Archive for February, 2009

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Night of 1,000 Stars

February 23, 2009

Did you watch the Oscars last night?  For the  past several years I’ve missed WATCHING the Oscars on TV (they’re on the wrong channel anyway!) to emcee Oscar Night with the American Red Cross. 

This has become one of the premiere fundraising events in NW Ohio:  guests dress up in their gowns and tuxes, and walk the red carpet into the beautiful Performing Arts Center at Owens College.  Inside, screaming “fans” (students from area high schools and universities) cheer as the guests arrive, and “paparazzi” take pictures.  There are numerous big screens to watch the REAL Oscar ceremonies…but it’s hard to take the time to watch because there’s so much  great food and drink to try.   This year, 26 area restaurants and caterers donated their time and delicious edibles…everything from oysters on the half shell to mini beef wellington, to lobster bisque, sushi, and all sorts of scrumptious desserts!   And there’s fun entertainment too:  this year the NuTones played at one end of the building, while Hepcat Revival played in another area.  More than 500 “stars” came out to support the Red Cross this year for the organization’s biggest annual fundraiser, and as usual we had a ball at the ball. 

But there were at least another 500 “stars” behind  the scenes:  volunteers serving food and drinks, people setting up and cleaning up the elaborate decorations and tv screens, and all the people  who worked to secure raffle donations and restaurants to be there.  Many of those “stars” are the same people who respond when there are floods or tornadoes in our country, or when a local family is burned out of their home.  Some teach CPR or babysitting classes…as volunteers…but they volunteer to help with Oscar Night becauses they know what those dollars mean to our local Red Cross.   It’s no easy job…and those “stars” deserve special applause! 

What does the Red Cross do with the money?   They respond in cases of national or local disaster to provide food, shelter, clothing and comfort.   Through their “TeleCare” program, volunteers call to check on the elderly every day just to make sure they’re all right.  They get in touch with military members overseas when there’s a family emergency at home.   They teach life skills like CPR to hundreds of people every year, and they do it all for free.   

If you’ve never attended Oscar Night, you’re really missing a fun evening.  Why not test out your “star” power next year to support our local Red Cross?  I’ll meet you on the Red Carpet for a Night of 1,000 Stars!

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Keeping the Balls in the Air

February 18, 2009

I have always had the utmost respect for single moms.  My parents divorced when I was 8, so I was raised by a single mom who made a lot of sacrifices and worked very hard to support me and my brother.    I know there are a lot of you out there struggling–just like she did–to juggle responsibilities and make ends meet.    And this week, as my husband leaves for the better part of 8 months and I’m left alone to care for our 8 year old daughter, I SALUTE all the single moms out there.  

Some of you may know that I met my husband Tom when he was managing the Toledo Mud Hens back in 1996.    He’s been playing or coaching in professional baseball for 30 years…so I definitely knew what I was getting into when I married the guy.    But that doesn’t make this time of year any easier.   Tom now works for the Colorado Rockies, managing their Triple-A team in Colorado Springs.  This morning he left for the season and he won’t be back ’til October.   His first stop is Spring Training in Tucson, where he’ll spend 6 weeks teaching his players the finer points of hitting the ball and working with them on their ball handling skills.     Well I have a better idea to whip those players into shape:  why not have them follow a single mom for the day?

Who better to teach ball-handling skills than a woman who has to keep a dozen balls in the air at any one time?   She wakes up early so she can get herself ready before she wakes her three little ones and gets them dressed, makes them breakfast, and packs their lunches while they eat that breakfast.  Then she takes one out to the bus stop, loads the others in the car to drop them off at daycare, and manages to get herself to work by 8 AM.    After running non-stop at work for 8 or 9 hours, she rushes out to pick up the kids from the sitter,  then lugs them all into the grocery store because they’re out of milk and bread, finally arrives home and what’s waiting for her?  A stack of bills in the mailbox and a hungry dog.  She feeds the dog, feeds the kids, checks the homework, gets everyone in and out of the bathtub, brushes their teeth, reads them a story and puts them to bed.  That’s when she has to clean up the dinner dishes,   figure out how she’s going to pay those bills, do a couple loads of laundry, and iron the blouse she plans to wear to work the next day.    Then she gets out her books and starts studying for the test she has in her night class the following evening.    You get the picture.   A similar scene plays out in thousands of area homes day after day, and those women deserve recognition. 

It’s not just single moms.  Most moms are master multi-taskers.  Most will also admit that their husbands come in handy.  I know I rely heavily on mine when he’s home. 

So ladies, I salute you!   While I’m on the “team” this baseball season, you can bet I’ll be working hard on my skills…doing the best I can every day not to drop the ball!

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Winning the Big Game

February 13, 2009

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 There is no doubt the Women’s Basketball Coach at the University of Toledo likes to win.   Tricia Cullop’s as competitive as they come.  But in her short time at UT, Tricia has also made something else very clear:  it’s just as important to her that her players are winners off the court.  Sometimes that’s the harder lesson.  Probably not with this particular group of women.  They’re smart, articulate, and as I found during a visit to practice last week, they already care about each other, and about making a difference to others.   

 Coach Cullop has organized an event during Sunday’s game that will help bring that message home to the players, and the fans.  It’s called “Rockets for the Cure” an event to raise money for NW Ohio Komen for the Cure.  Turns out 2 coaches and several players have family members who have battled breast cancer.  They walked as a team in last year’s Race for the Cure in Downtown Toledo, but they wanted to do something more.   Coach Cullop had success with this event when she was at Evansville…and wasted no time getting it organized here.    Oh, the game against Kent State will certainly be the focus on the court Sunday afternoon…but the Coach and players know no matter the score, their efforts have already helped them win the big game.   

You can watch the report here.

Join us for “Rockets for the Cure” Sunday, February 15th at 2 PM!!    Proceeds benefit NW Ohio Komen for the Cure.  For iinformation or tickets, call 419-530-GOLD.

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V-Day

February 10, 2009

Less than a week away from the holiday that makes men AND women sweat, you might assume that the “V” in V-Day stands for Valentine.  But you would only be 1/3 right.   This particular “V” stands for Victory, Valentine, and Vagina. 

Yes…I know that last one can be a difficult word to say.  Even the most mature people have trouble getting it out without an accompanying snicker…or grimace.   Yet, V-Day has become an important awareness and fundraising event across the world, and this year, I’ll be on stage to support the movement. 

The request came over the holidays when my daughter was performing in the Toledo Rep’s production of  “A Christmas Carol.”   The artistic director, Gloria Moulopoulos asked if I would consider performing in a production of “The Vagina Monologues.”   My initial response was “I don’t know, Gloria…”  first of all, because of my position at the station, I try to stay away from any racy or controversial activities; secondly, it’s been 30 years since I’ve actually performed in a play.    But when she told me the play was part of a V-Day production to benefit the YWCA and raise awareness of violence against women, I wanted to know more. 

According to the V-Day website,  “V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls…to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM) and sexual slavery.”      When I learned more about the movement, and all the women in the world who face that violence every day, I just couldn’t say no. 

So, this Valentine’s Day, my husband is off the hook…although he might still be sweating a bit.   I told him there was no need to plan a romantic evening this year, because I would be performing in a play for charity.   When he found out all the details, he probably wished he could just pick up the phone to make some dinner reservations and order some flowers.  But he’s a good sport, and he’ll be at Owens Community College’s Center for Fine and Performing Arts Saturday night (maybe not in the front row!) to show his support for me…and to do his part to make this world a better place for our 8 year old daughter Riley, his grown daughter, Apryl, and his new little granddaughter, Zoe.   

I can’t think of a better Valentine he could send to the girls in his life!      

For more information on V-Day, check out newsite.vday.org.  For tickets to see “The Vagina Monologues,” call the Toledo Repertoire Theater at 419-243-9277.

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A Room Full of Heroes

February 6, 2009

I don’t know what kind of courage it takes to run into a burning building and save someone.    But I saw that courage Wednesday night.  I saw it in dozens of faces as I looked out on dozens of firefighters during an event I was emceeing.  

The program was the Zenobia Shriners Burn Awareness and Firefighter Recognition program at the Erie Street Market.   The Shriners took nominations from fire departments across Northwest Ohio in 3 categories:  longevity, heroism, and prevention.   16 firefighters from 7 area departments received awards and applause…and received them with humility.    Three of them had rushed into burning buildings to save unconscious victims inside.    The majority received the longevity awards–one man had been serving on his fire department for more than 50 years.   50 years of showing up to work, not knowing if you’ll be asked to risk your life to save someone else’s.   50 years of your family praying you’ll make it home after your shift.   And then there were several who worked in the area of prevention…educating youngsters and adults on what to do in case of fire.  We know what a difference they make too.  Just last week, we did a story with a 9 year old girl who woke her family before sunup because she smelled smoke.   Their house was in flames–they ran out into the freezing weather in their pajamas.    Her mother said a firefighter from the Toledo Fire Department had just been to her daughter’s school and taught her what to do.    She saved her whole family.   They lost everything else.  

What these men and women do 24 hours a day, 365 days a year is nothing short of heroism, whether it’s rushing into a burning building, teaching a class of elementary school students or sitting at the fire station waiting for the next call to come in.      

Listening to stories of their service and dedication made me feel safe.  And it made me feel proud.  Proud to know that we live in a community so full of heroes.

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Timing is Everything

February 3, 2009

I smile as the traffic light at the intersection of Summit and Cherry in Downtown Toledo turns yellow.   They say “timing’s everything” and my travel pattern to work each day is so predictable,  it happens nearly every day.   And every day I slow down in anticipation of the red light that follows.    If you ask me “Do you stop because you know there are cameras at the intersection that will catch you if you run the red?”  I would answer honestly, “Yes.”   Of course, once in awhile, my timing’s off just a bit.   “Yellow?  Oooooh…do I stop or go through?  Am I traveling fast enough to get through before it turns red?  AAARRRGH!”   Once in awhile I just KNOW one of those close calls will result in me getting one of those tickets in the mail with a picture of my car going through the intersection as the light turns red.   So far (knock on wood) I haven’t received one.   But I approach that intersection every day knowing that my actions are my responsibility and if in a split-second decision my timing is off, that regrettable piece of mail may show up in my box. 

Toledo was the first Midwestern city to install the cameras at select intersections,  and it’s hard to argue against their effectiveness.  Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre will show you statistics that show a 20% drop in accidents at those camera intersections.   He calls it a safety issue.     

A group from Cincinnati calls it a money issue.  The “Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes” or “COAST,”  wants to rescind the red-light cameras in Toledo.   The group is collecting signatures to put the issue on the ballot…and let’s face it…anyone who’s ever received one of those tickets would probably jump at the chance to vote them out.    But why?   COAST contends the cameras don’t in fact make intersections safer…and the organization resents the “Big Brother” mentality of being issued a ticket when a police officer isn’t there in person to witness the infraction. 

But let’s face it:  officers aren’t usually witnesses to crimes.  They’re not present when a thug kills a carry-out clerk, or when a rapist crawls through a window and attacks a woman as she sleeps.   Yet…we expect…no…we DEMAND that they catch those criminals and put them in prison based on evidence they gather after the crime has been committed.    So what’s the difference?

I think the difference is, we’ve all been guilty of running a red light, or driving over the speed limit.   There is a certain liberation in seeing a trooper who’s stopped someone ELSE on the side of the road when my speedometer gives me up as a scofflaw.   They can’t catch EVERY speeder, so my chances are pretty good, right?  None of us wants to get a ticket;  it’s annoying and embarrassing whether it comes in the mail or whether we’re stopped on the side of the road by an officer.   

But I think I’d rather get the ticket through the mail.   For one thing, it takes a lot less time to open the envelope than it does to wait for the officer to run your plate and run your license number and fill out the paperwork when you were clearly speeding because you were running late in the first place.     Sure, the red light cameras can cost you money, but they don’t cost points against your driver’s license which is a plus.  Best of all:  the officer who may have been assigned to my particularly dangerous intersection or stretch of road can actually be assigned to a much more serious crime.  

I know there are people who believe the cameras make mistakes.   Maybe they do.   But there are plenty of people who have lost loved ones at those intersections who would argue that human error–or bad judgment–is much more risky.     

Will COAST get the signatures necessary to put the issue on the ballot in November?   We’ll have to wait and see.  Will I vote to take them down?  Probably not.  Unless, of course I get a red-light camera citation in the mail a week before the election.   After all, timing is everything.