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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.


Friday, September 13, 2019

No More Sidelines and Muskegon Civic Theater Penguin Project 2019 - Peter Pan Jr.Oct 12-13 at the Frauenthal

It's project that's done across the country, but the power of what it does for a community is only a few years old around Muskegon.  The Penguin Project is an adaptation of a pretty familiar play that gives people with unique abilities a chance to be a part of a production that they would most likely otherwise never get a chance to do, and mentors and those who see the play a chance to see that what were thought as limits, well.....




No More Sidelines was founded in Muskegon about 15 years ago now.  Simply to be an organization that broke the stigma of "those kids" who were down the hall and away from other kids in a school.  The idea that a physical challenge or maybe a learning curve or genetic trait somehow isolated some kids, the idea kind of got to Cyndi Blair and the founding families of No More Sidelines.  So, like any great organization, out of a garage was born a group of friends, peer to peer support, outreach and engagement which has exceeded the wildest dreams of pretty much anyone involved in the early days.  The garage turned into the Folkert Community Hub on Seminole Road which is now the center for all things No More Sidelines and about to unveil a stunning new renovation to the building.  Stay tuned for details on that.

Muskegon Civic Theater Online
Sports were the main focus early on as the kids of NMS intermingled with the "other kids" around town.  But maybe not everyone is a basketball player of soccer buff.  Along came the idea of bringing The Penguin Project to Muskegon and seeing what performing arts could do.  The adapted plays pair the actors with mentors on stage and in Muskegon we've seen Annie Jr., Alladin Jr. and this year, Peter Pan Jr. comes to life on the stage at the Frauenthal on Oct 12th and 13th.  It's an amazing performance not only to see, but to support because no one walks away from this the same person they came in.  Lives are deeply touched.  Lifelong bonds are made.  New talents are discovered and as you'll hear in our video portion...even participants who were "non verbal" worked so very hard to speak,  They found their groove.

Yes, the tickets are for sale.  It's quite an endeavor on the biggest stage in town, with professional costumes and sets.  It also requires a little fundraising to help with the cost of the whole thing, so...No More Sidelines is inviting you out to see their home at the Folkert Community Hub and enjoy a "Peter Pan-cake" breakfast with all the fixins' on September 21st.  The address is 640 Seminole Road and the word is, those at the breakfast will be treated to a show preview as the cast performs some of the songs!

I met up with Cyndi Blair and Mark Lewis, who brought me in to the No More Sidelines fold years ago, as well as show director Michelle Prince to talk all about it!  Let's go!


Still the best bunch I've ever gotten involved with.  The shows are incredible and no different than any other stage play you'll enjoy to the fullest!  The purpose...is amazing.  The effects on the performers and production people are life changing and for Muskegon to have something this incredibly special, it's something to be proud of.  Click on the link below to get your tickets for Peter Pan Jr and don't miss it at the Frauenthal October 12th-13th.




Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ballet Nepantla at the Frauenthal Center September 18th - Experience Latino Culture in Muskegon

After a hugely successful first time Latino Festival event at Hackley Park this last weekend, the Latinos Working for the Future have their sails full and are so encouraged by the reception they received at the event, they are ready to spread the cultural experience a little further in Muskegon with a wonderful ballet at the Frauenthal Center on September 18th.  Not only is it a rich experience of music and dance, it's an educational opportunity for up to 1000 kids who can get in free for the show.


Let's go back a little first.  The Latinos Working for the Future is an organization that's been around a while, but recently the leadership of the group has gotten a little younger....a little more focused on spreading the word and a little more "outfront" about wanting to show the community just how remarkable who they are and what they bring to all of us culturally.  The success of the festival in the park celebrating the food, dance and music was just the tip of the iceberg from the group.  They are young, energetic and out to do more.

Latinos Working for the Future on Facebook
Up next, will be a first time presentation in Muskegon for a ballet!  Ballet Nepantla will be presented at the Frauenthal Center.  From their Facebook Event Page - "Ballet Nepantla dancers are trained in classical and contemporary ballet and merged with ballet Folklorico, the traditional dance of Mexico.

Nepantla is a term/idea that comes from the Nahuatl language. It means to be in a space of "in-between-ness.” Gloria Anzaldúa described being in a state of Nepantla in Borderlands (1987), and in Light in the Dark (2016) as a cultural and historical place of ambiguity. Nepantla is also an artistic space of "in-between-ness," as Ballet Nepantla dramatically represents. In a pithy sense, it is what la India María humorously stated, when describing her own identity: "no soy ni de aquí, ni de allá." Indeed, she was in a state of Nepantla. That is the reality many grow up with in South Texas, and many who grow up in places everywhere.

Ballet Nepantla delves into those in-between spaces through its dance performances. In October 2019, the company will be performing its new show, "Valentina," in several South Texas locations. “Valentina" is a historical ballet that tells the stories of the strength and resilience of women during Revolutionary Mexico. Ballet Nepantla would like to present “Valentina” to a Michigan audience. "

I met up with Ana Olson from Latinos Working for the Future at the Frauenthal Center to talk about the organization and the ballet and how the 1000 kids can attend free, take a listen.


Jump right in!  Take the kids for free and help support a group on the move to help show us the rich culture of Latino Heritage and experience something beautiful while you are at it!  The success of the Latino Festival, followed up by the ballet coming soon and the drive and passion behind the Latinos Working for the Future will be an asset to all of us in Muskegon.  Help support their efforts by checking out the show!  Click on the pic below to get tickets!


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Walk to Remember - Support for the Loss of an Infant September 28th at Heritage Landing

The unimaginable.  It's so hard to even begin to think of the difficulty that parents have to face in the event of the loss of an infant, a stillborn pregnancy or a miscarriage.  Strictly from an editorial stand point, it was a fear so great for me that combined with a couple other factors, I stayed away from having kids of my own.  More often than not, along comes a happy and healthy baby, but what happens when the worst case scenario plays out?



The truth is, there is really no quick answer as much as there is no right or wrong answer and the reality of that is, it's even harder for those who are suffering that loss to manage because we're all accustomed to getting an answer...processing the thoughts and moving on.  It's not going to happen in this case.  Combine that with the usual support system of family and friends who surround us...who usually know how to offer some words of comfort or maybe a little something to uplift us....they are all searching for answers too, and trying to find the words to fill the void.  It's no place anyone would want to be and no one can ever be an expert on the situation, because a loss like this is so overly traumatic that it's unique to every situation and again, there is no "one answer".

Find More on The Walk to Remember on Facebook
While there may not be experts, there are others who have shared this grief and who have gone on to take their sorrow, anger, questions, rage, and hopelessness and reshape them.  There are some who once they have healed the best they can, they take what they have learned and they share that with others who are experiencing the same and together they find at the very least, that they are not alone.

Such is the case with Chris and Missy Near.  They lost two kids as they were trying to build their family and through their experience, it was one simple question that led them to a change in their lives to help others cope with grief and loss because they understood all that went along with it.  Chris was wandering the halls of the hospital when he saw a door tag like theirs...it signified that the patient in that room too lost a baby and his knock on the door to ask if he could talk set into motion a system of support that is still going today.

While the group meetings are not as popular as they once were, the Near Family still supports those who have lost a child.  Their mission is to help with the grief, offer some support to those who have lost and those who are around them looking for a way to help console.  Their outreach is there anytime it's needed and they still host one larger event yearly to help anyone suffering the loss of a child to see that they are not alone.

The Walk to Remember is going to be at Heritage Landing on Saturday September 28th at 10:30a.  It's a chance for parents to get together and see that they are not alone, that they do have memories worth cherishing and that hope can return after the pain subsides.  Chris and Missy joined me at Hackley Park to tell their story and talk about the event.  Take a listen.



Touching.  We first met Chris and Missy back in 2016 as they were preparing for that years walk and to know that they are still at it...still striving to make a difference for those who's path they know all too well....to us, that's a miracle.  We have truly incredible people here in Muskegon who are willing to help other heal and share the grief.  They do it without much fanfare...they don't expect a lot in return, they just know that the overall healing we all need, comes from within and being willing to give back that healing helps continue theirs. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

The Livability Lab - Muskegon's 100 Day Challenge

A while back, we told you about the Photo Voice Project.  It was a series of photos taken by area residents about their lives, the circumstances in their world and what they saw as positives and negatives.  The original story ran on our other page, The Muskegon Channel and it was called; "The South Heights Photo Voice Initiative".  A bright young man named Marquis Childers joined us to talk about his photo and the inspiration behind it.



Well, we are on to the next phase of the project.  The Muskegon Livability Lab is taking place on September 10th at the Folkert Community Hub and it's a day FILLED with information, speakers, breakout sessions, and data that has been acquired and studied by Michigan State.  You'll also get to see the Photo Voice Project once again give feedback, help target priority challenges, and yes, even have a chance to determine some next steps.

Does it sound like a lot?  Agreed!  Simply put...Muskegon is booming. We all see it, we all feel it and an event like this is designed to coincide with that boom to help define community priorities, what people feel is the most important part of their daily lives here in town and what that "Livability" term means to them.  As you'll hear in our interview, Mary McDonald makes a mention of something as simple as what time the street lights go out in a community are part of what factors into the "Livability" of a community.  This is not limited to just the city either, this is a discussion for the entire county so anywhere from White River Township to Ravenna Township is included.

Time is short to register.  They are asking registrants are in by September 4th as the event is September 10th from 7:30a-4p.

Take a listen to the chat between Mary McDonald, Marquis Childres, Kari Vanderhoff and myself at the Folkert Community Hub about this event for all the details.


Get signed up and save the date!  It's going to be a lot but, a lot is at stake!  Be heard!  Be a part of the future and let those involved with the Livability Lab know what your ideal Muskegon County is.  You can visit their website to register for the event by clicking below.


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lakeshore Turns 50! Let's Have a Groovy Party!

50 years!  It seems to be a repeating theme this year.  Moon landing, Woodstock, the Trans Am was introduced the Beatles made their last public performance on the roof top of Apple Records and in the Muskegon area, Big Brothers and Big Sisters put down roots to begin to change the lives of kids, and adults who agreed to help them along with a little of their time and a little guidance when it comes to the art of growing up.




Since 1969 Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lakeshore has helped find those matches of "bigs and littles" and to date, over 12,000 kids have found their match through the BBBS program here in the Muskegon area.  That's a lot of lives that have been changed for "good" in a manner of speaking.  Good meaning positive and good meaning forever.  The impact that one positive role model can play with a younger person reverberates for generations and the impact that you can have by just including a younger person in your life for a few hours here and there, can literally change the world.

Click Here for Tickets to the Party
We've always asked for your attention on behalf of BBBS from time to time, because of the importance of the outreach of the organization.  It's not about how much money you can spend on a kid, or taking them along on fancy vacations or anything like that.  Sure, BBBS has to have plenty of fundraisers and ways to fund what they do throughout the year, but we direct your attention to them to maybe get you thinking if you do have those spare couple of hours here or there...maybe you find it in your heart to make that difference.  The organization has been run by some pretty cool people over our time with them too, so that always makes it easy to come and do a story on what's needed and why, or where you have the chance to get out and do a little something to help them in their work.

With a 50th Anniversary, they are rolling back the years and making things super groovy!  They are having a 1969 themed party to celebrate at the Bella Maria Event Center on September 26th.  Come dressed to get groovy and enjoy the hors d'oeuvers, the auction, the drinks, the band.  Get your photo done up in a custom VW Bus photo booth and more.  Tickets for the party are available in the link above and if you'd like some more details, take a listen to the chat between Suzanne Prell and myself.  We have all the deets.


A great party coming for a great purpose.  If you've had first hand experience with BBBS you know what a difference they make.  If you're curious, come learn more.  If you just want to hippy it up and come to a great party....that's cool too.  Our congratulations to this incredible organization for 50 years of making a difference in Muskegon and for the 12,000 plus they have served, which in reality is more like 24,000 because for every "little" a "big" has equally reaped the rewards of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lakeshore.  You can visit their website below to learn more.