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Friday, December 6, 2019

The Tommy Davis Memorial Fund - Tragedy Brings Triumph To Muskegon

If you remember back a little, about a year an a half ago an isolated but remarkably scary incident happened right in the heart of Downtown Muskegon that left all of us in utter shock, two families devastated and lives forever changed in the blink of an eye.  We don't ever claim to be a perfect community, but when we lose people to acts of rage and violence anywhere it's sorrowful for all of us and we all continue to ask why?



That question of why is the haunting that will follow the ones closest to the victims for the remainder of their lives.  Why can also leave a pretty big cloud in the mind of those who are trying to remember the great things and memories of those who were lost.  What made them who they are?  What were their passions?  What light did they bring to the world and since it was taken away, should that light be forever extinguished or, should those who remember carry on with what they loved?  There really is no right or wrong answer, everyone grieves in their own way, but for the Davis family who lost their son and brother Tommy, a big part of their healing is not only remembering Tommy, but honoring his memory by carrying out who he was, what he loved and supporting the community he was so proud to call home, Muskegon.

Tommy was a Mona Shores graduate.  He LOVED basketball.  When he completed his education he went to work at Mercy Health so he could continue his love for his community and help those who needed a hand and he loved his friends and family.  One thing was more than clear in talking to his mom and brother...above all, his love for Muskegon was undeniable.
Tommy Davis Memorial Fund On Facebook

After the family had a little time, they decided that what Tommy brought to the world was more than could be let go.  So, they got themselves in the position to form a non profit organization to continue the memory of Tommy and to help that memory live on by supporting the things he loved!  Basketball...let's set up a camp for K-6th grade to learn some skills and send them home with a basketball of their own and some other goodies.  The $10 registration fee for the camp?  Went right back to the basketball team at the school for their assistance in helping at the camp.  Food.  We all know that there are so many in Muskegon who are "food insecure".  Let's get a food truck out here and feed 181 family members in remembrance.  Leftovers?  Muskegon Rescue Mission got them!  In fact the food truck was so big and proved to have such an impact they are doing another on on December 19th at Nexxes Realty on Broadway in Roosevelt Park on December 19th.  It's the very beginnings of exactly how we do things in Muskegon.  It's friends and family leading by example and refusing to let someone's memory fade or good they brought into the world go away because of one violent act.  This is how Muskegon builds community and it's a story we just love to tell.

I met up with Sherri and Eric Davis to learn more about Tommy and to find out how they are working, day in and day out to keep his light shining and to make sure that his love for Muskegon carries on even though he's not here any more.  It's a pretty touching conversation with a couple of truly remarkable people.  Take a listen.


What a gift it is to all of us to know that the strength and hope we have in our community is alive and well in people like the Davis family.  This was not the easiest thing for them to do, and it's more than understandable....but to be a gift....in the face of loss...that is where true strength lies and that is were hope abounds.  They never planned to be in this role, but to let the memory of their son and brother fade over the acts of another...that wasn't really in the plan either.  Our most sincere thanks to the Davis family for coming on to tell their story and know, that we'll be following what goes on as their outreach grows over time.  Do you wonder where miracles come from?  They come from Muskegon Michigan and they come from families like Tommys'.

Please, click on the photo below and follow their website for more information on how you can help.


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Santa's Helpers of Muskegon - 5 Years of Helping Others

5 years is a long time to keep a cause going.  Especially a cause that involves the kind of effort and emotion put forth by the folks behind Santa's Helpers of Muskegon.  Facing the fact that there is a need for some is hard enough.  But then, to take action on that need and work to pair kids and families who have little or nothing with those who can give just a little is what they have been doing, and it's been a growing endeavor.




It began as a way to cope with loss.  Karen Gagnon and her daughter in law Bri Shotwell with the loss of a daughter and granddaughter, and Cathy Strait lost a child as well.  For some, facing grief, the holidays only amplify those feelings of loss.  Instead of internalizing that anguish they decided that their loss could be channeled to help make someone else's life a little more blessed.  So, they got the idea together to find a handful of those who might need a little help and try to make a difference.

Find Santa's Helpers on Facebook or Help Donate Here
Year one, was quite a task.  They had 30 kids to help.  Every thing from necessities like clothing and personal items to a couple of toys and some of the things that make the season memorable. Year two, the word spread a little and the outreach got bigger.  Along came a couple of sponsors to help out and so did a few more "sponsor families" who were able to dig a little deeper to help.

The story isn't much different than we hear anywhere else.  The need, is generally among the working poor.  The families who have what it takes to pay the house payment and the utility bills....hopefully, but the extras....those are just more than can be afforded.  They are our friends and neighbors who probably don't let on that they are having a hard time, but might be food insecure, living pay check to pay check and barley getting by.  It's a story that repeats itself over and over and seems to continue to grow.

So, we're on to year 5.  I met up with Karen, Bri and Cathy once again. Last year, Karen's pet cockatoo stole the show, but this year, we met at Rocket Pizza which has served for the distribution site for the gifts in years past to talk about their group and their mission.  Take a listen.


What I love the most. Tragedy to triumph.  The insurmountable loss felt, even today with Cathy's tears can be turned in to a miracle for others and all it takes is the realization that planting a seed is all it takes.  Helping one, soon turns in to helping two and so on.  A miracle isn't walking on water or floating in mid air... a miracle is making sure that someone else knows that there is love in this world.  Giving someone else just a little hope that somewhere out there...someone did something for them with no strings attached and that someday down the line...they can return that gesture.  A miracle is humanity and we're all a part of it.  Be part of a miracle today. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Recovery Congregations Helping Addicts in Muskegon - Learn More November 18th With Dr. Monty Burks

We are immersed in a world that seems to be ever increasing when it comes to addiction.  What's more frightening, is that what we're addicted to seems to be getting more deadly as time goes on and those addicted cross all boundaries of socioeconomic backgrounds and life styles.  The arguments have all been heard that it's the fault of one entity or the other, or maybe it's just society getting "soft" and everyone wanting the easy way out....but the reality is...addiction doesn't discriminate.


We are still in the midst of the "Opiate Crisis" by every definition of the word.  Prescription painkillers can be the start for some that lead them to the next level searching for that feeling on the street.  Alcohol is available on every street corner it seems and comes in increasingly tempting flavors for people to try.   Let's add in vaping which some consider a healthier method of delivering a drug, nicotine...which is honestly a harder habit to break than an opiate, and while we're at it we'll toss in nefarious street dealers that taint what's being sold so their customers can reach a higher high, which sometimes ends up with death.  We have a real mess going on and we have remarkably limited resources to fight it.
Click Here to Visit the Muskegon County
Cooperating Churches on Facebook

Do keep in mind, this is all being written from the perspective of a recovering alcoholic.  16 years now by the grace of God and in as much as I don't feel the bite anymore, I see day in and day out the struggles some have and how remarkably difficult it is for them to find help.  I also know first hand how hard it is to get that help when you are willing to try and that there is no certain path for anyone in recovery.  There is however a couple of key things in any recovery and as I spoke to today's guests, they stand true.  One of the first things is faith.  This isn't to corner you into any secular religious experience...it's just a reminder that faith in something will be necessary and the other is humanity.  People are key in to making sure anyone who is willing to have a paradigm shift in their life, people around them will be required to help them transition into who they will become.

Dr. Monty Burks is the Director of Faith Based Initiatives in the Tennessee Department of Health and Substance Abuse Services and has helped pilot some incredible programs there involving church congregations to provide a safe haven for those living with addiction where they can find love and support during their time of need in an environment free of judgement.  Quite often, people with substance abuse problems are left with nowhere else to turn due to their problem and with an eroded support system, the outlook goes from bad to worse.  In Tennessee over 300 churches participate in the program, and with Muskegon having 240 churches in it, the goal is to get 50 churches or more to participate in this program.

Dr. Burks will be speaking on November 18th on a few different occasions.  In the morning the first talk begins at 9a at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, then there will be a discussion at the United Way followed by a return to St. Paul's at 5:30p so anyone who's interested can hear the idea.

I was able to meet up with Kate Kesteloot-Scarbrough of Mediation and Restorative Services and Lily Marx who is the Coordinator of the Muskegon County Cooperating Churches organization to discuss this incredible program and learn a little more.  As with any discussion about addiction, I am pretty candid about my own and we talk a lot about what to expect.  Take a listen.


A new approach is sometimes what's needed!  Get informed and learn more!  This is showing great promise in Tennessee and any weapon in the fight against addiction is a useful one.  You can follow the link below to visit the Muskegon County Cooperating Churches website for more details.  Our thanks to Lily and Kate for the invite down today.



Sunday, November 3, 2019

VFW 446 Dedicates a New Monument and Bench at Muskegon's Veterans Causeway Park

It was a cold, but sunny day.  A stiff  wind played a little havoc with the audio on the public address as well as the video camera.  It was an important visit though, a new monument was being dedicated in Michigan's Most Beautiful Mile and our invitation was an exclusive to us thanks to Pam Hassett.  Asking if we could come and capture the event, we were honored to be asked




If you've never been to the Causeway Memorial Park, it's easily one of Muskegon's most sacred spaces.  remembering those who've made the ultimate sacrifice for out freedoms.  This years water levels made recent improvements to the park.  It was a tough time for the park, so much work went in to making sure that the natural beauty of the park was preserved, but had to revert to man made tactics to fight back the rising waters.

No matter what mother nature deals out, it's up to all of us to adorn the park with monuments to remember family, friends and strangers who gave all.  It's a spot of quiet reflection for some.  A photo op for others and a community treasure to us all and the members of VFW 446 added to the spots this past week.

We're letting the ceremony speak for itself.  We'll begin with the National Anthem.  Welcome to the dedication and unveiling.


You can visit the VFW 446 Facebook page by clicking on the photo below. Our thanks for the chance to come and share the dedication of this beautiful new monument.


Monday, October 28, 2019

Help Break a World Record in Muskegon For Canned Goods Collected With More Than One Purpose

You can be a part of a Guinness Book of World Records attempt at the Mercy Health Arena on November 21st by bringing in canned goods for a donation to help stock the area food pantries.  The goal is 100,000 canned goods to go directly to area food pantries after the attempt and what a way to put your name in the record books right?  100,000 canned goods equals about 4 miles of donations...so we've got some work to do.




But...let's take a peek here and you'll see it's SO much more than canned goods.

Click Here for the 100,000 Canned food Drive Event
Meet Lisa Kujawa.  Lisa has a remarkable story that I'll try and boil down to the Cliff's Notes version.  A few years ago, Lisa lost a nephew to a cancerous brain tumor.  We all know the devastating effects cancer has on everyone, but when it's a child that has to endure the hardships and struggles of the diagnosis, treatment and overall misery of the disease, it's especially hard.  While she saw the struggle and ultimate loss of her nephew, along the way she saw needs that most might not notice otherwise.  First step was organizing a drive to replenish the arts and crafts area of the children's hospital.  Lisa rented a U-Haul and in short days time, it was filled with the needed supplies.  During her collection along came a guy on a bicycle.  As they talked she spoke of an auction coming up and the man on the bike wanted to donate an item to it.  Delivering the item was difficult however, as the man was homeless and all of his possessions were in a storage unit.  He made the donation though.  The idea of good sprang forth a multi faceted way of tackling an issue.  A homeless and hungry person helping brought in the idea of the canned food drive and as Lisa's desire to help the kids at first with the arts and crafts supplies blossomed, she thought she could do one even bigger and even better.  How about a camp for kids with diseases that just lets them be kids?  No limits on what they can and can't do on the playground.  No one to say that being a kid can't come first, just a place to leave cancer at the curb and go be a kid.

With all of this amazing good happening in and around Lisa, she founded the Golden Key 501c3 to really put things in to motion.  Her long term goal is to make Golden Key Camp a reality for kids, and she says in our interview she's really hoping to get it done in our area.  It's a long road she's travelling to get there, but with some exposure like a World Record attempt and the good karma that comes along with making sure that while you're working to achieve one goal...you're helping others along the way, the "snowball" effect of good happening will take hold quick and the miracle will unfold quickly. 

The idea being, November 21st or before, gather up some canned goods for the food pantries and the World Record attempt and while you're at it, bring along a buck or two to help her work her way toward the dream of making this camp happen for kids.  As we talk in out interview....when you start these kind of projects, you never really know which way the road might take you, but in Lisa's case the road keeps helping her find another way to help someone, in someway that she never really planned on.  It's a pretty amazing story with a few moving pieces.  Take a listen.


Pretty remarkable and if you've followed me, or this blog for any amount of time, you know that I am always all about a tragedy becoming a triumph and we've seen that kind of thing happen more than once around here in Muskegon.  It's always an honor to be a part of and it's always so incredible to learn the stories of those who want to make our world a better place even if it's one can and one dollar at a time.  CLICK HERE if you'd like to email Lisa to help her project.  You can learn more about the Golden Key Camp if you click below and by all means, PLEASE...be a part of the World Record attempt on November 21st in Muskegon.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Suicide Remembrance and Prevention Walk Downtown Muskegon September 28th at the Olthoff Stage

Suicide.  It's a subject so taboo, even those who are considering it don't dare talk about it.  Those who have lost someone to it have a hard time coming to grips with the what and why around the loss of their loved one.  It seems like a final solution to someone who's life has become unmanageable but the truth is, the pain that is caused to those left behind is beyond any measure and the void left...and the unanswered questions last a lifetime.



This is coming from an author who's stood on the edge.  The darkness and depression is real.  That thought of escape seems so easy and "the way out" seems like a solution.  The hindsight in the matter is no one knows what the future holds and that what seems so broken and unfix-able...it's only temporary.
Suicide Walk on Facebook

How do you break the taboo?  How do you break the stigma attached to suicide?  How do you find a beacon of hope in the middle of the abyss?  You talk.  You take that first step and you say "HELP".  It's not easy.  It's not the most proud moment in most lives but it's the new beginning that only comes once rock bottom is hit and the rebirth of who you'll actually be.  But, who do you ask for help?  Well, that's where the Suicide Prevention Coalition comes in.

The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Muskegon County helps in a number of ways.  From crisis lines to group meetings, they work to take away the whispers surrounding the topic.  They offer settings for those who are left behind after a suicide as well as those who have come close, but survived....like me.  They are hosting an event Saturday September 28th at 11am at the Olthoff Stage across from the Frauenthal Center.  The event is a walk in remembrance of those who have left us as well as a prevention walk to hopefully reach someone out there who might be considering he end as an option.  The event will have some music, some spoken word, light refreshments and about a mile walk in remembrance.  There will be educational opportunities and outreach available as well.

Scott Teichmer is a member of the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Muskegon and invited me down to talk about the cloud over suicide as well as the event coming up this weekend, take a listen.

Take it from me.  What's to come is a miracle and life...it's truly a gift.  No matter the circumstance, there is help and you thinking that the end is any kind of easy way out...I implore you to reach out for help, because it's not.  Call locally if you need help. 231-722-4357.  Call the national number 1-800-273-8255.  Text - 741741.  Don't let something temporary become eternal.  If you'd like to know more, about the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Muskegon, click on the photo below to visit their Facebook page where you can go on to their website.  Please, attend the walk this Saturday and support their efforts and those who have lost someone to suicide.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Talk Sooner - A Way to Help Parents Navigate the Difficult Conversations With Their Kids

It's always a tough spot.  Conversations about the "unspeakable" things are necessary but, when it comes to addressing things like drugs, sex, abstinence and more how do you get the ball rolling?  After all...the scariest part of this conversation just might lead to your child seeing that first crack in your infallibility and they might find out that you're speaking from experience on a few things you'd rather they not know about.



Talk Sooner is a collaborative effort across a few counties in West Michigan.  It's a website and an app that's designed to give you and idea of how to begin the dialogue on the "taboo" subjects.  Honestly, it's probably not going to be that comfortable no matter the tools you're given, but...the reality is, this kind of conversation needs to come from a parent.  Talk Sooner also is filled with information about things you may not be aware of.  What's popular among young people that are trying drugs now a days?  What's the street lingo about these and what kind of effects do they have?  It's made easier if you start talking about it sooner than later...thus the "sooner" part of the Talk Sooner idea and that talking...it's another key focus the group is working on with their message.

Visit Talk Sooner Online
We are all so busy.  We have high pressure, just in time schedules and they get even more demanding when the critters come along and need things like rides to practice, help with homework, new gadgets....the list goes on and on right?  Talk Sooner is stressing the importance of turning it all off and talking.  Using mealtime to communicate directly as a family....however you describe family....to just talk.  Talk about the day, talk about hopes and dreams.  Talk about stress, talk about victories, talk about failures.  Get those lines of communication open and ease in the tough stuff once in a while.  Maybe ask if any of their friends are doing things they think are not 100% right.  Ask if something is on their mind.  Practice the art of discussion and keep that tunnel vision on the tablet or computer screen away for a while as you do.  Let's face it...parent...it doesn't mean BFF...it means responsibility to raise a good human.

I met up with Missy Gallegos and Logan Jensen to talk about the outreach and message and let you know how you can get that app!  It was a beautiful, sunshine filled day at the Muskegon Farmers Market, take a listen.


Grab the app. Will it make you a difficult conversation superhero? Probably not.  But, it's a start to help you help your kids navigate an increasingly difficult world where we as the "grown up's" start to disconnect with what's actually being presented in the peer pressure circles today.  Knowledge is power and while a drug talk or the talk about the birds and bees will never feel like a chat about last nights episode of your favorite show.....it's a conversation that will make a life long impression on your child...and THAT is your legacy.  Talk Sooner is here for you as a resource.  Click below to visit the Apple App Store for the free download.  Andriod App Coming soon.