Monday, January 30, 2012

Top ringers get trophies

Steve Lassiter (left, in plaid) with the Midtown Rotary had a funny story to tell me. He was one of a dozen or so of the top bell ringers who gathered Friday to get their trophies. Steve said once he was ringing at the Hobby Lobby in his OU jacket. He always opens the door for everyone, which I am sure helps his number of donations. “A big ole boy was coming across the parking lot with a little woman. He had on a Texas jacket. The woman dropped some money in the bucket. I opened the door for his cute little wife but I let the door hit that big ole boy. He turned around and gave me a twenty and we had a good laugh,” Steve said.

I had heard that Tulsa fire fighters had beaten the Tulsa Police in the bell ringing competition this year, so I was surprised when two officers entered the conference room. I caught them on the way out and asked them if they were glad that Major Williams didn’t make them hand the trophy over to the fire fighter. “We come every year whether we win it or not, it’s just fun,” one of them said. Then the trash talk started. “We’re letting them borrow our trophy this year. It will be home next year.” The officers’ names were T. Jenkins and J.B. McNeal. I’ll be on the lookout for those two next year!


P.S. Congratulations to Broken Arrow High School National Honor Society, Tulsa Fire Department, The Tulsa Drillers, Downtown Rotary and Midtown Rotary-- All 1st place winners!

Friday, January 27, 2012

BA Challengers: loved and needed

When a developmentally disabled child ages out of high school, what is a parent to do? Where can the child be with their peers, stay out of trouble and be actively involved in life? My 21-year-old daughter Meredith is developmentally disabled and luckily her dad and stepmom found her the Home of Hope in Vinita. She seems to love it there; she works in a sheltered workshop, lives with peers and enjoys a therapeutic riding program. In the photo, she’s wearing the Cleopatra costume she picked out herself and her Special Olympics t-shirt. (She’s always had my sense of style.) In Broken Arrow, the place for kids and adults like Meredith to be is The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club Challengers program. Challengers was started about 25 years ago and for the last seven years it’s been headed by athletic director Shelley Cramer Persinger. Club director Janis Fraley said that Shelley is “amazing” because she’s built relationships with the Challenger Kids and built trust with their parents. Apparently Shelley dreams it up and makes it happen. Last November, Shelley created the “Red Carpet Dance.” Challengers dressed up and walked their dates down the red carpet, had their pictures taken by a professional photographer and danced in a gym. Except for football, Challengers play the same sports as other club kids: baseball, basketball, swimming, karate. Janis says that the Challengers program gives the kids a sense that they belong and that they are needed. Aren’t those things we all need? My answer is yes!


Friday, January 20, 2012

Kid art: love it

I love children’s art, so seeing the Boys & Girls Club art exhibit at Philbrook was a treat. For a peek at the artworks and a list of kids who won ribbons see this post.  You might be wondering about this colored-pencil sketch titled “Sallie.” It was not in the show. It hangs in my condo. It’s a portrait that a child drew of me, apparently during my pink-haired phase, a phase that I don’t recall. Now I’m going to pretend to be a Philbrook docent and go into educational mode. First, why don’t we know the identity of the artist? It’s because two people claim to have created it. My niece and namesake, Sallie Whitkamper, claims she drew it when she was just learning how to print her name. My 18-year-old stepdaughter Carly claims she drew it as a portrait of me and labeled it with my name. Her two older sisters say that she indeed spent at least a year drawing arms that looked like wings, and that should be proof enough that she was the artist. My husband Gary says he doesn’t care who drew it, he just wishes I would wear the outfit more often. The girls point out that I could save a lot of money on tops. I don’t care who created it either, I just love that it’s a happy drawing and I’m wearing a big smile. And those great-looking shorts.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kids art exhibit

Every year the Boys & Girls Clubs of America search their local clubs for top young artists to compete in nationwide art contest. And every year, all year, members of clubs paint, draw, sculpt and color artwork to enter in the competition.

For two years, the young artists have exhibited their works at the Philbrook Museum.  Read that sentence again. PHILBROOK. This is a museum with a Picasso.   I can only imagine the thrill of being about five years old and having one of my creations shown at Philbrook.  The kids are familiar with the museum because of “Rock Philbrook,” a day during Boys & Girls Club summer day camp when the kids from all six local clubs look at exhibits, listen to a concert and create some art themselves. 

Still, I like to imagine a typical boy of about 10, with crazy wild hair, holes in his pants and scabs on his knees saying to his favorite teacher, “My painting is on display at Philbrook. Would you like to come to the opening?” (In my mind, that boy looks a lot like my son, who is now 25.)

About 30 people came to the opening. First, second and third place ribbons were given in four categories; painting, sculpture, mixed media, and drawing. Philbrook staff members judged the show and everyone who placed will be able to enter their artwork in the Boys & Girls Club regional contest with hopes of being selected for the national contest. From a bird bath to a robot sculpture, there was so much variety and creativity in the show it was hard to pick the ones to photograph, but I gave it a shot. Enjoy a sampling from the show!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Happy Martin Luther King Day

When it comes to Martin Luther King, Jr., the kids at the Mabee Red Shield Boys & Girls Club know their stuff. At least the girls do – I couldn’t get any of the boys to talk to me. The kids were honored to be asked to ride on the Cox float in the parade and I hopped on at the last minute, I thought. Then we all waited an hour for the float to start moving. It was ok, though, because the temperature was mild and Cox employees kept us entertained. One Cox guy did the Cupid Dance and blew giant gum bubbles. Everyone was entertained by Digi, the Cox mascot, whose handler seemed worried that  he/she would be blown down by the brisk wind. And there were dogs – one with four tiny boots and a Swarovsky crystal-studded collar. 

Here’s what the kids answered when asked what they could tell me about the late Dr. King:

Kerrey, age14, “He was awesome.”

Kaitlyn, age 10, “He was a minister who preached the word and died at 39.”

Camryn, age 11, “He won a Nobel Peace Prize and is the only person who has a day named after him who wasn’t a president.”

Madison, age 9, “He did non-violent marching because he wanted peace in the world. “

Chrinasia “Nay Nay” age 6,”He fought with peace. He changed America because he helped Africans and Americans to get along.”

And my personal favorite from Mallorie, age 6, “ He was trustful and did not like meanness. He turned the world upside down.”


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Remembering Walt

From left: Walt Helmerich III, Billie Barnett, Major Roy Williams, Rik Helmerich.
Along with thousands of other Tulsans, it is with great sadness that I mourn the death of Walt Helmerich III, a lifetime member of The Salvation Army Advisory Board and a friend. The Helmerich family has been a supporter of The Salvation Army for at least 40 years, maybe longer.

I’m told that for many years Walt would pick a day and along with a friend, he would drive to all of the facilities of the Tulsa Area Command, including the six Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs. They would tour the clubs, noting things that needed to be repaired, then Walt would donate the money to have it done. The driving tour was a tradition that Walt started, and in recent years his son Rik, an Advisory Board member, has continued.

While repairs at Boys & Girls Clubs may seem minor compared to other financial support the Helmerich family has provided, it was very meaningful to the Boys & Girls Club staff members to see that someone as important as Walt cared about their needs. In the same spirit of showing support in a personal way, every Christmas Walt and Peggy would attend our Advisory Board Christmas luncheon, whether the temperature was at zero degrees or in the forties.

The Advisory Board Christmas luncheon is always held in the warehouse where all the toys and food are stored. For several years the Helmerich family would let us use a warehouse that they owned, free of charge. This past Christmas luncheon was the first Walt had missed in many years, and we missed him.  Walt and the Helmerich family were among the first supporters of the William Booth Society and the younger family members are continuing the tradition. Every year, Walt and his family would donate the money for at least one table at our annual Booth dinner and attend the event.

While I am grateful to Walt and the Helmerich family for their monetary support, it is his gentlemanly presence and dignity I will always remember. Walt Helmerich III was a man of integrity and honor. I will miss him greatly.

Major Roy Williams, Tulsa Area Commander