Buying the Pharm

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | December 8, 2012

by Martha Michael

Outside of Total Care Pharmacy

Pharmacist Mahesh Kaneria used to work for big box stores, filling prescriptions for a lot of clients, many not getting the personal attention he feels they deserve. His solution? Open his own independent pharmacy.

Located in the heart of Canyon Country, his new business, Total Care Pharmacy, aims to serve a growing customer base in the east side of the Santa Clarita Valley. “This is a busy community,” said Kaneria, pharmacist and manager of the new establishment. “Though there is a Walgreen’s, CVS and Rite-Aid, this area is still underserved.”

When it comes to performance, Kaneria is making it personal. “I welcome people to come in and sit down and talk about their health and their medications,” he said. “We are a family pharmacy, trying to get to know each patient.”

The advantage to consulting with Kaneria is that local residents can be assured their medications are being looked at altogether, which is an important factor in eliminating problems when a resident has a combination of prescriptions. In addition to meeting with individual patients, Kaneria also performs telephone consultations.

“It is called ‘reconciliation of medications,’” he explained.

Kaneria thinks that new customers will be surprised at the difference between Total Care Pharmacy and their experiences at big box stores. “If they come, they will see the service and how we treat

Inside of the Pharmacy

them,” he explained.

The new business warrants two additional pharmacists to cover Kaneria, plus he employs a pharmacy technician. The 2,100-square-foot shop is located near Chris’ K-9 Clippery, near S & S Donuts in the TJ Maxx shopping center.

The address is 19409 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. Contact Mahesh Kaneria and the staff at Total Care Pharmacy at (661) 250-3800.

Advanced Care Animal Hospital, Old School Personal with Today’s Technology

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | December 6, 2012

By Martha Michael

Dr. Gillen and her staff

Canyon Country pets made a new friend this fall, and the newcomer has state-of-the-art standards. Advanced Care Animal Hospital just opened at Whites Canyon and Soledad Canyon Road in the Ralphs shopping center. This brand new practice offers pet owners the skills of Dr. Amanda Gillen, who is making good use of modern technology.

“Besides the fact that our facility and equipment are state of the art, we aim to practice veterinary medicine to the highest standard possible,” says Dr. Gillen. “We are not a shot clinic, or a low quality spay/neuter factory. We offer everything from hydrotherapy, to ultrasound, advanced surgical procedures, critical care, dentistry, etc.”

While staying on the cutting edge is important to Dr. Gillen, she also plans to integrate the veterinary experience of the past with the advancements of the future. “We want to be ‘old doc,’ but without the shortcuts, and with the knowledge, equipment, and facility to provide top-notch medical care,” she explains.

The office décor is also a blend of features. “State of the art meets Feng Shui. It’s a modern, calm, practice with a distinct female touch. Lots of stainless, and gray with purple accents,” says Dr. Gillen. “We have four examination rooms, two bathrooms, a large treatment area, digital radiology, digital dental radiology, top notch surgical suite, separate dog and cat wards, and an isolation ward and pharmacy. It’s the fruit of over two decades of working in this field, and having been in a lot of practices. I’ve filed away what I liked, what worked, and what didn’t, and brought it all to the table when building Advanced Care Animal Hospital. My contractor has been building veterinary practices for over 30 years, and he was a huge help as well.”

As for the location for the practice, Whites and Soledad has the highest traffic of any intersection in the heart of Canyon Country. Gillen points out that it has the lowest density of veterinary clinics in Santa Clarita and, therefore, the biggest need for a vet.

Outside of the hospital

For now, Dr. Gillen treats dogs, cats and “furry pocket pets.” They do not treat large animals, birds, or reptiles at this point.


The University of California, Davis graduate has experience working in emergency and critical care, but Advanced Care Animal Hospital is not an emergency 24-hour-a-day facility. That would leave Dr. Gillen no time with her family, which includes a husband and three-year-old son. “He gives so much meaning to everything I do. I strive to be the kind of person, and the kind of veterinarian my son thinks I am,” she says. “Besides, he quizzes me on all my cases every night, so I have to make sure I do a great job – ‘What “aminals” did you see? Why were they sick? Did you give them medicine? Are they ok now?’ Talk about pressure to be the best vet that I can be!”

The veterinarian really enjoys challenging medical cases and surgeries. “I deal with patients who cannot speak for themselves, and with people who, while they adore their pets, are not medically trained to notice the things that I notice when I examine their pets,” explains Dr. Gillen. “It’s my privilege to be a voice for that animal, and find out what they cannot tell me themselves. I also enjoy the close relationships I develop with clients through their pets – lots of clients become kind of a second family to me.”

Dr. Gillen is not exaggerating about her priority to know her human clients as well as the furry ones. “I like to hang out in reception and meet clients, and answer questions from time to time. I don’t always wear a lab coat, and I like to interact with people on a less formal level, and get to know them before putting on the ‘doctor’ role,” she says. “It’s fascinating the things that clients will share with the person behind the front desk, that they would never tell me in the exam room, because they may be too embarrassed, or feel awkward.”

Treatment room

The cutting edge veterinarian aims to keep it personal. “Our goal is to become your other family doctor,” she says. “We want to get to know YOU


and your pet. This allows us to personalize and tailor your pet’s care to theirs and your lifestyle. We have found that oftentimes veterinary care becomes an impersonal, volume-driven, cookie-cutter affair. We want people to have a very different experience at Advanced Care Animal Hospital – we want to personalize veterinary medicine again. We want to earn your trust, so that together we can provide your furry family members a happy, healthful, long life.”

Advanced Care Animal Hospital is located at 19406 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. Contact the office at (661) 263-4334 or visit www.advancedcareanimalhospital.com.

Comments Off on Don McMillan From Computers to Comedy

Don McMillan From Computers to Comedy

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | December 6, 2012

by Martha Michael

Don McMillan mixing technology and comedy

An average, everyday 6-foot 5-inch card-carrying PTA member, golf lover, Silicon Valley engineer out of Stanford, married with a kid at Sulphur Springs, stand-up comedian…what?!? (This is where “Sesame Street” would ask, “Which one is not like the others?”).

But it’s true. Canyon Country resident Don McMillan is actually a former engineer, a husband of 16 years to Laura, and father to nine-year-old Garrett, who is a Sulphur Springs fourth-grader, and spends his nights delivering such lines as:
“We moved here from Stevenson Ranch and one thing I’ve noticed is that we have all the same kinds of stores on this side of the valley, just with different names. For example, here we have ‘Canyon Car Wash.’ The other side of the valley has ‘The Auto Spa.’ (Like, on the other side of town your car will be getting a massage with the wash.) Other side of town: ‘Victoria’s Secret.’ Canyon Country: ‘The Fun Zone.’ See what I mean?”

Canyon Country Magazine’s Martha Michael attended two of Don McMillan’s shows, one at Robinson Ranch, a fundraiser for Heads Up Horse Therapy, and the other at J.R.’s Comedy Club at Marie Callender’s in Valencia. She saw how cleverly he marries his engineering background with his passion for comedy by delivering clean, intelligent humor with the use of power point presentation. She probed a little bit more about McMillan by catching up with him recently.

MM: What year did you first begin doing stand-up? What was the catalyst?
DM: I won Star Search in 1993. For those who don’t remember the show, it was hosted by Ed McMahon. It was a precursor to American Idol, but included singers, dancers, comedians, actors, and spokesmodels. The winner in each category received $100,000. Before you ask: that money is all gone – although I still have the huge, fake 6-foot by 3-foot check they gave me.

And more mixing technology and comedy!

I started doing stand-up in 1987 in San Jose, Calif. At the time I was working in Silicon Valley at a company called VLSI Technology. I designed integrated circuit chips and later managed a group of 15 engineers before “retiring” in 1991. As for why I started doing stand-up, my standard answer is, “My boss used to look at my work and ask, ‘Are you some kind of comedian?”” But in truth, I was always a comedy fan and my friends thought I was funny. We were at a local comedy club one night and the emcee mentioned an “Open Mic Night.” A friend said, “You’re funny – you should try it.” To his surprise, I took him seriously. I tried it and immediately loved it. I continued being an engineer by day and comedian by night for four years. I didn’t sleep much in those days.

MM: Where are you from? What did your parents feel about you switching careers?
DM: I grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey – a suburb of Philadelphia. I was one of four children (I have 3 sisters) of Harry and Jane McMillan. My Dad was a mechanical engineer. My mom was a chemist and later a computer systems analyst at a major insurance company. My parents were in shock about my change of careers for many years (especially after earning a master’s degree from Stanford). My dad came around when I won $100,000 on “Star Search.” Mom never fully recovered. She has always hinted about wanting me to return to the high tech world. I think she always wanted me to be the next Albert Einstein, scientist – not the comedian (Albert Brooks’ real name is Albert Lawrence Einstein).

MM: What comedians have influenced you?
DM: I grew up listening to and watching Bill Cosby. I owned three of his albums – back in the days when there were comedy albums. I also loved Steve

Don McMillan

Martin. Starting about age 10, I used to stay up late and watch Johnny Carson every night. I loved Johnny and I particularly enjoyed it when he had comedians on the show. Rodney Dangerfield was great. Steven Wright is fantastic – smart and funny. I dreamed of being on the show with Johnny, but he retired before I had a chance to audition.

MM: What is the most difficult aspect of doing comedy? What do you miss about engineering?
DM: Since I love performing and writing comedy, the hardest part is the business. You have to work hard to book shows, deal with club owners, promote yourself, and build a following. The creative part is a joy. The hardest part of performing is going on stage the very first time. They say that public speaking is the number one fear of most people, so getting up that first time is harrowing. If you tell a joke and no one laughs – you know; the audience knows it; everyone knows it. It’s the worst feeling in the world – that’s why they call it “dying.” Every comedian has experienced it at some point. But you survive, you go on, and the laughs come again.

As far as engineering goes, the only thing I really miss is the people. I loved the folks I worked with. We were a team. There is no “office” that a stand-up comedian goes to every day. In a normal job, you see the people you work with every day. You share their lives; you trade stories; you talk about the news. I miss that camaraderie.

MM: How often does your wife get to see you work?
DM: I could say, “Every day! I am a laugh a minute at home!” But that would be a lie. People always say to my wife, “It must be so fun being married to a comedian,” to which she answers, “You have

At Work

no idea.” Don’t be fooled, people! Most comedians are as boring as anybody else at home. I can be very unfunny (ask my son), especially when I get new technology – I’m a nerd after all! I get grumpy and crabby and sometimes I’m not any fun to be around. No one pays to see that side of me. But my wife and son see it and they still love me. My wife manages to see me perform a few times a year when friends or family come to a show. She’s seen all my “standard” material, so she finds it funniest when I mess up and I’m forced to make something funny out of my mistakes or a heckler or a weird audience member. To tell you the truth, that’s fun for me, too. I’ve always loved doing improv.

MM: Is there anything that’s off-limits for you to use as far as comedy material?
DM: I am considered a clean comedian. I’ve never relied on vulgarity or dirty words or adult situations. I leave that to other comics. I find that clean comedy can be used in so many more situations – why limit myself to only “R-rated” comedy. Plus, the majority of my shows these days are for corporate audiences, so keeping it clean and politically correct is essential. Other than that, I avoid anything TRULY personal about my wife or son. I talk about men and women and relationships in general, but my family’s personal lives are private and I respect that. Also, I never ever joke about the Amish. No particular reason – I just don’t find them funny.

MM: Where are you from? And your family members?
DM: I grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Laura is from St. Louis, MO – Lindbergh High School (everyone in St. Louis says what high school they went to – what is that about?). My son is from my wife – but he was delivered at Henry Mayo in 2003.

MM: Do you like Sulphur Springs? Canyon Country? Why did you relocate?
DM: We love Sulphur Springs. We are Mustangs at heart! Although my son has commented that in four years he has still not smelled the sulphur. We love Canyon Country, especially when the

Don McMillan

thunder echoes down the canyons. That is so cool! I also love the SCHOA (Sand Canyon Homeowner’s Association) e-mails. Every day there’s at least a few stray animals, and occasionally you’ll see a runaway turtle, an escaped parrot, or a lost goat. If you don’t receive the SCHOA e-mails, get on the list. It’s very entertaining. Why did we move here? Saugus would not take us.

MM: What are some of your hobbies?
DM: I am a golfer and I have been so since age 12. I was a member at Robinson Ranch for several years until back surgery slowed me down. I still play once a week or so. I also love to play with technology. I networked our TiVo’s together and added network storage. Now we can watch thousands of hours of television from anywhere in the house – instantly. I am very proud of that!

You can see a Don McMillan power point show for yourself on his website, www.technicallyfunny.com. You will also find his show schedule and learn more about the comedian on the site.

Christmastime Fundraiser for Hoefflin Foundation

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | December 3, 2012

Michael Hoefflin Foundation & Albertsons Join Forces in Fundraiser
Santa Clarita Albertsons locations are hosting barbecues to benefit the MHF for Children’s Cancer.  All proceeds will benefit children with cancer and their families.

In conjunction with this, local Albertsons also will be selling Family Favorites Cookbook: A Collection of Recipes from the Children of the Michael Hoefflin Foundation at three upcoming barbecues. Barbecues will feature music, a raffle, a car show and pictures with Santa. One of MHF’s children will do a cooking demonstration as well.

Barbecue locations and dates are:
Canyon Country        Dec. 8
Valencia (Copper Hill)        Dec. 8
Valencia (The Old Road)    Dec. 15

“We are so grateful that Albertsons is partnering with us during this time of year, when families faced with the devastation of pediatric cancer are still trying to find a way to make the holiday season special,” said Gillian Stone, executive director of MHF. “These upcoming events for the community give people a fun way to make a positive impact on families who need our help.”

Throughout the year, the Foundation helps families in many ways, including providing gas and grocery assistance, support group meetings, and family outings — aid crucial to families dealing with the emotional and unexpected financial burden of cancer.

The Michael Hoefflin Foundation for children’s cancer is a public non-profit 501(c) (3) foundation serving children and families touched by pediatric cancer in the Santa Clarita and surrounding valleys. For more information please contact us at (661) 250-4100 or go to www.MHF.org.

Santa Clarita Carolers
A holiday tradition like many others, Vibe Studios can be counted on to provide professional carolers to neighborhood and corporate parties every year. The mixed quartet can be booked as greeters, strollers or they can do a “spotlight show.” They perform such well-known favorites as “White Christmas” and comedic numbers, like “Grandma’s Killer Fruitcake.” View them and listen to sample music on www.vpasonline.com. You can contact Andrea Vibe to book the group on the same website.

Realistic Holiday Expectations Can Make the Holidays Happier for Everyone

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | December 3, 2012

The family SUV pulls into the drive way. Your Grandpa waves from the front porch. Uncle Joe is trudging toward the car to help unload the suitcases and brightly wrapped packages.

Through the living room window you see a host of other family members laughing and giggling.  You can hear the sound of Christmas carols in the background. The smells of fresh-baked bread and apple cranberry pie are wafting through the front door and suddenly you’re a child again with mouth-watering memories of turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes.

Or holiday traffic was horrific and you’re already two hours late. The kids are fighting in the back seat of the car.  When you finally get there, the driveway is blocked and you end up parking a couple blocks away.

Inside, it seems that your Dad and sister have been celebrating all day and are now sitting in front of the TV surrounded by empty beer bottles.

Chances are, most of our holiday experiences fall somewhere in between. But many of us are longing for that Norman Rockwell Christmas painting holiday experience that typifies what most of us have come to expect as Christmas perfection.  We see this concept played out across television screens and in magazine ads so often that we have come to believe that the perfect holidays do exist.
It’s apparent that no family gathering will ever live up to our ideal expectations, but there are some things we can do to make our holiday celebrations more enjoyable.

First have realistic expectations. Family problems just don’t go away because it is a holiday. Discuss your expectations with all of your family members. Develop family ground rules so that everyone is on their best behavior.

Discuss disagreements. Gunny sacking and holding grudges leads to poor family relationships.  We all know when an argument is about to happen, so we aren’t fooling anybody by trying to ignore it. It is better to say something like, “I think we disagree, let’s talk about it and see what we can work out,” or “How about if we talk about this later when we’ve cooled down,” or even, “Let’s just let things be, this is not worth fighting about.” However we do it, we will be better off dealing with our differences openly and honestly.

Plan to stay for a comfortable length of time. Do not over stay your welcome.  Even in the most congenial families, there is only so much time together we can tolerate. Decide exactly how much time you can handle with your family and plan your visit accordingly.

Accept differences, even when those differences lead to conflict. None of us think the same, act the same, and expect the same.

Our holiday hopes, expectations and plans will always reflect our own unique background, and will always have to be adjusted to take into account the needs and wants of our loved ones and friends.

It may seem obvious, but it’s important to be a considerate guest. Be sensitive to the rules of the homes in which we find ourselves during the holiday.

Paying attention to these guidelines is no guarantee that your holiday celebrations will be perfect, but when put into play; they should help you and your family, have pleasant time together.

Rethink and reframe your holiday expectations. Relax and enjoy the holidays.

Cary Quashen is a certified addiction specialist and the founder and president of the Action Parent & Teen Support Group Programs and the Action Family Counseling Centers. Quashen may be reached at (661) 297-8691.

Five-Year Celebration Has Canyon Country Looking to the Future

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | October 9, 2012

For the crowd of COC staff members, students and community supporters that attended last month’s Canyon Country campus five-year anniversary open house, the opportunity to reflect on the last five years of growth and achievement — and receive a glimpse into what the future of the campus may hold — proved to be altogether entertaining and insightful.

To begin the day’s activities Boy Scouts of America Troop 48 of Canyon Country conducted a pre-event flag raising ceremony, before leading a crowd of COC staff members and student volunteers in the Pledge of Allegiance.

As visitors began to arrive on campus they were met with a day filled with food, music, interactive activities, campus tours and instructional demonstrations, designed to inspire the next class of students to take advantage of all the campus has to offer.

Later in the afternoon, attendees were invited back to the campus’ Carl A. Rasmussen Amphitheater, where COC Chancellor Dr. Dianne Van Hook spoke to audiences about both the history, and future, of the Canyon Country campus.

“In the five short years since we opened this campus, our list of accomplishments and our ability to serve students from a facility in the eastern Santa Clarita Valley is nothing short of amazing,” said Dr. Van Hook.
“Who would have thought we could have achieved so much when we first stood on this property just a few short years ago,” added Van Hook, referencing the land’s rugged terrain, which saw more than 1.3 million cubic yards of dirt repositioned and transformed to form the two-tiered campus site. “Since the day we opened this campus, we have not slowed down one bit.”

Indeed, since the Canyon Country campus opened on Aug. 27, 2007, its facility space has increased by approximately 40 percent, thanks to a series of major campus additions, including:

The Carl A. Rasmussen Amphitheater, site of the college’s bi-annual Star Party events, as well as countless other campus activities.
The Canyon Country Center for Early Childhood Education (ECE).
Eight new laboratories, including lab areas dedicated specifically to anthropology and environmental and biological sciences.
The lower-level Quad 6 classroom village and faculty offices.
The Applied Technology Education Center (ATEC), with approximately 10,000-square-feet of workshop and laboratory space dedicated to the college’s Career Technical Education (CTE) programs.

Combined, those projects have allowed the college to greatly expand its class offerings and meet the growing demand for on-campus student services that comes with increased enrollment.

In fact, since its first day of operation the Canyon Country campus has routinely outpaced its enrollment projections. An estimated 3,400 students attended classes at Canyon Country during the fall 2007 semester, with that number expected to top 5,000 students in fall 2012.

During that same five-year span, the college has offered approximately 3,165 class sections in Canyon Country, serving more than 29,000 different students in the process.

“As I stand here today, I am proud to say that we have no plans to slow down in the future,” Dr. Van Hook said. “Most people don’t realize it, but with the exception of one building, which will house our culinary arts program, the Valencia campus is completely built out. That means that the future of College of the Canyons is right here at the Canyon Country campus.”

Among the facilities scheduled for future construction at the campus are a new 21,000-square-foot science building, a 34,000-square-foot student resource center and classroom building, and a second 21,000 square-foot instructional building.

Though state officials have already approved the future construction of these projects, continued uncertainty surrounding the state budget situation has forced the college to halt its construction timeline until the state is able to fund their portion of the project.

“The good news is, we already have our share of the funds needed to build these facilities,” said Dr. Van Hook, referring to the college’s Measure M bond money that local voters approved in November 2006, “As we move toward the next five years, we will continue to build a strong foundation and unlimited future at the Canyon Country campus.”

Health Program Where Losing is Winning

| Canyon Country Magazine | October 5, 2012

by Jaci Hoffman

It’s a concept that makes pure sense: If employees feel good and stay healthy, they will be more productive at work and take fewer sick days. Some large employers, like The Walt Disney Company and Providence St. Joseph in Burbank and Parsons in Pasadena, have caught on to this notion.

Other companies have become inspired by such programs, which recently made a Canyon Country woman a big winner. Denise Acossano, executive assistant at Forrest Machining Inc. in Santa Clarita, was crowned the “Biggest Winner” of a three-month competition this summer after losing nearly 30 pounds. Her husband also followed the program and lost 27 pounds.

Forrest Machining recently took on a bold health-related initiative. The 180-plus employees were offered a chance to complete a 12-week lifestyle modification program aimed at educating and empowering them to make the right choices to get lean and strong for a lifetime. Seventeen employees, plus many spouses, finished the program, where participants lost up to 40 pounds, learned to eat better, and gained a whole new outlook on life. Anxious to make a lifestyle change, Denise Acossano had already lost 10 pounds before the program even started by changing her eating habits at the advice of the program leader.

“This program rejuvenated our relationship. We feel younger. We look better. We ride our Harleys, and enjoy our pool and the great outdoors on the weekend,” said Acossano. “When we were overweight, we didn’t feel like doing those things.”

Dr. Roger De Sesa, a wellness chiropractic practitioner in Valencia, has typically only offered the Biggest Winner program through his business. Local resident Hector Davis, a previous winner who went on to lose a total of 100 pounds, has become an icon for the program. His co-workers at Forrest Machining were astounded at his transformation. For different reasons, many of them began seeing Dr. De Sesa and soon the idea for bringing the Biggest Winner program to the company was proposed.

Both general manager Steve Wooten and CEO Robert Butler thought the Biggest Winner program sounded like a good thing. Forrest Machining offered to pay half of the employees’ fees plus let employees take the remaining payment weekly from their paychecks instead of paying all at once. In addition, lunch time was extended to allow employees to partake in the meetings.

Dr. Roger De Sesa (middle) shares a moment with Valencia-based Forrest Machining employee Denise Acossano and CEO Robert Butler. Acossano and Butler recently completed a company-sponsored lifestyle modification program that improved their health.
Photo by Jaci Hoffman

After suffering from a bad hip for six to eight months, Butler himself lost 40 pounds during the Biggest Winner. The hip pain disappeared, and he witnessed a lot of camaraderie with the employees who participated.

“The company took the time to set up the meetings at our workplace and to care about our health,” said participant and Arleta resident Gracie Dominguez. “I am very thankful. I feel better and work better.  It’s a win-win situation.”

During the course of 12 weeks, De Sesa visited the worksite to make presentations, coach, and answer questions. The participants began with a three-week cleanse and focused on getting into an exercise routine, eating nutritious foods, and keeping a good mindset.
“We start with power thinking. Participants will learn effective affirmations, visualizations and goal-setting that will pave the way to success in the program. We address emotional eating, stress eating and how to overcome the blocks to success,” said De Sesa.

Along with the 17 pounds she lost, Dominguez no longer suffers from digestive issues, which had plagued her for 12 years. Her husband and kids (ages 13, 17 and 21) have benefited as well.

“Initially, the program seemed too good to be true.  Yet, Dr. De Sesa was very down-to-earth and easy to talk to. He asked me to just give the program a chance,” Dominguez said. “It really changed my overall thinking about how people eat. Your body is your temple and you need to take care of it.”

Every year, Dominguez completes a 5K walk in September. Only one child has previously joined her at the event.

“This year the whole family wants to join me,” she said. “That’s really exciting.”

Canyon Pet Center – Now Open!

| Canyon Country Magazine | October 4, 2012

by Martha Michael

If you hear a few more squawks, meows and bow wows lately, it could be one of Canyon Country’s latest newcomers. Karen Henderson, with the help of her family members, opened Canyon Pet Center last month, bringing 38 years of experience in the pet industry to meet the needs of local pet owners.

Family is an important component, said Henderson. Her two daughters assist her in the store, as well as her mother, and her knowledgeable staff. Canyon Pet Center’s motto is “Pets are family too.”

“We want to make sure that everyone who walks in the door will be treated properly,” said Henderson. “We have so many ideas for things…and quality advice.”

Henderson opened the business in Canyon Country because she left the San Fernando Valley and moved to a five-acre property in Agua Dulce earlier this year. They chose the shop in the Canyon Country Plaza because “we heard that Pet Adventure was going out of business, and also it’s a very good location,” she said. “This is a great community, so we wanted to bring something better back to this area.”

Expect the store to look different than the previous store. It had a large room of fish in the back, which is now filled with horse supplies. In fact, the décor in the shop has a Western theme, complete with blue and brown shirts for the employees. “It’s very clean and well organized,” she said. “We get them what they need at the best price. We carry a wide variety of reptiles also, which is unique in this valley.”

Henderson makes a point to explain that many of the products they carry are not available in the big box stores. “We have quality staff here and we have very good prices. We carry professional products, and healthier pet food options than what you would find at Walmart,” she said.

Henderson is looking into offering animal adoptions also. “We would work with a few agencies that do dog and cat, and possibly rabbit rescues,” she said. “We believe in rescuing animals rather than buying them from breeders.”

The business owner herself has six horses, dogs, cats, birds and reptiles at home. “That’s why we had to open our own store,” she joked. “We pride ourselves on our customer service. It’s very customer-based.”

Canyon Pet Center is located at 19154 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. Contact the store at (661) 250-7356. Canyonpetcenter@gmail.com


Has Canyon Country Got a Ghost Town?

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | October 1, 2012

by Martha Michael

Empty stores in the Vons Center at Soledad near Sand Canyon

The vast majority of local businesses in the Sand Canyon Shopping Center have walked out the proverbial saloon doors and hit the trail. Eden Salon? Gone. Dilemma Clothing? Gone. Laura’s Beauty Supply? Gone.

But they are not gone from the Canyon Country landscape altogether – they just moved. Have they found greener pastures? The collective sentiment from business owners who talked to Canyon Country Magazine seems to be something like, “Compared to life with Safeway, everything is great.”

“We are exceedingly happy to be out of the Sand Canyon Shopping Center and into our new place. It was difficult at first, as we were at the old location for 26 years and we really wanted to stay there. It turned out to be a real blessing, however, as our new place is so much nicer,” said Dr. Phil Eddy, whose chiropractic office moved a few miles west to the corner of Soledad Canyon Road and Hidaway Avenue.

Safeway Corporation bought the Sand Canyon Center and raised rents by 30 percent, say former tenants. In addition to alarming most of the business owners, a bigger collective complaint was the inaccessibility and dismissive attitudes of Safeway representatives.
“It wasn’t until the shopping center was in an uproar and panic and bombarded their office with phone calls after the first articles came out in the paper that (the new owners) started to meet with the tenants,” explained Sandi Thomas, owner of Eden Hair Salon, now moved to the Soledad Entertainment Center on Soledad Canyon Road, and operating under its new name: Studio Bijoux. “I actually had heard they met with quite a few (tenants) and I wasn’t included, so I called them to set something up. The meeting was a joke! Filled with lies. The biggest was when I asked about our rent increase…the response was, ‘We didn’t know that we were raising your rent. We are going by the lease agreement you had with the previous owner.’ I said that was not the amount I had been paying…I was told to fax over the lease, and nobody ever called me to discuss the issue. I actually called them two weeks later…I ended up speaking with their attorney…and I was asked, ‘Did you get that in writing?’  The attorney then told me that the increase was because my rent hadn’t been increased in three years. Well? Which was the truth?! So, at that point it became very easy to leave the shopping center.”

Studio Bijoux’s talented staff

Another remark by a corporate official during a meeting validated Thomas’ decision, she said. “They told us that the shopping center was going to be absolutely beautiful. Then I said, ‘Yes, I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful, and it will also be empty because of what they are doing to us.’ He said, ‘That’s okay, we are Safeway. We have a lot of money.’  That just disgusted me.”

Other former tenants have underscored Thomas’ opinion, including Neil Wachs Of Laura’s Beauty Salon, who was one of the first businesses to move to another part of Canyon Country. “The ex-landlords left a sour taste in eveyone’s mouth,” said Wachs. “All of the businesses could have still been there and allowed us more time to move, but that didn’t happen and you move on. I am building my business back up. While it’s been a challenge, at least I know that I am here for the long run. Sometimes decisions are  made for you and it doesn’t seem fair, but you face the

challenge and deal with it. My customers have been loyal, and for that I can’t express how thankful I am.”

Cathy Stevens, owner of Dilemma Clothing, has seen support from existing customers also. Her store has relocated to the Albertson’s shopping center in Canyon Country. “It’s been four months since I’ve moved…I am happy with my decision. Thank goodness for the new customers who have come

in, and to my loyal customers who have followed me.  Business has definitely slowed down – but I am surviving and still love what I do. I hope to service Canyon Country for many more years.”

The staff at Studio Bijoux has also had a few months to get settled near the Edwards Theatre. “The people that I have dealt with at my new location have been such a pleasure to work with! Leeann, the leasing agent, is just wonderful. They are definitely more personal than the big Safeway Corporation,” said Thomas. “The unfair treatment of the Sand Canyon Shopping Center that eventually caused the salon to be relocated has turned out to be wonderful. I am very happy with our new location in the Edwards Theatre shopping center. It is a new beginning for us, new location, new look, new name. Bijoux means ‘jewels,’ and the new look has been described to me as ‘Hollywood chic’ and ‘very comfortable.’ All of my talented staff has moved to the new location and we also added a couple of new girls to our salon family.”

Drs. Chris and Phil Eddy

Chiropractors Phil and Chris Eddy have not only moved into a newly remodeled building, they lost no time marketing their new location. “We let all of our current patients know that we moved by e-mail or post cards, which has worked well,” said Phil Eddy. “They all really like the new location and how it is decorated…they say it is relaxing and like home. Word of mouth has also helped people become aware of our new location.”

There are still some of the original businesses in the center. Some have plans to stay, such as Mail ‘N’ More and Golden Wok, while others are undecided. My Video Store/My Barber Shop decided to close its doors. “We’re liquidating our store and we’ll close and be gone,” said Jean Waite, who owns My Video Store with her husband, Curt. “Increasing taxes, rent…(Safeway) has been very difficult…they don’t answer phone calls they don’t answer emails.”

Who saw it coming? Phil Eddy called it.

“What we hear from others that are still there is that Safeway continues to be difficult to deal with and more and more are moving out,” he said. “My prediction from a previous interview, that it would be a ghost town, has happened.”


| Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | September 24, 2012

By Linda Vanek

The Schoolhouse

Rising unexpectedly from among the fertile orange groves on Highway 126 near Santa Paula, the “Little Red Schoolhouse” stands as a beacon of yesteryear, while continuing to educate the leaders of tomorrow. The wide and welcoming front porch of Santa Clara Elementary School has invited students through its doors since 1896.

A significant bond connects the parents who developed the school district in 1879 and the families of subsequent generations. They all wanted a quality education for their children and worked hard to provide the finest available. This is not a small town school that lives in the past. It’s a progressive school with current teaching methods that is housed in history. Imagine a school where a complete grade can fit around one table. The rare discipline problem is solved by a call to the parents. Students participate in art, music and perform in an end-of-the-year play and, not surprisingly, the API ranking is at the top of the chart. Santa Clara is that school today.

The current school campus combines the nostalgic beauty of the Historic Landmark schoolhouse with the needs of those in its classroom today. Students from over 100 years ago would recognize the peal of the bell that called them to school, but the copier in the foyer and computers in the classroom would be a surprise.  Inside the red and white school building is a spacious, light and airy classroom that spans the width and about two-thirds of the depth of the building. Originally up to 65 students from eight grades were taught in the classroom. Today it houses kindergarten and first grade and is the room that the current school population of 55 students congregates for assemblies. Two portables were added in 1997 and they house grades 2-6.

A fascinating history is available on the website (www.scesd.k12.ca.us)  written by Mary Alice Orcutt Henderson and Myrtle Dudley. The farmers who settled in the area developed and opened a simple wooden structure in the fall of 1879 with a teacher who earned $60 per month and taught 35 students. The basic subjects were reading, spelling, writing and arithmetic. The students sat on wooden benches and faced a wall when they studied, and the teacher when they recited. There wasn’t a playground until the students cleared the cactus and sage around the school.

The second building was a definite upgrade, with desks, blackboards and a nearby crumbling adobe ruin for imaginative play that was thought to be the home of one of Leo Carillo’s ancestors. One of the early, excellent teachers died in a tragic accident. After successfully evacuating the school, her long skirts caught on fire as she helped fight a nearby brush fire caused by sparks from a train. She died from her burns 12 days later. Hazards such as this were commonplace in the early days.

The school bell

Even in 1895 there were bond campaigns to build schools. The men, who were the only people at the time with the right to vote, agreed 12 to 6 to spend $3,000 to buy land and build a school. Another vote placed the school in its current location.  According to Henderson in her 1974 history, a recent renovation had cost $85,000.

While maintaining the red school house building is important, quality education is the reason that parents choose to send their children to the school. “It’s about the whole child,” comments Kari Skidmore, who wears many hats as the superintendent designee, principal and K-1 teacher. “They’re all our kids. We know every student.” The three teachers are able to discuss the needs of each child and provide intervention immediately when necessary. “The parents are supportive,” says Skidmore. “It’s a partnership. It’s like a family where everyone feels accountability for the student’s learning.”

Liberally praising the dedication and excellence of the school staff, Skidmore commends the teaching staff. “They are masters at classroom management and rotating classes,” she said.  Each grade has between 6-10 students. Two instructional aides facilitate the small group work and the county provides speech and language support, as well as vision and hearing screening. The secretary is a multi-tasker who is able to complete her work while enjoying the progress of a second grade reader. The part-time custodian maintains the school campus that includes everything that larger schools have, including a baseball field, basketball court and playgrounds. There is no need for today’s students to clear away cactus to participate in the SPARKS physical education program.

The active Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) provides funds for many of the arts available at the school. There is a tone time choir, a weekly art teacher and a drama coach and choreographer. Each year the students perform a family-friendly play, such as “The Wizard of Oz” or “Peter Pan” on a stage in a nearby school. The School Site Council serves as an advisory board for categorical programs and a parent questionnaire provides input for the direction that the school takes. Year end learning labs have been created for parents to share their passion for subjects such as gardening, guitar, chess, Spanish, cake decorating and knitting with the students.

At the end of each year there is a whole school field trip to a surprise location.  Last year the excited students visited the Long Beach Aquarium. The students enter the county spelling bee, science fair and track meet, and hot lunches are provided. There’s a student of the month assembly showcasing specific character traits, and Barnes and Noble gift cards are given to students who reach the 100 point club in the computerized Accelerated Reader program. The sixth graders even created a yearbook to commemorate the school year.

As a district of choice, Santa Clara can accept students from other schools, but it’s difficult to get into the school. The 20 students currently in the district boundaries have first priority. Then siblings of current students are able to fill empty places in each grade. Finally, the students on the waiting list are entered into a lottery drawing at a board meeting for any remaining openings. According to Skidmore, students typically need to start in Kindergarten because upper grade students don’t leave.

Returning students fondly remember the George Washington portrait in the assembly room that benevolently has watched the growth and education of each generation of students. In fact, there are current students who have grandparents who attended the “Little Red School House.” In the Ventura Free Press on August 28, 1896, the opening of the new school was announced. “It is one of the prettiest and most convenient buildings in the county and is a credit to the citizens of the district,” said the article.

School Porch

It is still a credit to the citizens and children, one hundred and sixteen years later.

Santa Clara Elementary School
20030 E. Telegraph Road
Santa Paula, CA 93060

Gardens of Paradise

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | August 17, 2012

Gardens of Paradise is a beautifully planned venue in Agua Dulce that specializes in weddings, corporate events, and private affairs. It’s also listed in the City of Santa Clarita Film Office’s library of filming locations. Echoes of the 91-acre venue’s history include an RV park setting with RV hook-ups and picnic areas, a two-story ranch house, and rustic storefront facades. “We remember delivering a cake there when there wasn’t much more there than bales of hay,” says Jill Phillips Cox of Jill’s Cake Creations. That was then.

Today the site includes extensive design and updates to cater to a variety of affairs. Describing the facility conjures up words a bride-to-be wants to hear: lush gardens, romantic walkways, beautiful water features, sunset ceremonies. Of course, those planning a wedding—or a corporate picnic, teambuilding event, or festive gala—also love hearing about: GOP’s ability to coordinate all the details, a professional event coordinator, flexibility, all just a short drive from greater Los Angeles—and an even shorter drive from Santa Clarita.

Wedding Wonderland
Gardens of Paradise offers several venues within a venue against beautiful backdrops from rustic and country-like to romantic and modern. Flexibility is the word for The Meadow, a wide-open space for the nature-lover, which can be configured in a variety of ways, including for smaller tented events. The Rose Garden accommodates up to 200 guests in an intimate garden setting with a wonderful white gazebo at the end of a lush, grassy aisle. At night the mature trees in this area sparkle with lights, offering a magical setting. Surround yourself with your guests (as many as 300 of them) and a sparkling pond in a more modern setting on Paradise Island. For this site, a large, round “island” is encircled by a walkway and comfortable seating area, with the option of dramatic lighting for nighttime happenings. Or invite all of your friends (and their friends and some of their friends, too) for an event in the Grand Marquee Ballroom. This 10,000-square-foot “tent” is transformed with custom lighting, lush draped fabrics, beautifully appointed tables, and a gleaming dance floor. Fill that space with approximately 600 of your closest friends, and you’ll be making lifetime memories.

Yoti Telio of Santa Clarita Photo Studio has many years of experience capturing memories just like that. He photographs, participates in, and has had a hand in planning innumerable weddings and special events in the SCV. “I wish them all the best and I hope they do really well. It looks pretty nice!” Telio goes on to share his realistic observations. “The bride of 2012 is not the bride of 2006. She is looking for value in this economy, so if a venue is well-priced and can accommodate the client’s needs, then it’s a winner.” Telio points out that there are now more do-it-yourself aspects of many events. “These days, everyone who has a cell phone [thinks he] is a photographer. But there’s more to it than pressing a button. It takes a professional photographer to group and pose people in complimentary ways. Someone has a big nose, flabby arms, a double chin, big hips, no hips…a professional knows how to place and light people in the best way — so that the person’s real inner light shows through in a photo.”

It’s that kind of specialized expertise that brides and other event planners are seeking today. Whether it’s Gardens of Paradise’s private bridal suite or their professional experience in lighting, entertainment, and catering, today’s consumers look for the best possible service. And, while these elements are all offered by Gardens of Paradise, they also allow outside catering and they work with each client for a specialized event. When you ask around town about Gardens of Paradise, Carmen Russo’s name is mentioned. She’s the event coordinator there, and she’s developed a reputation of being on top of things, flexible, and willing to do what it takes to satisfy her clients.

Corporate and Private Events, Too
But, it’s not all flowers and horse-drawn carriages at Gardens of Paradise. Other events can be planned with a variety of food and features. They offer rides, traditional picnic and carnival games, giant inflatables, specialty foods like cotton candy, ice cream and kettle corn. Velcro walls, clowns, sand art, a tattoo booth, dunk tanks, and even miniature golf are all options available for a corporate event, family reunion, fundraiser, birthday party, or Quinceanera—or any other event that can be imagined. They even offer teambuilding events, just in case you and your employees or coworkers are in need of a day of group problem-solving and trust-falls.

It’s all available just a little more than 10 miles north of Canyon Country, off the 14 freeway, and in the shadow of Vasquez Rocks, in a place you might never imagine in the middle of our Southern California desert. They say, “We make it stunning. You make it significant,” at Gardens of Paradise.
Gardens of Paradise
Email: info@gardensofparadise.com
Carmen Russo, Event Cordinator
Email: carmen@gardensofparadise.com
Deborah Howton, Event Cordinator
Email: deborah@gardensofparadise.com

Jill’s Cake Creations
Email: cake@jillscakecreations.com

Santa Clarita Photographic Studio

City of Santa Clarita Film Office

By De Jenkins

Sierra Palms

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | August 16, 2012

It’s a small, unassuming adobe down Sierra Highway, far from the busiest intersections of Soledad Canyon. Many of us zoom past it, on our way to errands or Little League or home. But the food at this little establishment seems to pack a memorable punch…one that gets it rave reviews from guests.

“I am so excited about the new restaurant that recently opened up on Sierra Highway in Canyon Country!” exclaims local resident Krissy Ball, who admits she is partly enthusiastic because it is walking distance from her house. “My family took me there for Mother’s Day brunch. I have also been there a few times for lunch. The food is absolutely fabulous!”

Though owner Nancy Fahlstrom operates her restaurant in this unassuming little building, she brings 50 years of restaurant experience with her – from Sweden, Canada, and then the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys. “It just seemed like a great place,” Fahlstrom says of the location.

The new Canyon Country eatery opened around March, and is only open for breakfast and lunch for now. Securing the liquor license, which is a work in progress right now, will mean adding dinner to its schedule.

The continental cuisine at Sierra Palms is served up with a relaxed mood, according to reports from customers. “I especially like the atmosphere of the restaurant – it is tastefully decorated and very cozy,” says Ball. “The Palms is 100 percent nicer inside than it was before. I would compare this restaurant to the Egg Plantation in Newhall.”

Reviews for Sierra Palms on Yelp.com tend to show four or five stars, which is very, very favorable. ”I had the California Club Wrap both times I went there for lunch. Yummy stuff. Their coffee is excellent! “

Fahlstrom’s goals are very simple. “I am hoping to increase the business & open for dinner in the very near future,” she says.
They are open Tuesday-Saturday 8 am-3 pm…Sunday 9 am-3 pm with a brunch buffet. Look for their new dinner hours in the next couple of weeks, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Closed Mondays. Sierra Palms is located at 16653 Sierra Highway, and is about two blocks southwest of Sand Canyon; 661-250-1400.

Doctors Express

| Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | August 16, 2012

Canyon Country now has its own urgent care center, thanks to the arrival of national franchise Doctors Express. Like the name implies, the center aims to add convenience and speed to medical services for local residents. And the goal becomes even more plausible with a man at the helm who has experienced the structure of the military.

Santa Clarita physician, Dr. Paolo Hernandez, serves as medical director, overseeing all of the day-to-day medical operations of the center. He teamed up with former business executives Curtis and Lupe Hafner to open and operate the new urgent care facility, with an aim to excel at patient service. Dr. Hernandez is Board Certified in Family Medicine and proudly served in the U.S. military from 2003-2007. He deployed to Iraq and later to Afghanistan, where he provided medical support and worked as a physician mentor to help open a brand new hospital for the Afghan police. Dr. Hernandez has also worked in a variety of venues, gaining experience in Emergency Medicine.

“We are truly excited to serve the community that we live in,” says Dr. Hernandez. He adds, “We look forward to working closely with local physicians, should they need us during our extended hours.”

The state-of-the art, walk-in medical center opened last month on Soledad Canyon Road and Hidaway Avenue. The immediacy of service is what sets Doctors Express apart from other medical options. The walk-in center seeks to offer a consistent, broad range of treatment and services on the spot. With an average wait time of 15-20 minutes, along with on-site X-Ray and laboratory facilities, treatment is expected to be much quicker than most other urgent cares. In addition to common ailments, such as strep throat and broken bones, the center will also provide occupational health services, such as pre-employment physicals, employer drug testing, employer workers’ compensation assessment and treatment, as well as regular sports physicals.

The benefit of a national franchise is that the local Doctors Express has access to tested methods of the best administrative practices at other Doctors Express facilities, and the business can leverage its size to keep prices lower for local consumers.

About Doctors Express:
Doctors Express was founded in Baltimore in 2006 by Dr. Scott Burger, an emergency room physician, seeking a more efficient, affordable and personable system of care for urgent care patients. Doctors Express walk-in medical centers are growing, having become America’s first nationally branded urgent care centers.

It is estimated that over 20 percent of patients treated in the emergency room could be seen at an urgent care center with significantly shorter wait times, comparable treatment at much less cost. Unlike other urgent care centers, at Doctors Express a patient will always be seen by a Board Certified Physician. Doctors Express provides state-of-the-art treatment for acute illness, trauma and sports injuries (including minor surgical procedures) and has on-site laboratory, digital X-Ray and prescription services. Visitwww.DoctorsExpress.com.

Local woman to marry

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | August 16, 2012

Brianna Saylor and Tyler Scurti will marry Saturday, August 18 at the Mural Room in the Santa Barbara Courthouse. The beautiful old Spanish style room will be complemented by the bride’s wedding dress, which was made in Spain, accompanied by an eight-foot long cathedral veil. The reception will immediately follow at the Santa Barbara Hyatt. Brianna’s Maid of Honor is local resident Kelly Jester, and the best man is Nick Ramos of San Jose.

Tyler and Brianna met at the groom’s boot camp graduation from the United States Coast Guard two years ago. Brianna was in attendance because her brother, Michael Saylor, was also a graduate. She was living in Hawaii at the time and they only met briefly at the end of the ceremony. Eight months of corresponding via text and Skype led to their engagement in Hawaii, when Tyler proposed on a stormy day on the beach of Waikiki.

Eventually they moved back to Santa Clarita, where Brianna is a web content developer for Scorpion Design in Valencia, and Tyler is currently a Reservist for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Brianna was born to Steve and Denise Saylor and raised in Santa Clarita. She has two brothers, Jonathan Saylor and Michael Saylor, now a U.S. Coast Guard Airman. Tyler was raised in San Jose, Calif. His parents are Stuart Scurti and Toni Scurti. Tyler has two brothers, Ryan and Troy, and two sisters, Sarena and Nicole.

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.


Canyon Country Campus Five-Year Anniversary Just Around the Corner

| Canyon Country Magazine | June 15, 2012

Officials at the college’s Canyon Country campus are ramping up for what should be a busy summer session and upcoming fall semester, highlighted by a communitywide celebration to commemorate the campus five-year anniversary this fall.

“Fueled by innovative facilities such as the Applied Technology Education Center, an active student life, bustling classrooms and a beautiful natural setting, this campus continues to thrive,” said Ryan Theule, acting Dean of the Canyon Country campus. “Our five year anniversary celebration will be a wonderful chance for us to commemorate all that has been accomplished in that time, along with the continued opportunities available to students at COC.”

When the Canyon Country campus first opened in the early morning hours of Aug. 27, 2007, COC officially became a college on two campuses, but with one mission — to increase access to education for students of all ages.

From that moment forward, the Canyon Country campus has continued to grow and develop, surpassing all of its early enrollment projections and attracting a wide rage of community support for its ever-growing roster of annual campus events and activities.

Despite early projections that the campus would attract between 1,500 and 2,000 students in its first semester, more than 3,000 students were served at the new location in fall 2007 alone.

Today, the Canyon Country campus serves more than 10,000 students each academic year, with a record high 77 percent of the college’s 2012 graduating class having taken at least one class at the campus.

And with a growing number of new academic programs being introduced at the Canyon Country campus — thanks to the opening of the Applied Technology Education Center in 2011 — the number of students attending the campus each year should continue to rise.

“We are extremely pleased that the Canyon Country campus has become part of the path students are taking to achieve their goals and realize their dreams,” said Theule.

In fact, community members who haven’t had an opportunity to visit the campus lately might be surprised to see how much things have changed!

From new buildings and academic programs, to an increased amount of campus events and activities (Job Fair, Star Party and Native Garden lecture series in the last month alone) the Canyon Country campus continues to find new ways to serve and embrace the community.

“This community has been extremely supportive of the Canyon Country campus over the last five years,” added Theule. “Much of our success could not have been attained without that support.”

The campus also recently opened a new community gardening area, located below the main administration quad, with plans to host a variety of upcoming gardening themed events and activities — making the Canyon Country campus a popular destination this spring and summer!

In early fall 2012, the Canyon Country campus will also host a communitywide celebration to officially commemorate the five-year anniversary of the campus.

While event details are still being coordinated, the day is expected to include a mixture of live music, refreshments, campus tours, faculty and student demonstrations and arts activities.

“The fall 2012 semester will mark a very exciting time in the Canyon Country campus’ history,” Theule said. “Stay tuned for exciting updates to follow.”

For more information about the College of the Canyons Canyon Country campus or the upcoming fifth anniversary celebration please visit www.canyoncountrycampus.com.

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.

Sand Canyon Shopping Center – After-shocks

| Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | June 4, 2012

It’s kind of like someone took a very deep, long breath and sent the dandelion fluff of Sand Canyon Shopping Center soaring through the air. Or, the center’s businesses made up one of those enormous multi-opening bubble wands, and a strong arm whisked the wand through the air, bubbles floating every which way. And some might say it’s really more like an earthquake centered at the corner of Soledad and Sand Canyon Roads, hurtling the smaller businesses located there all over Canyon Country—or into oblivion.

Laura's new location

We have reported twice now on the changes occurring at the Sand Canyon Shopping Center (SCSC). Once the property was purchased by Safeway (owner of Vons), it didn’t take long for changes to begin.  Safeway plans to renovate the center and the aged Vons, which includes expanding the store’s footprint, using the space to the west of its current location. (That’s to the right of the store as you’re looking at it from the parking lot, over to the “L” in the center, where the chiropractic office is located). Rents and CAM fees (common area maintenance) were already significantly increased, though no repairs or renovations have begun.  It is believed that Safeway intends to begin renovations in the spring of 2013.

In the meantime, some businesses have been asked to relocate to accommodate the Vons expansion. Many of the business owners have responded to the changes by vacating the center completely, including several that have been in the same location for decades.

Debbie’s Hallmark is gone.* “It just seems like you can’t negotiate with [Safeway],” said chiropractor Dr. Phil Eddy. “We heard that they wouldn’t even talk to the Hallmark store’s lawyer.”
Eddy and other business owners at the center say the new owners don’t provide a lot of information and that, in some cases, they’ve provided completely inaccurate information or contradicted what was previously conveyed.  “It’s all rumor, and I don’t know why they’re not up-front in their communications with us,” he offered.

Eddy went on to report that his business will move by approximately July 1 to a building being renovated at 19040 Soledad Canyon Road. The building, which most recently housed a home décor store, is being remodeled for mixed office and medical space. “We already met a couple of the doctors who will occupy the Doctors Express office, and they’re excited” about the new arrangements. The optometry office of Edward C. Landon, OD will also relocate from the SCSC space to this facility.

Dr's Eddy and Landon's new location

For most humans, change is not comfortable or convenient, and so it is for SCSC owners and customers. “The whole thing is annoying and inconvenient,” complained a longtime Canyon Country resident. While shopping at the new Laura’s Beauty Supply location next to Boot Barn, she said she has lived in Canyon Country since she was nine. She was accustomed to shopping at Laura’s and checking off several items on her to-do list in one trip at the SCSC. “Now,” she said, “I hear the Rite Aid will close, too. And Pet Stop is moving, so we’ll have to go to a new location for that. My husband stopped today at the jeweler to get a new battery for my watch, and his doors were locked, so we figure he’s moving; we just don’t know when or where yet.”  She said she’ll follow these businesses to their new locations, but that she won’t shop at Vons anymore.

While the changes are unwelcome, the businesses that have moved seemed to have retained customers—and are attracting new business, too.  Across the street and kitty-corner from Laura’s, a loyal repeat Dilemma customer consulted with Cathy Stevens about the best choices for summer halter dresses. Stevens reported that they moved into their new space in the Albertson’s center in mid-May, and that she was pleased to be seeing more customer traffic in the new location. Continuing west on Soledad Canyon, another SCSC resident, Eden Salon, made a name change to Studio Bijoux with their move to the shopping center near the Edwards Theatre.

“It was hard to make the move in the beginning,” said Sandi Thomas, owner of Eden Salon, now moved and renamed Studio Bijoux.  “I did not want to believe all of the rumors about our rent going up a considerable amount, our CAM (common area maintenance) going up a lot and our property taxes as well. I tried not to pay attention to the rumors. The only time I had any contact with the new owners’ staff was the first letter with our first increase, due the next day. Then, when I contacted them in regard to that, nobody ever came out to introduce themselves or anything.”

In another conversation about the changes, Kristine (not her real name), a 30-something beauty consultant with a major skin care and cosmetics company at Westfield Town Center, said she thinks it’s good for things to be updated in Canyon Country, but that it seems like they’re going to the extreme. She grew up in Canyon Country and she and her boyfriend moved into a condo there three years ago. She reported hearing there will be a Starbucks and a Jamba Juice—corporate franchises. And she went on to say that it seems like they’re trying to compete with or be the same as Valencia, which might not be so attractive to the average Canyon Country resident. She also lamented losing the mom-and-pop stores and locally-owned businesses that have been there so long and are a part of Canyon Country’s history.

So, the initial quake and after-shocks of the change are ongoing and are definitely affecting residents and businesses. But Canyon Country appears to be rolling with the flow—and as so often happens here in the Santa Clarita Valley, our residents are making lemonade with lemons.

Safeway did not respond to a request for information about the proposed changes or current issues related to the SCSC, but more information is available online at: http://www.safewayrealtyholdings.com/get_listings.cfm

*The Debbie’s Hallmark store located at 26880 Sierra Highway in the Stater Brothers center is still open.

Other new locations (at the time of printing) include:

Pet Stop: 26870 Sierra Highway near Stater Bros
Dilemma (clothing): 18551 Soledad Canyon Road near Albertson’s
Laura’s Beauty Supply: 27650 Soledad Canyon Road near Boot Barn
Studio Bijoux (formerly Eden Salon): 18712 Soledad Canyon Road near Edwards Theatre
Eddy Chiropractic: 19040 Soledad Canyon Road at the corner of Hidaway Avenue
Edward C. Landon Optometry: 19040 Soledad Canyon Road at the corner of Hidaway Avenue

Story and Photos by De Jenkins

Dilemma new location

Mugzey Muzic – Bringing Back the Mom & Pop Vibe

| Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | May 31, 2012

The mom and pop store that you once remembered is getting harder and harder to find, now that large chain stores have filled the market. The obvious reason is that, in many cases, big brand chain stores can offer lower prices and better service…but not in this case.

Mugzey Muzic is a family-owned music equipment store that offers musicians a large selection of new and used guitars and amps. They offer a full range of services as well, which include rentals, lessons, appraisals and cash for music equipment. The store takes pride in its skilled repair staff.

Louie Concocilli and his wife Gina opened the business in February. Louie has been in the music business for 25 years, and was an assistant manager at a Guitar Center store for five years.

“I know the tricks they do when they try to sell you something. You go into one Guitar Center and you’ve seen them all. But here you can find guitars that are different and unique, that you can’t find anywhere else,” says Louie. “There’s no guitar or amp I couldn’t tell you about.”

The name “Mugzey” comes from a dog Louie and Gina cherished that died a couple of years ago. They wanted the name of their business to reflect their love of dogs.

While the business owners strive to offer the best service, Mugzey Muzic touts affordability, offering “honest pricing.” A musician can buy guitars from $30 to $3,000, amps from $25 to $2,000, and pedals from $15 to $500.

The store has an appeal to all clientele, from the newcomer trying to learn to the seasoned musician. Louie and Gina seek to make music more accessible to the public. There is a wide variety of used items for sale, some of them hard-to-find vintage pieces.

“We try to bring back the mom and pop vibe, instead of the corporate stuff. We’re trying to get stuff that was old school, and is now popular again,” says Louis. “A guy just came in today looking for a tape recorder. A couple of years ago, you could give away a tape recorder and now people are looking for them.”

Old school equipment seems to be coming back strong. Guitarists at the peak of popularity, such as Jack White of The White Stripes, use vintage guitars and equipment from the ‘60s and ‘70s to create his unique sound.

Used is in. And Louie’s customer base includes a number of men and women with a new found appreciation of vintage.

“Everyday I hear, ‘Oh man, where did you get this?’ or ‘That’s weird, I’ve never seen that,’” says Louis. “You may not want to buy anything, but you can sell me something, or I’ll appraise the value of something you have.”

Some of the most unusual or rare finds at the store can’t be found elsewhere and, once sold, may not show up again for a long time. Customers have to act fast. On the Mugzey website there is a feature where you can bid on actively selling guitars. Visit www.mugzeymuzic.com.

If you have a broken guitar, many places will charge you for just diagnosing the issue. Here you can get your guitar examined for free. That’s the kind of service Louis is offering. He has taken the following credo to heart: “Take care of your customers and they’ll take care of you.”

Mugzey Muzic also provides lessons in guitar, bass and drums. They are currently offered at about $10 less than many of their competitors.

Louis and Gina have proven in their unique store that a small business, with integrity, can thrive in this valley. “It’s a cool place to hang out, it’s decorated nice. Kind of a cross between a lounge and a library kind of music store. I pride myself in how the place is presented.” says Louis.

Mugzey Muzic is located at 18346 ½ Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country, near the Post Office. Contact: (661) 299-1133 or visit www.mugzeymuzic.com.

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Spring Into Fun At COC Canyon Country Campus

| Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | April 3, 2012

Have a passion for native gardening, but want to learn more? Or would you prefer to enjoy an evening gazing at the stars — along with the moon, Mars and Saturn? Is physical fitness and overall body/mind wellness a focus for you?

Well, if you answered yes to one, or even all, of the questions above then you’ll definitely want to check out what’s going on at the College of the Canyons Canyon Country campus this spring!

Get Active and Be Fit
Kicking off the spring schedule of events will be the campus’ first Educational Fitness Walk, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, April 12, as part of the College of the Canyons SNAC (Student Nutrition Advocates at COC) group’s ongoing Body, Mind, Wellness (BMW) Fitness Walk and Seminar Series.

Designed to encourage students and community members to experience the many benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle, this roughly 1.5-mile fitness walk will allow participants to walk through the campus, at their own pace, while making stops at four educational stations along the route. Those who complete the walk, along with all associated activities, will be awarded a special prize at the conclusion of the event.

Come See the Stars…and Saturn, the Moon and Mars!
This semester, the campus will also host its annual spring Star Party, taking place from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, May 4, in the Carl A. Rasmussen Amphitheater. Admission is free of charge and open to the public.

During the event, attendees will have the opportunity to view the night sky — with particular emphasis on Saturn, Mars and the Earth’s moon — through one of several high-powered telescopes that will be pointed toward these celestial bodies.
To begin the evening, guest speaker Matt Wallace, Flight Systems Manager at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), will deliver a brief orientation lecture based on his experiences working with NASA’s Mars Exploration Program on the famed Mars rover project.

COC faculty members and other local astronomers will be on hand to provide audiences with additional background about our moon, along with some interesting insights about the many awe-inspiring aspects of Saturn’s unique features and planetary makeup.

“The elevated nature of our location, combined with the clear views we experience on a nightly basis, makes the Canyon Country campus a perfect venue for gazing at the moon, stars and planets,” said Dr. Dena Maloney, vice president of the Canyon Country Campus and Economic Development.

As the Flight System Manager for the Mars Science Laboratory project, Wallace and his team are responsible for overseeing the development of spacecraft systems for the next Mars rover, code named Curiosity, which launched from Kennedy Space Center in November 2011, and is expected to reach Mars on Aug. 5, 2012.

In addition, Wallace has made significant contributions to various other robotic planetary missions and three Mars rover missions, including management of the assembly, test and launch operations team for both the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. He also handled surface mission operations for the Opportunity rover, after it landed on Mars in 2004.

“We’re very excited to have someone with Mr. Wallace’s level of knowledge and in depth experience join us for what is sure to be a fascinating evening under the stars.”
Go Native: Gardening Lecture Series Continues
Later in the month, the campus will present the second installment of its new Native Planting lecture series, which is aimed at helping community members learn how they can adopt some of the environmentally sensitive and draught tolerant gardening techniques the Canyon Country campus has implemented into its landscaping design.

The next lecture in the series, “The Secret Lives of Plants,” will take place from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 19, and will include a walking tour of the campus’ Outdoor Research Garden, and accompanying lecture by COC biology and environmental science professor, Jeannie Chari.

Admission to the bi-annual lecture series is free and open to students and community members of all ages, thanks to a community grant from the City of Santa Clarita. All attendees will also receive a packet of native seeds and an assortment of informative notecards featuring the plant life at the Canyon Country campus.

During the lecture portion of the event, Chari will lead a discussion about several gardening related topics, including: water issues in Southern California; the chaparral biome and its many secrets; the characteristics of drought resistant native plants; and seed collection and hybridization techniques.

In addition to the Native Gardening lecture series, the college’s Community Education department will be offering a pair of on-campus gardening workshops beginning in late April. The cost of each workshop is $45, with attendees asked to register in advance with the Community Education office.

The workshop Organic Gardening will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 28, in one of the campus’ new garden areas. Designed to show how easy it is to produce fruits and vegetables without the use of harmful pesticides, the course will teach attendees how they can grow their own herbs, berries, and other edibles right in their own backyard.

Later in the semester, the workshop Natural Pest Control will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 12. Participants in this workshop will learn how to use inexpensive household items to help control most garden pest problems, indoors and out!

For more information about the COC Canyon Country campus or any of the upcoming spring semester events please visit www.canyons.edu/Offices/CCC/.

Poppy Festival

| Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | April 3, 2012

Easily one of Lancaster’s most notable characteristics is its prolific fields of poppies, which bloom this time every year. The attraction has long been enjoyed, thanks to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, a State Natural Reserve, with eight miles of trails  in the Mojave Desert grassland habitat (see sidebar).
To celebrate this jewel of the Antelope Valley, Lancaster leaders developed an annual event, inviting visitors from neighboring communities to enjoy the blooms as well. For several years, the City of Lancaster co-sponsored the Wildflower Information Center with the Lancaster Woman’s Club. Held at the Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery, visitors could pick up free wildflower maps and learn about the best viewing locations before heading out to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.
The California Poppy Festival also began as part of the Earth Day celebration. Since the Golden California Poppy blooms each year around the time of Earth Day, it seemed appropriate for Lancaster to combine the two events into the California Poppy Festival. The first Earth Day was held in the spring of 1970 with an estimated 20 million people participating worldwide. Through the years, the annual Earth Day celebration has grown in popularity; in 1990 an estimated 200 million people in 141 countries participated in different celebrations. The California Poppy Festival carries on the Earth Day tradition of concern and caring for the environment.
The 2012 California Poppy Festival is scheduled for April 21-22, running from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on both days, and takes place rain or shine! Festivities include two days of music, art, food and activities celebrating the state flower of California and the appearance of poppies in the Antelope Valley.
The Park

Although the wildflower season generally lasts from as early as mid-February through mid-May, the park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset.  Fall is also a pleasant time to visit, as the days are normally warm with milder winds.

Eight miles of trails through the gentle rolling hills, including a paved section for wheelchair access, make the park a wonderful place to hike and explore any season. Benches located along the trails make good places to sit quietly and watch for wildlife, such as singing meadow larks, lizards zipping across the trail, gopher snakes and rattlesnakes. If you’re lucky, you may spot a coyote or bobcat. Numerous burrows around the trails may house mice, gophers, kangaroo rats, beetles, scorpions, or others.

The Jane S. Pinheiro Interpretive Center, offering a short video, wildlife/plant displays and gift shop, is open 9-5 weekends and 10-4 weekdays during the wildflower season.  Tours are offered if staff is available. Nearby, shaded picnic tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis year-round, with an interpretive display and a serene view over the valley to the San Gabriel Mountains. The park is open sunrise to sunset. Visit http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=627.

Lash La Rue Private First Class

| Canyon Country Magazine | March 16, 2012

The military was something I had always wanted to do. Throughout high school I knew the military was always going to be my back up plan if I didn’t get any scholarship offers to schools. I was 18 when I first left for basic. My family wasn’t surprised one bit. They knew I had always wanted to be a soldier, and they knew I would succeed in the military. However, they did not support my decision to join the army. My dad wanted me to join either the Air Force or Navy because he didn’t want me to be on the front lines in the Middle East. But my mind was set on Army the day my best friend, Matt Girard, left for the Army. He’s been by my side since we played high school football together and I wasn’t about to let him go to war without me.

Before I signed up for the Army, I was actually talking to Navy recruiters. I had considered the Navy for about two months, but then the Army won me over. I believe there were plenty of circumstances throughout my life that led to me joining the Army. Back when I played high school football under Coach Varner, he ran practice like we were soldiers in boot camp. Some days we wanted to quit, but we wouldn’t, because we would be quitting on each other. And the military is very similar – you’re not doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for the brothers that are standing beside you.

Boot camp was fairly easy for me. The hardest part was the lack of food. The yelling didn’t bother me, because most of the time they started screaming I actually had to refrain myself from laughing. Physically boot camp was not very challenging. It’s all a mental game.

For my dad the most enjoyable part has been that I joined airborne and will become a paratrooper. He seems to get a real kick out of that. The most enjoyable part for me has been living in Germany. I feel like I have learned so much about their culture from being stationed here this past year.

My current occupation in the Army is an infantry man that specializes with the mortar system. I enjoy working with the mortar system because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The whole gun system weighs a little more than 300 pounds.

I believe I had a great childhood. I was always in sports year round. My parents loved coming to all my sporting events and were always very supportive of everything I did as a child. I attended Canyon high school and played football all 4 years of high chool. Canyon football made me who I am today and I will always miss those Friday nights under the lights.

My plans for the military are simple – finish my four years and then get out. I do not plan on reenlisting in the military, and plan on someday becoming a firefighter once I’m back in the civilian world.

I will be deploying to Afghanistan this summer. I’m going with two of my best friends from high school, Parker Sutton and Charlie Cusumano. It seems like most of my friends decided to join the military, and that just goes to show how similar we all are. I don’t really think about deployment too much. That’s what I signed up to do and that’s my commitment. Plenty of other people just like me have gone over there and come back, so I know I can as well.

I still think about Canyon Country every day, and the amazing people that live there. It’s the greatest place on earth and I can’t wait to come back for good.

Dad’s Perspective

Lash and I had been discussing him going into the Military probably starting his junior year in high school. So, I was not surprised at all that he enlisted. However, I was very surprised that he enlisted in the Army. During our many father-son talks about what he wanted to do once graduating from high school; I thought he was going to get his AA diploma from COC, rehab his broken shoulder (football injury during his senior year at Canyon) then enlist in the Air Force or Navy. I felt that this would be a safer route than enlisting in the Army or Marines and he could still reap the rewards of the G.I. bill and learn how to live on his own.

I will never forget the day he called me at work and told me that he signed a contract for the Army. I was extremely upset, devastated. I believe I started yelling over the phone, “Why would you choose this branch? We discussed going into the Air Force or Navy.” I then asked what job he had signed up for, hoping that at least he would learn a trade. Lash then told me: “Infantry.” I was horrified, asking why would he do such a crazy thing, taking a chance risking his life, for what? Lash, upset with my reaction, told me: “I want to do something that is bigger than myself. I thought you would be proud of me; I love this country and I want to do my part helping keep our country safe.” He said some other choice words also. It took about a month for me to realize, WOW, Teri and I did a wonderful job raising such a courageous young man.

Boot Camp for Lash physically and mentally was a breeze; cowboy football taught him to be mentally and physically tough. The toughest part for him, was having to eat quickly. Lash loved to take his time eating his meals. For me, the toughest part was not having his smiling face around everyday. It is very difficult knowing that your little boy is becoming his own man. I’m sure every parent feels the same way, whether they are going off to college, starting a family of their own, or enlisting. Separation anxiety is hell. When Lash comes home to visit or when I talk to him on the phone; he seems the same. He is still that sweet, smiley Lash that I have known all his life. The only thing that is different is that he does not ask for anything. If he wants something, he does it on his own. Thank God.

After boot camp, Lash signed an Airborne contract and is stationed in Germany. He is part of the 91st Calvary scouts. He is part of a mortar men unit. Scouts, pretty scary! He will be scouting ahead of the rest of the unit. I have not quite accepted that yet.

Lash’s childhood was nothing but sports. He started playing football, baseball and basketball at four years old. He was always younger than the rest of his teammates, but that only made him more determined to try harder and hit harder than anyone else on the team. It wasn’t until his junior year that he decided to focus only on football. His senior year, he lost his beautiful mother,Teri La Rue, to cancer. Honoring his mother, he had the courage to speak about his mother in front of hundreds of people at her funeral. He did not miss a beat! At that moment, I realized that Lash was the most courageous son a mother and father could have. He played his best football game that night.

After the Army, I believe Lash wants to use his G.I. bill and get his four-year degree. There was a time that he wanted to be a fireman. Lash signed a four-year-17-week contract. The last time we talked, he said that he would not sign for another term. I hope he sticks to that, but time will tell. Lash is scheduled to go to Afghanistan in July, 2012 for a nine-month term. The whole 173rd Airborne unit will be there. Hopefully, he will meet up with his good friends, Parker Sutton and Charlie Cusumano (both Canyon Cowboys).
My initial thoughts on Lash going over there were: “This is what he signed up for – to serve and protect this great nation of ours.” God has a plan for all of us and this is His plan for Lash and all the others that are out risking their lives for our freedom. I am so proud of our Canyon Country boys and pray daily that they will finish their term healthy and ready to take on any challenges that are in front of them. I would also like to thank Coach Chris Varner in helping develop our boys into courageous young men who are not afraid to take unselfish risks.

Cellular Church of the SCV

| Canyon Country Magazine, Slider Home, Spotlight News | February 28, 2012

Driving over a slight rise while heading east on Soledad Canyon Road, the sun shines brightly on a dramatic stone church highlighted by an artistic triple layered metal cross.  The newly opened Cellular Church of the Santa Clarita Valley is a living testament to a dream of the pastor and the faith of the congregation to bring it to life.

Edwin Recinos was called into the missions field by his church, United Bretheren in Christ Church in Burbank, in 1993.  He and his wife, Meri, moved with their two young children to Lakewood, CA to open a new church.  Discouraged by the lack of growth, Recinos returned to Burbank.  Although ready to accept the possibility that planting a church was not God’s call for his life, he was asked to move to Canyon Country because two families were interested in having a church nearby.  the families bonded and the first cell group was formed.

New Business Kyoto

| Canyon Country Magazine, Slider Home, Spotlight News | February 28, 2012

When the signs for Kyoto Seafood Buffet first went up, residents may have had to do a double take.  This eatery would soon serve up food that (literally) was worlds away from the expectation of locals at the venue, considering it was once the  home of Rattler’s followed by two more Western barbecue style restaurants.

The new restaurant would, in fact, draw from Eastern culture, rather than Western styles and flavor.  There were no horns or antlers on the walls, no horseshoe-shaped tableware or Remington reproduction anywhere in sight.

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