Young men graduate high school with a little help

They could have easily been forgotten. Instead, a group of four young men celebrated a milestone at the La Buena Vida High School Graduation Party held at the Irving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce building on Monday, June 5th.

“All four were looking at having to drop out because they had no way to get to school,” said Joy Goodrum, executive director of La Buena Vida. “They had nowhere to live to get ready for school, and they had no transportation to get there.”

La Buena Vida is an Irving-based non-profit organization that helps homeless and at-risk students by providing transitional housing as well as skills to succeed in school and life.

The organization also operates La Buena Vida House, the first homeless shelter specifically for teens in Irving, which opened its door back in 2015.

La Buena Vida has provided over 17 students with transitional housing. This year’s graduating class consists of three young men from MacArthur High School and one from Irving High School.

Members of the Irving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as well as members of the community all came out to congratulate the graduates, many bearing graduation gifts. J.C. Gonzales, chairman of the board for the Irving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, explained how the chamber became involved with La Buena Vida.

“Joy serves on our board and last year there was not one dry eye in the board meeting when she was sharing what her experience was with two of the young men graduating,” Gonzales said. “Those two young men were on the telephone trying to find relatives and trying to get a hold of someone so that they could attend and watch them cross the stage, but no one answered the phones. The only person there was Joy.”

Gonzales personally wanted to help the kids out, as he understands a little bit about the situation these kids face.

“I come from a challenging background and sometimes growing up, I felt alone and no child should feel that way,” Gonzales said. “When we see these young men go through those challenges, I want to help them out and be the person that I needed when I was growing up.”

Marquis M. and Brandon D. were two of the four graduates of this year’s class. Both graduated from MacArthur High School. Marquis is currently working at Tom Thumb and wants to compete in the Special Olympics, while Brandon is planning on studying to become an electrician.

“It’s really a blessing,” Marquis said. “I’ve just met a lot of people like Miss Joy and her friends and they really helped me to get there. It’s changed my life forever.”

“It’s meant a lot to me, because they helped me get through some tough times throughout high school and they help me finish it when the time came down to it,” Brandon said.

Michael W. graduated from Irving High School last year and is currently working at Whataburger while looking at attending classes at North Lake College. He talked about the challenges he faced that led him to La Buena Vida.

“Me and my dad, we had some problems,” Michael said. “He had to kick me out of his house, and I ended up homeless on the street. But then, the rec center told me, ‘We’d like for you to join this program.’ They gave a call to La Buena Vida, and I met Miss Joy and Mr. Ben. They gave me a talk and they said I was in.”

He added that finally getting to walk across the stage was a surreal experience.

“It was pretty crazy, seeing everybody congratulating you,” Michael said. “High school was a great experience, but you got to move on from it. It’s just part of life.”

Wounded warrior race supports veterans


More than 3,000 runners from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area woke up early Sunday morning, June 11, to race around the Urban Center as part of the ninth annual Wounded Warrior Military Miles half marathon, 10K, and 5K.

A post-race party followed the race with food, drinks, and live music. The race is put together by Dallas Athletes Racing and the money raised goes to three military charities: Wounded Warrior Project, Fisher House and Team Red White and Blue (RWB).

“There’s not a singular purpose, there are multiple purposes for this event,” said executive producer for Dallas Athletes Racing (DAR) Tom Ryan.

“If you look at one, it’s the whole energy that surrounds the military support here in the United States that’s the glue, but at the same time we’re heavy into health and fitness,” he said. “You combine high profile, active, benefitting charities along with health and fitness in a very active city; it’s a great recipe.”

DAR has partnered with Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) since the beginning of this event.

“Our original partner is Wounded Warrior Project, and then we added Fisher House, and last year added Team RWB,” Ryan said.

WWP provides a variety of services, programs, and events for wounded veterans of the military following 9/11. Fisher House helps military families by providing them a place to stay at no cost while a loved one receives treatment. Team RWB is the newest partner charity to benefit from this event. They supports veterans making the transition from military to civilian life.

Members from all three of the organizations actually ran the course and participated in the race. Jim Theisen, a member of Team RWB, ran the race before Team RWB became a partnering charity.

“I’ve run this race ever since its inception,” Theisen said. “I do this race every year because it supports the military and I’m a Vietnam veteran. I run it for the people overseas who cannot run it.”

The race grows bigger each year and brings more awareness to the partner causes. For the first time, Exeter Finance, a subprime auto finance company, gathered a group of their employees to volunteer and participate in the race.

“We have a program in our company called Xvets, so we recruit a lot of veterans to come work for our company,” said Hart Jackson, executive assistant for Exeter Finance. “When we found out about this run, we wanted to make sure some of our veterans and our employees got out here and participated.”

Jackson said it is important to show support for the veterans and military and he hopes to participate in all future Wounded Warrior races.

“I hope this is definitely something we continue doing, because this is who we recruit to work for us, our veterans,” Jackson said. “We are really big on recruiting veterans in our company. It’s just a great cause to support.”

Next year, the Wounded Warrior race will celebrate its 10-year-anniversary and Ryan is glad that the event continues to grow.

“This year we had more runners, the most vendor support we’ve ever had, and we’ve raised thousands and thousands of dollars for our three charity partners,” Ryan said. “The event is a win-win because it helps the charities, it helps the athletic community, it brings awareness to the charities, and it brings awareness to health and fitness in the community.”

The city of Irving will once again host the race next year for the 10-year-anniversary. Ryan said he hopes to go ‘big’ to celebrate the milestone.

“I don’t know what ‘big’ means today, but it will certainly give us more of an opportunity to celebrate 10 years,” Ryan said. “It has its own kind of buzz, so we have to support that buzz somehow.”

Kona Ice now serving Irving

Bringing tropical tunes and cups of shaved ice everywhere it stops, Kona Ice is introducing Irving to its distinctive blend of entertainment and gourmet frozen treats.

“The communities’ first taste of our cool treats and colorful truck will keep them coming back for more,” said Cynthia Sanchez, the local resident and entrepreneur who has teamed up with her family to launch her new food truck franchise in Irving. “It will only be a matter of time before our Kona truck captures the hearts, minds and taste buds of the neighborhoods we serve.”

Kona Ice offers ten tastes on the truck’s Flavorwave, an interactive dispensing system in which individuals select from one or more of the flavors to pour over their fluffy snow, or the additional 20-plus flavors and 500 different combinations available.

“It’s an opportunity to enjoy a unique, tropical treat,” Sanchez said. “For a couple of dollars you can experience the excitement of the truck, flavor your own Kona Ice, donate to an organization you care about, and kick back for a few minutes enjoying the sounds of the tropics. It’s an escape that everyone can enjoy.”

Equally as appealing about the launch of Kona Ice of Central Irving is its philanthropic commitment. Sanchez is continuing the mobile franchise’s tradition of donating money each year to local school groups, teams and community organizations, and gives back a percentage of the proceeds from each stop. Nationwide, Kona Ice has donated more than $40 million to community-based organizations since its launch in June 2007.

“Cynthia shares our commitment to giving back,” said Tony Lamb, founder and president of Florence, Ky.-based Kona Ice. “She wants to have a positive influence on the people in their community, whether it’s new text books, sports uniforms or, simply, a smile. We are proud to have her on-board. Together, we are excited to make a difference in the lives of those around us.”

Beyond fundraisers, popular spots for the food truck franchise include fairs, festivals, corporate events, neighborhood socials, church events and birthday parties. Sanchez’s truck also maintains regular weekday and weekend routes.

To learn more about Kona Ice of Central Irving and to book your next event, contact Cynthia Sanchez at or (682) 222-6447.

Irving police department honored with barbeque

Just in time for summer grilling season, the Open Door Church in Irving hosted a barbeque to show their appreciation for the Irving police department on Tuesday, June 6.

“Last year, we had our first event after the police shootings in Dallas,” Open Door Church Pastor Phil Durham said. “We wanted a way to honor the police here in Irving.”

Food and drinks were donated to Pastor Durham’s group. A dozen volunteers passed out meals to the officers to show the church’s support for everything the officers do for the community.

The church is only a year and a half old. One way they have started making an impact is by having a strong youth group presence. The barbeque is another way they hope to bring the community closer together.

“We wanted to not forget,” Durham said. “Just because there’s no tragedy going on, we’re not going to forget the police. We really want to serve those who serve us, and certainly let the officers know that we care about them.”

Jane Marlow Easter

Jane Marlow Easter, 87 of Irving, Texas, passed away on July 5, 2017. Jane was born in Fort Worth, Texas on September 10, 1929. She graduated from Irving High School and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Texas Christian Universi-ty. She later obtained her Master’s Degree from Southern Meth-odist University. Jane experienced a long teaching career with the Dallas Independent School District. She also enjoyed extensive travel around the world in the summers. Fol-lowing her retirement, Jane spent countless hours caring for her mother, two aunts and an uncle. Jane was a lifelong member of the Church of Christ and most recently attended Beltline Road Church of Christ. In her later years Jane made many friends at the Park Manor Apartments where she lived as well as at Fresenius Dialysis Center in Irving. Fami-ly and maintaining family traditions was very important to Jane. She came from a family of Irving pio-neers and early settler, Thomas Haley, was her grandfather. She was a great historian of the history of Irving as well as the Haley fami-ly. Jane was very inde-pendent and until re-cent months, she con-tinued to drive herself to dialysis three times a week.

Jane is survived by her sister-in-law, Lura Easter Barganier and her husband, Frank, of Irving; nieces, Mary Easter Casey and her husband, Jackie of Abilene, and Cindy Easter Arnold of Den-ton; cousins, Marinell Zaun, Vera Lou Gleg-horn, Glenn Gleghorn and Sue Huffman; numerous grand-nieces and nephews; as well as many lifelong friends. Jane is preced-ed in death by her par-ents, J.C. and Flora Haley Easter and her brother, Joel Carlton Easter.

Funeral services are being handled by Don-nelly’s Colonial Funeral Home. Visitation will be held Friday evening at the funeral home from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. The memorial service for Jane will be held at Beltline Road Church of Christ in Irving on Saturday, July 8 at 10:30 a.m. Burial will follow at the Haley Ceme-tery. The family would like to thank the staff at Fresenius Dialysis Center and Irving Nurs-ing and Rehabilitation for their devotion, care and love they provided to Jane.

Mark your calendar!

Celebrate Coppell – Party In The Park
July 1, 2  – 10 p.m.

Coppell’s annual Independence Day celebration returns to Andrew Brown Park East, 260 E. Parkway Blvd. Park bigger and better than ever.

5k for Coppell Special Olympics
July 1

The Get You In Shape Coppell 5K benefiting Coppell Special Olympics is a community event with a 1-mile fun run and a timed 5K Race on July 1st and is a part of Celebrate Coppell. This will be the first 5k in the newly updated Coppell Parks. For more information and to register for this family-friendly, community event visit:

Irving Heritage House
July 2, 3-5 p.m.

Recognizing the 75th anniversary of the Little Golden Books, a special exhibit of vintage books from the collection of Heritage Society member Karen Jackson will be on display at the Irving Heritage House. The Heritage House is located at 303 South O’Connor and monthly tours now include Mary’s Playhouse in the garden area as well. Admission is free. Guest will receive a complimentary copy of the history book Irving, Texas: From Rails to Wings by Norma Stanton.

Little Golden Books were created in 1942 for children. Some of the first books included Three Little Kittens, Bedtime Stories, Prayers for Children, The Little Red Hen and the all-time favorite and the top seller The Poky Little Puppy. The books have been colorfully illustrated with distinct styles from such artists as Richard Scarry, Eloise Wilkin, and Garth Williams. The books sold for 25 cents and you were even allowed to write your name in them.

School Supply Drive
July 2-August 6

Help Irving ISD students start the school year off right by donating school supplies. All Irving Fire Stations are collecting school supplies July 2 through August 6. Supplies needed include:

Composition books
Crayons (24 count)
Rulers (standard and metric)
2-inch binders with dividers
Plastic folders with brads and pockets
No. 2 pencils
Small scissors
Spiral notebooks
Washable markers (8 count)
Erasers (large, bevel)
Glue sticks
Notebook paper (wide and college ruled)
Colored pencils (12 count)
Pencil box or pouch
Financial donations are also being accepted. Contact 972-600-5018 for more information.

Irving’s Star-Spangled Parade
July 4, 9 a.m.

The parade begins at 9 a.m. July 4 at Sowers Street and Irving Boulevard, near Millennium Park, and concludes about 10 a.m. After the parade, a reception at Heritage Park, 217 S. Main St., will include free watermelon, airbrush tattoos, balloons and a concert by Leo Hull and the Texas Blues Machine.

Celebrate Coppell – Parade Down Parkway
July 4, 9 a.m.

Parade Route – Samuel To Parkway Blvd., West On Parway To Town Center

Celebrate Independence Day with a patriotic parade! Put on your red, white and blue and head over to the parade route early for the best spot.

Irving’s party and fireworks
July 4, 6 p.m.

The celebration continues along Lake Carolyn, 601 E. Las Colinas Blvd. Entertainment includes live music by Downtown Fever, DJ Chris Brown and the Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra’s Brass Quintet. The 20-minute fireworks display begins at 9:30 p.m. More than 20 food vendors will offer hot and cold treats.

Other activities include airbrush tattoos, photos with Uncle Sam and both wet and dry inflatable rides. Swim attire is not required; towels are recommended. Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets and lawns chairs; outside food and beverage is permitted.

Memorial Event for Police
July 7, 11 a.m.

The first anniversary of the Dallas police shooting brings memories of a tragic night for the Dallas Police Department, DART and El Centro College. El Centro has scheduled a memorial event to honor the officers who died that night, those who were wounded (including two El Centro police officers, Cpl. Bryan Shaw and Officer John Abbott) and all of those officers who responded.

The event will be held in the Student Center. 

Memorial Event for Police
July 7, 6:30 – 10 p.m.

Tribute 7/7, an organization led by the Dallas Police Department and other law enforcement associations, is to thank the community for its support of law enforcement and to encourage more communication between them. 

Tribute 7/7 is planning an evening of remembrance at City Hall Plaza for the community to gather and share memories of the 2016 events; show support to officers and their families who attend; and celebrate the officers who were lost that night.

Challenge Air hands controls to youngsters with special needs

As his son took over the plane’s yoke, Brad Forsthoff leaned toward the window and pointed at landmarks he has been flying over for years.

Forsthoff and his son Christopher’s fourth flight in five years took place as part of the McKinney Challenge Air Fly Day, an event that allowed special needs kids to fly real airplanes alongside a pilot at the McKinney Airport on April 8.

“The whole purpose of this is to show these kids who have special needs that if they can control a plane up in the air, then they can really do anything in life,” Forsthoff said. “The whole goal of this entire gathering is to show the kids there are things out there that they can do. Christopher has enjoyed every minute of every time we’ve come.”

The event, which has been going on for over 20 years, begins with a quick briefing before kids are led to airplanes, each with a pilot and a flight team. Every one of the 143 kids who participated could take a 20 minute flight and after they landed, each received a certificate, had wings put on their shirts and walked across a red carpet lined with local high school cheerleaders.

“When a little brother and sister brings their siblings down the red carpet, they’re all smiling,” said event volunteer K. Lyle Froese of the McKinney Sunset rotary club. “All of them, and that’s just worth an awful lot.”

Challenge Air was founded by Rick Amber, who became a quadriplegic when his plane crashed in the Vietnam War. When he came back to the states, Amber learned to fly general aviation with hand controls and took up wheelchair tennis. After winning the U.S. Open National Wheelchair Tennis Championship and going on to teach wheelchair tennis lessons, some of his tennis students asked if they could fly with him.

“They met in this grass field,” said April Culver, executive director of Challenge Air who has been with the company for nearly seven years. “The transformation he saw on the kids faces from being in a wheelchair, and then being in the airplane and actually flying was just so phenomenal, he thought that ‘I need to make sure I can do this for all kids.’”

That first flight in 1991 watered the early seeds for what is now known as Challenge Air, a group whose mission is to build confidence and self-esteem in kids with special needs through the gift of flight.

“Our motto is if you can fly an airplane, what else can you do?” Culver said. “A lot of these kids can’t play on team sports, and there are not a lot of extra activities, so they get to come here and be normal.” She estimates they’ve flown almost 40,000 kids in 23 years in almost every state in the country.

Challenge Air puts on 12 to 15 events a year for kids between the ages of 7 and 21. Each event hosts roughly 150 kids with special needs and tends to attract the same volunteers year after year.

“This is our third or fourth year to do this,” volunteer Steve Wintory said. “I used to work in special ed, so I know what it means to these kids to get a chance to do something a little out of the box.”

Wintory’s job for the day was escorting students along with pilots from the hangar to the plane, helped them get on board safely, and making sure they got off the plane safely and onto the red carpet.

 “This is an opportunity to break some boundaries that they might have preconceived and just let them know that there’s a lot out in the world to be experienced,” he said. “A lot of them will be able to go beyond here and this will be a big highlight for them.”

This was Froese’s fourth time attending the event and he’s seen the event grow a lot.

“The rotary clubs here in McKinney have supported Challenge Air for a number of years,” he said. “It’s bigger. We have more pilots and more planes. The amazing thing is these pilots give their time, they pay their own fuel, they give their Saturday, and it’s just amazing.”
Eighteen pilots volunteered their Saturdays to fly all 143 students, so each pilot and their flight team took around seven to eight flights.

“We couldn’t do this without our pilots,” Weaver said. “We can’t pay for their fuel, we can’t give them the fuel, so really they make the magic happen. They’re the ones that talk to the kids, tell them what to do, tell them how cool this is that they’re flying the plane.”

The pilots agreed it is a thrill to see a kid’s reactions in the air.

“[These kids] get such a thrill out of it, because you tell the kids nobody has a disability,” pilot John Couzelis said. “You can do anything if you can fly this airplane. You can do anything in your life, there’s no challenge that you can’t overcome.”

Couzelis first heard about the event from a friend in 2008 and has been volunteering with Challenge Air twice a year since then. He says doing the event is his way of giving back his gift of flying.

“God gave us this talent,” he said. “So we’re trying to give back to God what he gave us.”

Serving Irving, Las Colinas, Valley Ranch, Coppell and DFW International Airport