Steve Gamel, Author at Cross Timbers Gazette | Southern Denton County | Flower Mound | News https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/author/stevegamel/ News, events, sports, schools, business and weather for Flower Mound & southern Denton County, Texas - The Cross Timbers Gazette Newspaper Thu, 24 Nov 2022 03:12:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.1.1 https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/crosstimbersgazette/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/cropped-site-icon-36x36.jpg Steve Gamel, Author at Cross Timbers Gazette | Southern Denton County | Flower Mound | News https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/author/stevegamel/ 32 32 Marcus senior earns major role in star-studded Christmas movie https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/2022/11/23/marcus-senior-earns-major-role-in-star-studded-christmas-movie/ Wed, 23 Nov 2022 20:40:53 +0000 https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/?p=65929 Claire Capek has filmed hundreds of auditions. She’s also memorized thousands of pages of scripts, wowed casting directors at nearly every turn, and kept her chin up despite her fair share of no callbacks — all with the belief that her first big acting break was somewhere out there in the universe. Well, her big […]

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Claire Capek has filmed hundreds of auditions. She’s also memorized thousands of pages of scripts, wowed casting directors at nearly every turn, and kept her chin up despite her fair share of no callbacks — all with the belief that her first big acting break was somewhere out there in the universe.

Well, her big break finally came. And now, the 17-year-old Marcus High School senior is back to playing the waiting game.

Only this time, it’s for the world premiere date.

Capek will star alongside Candace Cameron Bure and Marc Blucas in “A Christmas…Present,” slated to air Nov. 27 on the Great American Family channel. In the movie, Maggie Larson (Bure) is a busy Type-A mom and successful real estate agent who travels with her husband (Blucas) and kids to spend Christmas with her widowed brother and his daughter. Through a series of transformative events, Maggie learns to slow down and embrace the reason for the season.

Capek plays Bure’s daughter, Becca Larson. She hopes this is the first significant domino to fall in her budding career.

“I hope so. It’s exciting,” Capek said. “[Filming a movie] honestly hasn’t felt long enough; it went by fast. But it’s exciting, and I love everyone I work with. They’ve all been so nice and welcoming. I’m happy every time I’m on set.”

“A Christmas…Present” is part of the Great American Family channel’s holiday programming, which kicked off on October 21 and will feature Christmas movies every day through the end of the year. This particular film has been making headlines considering it is Bure’s — most people know her as D.J. Tanner from “Full House” — first original Christmas movie since her Hallmark exit. She signed with Great American Media in April to develop, produce, and star in movies and television.

The chance to work with such a star-studded cast is huge for Capek. The 5-foot-10-inch strawberry blonde from Highland Village was initially spotted at an impromptu runway walk for a kids’ magazine when she was 5 years old. By the time she got to the front of the runway, the judges had already pulled her aside and were enamored by the pint-sized diva.

She was signed by the Kim Dawson Agency and graced the North Texas Child magazine cover when she was 6. That early success kick-started quite a successful modeling career, which has seen Capek model for the JC Penny, American Girl, and Academy Sports product catalogs and various other opportunities. Two years ago, she added 42 Model Management to the management roster for modeling. But she stayed with Kim Dawson for acting and continues to train with Cathryn Sullivan’s Acting for Film to perfect her craft.

Until recently, she was always oh-so-close to a big break.

“She constantly has acting auditions and has done several videos and short films. But the challenge was that while non-stop training at Cathryn Sullivan’s Acting for Film for 11 years, she was always getting very close to a bigger opportunity but never got that one big break,” Claire’s mother, Shannon, said. “There just weren’t a lot of perfect fits acting-wise for a 5-10 redhead.”

She added, “To get told no hundreds of times and to finally get this one means a lot.”

Claire agreed.

“It’s been a big rollercoaster ride because I have always been working and doing something,” Claire said of her modeling and acting career. “I remember getting this script and treating it as just another audition. I told myself I’d do my best as always and let it go into the universe. I honestly didn’t think about it after that, because, after years of auditioning, I learned that is the best way to not stress over it.  But then I got the email from my agent about a callback.”

Claire auditioned for “A Christmas…Present” on August 29 and received her first callback roughly a week later. Ironically, the Zoom video callback was scheduled for the same day the Capeks were scheduled to work the annual St. Ann’s Carnival at their church in Coppell.

Claire and Shannon brought all her equipment and set up in an empty room for the callback.

“We’ve always prayed for the right job at the right time and for her to be surrounded by the right people,” Shannon said. “The fact that the callback was for a Christian-based movie — and it took place at our church — was an amazing sign.”

Claire was quickly offered the role of Becca Larson. Even though she was 8 inches taller than Bure, her height matched perfectly with her on-set dad, Marc Blucas. They started filming on September 22, and Claire wrapped up her final day on set on October 12 at 2:15 a.m.

From there, it was back to reality to take her midterm exams and prepare for the Homecoming dance.

And in a few short days, she’ll likely be throwing the biggest local premiere party of all time.

“It’s going to be an exciting time to see it all finished and on television,” Claire said. “We’ll be watching.”

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Success in her sights: Local high school sharpshooter is always on target https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/2022/11/22/success-in-her-sights-local-high-school-sharpshooter-is-always-on-target/ Tue, 22 Nov 2022 18:23:23 +0000 https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/?p=65905 Liberty Christian senior Macie Page waited patiently for what felt like an eternity to showcase her ridiculously accurate helice shooting skills on a world stage. And when she finally got that opportunity in September, she made sure she didn’t miss. Page, who turns 18 in February, won a silver medal at the 2022 Helice World […]

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Liberty Christian senior Macie Page waited patiently for what felt like an eternity to showcase her ridiculously accurate helice shooting skills on a world stage. And when she finally got that opportunity in September, she made sure she didn’t miss.

Page, who turns 18 in February, won a silver medal at the 2022 Helice World Championship in Sicily in early September. Competing on behalf of Team USA, Page was the youngest female competitor and finished regulation in a first-place tie with eventual champion Lindsey Stachurski, who bested Page by one target in a tiebreaker shoot-off.

This was Page’s first trip to Worlds despite qualifying in 2020 and 2021. She missed those events due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“This was the first year that COVID wasn’t a factor, so when I had the chance to go, I told my dad, ‘We have to find a way to go this year,’” Page said. “It was exciting to be there and have that amazing experience.”

Page has been sports shooting since she was 8 years old, starting with standard clay pigeon shooting before developing a love for helice. Also called ZZ bird shooting, helice combines the unpredictable nature of bird hunting with shooting clays. But helice targets have a white plastic “witness cap” with orange wings and are launched randomly from a shooting ring with five launchers.

Once released, each target has a random flight path. Some targets go high and fast, while others stay lower to the ground. The shooter can’t anticipate each target’s launch point like clay shooting and must rely on instinct and reaction ability to shoot accurately. The goal is to separate the witness cap from the orange wings before it travels over the boundary, which is roughly 25 yards away.

Clinton Page, an accomplished sports shooter in his own right, said his daughter fell in love with the sport after years of spending time with him at the range. He’d routinely take Macie or her older sister Morgan with him when Macie was as young as 3 or 4 years old.

“She would push the buttons to throw the targets for me, and every time we’d go, she’d bug me about when she’d be finally old enough to shoot,” Clinton Page said. “I started her around the time she was 8 or 9, and she began competing by 12. She took to the game. We joined the Dallas Gun Club so she could try her hand at helice, and she was a natural right away.”

Listening to Clinton and his wife, Courtney, talk, you’d think Macie could hit targets with her eyes closed. Macie isn’t willing to say any of that is true, but she puts a lot of hard work in with practices three or four days each week. In July, she repeated as the 2022 United States Helice Ladies National Champion and is currently the top-ranked female in the United States.

She’d like to say that she doesn’t get nervous at this stage of her career — but that’s not true, either.

“On the first practice day in Italy, I was incredibly nervous because I had never shot in front of that many people,” Macie said. “So, I did miss the first two or three shots — but that was practice. I got less nervous as we went along, and that’s usually the case when I compete anywhere. In a way, it also helps me. I am competitive, and I’m always trying my best to keep up with everyone else.”

The Denton teen added, “My dad and I are very close because of our love for shooting, and I’m grateful that we have that relationship. I remember telling him that I really enjoyed shooting. We just kept doing more and more of it, and that led to me competing.”

As for the future, Macie is still undecided on her college major but would love to find a university that can give her a great education without sacrificing her love for helice. The door is also open to possibly competing in sports shooting as a career.

“I don’t want to stop shooting,” Macie said. “I know people in their 70s who still shoot with the best of them, so I can see myself doing this for a long time.”

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Operation Christmas Child: Making a difference one shoebox at a time https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/2022/11/22/operation-christmas-child-making-a-difference-one-shoebox-at-a-time/ Tue, 22 Nov 2022 14:44:27 +0000 https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/?p=65847 Canyon Falls resident Cathy Ralston has always been in the giving spirit. Even before she joined Operation Christmas Child as a year-round volunteer a few years ago, she knew of the organization’s good deeds as far back as the early 1990s. And, on her own time, she was transforming empty shoeboxes into fun gifts loaded […]

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Canyon Falls resident Cathy Ralston has always been in the giving spirit. Even before she joined Operation Christmas Child as a year-round volunteer a few years ago, she knew of the organization’s good deeds as far back as the early 1990s. And, on her own time, she was transforming empty shoeboxes into fun gifts loaded with toys, school supplies, and hygiene products.

For Ralston, it was a simple expression of love and kindness during the holiday season — a time when every child worldwide should have something special to open, even if from a stranger. And helping year-round felt like a no-brainer.

“I’ve been familiar with them for a very long time and had been packing boxes with my kids and grandkids,” Ralston said of Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse that has collected and delivered more than 198 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 170 countries and territories since 1993. “But it was always something I just did on my own. I didn’t know you could be a year-round volunteer. When we moved to Texas and retired, I wanted something to do and got an email saying they needed volunteers. I’ve been doing it ever since.”

She added, “It’s so personal. As I’m packing a box, I’m thinking about how a child somewhere will open what I packed for them.”

Ralston is just one servant-minded volunteer on a growing list of over 15,000 volunteers worldwide. Many of them are like Ralston and live right here in Denton County. And because of their efforts, Operation Christmas Child is projected to collect its 200 millionth shoebox this holiday season. Last year alone, the nonprofit collected 10.5 million shoeboxes.

They hope to collect enough shoeboxes to reach another 11 million children this year.

“The draw is that it’s something that anyone from 4 to 104 years old can participate in,” Ralston said.

Children need joy and hope especially today during a time of continued global unrest.

“Now more than ever, children around the world need to know that God loves them and there is hope,” Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, said in a recent press release. “A simple shoebox gift opens the door to share about the true hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ.”

And to keep the giving momentum going, Operation Christmas Child announced in a recent press release that more than 4,500 drop-off sites would be open and collecting shoebox gifts during their National Collection Week, slated for November 14-21.

For Denton County residents, the nearest drop-off sites are First Baptist Church in Lewisville and Denton Bible Church.

There is also a strong push to bring in more volunteers. Dallas is home to one of Operation Christmas Child’s eight nationwide processing centers. That location is in Coppell. The organization is looking for individuals willing to work in a fun and exciting environment where they can be an integral part of the journey of thousands of shoebox gifts.

The contents of each shoebox typically include everything from toothbrushes and deodorant to clothing, coloring books, papers, pencils, crayons, and toys. Once shoeboxes have been packed, the processing center teams prepare each gift for international shipments to various church partners, who then distribute the gifts to children during local community events.

“Every gift-filled shoebox is an opportunity to show God’s love to children in need around the world,” Operation Christmas Child Senior Director, Randy Riddle, said in a press release. “You can be a part of this life-changing project by packing a shoebox, working at your local processing center, or praying for the children who will receive them.”

Ralston agreed, adding that she loves being part of such a worthy cause.

“I think the proof is in the pudding that this is a great organization,” she said. “I’m excited to do it every year, and I’ll continue doing it for as long as I am able.”

Interested volunteers can find more information and sign up at samaritanspurse.org. Participants can also find the nearest drop-off location and hours of operation on this website as they plan to drop off their shoebox gifts.

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Age gracefully at Luminous Glow Med Spa’s new location in Bartonville https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/2022/11/14/age-gracefully-at-luminous-glow-med-spas-new-location-in-bartonville/ Mon, 14 Nov 2022 18:25:20 +0000 https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/?p=65594 Jennifer Buck isn’t just here for the show. Thanks to her infectious and bubbly personality, it’s clear that she is the show — along with the rest of her team at Luminous Glow Med Spa. And when it comes to that engaging atmosphere and the added bonus of aging gracefully, her clients can’t wait to […]

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Jennifer Buck isn’t just here for the show. Thanks to her infectious and bubbly personality, it’s clear that she is the show — along with the rest of her team at Luminous Glow Med Spa. And when it comes to that engaging atmosphere and the added bonus of aging gracefully, her clients can’t wait to line up for a front-row seat.

After all, that’s what everyone craves as they age — a chance to slow the hands of time with medical-grade skincare products, procedures, and maintenance to treat fine lines and wrinkles, acne, and other skin rejuvenation needs. Moreover, they want to trust that the licensed and fun professional helping them achieve that natural glow is highly trained and in it for the right reasons.

“Our clients are family,” Jennifer said. She has 10 years of experience and helped open two other local med spas. “I care about them and want them to look rested and healthy. It’s not about having that overdone look— it’s about caring about them, their skin health, and their well-being.”

She added, “And we have fun here. We are glowing, and we want our clients to glow.”

Jennifer is glowing a little extra these days because her new location is tentatively slated to open on Nov. 16 in Bartonville Town Center. Luminous Glow is currently located at Mattison Ave. Suites in Highland Village, and its list of services include dermal fillers, chemical peels, various facials, dermaplaning, laser treatments, and more.

The new location allows them to transition from a cozy space with one treatment room to an additional 800 square feet of space. For clients, this means more treatment rooms, an inviting waiting area, and a glammed-up, uptown atmosphere.

And for Jennifer, it’s a chance to have a med spa that’s also close to home.

“This is my third med spa to open, but it’s the first that’s mine. It’s all mine, and I’m not sharing it with anyone,” she said with a laugh. “It’s going to be fun integrating my business into the Bartonville community.”

Learn more at luminousglowmedspa.com.

Specials and Blog

(Sponsored content)

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Seek help for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome from Advanced Pain Institute of Texas https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/2022/11/14/seek-help-for-complex-regional-pain-syndrome-from-advanced-pain-institute-of-texas/ Mon, 14 Nov 2022 14:20:23 +0000 https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/?p=65592 Imagine that you fractured a bone in your leg. You elect to have surgery, and the procedure goes so well that the bone heals in half the time. Usually, this would be great news. It’s just that you continue to deal with lingering and unexplained pain that shouldn’t be there. Your leg is red and […]

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Imagine that you fractured a bone in your leg. You elect to have surgery, and the procedure goes so well that the bone heals in half the time. Usually, this would be great news. It’s just that you continue to deal with lingering and unexplained pain that shouldn’t be there.

Your leg is red and swollen months later. And even the slightest touch is uncomfortable. What’s worse, your doctor confirms that you are 100% healed yet can’t fully explain the phenomenon.

This is where the experts at Advanced Pain Institute of Texas can help. The name for what you’re experiencing is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. And while you may feel like you have a rare condition that no one knows about, the reality is that we help patients every week who are in a similar position.

And more often than not, we can get them back to feeling like themselves relatively quickly.

“I recently had a patient who was in considerable pain and knew something wasn’t right,” Dr. John Broadnax said. “She was distraught, but we managed to help her. The key is early detection and treatment.”

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is a disease where the body’s nervous system still thinks there’s an ongoing issue after an injury, whether it be because of a fractured bone, trauma, or surgery. So even though the injury healed, the patient exhibits a great deal of pain that isn’t related to the injury itself.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome can happen anywhere in the body, and the key is to seek help quickly.

“What we usually see is that the patient is hypersensitive to touch, and there may be a difference between the two extremities — with one being more swollen, red, or blue,” Dr. Broadnax said. “We do physical therapy to get the limb moving and regain range of motion. At the same time, we increase comfort and decrease nervous system pain through neuropathic pain medications.”

Dr. Eric Anderson agreed, adding, “In some cases, we can do a sympathetic nerve block to ease the discomfort. And if that doesn’t work, we can turn to a spinal cord stimulator. The big thing is early treatment.”

Located in Lewisville, Advanced Pain Institute of Texas is the go-to source for pain management treatments and head-to-toe remedies. To learn more, visit apitexas.com or call 972-866-4246.

(Sponsored content)

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Seniors have fun on the dancefloor, squared https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/2022/10/21/seniors-have-fun-on-the-dancefloor-squared/ Fri, 21 Oct 2022 16:31:26 +0000 https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/?p=65205 Toby Thomason doesn’t always agree with everything his wife Judy suggests. But he remembers the day roughly 50 years ago when she dragged him along for a fun night of square dancing. He did it begrudgingly at first because, well, happy wife, happy life. But then something crazy happened — he actually enjoyed it. “I […]

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Toby Thomason doesn’t always agree with everything his wife Judy suggests. But he remembers the day roughly 50 years ago when she dragged him along for a fun night of square dancing. He did it begrudgingly at first because, well, happy wife, happy life. But then something crazy happened — he actually enjoyed it.

“I guess it did [pay off that I listened to her],” Toby said between hearty chuckles. “I was in the Air Force, and she was talking to two civilian ladies about it and said, ‘we’re going.’ I resisted at first, but once I got into it, I realized I liked it and could do it.

“We’ve enjoyed doing it ever since. It’s a wonderful activity, and we have a lot of fun.”

To say the Thomasons enjoy square dancing is an understatement. About a year later, Toby tried a singing call at a square dance weekend and quickly found his niche as a caller, the person who determines the moves dancers perform on the dance floor. He and Judy attended Frank Lane’s Callers School in the summer of 1973 and twice more a few years later. By 1974, they were charter members of the Triangle Squares Dance Club in Denton, a club they continue to help operate all these years later.

Toby is the only caller the organization has ever known.

“We’ve done a lot of traveling with it across the country to Taipei, Taiwan, Japan, etc.,” Toby said. He was inducted into the Texas State Callers’ Hall of Fame in 2014 and was twice named Caller of the Year in 2009 and 2011 by the North Texas Callers Association. “It’s good, wholesome fun.”

If you haven’t tried square dancing, you’re really missing out. It is a traditional American folk dance that starts with four couples in a square formation, with one couple on each side facing the middle of the square. Participants then dance to a specific sequence or series of steps orchestrated by the caller. And you don’t have to be a grown-up to take advantage of the fun. Toby said he’s seen square dancers as young as 9 years old to as wise as 90.

“We have people of all ages out there having fun,” he said.

Toby said that back in the early 70s, there were roughly 240 square dancing clubs in North Texas with approximately 20,000 dancers between them. While those numbers have dwindled considerably to 20 or so clubs today, square dancing is still very popular worldwide and is taught in English no matter where you go in the world, Toby said.

In fact, square dancing has been our country’s “official national folk dance” since President Ronald Reagan signed an act of Congress in 1982. And each Nov. 29 is National Square Dance Day.

Triangle Squares Dance Club, which holds classes and dance nights at First Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Denton, has between 25-30 members and has shown zero signs of slowing down all these years later.

Dances are held from 7-9 p.m. on the first and third Fridays of every month. Lessons are on Tuesday nights from 7-8:30 p.m.

“It’s great exercise, but it’s also great mental exercise because you have to listen to what the calls are,” Toby said. “Things change, and people get involved with other activities, etc., but we are still busy and enjoy working with people. Judy and I have been here since the beginning, and we can’t get enough of it. We love it. Square dancing is all about fun, friendship, and fellowship. We aren’t in it to make professional dancers out of everyone. This is just an activity and organization that has a lot of fun visiting with each other, dancing, and having a good time.”

If you’d like to learn more about the Triangle Squares Dance Club, including how to sign up for lessons and dance nights and where to view their schedule of events, visit trianglesquaresdanceclub.com.

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Robson Ranch hits grand slam with softball league https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/2022/10/19/robson-ranch-hits-grand-slam-with-softball-league/ Wed, 19 Oct 2022 11:54:42 +0000 https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/?p=65136 Longtime Robson Ranch resident Clyde Ziegler enjoys the look on every new resident’s face when he and a few cronies ask if they want to play in the community’s softball league. Admittedly, that’s typically not the first question someone in their 60s and 70s gets asked during small talk — and the bewildered responses are […]

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Longtime Robson Ranch resident Clyde Ziegler enjoys the look on every new resident’s face when he and a few cronies ask if they want to play in the community’s softball league.

Admittedly, that’s typically not the first question someone in their 60s and 70s gets asked during small talk — and the bewildered responses are almost always the same.

“In 99.9% of cases, they say, ‘I haven’t played softball in 30, 40, or 50 years,’” Ziegler, 75, said with a laugh. “That’s the first thing we all said when we were first asked, but then you get out here and start to play catch, hit the ball, and get out on the field.

“Your mind starts to feel 30 years younger — even though your body isn’t. It’s an absolute thrill to play again.”

Robson Ranch is known for being a premier retirement community for active adults in North Texas, and they have a variety of lifestyle activities for residents to choose from. One of those activities is the increasingly popular Robson Ranch Softball Association, which has grown to include a co-ed league, seniors league, and two competitive travel teams — one for players 65 and up and the other for players 70 and up.

League games are going on practically every day of the week at their community stadium called the Field of Dreams. And in many instances, those residents who can’t get enough of the game end up playing double duty in both leagues.

“It’s an absolute thrill to play this game again,” Ziegler said. He and his wife, Sandi, recently celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary. They have two kids and four grandkids. “In the co-ed league, we always have an after-game meal and spend time meeting each other. It’s a great activity for us older people to stay active, physically and socially, and to feel younger.”

In the same breath, Ziegler doesn’t mince words when he says their will to win is alive and well. In 2016, the Association started a 65 and up traveling squad to compete in various tournaments throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. They were so successful against teams from other areas — many of which pull from a larger geographic area rather than a neighborhood — that they added a 70 and up team in 2021.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic and the occasional injury to key players have slowed them down from time to time, both teams have won major tournaments over the years and continue to maintain a busy schedule to this day.

In fact, the 70 and up team was recently named the 70 AA Division state champions after competing in the 2022 Texas State Championship in Grapevine. Ziegler, who plays third base, admitted that Robson was the only 70 AA team at the tournament, meaning they won by default. But that didn’t stop them from playing six games in two days against competition from higher divisions.

Robson eliminated three of the five 70 AAA teams they faced and beat the 65 AA Division champ in that tournament.

They also placed fourth at the Salute to Veterans tournament in College Station, a tournament they won a year earlier.

“We have several outstanding players, all of whom allow us to compete against the bigger teams,” Ziegler said.

He pointed to stars such as Johnny Blecher, who plays rover and hit a grand slam at the Grapevine tournament. Their top two pitchers are Carl Caruso and Mick Calverley, and perhaps their best asset is their speed in the outfield, courtesy of guys like Jimmy Reese and Ford Robertson. In the Texas State Championship, Blecher and Pat Powers hit over .700, and David McKie, Bob Laderach, Jerry Bennett, Ziegler, and Randy Brewer all hit over .600.

Their non-player manager is Gary Smith, who Ziegler called a tremendous asset to the squad.

“We have a great manager with experience and some really good players out there,” Ziegler said. “Our outfield really sets us apart because the other teams don’t have guys who can run to catch the ball in the outfield. It’s a lot of fun.”

As for the future, none of the softball teams at Robson are showing signs of slowing down, though Ziegler admits there may be more hot tubs, bourbon, and beer in their future as they rest up and prepare for the next big game.

“There’s something about the game and the camaraderie we have,” Ziegler said. “We feel young again.”

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Liberty athletic director plays the long game https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/2022/10/17/liberty-athletic-director-plays-the-long-game/ Mon, 17 Oct 2022 06:34:52 +0000 https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/?p=65103 Randy Mayes has made three significant career moves since he seemingly retired eight years ago. He’s confident this latest move will be his last — though he’s not looking for it to end anytime soon. Mayes, who turns 67 this month, was hired as Liberty Christian’s new athletic director in June, ushering in what he […]

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Randy Mayes has made three significant career moves since he seemingly retired eight years ago. He’s confident this latest move will be his last — though he’s not looking for it to end anytime soon.

Mayes, who turns 67 this month, was hired as Liberty Christian’s new athletic director in June, ushering in what he hopes will be another successful and fun chapter in a career that includes four decades as a public and private high school coach, teacher, and administrator. It’s his second stint as an AD, as he held the same position at Lewisville ISD from 2008 to 2014.

“This has a greater chance of being my last move,” Mayes said with a laugh. “I felt the Lord’s calling to do this, and usually when that happens, I resist a little to see if it’s legit. I know how first-class Liberty has been and still is, and I wanted to be part of it.”

He added, “Liberty has done so much for me already, so it’s an honor to give back to them.”

Mayes retired as Lewisville ISDs athletic director in April 2014 but immediately began working at Liberty as an assistant football coach and teacher. He held that role until 2018, when he became the local Director of Partnership Development for Atavus, a company that educates and certifies high school coaches nationwide on proper tackling techniques.

Now he’s back working in high schools, which has always been his bread and butter. His career includes coaching stops at Ennis, Odessa Permian, and Marcus. He was the head football coach at Marcus from 2001 to 2006. He then became the district’s physical education director and later its athletic director. With Mayes as its AD, Lewisville ISD experienced athletic success across the board, most notably state championships in volleyball (Hebron, 2010), boys basketball (Marcus, 2011 and 2012), softball (Lewisville, 2013), girls soccer (Hebron, 2014), and baseball (Flower Mound, 2014).

Anyone who knows Mayes — he and wife Cynthia have three daughters in Katie Bragg, Kallie, and Kyndal — agrees he is as enthusiastic and selfless as they come and attacks each job with excitement that can only be matched by a kid in a candy store.

It’s the perfect marriage for Liberty. The school has always had a successful athletic program but is now leaning on Mayes — a man who loves kids and is eager to be Christ-like in all his roles — to give every sport and team more individualized attention.

“What typically happens is that some schools become known over time for certain sports. Maybe they’re known as a basketball school or a football school or a volleyball school, while the other sports get lost in the shuffle,” Mayes said. “With the way Dr. Blair McCullough has structured this, every parent and student is going to know moving forward that whichever sport your child chooses, that sport is the most important sport.”

To accomplish this, Mayes said they are mirroring what you might find in a college situation, with the athletic director and assistant ADs dividing up and overseeing specific sports.

For example, Mayes will oversee football, volleyball, and baseball, among his many other duties. Baseball coach and assistant AD Billy Jordan is responsible for boys basketball, golf, boys soccer, tennis, and wrestling. Track and field coach and assistant AD Ashley Kelly will oversee girls basketball, cheerleading, cross country, girls soccer, softball, swimming, and track and field.

“Once you get into it and look at it, it’s very exciting,” Mayes said. “I’ve been very impressed with the attention we’ve given each coach and sport. It’s an opportunity for individualized attention, and that structure will hopefully lead to similar success and excitement across all sports.”

As for the future, Mayes genuinely believes he is where he is supposed to be, and listening to him talk about what’s next for Liberty would make anyone want to suit up and take the field.

“It’s a great situation here at Liberty. It’s just like when I taught and coached here,” he said. “The Lord simply wanted me here.”

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One Pill Can Kill: Authorities warn of fentanyl dangers https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/2022/10/13/one-pill-can-kill-authorities-warn-of-fentanyl-dangers/ Thu, 13 Oct 2022 05:57:52 +0000 https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/?p=65029 As the founder of the local non-profit Winning the Fight, Kathy O’Keefe is used to standing in front of large assemblies of middle and high school kids to talk about the dangers of doing drugs. She’s worked one-on-one with grieving parents — many of whom lost a child to drugs as she did — and […]

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As the founder of the local non-profit Winning the Fight, Kathy O’Keefe is used to standing in front of large assemblies of middle and high school kids to talk about the dangers of doing drugs. She’s worked one-on-one with grieving parents — many of whom lost a child to drugs as she did — and has even partnered with law enforcement and other organizations to raise awareness.

She thought she’d seen it all. But if O’Keefe is being 100% honest, her message these days has her petrified like never before.

All because of a drug that can kill an unsuspecting user, including kids, with one pill — fentanyl.

“We’ve always had a drug problem, but it’s incredibly scary now because younger age groups are getting their hands on it,” O’Keefe said. “It’s coming out in rainbow colors now, so it looks just like candy. But even if they think it’s ecstasy, they think they’re taking one drug when it’s actually something else. The reality is that 40% of confiscated drugs right now are laced with fentanyl. That means buying these drugs off the street gives you a 40% chance of dying from one pill.”

She added, “It’s a different game right now, and it’s frightening — absolutely frightening. This is coming to our community.”

The truth is — it’s already here.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, per the Drug Enforcement Agency. It was initially developed for pain management treatment for cancer patients, anesthesia, etc. but has now made its way into the illicit drug world disguised as legitimate prescription drugs, other illegal drugs, and even candy. Like other opioid analgesics, fentanyl produces effects such as relaxation, euphoria, pain relief, sedation, confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, urinary retention, pupillary constriction, and respiratory depression. And it kills swiftly.

State and federal officials are warning families everywhere — including in southern Denton County — that fentanyl use, overdoses, and even deaths are in every suburb, HOA, gated community, and school bathroom. The Flower Mound Police Department made five fentanyl arrests in 2022 and responded to three overdoses.

They’ve referred larger cases to the DEA, which has also found itself cracking down on more cases locally.

“We work with a ton of different agencies, and there isn’t one we know that hasn’t been affected by fentanyl,” Flower Mound Police Sgt. James Pulis said. “The cases we see in our area involve people who are putting a pill on a piece of foil, lighting it with some kind of heat source, and inhaling the vapor. But that’s just in our area. In other areas, they see users crush the pills and snort them or straight up pop a pill. Our concern is that it’s ending up in much younger hands.”

On a larger scale, Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter to state agencies on September 20 directing them to ramp up state efforts to combat what is now considered a national crisis. Fentanyl is being trafficked into Texas by Mexican cartels, and related deaths reported in Texas in 2021 increased by a staggering 89% compared to 2020.

“Fentanyl’s potency and deceptiveness, combined with the federal government’s unwillingness to take border security seriously, pose a grave threat to Texans,” Abbot stated in the letter. “We must take all appropriate actions to inform Texans of this danger and prevent additional deaths. Together, we can help bring awareness to the threat posed by fentanyl and do our part to address this crisis.”

 

DEA officer Eduardo Chavez agreed, stating that the DEA’s tagline is: One Pill Can Kill.

Rainbow fentanyl is an emerging trend used by drug cartels to sell fentanyl — disguised as candy — to children and young people. Coming in the form of pills, powder and blocks resembling sidewalk chalk, rainbow fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. (Photo by Drug Enforcement Administration)

“A major problem is that there’s no quality control with these pills,” he said. “The first pill off of the assembly line isn’t exactly the same as the millionth pill, so one pill could have .5 milligrams of fentanyl, and the next one could have three milligrams. This is a lethal dose. There’s no such thing as experimentation or ‘let me try this out’ with this drug.”

O’Keefe founded Winning the Fight 12 years ago after losing her son Brett to a drug overdose. While his death was unrelated to fentanyl, at least one WTF board member has lost a child to fentanyl. The current drug overdose epidemic as a whole kills more than 100,000 people annually, per the CDC. What’s more shocking is that number is an increase of 28.5% from the year before — even as public and private organizations, schools, healthcare professionals, therapists, government agencies, and police departments band together to offer education, support, and resources to individuals and families who need it most.

Winning The Fight provided counsel to 353 families and facilitated 340 referrals to therapists, treatment facilities, and more in 2021 alone. In 2014, they released a documentary film, “Not Me,” which tells the story of addiction experienced by eight local families. “Not Me” continues to be shown in schools and churches, and the Flower Mound Municipal Court uses the program for many who face charges for drugs and paraphernalia.

Winning The Fight also assists with anxiety workshops such as Just Breathe, therapeutic retreats, court programs, drug education, panel discussions, health classes, drug testing kits, recommended reading, and other support models such as AA and Smart Recovery. Their Better Safe Than Sorry program preaches the importance of locking up prescription and over-the-counter medications, keeping them out of others’ hands. WTF recently showed its latest documentary, “Just Once,” and included a panel discussion with the DEA, FMPD, and Recovery Resource.

“The schools are trying; everyone is trying. But I’m tired of the fentanyl deaths. By July this year alone, we lost four kids from the local area. And these were from families we were working with,” O’Keefe said. “A lot of parents think that it’s not going to happen to them, so they don’t attend these programs. They’ve also stopped watching the news or reading it because everything is so depressing. But that’s the only way we can get the information out. Parents need to figure out what’s happening in these programs because if they aren’t paying attention, what do we do?”

Chavez said the good news is that illicit fentanyl distribution has not invaded legit pharmacies. So if you receive a prescription for any drug through a legitimate professional and go to a reputable pharmacy, you’re getting the real thing. With that said, parents need to have difficult talks with their kids and other family members if they notice anything strange.

“When I speak to parents in this area, the conversation usually goes like this: ‘I knew something was bothering them or that something was off. But I thought it was just teenagers being teenagers, and I wasn’t willing to address the issue because I didn’t want to start another fight. I’m already fighting with my teenager about grades, sports, friends, etc., so I didn’t want to add one more thing,’” he said. “But they need to. You can’t afford to back down because the consequences are irreversible.”

In the meantime, O’Keefe said she would continue spreading the message and praying for a positive breakthrough.

The only question is if enough people are willing to listen.

“Fentanyl wasn’t always around. But now, it’s murder by poison,” she said. “It’s a scary conversation, but it’s important.”

Learn more about Winning The Fight at wtf-winningthefight.org.

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Denton organization gives foster care teens a sense of direction https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/2022/09/23/denton-organization-gives-foster-care-teens-a-sense-of-direction/ Fri, 23 Sep 2022 21:37:55 +0000 https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/?p=64658 Myron Wilson can still vividly recall the day five years ago when a young woman showed up at his church in McKinney looking for help. She was 18, alone, scared, and uncertain about her future after having recently aged out of foster care. As a pastor, Wilson was used to having solutions to every problem. […]

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Myron Wilson can still vividly recall the day five years ago when a young woman showed up at his church in McKinney looking for help. She was 18, alone, scared, and uncertain about her future after having recently aged out of foster care.

As a pastor, Wilson was used to having solutions to every problem. But this situation caught him off guard.

“My wife, Stacy, and I were pretty naive about these situations at the time. But one thing we couldn’t fathom was letting an 18-year-old girl leave and stay on the street,” Wilson said. “So we took her into our home. As time went by, we became aware of what these kids go through and how important it is to help them know what it’s like to be in a loving environment.

“God put this on my path, and I knew we had to make a difference.”

Wilson’s answer to the problem is Direction 61:3, a faith-based nonprofit organization registered with the state of Texas and licensed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to help men and women ages 15-24 transition from foster care into society as thriving adults.

Beyond providing a roof over their heads — Direction 61:3 currently has three residential homes and a fourth on the way — their holistic approach includes physical and emotional support, educational guidance, career preparation, life skills training, and how to build and establish life-changing relationships.

The organization was started in McKinney, and all the current donated homes are within city limits and overseen by a foster parent. This includes the FARM, a new property that will serve as the main office and provide three acres for a foster and aged-out community of homes and programming facilities for kids ages 15-24. With a variety of tiny homes to larger foster homes, the FARM has the potential to house up to 60 youth.

And the best part — they have expanded to Denton. In the months to come, they should close on their first home and have it operating by October. With further hope to open a second home after the first of the year.

“We look for investors who will buy a home and lease it to us for three years. We have people who help with maintenance at the home, and the idea is to keep these kids off the streets. It’s a win-win for everyone,” Wilson said. “We provide stability; we give them a place where they feel like they can belong and a sense of direction they simply didn’t have before.”

While many people instantly laud Direction 61:3 for its efforts and want to find ways to get involved, few fully comprehend the sobering statistics that warrant having this type of resource in the first place. The foster care system is designed as a temporary arrangement that gives children and teens a safe place to live, either because they no longer have parents, or their parents or primary caregivers are going through a crisis. The older a child gets, the harder it gets to find them a permanent home. So many of these kids bounce between several houses and struggle to maintain a strong support system around them.

Once they reach 18, they are legally considered an adult. As a result, many choose to leave foster care — unaware that they are woefully unprepared for the real world. Approximately 38 to 40% of the current homeless population are kids who recently aged out of foster care. And 80% of all sex traffic victims have been in foster care.

“I was a missionary overseas, and I fell in love with being able to work with young adults preparing them to transition out of a children’s village and back into their community,” said Jen Moore, Denton Area Director at Direction 61:3. “When I got back to the states, I realized there was also a need right here in our own backyard. And it couldn’t be more true.”

She added, “We circle around these men and women and continue to serve and care for them as they become young adults.”

Wilson agreed, adding that engaging foster youth in their teens can be invaluable toward establishing a positive life trajectory.

“Kids leave foster care because they’ve moved around too much and feel like they can care for themselves better than the state can,” he said. “But that is typically a false assumption. We want to expand our network so that we can help them thrive.”

Affordable and stable housing is paramount for youth aging out of the foster care system. Direction 61:3 provides such housing, allowing young adults the freedom to focus on necessary skills and education essential to becoming self-sufficient. The housing incorporates a comprehensive approach beyond simply a place to live and promotes a sense of home. Moving forward, they envision a network of housing facilities across North Texas, with specific attention given to communities where current housing support is unavailable.

“We have had the great privilege of watching kids transform before our eyes,” Wilson said. “It’s a great feeling.”

To learn more about Direction 61:3, including how to apply for housing, volunteer, donate financially, or become a foster parent, visit direction613.org or call 214-544-9055.

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