Catch Completion: Wide Receiver Drew Wolitarsky’s Last Season

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | August 3, 2012

Canyon High senior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky has some challenges now and ahead.

The greatest wide receiver in Canyon High history, and maybe the greatest wide receiver in Santa Clarita Valley history, could become statistically the greatest wide receiver in California prep football history.

That’s a challenge.

But there’s another more immediate challenge for the 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound athlete.

From 2011 season

For the first three seasons of Wolitarsky’s high school career, he’s been fortunate enough to have one of the great quarterbacks in program history, Jonathan Jerozal, feeding him the ball. Now Wolitarsky has the adjustment of being thrown to by first-year varsity quarterback Cade Apsay.

“I’ve known Cade for a couple of years because of his brother (former Canyon basketball/football player) Coley. I never thought about him being my quarterback. To be honest, I never really paid attention to (his teams), because when they were playing, we were getting ready to play,” says the 17-year-old receiver.

Because of that unfamiliarity, there is a learning curve. That curve was made greater because of the spring and early summer months.

Wolitarsky was a member of the co-Foothill League championship track and field team during the spring, so he missed out on a lot of football activities. In the early summer months, Wolitarsky was on recruiting visits, so he had to miss some activities, such as passing tournament games.

Yet no one at Canyon High was the least concerned about how well this three-time All-Foothill League receiver would eventually click with Apsay.
“Building chemistry with Cade, they’ve done well,” says Canyon second-year head coach Rich Gutierrez. “It’s definitely going to be an adjustment. Let’s be real. You have a quarterback like Jonathan passing the rock, they know each other so well – they know timing, know what route. He could trust Drew with everything. It will take time, but as we go together, they’ll get stronger.”

The Wolitarsky-Jerozal combination was lethal. In three seasons, Wolitarsky caught 192 passes for 3,869 yards with 39 receiving touchdowns – all Canyon High records. Before the start of the 2012 season, Wolitarsky was 80 receptions and 677 yards away from breaking Taft High graduate Steve Smith’s state records.

Wolitarsky has definitely targeted those marks, and understands that in order to get to those numbers, he must build a strong relationship with his new signal-caller.

“I’m patient,” Wolitarsky says on how he will work with Apsay. “Early in the summer during the break, we got together and practiced on our own. I’m planning on getting together more.”

Apsay has been the successor-in-waiting to Jerozal. He helped lead a 2011 Canyon junior varsity team to a 9-1 mark and a Foothill League title. He understands how he needs to get on the same page with Wolitarsky quickly – not just for personal numbers, but for numbers in the win column. But the junior quarterback also realizes that he can’t put a bunch of pressure on himself.

“At the beginning, I talked to the coaches about varsity and how I had to step up,” Apsay says. “My game’s not where Jonathan’s was. He had Jonathan and he’s probably the best quarterback I’ve seen. I’m not at that caliber yet. I have to get my game up to that.”

Yet there’s hope for Apsay, in that he has a major weapon in Wolitarsky – a player who has phenomenal pass-catching ability and breakaway speed that has made him a terror to defenses. So many of Wolitarsky’s big catches have started off with short-yardage catches on a slant, but ended up long touchdowns as the receiver maneuvered his way past defenses and stepped on the accelerator to break away.

“It’s kind of relaxing and comforting to have him there,” Apsay says. “I think he makes me a lot better. He’s one of those receivers who is consistent. No matter where you put it, he catches it.”

And because of those qualities, he is the top football player in the Santa Clarita Valley coming into the 2012 football season. They’re also qualities that college football coaches love. Through the early part of the summer, Wolitarsky’s scholarship offers numbered in the double digits.

Gutierrez says Wolitarsky is such a danger to other teams that he was told by an opposing coach that a complete portion of their practice is structured on stopping the Canyon senior.

“I think he’s got unlimited ability,” Gutierrez says. “Drew would make me look good at quarterback.”

Canyon is a playoff contender in 2012 and is expected to compete for a Foothill League title. Along the way, if Wolitarsky adjusts to challenges, he could be breaking some significant records.

“Ah man, I can’t wait. I think about it every day,” Wolitarsky says about breaking records. “What route I’m going to run when I break it. I’ve got to stay healthy, but I’m looking forward to it. I don’t know how I’ll feel, but there’s definitely a lot at stake. I want to get good with my quarterback so I can get the yards I need.”

And other things.

“I want to get as many yards as I can, bring home the victories and hopefully win CIF,” he says.


Wheelchair Sports

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living, Spotlight News | July 18, 2012

Group photo from the event

You may recall an article in Santa Clarita Living Magazine from a few years ago about local resident Andrew Skinner.

Andrew, a Canyon High graduate, suffered a spinal cord injury while snowboarding at his family’s Lake Arrowhead home in 2004.

In 2008, Andrew got married, and he and his wife, Kirsten, both wanted to help others with similar circumstances. Out of that desire, Triumph Foundation was born.

The non-profit organization assists people with spinal cord injuries with something as simple as a listening ear, or as major as home modification.

Andrew is my nephew, so, since his injury, I have been around wheelchairs at parties, events and fundraisers…and now I can add sports to that list!

On Memorial Day weekend Triumph held a Wheelchair Sports Clinic at the Santa Clarita Sports Complex. Its purpose was to educate people about what is available to them in regard to adaptive recreational activities.

The clinic, sponsored by the City of Santa Clarita, Koren Communications, Northridge Hospital, Pardee Homes, UCLA Adaptive Recreation, Jersey Mike’s Canyon Country, AMBS Medical Supplies, Mather Photography, Disabled Life Media, KHTS AM 1220, the SCVTV Today Show, and Valley Publications, was an all day event.  How else could you accommodate nearly 50 wheelchair athletes and a couple dozen able-bodied curious people who wanted to attempt to play rugby, basketball, racquetball, or hockey in a wheelchair?

These men and women, young and old, are more active than most anyone I know.

There were many of the usual group – mostly friends of Andrew and Kirsten’s through Triumph and Andrew’s quad rugby team.  They are a fun group and don’t let their disabilities get in the way of anything.  They have positive attitudes and are aggressive athletes.

I also met a number of people who attended the event to give wheelchair sports a try.  One lady is middle-aged and has multiple sclerosis.  Being bound to a wheelchair is not holding her back. She was active before, and planned on remaining active. She thoroughly enjoyed playing and watching.

One young man is an amputee. He lost his leg while serving in the military.  He told me how much he enjoyed being able to play again. He is also a runner, but playing a team sport gave him a new perspective.

There were a couple of adolescents who were celebrities, of sort. It was awesome seeing them have fun and show off their skills.

I met one paraplegic who attended just to watch.  He wasn’t an athlete before his injury and he has no desire to be one now.  He does, however, race motorcycles and cars.

There was one man who was on his first outing since his injury six months ago. Volunteers transferred him into a specialized chair and he was able to play.

I met able-bodied people who were soaked in sweat, sore, exhausted, bruised, blistered, bloodied, and humbled.

In all honesty, it was hard to tell the able-bodied participants from the disabled. It surprised me to see how many people with disabilities live in our valley.

I was happy to meet and converse with people who I one day would have turned away from out of pity or apprehension.  I will no longer view them that way.  I will look at them, talk with them and let them know that I know they are just like me…better than me.

As the day wound down, I was tired. My legs and feet hurt. As I drove away, I broke down and cried.  How could I even complain? I am blessed to be able to stand.  I am blessed to be able to feel pain. I have a healthy body and it all works. I am blessed to have my life touched by people who inspire me.

Triumph Foundation has their largest annual fundraiser, Let ‘Em Roll Casino Night, on July 21 at the Hyatt. If you are interested in attending, sponsoring, or donating to the silent auction, you can contact the Skinners via their website.

For more information about Triumph Foundation, visit www.triumph-foundation.org or on Facebook at Triumph Foundation.


By Janet Yslas

Changes at Hubbadaddy’s

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living | July 17, 2012

The home of After School Rock is creating some new harmonies. Kevin Cloud, founder of Hubbadaddy’s, has sold the rehearsal studio side of the business to Anthony, Peter and Helen Lennon.

Open The Coda, above, is a group that has grown through the After School Rock program.

The Lennon brothers and Peter’s wife Helen are originally from Scotland, but live in Los Angeles now. Helen headed a college level music program overseas. “She is a great singer, performer and educator,” said Cloud. “The brothers run a sound company for concerts in the park up in Mammoth.”

Cloud will maintain the lessons, held Mondays-Wednesdays, and the After School Rock concerts. Though the rehearsal studios are now called Penny Lane, Cloud’s Music Collective will continue as usual.

“The Collective involves great musicians that have come together for the purpose of giving back, and our goal is to teach and give back to the art form,” said Cloud . “I worked a lot to sustain it through… things have been great the last year. I’m getting more offers to play more.”

One reason Cloud is splitting up the business is that his opportunities to perform have steadily increased. Cloud  plays in “Native Son,” a group of successful studio musicians. “It’s an honor to be playing with them,” he said.

Hubbadaddy’s has 60 students in the music collective, which includes students of all ages, kids and adults, and the After School Rock program. “There are a lot of adults who have a desire to play, but there’s no outlet…we have adult students too,” he said.

Cloud and his colleagues also perform at local schools. The newly named Penny Lane Studios will be the site of Hubbadaddy’s summer camps. Kids attend for three hours a day for five days each

Jessica Lynn at Hubbadaddy’s

session. Campers will learn theory, writing, jamming and more.

For information call Kevin Cloud at 818-606-1304 or email info@hubbadaddys.com. To reach Penny Lane call (661) 287-4480.

Local Golfers Invited to 22nd Annual COC Foundation Tourney

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living, Spotlight News | July 16, 2012

In August, local golfers will have an opportunity to help give the gift of education, by getting out of the office and onto the golf course, during the College of the Canyons Foundation’s 22nd Annual Golf Tournament.

Taking place Monday, Aug. 6 at Valencia Country Club, proceeds from this year’s tournament will help support scholarship funds dedicated to COC students who are looking to enter or re-enter the workforce after time spent away from the educational arena, as well as other student support programs at the college.

Included in this group are veterans returning home from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, adult re-entry students looking to complete their education goals and eventually return to the workforce, as well as recently unemployed students who are returning to school in order to help jump-start a new career.

“We are excited to be supporting student scholarships through this year’s tournament,” said Steve Chegwin, chair of the COC Foundation’s golf tournament committee. “Scholarships provide much needed financial support to students in these challenging economic times, and can be especially helpful to single parents, returning veterans and recently unemployed community members trying to balance school with life’s other responsibilities.”

In recent years, the populations of these particular student groups have surged at the college, with 46 veteran students receiving degrees from COC in 2012 — nearly double the number that did so in 2011 (24), and more than triple the mark set in 2010 (14).

Meanwhile, the average age of a COC graduate is 26, which indicates that many of the college’s students are indeed returning to the classroom after spending time pursuing other career and family related endeavors.
According to the COC Financial Aid Office, on average, it costs a full time COC student roughly $2,800 per school year for academic fees, textbooks and supplies. For students who provide for their own room and board, transportation and other personal expenses, the cost of a year of college can top out at more than $11,000, making the price of attending college one of the greatest barriers students will face on their educational journey.
In response, the COC Foundation has continually worked to raise funds — through annual giving, special events and endowment programs — to provide increased educational opportunities for students and community members of all ages.
“In essence, tournament participants will be supporting COC students beyond what public funding will allow,” said Chegwin. “Sometimes just having the knowledge that others believe in them can make all the difference in the world for these students.”

Single player tournament sponsorship opportunities for the Foundation’s 22nd Annual Golf Tournament begin at $350, with each player receiving a continental breakfast, cart and greens fees, driving range privileges, a player’s gift bag, lunch and beverages and participation in the post tournament awards reception.

Other tournament team sponsorship opportunities include the $1,750 “Birdie Sponsor,” which includes four player spots (with all single player benefits), a tee sign and recognition as an event sponsor in all tournament publications.

Tournament participants also have the option of sponsoring a three-man team and filling the final spot in the foursome with a current or former member of College of the Canyons men’s and women’s championship golf teams.

With plenty of opportunities to participate as both a player and sponsor, last year’s tournament featured more than 90 golfers teeing off in the name of education!

Player and sponsorship registration will run through Monday, July 23.

For more information about the College of the Canyons Foundation’s 22nd Annual Golf Tournament or to register as a player/sponsor, contact Michele Edmonson at (661) 362-3435 or Cindy Biehahn at (661) 362-3737.

Senses in Newhall

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living | July 16, 2012

This is what the city of Santa Clarita envisioned with the redevelopment of Old Town Newhall. People flocking to the area en masse to experience food, entertainment, culture and history.

Every Thursday, the city is putting on a street party called “Thursdays at Newhall.” It’s a three-pronged approach to getting the residents of the area to stay local and shop local and is also a way to attract non-residents of the area to get a feel for Old Town Newhall.

“Thursdays at Newhall’s” events are the weekly Farmers’ Market, which is from 4-8 p.m., “Art Walk,” which runs the first Thursday of every month from 4-8 p.m. and features distinctive art, gourmet food trucks, and hands-on art experiences for art enthusiasts of all ages and, finally, “SENSES” is a monthly themed block party that runs the third Thursday of each month from 7-11 p.m. It features bands, food trucks, contests and other entertainment. SENSES is named because the events are themed to appeal to the senses. It’s a block-party atmosphere where Main Street in Old Town Newhall is closed off and people of all ages can enjoy the festivities.

Nearly three years ago, city leaders told Santa Clarita Living Magazine they were dedicated to making Old Town Newhall an entertainment destination.

“The overall goal of Newhall is to bring it back to a vibrant state where it’s the historic jewel it once was,” said Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Laurene Weste back in 2009.

The numbers reveal that the goal was realistic.

Thursdays at Newhall started one year ago and, in that time, the city estimates the events have drawn more than 20,000 people to the area.

In June 2010, the city’s SENSES theme was “beach.” The city estimates 5,000 people attended last year’s beach-themed events, said Heather Leuning, communications specialist for the city of Santa Clarita.

“The best way I can describe SENSES is an atmosphere of excitement,” Leuning says. “It’s almost like a night-life atmosphere on the street. It becomes like a (party) on the street…it’s an environment where we do want to encourage adults to come down there and have a good time in a relaxing environment where you can do something with your neighbors and friends, and you’re doing it in your own backyard, your own city.”

In June, SENSES’ theme was “The ’70s.” Like many themes of the past, the public was encouraged to dress in styles to match. Another unique event was last October’s “zombie” theme, in which the walking dead took over Old Town Newhall. Going further back to last June’s beach theme, sand and water slides were brought in and the music and food trucks also complemented the happenings. This past April, nearly 3,000 people, the City estimates, took part in the “Wild Wild West” theme that coincided with the annual Cowboy Festival.

“At the same time, the events create a great level of excitement for the businesses down there that helps increase foot traffic to the area, that helps with return customers coming back and enjoying the restaurants, the entertainment, the playhouses down there and the shops down there,” Leuning says. “There’s a variety of reasons why these events have been successful and a lot of it is attributed to the partnerships the city has worked with to garner support with the businesses.”

One such business, “Fresh,” a contemporary women’s clothing boutique, has benefited from the events in numerous ways. Fresh owner Madison Schwartz said she has made enough money in one day from a SENSES event to pay for her rent for the month.
“I get tons of new customers. The flow of traffic during SENSES is usually the busiest day of the entire month,” Schwartz says. “Each and every Art Walk and SENSES brings in new crowds of people. There’s always the little extra flow checking out Newhall for the first time.”

That was one of the hopes three years ago. The City wanted the feel of Old Town Newhall and Main Street to be similar to the energy in other areas that draw crowds for their events. It was sort of patterned after Colorado Street in Pasadena or even Third Street in Santa Monica.

“The feeling you get in Newhall, especially on Main Street, is the feeling of going to the west side of Los Angeles, or Main Street in Ventura or Colorado Street in Pasadena,” Schwartz says. “It’s quaint. It’s vintage. It has history and culture. It feels different.”

In August, “Rockabilly” will be the theme. For that Thursday, the public can expect more great entertainment, food trucks and the sort of night life the city hoped for in revitalizing Old Town Newhall.

In a sense, the goals set years ago are very much becoming reality.

Background on OTN:

Nestled a few miles off Interstate 5 and serving as one of the main gateways into the city, Old Town Newhall (OTN) has the unique distinction of being one of the City of Santa Clarita’s most historic communities. Well-known for its rich Western movie heritage and unique cultural charm, the 271-acre area features prominent points of interest, such as William S. Hart Park and mansion and the Walk of Western Stars. Its public facilities include the Newhall Metrolink Station, the historic Veterans Plaza, and the Newhall Community Center.
The area is also home to a five-block, newly remodeled streetscape along Main Street, which features two theaters, dozens of eclectic shops and eateries, and a new 30,000 square-foot public library.

Background on Thursdays @ Newhall:

The City of Santa Clarita, in collaboration with the Old Town Newhall Association, launched a series of events in 2011 to support revitalization efforts in the area. Centered on bringing visitors to Old Town Newhall on a recurring basis, Thursdays @ Newhall includes a variety of exciting monthly events on Main Street that are free and open to the public.

In an effort to transform Old Town Newhall into a thriving Arts and Entertainment District, staff from Arts & Events, Community Services, Communications, and Economic Development collaborated together to design free, monthly, buzz worthy events.

With street festivals, fresh produce, food trucks, art, entertainment, shopping, and dining, Thursdays @ Newhall has become the local hot spot for community members to enjoy an experience unlike anywhere else in Santa Clarita.

Thursdays @ Newhall offerings include:

Farmers’ Market- Home to some of the region’s farm-fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and specialty food items, the Farmers’ Market takes place every Thursday night from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

ArtWalk- This event combines distinctive art, gourmet food trucks, and hands-on art experiences for art enthusiasts of all ages. Art Walk is hosted every first Thursday, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and runs in conjunction with the weekly Farmers’ Market.

SENSES- This monthly themed block party aims to wake the senses, with bands, food trucks, activities and contests. SENSES is hosted every third Thursday, from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and runs in conjunction with the weekly Farmers’ Market. The event name came from the vision of creating a vibrant downtown district where activities elevate attendee’s sense of sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound.

Thursdays @ Newhall Accomplishments:

Events have drawn more than 20,000 people to the area in a year.

Introduced new audiences to local restaurants, theaters and shops

Generated dozens of compliments from businesses along Main Street, where Thursdays @ Newhall is hosted, who are seeing more shoppers and visitors to their pedestrian-friendly downtown area and reporting increased business profits.

The area has also seen an influx of new businesses betting on the success of Old Town Newhall, such as Cake Goodness, Pulchella Winery, Fresh, Labels, and OutWest, among others.

Seeing more shoppers and visitors to their pedestrian-friendly downtown area, and as a result are staying open later during these
one-of-a-kind events.

Contact Information:

Thursdays @ Newhall events, visit Santa-Clarita.com/Arts or contact the City’s Arts and Events Office at (661) 250-3778.

SENSES on Main Street, visit SensesOnMain.com; follow SENSES on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

by Cary Osborne

Just Passing Thru Body Piercing Studio

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | June 14, 2012

By Martha Michael

If you’re over 30, you may not know much about the piercing and tattoo industries. I know I didn’t.

That is why I accompanied my daughter and her friend on a trip to Just Passing Thru, where John Fitterer added a simple stud to the cartilage in Annie’s ear.

She didn’t ask for a triple forward helix piercing…nor teardrop anti-eyebrows…nor dermal finger piercing. Just an earring…(up a little higher than I was used to seeing).

Fitterer, who founded Just Passing Thru, which is located in the same office space as Eternal Art Tattoo, has been working as a full-time body piercing professional for more than 18 years. “I pride my work on the solid foundation of Body Modification training I sought out since my first decision to become a body piercing professional. I do my best to assure my customers receive the best body piercing experience available at affordable prices,” says Fitterer. “I’ve taken personal piercing training from the godfather of the body modification movement, Fakir Musafar, in 1994 and earned my first piercing instructional training from the infamous Body Modification 3D Artist Steve Haworth from Arizona in 1993. I’ve also completed a course in the art of branding from Fakir Musafar in 2005.”

Fitterer has operated JPT in Laguna Beach, Beaumont and Newhall before moving into the Canyon Country location. “I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back in the SCV and working alongside all the world class artistry here at Eternal Art Tattoo,” he says.  “JPT is one of the longest standing piercing only businesses in Southern California.”

Changing and growing is part of the company’s modus operandi, and Fitterer’s most recent endeavor has been to work with Borneo Joe’s Flaming Bones – Precision Handcrafted Organic Body Jewelry. Fitterer seeks to offer “quality piercings at a reasonable price in a one of a kind comfortable, safe, sterile and private atmosphere,” he says. His full service body piercing includes the cost of the jewelry, and most basic piercings are $40.

“It can be very gratifying,” says Fitterer. “People usually arrive at JPT excited and nervous and leave very happy.”

Nostrils, lips, navels, ears and surface piercings are daily procedures, according to Fitterer. But he has seen an increase in the popularity of intricate ear piercing and microdermal anchors. His clients put their faith in Fitterer’s experience and expertise. “One can learn how to do just about anything on YouTube, but as far as body piercing goes, one can learn a million and one ways how to do it WRONG,” he explains. “A true professional learns from years of experience and a solid fundamental knowledge which comes from a legitimate apprenticeship, which is very difficult to come by.”

Fitterer sees drawbacks in some of the other resources out there. “Mall piercings are another story…cartilage piercings should never be done with a piercing gun, and what I’ve seen over the years is people complaining about the placement of piercings done at the mall,” Fitterer says.

For information on aftercare available at Just Passing Thru and for other links, visit www.justpassingthru.com. You can find JPT also at www.facebook.com/JustPassingThruBodyPiercing.

Just Passing Thru is located at 18436 Sierra Hwy (upstairs) in Canyon Country. Call or text John Fitterer to make an appointment and/or discuss piercing possibilities at (661) 496-6900; email: johntheimpaler@hotmail.com.

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