Rocky River’s Festapallooza Celebrating of the gifts of special needs students

By Michele Dotson
Staff Writer

festapalloozaOn December 20, Rocky River High School will sponsor its 3rd Annual Festapallooza.
What started three years ago as a collaborative project between the special education class and the drama teacher has turned into a school-wide, two community agency, and 10 visiting high schools event, featuring a play, a lunch, and a Special Olympics basketball exhibition.
“The first year Rocky River opened, I was teaching an adapted version of Hamlet,” says special education teacher Ann Lake. “I approached the drama teacher, Mr. Webster as a possible collaborative effort. My students were reading the story and acting it out in class. The first year, we took five scenes and invited the parents, the administration, and a few CMS support staff.” Continue reading


Queen’s Grant Community School production– Accepted into 2014 junior theater festival

By Michele Dotson

Students from queens grant 11have been accepted into the 2014 Junior Theater Festival which will take place January 17-19 18 at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, GA.

Freshman Garrett Costin is in his second year in musical theater and this will be his first time attending the festival.

“I have so much fun getting together with people I’m comfortable with,” says Costin. “This is a great activity; a way of expressing who I am.”

For Costin, who has aspirations of being involved with Broadway someday, the festival will offer opportunities to see all aspects of theater.

Created by New York’s iTheatrics and produced by the Junior Theater group, the Junior Theater Festival is the world’s largest musical theater festival celebrating young people and the transformative power of musical theater. The 2014 festival will bring together more than 4,500 students, teachers, and Broadway professionals to celebrate on-stage and backstage excellence in musical theater. Continue reading


Volunteer group clips coupons for troops – Receives commendation letter from national program

By Michele Dotson

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 5.24.33 PMTuesday, November 26 was cold, rainy, and absolutely miserable outside. Inside the club house at Alpine Village, though, things were warm and cozy. A faithful group of 13 showed up on this dreary day to cut and sort coupons to send to US troops to help soldiers and their families make ends meet on a military families’ budget.

“All the helpers are residents,” says Ed Henderson, organizer for the Troopon program. “I believe our Village is the best kept secret in Charlotte, blessed with people who have formed a caring community.”

Most of the workers come every week, rain or shine. Others are less mobile but still want to stay involved.

“We usually have 14 to 18 members that come here (to the clubhouse), ages 60 to 90,” he says, “and some residents do their share at their own homes.”

The project is now an every Tuesday event. There’s coffee, refreshments, and lots of friendly chatter as the coupons are prepared for shipping. On average, they are sending 10 to 12 pounds of coupons every two weeks. Henderson pays for the shipping cost as part of his contribution.

Residents save Wednesday flyers with store coupons and Sunday coupon booklets for the group to use. The US commissaries accept coupons that are up to 6 months outdated, and that helps add to the growing stacks that will be boxed and sent to the Support Our Troops organization that gets the coupons directly into the hands of the veterans and their families.

The Alpine Village group is so successful, they recently received a monogramed patch and a letter of commendation from the sponsoring organization along with some staggering statistics.

“The effort and time you graciously provide to reduce the pinch on troops’ budgets has made a significant difference,” the letter states.

The letter also outlined the results of the research that was conducted this year, which summarized how much troops were able to save on their grocery bills each month, as well as what the savings allowed the troops to accomplish for their families.

According to the data collected, over a third of the families reported saving between $26 and $50 per month. 20 percent reported savings between $51 and $150 per month, and nearly 10 percent reported savings over $150 per month using the coupons.

The savings allowed 60 percent to pay other bills, while 25 percent reported being able to save toward their children’s education.

Henderson says the Alpine Village group has kept some tallies of their own and is proud to announce that in the past year they have sent over $500,000 in grocery coupons for distribution to overseas locations that aid US military families.

The group has recently expanded their outreach to include sending Christmas cards to wounded heroes currently in the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC.

“We want them to know that we care, love, and truly appreciate the sacrifices they have made and wish them every blessing this wonderful season,” says Henderson.

Henderson hopes other groups will have the opportunity to set some time aside for the coupon program, or send a soldier a Christmas card this holiday season. He’s sure there are others in the Mint Hill area that feel the way his group does about our men and women in the military.

“We are all patriotic senior citizens, giving only of our time to show the families of our troops our appreciation of their service to America,” says Henderson on behalf of the Alpine Village group. “We hope, by others seeing what we have started and accomplished, they will take this information and become members of the Troopon program.”

For more information on the Troopon program, contact or call 386-767-8882.

Letters and cards to the military in Walter Reed Hospital should be sent to:

A recovering American Soldier

c/o Walter Reed Medical Center

6900 Georgia Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20307-5001