Women I Admire

Today is International Women’s Day, where we honor women who have made amazing contributions to the world.  Of course, we have the usual honorees, such as Frida Kahlo, Harriet Tubman, Marie Curie, Benazir Bhutto, Michelle Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hanan AshrawiRuth Bader Ginsburg, Mary McLeod Bethune, and so many, many, more.

But I want to talk about some of the women who inspire me on the daily.  They aren’t famous, but they contribute to my life and the lives of many others within their communities.  They are women who are involved in helping others and kindness and giving back and they don’t think that they are heroes.  But they are.  And so, I’d like to dedicate my post today to them.  Here is my list of admired women, in no particular order.

ROSLYN BURCH

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Roslyn is the Family Engagement Liaison for Sam Houston High School in the Arlington ISD.  She serves over 3700 students, their parents, 254 teachers, community members, and local businesses.  She has held this position since 2006.  This woman is AMAZING.  She has  been the point of contact for marrying up parents and students and teachers with various resources over the years.  She began a monthly “Coffee with the Principal” where the principal meets with parents and community members each month and shares coffee and light snacks while discussing ongoing projects, events, and issues at the school.  This idea was picked up by many other FELs throughout the district and is a great way to keep communication open between school administrations and the parents of their students.  Roslyn continues to work with various local businesses such as Texas Trust Credit Union, Vive by Design, South Texas Dental, to name a few.  Roslyn is devoted to engaging parents in the Sam Houston High School family, not only because it is her job, but because she firmly believes that if these parents are able to access a walking club or aerobics lessons, classes in how to use a budget or apply for a credit union account, or find a good dentist locally, then the parents will know that this school is a trusted resource for them, as well as for their children.  Roslyn Burch has taken her role as Family Engagement Liaison to an entirely different level by engaging, not only the families, but the entire community.  She is a woman I admire because she is able to bring a variety of people and organizations together to work as a unit for the benefit of our students.  And that is not a small thing.  Roslyn Burch is also mother to two wonderful children, who remain her number one priority.

SARA MAYO

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Sara is a Special Education teacher at Sam Houston High School.  She used to teach my daughter, Randa, who has Autism.  This woman has not only enriched the lives of all of her students, but also came up with an idea that would allow high school students with significant disabilities attend their own prom, leveling the social playing field and providing accommodations for some of the usual roadblocks that prevent these kids from attending their school prom.  Her vision became an Eagle Scout project for Chase Christenson, in 2008 and has since turned into the Starry Night Prom, a registered 501 (c) 3 Non-Profit Organization of which she is President.  Starry Night Prom is currently preparing to host their 11th all expenses paid prom.  Sara Mayo is also very active in her church, the Arlington Elks Lodge, advocating for special needs students in the community, the Angel Tree project, and RSD awareness.  She is mother to two amazing kids.

VENETIA WILSON

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Venetia is one of those sensitive souls that will cry over any Kleenex commercial, but will fight fiercely for kids who have been dealt an injustice.  This woman amazes me.  She has six wonderful children, two grandchildren, and works a full-time job in the Arlington ISD, helps family members and friends in a moment’s notice, and advocates for the special needs community.  Venetia learned the rules of volleyball in order to support her daughters throughout their high school, select, and club volleyball careers.  She has been known to drive anywhere from three to seven hours to support her girls’ college teams.  She is currently using that same enthusiasm to support her youngest three children in their love for the fine arts, by researching music and singing to help them find the right  paths for honing their crafts.  Venetia Wilson is passionate in everything that she does, from helping other parents to shape their student’s IEP to insisting that Coca-Cola is a vegetable.  She’s an engaged member of our community and an awesome source of inspiration.

MONIKA WORSLEY

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Monika is a recovering attorney, mother of two amazing kids, chronic volunteer, and the craftiest person I’ve ever met.  She is where creativity, intelligence, beauty, and hilarity meet.  Her ability to juggle so many commitments to school, work, and family and still manage to remember to go home and feed the dog, makes her the poster child for Multi-Tasker of the Year.  I love that she keeps her law license current and chooses the cases that she wants to take.  Monika has inspired her children to consider their own impact on the world around them by encouraging them to be kind to others, participate in inclusive events such as the Women’s March, and to appreciate nature in all its forms of beauty.  She is the Co-Chair of Programs and Publicity for the Arts Board at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth.  She is a recurring donor for the Starry Night Prom in Arlington.  She is an amazing mom, aunt, and sister (mine!) and everything she does seems effortless, even though I know that it isn’t.  She inspires me to be a better me.

 

My list of women I admire is not, by any means, limited to these four women.  It is actually quite an extensive list of hundreds of women and I add more to it all the time.  I am merely shining a spotlight on these four today.  I am planning to highlight more in the coming weeks.  In the mean time, remember that we should all support one another in our endeavors.  Women are awesome by nature and we should encourage that awesomeness in each other as frequently as we can.  It keeps us all strong and promotes kindness and solidarity.

Happy International Women’s Day.

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Welcome Home, Hero. Rest in Peace.

This was not the first military funeral I had attended.  It was the first time I’d been to any funeral that took place 76 years after the deceased had died.  This young man, a kid the same age as my third of five children, has finally made it home to be put to rest with his family in a hero’s ceremony.  Seaman First Class George Anderson Coke, Jr. came home to Arlington today for the first time since he left for boot camp back in 1941.

My friend, Leslie Dorn Barton, is George Coke’s second cousin once or twice removed.  I’m still unclear on all that genealogy stuff.  While I’d like to be able to trace back my family tree, I’m quite unorganized and tend to think circularly rather than in clear straight lines.  Besides, I’ve got aunts and cousins on both sides of my tree who really dig that sort of thing and they actually journal it all. Anyway, Leslie is one of the Special Education teachers who taught my daughter at Sam Houston High School. We became friends over the last couple of years. So naturally, when she mentioned that this funeral was happening today, I told her I’d come.

It’s been hotter than ever all week and I was so relieved when the thunderstorms hit our city last night and it rained until the wee hours this morning.  I donned my black abaya and a gray and black scarf and then headed over to the First United Methodist Church and tried to “blend in” with the Arlington locals.  I know.  I didn’t. The sole Muslim in a sea of mostly older, white, Christian faces.

I listened to the history of George Coke, Jr., son of George Coke, Sr., who was the Chief of Police in Arlington back in the 1920s.  I learned that of the 3,500 American casualties that day in Pearl Harbor, that Arlington lost 48 souls.  My mind wandered, as is the norm during funerals.  Everyone in some way or another is reminded of their own immortality at a funeral.  With military funerals, you are also reminded of all of your family members and friends who also served in the armed forces.  I felt a few tears escape today as I remembered friends who were killed in foreign wars.  I felt a few more tears escape as I offered prayers of thanks and gratitude for those family and friends who returned safely home.

I followed the funeral procession to Parkdale Cemetary. We were escorted by members of the United States Navy and a large number of the Arlington Police Department.  I watched as the sailors, now pallbearers, respectfully carried the remains of their comrade who fell in the line of duty more than half a century before any of them were born.  And the firing of the three volleys, though I knew they were coming, still caught me off guard and those tears of relief that most of my loved ones returned to me fell from my eyes as a silent salute to Seaman Coke and all of the thousands who didn’t.

My heart stirred as I watched the slow and deliberate movements of the sailors folding the flag and the hand off of that folded flag followed by the final salute from Seaman to Non-Commissioned Officer to Officer to Rear Admiral and finally to George Coke, Jr.’s family members.  The spent shell casings from the three volleys, symbolizing duty, honor, and country, were then placed into the hand of the young descendant of Seaman Coke.

A cool breeze gently blew across my face, air-drying the silent tears and leaving my cheeks a little bit sticky.  I hugged Leslie and shook hands with her son, aunt, and mother.  I looked back to see the final resting place of Seaman Coke, under the Live Oak and the Crepe Myrtle trees, beside his mother and father.  Welcome home, hero.  Rest in peace.

 

Prom Season is Upon Us

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I’m not going to lie to you. We NEED money. Hosting a prom each year is expensive. But STARRY NIGHT PROM is doing everything in its power to continue keeping this event cost-free for the Arlington ISD high school students with significant disabilities and their chaperone. It truly isn’t easy. But here’s how you can help.

Donate: If you could just provide us with as much as you are comfortable with donating, it could make all the difference in the world. Each and every donation, regardless of amount, is greatly appreciated. To reach our secure fundraising site, please click on this link———————————> RIGHT HERE!

Share:  Please share this post. Circulating this blog post among your friends via your social media outlets can assist us in reaching even more potential donors. This can make all the difference in the world. Please click on the Facebook, Twitter, or email links below to help our cause.

In-Kind Donations:  If you own a business or represent an organization that would like to sponsor STARRY NIGHT PROM by in-kind donations of logo-bearing promotional items (such as pens, pennants, t-shirts, hats, refrigerator magnets, keychains, lanyards, drink koozies, etc,) please email me here———————> starrynightprom@outlook.com.

We are also accepting gift basket items to be raffled off during the event, 29 April 2017. If you have a gift basket that you would like to donate for raffle, please contact me at the email address above.

ALL DONATIONS ARE TAX-DEDUCTIBLE. STARRY NIGHT PROM IS A REGISTERED 501 (C)(3) NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION.

6 Days Left

Starry Night Prom 2015 SWAG BAGS

These are STARRY NIGHT PROM goodie bags from our 2015 prom. These customized backpacks were donated to us by the Elks Lodge #2114 in Arlington, Texas. We stuffed them full of swag for each of our attendees; AISD High School students with significant disabilities. The swag included a customized Starry Night Prom 20-ounce cup, pens, pencils, keychains, compact mirrors, coupons and gift certificates from many local businesses, toys, stickers, magnets, and other cool items. Each backpack also contained a STARRY NIGHT PROM commemorative t-shirt with all of our big sponsors printed on the back.

So all of that stuff inside the goodie bags? FREE for our students who attend. You know what else is free? The meal for each of them (and for one attending chaperone guest per student,) the prom portrait photography, the prom fun photo booth style photography, the boutonnieres and corsages, the beautiful custom made invitations, the dessert fountain, the DJ and big dance floor where they can dance and have a wonderful time. All of this is paid for by the donations of kind and generous people who want to see these kids have a magical Starry Night Prom.

And even though a lot of the swag, backpacks, venue, services including cooking and catering are donated as in-kind donations, we still need money to pay for the photography, DJ, printing of invitations, shirts, cups, decorations, additional swag, and a large portion of the food items that are purchased each year.

Our ongoing FACEBOOK fundraiser event is still active for 5 more days! Facebook has waived all of their usual fees for registered  501 (C) (3) nonprofit organizations with Facebook pages during the #GivingTuesday fundraiser drive. This means that 100% of all donations made via the Starry Night Prom Facebook page will be donated to our noble cause.

Won’t you please consider donating to Starry Night Prom and give these kids their magical night this Spring 2017? All donations are 100% appreciated. Thank you for your support.

 

 

The Beauty in Asking for Help

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We got off to a late start again this year. Several of us had medical issues that affected our family lives that sort of forced us to put Starry Night Prom fundraising on the back burner. But it’s become known to us as “the little Prom that could” and it can.

I started promoting our fundraising website and blogging about past Starry Night Proms that we’ve participated in. I updated the donation letter and the giving levels list and then
added a few photos from Starry Night Prom 2015 to the fundraising site. But I needed my
son to finish recovering from his surgery and get back to school so that I could sleep longer than 3 hours at a stretch and be able to focus my energy on donations and not trying not to drive my car off the road because of the twitch in my eye.

So Saturday afternoon I sat down at my computer and began to send out emails to anyone I could think of that might have an interest in getting this thing off the ground. And on a whim, I contacted a local businessman whose service my husband and I have used on several occasions since moving to Arlington. I explained that I recognized that his company is a fixture in this community and that I see his vans all over the city almost every day while I’m out running my errands. I told him how Starry Night Prom got started
nine years ago and how every expense is paid for by the generosity of others. I asked for help.

Sponsorship to an event such as Starry Night Prom looks different for every donor. Some may donate gently used prom gowns or suits. Our photographer, DJ, and dinner are all sponsored. Sometimes logo-bearing “swag” is donated that we can include in the goodie bags that each student gets to take home; things like pens, hats, cups, refrigerator magnets, lanyards, keychains, stress-squeezers, calendars, etc. Some businesses choose to donate coupons or gift cards. We’ve had restaurants donate a meal for two, a hotel donated one free double-occupancy night, and a university donated a gift basket full of logo-bearing sports gear and free tickets to events…all of these items were raffled off and the monies collected went into the Starry Night Prom fund. And of course, they can choose to make a monetary donation.

Monday morning, Mr Ernie Clevenger, owner of Ernie’s Plumbing, read my email and then clicked on the link to the online fundraiser website. He told me that he enjoyed the bright smiles on the faces of the participants that were featured on the site. He also noticed that we only had three weeks left to meet our goal and we weren’t even halfway there.

Ernie’s Plumbing made it happen and donated the remaining funds to reach our target! His only comment on the website? God is good.

And that is the beauty in asking for help. Because Ernie is right. God IS good. And when you ask for help, He will provide.

****Further donations of goodie bag items for 300+ prom participants are still being accepted for receipt before April 28, 2016.  All donations are appreciated and tax deductible. Please contact me via email at: StarryNightProm@outlook.com  I will gladly provide you with any further information within 24 of receipt of your email. Thank you.