Noreen the Outlaw Queen

With the road to Yellowstone National Park closed due to snow we spent a night in Cody, Wyoming, the home of “Buffalo Bill” Cody. We wandered into a random Italian restaurant because it was the only bar with live music. This music did not disappoint. We met one of the most inspirational people you have ever laid eyes on, Noreen the Outlaw Queen. She controlled the room, not just with her personality, but with her amazing voice and even better riffs on the guitar!!!
As she mesmerized everyone in the room, the owner of the bar let us in on a little secret. Noreen was 83 years old!
She has been playing music in this area for over 60 years and she still had it.
We got to meet her afterwards and take pictures with this western icon.
She told us she simply loved playing music for people and seeing them smile so she keeps on doing it.
As we left the bar that night we both thought of what an awesome life she was living and that we want to do the same!
And why can’t we?

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Moore Strong

It is very sad anytime we see the devastation after a tornado barrels through a populated area. This past May an F5 hit Moore, Oklahoma. As we drove through the town, actually seeing the damage was overwhelming.

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The saddest story came out of Plaza Towers Elementary School. Not only was the school completely destroyed, seven students were killed. The memorial set up in their honor would bring anyone to tears.
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With only four days until the start of the new school year, we thought we would lend a hand to get Plaza Towers Elementary’s temporary location set up. We helped move furniture, organize text books, and deliver donated supplies to each classroom. The tasks were simple but they were eye opening.

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We couldn’t believe how many supplies were donated from all over the country. We read note after heart felt note from so many kids, teachers-complete strangers.
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The sheer resolve of the community was astounding. A tornado just ripped through their town and flattened so many homes,  yet there was no doubt they would rebuild even stronger than before.

We helped Janice Brim, a 6th grade teacher, move supplies into her new room. She then asked us to sit down so we could talk and get to know each other. She told us how her school felt like family and she was ready for the new year to begin despite the challenges.

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We also got to meet Amy Simpson, the Principal of Plaza Towers. She had such a warm, easy-going nature yet you could tell she was also a strong leader. She, and the rest of the staff, were so appreciative of our help, but they were the real inspiration.
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It seems cliche to say, but it made us proud to be humans after meeting the people of Moore, Oklahoma. Kind of renews your faith in humanity. They will rebuild and they will bounce back because that is who they are. We are convinced no tornado could ever touch the spirit of these people.

Rebuilding Plaza Towers
http://news.yahoo.com/for-teachers-in-oklahoma–feelings-of-hope-and-anguish-as-kids-head-back-to-school-after-the-moore-tornado-135839118.html

Feeling at Home in Camden, New Jersey

Camden, New Jersey. What do you think about when you hear someone mention this city? Probably what I used to think. Guns. Drugs. Untapped potential. But that was the old me. The person who had never driven down Federal Ave. to the Boys & Girls Club of Camden County or cruised down 7th Street to the North Camden Community Center. I had never hung out with Jose Martinez, his brother Ray, or Guy Still. I had never hung out with over a hundred kids ages 6-13 who were the same as any other 6-13 year olds in the country. Nor had I been part of a one day basketball tournament for young men ages 16-24. Many of them in college studying to be businessmen or engineers or broadcasters.

This is the Camden that I know now. A city where those with opportunity are taking full advantage, and there is a pride for all things Camden. So what exactly did we do? We got to run a one day basketball camp at the Boys & Girls Club of Camden County and met some awesome men and women, including Guy Still, the Director of the Club. Guy was born and raised in Camden, left to work in the entertainment industry, but came back because he wanted to help his community. He is the director at what has quickly become a pillar of the Camden community.

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Saturday was spent helping Ray and Jose Martinez run a one day basketball tournament for young men ages 16-24. The camp was in honor or Ray’s son, who was also named Ray. The younger Ray died tragically in 2009 from unnecessary violence. From the stories we heard, Ray Jr. was an amazing young man full of promise and talent, especially on the basketball court. Instead of blaming the world for such a tragedy, Ray and his brother Jose started a basketball league in his son’s honor. This basketball league helps keep kids off the streets, steers them away from a life of violence, and in a number of cases into college.

When asked about the sullen circumstances surrounding the creation of his league, Ray looked straight at me and said he believes his son Ray helped the lives of hundreds of kids as well. He said one died but 80 have lived because of their league.

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The mayor of Camden, Miss Dana Redd, even came out to watch the games. This is the Camden I know now and I encourage anyone who is going near there to contact me so you can meet some of these amazing humans.

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Posted by Brett