Ladas Hoopes McNeill

Ladas Hoopes McNeill
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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How One Kid's Birthday Request Became $60k for Make a Wish

When you're 7 you start noticing things...like when it's your birthday and people shower all kinds of attention and presents on you...and at that tender age, you might not want to deflect the gifts...but the attention.....it might go to a little bit of a higher purpose.

Such is the story of Aubrey Cohoon.  To say she's taken the attention and made the most out of it, well....that's a wee tiny bit of an understatement.



Aubrey and her dad Matt Cohoon
Like any other kid, birthday parties are fun and Aubrey like having hers at a skating rink as she's a budding figure skater.  She was really uneasy with so many gifts given to her and then people watching her open them, so...for her 8th birthday, she asked for something a little different.  She asked if instead of gifts, her friends to contribute to an educational fund set up to help two of her fellow kids at school who had just lost their father to cancer.  When the 9th birthday rolled along, another skating party, but this time it was to benefit a school mate who was living in the People Center in Spring Lake.  She wanted to make sure her friend had enough support to eat, get clothes and sustain.  For her 10th birthday, she began doing what she could for the Make A Wish Foundation.

To make a long story short, that work has gotten her a list of accolades as long as my arm. Anyone can raise a few bucks for any cause they think is important, but at Aubrey's young age, to have raised over $60,000 dollars, grant 4 wishes and be working on a 5th wish...we've a good reason to showcase the effort even though she's still a little shy about all the attention.


Aubrey's Collection Methods




Bowling fundraisers, $1 dollar donations to wear a hat at school, Facebook "like" campaigns, car washes, neighborhood craft shows....the list goes on and on as to how she was able to raise this kind of money.  Sometimes it takes a young mind to launch an idea and show the "old people" how things are done.  All easily organized by anyone....but Aubrey decided to not talk about it and do it!  I was able to catch up with Aubrey for a few minutes and talk to her about the work she does and the purpose behind it.  Take a listen to our chat below.











Amazing young woman.  To think, all it takes is that one second of a selfless thought to get a ball rolling.  At $60k plus donated to Make a Wish, that ball is not only rolling, it's become an avalanche of good and that simple selfless act has gone on to make the lives of others better.  I am not only talking about the wishes granted, the team surrounding Aubrey has found a new purpose in supporting her and EVERYONE wins when something of such great magnitude happens.  This is what sets the human species apart on earth and this is why we do what we do here at Positively Muskegon.  If you'd like to know more about Make A Wish in Michigan, click on their logo below.



Make A Wish of Michigan








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Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Wheelchair Barn in Muskegon - Giving the Gift of Mobility

Understanding is truly a part of being able to help others who have had or will experience some of the hurdles we face in life.  No matter our experience as a human, chances are someone else has experienced what we're facing and the reality is that people have the amazing ability to take care of each other with the collected knowledge and empathy we possess.  When it all comes together, miracles happen.


The Wheelchair Barn on Getty Street
If you read the first paragraph, and I hope you did....what's missing in there?  You'll see that there's not a single mention of money, because something's are much more important than cash, and somethings you can't pay a dime for to change it.  It comes down to compassion, caring and empathy for someone's situation.  Such is the story of Ron and Ryan Zok in Muskegon.

Ryan was diagnosed very young with Cerebral Palsy and has needed the help of a wheel chair since he was about 2.  Never a pair of guys to go around feeling sorry for themselves, the Zok's have done everything any other family does.  Ryan made his way thru high school a year ago and today he's taking classes at MCC and doing just fine.  He's as normal a guy as you'd ever imagine and takes particular delight at yelling "HEY OLD MAN" every time I see him at a hockey game.  You know how those young bucks like to tease the geezers.  All those times I have seen Ron and Ryan, one thing is for sure.  They are not only father and son, they are BFF's and have grown to be an inseparable pair.

One thing that's paramount to both Ron and Ryan is the need to give something back.  Back to the collective knowledge thing...over the years with Ryan's mobility issues, Ron has gotten pretty handy in the repair and maintenance of wheelchairs.  Got good enough at it in fact, that they figured if we can fix these things up and help others who also have a hard time getting around, we'll be making a dent in helping others.  Thus, The Wheelchair Barn was born.


Ryan's Graduation (he socked me for $20 bucks :)
This past week, word came to Ron and Ryan that Blair Aleszka had a need for a little easier way to get around as he's coping with ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease, and it's getting harder and harder to get out of the house for Blair.  It all happened so fast, word got to Ron about the need, Ron got to me and a day later we were on our way with Ryan to deliver the electric chair.  What an overwhelming experience.  I sat down with Ron and Ryan before we took off with the chair and Blair and Jodi joined me at their home to talk about the impact this gift will have.  Take a listen!





Powerful.  "How do we take our situation and use it to the betterment of others?"  "How do we show others that they are not alone?"   "How do we take the compassion, kindness and desire to make a difference, and apply it with dignity purpose and no expectations for a return?"

All of the above is achieved when people stop talking about what they can do...and they actually do it.  A random kindness is all it takes to change a life, and acts like this take place every day in Muskegon because or people like Ron and Ryan Zok.  If you'd like to help, you can contact Ron at 231-730-1647.  Ron, Ryan, Blair and Jodi are all amazing people and I am greatly honored to have been able to help tell the story and make you aware of just how much good gets done in Muskegon because it's the right thing to do.  We have much to be proud of in our community.

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Muskegon Heights Hosting a Job Fair and More March 1st

Since Jake Eckholm started as the City Manager of Muskegon Heights in October of 2016 there have been a number of innovative and community-oriented initiatives. One idea coming to fruition is a community job and resource fair.  On Wednesday, March 1st from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. community members, businesses, educational institutions, and workforce development groups will participate in the event.  
City Of Muskegon Heights Website



The community job and resource fair will be held at Muskegon Heights City Hall, 2724 Peck Street. Resume writing is a featured part of the event and Michigan Works donated 100 flash drives so that participants can take home an electronic copy of their newly created documents.

This event is open to anyone, it's also a way to show that Muskegon Heights employers are looking for people. As Mayor Kim Simms has said, the "New Normal" is to show things as they are in Muskegon Heights and that includes great opportunities for those seeking work.

Jake sat down with me to discuss the upcoming event. Of particular importance are the intended audience, how this event is bringing the community together, and the goals for all involved.




It's a city on the move. There will be much more great news coming out of Muskegon Heights and we'll be here to help share it. Make sure you head down to the job fair on March 1st and take advantage of all they are offering.
















Friday, February 17, 2017

Catching Up With the Career Tech Center in Muskegon

Where, and when I grew up I suppose...when the kids all left after first hour for the "skills center", we kinda just stood there wondering why they needed to go to "that school".  No one really talked about it...it was just that way.

Today however.... going to "that school" might be the best off.  Today's Career Tech Centers are high tech, hands on and offering unbelievable opportunity.



The Muskegon Career Tech Center is a jewel in the educational field.  I have been lucky enough to be involved with the CTC on a few different levels.  Speaking on career days, I served on the advisory committee for the Marketing program and I've been known to pop in to see my old buddy Mark Lewis and just catch up.
MACTC Online

It's an intense atmosphere.  The Criminal Justice kids all stand at attention when you walk in the room...the smell of the restaurant when you walk in is as inviting as any other.  You can get your car worked on there, find a graphic designer, learn agriculture and horticulture....welding...construction....all high paying in demand skilled trades!  I mean high paying jobs right from the get go!

Kids attending the CTC can earn college credit while they are there, they can find internships with local companies and get hands on knowledge of the working world.  The book learning is there as well as the "soft skills" it takes to work your way into the working world.  Amazing opportunities to be had.  I was invited by Bethanie Swier, the career development coordinator,  to come out and talk about a couple events.  They are in need of speakers for the upcoming career days (do it...trust me...it's fun) and then they will be hosting a job fair for kids graduating this year and maybe not heading right to college.  Might even be able to place them with just the right fit and let their employer foot the bill for college.  Take a listen to our chat below!




Hey, it's like this.  These are the careers that need to be filled.  The ability to do skilled trades means a lifetime of work.  Even if you have a skilled trade and work toward a higher degree, you're still ahead with the knowledge.  The CTC in Muskegon is a premium experience when it comes to education.  Be a part of the career day or maybe come out with your students and learn a little more.  You can click on the Muskegon Made logo above and learn more!

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cheers and Chocolate at the CIM March 4th - A Sweet Way to Benefit Every Woman's Place

In Muskegon, it would be GREAT if we didn't need the services of Every Woman's Place, for that matter, anywhere that didn't need a women's shelter would be great.  Unfortunately, the work and service has to be there.  It's up to all of us to protect the most vulnerable people in our community, and knowing that Every Woman's Place is there and operates the way it does speaks volumes of the good people in Muskegon who keep it so vital.





From the Every Woman's Place website - "The Mission of Every Woman’s Place is to improve and enhance the lives of women, youth, children and families in crisis in our community by providing and advocating for services which lead to their safety, their emotional and economic self-sufficiency, their productivity, and their ability to participate fully in our society."  It's not just a place to "hide out" till a problem goes away, it's a chance to learn self sufficiency to better their life and change....for good.

Through the year, there are a few ways you can help benefit this organization and have a pretty good time doing it.  There's Power of the Purse in the Fall, you can always use Amazon Smile, make a donation through the EWP website or you can come out and tempt your taste buds at Cheers and Chocolate at the Culinary Institute of Michigan on March 4th.

Cheers and Chocolate combines the experience of culinary delights along with fine wines, craft beers, desserts and cool items to bid on stretching over the entire 3 floors of the CIM in beautiful Downtown Muskegon.  If nothing else, it's fun to just stroll through and see the school and what the students there are creating.  I was able to attend last year and WOW!  It's kind of over stimulating with the tastes, textures and setting.  I'd highly recommend a visit.

Jenny McNeill is on the Board of Directors for Every Woman's Place, and she's also a great sponsor of the Positively Muskegon Blog with her firm Ladas Hoopes and McNeill.  I had a chance to catch up with her to talk about this years event.  Take a listen!



I'd love to tell you that this blog, this event and our good wishes will end domestic abuse...but it won't.  We need to make sure that those most vunerable have a place to turn.  We need to show victims of abuse that they are cared for, there are resources for them and that in their time of need, Muskegon was there for them.  That's how great communities are built and we're proud to support such a great event as Cheers and Chocolate to help protect those in need.  Click below and get your tickets today!!















Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Glenside Winter Pot Luck in Muskegon - Neighborhood's Are Important

I have said over and over and over that Muskegon is better as one!  When I say that, I picture Muskegon as pretty much Fruitport to Montague...that's our "area" but within that area, there are a multitude of neighborhoods and they are all unique in their make up.  Some are neighborhoods made up of residents, some are industrial.






Glenside Neighborhood Assoc on Facebook
Some are centered around a school and some....well, some still manage to keep that "small town" feel alive and well in a time where that kind of thing has been forgotten.  In Muskegon, one neighborhood goes as far as to throw a pot luck dinner to get together to talk about things going on, areas that could use a little improvement, events coming up and believe it or not...the promote people speaking to each other!  Talking!  Yes!  Not commenting on social media, not hiding behind an avatar, face to face communication.....it still happens!

Sure, some "official business" will take place at the Glenside Winter Pot Luck, things like electing a new Glenside Neighborhood Association President and board members.  They will also be welcoming a key note speaker in Mike Grenier who's the Muskegon Water Filtration Plant Supervisor.  Mike will be discussing the state of Muskegon's Water.  Who couldn't use a little reassurance on that seeing as what's happened in Flint.  Better safe than sorry.

Glenside is tucked in off Sherman Blvd and as you turn in to the neighborhood, you notice the hustle and bustle of the busy street is quickly forgotten by seeing the nice homes, beautiful McGraft Park and peaceful water areas.  People take pride in their homes, the hand full of business close to the Glenside neighborhood are all inviting and on the right day, you'll find people out walking....kids playing in yards, dogs barking....you'll find a comfortable surrounding and a great place that people call home.

Martha Bottomly joined me in advance of the pot luck to talk about the neighborhood and why they rely on communication, togetherness and good old fashioned fun to keep things together.  Take a listen to our chat below.



There you have it!  The importance of our neighborhoods is so essential.  Friends and neighbors have to look out for each other.  We can all sit behind a screen and wonder why the world seems to be going nuts, os...we can emulate Glenside and get together to talk things through, catch up on the goings on and even make sure we're all on the same page if something goes wrong.  It's up to all of us to make sure that if it's a neighborhood, or all of Muskegon, that we value the people and places in it.   My many thanks to Martha for coming on to talk about what makes Glenside so special.  If you live in Glenside... it's time to get your dish to pass ready.

Glenside Neighborhood Online



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Monday, February 13, 2017

Dining in the Dark - Do You Dare to Eat What You Can't See at Kitchen 242 in Muskegon?

To many a foodie, the experience is so much more than just what they are eating.  There's the setting...is it familiar or a new adventure?  Then you've got the menu....going with a favorite or want to take a chance?  The sounds, smells the atmosphere and anticipation all add up to the gastric contentment experience.

But what if some of that is missing?


Follow Chef Jack Page on Facebook
Can you imagine an event happening where people get a ticket, are seated at a table and then...the lights go out.  You have no idea what's coming, you have no idea what the faces of others look like who are reacting to the fare.  You've got to sample things that may be WAY out of your comfort zone or, you might be surprised with something as simple and common as a pot pie.  You are about to experience "Dining In The Dark" at Kitchen 242 hosted by Chef Jack Page.

If you know Jack, you're among the lucky ones.  A little eccentric, an outlook on life that is usually pretty jovial and he's known for some of the best food to be found anywhere in Muskegon and surrounding areas.  If all that's not enough for you, you'll often find him too out helping at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex or maybe taking up some time on the luge there he helps keep well iced and ready to ride.

Dining in the Dark is happening this Thursday the 16th.  It's a 4 course meal and it's designed to be a taste sensation and to stimulate your sense of smell.  It's recommended you wear older clothes...which may or may not be a hint as to what's going to be on your plate!  Do you dare?

I was able to sit down with Jack to learn a little more about this fun event, take a listen to our chat below.



Here's an idea.  Skip the lines and frustration on Valentine's Day and save the date for Thursday.  You'll have a chance to meet some new people....try something other than that same hamburger you order every time you go out and you'll get to support not only Kitchen 242 but a fun and unique event to Muskegon.  You know, one cool event leads to another...and before you know it...you'll see stuff like this all of the time!  For tickets, click on the imagine below.  Enjoy a night out Dining in the Dark.



Tickets to Dining in the Dark








Sunday, February 12, 2017

No More Sidelines Invites You to the Set the Stage Gala March 18th

11 Years now, for one of the most elegant and fun events in Muskegon and one of the best organizations to pop up right here in town and grow to carry the message to any kid who's ever felt left out from being able to play sports, make friends and do all the other things "normal" kids do!  Yes, it's time for the No More Sidelines "Set the Stage" gala on March 18th!  This year...the theme is Masquerade!



No More Sidelines on Facebook
I make no bones about it, when I was first asked to learn a little more about No More Sidelines, I went in knowing nothing.  Not even sure what the name meant or why they wanted me.  I met up with Cyndi Blair and as we talked about the gala they were planning, I asked her again.. "Are you sure you want ME to come and be the emcee?"  The answer was a resounding yes and it began a chain or events in my life that changed the way I saw almost everything.  I had had a little exposure to "special needs" kids over the years, but little did I know the power they and their families posses when you take the first step past what's different and see the commonality between people just as humans.  You are taught in short order what love without conditions is all about and that kids just wan to be kids no matter how they are "labeled".  It was a truly life changing match for me.

Today, the work continues.  The original group of kids and families are in their mid 20's now.  No More Sidelines continues to evolve as a group.  What was once fun for kids, has been turned into a more encompassing group with new younger people and some more seasoned sideliners seeking more "20 something" activities.  Behind the scenes...the same level of support among the families continues to flourish and more and more people see the importance of making sure that "I want to play" is a request met with one answer... absolutely.

This year, the Set the Stage gala will be held at the home of No More Sidelines, The Folkert Community Hub on Seminole Road in Muskegon.  There's a Masquerade theme this year, so you'll have the opportunity to be a little mysterious, a little mischievous and a show a little heart for some truly remarkable kids.  Cyndi Blair is the mastermind behind all of it, I had a chance to catch up with her to learn a little more about this years event.  Take a listen.



If you're just looking for a great party, if you've got someone who's been touched by No More Sidelines or if you just need out of the house for a night, put it on your list!  The No More Sidelines gala is a great night out, for a great purpose.  To learn more about No More Sidelines click on the picture below!

No More Sidelines Online







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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Bling Thing - Coming Up at Hackely Library February 10th and 11th

There are a number of ways you can look at the "Bling Thing" coming up to February 10th and 11th.  You could approach it as an "American Picker" and head there looking to strike gold on any number of the items that have been donated,  You could be in it for a reason to get out of the house with the gals hunting down some cool jewelry or, maybe it's your philanthropic outing for the year.  Any way you approach it, it's a benefit for the treasured Hackley Library.



Hackley Library Online
For 5 years now, the Bling Thing has been held in Muskegon as a fun way to raise a few bucks for the Hackley Library.  It's a chance to not only do a good turn for the library, it's a chance to add to your jewelry collection or, maybe add to yours!  Not only will you find jewelry you'll find vintage clothing, home decor...purses, scarves, belts...you're kind of getting the idea right?

The event is being held at The Century Club Ballroom.  Not only will you find all the cool stuff, there will be an exclusive Friday night event with wine, chocolate and the first crack at all of the amazing things up for grabs.  It's a $10 dollar donation for the evening.  You'll also find the evening accentuated with a silent auction for a beautiful handmade quilt courtesy of the Lighthouse Quilt Guild in Grand Haven.  The Friday event happens from 5-8p.  Saturday, the sale opens again at 10am with free coffee and hot chocolate from Biggby!  Admission is free Saturday!


Friends of the Hackley Library Online


The event is being put on by Friends of the Hackley Public Library who have been working since 1973 to promote literacy, the library services and the cultural life of our community.  Annually, the Friends of the Hackley Library raise about $20,000 a year with events like the Bling Thing.  This years event is being sponsored by Benson's Bottom Paint, Lakeshore Employee Benefits Newkirk Electric and Quigley Draperies.  I was able to catch up with Barb Klingenmaijer to talk a little more about the event and the group, take a listen to our chat below!




No matter your reason, this is a great event to be a part of.  Maybe it's a stunning piece of "bling" you won't find anywhere else, maybe it's a fun day or evening out or maybe you see things like the Friends of the Hackley Library do and know that we've got a true treasure in Muskegon in the Hackley Library.  Stop on out to the Bling Thing at The Century Club Ballroom and get some cool swag for a great cause.  You can click on the photo below to follow the Hackley Library on Facebook!





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Monday, February 6, 2017

Muskegon Heights High School Rally - Eddie Sanders Shares Some Thoughts

Word came out of Lansing that Muskegon Heights High School was on a list to be shut down by the state.  The reaction in the area was immediate and unfortunately, the students, staff and families who live and work in Muskegon Heights were once again facing a world of confusion as the city itself continues to work to establish the "New Normal" as Mayor Kim Simms continues to share that message.





The question has to be however, how can a "new normal" be given a chance to take hold when from all the way across the state, someone somewhere decided that the work going on right now, isn't good enough so, let's close the school?  On top of that too, how can one small community take yet another blow like the threat of closing the school and busing the students there up to 30 miles away?  Personally, I think the community's outcry was just and that since it took a while for the Heights to come to this point, it's going to take a little time to turn things around, and that time can't be decided in some formula on a spread sheet.  In the long run too, the thought of taking away such a beacon in the community at Tiger Pride....it's something no one in Muskegon wants.  The Tigers are a legendary part of this community and they are worth fighting for.

Positively Muskegon is very lucky to have Eddie Sanders Jr. on the staff.  He's a remarkable role model to a lot of people and his pride in being a Muskegon Heights Tiger is unmatched!  Like so many of us here, Eddie was there for the "glory days" and today, he's on the very front line as a champion for Muskegon Heights on all levels, especially the Tiger Pride he holds so dear.





Our neighborhoods make us who we are.  No matter the municipality, we all come together to make Muskegon what it is.  No matter the reason, we should all be willing to defend our neighborhoods and the people in them.  I for one stand with the Heights.  It's time for all of us to pull the rope in the same direction for the Heights, or Roosevelt Park, or Muskegon, or Norton Shores...you get the idea!  We are stronger together and if one area of town needs a little more, it's time we give it.


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Positively Muskegon - The Kids Beat - Trevor Hilson Talks Lake Hawks Basketball

Four years ago, Harold Whaley, who was an ABA official at the time, wanted to make a new basketball franchise on the western side of Michigan. Grand Rapids was one of his first ideas, but with the Grand Rapids Drive of the NBA D-League already calling GR home, it would’ve made things difficult. He then chose Muskegon, even though he was warned about the violence. 





Follow the Lakehawks on Facebook
Now in their fourth season, the West Michigan Lake Hawks have had success in not only the playing portion of the sport (winning back to back titles), but also in giving back to the community. Community involvement and a good character is one of the things that head coach Ron Jenkins looks for from his players. When asked why community involvement was so important, Coach Jenkins said,”It’s because I grew up here, and seeing the violence, the lack of mentor-ship, and the lack of togetherness at times.” 

For me, watching these young men pass, shoot, steal, and block the ball like they do is phenomenal. Their style of play, and the energy showed by these players is incredible. The Lake Hawks are an amazing basketball team to watch, and some of those players surely will fulfill their dreams of making it to the big time. They have done so much in the community, whether it be visiting schools or showing up at charity events.  I had a chance to catch up with Coach Ron Jenkins and player Xavier Fletcher to learn more about the team.  Take a listen to our chat below.




They have invested so much time in this community, that we need to support them and their players, staff, and coaches. Their next home games are at Reeths Puffer High School and are on February 11th, 12th, 18th, 19th, and March 4th. Tip-off is at 6:00 p.m. You won’t want to miss this ABA action!   For more information, click on the Lakehawks logo below!



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Black Tie For the Y at the Muskegon Country Club February 11th

The YMCA of Muskegon might no longer have the building you are accustomed to down by the lake.  If you recall the Muskegon Community College bought the property a year or so ago, but...that doesn't stop the YMCA of Muskegon for a second.  After all, the YMCA is so much more than just a place with a work out room and an indoor pool.  The YMCA is a living breathing entity in Muskegon and their work continues in so many ways!




Muskegon YMCA on Facebook
After the sale of the building, the YMCA moved it's offices over to the newly emerging 3rd Street Area of Muskegon.  You'll find them on the same block as Hamburger Mikey's and Third Coast Vinyl.  From there, all of the programs you have come to trust the Y for are run and the reach into Muskegon is still just as deep as it always has been.

The YMCA still runs programs like Safety Around Water for area 3rd graders.  They also have the HOST program that stands for Healthy Out Of School Time, an after school program that teaches healthy habits and physical activity.  Livestrong Cancer Survivor support, the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program and of course the YMCA Summer Camps that so many have been a part of over the years, including me!  More about that in the video!

I met up with Melissa Wikman who's the Associate Executive Director of the Muskegon Y today to talk about their big fundraising event coming up at the Muskegon Country Club called the "Black Tie For the Y".  It's happening on February 11th at 6.   You'll find live and silent auctions, amazing food, a cash bar and other great people who believe that building with a pool, or without one.. the YMCA does a lot of good in Muskegon!  Take a listen to our chat below!




It's the truth, the best Summer of my life was spent as a Camp Counselor at a YMCA camp.  I was very excited to be able to get in with the Muskegon Y to talk about the event coming up and even more excited to be able to maybe clear up a little confusion around the Y since their move over to 3rd Street!  They are alive and well right here in Muskegon.  If you're looking for a great time at the Black Tie Event, click on the image below to get to the ticket page!  If you'd like to know more about the Y, you can follow the link under the big Y at the top of their page!