said is one of the reasons she got into the business, she carries clothing for all kinds of styles.

“I talk to a lot of people who are very casual, who like to wear their workout clothing all day,” she said. “I go to the rack with them – if they like casual clothing, I go to the jeans and T-shirts, choosing different things to show them the variety I have. What I want to be known for is customer service. I give everyone individual attention.”

Rodriguez chose the space, which is in the same building as the post office, but at the other end of the strip, because the rent is reasonable and there is a lot of foot traffic.

“The fact that I’m in the back is not the greatest for traffic, but there’s always parking, which is awesome,” Rodriguez said. “There are also a lot of apartment complexes behind the building. I figured there’s a big population I can serve because there are families.”

The Rodriguez family moved from Pasadena and they live in the neighborhood where Newhall and Canyon Country intersect. They became acquainted with the SCV because Edna’s husband, Oscar, often works in Santa Clarita and he has co-workers who live in the area.

“My husband and I talked and said, ‘The little ones need a different school system, and the schools are better out here,’” she said. “’Maybe it’s time to make a move.’”

Their oldest, Oscar, attends College of the Canyons; Tania is a student at Golden Valley High School; and Bryan is at Golden Oak Community School.

“I love it out here,” Edna Rodriguez said. “It’s nice and quiet.”

E’s Closet is located at 18354 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. The hours are Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. You can call the store at 661-367-6173.

Bill Duquette

| Canyon Country Magazine | November 16, 2018

When Bill Duquette won first place at the Santa Clarita Artists Association Art Classic Gala for his sculpture, “The Secret Spot,” there was a little bit of irony in it. Depicting a pair of men sitting with their fishing poles dropped beneath them, the artwork represents a quiet, relaxing time by an artist whose life has been anything but settled. In fact, the 71-year-old has lived in many different states of the country, completed three tours in Vietnam, has retired at least twice, and is now married to a fellow artist who is also busy creating and showing her work.

A native of Saginaw, Michigan, Duquette was a swim champion as a youth, ranked nationally in the 200-yard freestyle. He earned several university scholarships and he was aiming for the 1968 Olympic trials when he joined the U.S. Marine Corps instead.

His service in Vietnam left him with disabilities due to Agent Orange and other factors, Duquette said. Like so many bands of brothers, Duquette still communicates with members of his platoon, who have been together 45 years. They meet once a year somewhere in the United States. Last year the group lost 3-4 men and he estimates his group has about 35-40 individuals still living.

He’s a part of Together We Served, a group that reconnects veterans to one another. Duquette has also employed the services of the Veterans Administration for about 40 years and said he has no complaints. It’s been a helpful resource for him, he said.

When he returned to the States after Vietnam, he worked full-time and attended school through the GI Bill, which took nearly two decades and resulted in multiple degrees, including engineering and graphic design. From 1981-1995 he was a building contractor whose last job was the Edwards Canyon Country Theatre project.

“I finished in ‘96 and retired,” Duquette said. “Then I moved to St. Augustine, Florida and fished.”

Because he had two grandchildren in California, he returned in 2010, which is when he purchased his current home in Greenbrier Mobile Estates.

When Duquette moves to a new city, his modus operandi typically involves finding an art community. While living in Florida he joined the St. Augustine Art Association and became a member of the Oil Painters of America, as well as the Graphic Artists Guild.

“So, I just wanted to find an association here,” he said. “I wanted to find some art people.”

One of Bill Duquette’s favorite works of art is his oil painting of a beloved dachshund, “Jake.”

“Daddy’s Little Valley Girl” by Bill Duquette. He used white oak (as in the street name in the San Fernando Valley) for the base, Duquette used copper to depict a father swinging his daughter.

Duquette painted a series of lighthouses in 2001 and sold limited edition prints of them.

“The Secret Spot” won first place in the sculpture category at the Santa Clarita Artists Association Art Classic Gala last month.

He succeeded in finding other artists in Santa Clarita. But one member, in particular, stood out.

Duquette began collecting the work of some of his colleagues, and one of his favorites was photographer Carrie Dawn.

“I had never met her, didn’t know who she was,” he said. “The Artists Association had a Christmas party one year and she walked up to me and said, ‘I’m Carrie Dawn.’”

Bill and Carrie Duquette were married four years ago. Their home is currently on the market, as the couple – and their pair of parrots – are planning to move up to Pine Mountain Club.

“We just had a show together (at Pine Mountain) two months ago for a whole month,” Duquette said, “at Artworks Community Gallery.”

The couple’s work can also be viewed at the Hyatt Regency Valencia, where the hotel recently completed a remodeling project.

Always inspired, Duquette just returned from an Alaskan cruise, and his paintings are a reflection of what he saw and experienced there. The resulting artwork includes an oil painting with approximately 40 layers of paint that he calls “Golden Falls.”

“The final layer is a clear coat that looks deep,” he said. “It’s almost 3-D.”

Carrie’s work involves photography and Bill paints and creates multimedia sculptures, mostly wire and wood lately. Together the Duquettes are working on an illustrated children’s book of Carrie’s poetry, which should be released in the summer of next year.

Sand Canyon Hotel & Resort

| Canyon Country Magazine | November 16, 2018

Sand Canyon residents are keeping their eyes open and making sure leaders aren’t sleeping on the job where plans for a hotel are being considered.

Approximately 50-60 residents attended a meeting at City Hall last month to hear about the status of a proposed project at Sand Canyon Country Club. Speakers discussed the scope of the proposed changes in the Sand Canyon Hotel & Resort project submitted by CEO Steve Kim.

City associate planner Hai Nguyen presented the project and explained the process involved in the Environmental Impact Report for the 75-acre development. The EIR will study soils, land use, air/water quality and traffic, among other issues.
The “draft EIR” will become available sometime in mid-2019.

There were 14 individuals from the community who spoke publicly. Four leaned in favor of the project, citing the need for commercial resources such as hotels, ballrooms and restaurants.

Others voiced issues reflecting the “10 Points of Concern” drafted by the SCHOA board. Those include:
Water: Is there adequate public water for a project this significant?

Sewage/waste: Is there adequate public sewage infrastructure for a resort of this type and size?

Traffic: Will the required traffic analysis include current studies and future developments (Vista Canyon, Sand Canyon Plaza, Mancara, etc.) and provisions for the continuing increase of traffic on Sand Canyon already impacted by navigation applications? Will such items as proper signalization at 14 Freeway off-ramps, stop signs on Placerita, round-a-bouts, speed humps, etc. be incorporated and addressed in the traffic study?

Access: Will there be secondary access in and out of our community to accommodate the additional traffic, especially during emergency situations? With additional resort personnel & guests, an additional evacuation route is greatly needed.

Special standards district: As a Special Standards District and a rural, equestrian-oriented community, we need trails through and around this development so our Sand Canyon Trails System can connect to the U.S. Forest Service (Wilderness), City Open Space, and to the Golden Valley City Open Space. These trails are the Sand Canyon community’s “paseos.”

Economic analysis: Will there be an Economic Analysis that shows sustainability, especially if ownership changes in the future?

Zoning: Will there be studies and recommendations regarding the significant impact of a zoning change of use? The original approval of the Robinson Ranch Golf Course as Open Space eliminated further residential development for this site, and recognized and established density limits. Will this be re-addressed?

Staffing: What type of executive management staff will be established to run a resort of this magnitude? Will studies and analysis of the project’s significant scale, scope, and activities impacting our community be conducted?

Sand Canyon identity: Will this proposed resort maintain the rural and equestrian flavor of our community?

Lights/noise: What is planned for lights and noise mitigation for the surrounding homeowners who are used to a quiet, country neighborhood?

In approximately a year the proposed project comes before the first meeting of the Santa Clarita Planning Commission. Hotel projects don’t just happen overnight.

For more information, contact project planner Hai Nguyen at hnguyen@santa-clarita.com or call 661-255-4330.

Holiday Jam – Musical Treat Served at Bethlehem Lutheran

| Canyon Country Magazine, Entertainment | November 15, 2018

Chances are your Christmas traditions don’t include a backstage pass experience with dozens of A-list musicians who tour with the likes of Phil Collins, Earth, Wind & Fire and Frankie Valli. Unless, that is, you’ve been on the inside of Canyon Country’s best-kept musical secret for the last 27 years.

Bethlehem Lutheran Church holds an annual concert spearheaded by Robby Robinson, who pulls together about 30 of his friends – also professional musicians – who bring to the public a show called Jam for Jesus. It’s a free three-hour music experience featuring men and women who perform for a living, but do the concert voluntarily.

“The talent level is just off the charts, but more than the talent level is the heart that these musicians have, who are giving their talent – significant talent, I might add – to the Lord,” Robinson said. “You walk into this church and what you get is what you’d expect to see in Radio City Music Hall.”

Front-and-center is Robinson on keyboard, who created the annual event when he was the minister of music at the church in the 1990s, and his brother, Rex Robinson, on bass. Though Rex, an Agua Dulce resident, has retired from touring, both men were in Frankie Valli’s band, and Robby has been Valli’s music director for more than 40 years.

Some of the horns, guitarists, vocalists, etc. are locals who are now professionals, including Andrea Hammond, Roland and Tristan Garcia and Sara Niemietz. Jam for Jesus performers also include musicians who play in the “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol” bands.

The songs in the concert are sacred, Robby said, including a number of Christmas songs. But the group tackles many different styles, from classical to jazz/pop. Far from a rigid performance, it’s what Robby calls “somewhat loose,” where there’s only one rehearsal and a basic script, which he writes in advance.

Like a symphony, these friends of Robby create a blend that fills the rafters, using little musical construction but still following a list of songs and basic arrangements.

“It’s like flying with no net,” Robby said. “It’s a very intimate kind of concert, not formal – you feel like you’re backstage. It’s hard to describe unless you’ve been there.”

One professional who’s “been there” from the beginning is percussionist Richie Garcia. He’s recorded on soundtracks for such films as “The Italian Job” and “Emperor’s New Groove” and toured with Sting, Diana Ross, Brooks and Dunn and many others. His sons, Roland and Tristan, also perform professionally and are frequent members of the Bethlehem Lutheran band.

“It’s an honor to share the stage with my family and some of the most accomplished musicians in Los Angeles year after year,” said Tristan Garcia. “They come together for a time of giving, share their talents and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.”

Meanwhile, their friend and leader Robby Robinson keeps packing a bag. A couple of weeks ago he played in Milwaukee, followed by Chicago, and ended up in Detroit, onstage with Frankie Valli.

Rex Robinson

Last year, the Robinson brothers flew to their hometown of Litchfield, Illinois (population about 7,000) where their mother still lives. Where they held the Robinson Brothers 40th Anniversary Concert, raising more than $100,000 for a small hospital. Some of the Robinsons’ musical colleagues who flew to Litchfield to play included a member of Mel Torme’s band and one of the stars of Broadway’s “Jersey Boys.”

If you attend Bethlehem Lutheran on a Sunday morning it’s possible to hear several of the same musicians. You’re more likely to see Rex Robinson in the worship band than Robby, who is now a minister of music in Simi Valley, where he lives. But his years of leadership give him the ability to speak for many of his musician friends.

“I feel so blessed to do what I do,” Robby said. “And that’s the way these guys feel.”

Bethlehem Lutheran Church is located at 27265 Luther Drive in Canyon Country. Jam for Jesus will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. For more information, call 661-252-0622 or visit BethlehemSCV.com.

Ghost Building

| Canyon Country Magazine | October 9, 2018

Recently, Facey Medical Group moved from the 20,576-square-foot building at 17909 Soledad Canyon Road to their new 37,000-square-foot clinic at 14550 Soledad Canyon Road. If you’ve turned your head when driving past the vacated white building, you probably noticed that now there are two empty buildings side-by-side on Soledad.

Many Canyon Country residents remember when construction began on the orange (still unfinished) commercial property at 17901 Soledad Canyon Road back in 2006. Construction continued for two years and was abandoned when the original owner went through bankruptcy/receivership, according to Mayumi Miyasato of the City of Santa Clarita. It was purchased by Sinanian Development.

The 100,000-square-foot building remains unfinished and there is no word of any plans to complete the construction. It is approved primarily for professional office and some medical office space.

“While the city certainly would like to see the completion of the office building, which would bring jobs and/or other commercial services to the area, the city is unable to require the developer to complete the construction of the office building,” said James Chow, senior planner for the City of Santa Clarita. “From a building and safety standpoint, as long as the structure doesn’t violate any of our building codes and as long as there are no life safety issues, the building may remain in its current condition (unfinished shell).  We have not issued a Certificate of Occupancy for the building, so no portion of the building is legally occupiable.”

According to Chow, the approved use and original function of the building is for professional office space, with some space for medical offices and possibly a small coffee shop or restaurant. These are just two vacant buildings on the east side of the Santa Clarita Valley to put on your watch list. But please keep your eyes on the road when you’re behind the wheel!

Principal for a Day

| Canyon Country Magazine | October 8, 2018

The most memorable non-profit fundraisers are those that involve engaging with others, and the annual Principal for a Day event is based on a partnership that brings local business and public school personnel together.

This year, principals in the Sulphur Springs and William S. Hart school districts will welcome visitors on October 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., offering them a personal view of the administrative duties on campus.

Sponsored by the SCV Education Foundation, it offers business and community members an opportunity to work closely with a Sulphur Springs or William S. Hart District principal. Those who donate to the non-profit foundation get the chance to spend October 12 with a principal or with other district leaders such as superintendents, capping the experience with a luncheon at The Centre in Santa Clarita.

At this year’s awards luncheon, the non-profit will induct Tom Lee and Donna Avila into the SCV Education Foundation Hall of Fame. Lee was the founding chairman of the SCV Education Committee in 1984 and is being recognized as a Legacy recipient of the Hall of Fame. Avila worked for the City of Santa Clarita until recently and was an integral part of connecting businesses, government and schools for numerous years.

“Principal for a Day is a great opportunity to show a community member all of the great things going on at our local schools,” said Julie McBride, principal at Fair Oaks Ranch Community School. “In addition to including our community member in our morning announcements, I always plan for a day to observe a variety of classrooms at our school. As an elementary school principal, it is an opportunity to show off everything from kindergarten students working on collaborative projects on iPads to sixth-grade students working in Google Classroom. The students love to meet the Principal for a Day and our community members enjoy seeing students in action in the classrooms.”

McBride remembered one year hosting City Council member and former mayor Bob Kellar as Principal for a Day at her school. It happened to be the date of the school’s monthly spirit assemblies, so Kellar jumped in and helped with handing out awards to the kids, as well as meeting all the parents present.

“Principal for a Day is a fantastic way to show off our local schools to our local community members,” McBride added. “We have amazing schools in the Santa Clarita Valley, and the Principal for a Day program gives us the opportunity to develop positive relationships with our community. Ultimately, these ongoing relationships with local business and community members will benefit all of our students.”

For more information, or to participate in Principal for a Day, visit http://www.scveducationfoundation.org/pfad.

New Business – Stuff and Things

| Canyon Country Magazine | October 7, 2018

If it’s been awhile since you had a package to mail, you may not have noticed the changes in the Canyon Country Post Office shopping center.

Most of the businesses remain the same, and they’ve always included a wide-ranging assortment of industries – Mom Can Cook, Santa Clarita Valley Pawn Brokers, Molly Maid, Caramba Sports Bar, Santa Clarita Center for Spiritual Living, and others.

The newest business on the block is fitting in nicely with its neighbors, bringing the same eclectic spirit to its showroom floor. Stuff & Things is a new “bargain boutique” in the space where Vintage Watch and Clock Repair used to be. A father-daughter team took over the space about six months ago when they simply brought their eight-year-old eBay business to a brick-and-mortar location.

It’s fitting that the store is situated in the space that was once occupied by Vintage Watch & Clock Repair, because the walls of Stuff & Things include displays of clocks sitting beside artwork, tapestries, mirrors and other items.

Known for its “bargain prices,” there are some vintage, pre-owned goods, but much of the merchandise is new.
There is a non-stop flood of customers driving into the parking lot, and those who like to hunt for treasures make a point to stop in. The store also gets a lot of “regulars” checking in for specific items, where new merchandise hits the floor at least every week.

There are antiques, furniture, trinkets and gifts, new kitchenware, jewelry, bikes, and a surprise hit – musical instruments. They don’t accept donations and it’s not a thrift store.

Stuff & Things is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. On Saturdays there is usually a “sidewalk sale” with specials.

The store is located at 18364 ½ Soledad Canyon Road. You can reach Stuff & Things by calling 661-450-7581 or reach the shop through social media – Facebook and Instagram: @stuffandthings661.

Al-Umma Center Muslim Worship in Canyon Country

| Canyon Country Magazine | September 12, 2018

Most of us learn as early as elementary school that it’s best not to judge a book by its cover. Of course, the principle applies to making assumptions based on external appearance, and sometimes adults need a reminder that differences among people are, in part, what make life interesting. However, there are many more aspects that people have in common, which may escape our notice.

As Canyon Country has mirrored the growth of the Santa Clarita Valley as a whole, its human landscape has broadened. As the number of residents grows, so does the breadth of cultures, food sources and religious opportunities.

When you pass Al-Umma Center on Sierra Highway, less than a mile north of Soledad Canyon Road, you may not know that it is a place of worship if you aren’t acquainted with Islam. The Muslim mosque was established in 2013 and occupies the property that used to be a tile and granite store. It was originally the area’s first feed store, said Majub El Arabi, a founding member of Al-Umma Center, who said they chose the name for the mosque to give it a connotation of a community center.

“From time to time we have family nights, where we invite the community and bring food and have a movie for the kids. And we have a youth group with a lot of activities,” El Arabi said. “We saw Canyon Country as a developing area. What better way to serve the community than to establish a center in the eastern part of the valley.”

There are hundreds of mosques in Southern California, three in Santa Clarita. Al-Umma Center was opened to serve the eastern side of the valley, which enables Muslim worshipers to find one conveniently close to their homes and workplaces. It is an added convenience during their five prayer periods per day, called “Salat.”

Each prayer time has an Arabic name: Fajr, Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha’a. There are a certain number of “Rakaas” for each period of prayers, which is an act where Muslims bow, prostrate on the floor. The floor at Al-Umma Center has markers (photo above), which guide the body placement of worshipers so they face Mecca.

The local congregation gathers together on Fridays for prayers and reading verses from their holy book, the Quran, which is written and recited in Arabic. They hear sermons from fellow members, which are delivered in English.

“Most of our community is not Arab-speaking,” El Arabi said. “The Muslim world is made up of, roughly, 1.8 billion people, but the Arab world is only about 400 million. People mix up Muslim and Arab. Arabs don’t have to be Muslims.”

El Arabi and his family are Americans, and he brought his three children to his native country of Libya many times. He believes it would benefit this country if each young person could travel overseas.

“I think it would enlighten them,” El Arabi said. “They would be better-rounded people and appreciate more what we have. We always think the world revolves around here, but there’s a whole world out there. We are a very small part of the world.”

El Arabi moved to the United States to attend the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a degree in engineering. A job in the oil industry brought El Arabi to Santa Clarita in 1982. His children, now grown, attended local public schools and grew up in this community, where the prominent religions are Christianity and Judaism.

“Most of our friends are non-Muslims and they are the greatest people in the world,” said El Arabi, who sits on the board of trustees for Al-Umma Center. “We create these places not to convert people, but so people can worship. … Faith is more on the individual. The spiritual part of it is personal.”

The mosque sees its biggest numbers during fasting months, called Ramadan. Based on a lunar calendar, the last Ramadan was in June-July of 2018.

“The Muslim religion requires the faithful to fast for one month during the daytime, from sunrise until sunset, and in that month we gather together at the mosque for more prayers,” El Arabi explained.

During Ramadan, the congregation comes together to break the fast, after sundown. Members take turns hosting the nightly meal in the outdoor area at Al-Umma Center. There are sometimes 200-250 people who attend those events.

“We hosted an interfaith event one night and we had 25-30 guests who were non-Muslims. People were very amazed at how lively the place is,” El Arabi said.

In addition to the simple lack of exposure Americans have had to the beliefs of Islam and the message of the Quran, El Arabi points out the image portrayed in the news, particularly when reporting a terrorist attack.

“The media doesn’t do a good job,” he said. “Every time there is a terrorist, they show people praying. … They’re contributing to the ignorance of people. … Islam does not condone any of this.”

It has been smooth sailing for Al-Umma Center’s experience in Canyon Country so far.

“We’ve never had any issue at all,” El Arabi said. “One of the things that was really gratifying was when we went through the permitting process. The city sent out a letter to people within 500 feet from the boundaries of the mosque property to see if they had an objection. … They had to include hundreds of (apartment) units. If somebody says no, they don’t have to justify it. … When they sent the letter, nobody objected.”

The Muslim congregation sometimes gets letters of approval from individuals in town, saying they are happy to have the Center here. “By and large, we’ve been good neighbors to them and they’ve been good to us,” El Arabi said.

SEAson of Learning for Canyon Country Teen

| Canyon Country Magazine | September 10, 2018

Like the summer vacations of some of her classmates, Hermione Quintos took in ocean views, experienced life on an island and sampled exotic foods.

No, she wasn’t on a Caribbean cruise or hitting the beach in Hawaii. The 15-year-old Golden Valley student spent a week discovering sea life through marine biology research and tasting such delicacies as kelp. These experiences were part of an exclusive educational opportunity on Catalina Island – the USC Sea Life Grant/Wrigley Marine Lab, which involved fewer than 20 students selected from across the nation. It’s a partnership with the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations and Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies through USC’s Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

The Sea Grant tagline is “Science serving our urban coast.” The program includes island and ocean exploration, student research and presentations, as well as STEM activities. Over the course of the week, students work with local researchers, conduct their own research projects, snorkel, kayak, explore the marine protected areas around the island, learn about careers in marine science, and build their own remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).
“We went on little trips, like kayaking and night circling,” said Hermione, a lifelong Canyon Country resident who attended Cedarcreek Elementary School, La Mesa Junior High and is now a junior at Golden Valley High School. “We saw a ray, a horn shark, an eel and flying fish. One of the instructors said it was rare to get to see (a flying fish), and a big one ended up smacking him in the chest.”

The students’ activities were “learning lab” experiences, such as swimming at night and witnessing the naturally occurring bioluminescence in Fishermen’s Cove. All of the participants had glow sticks attached to their snorkel masks, adding bursts of color to the water and making it easier for counselors to monitor the teens.

The weeklong course, including travel, is free for the students and it is focused on reaching under-represented communities in the sciences. It is designed to both provide new and challenging scientific experiences and the chance to meet people with similar interests and passions. The teens design and build an ROV from scratch using PVC pipe, wires, and a sheet of instructions, so the students learn the basics of soldering, wiring, and engineering.

“Personally, I wanted to go there to get a better understanding of things that affect nature,” said Hermione, who plans to pursue veterinary medicine. “That trip enabled us to understand not just animals, but also the microorganisms that affect them, and diseases, as well.”

When asked what was her most valuable takeaway, Hermione said, “Understanding there’s so much more to nature than when you’re on the mainland. It’s usually ignored as insignificant, but it affects you entirely.”

Hermione’s week on the island has given her food for thought. “I plan to change not only how I live, but the way I eat fish,” she said. “Change my lifestyle – what products I use and foods I eat, pertaining to animals.”

The teen hopes that more students get to experience programs like the Sea Life Marine Lab.
“Most people don’t know there isn’t just one program, there are many,” she said. “Whether you’re wealthy or not, there are so many opportunities if you look for them.”

As for Hermione Quintos’ future, there are many places it could lead. But we know that for next summer – she’s looking for another program.

Christine Hermann – Local Ball of Fire Thanks First Responders

| Canyon Country Magazine | September 7, 2018

It wasn’t a five-alarm fire that Station 107 responded to 36 years ago, but it did send five men to a near fatal accident on Flowerpark Drive in Canyon Country. A day before her 13th birthday, Christine Hermann lay in the middle of the street, knocked unconscious and bleeding from her ears after being hit by a speeding car in her own neighborhood. Those first responders in 1982 went on to many years of service in the fire department, never knowing if Hermann had survived. It’s a fact she wanted to do something about, and she did it last month.

The firefighters were each invited to a luncheon at Fire Station 107 on Soledad Canyon Road, where Hermann could communicate her gratitude to them and present them with a copy of a book she wrote about her life since that day.

“My story was not complete until I could thank you,” a teary Hermann said to the three men who attended, while current firefighters and television media looked on. “This was the highest priority, because 36 years had passed … and it’s so dear to my heart to be able to thank these men.”

Speaking into KTTV reporter Susan Hirasuna’s microphone, Hermann was able to thank them in front of a wider public audience. The first responders that helped her 36 years ago were: Captain Pete Casamassima, firefighter paramedic Jim Bettencourt, firefighter paramedic Gary Dellamalva, engineer Terry Butler and firefighter Rich Ward. (Butler and Ward could not attend the luncheon.)

Hermann’s memoir, entitled “Because It Didn’t Kill Me,” tells about her experience emerging from a coma and living with a traumatic brain injury, or TBI. As cathartic as it was authoring the book, Hermann wasn’t done until she completed this final chapter: meeting the men who saved her.

“It’s amazing. I’m just blown away that this meeting is actually happening,” she said. “I didn’t expect it was going to be that formal. … I actually wanted to just thank them and meet them. Gary Dellamalva told me, ‘We learned in training when a patient is bleeding out of their ears that it’s usually really grave and they’re probably not going to make it.’”
Because they spent years responding to calls, two of the firefighters didn’t specifically remember Hermann’s incident until last year, when they were contacted to meet her. Except for Dellamalva.

“I remembered it vividly because I was new,” he said, stating several times that the seriousness of the accident left him assuming her prognosis was likely to be poor. “I didn’t know the outcome. I didn’t want to know.”

Hermann’s recovery was, in fact, much better than expected. She relearned a lot of the skills she had lost due to the head injury.

“When I came out of the coma I didn’t realize what happened to me,” Hermann explained. “In research for my book, documents said when people have TBI (traumatic brain injury) they remember what they could do before the injury.”
Hermann could recall, and she wanted to quickly return to her activities, which included horseback riding, gymnastics and soccer. She had trouble accepting her limitations, and even tried to escape from one of her hospital stays.

“I had it all planned out in my mind,” she said. “I got out of my bed, I was crawling down the hall, and the nurse found me.”

Her reason for writing the book was to make others aware of the lifelong limitations a victim of TBI experiences.

“For a lot of people with TBI, the physical injuries heal, but the cognitive ones remain,” she said.

Hermann has been denied disability because her handicaps aren’t evident. She has a bachelor’s degree from Point Loma Nazarene University and a master’s degree from California State University, Northridge. She became a teacher, which makes her look good on paper, but that’s where her injuries held her back.

“Substituting was easy – I’d just follow the lesson plans,” she said. “They were already organized for me.”

But she lacks the organizational skills to handle her own classroom. “Here I am, 48 years old,” Hermann said. “I’d like to be in a career I could do professionally, but my brain can’t organize. … I’m now working at a grocery store and writing my books.”

She’s actually working on her fourth children’s book. It’s a project she can more easily concentrate on completing, now that the last chapter of her memoir is done – showing her gratitude to the first responders who saved her life.

“I’m glad I got to thank them,” Hermann said. “They ‘re taken for granted. They play such an important role. They save lives and they help dreams come true.”

Andrew Skinner of Triumph Foundation Talks Spinal Cord Injury Research

| Canyon Country Magazine | September 7, 2018

Researchers at University of California, San Diego released a report this summer showing progress in clinical trials treating spinal cord injuries. Scientists were able to successfully create stem cells that could be applied to injuries of the spine, which makes it more possible to advance to human clinic trials in a few years, according to UC San Diego’s website.

It is good news for Canyon Country non-profit Triumph Foundation, which offers resources to victims of paralysis from disorders and injuries. But the timeline for results is unknown.

“Typically, with these types of studies they first go into a Phase 1 period, which involves a very small test sample,” says Triumph founder Andrew Skinner. “The main thing is not to see if it helps, but to make sure they don’t have any adverse effects from the treatment.”

After implanting stem cells in human subjects and they find it does not cause harm, it clears Phase 1 and moves into a second phase.

“That’s where they’ll start testing for actual results,” Skinner says. “The sample size is larger, but is certainly not open to the public.”

Researchers work with specific facilities, he says, as well as targeted participants, in order to achieve the type of data they need.
“Then, once it clears that, it goes to the third phase,” Skinner says. “That’s when it gets more exciting, because it’s right before the FDA is really serious about opening it up to public use. It is a long way out.”

Skinner, who is also the victim of a spinal cord injury, cautions his clients about becoming overly hopeful.

“It’s super exciting,” he says. “But I’ve been injured for 14 years (and) they’ve been saying the cure is five years away for a long time now.”

Research so far has been primarily for the newly injured, he says. The hope is that early intervention can actually prevent someone from becoming paralyzed.

“They were inserting stem cells into people just two or three days after injury,” he explains. “Almost everybody who suffers a paralyzing injury does regain a certain amount of function from the initial prognosis. What you don’t know is if they would have had the same recovery anyway. It’s kind of a subjective thing.”

When Andrew and Kirsten Skinner started Triumph Foundation, the standard procedure for non-profits was to raise money for research. But they wanted to improve the lives of spinal cord injury victims themselves.

“One of the reasons we started it was that we thought, ‘What about people’s day-to-day experience?’” he says. “We were encountering people who needed things like a wheelchair ramp … practical, quality of life things.”

Research is always on Skinner’s radar, however. “It’s certainly a conversation in our community,” he says. “On a personal level, we don’t want to hold our breath for this cure that may be coming some day. We want to live each day now to the fullest.”
Researchers contact Triumph for candidates willing to take part in their studies, and the Skinners stay updated, though not “in the thick of it,” he says.

“The big thing that we try to stress to people is, ‘Don’t spend tens of thousands of dollars traveling outside the country for treatments that are untested and do not have a scientific basis,’” Skinner explains. “There are a lot of people who prey on people who are suffering and give them hope.”

And another down side, he says, is if a spinal cord injury victim does take part in these unofficial trials, they will likely be excluded from any subsequent trials going on in the United States.

“There are a lot of developed countries that are very actively pursuing treatments and cures,” Skinner says. “It’s just not here yet.”
2nd Annual Superheroes Triumph 5K

The Triumph Foundation is hosting a run, walk & roll on Saturday, Sept. 15 from 7-11 a.m. The 2nd Annual Superheroes Triumph 5K will take place at Lake Balboa Park, 6300 Balboa Blvd. in Van Nuys.
Runner perks include a finisher’s medal, bib, and of course, a cape! All of the proceeds benefit Triumph Foundation to forward its mission to help people triumph over paralysis.

Costumes are encouraged – in fact, the best dressed caped crusader will win a prize. Registration and packet pick-up begins at 7 a.m. and the race begins at 8:00 a.m. sharp. Community members may enter by visiting Triumph-Foundation.org or email Randi@Triumph-Foundation.org.

Canyon Country Woman Meets Firemen Who Saved Her

| News | August 16, 2018

Thirty-six years have gone by since Christine Hermann was hit by a car while playing in her neighborhood on Flowerpark in Canyon Country, just one day before her 13th birthday. After stabilizing the victim and sending her to the hospital, the five responders from Fire Station 107 on Soledad Canyon Road never saw her again.

Until Wednesday.

Speaking into microphones from local television news media, Hermann was able to publicly thank three of the men who saved her: Captain Pete Casamassima, firefighter paramedic Jim Bettencourt, and firefighter paramedic Gary Dellamalva. Engineer Terry Butler and firefighter Rich Ward were not in attendance.

“My story was not complete until I could thank you,” a teary Hermann said to the three first responders. “This was the highest priority, because 36 years had passed … and it’s so dear to my heart to be able to thank these men.”

Hermann’s story is her self-published memoir, “Because It Didn’t Kill Me,” where she talked about her experience emerging from a coma after being struck and found unresponsive, then suffering from a debilitating brain injury. As cathartic as it was authoring the book, Hermann wasn’t done until she completed this final chapter: meeting the men who saved her.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I’m just blown away that this meeting is actually happening.”

Because they spent years responding to calls, Hermann’s incident wasn’t at the forefront of their memories until last year, when they were contacted to meet her. It was different, however, for Gary Dellamalva.

“I remembered it vividly because I was new,” he said, stating several times that the seriousness of the accident left him assuming her prognosis was likely to be poor. “I didn’t know the outcome. I didn’t want to know.”

Hermann wrote the book after being denied disability, because the assumption was that if she had earned a master’s degree, she would not have a need for it. She believes there are a lot of misunderstandings about people with traumatic brain injuries.

“You may look normal on the outside, but you have a hidden injury inside that affects your life for the rest of your life,” she said.

But this week was for celebrating. Because although she already shared her story through the book, on Wednesday Christine Hermann got to share her gratitude.

Night Shift – Kimberly Night Takes the Roads Less Traveled

| Canyon Country Magazine | August 7, 2018

Kimberly Night has traveled some unexpected roads, first bringing her to Canyon Country, then winding her way through an education at College of the Canyons, and finally, onto the college faculty.

Her field of expertise? Automotive Technology.

Night grew up in a small Northern California city, but moved to L.A. County for greater career opportunities and an abundance of activities. She and her husband, Christopher, decided to move to the Santa Clarita Valley for the schools. Their family, which includes two daughters, Victoria, 14, and Piper, 4, settled in Canyon Country for four years until recently purchasing a house in the San Fernando Valley.

Night decided the next part of her journey would be to expand her education, so she began considering what she wanted to study.

“I thought about the things I loved to do and what I found myself doing on a regular basis,” she said. “Being that there are no careers in buying shoes, working on and improving vehicles is my next biggest passion. So I vetted the schools offering automotive courses around the L.A. area.”

After sitting in on classes at each school she considered, Night chose College of the Canyons, and completed 60 percent of her general education requirements at the Canyon Country campus. It is where the automotive program is housed, so all of the core classes for that certificate are offered there. (She was awarded a pin, which she wore at her graduation, signifying that she took more than half of her classes on COC’s east campus.)

“I already knew quite a bit about vehicles, so I needed schooling to polish up my skills and help me with the more advanced skills required for modern vehicles,” she said. “I took the automotive and engineering courses, getting my degree in Automotive Technology MLR (Maintenance & Light Repair). I was the first female to complete the Associate of Arts degree in Automotive Technology at College of the Canyons.”

That wasn’t Night’s only “first.” While in her final semester of college, she was invited to do an internship at the Los Angeles Police Department. “I was excited to work LAPD garage, see how their shop ran and what opportunities may be available in the future,” she said. “The employees within the motor transport division of LAPD were amazing. … They had never had a female on the shop floor working before. So, my first day on the job was quite exciting for everyone.”

The office staff embraced the trailblazer, placing her name on one of the lockers in the women’s restroom.

“The sweet gesture made me feel welcome and like part of their team,” she said. “The office employees, along with the shop employees, were all waiting in anticipation to see if I would know what I was doing or if I would even do the task at hand. Of course, I did have the knowledge necessary and I did complete the job.”

It would not be the first workplace where Night would have to prove herself, but it was one of the friendliest. “Throughout my time there, no matter which facility I was at, it felt like home,” she said. “As big as the LAPD Motor Pool is, the employees within it are so inviting and pleasant to work with. I was genuinely excited and happy to go in each day to work with the employees at LAPD.”

With plans to complete her bachelor’s degree in the next couple of years, Night was thrilled to become a member of the COC faculty.

“Everyone at College of the Canyons is very forward-thinking and trying to stay in the forefront of their department’s area of focus,” she explained. “As I was finishing my degree, the faculty and staff at COC encouraged me to go for a position within the college.”

Night recently taught the Summer Institute Automotive course at the Canyon Country campus, which is a program that gives students going into grades 6-8 a chance to learn and experience what it is like inside various professions. In her automotive camp the young teens were able to work in the shop, just as adults would.

“My students assembled a working four-cylinder engine, which they took home,” Night said. “While these students do not yet drive, they learned about common roadside emergencies and how to properly respond to them.”

They constructed rolling vehicles from snack cakes, candy, crackers, marshmallows, etc. and held a competition to see whose car would roll the farthest. “The winning car was actually quite impressive,” Night said.

College of the Canyons’ Automotive Technology Department will expand its community education in the near future, according to Night. There is a course for women planned, as well as a course designed for teenagers as they become new drivers.

“This course will go over maintenance, handling, roadside emergencies, red flags and the like,” Night said.

Canyon Country residents, as well as other members of the community, can take advantage of the opportunities. And, of course, they’re likely to find Kimberly Night at the front of the class – at least some of the time – because College of the Canyons has learned that when trying something new, it’s smart to put someone on the job who knows the way.

Vista Canyon’s Developing Story

| Canyon Country Magazine, Sand Canyon Journal | August 6, 2018

The most common question developer Jim Backer receives from local residents is: “When will the Vista Canyon project be done?”

And like his 185-acre property between Soledad Canyon, Lost Canyon and Sand Canyon roads, Backer’s answer is anything but short and sweet. But he’s happy with the progress, and he feels the market is receptive to the types of amenities Vista Canyon is bringing to Canyon Country. Those include 1,100 residential units, nearly 1,000,000 square feet of commercial space, a new Metrolink station and more than 21 acres of recreational areas.

To begin with, much of the base utilities – sewer, water, storm drain, etc. – are getting completed on the west side.

“It’s really looking good over there,” Backer said. “They have the underground parts done, mostly. It’s coming along, making good progress.”

The first project completed will be the water reclamation plant, which should be finished in October or November of this year.

“It’s required to be operational before we start,” Backer said. “SCV Water is eventually going to have a pipeline for the excess water and they’ll build a tank.”

There’s a ramping up phase, Backer said, because there are a number of people who have to sign off on the plant.

Transportation Stations
“A lot of good things happened at Metrolink this month,” Backer said in mid-July. “Ninety-five percent of the drawings are completed.”

Money from the California gas tax has been allocated to construct a new Metrolink train station at Vista Canyon – $9 million, actually. Of course, that money could be jeopardized if the ballot initiative to repeal the 12-cent gas tax increase passes in November. City of Santa Clarita leaders have been working to acquire grants for the station’s construction, and part of its financing is on the shoulders of Backer’s company.

“They’ve never had another developer contribute to a train station like we have,” Backer said. “None of the other three train stations ever had significant developer contributions like ours has. The city is working on getting it funded and we’re optimistic it will be in the next two years.”

A bus transfer station that’s a part of the Vista Canyon project is scheduled to commence construction later this year, he said.

Office Space
One of the earliest aspects of the Vista Canyon project is construction of office space, which will be operational by the end of the year, Backer said. And apartments should be available a year later.

“When people see activity there, and Metrolink starts to be a reality, it’ll excite the office crowd,” the developer said.

There will be 650,000 square feet of office space and 165,000 square feet of retail stores. And with another 130,000 square feet for a hotel, Vista Canyon is almost 1 million square feet.

Most of the retail store space is on Lincoln Place, which starts at the river and goes to the train station. The development will be a mix of professional tenants and possibly big tenants who relocate here.
This fall, the project will encompass a structure where apartment dwellers and office space employees can park.

“That’s going to happen,” Backer said. “We’ve done the conceptual design which is leading to permanent design, which is in process. It gets a lot of scrutiny … making sure the radius is correct, and making sure they can get horse trailers through there.”

The testing process for the size of the roundabout involves constructing it larger than the actual size of a horse trailer, he said. JSB Development expects it to be completed next summer, but it’s based on the approval process. Of course, it will be easier to build when kids are on a break from school.

Jefferson Vista Canyon is the name of the 480-unit luxury apartments being constructed on the west side of the property by JPI, a company specializing in multi-family residences. The east side of the property is being sold by JSB to a builder who will move forward with the sale of new single-family homes. “That’s moving along; they’re in escrow,” Backer said. “We have roads with curbs on them now, and eventually they’ll have pavement and landscaping.”

“Assuming the deal closes in fall, we’re probably starting construction on the park late this year or early next year,” Backer said. “The park takes about six months or a little bit more.”

The bridge over the Santa Clara River bed is a few years away. “We’ve designed the bridge and submitted it to the city for review check,” Backer explained. “We will build that sometime between now and April of 2020. And it’ll take about a year to build.”

Most residents are aware of other Canyon Country building projects, as well. JSB Development sees them as fellow contributors to the improvement of the east side of the Santa Clarita Valley.
Sand Canyon Resort Hotel & Spa
Jim Backer shared his thoughts on other projects, such as the former Robinson Ranch Golf Club, now Sand Canyon Country Club. Owner Steve Kim is in the planning stages of an expansion into a resort hotel and spa.

“I applaud some of the vision for what’s going on there to make it more accessible to people, to build on what’s there,” Backer said. “It’s a great property, the topography and everything else.”

What Jim Backer and his associates have learned in the years leading up to Vista Canyon’s fruition is that the community matters.

“Mr. Kim (owner of the Sand Canyon Country Club) is in a neighborhood that wants to have input,” Backer explained. “His success here is going to be dependent on his ability to have community support. … The key is it’s taking into consideration good ideas and the needs of the community and the needs of the project.”
The developer said he disagrees with some residents who are concerned with further construction. “I don’t see it as the traffic generator that some people think, if it’s designed sensitively and there’s appropriate parking and access,” Backer said. “You have to see how the plan comes out in the end.

He doesn’t see the planned resort as a competitor to Vista Canyon. “I think it can be very complementary to what we’re doing,” Backer said. “It’s positive for that side of town. If Mr. Kim builds on what he has in a positive way, we would certainly support that.”

Sand Canyon Plaza
Tom Clark, the developer of Sand Canyon Plaza, is in regular communication with the JSB Development team.

“I think he’s getting pretty close to starting,” Backer said. “He’ll have some services there on his side of the freeway, and we have a pretty easy connection to him, so people living either place who want to go to the other – there’s some real opportunities over there for being really eco-sensitive.”

Backer has seen a lot of changes in Canyon Country in the nearly 15 years since Vista Canyon was in the idea phase. “Fair Oaks, Skyline – it’s creating energy and I think it’s turning out well,” he said. “With quality projects you get services and people have places to live and recreation and retail.”

So, how does Jim Backer answer the question, “How long will Vista Canyon take?”

He says: “People will be amazed from now to about 30 months from now, that 80 percent is built in the next three years.”


| Canyon Country Magazine | August 5, 2018

Becoming a new mom can be both physically and emotionally challenging. Not only does she have to recover from the grueling experience of labor (and surgery, if she has a C-section), but it’s a complete change of family structure. Adapting to this lifestyle, including relationship transitions, can sometimes feel lonely, which is why new parents can benefit from activities that provide social opportunities.

FIT4MOM connects women who have young children, attempting to meet both fitness and social needs through exercise classes. It began 12 years ago with its flagship program, Stroller Strides, and has grown to include more than 150 members in five programs across the Santa Clarita Valley. It’s also expanded to offer other stroller-based, prenatal, and kid-free workouts, and anywhere from three to 30 moms attend classes, depending on locations.

“We are thankful that FIT4MOM is a safe space for moms to come and connect with each other, and relate over their shared experiences and season of life,” said Dani Cohen, MA, BCBA, owner of FIT4MOM Santa Clarita Valley. “Every Saturday we have Family Stroller Strides, where dads can come with Mama and their littles and participate in the Stroller Strides workout for free!”

While most people think of Stroller Strides when they think of FIT4MOM, Cohen says it’s much more.

“We’re kind of the total mama package,” she said. “It’s a total body workout you can do with your little one(s) in tow. We meet at local parks and intermix intervals of strength training and cardio as we move around the park and entertain our little ones.”

FIT4MOM programs include:
Stroller Strides is a total-body conditioning workout designed for moms with kids in tow. Each 60-minute workout is comprised of strength training, cardio and core restoration, all while entertaining the little ones with songs and activities.
Stroller Barre is a unique blend of ballet, Pilates, barre, yoga and stroller-based exercises designed to help moms build strength and muscle tone and improve posture.
Prenatal Fit4Baby is a program designed to strengthen your body for all the changes you will experience during pregnancy. These classes exclusively focus on pregnant moms.
Body Back is a results-based workout (kid free) designed for moms who want their body back, whether they just had a baby or their last child was born 20 years ago. The experience includes two 60-minute HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts per week, pre- and post-fitness assessments, nutrition guidance, supplemental online workouts and support.
FIT4MOM Run Club is for moms who are training for an upcoming 5K, 10K or half marathon race, or just want to enjoy some extra cardio with other like-minded mamas. A program for all levels, Run Club allows you to run, improve your health and fitness, and connect with other moms through two styles of class: Run Clinics to work on strength, speed and agility; and Run Days to work on increasing endurance and mileage.
“One of my favorite things that you get with FIT4MOM is the ‘Our Village’ experience,” Cohen explained. “Through the multiple playgroups we offer weekly, monthly Moms Nights Out, monthly family field trips, and quarterly philanthropy. Our Village is the piece of the FIT4MOM puzzle that fosters meaningful relationships between Mama and Mama, Mama and Baby, and Baby and Baby, and Mama and her community.

There are six locations across the Santa Clarita Valley. Stroller Strides and Stroller Barre classes meet at the Castaic Sports Complex, Bridgeport Park, and Fair Oaks Park. The Family Stroller Strides classes meet on Saturdays at Golden Valley Park. The Body Back classes meet at the Santa Clarita Sports Complex, and the Run Club meets at Valencia Heritage Park.

There are various membership options, based on the mom’s needs. “All our instructors are highly trained and certified in pre- and post-natal fitness and experts in the pre- and post-partum body,” Cohen said. “Your first class is free!”

For more information, visit santaclaritavalley.fit4mom.com/your-first-class-is-free.

What some moms are saying:

I live in Canyon Country and teach Stroller Strides at Fair Oaks Park and Bridgeport Park, and I coach the Run Club. I have been attending classes for 3 ½ years and teaching for just over a year. My favorite part about FIT4MOM is the community. I was new to the area when I had my first child with no family nearby. I tried Stroller Strides and instantly had the friendships and support I needed. I count down the days to our Mom’s Nights Out and Family Field Trips every month, because I love the extra time with the people I have met through FIT4MOM. 

My two children now love going to classes and spending time with their friends after classes. They often reenact the exercises the moms did during class for fun. I love that the classes are accessible to all levels of fitness. I have attended classes both pregnant and newly postpartum and was able to modify workouts as needed for how I was feeling. After regaining most of my fitness and strength a year and half after my second child, I still am challenged by the workouts. 

Kimberly Carden, Instructor

I have been with FIT4MOM for almost two years, starting when my son was 3 months old. I live in Agua Dulce and go to the Bridgeport and Fair Oaks classes. 

I’ve always been athletic and pretty healthy, so when I had my son and I went to the gym and saw the daycare, I was not impressed. FIT4MOM provided me with a way that I could get my workout in and keep my son with me.

The things I love the most I never even knew I needed: mom friends and friends for my son. I can work out on my own if I really wanted, but nothing can replace the connections I’ve made through FIT4MOM. These ladies are the only people I can be brutally honest with about “mom life.” Let’s be honest, being a mom isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. There are days where the kids test your limits, where they push you to do and say things you never thought you would say, and sometimes you just need a friend to commiserate with. These last few weeks I haven’t been able to work out because of pregnancy, and now post-labor, and I find myself going to the end of class just to have a play date for my son and to see my friends. 

FIT4MOM has been a great addition to my routine and I would recommend it to everyone. 

Nicole Mena

I started with FIT4MOM in the summer of 2016 when I moved from Dayton, Ohio to Canyon Country. FIT4MOM has completely changed my life. I feel very grounded in my identity as a mother and value the importance of wellness and self-care. I joined the FIT4MOM Santa Clarita Valley team in June of 2018. I have the pleasure of helping mamas make connections with other mamas in the Santa Clarita Valley and achieve their health and wellness goals. 

I love the time that I get to spend with my little one, outside, being active. We always say, “They are always watching,” and it’s the truth. Not long after my son could walk, he could do a burpee. I love the emphasis on coming as you are. We juggle multiple roles including partner, sister, daughter, colleague, supervisor, etc., in addition to mom. I know that when I come to Stroller Strides or a Mom’s Night Out, I can bring my whole self and be valued. All of the women in our village are about lifting each other up and providing support. There is amazing diversity among the women in our group and it just makes our interactions so rich and fulfilling. I can’t imagine mothering without these women.

Staci Daniels-Sommers, MSW
Membership Director, FIT4MOM SCV

I have been a participant of Fit4Mom for two years. I’ve been to their Bridgeport and Fair Oaks locations, as well as their Body Back sessions at the Sports Complex. I live in Fair Oaks, so I was very excited when they started teaching classes there earlier this year!

I have three children (5, 2, and 3 months) and my favorite part of Fit4Mom was finding women that I became extremely close with over the last two years. I now have a close-knit group of women that I know I can lean on if I ever need support. I continued going to classes all through my last pregnancy, and it made this third labor and delivery so much easier! I am now looking forward to getting back in shape after having my third child.

Lauren Dilles

I have been a participant in FIT4MOM for over two years now. I live in Fair Oaks and attended Bridgeport classes for a while and now attend mostly at Fair Oaks Park. I have done Stroller Strides, Stroller Barre and Body Back classes. It’s a truly excellent program and a great way for moms to get their workout in and have some time for themselves. There are built-in activities for kids, playgroups, and mom’s night outs! I’ve met and made great friends and it’s been something my kids look forward to!

Jenna Buonanno

Medical Move New Facey Building on Soledad Canyon

| Canyon Country Magazine | August 3, 2018

Facey Medical Group patients who live on the eastern side of Canyon Country have never had a long drive to see their doctors, considering the facility is less than five miles from the Stone Crest development. At the end of the month they’ll have even more reason to be on time for appointments: Facey is moving to a brand new building at 14550 Soledad Canyon Road, less than a mile southwest of Shadow Pines Boulevard.

“We’d been looking at a move for several years for a few reasons,” explained Roscoe Marter, M.D., Facey Medical Group vice president and regional medical director for the Santa Clarita Valley. “We wanted more space that was better designed for our clinic needs. “(Also) the city was unwilling to install a traffic signal at our current location, which we felt was an important safety issue for our patients.”

The new 37,000-square-foot clinic will be located at 14550 Soledad Canyon Road and will offer expanded radiology services, a larger Facey Eye Center, and room to add new physicians as it grows. It was designed by Boulder Associates and is being built by Duke Realty.

  • Facey’s key features include:
  • Same-day access to adult and pediatric primary care
  • Clinical environment that is designed for team-based care
  • Extended adult primary care hours on Mondays
  • Expanded radiology services, including ultrasound and mammography
  • Expanded optometry & Eye Center
  • On-site urgent care services provided by Facey affiliate, Exer Urgent Care, which is estimated to open in December
  • 24-hour telephone access to an on-call Facey physician
  • Comprehensive patient education and disease management programs
  • Manage your health and appointment schedule online or from a smartphone using MyChart from Providence
  • Care from Providence hospitals connected via unified health record system

The clinic is tentatively scheduled to open the week of August 27, but it could change, depending on final occupancy permits. For more information, call 661-250-5200.

Former Facey Building
When the medical professionals move into the new Facey facility, the vacated building at 17909 Soledad Canyon Road (photo at left) will be put up for sale, represented by Ryan Rothstein-Serling at Marcus & Millichap real estate brokerage. The building’s owner purchased the 20,576-square-foot building as an investment and its makeup is positioned well for medical use or an academic entity, such as a charter school, according to Rothstein-Serling. He says the two-story building has a number of divided spaces on both floors, which can be used for multiple tenants or separate classrooms.

To inquire about the building, contact senior associate Ryan Rothstein-Serling at 818-212-2725 or through the website, Marcusmillichap.com.

Canyon Cowboys Hit 50 Years 1968-2018

| Canyon Country Magazine | August 3, 2018

A 50-year reunion is planned for anyone in the community who wants to celebrate with Canyon High School. An event is planned in conjunction with the school’s Back to School Night on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018 from 6-9 p.m. at the school, 19300 W. Nadal Street in Canyon Country.

The anniversary celebration will start in the Performing Arts Center (PAC) with a welcome message and screening of a 50th Anniversary film. Throughout the evening there will be student performances, and entertainment by the alumni band, a memorabilia walk in the gym and a car show. Visitors can purchase food from several food trucks at the event.

Members of the community can purchase a 50th Anniversary Brick, which will become a permanent part of the Performing Arts Center at Canyon. To find out how to buy one, just visit Engravedbricks.com/campaign/canyon.

In next month’s Canyon Country Magazine you will learn who is on the “50th Most Influential List.” Individuals from the school’s history will be recognized for their contributions in the areas of athletics, arts/entertainment, business, education, and government. It will include a picture and a short biography on display at the event.

It is Canyon’s “Back to School Night” as well, so teachers will be present and available to answer questions regarding curriculum. The Cowboy community and the public are invited to celebrate 50 years of school pride, the many traditions, and academic excellence. For more information about the Canyon High School 50th Anniversary, visit CanyonHighCowboys.org.

Blasts in the Past

Cheerleaders (L to R): Heather Moran, Leah Purcell, Kelly Houston (Seidenkranz) and Cyndi Yee

Now a Canyon High School Spanish teacher, Kelly Seidenkranz graduated from CHS in 1988. As a student, Kelly was very involved on campus, including journalism, cheerleading, and a program called “Special Friends,” where she had lunch with visiting students who had Down syndrome. She was the president of California Scholarship Federation (CSF), was a member of National Honor Society, and was in Spanish Honor Society, officially called “Sociedad Honoraria Hispanica,” or SHH.

How is Canyon High School different than it used to be?
Kelly: Technology has changed everything. When I first started teaching at Canyon, we took roll call on paper, did our grades manually, and listened to announcements on the all-call instead of watching what is now CNN (Canyon News Network) on TV. As a student, I was using a typewriter to type all my papers – it wasn’t until my senior year that I got a typewriter with which you could edit, but you could only view one line at a time. And, of course, we didn’t have the Internet!

What is Canyon High School like today?
Canyon has become a very beautiful campus, as they have done many

Kelly Seidenkranz (left) with retired teacher “Señor Ed,” who inspired her to become a Spanish teacher and helped her get a job at Canyon. “He was a Canyon High legend pretty much, and he started at Canyon the year the school opened,” Seidenkranz said. “We are friends to this day.”

renovations, but it still maintains some of its original charm and beauty, in my opinion. Ethnic diversity is much more apparent on our campus than when I was a student. There is also now an exceptional leadership program at our school that helps fight bullying, prevent violence, and foster communication among different peer groups and staff. It is completely led by students, and I believe it is one of our greatest strengths as a school. This program would have been wonderful, had we had it when I was a student, and I wish every school in our district had a similar program.

What is the same about Canyon High School today?
Canyon still feels very much like a family, in that people support each other and take an interest in each other’s lives. It was like that for me as a student. I had more than a few teachers who really encouraged me to become more than I had ever imagined was possible for me. 

Canyon is truly part of my DNA, as not only did I graduate from Canyon, but so did my siblings. I taught both my son and my brother-in-law Spanish, and I’ve had both my brother and my mother as subs. Green and gold run through our veins.

Canyon High School custodian Donnie Kite knows everybody. He’s lived in Santa Clarita since 1950 and used to own a Chevron Station at the corner of Whites Canyon and Soledad until it closed 16 years ago, employing Canyon High students in its 33 years there. To this day, kids will tell him their parents or grandparents knew him from the station.

Although Donnie’s been working at CHS for just under 15 years, he’s made his presence known – which is why some people call him the “Ambassador of Canyon High.”

He gets invited to CHS sporting events by team members, always faithful to root for them. His wife’s name, Kelly Morey, is on the wall on campus for her days as catcher for the softball team (1974). Kelly, Donnie’s sister and brother-in-law all graduated from Canyon, and he feels connected to the Home of the Cowboys. As an employee of the school, he prides himself on “providing customer service by taking care of everybody.”

What he does for the Cowboys
Donnie: I help the kids out, I help the teachers out. My favorite thing is just being there, being helpful to everybody. I enjoy my job, and if you’re not happy in your job you ought not be doing it.

I’m proud to be there – it’s an honor to me. Everybody’s so helpful and the kids are so happy. It’s hard to want to retire when you enjoy being there. If it wasn’t for the people around – students and teachers and staff – I’d probably say goodbye.

All the kids have been well-mannered over the years. The school seems a little more peppy, happy. They’re doing a good job. And they all jump in and help.

What he gets in return
Seven or eight years ago I had a heart attack, and Canyon High School was there for me when I was down. The principal, Bob Messina, and staff came to visit me, and the teachers. The choir all sent me cards, the band sent me cards. It was important to me … you know when you’re really loved.

Before retiring last year, Mary Purdy had taught music for more than 35 years, the last 27 at Canyon High School. Looking back, she said that when she took the job at the helm of the choir department in 1990, football was strong and the morale was low. At the time, the Canyon High School mixed choir totaled only about 35 students, so Mary decided they needed to raise their visibility on campus.

Performing arts center

“I wanted us to be recognized as much as the football team,” Mary said. “We did really well that first year and with that success the kids got excited, so it kept getting bigger and bigger.”
In the early days, she worked closely with the drama teacher, Marilyn Pilkey, whose creativity impressed Mary, especially watching her deal with their extremely limited resources.

“‘Minimal’ isn’t a strong enough word for it,” Mary explained. “Our first concert with Marilyn was a winter concert and the kids did an abridged ‘Christmas Carol.’ Girls with really long hair would bend over and that would be a scene change. The place where we performed was four flat classrooms with dividers and what she did to make that come alive for the drama department was amazing.”

In Mary’s first few years, Canyon performed the musicals “Brigadoon” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

“The really ambitious part was that Marilyn did ‘Fiddler’ outside in the amphitheater,” Mary said. “It was really, really good. ‘Making do’ with things was her nature.”

Then vs. Now
“When canyon first opened it was a modular campus,” Mary remembered. “That’s why every building has a core. Canyon was kind of a model of this new kind of education in 1968, more like a college campus. … They did away with that, but we still have the core, which is interesting, because it’s hard to not hear the class right next door to you.”

One campus feature surprised Mary when she took the job. “There was a smoking section for the kids out by the football field,” she said. “It was not a secret and it was patrolled; they did it to keep the vandalism in the bathrooms down.”

In the beginning, Mary joined every committee possible so they wouldn’t try to cut her program. She’s witnessed a number of changes in education, but said she’s learned that the pendulum swings in both directions.

Honorable Mentions
Mary Purdy has nice things to say about, virtually, every Canyon principal, but one in particular. “Bob Messina was a fabulous, fabulous principal,” she said. “He had been ASB director, so he knew the whole school. He’d be asked, ‘Does the football program raise the most money?’ And he’d say, ‘No – the choir and the band.’”

The Performing Arts Center
Some say it’s the jewel in Mary’s crown, a project she even stalled her retirement to see. Canyon High School finally built and opened a Performing Arts Center in 2016, and Mary had been in on the planning of it for years. “It was everything we asked for, everything we planned, it was all there,” she said. “It was wonderful – the architects were great.”

Not only did Mary Purdy get to lead her choirs onstage at the new Performing Arts Center, she took a piece of it with her. During construction, Mary took pictures every Friday from the ground up and made a Shutterfly album to always remember how it came to life. Two of the photos are pictured above.

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