Category Archives: Uncategorized

Toe-tapping fun with “Live to Dance” finalist Kendall Glover

When I saw the press release, I immediately forwarded it to my 11-year-old niece, Mandy Davis.

TV Dance Sensation Kendall Glover to Appear
at FOX 10 Dance Day Benefiting Phoenix Children’s
New Family-Friendly Fundraising Event Boasts
Great Entertainment and Fun for Everyone

Mandy attends the same school as Kendall, who propelled herself into the national arena with spectacular solo performances and a second-place finish in the CBS dance competition program “Live to Dance.” Like many of her classmates, Mandy has followed Kendall’s career closely. She even got a hug from “Live to Dance” judge Paula Abdul, who came to Phoenix to make the big announcement during a school assembly that Kendall had made it to the finals.

Mandy and I were texting each other excitedly the the night Kendall performed in the finals.

When I learned about the PCH event, which is happening from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, July 30, at Jobing.com Arena, I asked Mandy if she’d like to help me interview Kendall. “That would be awesome!” she replied.

Teri Lane, director of the Children’s Miracle Network and corporate development officer at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation, put me in touch with Kendall’s mom, Ann Glover. I wrote her an email, and very quickly received her gracious response: “Kendall is so excited to work with you on the Raising Arizona Kids/Phoenix Children’s Hospital  article. She is a busy girl, but is really a homebody at heart and loves doing things for her community, too.”

I snapped this photo as Kendall took a break during the class she taught at The Salvation Army. More photos to come from RAK staff photographer Daniel Friedman!

Kendall was going to be teaching dance classes at a Salvation Army day camp for kids the next week, so we met her there, observed as she taught the class and then, with the help of staff multimedia journalist Vicki Balint, recorded an interview from a list of questions Mandy and I prepared by sending our suggestions back and forth to each other by email.

Yesterday, Vicki invited us to her home office, where she does the magical work of mixing audio for RAK Podcasts and editing stories for RAK Video. A natural teacher, she talked to Mandy about how she crafts stories in digital media. She explained what the squiggly lines meant on the screen. (“See that, where it’s flat? That’s where there’s a lull because Karen paused after she said ‘um.'”) She let Mandy select the audio and video clips that would work best for each story. And then — the really cool part — she let Mandy pick the music soundtracks that would introduce and exit the podcast.

Mandy and I will be sharing our podcast and video in the weeks leading up to the PCH event. We’re also putting together a print story for the magazine’s September performing arts issue and an extended podcast to accompany that. So I don’t want to give away too much about the fun time we had with Kendall. But consider yourself warned: You will laugh, you will be inspired and you’ll definitely be tapping your toes.

Mandy learns about podcasting from multimedia journalist Vicki Balint.

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Photographing grieving fathers

A guest blog by Raising Arizona Kids staff photographer Dan Friedman

For our June issue, I photographed four dads who had lost children for Mary Ann Bashaw’s story, “Fathers Reflect on Grief.” I wasn’t sure how the four dads would react to me tracking them down by email and telephone to make arrangements to take their pictures. Maybe they wouldn’t even want their pictures taken.

Support from the MISS Foundation has helped these dads cope with their grief. They understand that sharing their stories can be beneficial to others who are struggling with loss — or know someone who is.

With each of the dads, the grief was palpable. These photo sessions were different from any others I have done for the magazine, where the subjects often want the publicity an article with photos will bring them.

Being the photographer for Raising Arizona Kids involves traveling around the Valley taking pictures of people I am meeting for the first time, intruding on their lives for a few minutes and then leaving with an image that hopefully makes sense to our readers and helps me keep my job.

I chat with people to put them at ease while I set up my lights or look around their house for a suitable spot to take a picture. But this was different. I wondered what I would say to the four guys whose children died. Telling them I’m sorry about their loss seemed ill-suited to the situation. Who was I to tell them I was sorry? I was just there to take a picture that would appeal to our readers.

I settled on telling them I appreciated their taking the time to share their stories with our readers, who would be surely benefit. This seemed the most accurate and genuine.

The first dad I photographed was Jimmy Carrauthers. He is also a photographer, so it was easy to talk about photography with him while I was setting up lights. While I was checking my exposure, his phone rang so I have this photo of him holding the photo of his late stepson, Edwin, while he is talking on the phone. Sometimes the emotional moments I hope to capture are interrupted with mundane moments.

Jacob Christen Blain’s son Leo died when he was just eight days old. Jacob preferred to meet at his workplace, which meant the setting was not as personal a space in which to photograph him. I had to find a way to remove the setting. A large stucco wall worked out the best. Ironically, the stark background tells the story because Leo died so young and there aren’t dozens of photos or personal effects to include in the photograph.

Two of the houses I went to for the story were full of photographs. Photos are so ubiquitous in our culture, whether printed or electronic, that our memories are tied up in them. But for Jimmy, his tattoo was obviously the best way to tell his story. The illustration of his stepson is now a permanent part of his body.

Mark Eide had a giant photo of his family on vacation in Hawaii above his mantle. It includes his son Zack and daughter Katie, who died in a car accident in 2009. There many smaller photos around the house and on the memorial Facebook pages for Katie and Zack. The urns with their ashes were on a table nearby but I could hardly bring myself to look at, much less photograph, them.

Jason Freiwald had a life-size photo of his son Braden as well as dozens of other photos around the house but this one was his favorite. It made it easier for me since I needed to have some variety in my pictures to illustrate the story. If I were in Jason’s place could I look at a life-size photo of my dead child? I was amazed how composed and comfortable all four dads were to work with. I don’t know how they did it. But that is what I was photographing, four dads being composed and comfortable about sharing their loss. — Dan Friedman

The June story about grieving fathers was third in a four-part series we are running this year called “Finding Purpose in Grief.” Following are links to all three stories; the fourthwill be published in November. — Karen

The MISS Foundation Offers a Light at the End of Life’s Darkest Tunnel

When Birth and Death Merge

“Fathers Reflect on Grief”

An extraordinary grasp of geography

Luke Hellum, who advanced to the top 10 in National Geographic's National Geography Bee in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Erica Bailin.

This is a story about an extraordinary student. But it’s also a story about an extraordinary teacher, and that teacher’s extraordinarily supportive sister.

I came across it because the sister sent me an email. Alison Bailin, who is a senior account executive at HMA Public Relations in Phoenix, frequently sends me tips on stories. She’s one of my trusted “go to” people, who understands our publication and doesn’t waste my time with story ideas that aren’t a  good fit. She also apparently understands my crazy work schedule (and shares it, I think, because we are often communicating at very odd times of the day or night).

Alison first contacted me on Monday at about 6:30pm.  She was facilitating an email introduction to her sister, Erica Bailin, who was at that very moment on her way to Washington, D.C. with one of her students.

“He is the statewide winner of the Geography Bee and will represent Arizona this week at the national contest!” she wrote. “To me, it is a great story.”

About 24 hours later, I got an email from Erica. “My student, Luke Hellum, is in the top 10 finalists for National Geographic’s National Geography Bee,” she wrote. “We have been documenting it. How would you like the photos and explanations shared with you?”

I told her what Alison already knows — that she could reach me virtually 24/7 on my email.

I asked Erica for some background on Luke and learned that he is 13 and an eighth grader who attends the Digital Learning Center for the Gifted at Sunrise Middle School in the Paradise Valley Unified School District. Erica told me that she was in Washington, D.C. to support Luke along with Luke’s father (Eric), mother (Jen) and brother (Noah).

Finalists board. Photo courtesy of Erica Bailin.

“After winning at the school level, Luke went on to the state competition, and won,” Erica wrote. “This qualified him for nationals. Today, in Washington D.C., the preliminary rounds took place. The competition started this morning with 54 contestants, and ended with the top 10 finalists, with Luke Hellum among the victors of the day. He now moves on to the championship round hosted by Alec Trebek. There was a media storm here today that he went through that is really quite impressive.”

At about 7pm Wednesday, I got another message from Erica:

“Here is Luke’s interview by National Geographic. His ‘If I ruled world for a day…’ response is pretty incredible and will give you a better look into the mind of this brilliant young man.”

And more from Erica’s message today:

“Alex Trebek called Luke ‘Mr. Congeniality.’ The former first lady and current Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, read questions to the contestants via a live feed. After the second round, Alex Trebek introduced the contestants and spoke with each one. Luke referred to the Nat Geo bee staff as ‘classy’ and NatGeoLive tweeted, ‘Luke Hellum from Arizona just called Nat Geo staff  classy. Thank you, sir!’

At 8:25pm Wednesday (11:25pm in Washington, D.C.!) I got one more message from Erica.

“Luke finished seventh out of 5.3 million students and 54 that came to nationals,” she said. “We appreciate your interest in this AMAZING child.”

I look forward to learning more about the whole experience from Luke and his AMAZING teacher.

Luke Hellum as he appeared on the big screen monitor during the competition Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Erica Bailin.

Here’s another video. This one was made by Luke’s teacher, Erica Bailin:

Affirmation — and a challenge — from colleagues in the press

Last night, the Arizona Press Club honored journalists from statewide publications large and small with awards for exceptional work in reporting, writing, photography and design. Raising Arizona Kids was among the publications honored.

Mary L. Holden. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

Writer Mary L.Holden was recognized in the Non-Metro Writing/Social Issues Reporting category for her April 2010 story, “Casting a Light on the Shadow of Abuse.”

Mary put a lot of heart and soul into this project, which involved interviews with researchers and medical professionals who work the front lines in child abuse prevention and treatment. She listened to horrific stories about the unimaginable ways some children are mistreated by adults who typically lack the tools or knowledge to deal productively with the stresses and emotional damage in their own lives. She put a personal face on the issue by sharing the story of a Surprise family whose daughter was abused by a caregiver. She provided insights into the longterm damage of abuse and how it can manifest in adulthood.

James Motz of Surprise and his daughter Lilian, who was brutally shaken by a caregiver. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

The judge, Suki Dardarian, managing editor at The Seattle Times, described her entry as “a well-crafted story about the medical and emotional toll of child abuse. While it is a well-covered story, this reporter used strong cases and compelling writing to draw the reader through her story.”

Taylor Batten, editorial page editor of The Charlotte Observer, judged entries in the Best of Arizona/Features Blog category, to which I had submitted several of the blog posts I wrote about my experience in Ethiopia last summer, when I accompanied Paradise Valley couple Brian and Keri deGuzman on their journey to welcome two orphaned babies into their family.

Observing a distribution of food to starving families in Soddo, Ethiopia. Photo by Brian deGuzman.

“Barr produces memorable storytelling from an emotional and at times dangerous trip,” Batten wrote. “She is a powerful writer who captures the emotion of her subject while also revealing a bit about herself in an authentic way. Fantastic photos.”

It’s weird to be typing those words about yourself. As an editor it is my job to make other writers look good. I have attended many Arizona Press Club Awards events in the past 21 years to joyfully support my writers as they accepted awards. But in 35 years of writing and editing (give or take a few lost to graduate school or raising small children), I never once received an award.

What I’ve decided is this: It’s great to have a piece of paper that gives you membership in a small cadre of professional journalists whose work is deemed by peers to go above and beyond. It’s even better to hear the specific feedback, which envelopes your fragile writer’s ego like a soothing, restorative  balm.

But the very best part is the spark it ignites that grabs your imagination, rekindles your hope and challenges you to go out and do something even better.

Superheroes who are headed to see “Thor”

I’ve been frustrated with my blog lately. No time, no energy and an aggravating problem with the RSS feed that is preventing it from even showing up on our website’s main blogs page. I’ve got IT people working on that.

But today I am back. Ever since my post about “My life with superheroes,” I’ve been eager to share some of the cute pictures I’ve been getting from readers.

We asked families to send us pictures of the superheroes in their family for a chance to win tickets to a Saturday sneak preview screening of “Thor.” In the epic adventure, “The God of Thunder” discovers what it really means to be a hero.

The contest ended Wednesday and the complete list of winners is here. These are my favorite pictures:

Abigail Bayless Feldman of Phoenix, who is 7 now, but was 4 when this picture was taken.

Josh Hall of Mesa, who is 4. This was at his (rock star?) superhero birthday party.

Five-year-old Keagan Lewis of Phoenix.

Trinidad Jimenez, 12, of Phoenix.

Jonathan Wenzel of Surprise, now 4, was 2 in this Halloween photograph.

Eight-year-old Lucas Lundstrom, aka Batman.

My life with superheroes

Halloween 1988.

The superheroes first made an appearance in our home during the Halloween season of 1988. Our son Andy was 3; David, who was just 15 months old, was running a fever. Yet he pulled himself together long enough to don the Superman pajamas his grandmother, Connie Barr, had sent from Connecticut and walk with us down the street to trick-or-treat at a few of the nearby houses. Then, exhausted, he helped me answer the door as Andy and his father foraged further. Superman, as you know, is brave and self-sacrificing. Especially when his pride (and candy) are at stake.

A month later, a different kind of superhero emerged: the firefighter. Our sons donned bright red plastic helmets, boarded their “fire truck” and sirened, “REE-oh, REE-oh,” as big brother Andy furiously pedaled his trusty sidekick around in circles on the back patio.

November 1990.

The Disney movie “Dumbo” was big in our house that year. Andy would watch it endlessly, perched on my stepladder, his fireman’s hat in place, pretending to put out the fire as the clown fire fighters in the movie tried to do the same.

Superman made a repeat performance for Andy’s fourth birthday. We staged a “Super Sloppy, Super Heroes Birthday Party” in the backyard. He and his friends wore costumes, capes (or simply swimsuits) as they fought ferocious battles with shaving cream and spray bottles. We modeled the party after a TV show that was popular at the time called “Super Sloppy Double Dare,” a children’s game show that Nickelodeon soon purchased and renamed “Family Double Dare.”

Andy and his friend Sarah Delaney, July 1989.

The invitations I made invited kids to enjoy “all kinds of super sloppy fun, including the Amazing Super Silly Sudsing Machine” (my carpet cleaner, which generated suds like nothing you’ve ever seen.) Moms were reassured that “all sloppy stuff will be the washable kind.”

Spacemen. Now those guys are true superheroes. So when yet another box of costumes arrived from their grandmother Barr (did I mention she was a theater major in college?), our sons eagerly incorporated planets, aliens and laser guns into their pretend play. The costumes were gifts for two boys whose birthdays were a mere 12 days apart each July, making the entire month something of a celebration. Their fascination with spacemen extended well into fall, making for easy costume decisions when Halloween rolled around.

Spaceman Dave, Halloween 1989.

Our sons moved on to become Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters. I soon forgot what they looked like in regular clothes. I got used to tripping over weapons and helmets and elaborate fortresses they created with blankets atop the living room sofa.

The superheroes made one last, heroic appearance when Batman and Robin showed up in the spring of 1990. By the next year, the boys had found a new kind of superhero: the kind with big muscles who throw footballs or baseballs or make amazing three-pointers on the basketball court. Pretend play gave way to real competition on soccer and T-ball fields, followed by Little League and Pop Warner fields and eventually high school and college football and lacrosse fields.

Robin (Dave) and Batman (Andy) under the kitchen table, 1990.

Both of our sons are now college graduates and working professionals with exciting, meaningful jobs in Washington, D.C.

Superheroes in their own right.

David (left) and Andy during a Christmas 2010 visit to Santa Barbara to see their grandmother...the one who bought all the superhero costumes.

Two kinds of cookies from home

My husband is spending the weekend with our two grown sons, who live in Washington, D.C. His flight was leaving very early on Thursday morning, so I knew it would be a scramble to get out the door. That meant I had to get organized.

I wasn’t going along, but I had my own packing to do. I consider it my sacred duty to provide homemade cookies for “my boys” at every possible (and ever less frequent) opportunity. These particular cookies — a healthier version of the traditional chocolate chip — have a long history in our family. I made them nearly every Sunday night during our sons’ high school years, when their friends would come over to play basketball. When Andy and David were in college, I never visited them without bags of freshly baked cookies. (It won me big points with their roommates and friends.) I also make cookies when my brothers are around. There’s something hardwired in my brain about cookies and boys.

But hardwired doesn’t necessarily mean “top of mind.” And after a busy but enjoyable day at work Wednesday I came home exhausted and out of whack. All I could think about was food, bed and Unbroken, the wonderful work of historical nonfiction by Laura Hillenbrand, which I’m about halfway through.

I awoke Thursday morning at 5:30 (which is “sleeping in” for me). As soon as my feet hit the floor, my spirits sank. I’d  forgotten to bake cookies! Dan wanted to leave the house at 6:30. I had an hour.

I raced through the mixing, the plopping onto pans and the baking. At 6am I had cookies cooling on racks. But they looked … different.  In my haste and uncaffeinated morning stupor I’d forgotten to add an essential ingredient: oatmeal. So, as I heard Dan get in the shower, I pulled out my ingredients and started all over again.

By the time we left the house, there were two kinds of cookies from home packed up and ready to go. Two dozen with oatmeal, two dozen without. But all four packed with a mother’s love.