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About Martha Michael

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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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Non Profit of the Week – Triumph Foundation and their Let ‘Em Roll Casino Night

| SC Living | 1 hour ago

Providing resources, hope and security to people living with paralysis is the mission of Triumph Foundation in Santa Clarita. The 13-year-old nonprofit organization works to improve the lives of people living with disabilities, with much of its focus on helping victims of Spinal Cord Injury/Disorder, or SCI/D.

Triumph Foundation’s programs serving the spinal cord injury community include supporting those who are newly paralyzed with: “Care Baskets” full of resources; providing grants to obtain necessary equipment, supplies, and services; assisting with home modifications for wheelchair accessibility; leading SCI support groups; and holding adaptive recreational events.

To date, the organization has touched the lives of over 5,000 individuals with disabilities. Triumph has given assistance to people with inadequate medical insurance and financial hardship; performed accessible home remodels; provided wheelchair accessible vehicles to people who did not have the means to purchase one on their own; and handed out thousands of Care Baskets full of resources to newly injured people. Volunteers regularly visit area hospitals and rehabilitation centers throughout the Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside, Kern, and San Diego Counties.

Andrew Skinner of Canyon Country launched Triumph Foundation after suffering a spinal cord injury himself and seeing the need for physical support and hope. After years of extensive physical therapy, Andrew felt destined for a mission: to help others who suffered an injury like him. In 2008, he and his wife, Kirsten, founded Triumph Foundation with a simple desire: to bring hope, resources, and mentorship to people who are dealing with paralysis.

Triumph Foundation provides the following programs:

Newly Paralyzed Support
Care Basket Outreach
SCI Support Groups
Mentorship
Grants and Equipment
Keep Moving Forward Grants
Equipment & Supply Exchange
Adaptive Sports & Recreation
Wheelchair Sports
Handcycling
Outdoor Adventures

The support provided by Triumph is not just for the initial phases, when the injury/disease occurs, but as a lifelong support network. Additionally, the non-profit group is a force within the entire disabled community. Many consider Triumph the go-to organization for people living with mobility impairments throughout Southern California.

Let ‘Em Roll Casino Night

Triumph Foundation is hosting its 7th annual Let ‘em Roll Casino Night at a new location, the Universal Hilton located in Universal City. All proceeds will benefit Triumph Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to minimize the obstacles for children, adults and veterans that suffer a spinal cord injury and other forms of paralysis. Guests will be treated to prime rib dinner, music, dancing and silent auction. They will also receive $500 in chips to play Blackjack, Craps, Roulette or compete in a Texas Hold ‘em Poker Tournament.Triumph Foundation is hosting its 7th annual Let ‘em Roll Casino Night at a new location, the Universal Hilton located in Universal City. All proceeds will benefit Triumph Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to minimize the obstacles for children, adults and veterans that suffer a spinal cord injury and other forms of paralysis. Guests will be treated to prime rib dinner, music, dancing and silent auction. They will also receive $500 in chips to play Blackjack, Craps, Roulette or compete in a Texas Hold ‘em Poker Tournament.

“For the last eight years, Triumph Foundation has partnered with people who become paralyzed to assist them with triumphing over the new challenges they face and restoring life,” founder Andrew Skinner said. “The Let’em Roll Casino Night brings the entire community together for a night of fun and celebration of our accomplishments. We make quality of life a reality for people.”
This year, Triumph will be honoring Dr. Ann T. Vasile with the Outstanding Service Award for her work serving the paralysis community. Dr. Vasile is currently medical director of Tustin Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation, Paradigm medical director and a partner at Rehabilitation Associates Medical Group. She is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Spinal Cord Injury Medicine. She has received numerous honors, including U.S. News and World Report’s Top Doctors and The Best Doctors in America.

Last year, the Let’em Roll Casino Night had more than 350 people in attendance and raised close to $100,000. Needless to say, this is not a typical gala event. It is inspirational, impactful and powerful. Friendships are built, funds are raised and lives are changed.

The fundraiser is open to the public. Sponsorships and tickets can be purchased at http://SupportTriumph.org, or checks can be made to Triumph Foundation and mailed to 17186 Hickory Ridge Ct., Santa Clarita, CA 91387.
Event sponsors and silent auction items are needed. For more information, visit www.Triumph-Foundation.org or call Andrew Skinner (661) 803-3700.
WHO:                Triumph Foundation

WHAT:              7th annual Let’em Roll Casino Night Fundraiser

WHEN:              Saturday, August 26, 2017 5 p.m. – 12 a.m.

WHERE:          Universal Hilton              555 Universal Hollywood Dr.            Universal City, CA

The Canyon Comes to Town

| Entertainment, News | 2 hours ago

In the three decades since Santa Clarita was founded, the community’s never grown a reputation for notable nightlife. That could change by October. Sterling Venue Ventures is nearly ready to open the doors to Canyon Santa Clarita, taking up seven former retail store spaces in the Westfield Town Center Mall.

Approximately 1,000 guests will be able to fill the concert venue, where food and drinks are served to add a flavorful backdrop for the musical performance.

The corporation’s owner Lance Sterling developed the gold standard in nighttime entertainment since he ran operations at the House of Blues in Los Angeles.

“Treating a customer well used to be looked down upon,” Sterling told the Gazette in January. “We had to explain we were a concert entity, but we did things differently. Now, at Canyon Club, it’s acceptable to go to a venue and have dinner.”

Many Santa Clarita residents have made the trip down to Agoura Hills to go to Sterling’s concert site The Canyon Club. He says the newest site will resemble the Agoura venue and The Rose in Pasadena, another one of Sterling’s clubs.

Most bands are “regulars,” playing every year at one or more of Sterling’s venues. They include names such as Pat Benatar, Kenny Loggins, Willy Nelson, and the Gin Blossoms.

“We have standard operating procedures — the bands expect a certain thing and customers expect a certain thing,” Sterling says.

It is clear the business owner has it down to a science, considering he was pretty much “spot on” in estimating construction time.

“We’re doing well. The city’s been great — everybody’s pushing me along as best they can,” Sterling says. “We’ve given ourselves 3-4 weeks of just stuff happening, and only one of those four weeks has been eaten up.”

Sterling gets some deja vu by including Caliburger in the plan, a restaurant also at The Rose, and he has worked with Westfield in the past.

“They called us in and showed us locations in the mall. It was amazing that a city actually asked us to come,” Sterling says, underscoring Santa Clarita’s readiness for such a newcomer.

Sterling’s son, also named Lance, will be general manager of the new location. He had moved to Santa Clarita and felt the area was economically ready for the company’s brand. In addition to music, The Canyon Santa Clarita will also host comedy and murder mystery events.

The grand opening bands will be a surprise, but tickets for fall concerts can already be purchased on the Canyon Club website. Visit Wheremusicmeetsthesoul.com.

Canyon Country History Minute

| Canyon Country Magazine | 4 hours ago

It was 1976 when Odie Fox opened his first storefront in Canyon Country — Fox Feed. Originally from Oklahoma, he went west during the Great Depression and began working in the hay fields of the Imperial Valley. In this photo from the 1940s, Odie (left) and his friend are loading up hay for a delivery. Odie purchased more modern trucks over the years and in the 1960s and ‘70s his son, Jerry Fox, joined him, delivering hay to dairies and later building the store on Sierra Highway.

Read more local history in the book “Canyon Country” by Martha Michael & released by Arcadia Publishing. It is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Sam’s Club, Costco and ArcadiaPublishing.com.

 

Shop Soledad: McDonalds Re-Opens

| Canyon Country Magazine | August 15, 2017

If the last time McDonald’s got you in the door was when they declared that “You Deserve a Break Today,” it’s been awhile. But whether the burgers and fries were your favorite teen take-out or you like its healthier 21st century fare, McDonald’s is (still) your kind of place.

The Canyon Country McDonald’s, at 18850 Soledad Canyon Road, just got a $2 million facelift, which residents will see in the middle of this month.

“This is not what most people would think of as a typical McDonald’s,” said Jay Schutz, the owner/operator of several McDonald’s restaurants, including the newly remodeled Canyon Country location. “Elements of the décor and layout are part of the new ‘Vision 2020’ for McDonald’s and they encompass all the newest elements McDonald’s currently offers worldwide.”

The forward design is part of an international rebranding campaign and the famous restaurant’s corporation aims to update all McDonald’s restaurants in the United States. That put the Canyon Country site on the list for a major remodel project.

Closed April 30, construction was supposed to take six weeks and has now exceeded 3 ½ months, Schutz said. “I wasn’t that concerned about closing, but I was very skeptical that the job could be done in six weeks. We did a lot of structural repairs to the building, and there are so many cool elements inside.”

There is a brand new play place, a state-of-the-art outdoor patio, customized wall graphics, Wi-Fi, and customers can step up to a kiosk to place an order. They also included a “fast casual” feature, where you take a number from the kiosk and a server delivers the food to your table.

There are changes to the drive-thru as well. Now the west side has two drive-thru lanes and a pass through, rather than parking. The new quick-service drive thru has a full LED computerized menu board and there’s a mobile ordering feature with curbside pickup. McDonald’s also has Uber Eats scheduled to be released in Santa Clarita this fall, Schutz said.

The hours are changing too. The McDonald’s dining room is open inside from 5 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week, with the drive-thru open until 2 a.m. seven days a week.

“We understand there are a lot of people who work graveyard shifts,” Schutz said, “and since we serve breakfast all day, it will be helpful for them to count on us to be there for them, whenever they need us.”

Much like his restaurants, Schutz needs little down time. He didn’t let a break in operation for construction at the Canyon Country restaurants take his employees out of the workforce. He temporarily moved many of them to the Via Princessa McDonald’s and paid them to do volunteer work at Santa Clarita non-profits. Some of them offered mentoring and tutoring at the Boys and Girls Club, while others assisted at the Senior Center, SCV Food Pantry and Bridge to Home.

“I wanted to retain my employees, because they’re very valuable to me,” Schutz said.

Manager Sergio Rizo has been working for Schutz for 20 years. And McDonald’s is looking for additional team members, said the owner, who said he pays a higher wage — the county standard of $12 an hour. Next July it will go up to $13.25 per hour.

The menu is changing all the time, but there were no specific changes associated with the remodel. “For people who haven’t been to McDonald’s in a long time, the menu will look new to them,” Schutz said. “Our food has no preservatives or hormones or antibiotics … the chicken nuggets are all white breast meat, and we’ll have organic apple juice any day now.”

McDonald’s sells “best in class” Tyson chicken and there is a whole new line of taste-crafted sandwiches. Customers can get fresh Pico de Gallo, fresh guacamole and Sriracha burgers also.

But after the doors open this month, a report from locals that the new McDonald’s offers a “Good Time, Great Taste” isn’t the end game, said forward-thinking Schutz. “Now Via Princessa will undergo its own transformation,” he said.

If you check in with Schutz at the first of the year to ask about the toll of more construction work, remodeling costs and personnel shuffling, it’s possible his answer will have a ring of familiarity to you. Especially if he responds with: “I’m lovin’ it!”

City Purchases Sierra Highway Buildings

| News | August 4, 2017

For three decades the doors of certain small businesses on Sierra Highway have fed families, groomed pets, repaired shoes and much more. But between now and December, countless customers will have to look elsewhere for those services.

The building on the northeast corner of Sierra Highway and Soledad Canyon Road, as well as the building just to the north of it on the 18300 block, are being sold to the City of Santa Clarita to make way for the planned Canyon Country Community Center. The owners of Joe’s Shoe Repair, Hair Wave, Doggie Den and Osteria Caruso received letters from the city ordering their eviction by December, 2017. Each business now has to find a new location, because construction is set to begin next year.
“I was crying about it. I’ve been sleepless,” says Amy Chavez, whose father owns Joe’s Shoe Repair. “I just feel for my dad. He can practically lose everything.”She has been researching potential new spaces, where owners are asking $2,000-$3,000 for a down payment. Plus, rent is higher everywhere, partly because Joe’s Shoe Repair has been in the same building for 20 years, and a decade longer than that under a different name.

The space where Joe Chavez Trejos has done business for decades totals about 800 square feet and costs about $1,300 per month.

“It’s the fact we’ve been here so long is why it’s so cheap,” Amy Chavez says.

Hair Wave’s owner, who goes by “Kim,” has been in that retail space for three decades. The city has suggested a space in Saugus for the hair salon, but it’s expensive, she says. An even bigger problem, however, is keeping her customer base, who she predicts will say they will follow her to the new location, but will not really do so in the end.

City leaders have suggested that Kim relocate her salon closer to her home in Valencia.

“It doesn’t matter where I live,” she says. “It matters where my customers are.”

 

Joe and Amy Chavez live in Palmdale and people have asked them why they don’t open their doors in the Antelope Valley.

“It’s dead out there,” Amy says. “There’s no business.”

Renters in the building heard rumors for many months that changes were coming, especially when maps of the planned Canyon Country Community Center showed no sign of their building. But, when they reached out to the city, they w

ere assured they weren’t going to lose their spaces. Amy laments that if the city told them about the move last year it would have been easier, because for some reason, there were a lot of vacant commercial spaces in the area.

“Now it’s out of the question—it’s all taken,” she says. “We don’t want to move. We haven’t found a place financially suitable.”

To begin again and build a new customer base it takes about a year with no profits, Amy explains. Then, as if on cue to illustrate her point, a loyal customer enters the shop, and she calls him by name and walks straight to his two pairs of motocross riding boots. They speak in Spanish, trading “Gracias” across the counter.

No one expected this timeline. Angie Caruso told the Gazette earlier this year that this building, which was purchased by her grandfather in the 1950s, would stay put and not be sold. The family even completed a makeover and renaming of their restaurant, Caruso’s, which is now Osteria Caruso. And tenants like Joe’s Shoe Repair just signed a five-year lease.

“They were talking to us at the end of April, but we’re not handling it anymore. Our attorneys are handling it,” Angie Caruso says. “We were hoping they wouldn’t need it. It’s for the better of the community — we hope.”

The City of Santa Clarita Parks Planning Manager Wayne Weber confirmed the compulsory move with a prepared statement to the Gazette: “The City has hired a relocation consultant to provide relocation services to all businesses impacted by the future Canyon Country Community Center.  Discussions with property owners and tenants have been ongoing and will continue until businesses have been relocated or other settlement agreements reached.  The construction of the Canyon Country Community Center is currently scheduled to begin in mid to late 2018.”

Athlete of the Week: Maya Gadbois

| SC Living | July 27, 2017

The youngest racer to ever qualify for the UCI BMX World Championships, 4-year-old Maya Gadbois of Santa Clarita is already a stiff competitor.

“Maya has been raised around bikes and BMX tracks ever since she was born,” said her father, Chris Gadbois. “She tried her first balance bike at the age of 1, and entered her first balance bike race, or strider race, at just over 2 years of age.”

Both Chris and Maya’s brother, Charlie, are racing competitors and the Gadbois family has taken many trips to Hermosa Beach and El Segundo to ride bikes on the strand.

“During these rides Maya would be in one of those baby trailers, which she absolutely HATED!” Chris said.

Maya rode her first pedal bike race at 2 1/2 and made her national debut at the Silver Dollar National in Las Vegas when she was just 3 years old.

“My daughter is a fierce competitor on the track, then proceeds to switch as quickly as possible to play mode in between races with the other riders,” Chris said. “Her nickname is ‘The Warrior Princess,’ because she really is tough as nails, with a ‘no fear’ attitude, but she loves to dress like a princess and will often accessorize her BMX outfits, becoming the perfect fashion diva.”

During the summer, the family spends downtime at Hurricane Harbor and the beach a few days a week.

“BMX is a very family-oriented sport and no one sits on the bench,” Chris said. “The benefit for us is that both of (our) kids LOVE being on their bikes, and racing.”

Today, Maya races at least three days a week, training with BMX Hall of Famer Eric Rupe, along with her brother Charlie. She does conditioning at Ignition Fitness in Santa Clarita with Jim Johnson.

Chris seems to be enjoying the process. He said, “I am a truly lucky dad to have such an amazing daughter!”

Local HOAs Protect Members’ Information

| News | July 27, 2017

KHTS Asks for Email Lists

Sand Canyon Homeowners Association, or SCHOA, is not the only HOA approached by KHTS co-owner Carl Goldman. He is asking associations to give the emails of their homeowners to the radio station. The emails will become part of the station’s list of residents receiving email blasts six days per week.

At the last SCHOA board meeting, Goldman listed Friendly Valley, Tesoro Del Valle and Fair Oaks as the next communities targeted for his “campaign.” He has contacted one of the Tesoro Del Valle HOA board members.

“Carl’s not approached me, but he talked to one of our board members, Dennis Koontz,” said Shauna Gatlin, manager of the Tesoro Del Valle Master Homeowners Association and a regional director for First Service Residential.

Koontz brought up Goldman’s request to the Tesoro Homeowners Association board at the last meeting, but other members said there was not enough information. They asked Koontz to find out more and bring it up at the next meeting.

“Typically it would not be comfortable for the homeowners association to just hand over personal information. We’ve never given anything like that out,” Gatlin said. “It would be my recommendation to the board that if they want to help KHTS build their database, they can tell homeowners where to go to KHTS and enroll. … That would be better than just handing over the information.”

Friendly Valley Office Manager Linda Radtke said she had not heard that Goldman approached any board members, adding that she would likely know if he did.

“We do not share any information. We have a directory that is shared with the residents here, and that doesn’t have email addresses,” she said. “I can’t imagine what would be to their advantage. I can’t imagine. (In an emergency), that’s not the first place they’d necessarily go is to check their email.”

One of Friendly Valley’s homeowners associations is managed by Reina Zuckerman, general manager of Ross Morgan in Valencia.

“It’s personal, we don’t give that out,” Zuckerman said. “It’s used for management, for newsletters, (and) HOA correspondence, for members of the community only. … It’s their private property.”

The American Beauty West homeowners association has privacy policies that would preclude giving away residents’ emails.

“They can’t arbitrarily tell us to give out individual private information,” said Cindy Sewell, office manager at Bartlein & Co., a property management firm for American Beauty. “They let us know only to share it with those in the association.”

Owner Bob Bartlein concurred, adding: “We can’t even use emails for (homeowners) association business.”

Bartlein commented after becoming aware of the method proposed by Goldman in Sand Canyon, where the SCHOA communications director gives the list to KHTS unless residents reply with an “opt out.”

“She is basically saying, ‘If I don’t hear from you I’m going to give away your email address,’” Bartlein said. “It should be the opposite.”

Four Musical Acts Perform for Parish Retreats

| Community | July 23, 2017

Young performers are coming together for a cause to give Santa Clarita locals some fresh music and raise money for ACTS, a tri-parish Catholic retreat program. Four Acts for ACTS will take place at Vincenzo’s Pizza in Newhall on Saturday, August 5 from 5:30-9 p.m.

For a $10 ticket, audience members will see a show including Kalia & Keeli Javan, Canyon Country twins who make up Kikstart, as well solo act Freshman, and two bands called King & Co. and Liberties We Prize.

King & Co. will open at 5:30 p.m. followed by Liberties We Prize at 6:15, Freshman at 7:15, and KiKstart will close the concert beginning at 8:15 p.m.

Guests may also order food from the Vincenzo’s menu during the event. The doors open at 5 p.m. Vincenzo’s is located at 24504 Lyons Ave. in Newhall.

ACTS San Fernando Valley offers weekend retreats designed to engage Catholics, giving them the opportunity to get away from the pressures of everyday life and deepen their relationship with God.

“Retreatants are encouraged to put into practice that which we learn from the Gospel and to truly live the sacramental life,” says the website sfvacts.org. “Throughout the weekend there are group activities, sharing, prayer, and the Sacraments.”

You may purchase tickets for the benefit concert at http://fouractsforacts.brownpapertickets.com/

Onyx Coffee Co.

| Canyon Country Magazine | July 21, 2017

Canyon Country residents have a new drive-thru to pick up their favorite wake-up beverage on the way to work. ONYX Coffee Co. is serving up specialty coffees from the kiosk next to Feathers Photo and across from Route 66 Classic Grill on Soledad Canyon Road. Owners Mike and Sonia Cruz have a “bi-coastal partnership” with Buddy Brew to bring unique beverages from “Cold Brew” to “Chai Tea Lattes.” ONYX Coffee’s chai tea comes from Northern India, a perfect backdrop for the new business’ tagline: Be bold, be brave.

Their specialties are lattes, espresso, chai, green tea, and you can order drinks any of three ways: hot, iced, or frozen.

“We’re not just the normal drive-thru. Our menu includes premium craft roasted coffee from the top 2 percent of quality beans, versus other roasters,” said Sonia. “We’re continuing to add new items to our offering while providing the very best quality traditional coffee and tea drinks.”

In addition to Buddy Brew Coffee, the couple has aligned themselves with other partners to offer the newest drinks. ONYX also serves up pastries from local vendors to go with your favorite beverage.

“Our mission is to serve the community the best specialty coffee drinks and the best customer experience in the area,” Sonia said. “We envision ONYX Coffee Co. being a positive impact to people in and beyond Santa Clarita!”

The Cruz’s partner, Raquel Pullaro, traveled all the way from Florida to help them with their opening July 1. “We had family and friends drive long distances to join us, and the support from the community was tremendous,” Sonia said.

The couple said they are planning a grand opening celebration in September, adding: “Lots of work to do, but first coffee!”

Summer hours at ONYX Coffee Co. are Monday through Friday 6:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Saturdays/Sundays 7 a.m.-5 p.m. They have a customer loyalty program that gets you a free drink after the purchase of eight.

ONYX Coffee Co. is located at 18715 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. Find the business on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The Pie Tin

| Canyon Country Magazine | July 21, 2017

Next month when you smell the scent of freshly baked pies, it means the Jardine family opened its oven doors for customers to get a taste of their new business: The Pie Tin. Troy, Laura, Alexis and Morgan Jardine are completing the groundwork for an August opening of a pie shop with a pickup option and seating as well—inside and out—where locals can sip coffee or tea while they take their time enjoying their sweet or savory pie order.

The Pie Tin is a nod to Laura Jardine’s grandmother and her father, who played important roles in her childhood in Salt Lake City, Utah. “Basically, it goes back to the history in my family,” said Laura. “Pies were a big part of my family when I grew up.”

When the Jardines moved to Santa Clarita, she went on a community-wide search for standout pies, but fell short. “People were trying to find me a good pie,” Laura said. “When we researched to open the shop we found that the closest pie shop was 30-40 miles away.”

She acknowledged the risk involved when “creating a business from scratch” instead of opening a franchise.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking, but super, super exciting,” said Laura, who works for the City of Santa Clarita and has a background in marketing and banking, while Troy has experience in the food industry.

Their daughters, Alexis, 22, and Morgan, 18, are already deeply involved in The Pie Tin business. One is handling social media and setting up coffee suppliers, while the other is handling the furniture suppliers. The most challenging aspect so far, according to Laura, is coordinating delivery of equipment and shipments, arranging to be on site to receive them, yet not in the way of the contractor.

The banana cream pie is her favorite, and pecan is a close second. Followed by blueberry, she added.

But for Laura, the baked goods they serve up won’t be the only thing warm and sweet about the pie shop. “Having a place for the community to go and feel welcome,” she said. “Obviously, the quality of the products will be amazing, but they will come back for the experience, if nothing else.”

While The Pie Tin’s customers will be looking for their favorites on the menu, they’ll also be hoping that sitting in the shop with free Wi-Fi and freshly baked pie will be a little slice of heaven too.

The Pie Tin is located at 26555 Golden Valley Road in Santa Clarita. Visit ThePieTinSCV.com.

KHTS Seeks SCV Homeowners’ Emails

| News | July 20, 2017

Last week, Carl Goldman, co-owner of KHTS, attended the Sand Canyon Homeowners Association (SCHOA) board meeting, following up on his proposal to the group that they give KHTS their list of approximately 800 residents’ emails.

If passed by SCHOA, the emails will be placed on the KHTS email blast list, sending emails to homeowners six days a week. Goldman told the SCHOA board that his “campaign” to attain the email list is for “informational,” not “marketing” purposes, though the email announcements are news teasers leading readers to the KHTS website.

“I don’t like the idea of any private lists being shared for any reason,” said Michael Hogan, Sand Canyon resident. “If any organization wants to send an email through HOA inviting people to join, that’s fine. Then the homeowners have a choice.”

SCHOA sent an email announcing the decision to accept Goldman‘s request for the emails, offering residents the chance to “opt out” within a six-week time frame.

The Santa Clarita Gazette received emails from dozens of Sand Canyon homeowners who underscored Hogan’s opinion that the list should not be handed over to the radio station, but that residents should instead have the opportunity to “opt in” if they choose. Many offered opinions, which Gazette staff chose to keep anonymous.

“Making it an ‘opt out’ means that someone must reply to express their disinterest. Email lists are too viral; we need to be selective to our own objectives,” said one community leader.

Several SCHOA members asked why it was not handled with the ease of an “opt in” method, rather than threatening a breach of privacy by handing over the emails unless they “opt out.”

“There is no way to know who did not receive notification, which could result in sharing of emails of those who do not approve,” one homeowner said.  A large number of the Sand Canyon residents said they never saw the email. One respondent said, “I just scan the homeowner emails … so if you have to ‘opt out,’ most of us wouldn’t be or aren’t aware.”

Another Sand Canyon woman who said the move is an invasion of her privacy, added that she responded to Ruthann, “asking her NOT to forward my email, as I do not prefer to receive KHTS daily news blasts and have heard no guarantee that the list would be protected and not further disseminated.”

The goal of Goldman’s campaign, he said, is to eventually attain the email lists from all Santa Clarita Valley homeowners’ associations, so that KHTS will be the single hub of communication, particularly during emergencies.

 

 

Matt Davis: Gold Medal Mentor

| Canyon Country Magazine | July 19, 2017

It is rare to find a teenager with the time and attention for others. And it’s even more unusual when it’s a student athlete/ASB member giving to his special needs peers.

But when you fast forward six years and you find him, once again, coaching and mentoring developmentally disabled kids and adults, the young man deserves a medal.

Last month, Matt Davis took home the gold … or at least his team did.

Davis is a team player, a quality he passes on to players in the S.N.A.P. football program, a part of the larger Special Needs Athletes & Peers Sports program. It enables participants to gain experience on the field playing flag football with experienced young players who coach and fill the quarterback position for them.

“The goal is to make sure that all the athletes have fun and feel a part of a team,” Davis explained. “I got involved with S.N.A.P. when I was 16 after being invited by a couple of my Canyon High football teammates, Coley Apsay and Kyle Webster.”

Earlier this year, Davis was again invited by a friend to become a part of the Special Olympics. Canyon High School graduate and former quarterback Miles Fallin asked him to help coach one of the basketball teams. But when the season was nearly over, there was something new pulled out of the playbook. Fallin performed a successful “handoff” to Davis — the entire team.

“Miles had to leave for college and he left me as the head coach,” Davis said. “However, I had two other assistant coaches in Don Zennie and Erik Fallin (Miles’ father) who have been involved in Special Olympics for over 20 years. I would not have been able to do it without them.”

Not to worry — the Santa Clarita Valley “Makos” were running on all cylinders. Davis, his coaches and their team came in first place at the Southern California Special Olympics in Long Beach, earning the gold medal.

“It was all due to the hard work the athletes put in,” Davis said. “We won all three games, but more importantly, everyone got to play and had a ton of fun doing it.”

The winning team was made up of 11 athletes: Michael Goodman, Glen Griffith, Max Parrish, Jason “Bulldog” Carreon, Kevin Ross, Jesse Corralejo, Jereth Suede, David Escobedo, Colbert Williams, Brian “Dallas” Dahl, and Eric McGhee. Both Jereth Suede and Colbert Williams had previously been a part of Davis’ S.N.A.P. program as well.

“As far as the future is concerned, I am hoping to be able to coach floor hockey in the upcoming winter,” said the 22-year-old. “Serving individuals with special needs is something that I truly enjoy and I am extremely blessed to have made friends with the athletes I’ve coached.”

The Duchess and the Cowboy

| Sand Canyon Journal | July 19, 2017

They were Sand Canyon celebrities—he, a TV and movie stuntman and she, a concert pianist. Loren Janes and Jan Sanborn lived on Sand Canyon Road south of Placerita Canyon Road until the devastating Sand Fire that wiped out their home and virtually all of their belongings and memorabilia.

Less than a year has passed and the Sanborn-Janes family was dealt another blow last month—Loren Janes died at the age of 85.

He was born in Sierra Madre and first made a name for himself as a swimmer/diver, competing twice in the Olympic trials in the pentathlon. He taught high school science and math and then began a long career in stunt work. Janes doubled Steve McQueen for decades and worked with numerous stars, from Charlton Heston in “The Ten Commandments” to Michael J. Fox in “Back to the Future.”

He was considered one of the most daring — the man called when a character was going to leap, swing or drive in dramatic fashion. He drove the famous San Francisco car chase in “Bullitt.” He jumped off a train into a cactus in “How the West Was Won.” He dodged horses doubling Debbie Reynolds and even donned a wig to do stunts for Esther Williams.

A co-founder of the original Stuntmen’s Association, Loren Janes’ skill set was much larger than the tip of the iceberg audience members saw, says his childhood friend Bernard Laddie Lamb.

“Loren had boundless optimism,” Lamb says. “He had gifts and talents you’d never have thought. We had a bad kitchen sink faucet in our house in Altadena. One day he shows up with a faucet to replace the one we had. He replaced it in 15 minutes. He didn’t even get his hands dirty.”

Another story Lamb tells is from a mutual friend named Ed who thought Janes was exaggerating his skiing ability—until he hit the slopes with the stunt man.

“Ed said, ‘I have to eat my words for the first time. There was nothing in the snow that was an imperfection that he didn’t use on his way down the hill. It was poetry in motion,’” Lamb says.

From their early teens, Laddie Lamb, Loren Janes and a third friend, Bland Ewing, built a solid relationship. Lamb worked in aerospace, retiring after 42 years as a physicist at Aerojet-General Corporation. Ewing was a professor at UC Berkeley and a technician at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Lamb says Janes’ IQ had an official rating of 140, but he thinks it was higher. “He had an understanding of physical laws that he incorporated into everything he did,” Lamb says. “Almost an inexplicable gift.”

But Janes’ mind wasn’t his only weapon. It was his body that became his bread and butter.

“He was so gifted physically and he had excellent vision,” Lamb says. “He never broke a bone stunting.”
Lamb’s sons remember Janes for his numerous Hollywood stories, but even more, he says, for the stuntman’s politics.

“The thing they remember was his political clarity. Even if you didn’t agree with him, you could understand,” Lamb says. “He was a brilliant political person.”

Janes was a good friend of Republican activist Howard Jarvis who spearheaded the property tax-cutting Proposition 13. Janes also ran for a California State Assembly seat twice, but lost both races.

“He was a totally reliable person,” Lamb says. “If he said he would be there he’d be there. If he said he would do something he did it.”
When their house burned down last year, Jan Sanborn’s daughter Janet Hansen created a GoFundMe page to help the couple. She called it the “Janes Family Phoenix Project,” posting: “The place where they have lived for more than 20 years housing all of the memories, pictures, art work, awards, music, her grand piano and everything that meant something to them was being burned and captured live on the news.”

Lamb heard about the fire a day or two after the tragedy. “That was shocking,” he says. “The firefighters had come and said you’ve got to evacuate. They took very little with them. They never expected to come back and find nothing standing.”

The public is welcome to visit the GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/helpJanSanborn.

Hiker Heaven

| Canyon Country Magazine | July 18, 2017

You’ve walked 20-30 miles a day for several days and you’re hot, sweaty, exhausted and you have a nasty thirst. Then you come upon a large plot of land with shade, fresh water, showers, bathroom facilities and dozens of fellow travelers.

Sound like heaven?

It’s “Hiker Heaven” to more than a thousand Pacific Crest Trail travelers every year, thanks to Agua Dulce residents Jeff and Donna Saufley. Their 2-acre property has been a respite for PCT travelers since 1997, and numbers have swelled to a high of 1,600 visitors in one season.

Hikers visit the Saufleys as early as mid-March when the first “thru hikers” come into the Santa Clarita Valley, most originating from the PCT trailhead in Campo, California at the Mexican border. Hiker Heaven is about a mile off the trail, so those who hear about it can simply walk to the Saufleys’ home and get a two-night stay along with the Saufleys’ generous system of assistance.

“We provide a safe place for them to stay, where they can put down their packs and meet up with other hikers who are behind and in front of them on the trail,” Jeff Saufley said. “They find a soft spot and set up their shelter. We do have a guest house with a couple of bedrooms, but most camp out in the yard.”

The Saufleys wash the hikers’ clothes for them and provide access to gear stores and doctors’ offices, with help from others who volunteer time and resources to serve the hiking community. One of Jeff’s colleagues with a limo service brings a 15-passenger van to their house to offer rides to stores such as Walmart and REI.

How do hikers know about the Saufleys’ facility? They contact them through their web page — Hikerheaven.com. “A large, large majority of them hear about it as they’re hiking the trail,” Jeff said.

Most of the Hiker Heaven guests have a re-supply box sent to themselves there, so the Saufleys’ garage is turned into a makeshift post office during the season.

“They’re such a well-behaved group of people,” Jeff said. “We’ve had zero problems at all. The majority of them are young kids, in their 20s and mostly guys, but an increasing number of women.”

Jeff and Donna used to offer these services by themselves, driving hikers, washing their clothes, etc. But the numbers in the ‘90s were a manageable 250 people per year. As it grew, they reached out to the hiking community for help.

Volunteers come for two weeks or a month and do chores such as laundry, cleaning bathrooms and showerss, and picking up items that are laying around.

“Everything has to be super, super organized,” Jeff said. “They work here for free just because they want to give back.”

Jeff attributes some of the surge in the PCT’s popularity to the book and movie entitled “Wild.” He said he has met hikers from Europe and Asia who actually came to California to hike the trail after seeing the movie.

“I’d say about 50 percent of the 1,400 hikers this year were from Europe or China or Japan,” Jeff said. “You meet very interesting people from all over the world.”

Though there’s no charge to stay at Hiker Heaven, guests often contribute to offset such expenses as daily water deliveries during the height of the season, plus laundry soap, toilet paper and rented port-a-potties.

And if you miss the good ol’ days when campfires were legal in California, the Saufleys are one step ahead. They sometimes pull permits to enable hikers to gather around a fire pit they built in their yard.

This year the Saufleys shut their doors on June 30 after no fewer than 1,400 hikers overnighted there. After hiking season it’s time for Jeff and Donna to hit the trail. In fact, the couple has been “section hiking” the PCT (not completing the trail in one trip). Donna has hiked 1,400 miles of the PCT so far, Jeff said. The couple plans to be in Oregon and Washington in August this year.

Though the season is over, there are some things you can pretty much count on. When spring rolls around, the usual throngs of weary travelers can be seen pacing through downtown Agua Dulce, making their way to the home of these “trail angels” once again, for a little piece of Hiker Heaven.

Conquering the Divide

| Canyon Country Magazine | July 18, 2017

It was a year ago that we met Garret Hernandez, a new graduate from Golden Valley who began at the border of Mexico in a little town called Campo and proceeded to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, known as the PCT. In about half a year, Garret completed the approximately 2,650-mile hike through California, Oregon, Washington, and ending in Canada. So, of course, it was time for a new adventure…

After completing the Pacific Crest Trail on Sept. 14, Santa Clarita resident Garret Hernandez has begun his latest adventure – taking on the even more grueling, 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail, or CDT.

During his 22-week journey on the PCT, Garret, 18 at the time, met people from all over the world and said he had the time of his life. His months on the trail gave him a new optimism, he said.

He experienced the help of complete strangers time and time again, town after town, whether it was a ride, a meal, a place to stay, or even with his laundry. Complete strangers stepped up repeatedly, opening their homes to him and the other hikers, he said.

“He left a boy and returned as a man,” said his mother, Kelly Hentzen.

Hiker tradition is to give each other trail nicknames that completely replace their legal ones while on the long journey. Once anointed, PCT travelers are encouraged to keep their new monikers throughout their hiking careers — so, basically, for life. Garret was given the trail name “Scrapbook” on the PCT because of his prolific documentation and photographic skills.

Traversing the PCT, Garret said, was an experience like no other that left him with indelible memories, but he sometimes worried about how difficult it would be to return to everyday life. Some have trouble with the transition back to life off the trail, at times due to depression.

But Garret had no such hurdles; he jumped right back into his pre-trail life. He returned to his job at the UPS Store on Golden Valley Road in Canyon Country within a week of returning home, and shortly after that, began planning his next hike.

It didn’t take long before he was preparing to hike the Continental Divide Trail which runs from Mexico to Canada as well, but through the Rockies and San Juan Mountains, reaching elevations as high as 14,270 feet along the way. On this latest adventure, he is hiking through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

The CDT, along with the PCT and Appalachian Trail in the east, form what thru-hikers call the Triple Crown of long-distance hiking in the U.S. The CDT is by far the most difficult of the three, with only about 150 hikers attempting to thru-hike, and only around 30 actually completing the full 3,100 miles each year, according to The Continental Divide Trail Hiking Guide.

Garret departed on his latest adventure on April 20, lighting out from Crazy Cook Monument at the Mexico-New Mexico border. For most of the walk through the “Land of Enchantment,” he’s been hiking 20-30 miles per day in 90-degree weather, with little shade, he said.

Once again the Golden Valley High graduate is hiking unsupported, which means he carries all his own gear, supplies, food and water. He must also know how many days’ worth of food and water he’ll need until the next resupply location, which can range anywhere from four to five days.

And, as he did last time, the now-19-year old is funding his own adventure entirely, but this time he is also hiking to support the Alzheimer’s Association. He has raised more than $500 for the organization, and although that was his original monetary goal, he hopes to continue to raise awareness for the association during his journey. He’s expecting it will again take between five and six months to reach Canada, depending on snow levels.

Garret forged ahead, leaving Chama, New Mexico and heading toward Pagosa Springs, Colorado, where he then needed snowshoes and an ice ax to tackle the snowy conditions there. On this stretch, he said, numerous hikers pull off the trail hoping for snow levels to drop, as many have been injured.

Through this section Garret had been travelling with a group of three other experienced hikers. In late May, as they were cautiously navigating the trail through the snow with a cliff on one side, the trail gave way beneath them, Garret said. Two hikers in his group fell; one was able to catch himself immediately with his ice ax, while the other fell approximately 600 feet.

Although scraped up, badly bruised and very sore, he survived, and after a week of recovery, they were back on the trail. In late June, Garret reached Breckenridge, Colorado — mile 1,255.8 — and headed to Grand Lake, Colorado, which is mile 1.386.9, to join other hikers in town for the Fourth of July.

You can continue to follow Garret’s journey on Instagram @hikingguygarret.

Wolitarsky Feels the Draft in Canada

| Canyon Country Magazine | July 16, 2017

Folks who followed the football success of former Canyon Country resident Drew Wolitarsky watched him advance from the Outlaws in the Pacific Youth League to breaking records at Canyon High School. Then they had to turn on their televisions to watch the wide receiver at the University of Minnesota for the last four years, but fans should stay tuned. This season they can watch him play on TV again by just changing channels.

You could tell Wolitarsky’s athletic talent would take him places, but talk about long bombs — his latest catch is north of the border with the Canadian Football League, or CFL. He is now number 80 on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

And in a hint of irony, it was July Fourth, the birthday of the United States, that new Canadian Drew Wolitarsky and his Canadian mother, Audrey, set out from Minneapolis to his new home in the province of Manitoba.

Drew had applied for Canadian citizenship on May 31 and in just one day it was processed and his certificate was sent out to him on June 1.

Joining a team out of the country was no “illegal procedure” for Wolitarsky (pun intended), partly thanks to his lineage.

“In order to play in the CFL and have a better opportunity to stay in the league I needed to get my Canadian citizenship, and as my mother was born in Montreal I had the access to my citizenship in Canada,” Drew said. “So, once we got all of that figured out, my agent started contacting teams and letting them know that I was eligible to play in the CFL.”

You do not have to be a Canadian citizen to play in the CFL, but it is a sizable advantage to be Canadian, because there have to be a certain number of Canadians on the field at a certain time, he explained. On Tuesday, June 27, the recent University of Minnesota graduate took a call from the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who confirmed they had drafted him.

“I’ve been to Canada several times growing up and was just in Montreal to see the place where my parents grew up together. (I have) a lot of roots in the Great White North,” Drew said. “As someone who enjoys writing, I like to be able to pull things from memory of places I›ve been and sights from where I’ve lived.”

Drew Wolitarsky’s team is more than 2,000 miles from Montreal in the province of Quebec, where his parents — John and Audrey — met as teenagers.

“I’ve never been to the prairies,” John said. “It’s always fun to travel to stadiums to see your boy play!”

Audrey was charmed by her visit. “Winnipeg has some really cool attractions,” she said, “including an adorable French neighborhood that I can tell will be my son’s favorite hangout.”

There are many Americans playing in the Canadian Football League, said Drew, who did not give up his American citizenship in the process. The teams are made up of various aged players, some over 30 years old, with families, and others close to Drew’s age of 22.

“I like to be on the move,” he said. “I came to Minnesota to gain a different perspective and familiarize myself with a different way of living. So, moving again is something I’m very excited about.”

In addition to establishing a new home, of sorts, Drew has to adapt to his new job, which includes memorizing a large playbook. Football in the CFL is a similar game, but has many different rules, he said, but the basis of scoring and receiving first downs remains the same.

“From green and gold to maroon and gold and now to blue and gold, I’m proud of Drew for his dedication and hard work,” said John Wolitarsky. “He’ll be a great ambassador to the Blue Bombers and the CFL.”

Non Profit of the Week – L.A. SummerFEST

| SC Living | July 7, 2017

Next week is the opening of the 8th annual LA SummerFEST, an eclectic, free, cultural festival of music, theatre and community events. The LA SummerFEST brings together musicians, performers, and three non-profit organizations and even local churches for 14 events in 5 weeks, presented at the Rivendale Park and Open Space in Towsley Canyon. The free events include: an Evening of Praise Music (Saturday, July 22) with local churches, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley; a Singer-Songwriter Concert (Saturday, July 29), with some of the best singer songwriters in Southern California; A Night at the Opera (Friday, August 4) with Center Stage Opera; Blues FEST (Saturday, August 5) presented in coordination with the SCV Blues Society; and Jazz at Rivendale (Sunday, August 6).

Also part of the LA SummerFEST is the free Shakespeare in the Park production, which this year is “Othello.” Performances are Fridays and Saturdays, July 21, 23, 28, 30, August 11, 13 and a special performance Saturday, August 12. Free Shakespeare in the Park is a tradition that reaches back nearly 30 years in the Santa Clarita Valley. Originally founded by David Stears with another theatre company, the tradition continues under the banner of the Santa Clarita Shakespeare Festival.

The site is a park setting with wood chips. Audiences are encouraged to bring a chair or blanket, and a picnic. Beer and wine will be available at the performances, and food trucks will be available at select performances.
The company is working with the City of Santa Clarita.

“The LA SummerFEST grew out of the Shakespeare in the Park performances,” Stears said, the company’s founder and executive director. “We were bringing the stage, lighting and sound to create a venue for the Shakespeare performances, (and) we thought we could make the stage available for other community performances.”

The LA SummerFEST works with the City of Santa Clarita, and is supported from “pass the hat” donations, local contributions, and sponsorships from local businesses. SCSG is also working with the city to create a more permanent performance space at the Rivendale site.

While most all the performances are free and family-friendly, there are two events where tickets are required: the GALA Opening of the Festival, which includes dinner, wine and desserts; and the annual Broadway review, Something Old Something New, presented be Leslie Berra and her company of hand-picked singers. This year’s concert includes favorite Broadway, pop, and rhythm and blues.  Both events raise funds to support the festival and the SCSF educational outreach programming.

This year the LA SummerFEST is offering more to patrons coming to the festival. Audience members can reserve a FREE “ticket” for an event, which will guarantee them entry. For a small donation, patrons may also reserve “Prime” blanket space for four. Patrons who don’t want to bring a blanket and chair can now reserve a table and chair for the events. And for VIP treatment, patrons may reserve a private table with a glass of wine and selected deserts.

For more information about LA SummerFEST and to reserve tickets visit www.LASummerFEST.org. You can also “like” the festival on facebook at  facebook.com/LASummerFest.

During the year, the Santa Clarita Shakespeare presents an extensive educational outreach program, providing free and low-cost programs to local schools. Last year their production of “Scrooge’s Long Night” reached more than 10,000 local students. This year their original adaptation of “Wáli Dád, the Grasscutter” is expected to reach nearly 11,000 local students. If your school is interested in scheduling a performance, you can book now by contacting education@scshakespearefest.org.

Whether during the summer with a free summer series, or providing outstanding programming in our local schools, Santa Clarita Shakespeare is dedicated to bringing the best professional theatre to our community.

Santa Clarita Shakespeare is a 501(c)(3) community benefit organization. For more information about the Santa Clarita Shakespeare Festival, visit: www. SCShakespeareFEST.org or follow on Facebook: facebook.com/SCShakespeareFest.

Football Star Finds True North in Canada

| News | June 29, 2017

When Drew Wolitarsky broke records as a wide receiver for the Canyon High School Cowboys, fans knew he was going places. But what they probably didn’t expect was that it would be Canada.

“I was trying for the NFL draft, but when that fell through and I did not get picked up by a team, I decided that the best thing I could do next was to submit a player form for the CFL (Canadian Football League),” Wolitarsky said.

Joining a team out of the country was no illegal procedure (pun intended), especially for Wolitarsky, thanks to his bloodline.

When Drew Wolitarsky broke records as a wide receiver for the Canyon High School Cowboys, fans knew he was going places. But what they probably didn’t expect was that it would be Canada.

“I was trying for the NFL draft, but when that fell through and I did not get picked up by a team, I decided that the best thing I could do next was to submit a player form for the CFL (Canadian Football League),” Wolitarsky said.

Joining a team out of the country was no illegal procedure (pun intended), especially for Wolitarsky, thanks to his bloodline.

“In order to play in the CFL and have a better opportunity to stay in the league I needed to get my Canadian citizenship, and as my mother was born in Montreal I had the access to my citizenship in Canada,” Wolitarsky said. “So, once we got all of that figured out, my agent started contacting teams and letting them know that I was eligible to play in the CFL.”

A humorous detail in the process was the fact that Canadian immigration received Wolitarsky’s application on May 31 and accepted him on June 1—just one day.

“You do not have to be a Canadian citizen to play in the CFL, but it is a large advantage to be Canadian because there have to be a certain number of Canadians on the field at a certain time,” he explained.

On Tuesday, June 27, the recent University of Minnesota graduate took a call from the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who confirmed they drafted him.

“Before then it was really up in the air, as the supplemental draft had not yet had a definite date time,” Wolitarsky said. “I head out next week sometime and prepare for the remainder of the regular season. We still have to set up my contract and living situation and I have to find a car pretty soon so I can drive up there and have that with me.”

There are many Americans playing in the Canadian Football League, said Wolitarsky, who did not give up his American citizenship in the process. He described the game in the CFL as having many different rules, but the same basis of scoring and receiving first downs remains the same.

 

 

Dr. Ron Nekoukar

| Sand Canyon Journal | June 19, 2017

The residents of Sand Canyon have a lot in common, though they come from a wide variety of backgrounds. And no one embodies that notion more than new resident Ron Nekoukar, DVM.

Animal lover? Check. Likes rural living? Check.

And like so many residents of the canyon, Dr. Nekoukar, his wife, Lilie, and their son and daughter, Eithan and Leah, have already started adding furry family members to their numbers. They have two dogs, two cats, two pygmy goats and two Russian tortoises. But they aren’t done yet. There are more to come, say the new residents, possibly starting with chickens.

The owner of Sierra Veterinary Clinic on Sierra Highway for the last five years, Dr. Nekoukar became acquainted with Sand Canyon through clients who live in the area.

“I love it here,” he said. “The fact that when you leave the house and go to work you go through a few minutes of horses and it’s green … it’s like living in the country.”

When he was a young boy in the Middle East, where many of Dr. Nekoukar’s relatives still reside, he would frequently bring home hurt birds or cats and interface with the local veterinarian. His interest was piqued at a young age, but he points to experiences he had later as most significantly affecting his future.

“I grew up in Israel and went into the military,” he said. “The men serve three years and females serve two years. It shaped me in many ways. … That’s when my life fell into place — you get structure, and you appreciate things.”

One of Dr. Nekoukar’s most notable habits today was forged by the strong arm of a superior officer. Whereas he used to be lax about time, now he is never late, thanks to harsh penalties for lack of punctuality in the military.

Dr. Nekoukar then went to veterinary school in Budapest, Hungary, earning his degree in 1999, after which he moved to Canada and then the United States. Able to speak English, Hebrew, Farsi and a little Hungarian, the widely traveled veterinarian took a job at an emergency clinic in Miami, where he met Lilie, who was a veterinary technician.

Lilie holding a Maine Coon Cat

Prior to purchasing Sierra Veterinary Clinic in 2012, they lived in Tarzana and he worked in the San Fernando Valley, sometimes as a mobile vet, seeing clients in their homes. He almost exclusively treats dogs and cats, but has treated other animals when necessary, even a lemur one time.

This time of year, pets with snake bites come into the clinic once or twice a week. He treats the greatest number of bites from May through the summer, Dr. Nekoukar said.

“It’s mostly dogs. Snakes don’t attack animals,” he explained. “Dogs usually push their noses into them. … The best thing you can do is snake bite classes for dogs. One training is usually enough.”

The number one issue facing most of Dr. Nekoukar’s patients — as many as 70 percent — is skin disease, often from allergies, which can lead to ear infections.

“It’s probably the most discomforting problem dogs have,” said the veterinarian.

When your dog is suffering from these issues, Dr. Nekoukar has a home remedy that works to maximize your dog’s comfort level. Keep them occupied. Boredom adds to their distress, much like a child with chicken pox who doesn’t think about the itching while he’s at Disneyland, he said.

“Most allergies are food allergies,” he explained. “Generally we know it’s the protein that causes the allergy.”

Symptoms include chewing on their feet and ear shaking. And tackling the problem yourself involves making choices about dog food. “Focus on one protein,” Dr. Nekoukar said. “Try to find an alien protein, like rabbit or deer.”

Performing surgeries is the vet’s favorite part of the practice, but not the routine ones — the more unusual, the better.

When not in the clinic, Dr. Nekoukar enjoys practicing Krav Maga, an Israeli self-defense technique. Eithan and Leah go to Hugo’s for gymnastics classes, plus the family uses their passes to Magic Mountain and Universal Studios for entertainment. And with their recent move, they will likely increase the time they spend enjoying life in the canyon.

Eithan helping a kitten

Leah and the goats

“Now with everything in the backyard,” the new homeowner said, “the solar heating in the pool — it works great. It brings it to 90 degrees.”

After settling in this summer, the Nekoukar family will be gearing up for fall, when Eithan, who is 7, and Leah, 5, will enroll at Pinetree Community School in Canyon Country.

Meanwhile, Ron Nekoukar will do what he does best — making animals feel more comfortable at his veterinary clinic … and at home.

Sierra Veterinary Clinic: (661) 252-3333
17755 Sierra Hwy, Canyon Country, CA 91351

Golden Grizzlies – GVHS Senior Standouts

| Canyon Country Magazine | June 18, 2017

When you talk to the top students in Golden Valley’s class of 2017, there is an obvious irony: They are from different ethnicities, yet it’s their diversity that unites them.

Valedictorian David Chung and salutatorians Dachelle Alo and Justine Reblando had some common experiences as students in the SCV. They all attended Golden Oak Community School, La Mesa Junior High School and, finally, Golden Valley. And like most American high school students at the top of the class, they all took a large number of advanced placement and honors classes.

Their common ground didn’t end with graduation, however. All three are headed to schools in the University of California system.

David Chung
Entering UCLA as a regent scholar — which means he is in the top 1.5 percent of incoming students — David Chung is majoring in molecular cellular developmental biology. If it sounds like his goal is medicine, you may be underestimating him. He hopes to go to medical school, but do research as well with an M.D./Ph.D.

“I’ve been interested in biology since I was 6. I just like it,” David said. “My AP biology teacher, Gary Williamson, showed me that there’s a lot more to biology than what I knew.”
But when it came to personal inspiration, it was La Mesa Junior High School band teacher Jeffrey Stephan who influenced David.

“He was always passionate about his teaching and everything he did with the students. He taught life lessons,” David explained. “He showed me encouragement to find what was interesting, and (taught that) when you’re doing something you have to work hard at it.”

David played clarinet through high school, going from section leader to drum major of Golden Valley’s marching band by his senior year.

The 18-year-old still refers to a frequent quote by Stephan, which is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” David’s experience in band was so positive, in fact, he is considering an audition for UCLA’s wind ensemble or symphonic band.

But music wasn’t David’s only activity in high school. He was the academic decathlon president and is a three-year volunteer at Henry Mayo Hospital. He also served as the district vice-president for the city’s student board of the American Red Cross.

This summer, David will make his first trip to his parents’ home country of South Korea. He was born in Los Angeles and lived in Glendale, moving to Santa Clarita in time to begin first grade at Fair Oaks Community School. He has a strong appreciation for the wide range of ethnicities he was exposed to through his classmates.

“I feel like, in general, Golden Valley seems to be a little more diverse and because of that, we tend to be more friendly with each other,” David explained. “It makes it so that all the students are kinder. The overall atmosphere of the school seems more relaxed.”

Justine Reblando
Another senior standout headed for UCLA, Justine Reblando plans to major in chemical engineering. When asked about teachers who made an impact, Justine has a long list.

“Mr. Galarza, Mr. Montanio, Mr. Suarez, Mr. Kirkland, Dee, Mrs. Bricker, Mrs. Werts, Mrs. Coleman, Mr. Printz, Mr. Moskal, Mr. Williamson, and Mr. Stimac,” she said in an email, adding that she is grateful for her other Hart District teachers as well.

When asked how it feels to be one of Golden Valley’s two salutatorians, Justine described it as a “great honor.”

“Something that truly enabled me to become a top student was the support from my friends and family, as well as hard work,” she explained. “For one, I would not have been competitive and passionate about pursuing higher education had it not been for my friends who continuously challenged the way that I think, and pushed me to be my very best, since I always thought of them as my rivals. They never let me fall below my true potential and always pushed me harder to raise the bar and triumph over any challenges.”

And in case her mature outlook made you forget she’s still a teen, Justine added, “Shout out to Haut Cheat Oh Partee and Pbs – you guys know who you are.”

Justine points to an ironic source of her success — she was shaped for the better by situational and personal detractors.

“Dedication and pursuing my own interests amidst the naysayers and the disbelievers formed me into a stronger student and a stronger person,” she said. “I was never the smartest person in school, but one thing that really made me stand out was my hard work. Even though I struggled in certain areas at school, I chose to be persistent and to work harder in subjects that I was weak in.”

This determination formed a kind of work ethic for Justine. “If you choose to fail, failure will be inevitable,” she said. “But, if you look failure in the eye and put in the effort to succeed, it will all be worth it. It is about being honest with yourself and following the only path that you can take, regardless of what everyone around you is doing.”

Justine attended three other elementary schools before enrolling at Golden Oak Community School after her family moved to the Canyon Country-Newhall area. And it is to her extended family she expresses her thanks, including her parents, sister, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

“The never-ending support meant a lot to me,” Justine said, directing comments to her family members. “It was a long and difficult road to get here, but thank you for sticking with me throughout this whole time and giving me the freedom to do so.”

When she wasn’t working on scholastic performance, Justine volunteered with the City of Santa Clarita and served with the Newhall Optimist Club to help them with their local activities. She continues to reach out, hoping her advice will build a positive future not just for herself, but also for those around her.

She said: “Stay optimistic, find your passion, and happiness will eventually follow.”

Dachelle Alo
A lot is happening in the life of salutatorian Dachelle Alo. For one thing, when the 17-year-old leaves for University of California, Irvine in September, the rest of her family is moving too. They are staying in Santa Clarita, moving to a house nearby, while she studies computer science.

Her favorite subject in school was AP Calculus and she played tennis at Golden Valley for two years. Her coach, Josh Stimac, would later be Dachelle’s economics and AP government teacher, making a lasting impact on her as a mentor.

“He treated students with respect and he emphasized the importance of the family and of happiness,” Dachelle said.
At Golden Valley she became involved in Key Club, Junior Optimist International and was a member of the California Scholarship Federation. Her junior year, Dachelle and her friends started a LINK Club, which stands for Liberty in North Korea.

“We raised awareness for people in crisis over there,” she said. “We had fundraisers to help resettle refugees in South Korea.”

Dachelle is of Philippine descent, and was born in Alberta, Canada. Her family moved to California when she was one year old.

In her free time, Dachelle enjoys playing the piano and guitar, but it’s her favorite aspects of technology that drive her plans for the future.

“I’ve always been a visual person, so I’ve always liked the design of things like Instagram, things I use on a daily basis,” she said. “It inspired me to major in computer science.”

Dachelle has specific goals following her education, mainly enhancing user-friendliness in the technological world.

“I want to be a designer or engineer at Google, improving the interaction between humans and technology,” she said. “Improving the little aspects of technology to make the experience enjoyable.”

Like her classmates, Dachelle feels the diversity at Golden Valley benefits everyone.

“I’ve been exposed to a lot of different cultures and languages,” she said. “We’re all open and accepting of each other and it’s really cool.”

Flying High with Chandler Jackson

| Canyon Country Magazine | June 17, 2017

During the teen years it is not uncommon to watch the trajectories of young people point skyward, and many adults take pleasure in seeing them soar to greater and greater heights.

Chandler Jackson is the kind of 19-year-old who takes that literally. As a full-time flight instructor, he soars over the east side of the Santa Clarita Valley regularly, teaching men, women and youth as young as 13 what they need to know to become amateur pilots. He has been flying since he was 12 years old and this year began teaching what he knows.

“My father works in sales and marketing for an airline. My uncle’s a pilot. My aunt was a flight attendant and my grandmother was a flight attendant,” Jackson said. “So, I’ve always been around the airline industry.”

An Agua Dulce resident and a Vasquez High School student for his first year of high school, the young pilot’s training ground was the east side of the SCV, including Agua Dulce Airport.

“Agua Dulce has a pretty long runway and is surrounded by a lot of mountainous terrain,” he said. “It’s in a small valley, but the runway is just over 4,000 feet, almost a mile.”

Jackson also commented on the fact it has a fairly new look, including hangars that resemble red barns. “The runway is resurfaced, and it has nice painted lines,” he said. “It’s maintained really well.”

Though his family moved to Valencia and he graduated from West Ranch High School, he typically teaches students at Agua Dulce Airport and in Antelope Valley at William J. Fox Airfield, known as Fox Field, which is about five miles northwest of Lancaster.

Right now he has about 10 full-time students, plus some who are part-time, mostly in their 20s or 30s, but ranging in age from 13 to 65.

“You need to be 16 to fly by yourself and 17 to get your flying certificate,” Jackson said.

The young flight instructor is usually up in the air six days a week, with his day beginning at 5 a.m. “The best block for a lesson is usually the morning between 7 and 9 a.m. when the wind hasn’t kicked up yet and it’s not too hot,” he said.

Because of his proximity to Edwards Air Force Base, Jackson often has aerospace engineers taking lessons, and he sometimes gets international students. “I have an Australian student and another from Brazil; plus, I had one from Holland,” he said.

While pilots three or four decades ago were, stereotypically, white males, often in their 60s or 70s, Jackson sees the field becoming more diverse. Only about one-quarter of his students are females, but a number of agencies and associations are working on drawing more women into the industry.

The best candidate for a pilot’s license is “someone who pays a lot of attention to detail,” he explained. “There’s a lot of information you have to take in — looking for other airplanes in the sky, making sure the engine is running right. So if you find yourself going around the house and being OCD about how you clean it, you’re a good candidate.”

But even the most conscientious pilot wannabes have a lot to learn, which is one reason Jackson pays close attention during lessons.

“Usually once a day I’ll have a wakeup call. But, you’ve got to let them make mistakes,” Jackson said. “Every time they’re doing something, maybe coming in to land, I’m making a split-second evaluation, and if it’s not going to break something, I’ll let them do it.”

He would like to become a career professional pilot, and is looking at corporate aviation — flying private jets. But he also wants to continue teaching, because it forces you to study and stay proficient.

“Once they get their first private license, no restrictions, everybody gets complacent, thinks they’re invincible,” he said. “I’ve had a few run-ins with weather. That’s all what experience will teach you.”

The farthest Jackson has flown so far is St. George, Utah and San Francisco. He plans to fly to North Carolina soon, because his student purchased a plane there and needs to pick it up.

The 19-year-old’s bucket list includes a trip to Seattle to fly a float plane. And looking back at his accomplishments for the first 19 years of his life, it isn’t beyond the imagination to expect Chandler Jackson’s future dreams — whatever they are — will someday take flight.

Gilchrist Farm

| Community | June 1, 2017

Local residents who enjoy the Southland’s annual Renaissance Pleasure Faire will be pleased to know they have a new opportunity here in Santa Clarita — and this one is family-friendly.

On Saturday, June 3 from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., new event venue Gilchrist Farm in Saugus is hosting A Summer Faire, where guests will experience life in the Middle Ages — complete with archery, magicians, storytellers and more. There will be two jousting shows — 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. — sponsored by the American Jousting Alliance.

Jim and Monica Gilchrist own the 15-acre property on Bouquet Canyon Road and decided to create something new after they saw the Alliance in action at a Boy Scout event.

“They brought these beautiful, amazing horses and did a live jousting demonstration on horseback,” Monica Gilchrist said. “We thought it would be kind of fun to bring something here, locally, for the public.”

While the ticket price includes most of the fun and games, other activities will be available for purchase at the Summer Faire, including pony rides and a renaissance mercantile with crafts for the kids. There they can create goblets, shields, pendants and other renaissance pieces.

“There will be face painting, fortune telling, those kinds of things,” Monica said.

Every Saturday Gilchrist Farms is open to the public for free from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. There are wagon rides, a petting zoo and demonstrations such as goat milking. Guests get a view of life on the farm, which includes the family’s longtime hobby raising dairy goats.

Since Monica’s childhood, she has lived at Gilchrist Farm off and on. Currently, she, her husband, Jim, and two of their children live there, and her parents live on the property as well. Jim and Monica began boarding horses in 2010, but it has been just over a year since Gilchrist Farm was born as a party venue and public attraction.
“I got laid off from my job in January of 2016,” Monica explained. “After the initial shock, I used it as an opportunity to create a business out of what I absolutely love. It was a natural evolution — doing what we love, doing it full time.”

When Lombardi Ranch closed due to the long-running drought, it fueled a growing desire for a new harvest season destination. The Lombardi family had been hosting its fall festival since 1989, drawing visitors from all over Los Angeles.

Last year’s fall festival at Gilchrist Farm included some of the traditions from Lombardi Ranch, including the chance for non-profit groups to make money selling baked goods.

The Gilchrist family raises Thanksgiving turkeys and custom-fed pork, plus they offer year round horseback riding lessons. When the Summer Faire closes, Gilchrist Farm gets into the busy summer camp season. On July 7 they are holding a Family Campout, inviting families to camp on the property and take advantage of horseback riding and goat milking.

“They’ll bring their own tents,” Monica said. “We’ll do a fun campfire style event, with skits, singing, music and a nature hike. We provide the food.”

You may purchase tickets for the Summer Faire online at Gilchristfarm.com. Pre-sale tickets are $22 for adults and $12 for youth ages 5-14. Groups of 10 or more get $5 off every ticket. At the door tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for youth.

Gilchrist Farm is located at 30116 Bouquet Canyon Road in Saugus. Call 661-645-2517 or visit GilchristFarm.com.

Now Brewing in Castaic

| Community | May 25, 2017

Featuring wingback chairs that contribute to its comfortable atmosphere, It’s A Grind in Castaic offers customers whole bean coffees, espresso drinks, teas, fresh pastries, homemade burritos, newly featured drinks, and menu items such as empanadas, salads and sandwiches.

New owners, Brad and Lea Lanfranco, had been patrons of It’s A Grind for years, walking to the coffee shop from their home in Hasley Hills.

“We had told the previous owner several years ago that if she ever wanted to sell, we were interested,” Brad Lanfranco said.

The couple was thinking of an investment several years down the road, but when the opportunity presented itself earlier than they expected, the Lanfrancos jumped on it.

“I didn’t want to be a Walmart greeter in my retirement,” Lea joked.

While the husband and wife team haven’t given up their day jobs, you can find them in the store daily.

“It was very important for us to preserve the warm, friendly hometown atmosphere,” Lea said.

It’s A Grind is a local, family-run business. The Lanfranco’s daughter Bailey works as a barista, juggling her time between the business, completing her senior year at Hart High School and taking college courses. Brad is a Marine Corps veteran and also works for National Write Your Congressman. Lea works as a communications leader at Intuit. Both of them are eager for the day they can make It’s A Grind a full-time gig.

“We love this business,” said Brad. “We really want this to be the place where people come to get great coffee and food, to relax and socialize.”

Like the bar on “Cheers,” where everyone greeted Norm by name, It’s a Grind has regulars the Lanfrancos see nearly every day.

“We know their cars and their drinks, so when they walk in, the baristas’ goal is to put the drink in their hands when they walk through the door.”

It’s a Grind is located in Hasley Canyon Village at 29641 The Old Road in Castaic; 661-702-9636.

Childcare Center to Close Unexpectedly

| News | May 25, 2017

Families with children at Valencia KinderCare Learning Center got some bad news last week, and with little explanation. Despite many of the parents being pleased with the teachers and curriculum at KinderCare, the Valencia location will close its doors in two weeks.

A statement issued by KinderCare’s corporate office said: “Our Valencia KinderCare Learning Center will close on Friday, June 9. We know our center is a home away from home for children and families and we’re honored to have served Santa Clarita families throughout the years. While change is never easy, our goal is to make the process as smooth as we possibly can for our families. We have two other KinderCare centers in the area — Canyon Country and Granada Hills — and both of those centers have openings for Valencia children.”

The Canyon Country KinderCare director, Iliana Faraldo, said she is prepared to accept new families into her program. When asked why Valencia’s facility is closing, Faraldo said, “I wouldn’t be able to give you specific information on why that center would be closing.”

Staff members at KinderCare’s headquarters in Portland, Ore. were similarly quiet about the situation. According to the communications department at headquarters, several of their centers are closing in a process they referred to as “consolidation.”

Rachel McCarthy, a mother of two children at Valencia KinderCare, said she was shocked at the news.

“The staff doesn’t have the details either. They walked in the day after Mother’s Day and were told. They were getting prepared to kick off summer,” McCarthy said. “Multiple families don’t want this school to close. … We want to fight for it.”

Valencia KinderCare Director Jeni Bromberek would not confirm the date that she and her staff learned their location was closing, but did confirm it was recently. Some of the 17 teachers leaving the Valencia Center will transfer to the Canyon Country location, she said. There are 92 children in the program in Valencia, which Bromberek confirmed was not the maximum capacity. Those families are searching for new sources of care for their kids.

“Our parents are amazing,” Bromberek said. “These parents are so supportive of our staff, and sadness is generally what they’ve been experiencing. But overall, they’ve been incredible.”

Bromberek, who lives in Crescenta Valley, has been employed by KinderCare for just five months and hopes to stay with the company. “My plans are still up in the air,” she said. “I’ve been in education for 25 years. It’s my passion. … I just have to figure out my options.”

McCarthy said that several of the parents had called both district and corporate offices, but couldn’t get an explanation.

“If there’s an issue, how can we fix this?” she asked.

There are 1,370 KinderCare Learning Centers across the country, and almost every one of them are accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children, or NAEYC. According to KinderCare spokesperson Zibby Pillote, fewer than 10 percent of other childcare centers are accredited. The KinderCare Learning Centers have a proprietary curriculum for children as young as 6 weeks old to 12 years old. For the older students, the program offers care before and after school.

McCarthy gives KinderCare glowing reviews. Before she brought her kids to the Valencia center, her 4-year-old son was showing signs of being on the autism spectrum.

“Now my son comes home every day asking about his teacher. He started using full sentences. He went from having limited speech to this,” she explained. “This particular school has the greatest teachers.”

After 12 weeks at the school, McCarthy could remove her son from the Individualized Education Program, or IEP, at school, because he no longer needed the added assistance. KinderCare’s curriculum was working, which is why she’s so perplexed at the news.

“You made magic now, you’ve got the right staffing. This is where you want your kids to go,” McCarthy said. “I actually changed my job to make sure I could keep my kids in this school.”

Pillote, who is a communications associate in the KinderCare corporate office, was unable to shed light on the reason for closing the doors in Valencia, but underscored the message of the press statement released by her office.

“We’re working with each family to help them find the best solution for their child, regardless of whether that’s at a KinderCare center or another provider,” Pillote said. “Our Canyon Country KinderCare is accepting new families and we have already told families at the Valencia center that there’s availability for them there. We also have a center in Granada Hills that we’re directing them to.”

For parents who were pleased with the whole package in Valencia, it’s little consolation.

“Coming here and finding this community — I want to keep my kids here and keep them thriving,” McCarthy said. “It’s impacted my family greatly.”

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