Jo Dee Rocks the Red Rose City

March 10, 2018
On her first tour since cancer sidelined her for about nine months, Messina performed for over 90 minutes. Despite itchy skin from a recent treatment and a heavy audio transmitter that caused her leggings to slide down requiring constant maintenance on her part, she delivered a powerful performance. She told her fans that the past year was the worse in her life. She battled cancer and became a single mother with two little boys. She got through the challenges of the past year by the grace of God. She honored her faith and delivered a couple belting songs of praise. To the delight of the crowd, she sang Heads Carolina, Tails California and ended with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” and urged the members of the audience to never give up and to chase their dreams.


Jo Dee Messina Brings Feisty Country to Lancaster

More than two decades ago, Jo Dee Messina became a country music-chart topper with a feisty, slightly rebellious sound, willing to leave her fate to the toss of a coin as in her first hit, “Heads Carolina, Tails California.”JoDeeMessina-Logo
Messina is a little less carefree now but still feisty. These days, it’s more about holding on than letting go. She has two children and runs her own music label, Dreambound Records.
Messina is coming to town this weekend and will perform at USC Lancaster’s Bundy Auditorium at 8 p.m. Saturday. The show is almost sold out. Tickets are $47.25 and available at
In a brief statement this week, the singer said she was looking forward to the Lancaster concert.
“It’s my first show in a while,” she said. “I’m excited to get back to making music.”
Messina postponed her tour last September, citing a cancer diagnosis. This week’s statement did not mention her health.
Now, 47, Messina has matured since moving from the Northeast to Nashville to live out her dreams. Her songwriting and self-reliance pulled her through several setbacks, including digging herself out of bankruptcy in the late ’90s.
She enjoyed fame that cast her in TV shows including “Touched by an Angel” and toured with country greats Vince Gill and George Strait. She joined her childhood idols The Judds on their reunion tour a decade ago.JZocco_20130414_005_preview

Messina’s most recent album, “Me,” more than any of her previous work, demonstrates her resiliency and ability to take the reins on her music career.
And by the way, she wants you to know one thing – Jo Dee Messina is not dead yet.
Any questions anyone may have had about that will be answered with this album, which she financed with crowd sourcing through Kickstarter. She made this one for her fans.
The lead-off song “Not Dead Yet” proclaims “I’ve paid my dues, gotten bent and bruised. I’ve walked a thousand miles in these shoes. I’m here and I’m well. I’ve felt the fire. I’ve been through hell. I’m a little out of breath. But baby, I’m not dead yet.”
Women nearing 50 who have made their way through hard times and heartache will appreciate several anthems true to Messina’s fiery tenacity and honesty.
“A Woman’s Rant” wastes no words or time as it hits its mark addressing the feminist issue of less pay for more work: “You see, women do twice the work and get half the pay. Men climb the ladder while women pave the way. They say we’re the weaker sex. I’d have to disagree. I’d walk a mile in his shoes if he’d walk a half mile in these.”

The title track “Me” reveals the secret behind her success. She is searching for the answers to big questions and relies on her faith to get her through.
Messina has always shared her faith in her music. She once said the song “That’s God,” written shortly after the birth of her first son in 2009, captures her spiritual message.
Messina has had nine No. 1 hits, 16 Top 40 songs, and sold over 5 million records. She was awarded the top female vocalist of the year in 1998 by the Academy of Country Music, and a year later the Country Music Association presented her with The Horizon Award.
In 2015, Messina co-wrote the book “Thanks to My Mom: 101 Stories of Gratitude, Love and Lessons.” A portion of its sales go to hunger, animal welfare and literacy programs. Messina also supports Special Olympics.

Jo Dee Messina’s Albums
1996  Jo Dee Messina*
1998  I’m Alright*
2000  Burn*
2002  Holiday album Joyful Noise
2003  Greatest Hits with four new songs
2005  Delicious Surprise*
2010  Unmistakable
2014  Me*
* full-length studio albums

(Photos Suppplied)IMG_7757.jpg

Mat Ministry

By Mandy Catoe

March 4, 2018

“Love is not a spectator sport” is screen-printed on the back of Sherri Wilkes’ T-shirt.

Last Tuesday night, she led about a dozen people into the back room of the Lancaster County Library carrying plastic bags stuffed with plastic bags. They ranged in age from just under 6 years old to just over 70. They didn’t come to study. They came to serve.

For the next two hours, they transformed trash into treasure by cutting and crocheting the bags into sleeping mats for homeless people.

from trash to treasure

Turning trash into treasure

Wilkes, 33, spearheaded the idea about three years ago in an effort to help those in need and to keep young adults active in service. Her group, Making Mats for Homeless, began meeting monthly about two years ago to make the 3-by 6-foot mats to provide a bit of cushion for the homeless.


Completed mats from plastic shopping bags


“We are not just giving them a plastic mat, we are giving them hope. We are giving them comfort,” Wilkes said. “We are letting them know that someone somewhere wants to help them and that someone is there for them.

“It’s wonderful when you can put a mat in someone’s hands and see them tear up in gratitude, knowing they won’t sleep on the cold ground that night.”

To date, they have placed a mat in the hands of 130 homeless people across the Southeast, working through the VA Hospital in Atlanta. Churches and halfway houses in Florida and Tennessee have helped distribute their mats.

About 50 have been given to people in Lancaster County at the warming center, at Jackie’s Place, and through Kevin Lilly’s ministry, the Mobile Shower Truck for the Homeless.

“There are between 200 and 250 homeless in Lancaster who are not living in regular houses with working heat,” Wilkes said.

She partnered with Lilly to reach the locals living without basic shelter. His street ministry targets and understands homelessness and the people who find themselves in very hard situations. He has gained their trust.

For the past three years, he has been taking backpacks filled with supplies to them. His ministry began as a way to offer a warm shower to those living in tents and on the streets. He offers hygiene kits, food, clothes, baby-care items, and now the mats crocheted by Wilkes’ group.

Lilly praises the work that Wilkes and her ministry are doing.

“If I need supplies taken somewhere, Sherri will quit what she is doing, load her two children and go do whatever needs to be done,” Lilly said. “Sherri has the best heart of anybody I know. We depend on her.

“If I say we need six mats for a homeless family, she will say, ‘Let me see what I can do,’ and she will work diligently until she gets it done.”

Wilkes holds up recently crocheted mat

Sherri Wilkes, 33, holds up a 3X6 foot mat ready to distribute to the homeless.

Wilkes initially began her project for the young adult group Infuse at Church of God International.

“We are getting them involved and it’s more than just keeping their butts in the seats,” she said, smiling.

For more information, visit and click the “getting involved” tab.

The Making Mats ministry welcomes anyone willing to help by saving plastic shopping bags or coming to the crocheting circle at the library to cut, tie or crochet the plastic yarn, or plarn, as they call it.

The group, which has had as many as 25 show up for the meeting, is in need of crocheters. Right now, they have only about four who actually crochet, and they welcome the chance to pass the skill on. For more information, check out the Facebook page “Making Mats” or email Wilkes at

Their Facebook page has reached people many states away. One woman in Ohio sends boxes filled with bags and a college group in Massachusetts sent a supply.

The meetings held the last Tuesday of every month at 6 provide an opportunity for families to work together. Wilkes and her husband, Kyle, 33, bring their two children, Jane, 5, and Jeremiah, 12. Sherri’s mother, Joyce Mahaffey, is also a part of the group and designs creative patterns for others to crochet.

A look around the room shows a lot of cross-generational interaction. Kyle is teaching his daughter to measure and cut the bags. Another mother smiles as her daughter lies on the mat on the floor, checking it for comfort.

Jane Wilkes, 5, with her dad Kyle Wilkes prepare strips for cutting

Jane Wilkes, 5, gets a lesson on life and measurement and cutting from her dad,Kyle Wilkes, 33.

Valerie Bartlett, 38, was attending for the first time. She just moved to Lancaster from West Virginia.  She brought her two daughters, Kate Evans, 15, and Vivi Bartlett, 5, along.

“It gives us something to do, a chance to meet new people, and it feels good to help people out,” Bartlett said.

She held up a plastic blue Food Lion bag and said, “It keeps these bags out of landfills and helps the environment.”

ViVi Bartlett, 5, checks the mat for comfort

Vivi Bartlett, 5, checks a newly crocheted mat out for comfort.

Wilkes and the ladies have improved the mats by cutting bags into 3-inch strips rather than 2-inch strips. They now use a large “Q” crocheting hook, creating a softer, more cushiony mat. And they now make pillows from the scraps and seams, creating a zero-waste product.

“These are bags that are not going into the landfill and are not blowing across the parking lot and aren’t lying in the driveway,” Wilkes said. “That is an amazing number, and every time I crunch a new number into my excel document I get excited.”

It takes about 500 bags to make a mat. The group has used almost 69,000 bags since they began.

“When Miss Joy finishes her next mat, we will hit the 69,000 bag mark,” Wilkes said as she craned her neck to look at the mat Joy Montgomery was crocheting. “She is 4 inches away from finishing.”

Joy Montgomery crochets about 5 mats each week

Joy Montgomery is four inches away from a completed mat taking the total count of bags-turned-into-mats to 69,000,

Montgomery, 65, retired from Founders three years ago. She joined the mat-making group last December. She enjoys crocheting at night while watching Netflix.

“I pray for these people the whole time I crochet,” she said. “I pray as I go because somebody will lay on this and rest, hopefully.”

Screen Shot 2018-03-01 at 2.17.26 PM

Celebrating Second Chances

By Mandy Catoe

Cosequin the Pup removes head and reveals surprise

Lucky Dog Host Brandon McMillan made a surprise appearance by hiding in Cosequin the Pup’s costume.

It was a celebration of second chances Saturday for rescued poodle-terrier Scout and his new owner, as more than 70 animal lovers gathered at the Springs House to watch Lancaster’s episode of the CBS series “Lucky Dog.”
Scout and his owner, Susanne Kempf, were the watch party’s honorees, but there was also a surprise guest. Brandon McMillan, host of the Emmy-winning program, made an unannounced trip to Lancaster and disguised himself in a dog-mascot suit.
“I have a question everybody,” McMillan said, taking off the mascot head and drawing delighted gasps from the crowd. “How does anyone stay in this suit for longer than an hour?”
Kempf, marketing director at Nutramax Laboratories, the TV series’ sponsor, thanked her employer and McMillan for helping fill a void in her life.
“Moments like this make life worthwhile. I am thankful and grateful everyday,” she said. “I am grateful to know Brandon McMillan and ‘Lucky Dog’ and grateful that my Nutramax family gave me this opportunity.”
Each week on the show, McMillan rescues a shelter dog and places it in a loving home. He trains the rescue specifically for an individual or family who has suffered the loss of a loved one or is undergoing some difficulty. The show ends with McMillan presenting the dog to its new owner.

Scout and McMillan reconnect

McMillan and Scout reunite at viewing party

This show was special because Scout was not the only one who had been given a second-chance. He found his forever home with Kempf, a cancer survivor.
Kempf’s 13-year-old dog, Bentley, recently died and the second of her two kids had just left home, leaving her and husband Bob with an empty nest.
“This was a shot of good medicine,” Kempf said as she held Scout in her arms Saturday morning just before the episode aired. As if on cue, Scout licked her smiling face as she said, “This has been better than I imagined. It’s like a new baby in the house.”
Bob, 54, and Susanne, 56, have been married 26 years. They raised two kids, Lauren, 23, and Will, 19.

Susanne Kempf, Scout and Bob Kempf

Susanne, Scout, and Bob

Last fall McMillan visited the Nutramax veterinary sciences headquarters in Lancaster and toured the facility after the company began sponsoring “Lucky Dog,” an Emmy-winning Saturday morning series now in its fifth season. After a few conversations with her and her family, he told them he thought Scout would be a perfect fit.
Kempf was deeply saddened by Bentley’s death from cancer, and the void was intensified by the quiet house that was once filled with her teenagers and their friends.
Bentley had been her companion through her battle with cancer and she returned the favor and nursed him through his battle with the disease.
“He was my purpose, and he kept me going. And now I have a new purpose again,” she said as she squeezed little Scout.
Kempf recalled the time in her life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her son was in kindergarten.
“My hope and prayer was to live to see him grow up, and I was blessed that I did,” she said. “When he moved out, I felt lost, and now I have a purpose again.”
Her husband’s job involves frequent travel, and he was finding it harder and harder to leave Susanne at home alone.
“I hated to leave town, and now when I have to go out of town, she has somebody with her,” Bob said. “I don’t feel so bad traveling now, and it’s fun to get back home to see Scout.”

The viewing party
The Springs House began to fill up early with attendees. Nutramax owner and founder Dr. Bob Henderson said he was pleased Lancaster was enjoying the national exposure.
“It’s good for all of us. It gives us hometown pride and builds us up,” he said.
Among the guests streaming in were Sheriff Barry Faile, Police Chief Scott Grant, Rep. Ralph Norman, county council members Larry Honeycutt, Brian Carnes and Billy Mosteller.
Alan Williams and Carissa Valenti from the county animal shelter mingled and enjoyed recognition for their hard work at the outdated and undersized facility.
One table in the Springs House featured catered hors d’oeuvres for the humans and another table was spread with Cosequin, Nutramax’s flagship joint supplement for pets. Guests left with a bag full of treats and toys for their pets at home.
Every adult at the party vied for Scout’s attention. Men and women in business attire squatted down to tickle the puppy behind his ears and rubbed their noses in his muzzle.
Kristin Blanchard, Nutramax’s vice president of external corporate affairs, said the event was not only a celebration of the partnership between Nutramax and “Lucky Dog,” but also their collaboration with animal rescue groups.
She presented a $1,000 check to both Lancaster Area Shelter Supporters (LASS) and Lancaster’s Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). She also acknowledged the dedication and hard work of Williams and Valenti for their spearheading the rescue of homeless pets under their care at the shelter.
LASS President Arlene McCarthy and members Myrna Seropian and Pook Bellini accepted the check from Nutramax. SPCA President Diana Knight and board member Mikala Steele received the donation for their rescue group.

For more information or to help, check the Facebook pages and websites: Lancaster Animal Shelter Supporters of Sun City and Lancaster SPCA – Lancaster, SC;

LASS members Myrna Seropian, Pook Bellini, Arlene McCarthy and SPCA members Mikala Steele and Diana Knight.JPG

LASS members Myrna Seropian, Pook Bellini, Arlene McCarthy and SPCA members Mikala Steele and Diana Knight

Blanchard also gave a personal donation of $250 to each of the rescue groups.

County Administrator Steve Willis, whose own dogs are rescues from the county shelter, said, “This is fantastic. Nutramax has always been a great corporate partner, and they go above and beyond by holding events such as this.
“And Alan and Carissa do such a great job working with our rescue groups to find forever homes for the homeless pets.”
After the show aired, McMillan walked outside with Scout and sat on the porch in a rocking chair, holding his four-legged friend in his arms.
He said he has taped nearly 100 episodes of the program over the past five years. Leaving the dogs after spending so much intensive time training them – sometimes months – is often difficult, he said, but he has moved on after each one.
Saturday’s event was the first time he has ever appeared at a viewing party for the show, he said.
Asked why he came to this one, he responded: “Because this is Scout.”


McMillan holds Scout after Lucky Dog viewing party.

Lancaster & Nutramax on Lucky Dog

By Mandy Catoe

February 22, 2018

Scout at his new home photo suppliedLancaster and one of its corporate anchors will bask in some heartwarming national TV exposure Saturday morning, as the “Lucky Dog” episode taped here last fall is broadcast on CBS.
Nutramax Laboratories, sponsor of the Emmy-winning program, will hold an invitation-only watch party at the Springs House during the 10 a.m. airing. Guests will include company executives, local officials and animal-rescue groups.
The stars of the show and the party will be Scout, a rescued poodle-terrier puppy, and his new owner, a Nutramax employee who has been battling cancer.
“Lucky Dog” host Brandon McMillan spent a week in Lancaster last October taping the show and delivering Scout to his new owner, whose identity has been kept under wraps since then.

McMillan and Dr Henderson tour Nutramax.JPG

Dr. Todd Henderson, president and CEO of Nutramax gives Lucky Dog host Brandon McMillan a tour of Nutramax Laboratories.

McMillan gives Scout a kiss at Nutramax

McMillan gives Scout a kiss at Nutramax Laboratories.

Saturday’s event celebrates Scout’s rescue and showcases Nutramax’ “Lucky Dog” partnership, which started last fall as the series entered its fifth season.
“We are very blessed and excited that our company and employees were able to participate in the filming of this ‘Lucky Dog’ episode,” said Dr. Todd Henderson, president and CEO of Nutramax.
“We are also thrilled that one of our very own employees and her family were able to provide a forever home to a rescue dog.”
Nutramax, a family-owned business founded by Dr. Bob Henderson in 1992, moved its headquarters from Maryland to Lancaster in 2010 and employs more than 300 workers here.
The company researches, develops and manufactures nutritional supplements for animals and humans. Cosequin, Nutramax’s flagship joint supplement, co-produces “Lucky Dog” along with Litton Entertainment.
The show, part of CBS’ uplifting Saturday morning lineup, has won two Emmys, two Parent’s Choice Awards and five Telly Awards.
In each episode, McMillan rescues a shelter dog and trains it to live in a specific home. Often the new owners have special requirements, such as a person in the family with a disability or the need for the dog to be able to go on long car trips or run beside a bike. So each training regimen is a little different.
Todd Henderson said Saturday’s broadcast will give Cosequin buyers around the country a chance to see where and how the product is produced.
“It’s a great chance for our customers to get a sneak peek of our facilities in Lancaster and see the pride we take in manufacturing quality products,” Henderson said.

TV Spotlight hits 8-year-old

TV Spotlight Hits 8-year-old Railee Brown

By Mandy Catoe

February 14, 2018

Eight-year-old Railee Brown of Lancaster had a whirlwind week in New York City with her mom and grandmother while taping several episodes of the new ABC game show “Child Support.”
She got celebrity treatment, including limo rides and a fancy hotel with a view of the Empire State Building.

Beverly Duke, Meg Brown and Railee Brown in Times Square.jpg

Railee with mom and grandmother (photo supplied

When she wasn’t on set, she visited the Statue of Liberty, ice skated in Rockefeller Square and learned to hail a cab in the Big Apple – not bad for a little girl from a small town. “Being on TV was exciting and fun,” Railee said this week. “But I wouldn’t want to live there.”
Railee appeared on five of the first six episodes of  “Child Support,” which started airing in prime time last month. The lighthearted program, which stars British comedian Ricky Gervais, features five kids who provide answers or “support” to adults who need a little help answering questions to earn cash.
Sometimes the kids help and sometimes they don’t, but they are always entertaining. (Episodes can be streamed online or viewed in segments on the show’s Facebook page.)


photo supplied

The journey to the actual airing of the show began in fall  2016 on social media. Railee’s mom, Meg Duke Brown, saw a casting director’s Facebook post seeking children from across the country ages 5 to 8. Brown sent in a video and didn’t expect anything would come of it.
A few Skype interviews later, Railee was one of 20 kids chosen from a pool of 1,000. In January 2017, Railee, her mom and her grandmother Beverly Duke were on a plane headed to New York City.
“We had to drop everything and go,” Brown said. “Railee was so excited, she just screamed and hollered. She had never been to New York before.”


Photo Supplied

The three Southern belles enjoyed a free trip to the City That Never Sleeps. Five of the seven days consisted of three hours of filming and three hours of schoolwork. The days were intense and tiring, but the three generations packed in as much sightseeing as possible.
It was Railee’s first airplane flight, and she loved looking out the window at the world below.


photo supplied


photo supplied

She rode the SeaGlass Carousel at Battery Park, shopped in a five-story American Girl doll store, and enjoyed the bustle and lights of Times Square.
“She loved staying in the middle of Manhattan and being treated like a superstar,” Duke said. “She did not like the school part on set.”
Railee lives in Lancaster with her 5-year-old brother, Knoxx, her mom and dad, Josh Brown. Meg Brown is a hair stylist at Rumors Hair Salon in Lugoff, and Josh Brown is a supervisor at Duracell. Railee’s great-grandfather, Dr. Bill Duke, was the twin brother of astronaut Charlie Duke.
Railee is bright, polite and well-spoken. She doesn’t have to be reminded to say “yes m’am” or “no m’am.” She loves to ride horses and doesn’t mind “scooping up their poop.”
Brown said her daughter is confident, strong-willed and “a happy bright light in this world that makes everybody smile.”
She doesn’t worry about Railee being spoiled by the brief bright lights of fame.
“Railee is just as happy being at home playing outside doing everyday things,” Brown said.
Despite being treated like a star and enjoying some national TV exposure, Railee remains grounded and a true country girl at heart.
“I like living where I can ride horses and four wheelers, play in the creek and in the woods and go hunting with Mom and Dad,” Railee said just after enjoying gymnastics Monday night.
One additional show Railee would consider appearing on is “Top Chef Junior.”
“I like saucing the steak, deer steak,” she said. A few questions revealed she was talking about marinating venison.
Railee’s longterm dreams include being a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.
Before then, she plans to bag a big deer.
“I’m going to get a big buck before I am 9 or 10,” she said.
Railee’s family may soon get their own 15 minutes of fame on another game show – “Family Feud.”
Brown said she read on Facebook late last year that the iconic game show was auditioning in Charlotte. She and her family (her parents, John and Beverly Duke; her sister Katie and brother-in-law, Matt Hood) tried out about a month ago and were chosen.
The Dukes will head to California for taping as soon as the details are worked out. No date has been set.

(as published in The Lancaster News)

Feel the Beat

Sugarshine’s First Make A Wave donation goes to Brooklyn Springs

Three Sugarshine band members delivering buckets to Brooklyn Springs Elementary Chris Horton, Justin'e Hatfield, Chase Carpenter

Sugarshine members Chris Horton, Justin’e Hatfield, and Chase Carpenter brought buckets, drumsticks and smiles to Brooklyn Springs Feb 2.

February 4, 2018

Sugarshine, Lancaster’s hometown reggae band, showed up Friday at Brooklyn Springs Elementary with 30 five-gallon buckets and 35 sets of brand new drumsticks for the music classes.
It was the band’s first gift from its newly-formed Make A Wave Foundation. They hope to offer ongoing support to the community’s youth.

Mariah Allen with Sugarshine members Stuart Parsons, JR Snipes, Chase Carpenter, Justin'e Hatfield, Chris Horton

Mariah Allen with Sugarshine members Stuart Parsons, JR Snipes, Chase Carpenter, Justin’e Hatfield, and Chris Horton

“This is where we start, and we will be on to the next school after this,” said lead singer Justin’e Hatfield. “When the needs of the schools are greater, we will have benefit concerts to raise more money. This is just the first wave.”
The band’s five musicians spent an hour with 16 students in Stephanie Manuel’s fifth-grade music class. The kids formed a semi-circle and broke the buckets in.
The band offered drumming tips and won a few new fans. It was hard to tell who was the happier – the band or the students. Everyone was smiling ear-to-ear.
Hatfield approached the school about two months ago to find out how Sugarshine could help the elementary school, which three of its five members attended. Manuel told him the kids wanted to form a bucket band.
“My mind started racing, like I know we can do this,” Hatfield said. “All we need is sticks and buckets!”

Jorge Blanco, Justin Ramos, Joanna Spinoza, Natalie Sanchez, Amodesty Wright,

Fifth graders Jorge Blanco, Justin Ramos, Joanna Spinoza, Natalie Sanchez, and Amodesty Wright enjoy percussion play and time with Sugarshine.

He rallied the band members to reach out to friends and family, and he began making phone calls to local businesses and D’Addario, a New York-based maker of guitar strings and drumsticks. He said Lowe’s of Indian Land sold the buckets “for cheap” and D’Addario donated 35 sets of drumsticks along with a slew of music-themed stickers.
The entire band was present Friday – Hatfield and drummer J.R. Snipes, bass player Chase Carpenter, guitarist Chris Horton and keyboardist Stuart Parson s. So was Kelly Downie, manager of Lowe’s in Indian Land.

Sugarshine member Stuart Parsons directs drummers

Sugarshine member Stuart Parsons directs drummers with a lesson about volume… “Bring it down…”

Downie found the energy contagious and will be donating mop handles and garbage cans/lids to expand the bucket band.
“It’s awesome to see the kids so happy, and we will do anything we can do to be a part of that,” Downie said.
The Sugarshine members are lifelong friends ranging in age from 27 to 44. Three of the band members now have their own children and are troubled by funding cuts in the music curriculum.
“To think that music, a thing that saved my life, would not be there for my son really upset me,” Hatfield said. “So I thought, ‘What can I do?’”
That thought was the beginning of the Make A Wave Foundation.
The buckets and drumsticks will remain at the school, allowing students who might not be able to afford an instrument to discover a hidden talent and a way to express themselves.
Horton, 41, and Parsons, 42, were best friends in the sixth grade at Brooklyn Springs.
Recalling the long-ago days at the elementary school, Parsons said, “I learned to read music on that stage in the cafeteria at Brooklyn Springs.”
Horton recalls the piano in his kindergarten class. During play time, he said, he couldn’t wait to put his fingers on the black and white keys.
“I had no idea what I was doing, but it sounded good to me,” he said, smiling. “That one spark stayed with me throughout my life. That piano was the root of a lifelong love of music.”
Sugarshine hopes the buckets and drumsticks will give students a chance to express themselves and maybe even more.
Horton and Hatfield both say music saved their lives. Horton said it has been the perfect therapy for his anxiety disorder.
“If Make A Wave helps one child find their way in life through music, then we will have accomplished everything we set out to do,” Horton said.
Sugarshine will perform at this year’s Red Rose Festival in May. Their website shows bookings from Rock Hill to the coast, reflecting a growing fan base.
They may even invite the Brooklyn Springs Bucket Band to perform at one of their local gigs.
Hatfield talked a little about why they named the foundation Make A Wave. “A pebble dropped in the ocean can make a ripple, but a large object will start a wave,” he said. “Give a little, the effect is little. But if we put in enough, we will make waves!”
Parsons said he was amazed at how easy it was to get people on board to help.

Aryonna Alcontard leads the class for a few beats

Aryonna Alcontard leads the class for a few beats.

This Moment

This moment.

I’m looking out my north-facing bedroom window just after a beautiful sunrise on this winter morning. Some snow remains on the grass giving my southern heart a slight shiver of delight and gratitude. It’s proof that winter didn’t pass us by. The scene through my window pane looks like what I see on Christmas cards. I’m grateful for the quiet of this early winter morning. Only my cat and I are awake. He is purring in my lap. The stillness of this moment anchors me to all that matters. The ones I love the most are safe and sleeping. The honking geese flew over as they do every morning. Today I heard them. Squirrels are scampering at the edge of the woods. Cardinals and crows have flown through the cloudless blue sky. I’m blessed with this view of evergreens and bare trees.  Here is what I come back to from wherever I go. It’s home. When I question decisions I’ve made, I remind myself that they led me to this moment of peace.

-Mandy Catoe-


Psychologist finds quiet in Heath Springs, writes novel about his life

Psychologist finds quiet in Heath Springs, writes novel about his life

Dec. 29, 2017
By Mandy Catoe

Dr. Charles Kaska writes in his den in Heath Springs. He can be followed on Facebook at cpowerskaska, and his book “The Canoeist” can be purchased from Amazon.

Many people come to Lancaster County these days for high-end jobs and a busy suburban lifestyle.
Dr. Charles Kaska, 74, moved here for peace and quiet.
He and his artist wife, Patricia Gambino, plopped down in Heath Springs five years ago after leaving the Philadelphia suburbs.
He retired after an intense four decades working as a forensic psychologist – interviewing criminal suspects to determine their level of sanity, providing expert testimony in court, and profiling criminals to determine motives and patterns.
The couple wanted seclusion and a slow pace of life that would put them fairly close to her parents, who live on the Grand Strand, and give him time to write his first novel.
“We did not want to live in the fast-paced atmosphere of the Myrtle Beach area, which is too crowded with too much movement,” Kaska said. “So we looked at a map and saw that Lancaster County didn’t seem to have a lot of roads or cities.”
Once they settled down in their new home, complete with a pottery studio and a study, Kaska began writing.

Charles Kaska stands with wife Patricia Gambino in her pottery studio in their home.

His new book, “The Canoeist,” is loosely based on the first 25 years of his life. It reads like an autobiography – the main character is named Charles Kaska – but the author is quick to point out that it is part fiction. He won’t say which part.

Toll of the ’60s

By the time readers complete the nearly 600-page journey, they will come away with an appreciation of Kaska’s resourcefulness, his passion for peace, and the spiritual toll the 1960s had on his generation.
Kaska turned 17 in 1960. The decade included the hope of John F. Kennedy and progressive civil rights legislation, a divisive war, and the voices of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Before it was over, those three leaders had been silenced by assassination.
The downward spiral of the ’60s was so disheartening that Kaska nearly subtitled his novel “The Whole Thing Went to Hell.”
“The Canoeist” shows the spiritual growth of an idealistic young man finding his way through life by marching against war, serving in the Peace Corps in South America, and coming home to the riots of 1968.
Kaska points to the cover of the novel, which depicts a lone canoeist in a swirl of symbols representing the chaos of his youth.
He took a little time recently to talk about the book and to offer some insight on his life since that disturbing period.
“I think I’ve done my part,” he said. “I think that I haven’t wasted my talents or my opportunities and that I have made a difference, and that is a very satisfying feeling.”
Kaska is trim and fit and moves with the ease of a much younger man. His hair is white, full and neat. His tone, delivery and manner are as steady as the ticking cuckoo clock hanging in his study. He is always on an even keel. His family describes him as loyal, reliable and kind.
His wife says he put his writing aside without complaint to build display shelves for her pottery shows. And he helps wrap each piece of pottery in protective wrap before traveling with her to galleries.

Finding his way

Kaska’s childhood photos from the 1950s (supplied)

Kaska was an only child born to unhappy parents of limited means and little imagination in 1943 in Rahway, N.J.
Teachers told him he had little capacity for math and virtually none to learn a foreign language. He proved them all wrong, and by the time he was 35 years old, had earned a doctorate of psychology and was fluent in Spanish.
He graduated from high school in 1961 and attended a local community college for a year before flunking out. He worked odd jobs for a couple years before landing one at Kraft Foods making mayonnaise. That lasted less than a year.
“I was fired for leaving work without official permission,” he said. “I had a cold and couldn’t find the nurse, so I just went home, not realizing what a serious thing that was to do.”
Kaska said his only option at that point was to go back and get more education since he “wasn’t fit for the world of work.”
He enrolled at Monmouth College in 1963. While in school, he organized a relief project for striking sharecroppers in Mississippi, led anti-war rallies and revitalized The Hawker, a fledgling liberal magazine produced off-campus.
“It was a slow downward spiral from there,” he said. “The better The Hawker got, the more the administration got angry.”
School officials were so threatened by the publication’s anti-establishment tone that they suspended him from college in 1966, just before Thanksgiving.

Joined Peace Corps
His expulsion made him eligible to be drafted. He decided he would go to prison if necessary rather than serve, but he had poor hearing and was rejected by the military.
“This was about standing your ground for what you believe in and accepting the consequences for doing so,” he said.
After a three-month trip to California and back, hitchhiking most of the way, Kaska joined the Peace Corps and worked in Colombia, South America. He learned to ride horses on the hilly terrain, speak Spanish, got married and climbed Pico Cristobal Colon, the tallest mountain in Colombia.
Kaska served for 18 months before deciding to head back home. It was the summer of 1968, and Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy had been murdered.
America was blowing up “city by city and killing our leaders one by one,” Kaska recalled.
He resumed his studies at Monmouth College and received his bachelor’s in psychology in 1969.
His parents came to see him graduate, but neither “brought a present or even a greeting card… or wished me congratulations, nor said they were proud…. Neither ever had.”

Since 1969
Kaska said his first 25 years were the most “swashbuckling” part of his life. The two quarter-century periods since have been quieter, but with great emotional and academic achievement.
He earned his master’s degree from Newark State College in 1972 and his doctorate six years later from Rutgers University.
“Achieving the doctorate had not only practical significance for me but also tremendous emotional significance, because…I had earned it at a major university and had done so after all my academic struggles,” he said. “Go all the way back to first grade when I could not do arithmetic. I overcame all that.”
His daughter, Juliet Kaska, was born in 1974. She lives in Los Angeles and owns a group of yoga and Pilates fitness centers.
“The most important and creative thing I have ever done is to bring Juliet into this world,” he said. “There is no question about that.”
Juliet recently got married in South Africa, and Kaska traveled 8,000 miles to walk her down the aisle.

Kaska and daughter Juliet on her wedding day in South Africa last June. (photo supplied).

Kaska’s first marriage ended in the mid-’80s. He met Patricia Gambino in the early ’90s.
She describes their first Valentine’s Day.
“No chocolate and roses for us,” she said. “We were on a winter backpacking trip on Mount Washington in New Hampshire in 1992. It was 10 degrees with a wind chill of minus 40, and winds were gusting up to 60 miles per hour.”
She was exhausted and unsure if she could make it back to camp. She said Kaska carried all his gear and half of hers on the return trip. She collapsed in the tent with her snow-covered boots sticking out. She said he removed her boots, warmed her feet and secured the tent.
“When the chips were down and I was about done, he came to my rescue,” she said. “I knew he was the fellow for me in that moment.”

Reading the classics
Kaska is currently reading the classics and studying western civilization. He keeps a huge globe next to the sofa where he reads, so he can “do more than imagine” where a country is located. He figures he is about 70 percent through the classics.
Kaska has survived the chaos of life with his sense of humor in tact.
“The biggest impediment to my learning has been formal education,” he said. “If they had just left me alone, I could have learned a lot more.”


CBS series ‘Lucky Dog’ brings rescued terrier to Lancaster home

Dr. Robert Devlin, Brandon McMillan with Scout, and Dr. Todd Henderson
Photo by Mandy Catoe

Nutramax new sponsor for Emmy-winning show

By Mandy Catoe
For The Lancaster News
December 10, 2017

Photo supplied

Scout, a frisky 4-month-old poodle terrier, scooted between the legs of Lancaster executives and one TV star at Nutramax Laboratories’ warehouse on Flat Creek Road.
Brandon McMillan, the host of CBS’ Emmy-winning Saturday morning show “Lucky Dog,” was sitting at a conference table with Nutramax CEO Dr. Todd Henderson and veterinarian Dr. Robert Devlin.
The executives in business suits broke out in smiles as they twisted and turned in their chairs to give the black-and-white terrier a pat on his head.
“Scout is a rock-star puppy,” McMillan said.
“Lucky Dog,” now in its fifth season, was in town recently to film its first-ever episode in the Carolinas and to celebrate its new partnership with Lancaster-based Nutramax.
Each week, the show features  McMillan training a rescued shelter dog for an individual or family. The dog develops trust and becomes a lovable pet. Some even become service dogs. The show ends with McMillan presenting the dog to its new owner.
Scout was in Lancaster to stay. McMillan trained him to offer emotional support to a Nutramax employee who is battling cancer and grieving the recent death of her dog.
“She feels a huge void in her life and reached out to us,” McMillan said.  “When she described the qualities she was looking for, I told her I had the perfect dog for her.”
McMillan rescued Scout at 8 weeks from a Los Angeles shelter.
“His previous family dumped him at the shelter because he had fleas,” McMillan said, shaking his head. “He is one of the most stable personalities and confident puppies ever.”
The “Lucky Dog” crew spent the rest of the week privately taping the presentation of Scout to the employee. The production company kept the taping under wraps. The show will air next spring and reveal the moment when Scout begins his new life.

Dr. Henderson gives McMillan a tour of Nutramax
Photo by Mandy Catoe



Photo by Mandy Catoe

Fitting partnership
Nutramax, a family-owned business founded by Dr. Bob Henderson in 1992, moved its veterinary sciences headquarters from Maryland to Lancaster in 2010.
Now in its seventh year in the Red Rose City, it has a workforce of more than 300. It researches, develops and manufactures nutritional supplements for animals and humans.
Todd Henderson said his advertising agency recently suggested that Nutramax sponsor the popular CBS show.
“My kids watch ‘Lucky Dog’ every Saturday morning, so I was familiar with the show,” Henderson said. “I respected that it was pro-veterinarian.”
The Lancaster-based business reached out to McMillan to see if he was familiar with their products.
The partnership was a no-brainer when McMillan told them he has been giving Cosequin, Nutramax’s flagship joint supplement, to his dogs for the past 20 years.
McMillan said companies frequently ask “Lucky Dog” to promote their products.
“I have said no more times than yes,” he said. “When Nutramax approached us, the hair on the back of my neck stood up, because finally, not only a company whose products I use, but one that backs up what they say, asked us.”
McMillan said he gives his dogs Cosequin in their early years. Rather than waiting for age-related arthritis or stiffness, he puts them on a maintenance schedule, giving them a longer life of activity and good health.
Henderson and McMillan agree the partnership supports their mutual values.
“It’s a good synergy because of Brandon’s values and our medical input,” Henderson said. “We are all in favor of saving these animals from the shelter. It’s a really good partnership.”


Photo by Mandy Catoe

About McMillan
McMillan, 40, was born into a family of animal trainers who were taught by famed lion tamer Gunther Gebel-Williams. Gebel-Williams tamed lions for Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
McMillan moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles in 1996 and trained animals for the movies for 15 years. He also trained the pets of various celebrities including Ellen Degeneres, James Caan, Hugh Hefner and Kate Hudson.
McMillan also hosts a documentary on the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week called “Great White Serial Killer,” in which he investigates shark attacks on humans.
In 2011, he trained his first service dog for a disabled veteran who had lost both legs in Afghanistan. After delivering the dog to the double amputee at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., he was hooked. He returned to California and focused on training service and therapy dogs.
He began rescuing and training shelter dogs after hearing that America euthanizes 1.5 million dogs each year because they are homeless.
“It is happening right here in every big city and small town in America,” he said. “That is an epidemic. I figured I could do something about it by training dogs and finding them a home.”
McMillan said he has rescued, trained and found homes for 800 to 1,000 dogs.
That moment of giving the dog to its new owner is still a challenging one for him.
“I have to walk away,” McMillan said. “The best day of my life and the worst day of my life is when I give them to their forever home. It’s the day I smile the most and cry the most.”
McMillan says it is, in the end, rewarding to let the dogs go.
“Seeing the smile on the faces of the people receiving the rescued dogs make it all worthwhile,” he said. “It’s like the famous bumper sticker on the car ‘who rescued who?’ and we know the dog rescued the person.”