D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s Celebrates 125 years at their Home Guild Gala


JW Marriott Grand Rapids
December 1, 2012


Last weekend, we joined D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s in the beautifully decorated JW Marriott to celebrate 125 years of protecting children from abuse and neglect. This year was St. John’s Guild Gala’s 48th year and this year nearly doubled the record breaking total raised last year. In 2011, over $160,000 was raised and this year’s record setting total is over $300,000. Through their work, they have restored childhoods, healed families and have provided hope for thousands of the most vulnerable members of our community.

The event was at capacity with nearly 500 people in attendance. During the dinner portion of videos and testimonials were shown showing the true spirit of what D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s.

The residential campus of DABSJ houses children ages 6-18 who have come from a lifetime of abuse and neglect and are now waiting for people to come along who will love them and take them into their family. Until then, they live in homes with kids who are close to them in age. They share the responsibilities in the house with a different chore each week.

The campus of D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s home has a capacity for up to 60 children. Children in the 6-12 year program each have their own rooms and are living in an atmosphere that prepares them for pre-adoptive homes or going back to their rehabilitated family environment. Each week all residents receive individual therapy by therapists specially trained in play therapy and the treatment of reactive attachment disorder.

D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s is committed to protecting children from abuse and neglect and they are always looking for volunteers. No matter what your time availability, skill level, or passion they have over 7,500 children and families that they served last year alone. There are so many ways to help and sometimes, it only takes one person to make a difference in the life of a child.

Mentor a child through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program
You can make a big difference in the life a child for only 45 minutes a week in our School-Based Mentoring program or 1-3 hours a week in our Community-Based Mentoring program. Big Brothers Big Sisters was founded in 1965 as an accredited agency dedicated to protecting children from abuse and neglect. Big Brothers Big Sisters is a nationally recognized mentoring program that matches kids age 5-17 with an adult mentor. These kids are typically from single-parent homes and may be experiencing some difficulty with school, social skills, and developing interests in life.

Become a foster parent.
One of their greatest, on-going needs is having enough foster parents to provide homes for the children that need our help. As the number of children who come into our care increases, the need for foster parents increases too.

Mentor a young mom through our Sisters In Support Program
They also have a great way to help pregnant women, first time mothers, and/or mothers of many children in our Sisters-In-Support program. Young mothers in need are matched with female mentors who act as friends and role models to help these moms.

Organize a volunteer work day for a group.
Their residential program is located on a beautiful 25-acre campus, which can always use some extra tender love and care from volunteers willing to weed, plant flowers and greenery, paint the inside and outside of the homes and building, and more.

Join a guild. The Marilyn J. Olson Guild and St. John’s Guild both welcome new members. Involvement with each guild is based on the amount of time and commitment you would like to volunteer.

Visit our campuses with a group or organization. They would love to show you around either or both of our campuses to see how we serve and care for the children in our programs.

Get involved in the Backpack & School Supply Drive.  With your help, more than 500 children currently living in residential care, foster homes, shelter care, or whose families’ are in need of assistance will be given a new backpack with school supplies before the first day of school.

Get involved in care bags.
Children entering foster care often arrive with no belongings. D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s tries to give each child a “care bag” containing items they can immediately call their own upon moving into their foster home. We need items for kids ages infant to 17 including toiletries, clothing, toys, and backpacks.

Get involved in Christmas giving. 
Every year, D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s relies on the generosity of our community to give Christmas gifts to over 900 children. When you partner with us for Christmas giving, you can choose the age and/or gender of the child. You then get their “Christmas List” with specific requests including sizes, color preferences, and brand names. You can also sponsor one of the houses on St. John’s campus or an entire family.

This is D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s 125th Anniversary year. If you would like to support these kids with your time, talent, or treasure … visit their website at www.dablodgett.org. You can make a huge difference in the life of a child.

St. Mary’s Foundation Annual Shoppe Soiree

Thousand Oaks Golf Club
November 28, 2012

BY :: Sparkly Stellafly

On Wednesday night at Thousand Oaks Golf Club, the Saint Mary’s Foundation held their annual Shoppe Soiree. It’s was the perfect ladies night out (and there were a few guys), where hundreds of women came donned in their best interpretation of the “pink panache” suggested dress code.

Shopping, delicious hors d’oeuvres, and of course a couple of pink signature cocktails made for a fun evening that provides support to the Personal Care Area in The Lacks Cancer Center at Saint Mary’s Health Care, which offers an extensive collection of innovative products and services for those dealing with a cancer diagnosis. The products are meant to build confidence and make life more comfortable for patients and their families.

Val Lego, WZZM 13’s Healthy You Reporter was on hand to emcee this event, and she had the pleasure of introducing Jennifer Jurgens to the group. Jennifer shared her story of breast cancer and how The Lacks Cancer Center made an incredible difference in her recovery from breast cancer. Saint Mary’s Foundation Executive Director Michelle Rabideau thanked everyone for coming and noted it was one of the largest turnouts in the event’s history.

Those in attendance had a great selection of jewelry, home décor items, Christmas decorations, pajamas, wall art, and more to choose from. They also had the chance to sign up to be a Grand Girlfriend, which requires a one-time $1,000 commitment and then those in the group take part in awarding grants each year. Rabideau also asked those in the room to consider volunteering at Saint Mary’s.

A great night, fabulous cause, and wonderful shopping. Be sure and check out the gift shops at Saint Mary’s if you are looking for fun and unique gifts this Christmas season!

To learn more about St. Mary’s Foundation, visit their website: http://www.SaintMarysFoundationGR.com

LIKE them on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/saintmarysfoundation

Profile: Daisy Martinez: The Ambassador of Latin Cuisine



Right now, I’m sitting in the dining room of The Ambassador of Latin Cuisine, chef and television personality, Daisy Martinez, as she prepares ingredients and dishes to be photographed for an upcoming series in El Diario, the oldest, and one of the largest, Spanish language daily newspapers in the country.  As I type, onions, tomatoes, finely chopped steak, potatoes, parsley and garlic are being arranged on a platter, ready for their moment in the spotlight before being transformed into empanadas.

A mother of four; author of three, global best-selling cookbooks (Daisy Cooks, Daisy: Morning, Noon & Night, and Daisy’s Holiday Cooking); and star of PBS’s Daisy Cooks! and Food TV’s Viva Daisy!, Daisy is always working — perfecting recipes, meeting fans, lending her support to culinary and charity events and sharing her passion for food with those around her.

Each week, Holidays with Daisy brings Daisy into the homes of El Diario’s readers, allowing them to share her passion for cooking and her culinary experience as she provides recipes and ideas for delicious holiday menus, featuring traditional Latin dishes inspired by her own Puerto Rican heritage and flavors of the region.

As empanadas are stuffed and deep fried, filling the room with incredible aromas, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be sitting here experiencing this process and sampling each dish after the shutter snaps; capturing its visual beauty, but unable to replicate the sensations it creates. Breathing it in reminds me of being home for Thanksgiving even though, as a Virginia native, this is nothing like the foods I grew up with. Daisy makes elegant comfort food on steroids — eating it is a purely sensual experience.

It’s something more than the years of education, the countless hours spent in the kitchen and the muscle memory of hands that have folded empanadas since childhood that makes Daisy’s food special.  Her passion for what she does, and her sincere desire to share the flavors that are dear to her heart, entwine with the ingredients to make magic.

“¡Coñaso!” is shouted around the corner in the kitchen.  Like most people that are bilingual, Daisy likes to intermingle her languages, throwing in Spanish here and there, when English just doesn’t quite capture the appropriate feeling.  She likes to curse in Spanish, which always makes me laugh because although I have no idea what it means, it expresses dissatisfaction in a way that English curses simply can’t.  The curse has been emitted because Daisy has forgotten to buy eggplant.  It’s not a critical component of the dish, but an ingredient she felt would provide an additional, intensifying flavor.  You see, Daisy is a perfectionist with food.  For her, not having the eggplant is like a painter finding himself without the brush needed to make the ultimate finishing stroke on a masterpiece – the result will still be an incredible work of art, but the artist will see the missing streak of paint and know that it is just short of perfection.

This seriousness though is what helps make the magic. Balanced constantly with laughter it creates an experience, not just a meal.  Through Daisy’s firm encouragement, I’ve tasted foods that I’d already written off years earlier or never entertained putting in the gigantic hole in my face that I call a mouth. Daisy has confidence that if you don’t like a dish, you just haven’t had the chance to taste it prepared correctly – and she will provide you with that opportunity.  Every single time, she’s proved my preconceptions wrong and removed grateful ingredients from my “dead to me” list.

OK, so you’re saying, “Of course her food is delicious.  She’s a graduate of the French Culinary Institute and a professional chef!  I burn Ramen noodles and my instant pudding always comes out all wrong – there’s no chance I can make her dishes at home.”

And I’m replying, “You’re wrong fool!  Not only can you prepare these delicious meals at home, you can make a chipotle flourless chocolate cake instead of pudding and use those uncooked Ramen noodles as bedding in your hamster cage!”

“How do you know!?” you ask again, like a petulant child.  After getting over the hurt of you not trusting me, I’ll answer – “Because I’ve done it myself!  Yes, really!”

This past Summer, my mom and I attended a cooking class that Daisy holds annually at Whitehead Light Station in Maine. On a small island, living in the old lighthouse keeper’s residence, we would wake each morning to views of water crashing against the rocks and our assignment for the day.  After breakfast, we’d don our aprons, grab our knives and, together as a group with Daisy’s guidance, prepare an incredibly decadent and satisfying lunch.  There we were, yelling “Behind you chef!” like professionals, roasting red peppers over an open flame, steaming freshly caught lobster in seaweed, stuffing slices of garlic into marinating pernil and making achiote oil to color and flavor our perfectly cooked rice.  I have never (let me reiterate, never) made perfect rice before this class.  With two simple rules, Daisy showed us how. And once you get over the fear of making rice, you can do other things you’re afraid of, like set spiders free outside instead of killing them.  No more instant rice, and you can leave the “San Francisco treat” in San Francisco where it belongs. It’s very liberating!

Since then, I’ve made several of Daisy’s dishes at home, following her recipes, and they’ve come out amazing each time.  It’s a great way to impress your friends at a dinner party and, more importantly, it’s something special to do with family and friends. Cooking can bring people together, lighten the mood and break down barriers faster than almost anything else because, after all, one of the few things we all have in common is our need to eat and our love of delicious food.  And few embody the communal power of cuisine more than Daisy because to her, nothing is more important than family and that includes her blood relatives, as well as her friends and fans.  When you’re in Daisy’s kitchen, it’s like being in your mom’s, or your aunt’s, or your sister’s, or your best friend’s home — she is a beautiful, genuine, strong and talented woman who has worked hard for success but never forgotten her roots.

And that’s what’s exciting about this latest venture with El Diario – it’s a great way to bring the family together. Imagine, each week, gathering new recipes, sitting down to plan your holiday meal, shopping for all the fresh ingredients and then preparing and cooking, together.  In this world where we’re so connected, but often so busy that we neglect time together with the ones we love, wouldn’t it be nice to return to basics for a season and bring togetherness back to Christmas, Channukah and all of the other holidays we celebrate as another year comes to a close?  I think so, and that’s why this year, I’ll be foregoing the American classic turkey or ham on Christmas and making pernil, empanadas and arroz con gandules with my partner and our family. Oh, and as Daisy is serving me a beautiful slice of it right now, coconut flan!  “¡Coñaso! How could I forget the flan?”

To connect with Daisy and get the latest and greatest recipes, details on upcoming events and to be the first to learn about her upcoming cookbook, check out the sites below:


Justin Bieber plays the Palace of Auburn Hills



Bieber Fever has taken the world by storm yet again. As millions of fans count down the days until the June 19 release of his fourth studio album, Believe, platinum-selling pop singing sensation Justin Bieber brought the “Believe” Tour with special guest Carly Rae Jepsen to Auburn Hills’ Palace on Wednesday, November 21 at 7 p.m.

Believe takes flight on the wings of “Boyfriend,” its first worldwide smash single, which hit number one at iTunes the second it was released, and set a world-record for debuting number one on iTunes in 32 countries. The “Boyfriend” video has shattered all YouTube records since its MTV premiere (on May 3). The clip generated eight million views in its first 24 hours, and has garnered more than 44 million views to date. Believe is Executive Produced by Scott “Scooter” Braun and Usher Raymond IV, and track producers include Max Martin, Mike Posner, MdL, Diplo, Hit-Boy, The Messengers, Zedd, Rodney Jerkins, and Justin’s vocal producer, Kuk Harrell. The album features guest appearances by Ludacris, Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Big Sean.

With worldwide album sales in excess of 15 million units, Justin has dominated pop culture and social media for more than two years. He has more than 43 million Facebook fans, more than 22 million Twitter followers, and more than 2.9 billion YouTube views – he is far and away the most popular YouTube artist of all time, and received the 2012 Billboard Music Award for Social Artist of the Year.

Believe follows Justin’s number one Christmas album, Under The Mistletoe, which was his third number one Soundscan debut in just 18 months, making him the first solo artist in Billboard history to chart three number one albums before his 18th birthday (on March 1). Prior to Under The Mistletoe, My World 2.0 entered Soundscan at number one in 2010 (containing “Baby,” ranked the number one most viewed YouTube video, currently more than 738 million views); and Never Say Never: The Remixes entered at number one in 2011, the soundtrack to the highest domestic-grossing concert film in U.S. history.

For more information on Justin Bieber, please visit www.justinbiebermusic.com, www.bieberfever.com, www.twitter.com/justinbieber and www.facebook.com/justinbieber.


The Kantorwassink “Winners Party” – A Celebration of Awesomeness



Last night the Stellafly team joined Kantorwassink for a celebration of international proportions at one of our favorite watering holes, The Winchester in the Wealthy Street Business District.

Why the celebration? Well, the talented team has a lot to boast about these days. Their work for BISSELL is traveling the globe as part of the prestigious TYPO International Design Awards Tour. Stops include London, Berlin and San Francisco – but, unfortunately, not Grand Rapids.

Kantorwassink, a Grand Rapids-based advertising agency, took home top honors from Creativity International Awards for its work on a corporate brochure for BISSELL. “Bring on BISSELL, Bring on Life” delves into the company’s corporate philosophy and culture in 16 over-sized pages brimming with real life – including the real pets, real kids, real friends and other often really messy parts of living in the real world.

BISSELL earned a frist-time spot on Creativity International‘s design tour alongside such leading consumer brands such as BMW, Gucci, Nike and Sony. This is the fourth year that Kantorwassink has picked up gold and silver awards for its clients from Creativity International, one of the longest running, independent advertising and graphic design competitions.

“We are incredibly thrilled that our first project for BISSELL has landed the company an elite award from the world of international design,” said Wendy Wassink, a principal of Kantorwassink, “this recruiting piece speaks to the advantages of building a career in a collaborative, innovative environment that encourages employees to work hard, play hard and live well.”

“This is the first in a series of pieces that we are working on for BISSELL as part of its larger corporate and simultaneous consumer repositioning of this storied brand. We’ve developed an open, engaging design for the brochure. The brochure matches the feel of this dedicated group of people focused on redefining the concept of clean.”

From references to Zippy the Wonder Cat and MacGyver down to the industrial design specialist and a corporate commitment to philanthropy, “Bring on BISSELL, Bring on Life” strives to re-introduce the company to a new generation of prospective engineers, brand managers, financial analysts and other employees.

“We’ve really worked to distill the BISSELL story and share why the company’s values and fundamental make it a better place to work,” said Dave Kantor, a principal at Kantorwassink. “All the products BISSELL makes are inspired by our lives. It is looking to hire people who want to live life and make a difference in what they do and where they work.”

The brochure was created and produced in West Michigan in collaboration with photographer Mitch Ranger. Additional lifestyle photos were provided by T.J. Hamilton. Central Michigan Paper in Ada supplied the paper for brochure, which was printed by The Printery in Holland.

This is the first time that BISSELL has been honored for its design work in the Creativity International Awards, which are open to both professionals and students. The program was initially established 1070 as a traveling exhibit, in conjunction with Art Direction Magazine. Creativity is judged by a rotating of advertising and design professionals who volunteer their time and knowledge without personal agenda or bias.

Kantorwassink also received a gold award in this year’s competition for design work done for Milk & Honey, a restaurant in Chicago. They follow on the heels of gold awards last year for Amway Corporation and Kent County, among others.

Kantorwassink is a friendly little juggernut of an ad agency that brings big personalities to brands through a combination of brilliant strategy and breakthrough creative. They are known for their unrivaled ability to deliver game-changing, breakthrough work that is truly world-class.

Check them out on their website: http://www.kantorwassink.com
Join them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/kantorwassink/73873098430?fref=ts
Follow them on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/Kantorwassink


Miss Spirit of the State Competition 2012



Stellafly has been following the Miss Spirit of the State Scholarship Program for the past two years. “A beauty pageant?” you might be wondering? It’s actually so much more… an outlet for promoting causes and social justice, a platform for creative expression, and the opportunity to express their views about world events and pop culture attracted 32 contestants from across the state and an audience of more than 300.

Miss Spirit of the State has an eleven-year history with the Miss Michigan Pageant, a part of the Miss America Organization which is the largest source of scholarships for young women in the world.

The Aquinas College Performing Arts Center hosted the competition on Sunday, November 11, where the contestants competed for a scholarship, prizes and awards, the title of Miss Spirit of the State, and the opportunity to compete in the 63rd annual Miss Michigan Pageant in June 2013.

Throughout the evening, all contestants competed in the fitness, talent, on-stage question and evening wear competitions. Special guests throughout the night were Miss Michigan 2012 Angela Venditti, Miss Michigan’s Outstanding Teen 2012 Sabrina Jeffrey, and the reining titleholders for the Miss Spirit of the State ProgramUrsula FullerMiss Spirit of the State’s Outstanding Teen, and Sarah SuydamMiss Spirit of the State. Fuller and Suydam were profiled earlier this year by Stellafly (insert link here?) as they prepared for Miss Michigan. At the state level, they both won Preliminary Talent competition honors, Fuller placed First Runner-Up to Miss Michigan’s Outstanding Teen, and Suydam finished as 3rd Runner-Up to Miss Michigan.

At the end of the Miss Spirit of the State competition, the results were as follows:


Featuring contestants between 13-17 years of age

Talent Award: Alisha Gatchel, Greenville

Evening Wear Award: Alisha Gatchel, Greenville

4th Runner Up: Erica Kennedy, Flint

3rd Runner Up: Hannah Ringler, Cedar Springs

2nd Runner Up: Courtney Baumann, Monroe

1st Runner Up: Alisha Gatchel, Greenville

Miss Spirit of the State’s Outstanding Teen 2013: Kyleigh Smith, Monroe

Smith is a 14 year-old who plays all school sports, dances with Viva! Dance Company, and is in the 9th grade at Jefferson High School. For the talent competition, she performed a lyrical jazz dance to an acoustic version of the pop song “Firework.” Her platform and area of community service is “Helping Children Cope With Hair Loss.”


Featuring contestants between 17-24 years of age

Talent Award: Lauren Brown, Harrison Township

Evening Wear Award: Alyssa Veliquette, Elk Rapids

4th Runner Up: Natalie Hollabaugh, Elk Rapids

3rd Runner Up: Erin Jenkinson, Burton

2nd Runner Up: Emily Kielisewski, Alpena

1st Runner Up: Jaeleen Davis, Bay City

Miss Spirit of the State 2013: Lauren Brown, Harrison Township

Brown, 21, is a senior at the University of Michigan studying communications. A member of the U of M dance team, she performs in front of the largest football audience in the United States. Brown received her talent award for her jazz dance performance to “Hernando’s Hideaway.” Her platform is “The Four Points of Wellness – Educating Our Youth About Wellness as a Comprehensive Concept.”

Smith and Brown will compete for the titles of Miss Michigan’s Outstanding Teen and Miss Michigan next June at the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts in Muskegon. Until then, they will spend their year of reign representing their platforms, engaging in service with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and preparing for the state competition with their Board of Directors and prep team based out of Grand Rapids.

The two competitions were judged by two separate panels of 10 familiar faces of Grand Rapids, including WGVU’s Shelley Irwin, Ryan Sluszarsyk of the Amway Hotel Corporation, and Spotlight616/StyleBattle Founder Tina DeRusha. The judges said they walked away from the experienced refreshed and with an additional respect for this demographic of young, accomplished women. DeRush shared, “It seems the ones I loved the most had a fire in their belly, a passion for being fearless and a little bit of grit. The essence of the girl was still there. Lauren Brown certainly has it; I’m sure she will be an awesome representative at Miss Michigan.”

To follow Kyleigh Smith and Lauren Brown’s journey, visit facebook.com/missspiritofthestate and www.missspiritofthestate.org. Stellafly will catch up with them again before they depart for Miss Michigan and during the state competition in June.









Community Profile: Tersee Nande



“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi

Tersee Nande is doing just that. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down and chat with him as part of a four part series of people in our community involved with D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s. What I learned is that Tersee is making changes in the world, amazing changes. When you see the power of one person who has literally rallied an entire community around a school, it is both inspiring and encouraging.

Tersee is a product of the Grand Rapids Public School system, graduating from Creston High School. He went on to Miami University in Ohio to play football, and when he arrived on campus as a freshman, he was like so many of us at that point in our lives—not sure what he wanted to be “when he grew up.” He knew he liked working with kids, because he used his skills as an athlete to work with kids at football camps over summer vacations. But it wasn’t until one Thanksgiving break when he was chatting with a friend of his, Justin, who worked for Bethany Christian Services, that an idea was sparked in his mind. He was able to spend some time with Justin and after seeing the work his friend was doing, Tersee signed up for Social Work courses and was hooked.

After graduating from college, Tersee came back to Grand Rapids and was hired as a Site Manager for the LOOP Program, after-school program for elementary and middle school students from GRPS. Certified teachers are on hand for homework assistance, tutoring, etc., and the program also includes physical and character education.

Fast forward a couple of years and today Tersee is a member of the Kent Schools Services Network (KSSN) team at D.A. Blodgett/St. John’s. I was blown away at the level of tenacity this young person had and the amount of passion he has for what he does on a daily basis. As a Kent Schools Services Coordinator, Tersee is rallying support from the community for the kids of Alger Heights Middle School. He is giving 110 percent to make sure that these kids have every opportunity possible and every incentive to succeed.

The KSSN is a group of individuals working through agencies such as D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s, Arbor Circle, and Community Family Partners who are liaisons between the schools and the community. In Tersee’s case, he is assigned to Alger Heights Middle School. This group works in 7 districts and 21 schools in Grand Rapids and Kentwood. Tersee has been responsible for going out into the Alger Heights community and garnering business support for the students at the middle school. A few of the businesses he has partnered with are iHop, who provides breakfast for reading programs and the attendance celebration; Uccello’s, who has provided student incentives for positive behavior; and what could be considered the signature program, the partnership with Subway at the corner of Eastern & 28th Street.

The Subway partnership came about very naturally and because of Tersee’s regular visits to the restaurant over the summer. As he became a “regular” in the sandwich shop, the manager, Brian, and him had struck up many conversations. Brian said he had done several things with schools in Wyoming but never in Grand Rapids, and was interested in finding a way to help. And boy did they ever! Subway sponsors the “Read a Book” program at the middle school as a way to increase literacy and to help motivate students to pick up a book and read it all the way through.

The students at Alger Heights Middle School are asked to read any non-fiction book that has been approved by the school’s Media Specialist, Mrs. Blackwell. Most are 200+ pages. After reading the book, the student must complete a book report that is peer-edited by their parents and is then presented to Mrs. Blackwell. For each book read and report completed, they receive a free meal at Subway. There is also a “Reader of the Month” chosen by the staff. The program has greatly increased the number of readers and is getting the youth excited about books, which in this day and age of increased technology, is quite an accomplishment.

Another great program that Nande has helped initiate is a partnership with PNC Bank that has resulted in an in-school, student run bank. This was a project two years in the making and the bank officially opened this year with a ribbon cutting that was attended by the mayor of Kentwood and the President of PNC Bank. Every Tuesday during the lunch hours, the bank is open and staffed by 6th and 7th graders selected based on their advanced math, leadership, and communication skills. Students can open an account with a deposit of 50 cents and with each deposit they earn 1 “PNC Buck,” which can be collected to earn prizes. There are seven students running the bank—three doing the marketing and four bank tellers. Kentwood branch manager Jennifer Galardi is there every Tuesday to oversee the bank. This project has taught students about the value of saving for their future and financial literacy. The next phase will include classes for both parents and students.

As the Community Schools Coordinator, it is also Tersee’s job to meet the vision of the school and of the principal. This year the focus is on attendance and increasing parental involvement. They have a first hour attendance challenge because most of the students live too close to qualify for bussing, and parents hesitate to send their kids walking in the dark and cold. So to encourage attendance, they have “attendance celebrations” once each quarter. In regards to parental involvement, he is finding ways to make parents feel welcome and supported at the school. Most of the time when parents are called to the school, there is a problem with their child. Tersee is working on find ways to make the parents want to come to the school and be involved in their child’s education.

With all of this, it seems as if he might not have free time. But when he does get some time for himself, Tersee enjoys working out, traveling to his favorite cities—NYC, Miami, and to the West Coast, attending book release parties, and getting together with friends. He enjoys LINC First Fridays, too. When I asked Tersee what his future goals were, he said he would like to continue the path he is on and find ways to maximize the reach that he has. “I want to exercise my fullest potential,” he said. As he said it, I noticed a certain glimmer in his eyes and I just know that he will continue to make a difference wherever life takes him.

Art Van Furniture brings back the Dreamlike Wonder and Awe of Christmas to Grand Rapids



Last Thursday, we joined our friends at Art Van Furniture for the Grand Opening of their newest tradition — Winter Wonderland. The 28th Street locations has been completely decked out with millions of twinkling lights, Christmas trees, Candyland and a candy decorated Santa house. The concept was developed by the retailer’s flagship store in Warren, the company’s headquarters.

Carolers met Photographer Raeanna Anglen at the front door and led her inside to what children dream of — amazing food, Christmas decorations and people… lots and lots of people, including Governor Rick Snyder. Art Van Furniture founder and chairman, Art Van Elslander unveiled the store’s newest tradition with a tree lighting ceremony and fireworks. It was heavily attended by many members of the media and community.

Winter Wonderland includes a two-and-a-half story white pear tree at the store’s entrance and the entire youth department is transformed into color-filled Candyland with gift-wrapped boxes and sleighs pulled by faux-reindeer suspended from above.

Wonderland proves to be an exciting fun filled visit for the family. Free photos with Santa Claus will be offered on the weekends, beginning Black Friday and running through Dec. 22. Visitors also have a chance to celebrate the season in a new, old fashioned way. Visit Wonderland at Art Van’s Warren location on 14 mile or Grand Rapids – 28th Street location. Take a photo of yourself with something you love from Wonderland. Visit the event link and tell them why you want to win a $5000 Holiday Shopping Spree from Art Van or just share your holiday memories. Share your entry with your friends and get the most votes to win a $5000 Shopping Spree! To learn more: https://www.facebook.com/art.van.furniture/app_154581087931912

Art Van sponsors the Grand Rapids Santa Parade, organized by the Grand Rapids Jaycees. The parade takes place next Saturday, November 17th in Downtown Grand Rapids and will be televised by WOOD-TV 8.

Cheers to the Holidays! Be sure to stop by and experience the Joy of Art Van’s Wonderland. It’s simply magical.

Find Art Van Furniture on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/art.van.furniture?fref=ts


Susan G. Komen “On the Wings of Hope” Survivor Benefit



Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd Annual Susan G. Komen for the Cure “On the Wings of Hope” Survivor Benefit. A night full of inspirational stories, essential fundraising, and a “pinkified” venue of attendees, the benefit successfully highlighted the reality and the positive community surrounding breast cancer awareness.

Kicking off with a reception hour at the Goei Center, a beautiful warehouse inspired venue in downtown Grand Rapids with contemporary wood floors, a Koi pond, and exposed brick design. The benefit was a true “celebration of life” with music, a silent auction, dinner, guest speakers, pink cocktails and paintings.

The silent auction showcased a number of special goods, notably a pink shoe display tower donated by Wolverine Worldwide. Their cleverly titled campaign “Finding a Cure: One Step at a Time” was the talk of the reception. Additionally, a local artist had a canvas set up that survivor attendees could paint a couple strokes to contribute to a finished product.

Two of the most noteworthy aspects of the night were the 2012 Denise Blunk Young Survivor Award recipient, Erin Murray, and the keynote speech by Steve Ford, son of Betty Ford. The Young Survivor Award began under the pretense of 5 Life Lessons: live life in the now, practice self-love and take care of you, understand that you are responsible for your own joy, live courageously, and make God real to others.

This year’s recipient, Erin Murray, is a true inspiration and pillar of strength. She was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer at the age of 29, while she was six and a half months pregnant. Cataloging her journey through her blog, Murray’s recollection of her journey and the gratitude she has for the survivor and co-survivor community, as well as her one year old son she calls her “life-savior,” left not a dry eye in the room.

Keynote speaker, Steve Ford, had the room in fits of laughter and tears while he described his mother and her battle with breast cancer. As Ford beamed, “[Mom] never acknowledged negativity towards her experience with the disease, only that she married the right man, had wonderful friends and family, and the most amazing support system available: women all over the United States.”

Betty Ford is, and should be, credited for changing the face of the breast cancer in America. In the 70’s, it was frowned upon to even say the world “breast” in public and Betty vowed to erase that shame and welcome the awareness of breast cancer. Ever humbled, Steve Ford ends by reiterating, “if Mom were here tonight, she’d tell you she was just an ordinary woman stuck in an extraordinary time.”

The glow of love, strength, support, and awareness was impossible to ignore throughout the benefit. “On the Wings of Hope” is a true dedication to the plight and the importance of our community support system. Find more information on Susan G. Komen West Michigan here.

How does your community honor its breast cancer survivors and co-survivors?

Kristin Coppens is the West Michigan writer for A Healthier Michigan. She has written freelance for numerous outlets in Grand Rapids, and previously worked in Marketing and PR. A self-proclaimed foodie, techie and political nerd, Kristin is a huge promoter of Grand Rapids, and Michigan as a whole.