Category Archives: Irving

Main Street Event brings together local businesses, families

The city of Irving presented its annual Main Street Event on Sept. 15-16, bringing Irving businesses and families together to celebrate all downtown has to offer.

The Irving Public Library used the event to kick off its annual Community Read initiative by issuing library cards and putting on a children’s puppet show.

“For weeks after, we’ll have people come in and say they saw us at the fest,” said Caila Morgan, who managed the booth. “It’s always good to remind people we’re here.”

CBS 11 Main Stage presented a series of musicians, including Vibe: The Band, Inspiration Band, and AJ Vallejo’s Perfect Nation: Performing Prince’s Greatest Hits on Friday. On Saturday, the Texas Sky Band, Vintage Vibes and Lara Latin performed.

The Family Fun Zone was one of the most robust areas of the fair. Children enjoyed presentations by Window to the Wild, Mikey the Monkey, Snake Encounters, and Geppetto’s Marionette Theater Silly Strings featuring Bug Crazy Celebrities, as well as a Build and Grow station sponsored by Lowe’s Home Improvement. An intersquad cheer competition was hosted by the Irving Girls Cheerleader Association. Face painting, balloons, inflatable rides, pony rides and a petting zoo kept children busy between the shows.

The Manifolds on Main Street Car Show, produced by MSP Car Shows, was one of the more popular spots for adults. The show boasted 30 trophy classes and six Best of Shows.

Just around the corner, a craft marketplace let local businesses display wares from jewelry to woodwork and had booths from a variety of local outreach programs. An adjacent juried art exhibit let shoppers mill around in the air conditioning, enjoying pieces by local artists as well as live performances by Jim Eger Jazz Trio and Bnois King Trio.

Another popular contest was the Irving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Hot Sauce Fest, which offered awards for individuals and area restaurants for the categories of Best Hot Sauce, Best Mild Sauce and Best Non-Traditional Sauce.

For those who do not like their food too spicy, Doc’s Street Grill, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, Pappy’s Mobile Café, Pineapple Grill Texas, Steel City Pops, 4M Concession and TC Country Corn Roast were all busy, as attendees flocked to their booths and trucks for snacks and drinks throughout the warm day.

Eleven-year-old Olivia McKee liked the pigs at the petting zoo best. The petting zoo and crafts booths are the main reason she and her mother, Erin Mckee, attend the event every year.

“Irving’s so big, and sometimes it seems bigger than it really is,” said Erin, an Irving resident. “This helps show the small town side of it. It’s a good community.”

Mark your calendar!

Teacher’s Pet Adoption
September 23, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 Irving Animal Services is holding a ‘Teacher’s Pet’ adoption at the Irving Animal Care Campus, 4140 Valley View Lane. Adoption fees will be waived for all dogs and cats 1 year and older. Animals being adopted will be: Up-to-date on vaccinations, including rabies if the animal is more than 4 months of age. Spayed or neutered. Given a general dewormer and flea prevention. Microchipped and registered with 24PetWatch.

 


Sundaes on Sunday
September 24, 2pm-4pm

Join the Entertainment Series of Irving in the lobby of the Texas Musicians Museum, 222 East Irving Blvd., for a free ice cream sundae and to get the “scoop” on the concert series fall lineup. Music provided by pianist Scott Loehr. Door prizes will be awarded and admission is free. Museum tours will be offered at the discounted price of $5 per guest. For more information, visit www.entertainmentseries.com or call 972-252-3838.

INTERFACE connects IT professionals with industry experts

Information technology (IT) professionals discussed the latest in cyber security at the 7th annual INTERFACE conference hosted at the Irving Convention Center on Thursday, Sept. 7.

INTERFACE is a one-day IT conference which brings together local IT professionals with leading exhibitors from around the country. This year, representatives from nearly 40 local and national IT businesses met with local professionals to discuss the newest trends and advancements in business IT.

“For the people attending, they can come learn a few things, get some education on current topics, have a chance to talk to companies locally and nationally that are providing some of these solutions [for IT problems],” said Bernard Bokenyi, a market development specialist for INTERFACE. “Our exhibitors are getting to talk to local IT decision-makers. Everybody in here has buying needs for their companies. They all have to really do their research and do their homework. These are complex decisions they’re making, so we’re trying to facilitate the opportunity for both sides to come together.”

In addition to a number of vendors, the conference also featured various seminars throughout the day. Bokenyi said these classes were of particular interest to IT professionals because they count towards ‘continuing professional education (CPE) credits,’ which many people working in the industry require to maintain their certifications.

“[IT professionals] have to maintain, on an annual basis, a certain amount of credits,” Boyenki said. “With our educational sessions, they can earn six and a half CPE credits, which helps them keep their certificates up to date. They are continually having to learn about new technologies, new threats, new products, and everything that goes on.”

One of the major topics for this year’s conference was cyber security, with ransomware being one of the major security threats facing businesses today. Ransomware is a type of malicious software that can block access to or scramble data and vital information until a sum of money has been paid. According to a study from IBM, ransomware attacks spiked to an alarming 6,000 percent between 2015 and 2016. While many of these criminals tend to go after individuals, businesses are far from immune to the practice.

“There have been several stories over the last year of companies actually paying out a ransom to a hacker in order to get control of their systems back,” Bokenyi said. “In talking to IT people, a lot of them tell me that ransomware is nothing really new philosophically from the other, normal challenges they deal with, and if you’re taking care of your systems properly, it shouldn’t be an issue. But, a lot of people are having problems with it.”

One unique aspect of INTERFACE is its small size in comparison with similar IT conferences. Bokenyi said this size was intentional, as they wanted to create an environment where professionals and vendors could have the longer, more detailed discussion they desire.

“We are not meant to be a large, huge expo,” Bokenyi said. “We are very concentrated on the local IT professionals, everybody from CIOs (Chief Information Officers) down to network engineers, people who are on the front lines of infrastructure, cyber security, data storage, and business continuity. We try to keep it at a certain ratio, so everyone attending is able to talk with our exhibitors and can have detailed conversations about the products and the technologies they’re looking at.”

Alex Elkins is a sales development representative for MalwareBytes, a cybersecurity and anti-virus company offering protection for both home and business. Elkins said INTERFACE has allowed him to connect with potential customers on a whole new level.

“I have had some really great conversations with people,” Elkins said. “It’s good to see first-hand how we’ve been able to help people in the past, and to make people aware of the new products we’re offering and see people’s reactions and answer questions as they come to us.”

Mark Villinski is the director of field marketing for Kaspersky Labs, a global cybersecurity company that has been in business for the past 20 years. Kaspersky has been a part of INTERFACE for several years, and Villinski said it’s the conference’s smaller, one-on-one feel that keeps them coming back.

“We do a lot of end-user events like this around the country and we’ve had good luck working with INTERFACE over the years,” Villinski said. “They do a nice job of bringing together the sort of folks we want to talk to and interact with and they structure the event pretty well for the vendors to have plenty of time to interact with the crowd.”

Car showcase brings luxury vehicles to Irving

To commemorate its 30-year anniversary, Park Place Dealerships presented the Luxury and Supercar Showcase at the Four Seasons Resort and Club at Las Colinas on Saturday, Sept. 9. The event raised $30,000 for the Momentous Institute, which provides social emotional health services for children and family members.
“We couldn’t think of a better group,” presenter Deborah Ferguson said. “When we invest in our children, we all win.”
Featured Park Place automobiles included the 2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom in its Texas debut; Bentley’s first luxury SUV, the Bentayga; and the Bugatti Chiron valued at $3 million.
A collector’s showcase also allowed private owners to display their automobiles, from a 1925 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, seemingly straight out of a Prohibition-era mob movie, to a gleaming 2015 Lamborghini Huracan.
Bachendorf Crystal trophies were awarded to the first place winners of four competition divisions: Vintage (pre-1973), Classic (1973-1999), Contemporary (post-2000) and Exotic or Supercar. Best in Show, Chairman’s Choice and Salesmanship Club Choice winners received original sculpture “Spirit of Park Place,” commissioned from Brad Oldham and Christy Coltrin especially for the event.
Jeff Wildin won best in vintage class for his 1933 McMagna, while Michael Mann’s 1996 Porsche 911 Twin Turbo beat out the rest of the classic category. Best in the contemporary class went to Paul Grussendorf’s 2009 Aston Martin DBS, while Eddie Lee’s popular 2009 Koenigsegg CCXR took the exotic/supercar class award.
The Salesmanship Club award went to Corky Helsmund’s 1952 MG Roadster, and the Chairman’s Award to John Lee’s 1938 Bugatti 57C Atalante. John Wampler took home the Best in Show award for his 1925 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, the oldest automobile in the collector’s showcase.
Other booths included a display from NorthPark Center, a variety of food stands, a Nespresso display and multiple food trucks.
Artist Lisa Daniels, who designed the poster and programs for the event and sold her paintings of automobiles at a booth, appreciated the variety of eras represented in the show.
“I think it’s different for this area, because it tied together the old and new cars and showed the history,” Daniels said.
Dusty Attic Toy Show, which works with a variety of charity events throughout the year, set up a track with toy cars for children to play with.
Near the track, 2-year-old Camila de la Vega played with one of several electric toy cars set out for children to ride in.
The family is staying at the Four Seasons, waiting out Hurricane Irma as it sweeps over their Miami home. They heard about the showcase from the hotel and decided to go primarily so Camila’s father could enjoy the exhibit, but the toddler seemed to enjoy her time there as well.
“Her favorite thing to do is to sit in the front of [her dad’s] car,” her mother, Veronica de la Vega said. “She calls it the ‘beep-beep.’”
Lee Brookshire admired a model similar to the 1955 Jaguar he once owned for a total of one day. After the vehicle’s broken tie rod caused him to drive off the road and down an embankment, his family asked that he avoid buying anything older than a 2018 model.
“My wife said, ‘Promise me one thing: that you won’t buy any more old cars,’” Brookshire said.
He admired the newer Rolls-Royces, as per his wife’s request, for another practical reason.
“When you’re 81, it’s easy to get in and out of,” Brookshire said.
Carolyn Alvey, who managed public relations for the event, was glad the attendees found something exciting.
“It could definitely become an annual event,” Alvey said.

Irving ISD welcomes students displaced by Hurricane Harvey

Irving Independent School district is helping displaced Houston families and students who are living in Irving. For many of these students, their schools were damaged or permanently closed due to Hurricane Harvey. Approximately 47 students from the Houston area have enrolled and are attending Irving ISD schools. Three students who attended Irving ISD temporarily returned home.

As more South Texas families arrive in Dallas, the number of students expected to enroll will increase over the following week.

Upon arriving in Irving, each student is immediately enrolled into one of the Irving ISD schools. The students qualify for the federal Mckinney-Vento Homeless Assistance program and receive items including school supplies, backpacks and school uniforms In addition, the students are assigned to the free breakfast and lunch program.

Evacuee families are given the chance to work with an Irving ISD counselor to gain information about resources they might need.

“About half of the students are living with family members,” said Adam Grinage, Deputy Superintendent of academic services. “We expect them to be here a little longer. The other half of the students are in the evacuee centers. They are still transitioning to determine if they will return to their homes. Those kids probably won’t stay here too long.

“Fortunately we were prepared. We met the week before the hurricane happened in an anticipation of getting kids. We had backpacks ready along with school supplies and school uniforms. We made sure every student had these essential materials.”

The Irving Schools Foundation (ISF) reached out to Irving ISD to offer free school supplies. The ISF runs a free ‘store’ set where teachers can get supplies for their students.

“We made sure our students had a buddy with a similar schedule so they weren’t just coming in and didn’t know where they were going,” said Anika Horgan, principal of de Zavala Middle School. “They were typically nervous, but the welcome and just having everything they needed made the transition seamless.”  

Irving ISD has a coordinator who directs the responsive services for the families. These services involve providing access to food outside of the normal school hours and other resources within the community. As of now, the families’ needs are being met. The only concern the school district has is ensuring the students feel safe, comfortable, and wanted.

“We open our doors to any student, any day, for any situation,” Grinage said. “We recognized there was a great need to open our doors for kids no matter where they come from or who they are. When they come in our doors, we don’t think if they’re are going to be here for just a week or a month. Once they are with us, they are ours until they leave. 

“We treat them like they are anybody else, in fact, we probably pay more attention to them just to make sure there are not emotional needs or physical needs that we need to pay attention to.” 

Before the hurricane hit Houston, Irving ISD received 14 students.

Austin Middle School accepted two evacuee families.

“We have taken up a collection of goods like food, diapers, formula, and items of clothing as well,” said Karen Smith, the campus secretary at Austin Middle School. “We donated through the Irving Police Department to give to Irving Cares and we are still collecting money.”

Schools located in Aransas County were so heavily damaged they are closed indefinitely.

“One of the moms’ of a student we have accepted from the hurricane said, ‘No more Houston, I’m tired of fighting,’ after her apartment was destroyed,” Smith said. “We will open our arms for them and try to make them feel as welcome as we can. It’s so important for them to continue their education and try to get normality. We just take them in and treat them like they are one of us. Once they enroll and become a Bronco, they are always a Bronco.”

To make the students feel welcome and secure, their arrival as displaced is not broadcast to the other students. The school is focusing on treating the students as normally as possible.

“We have to do it this way because it doesn’t matter where they come from, they are here and this is home. This is where they feel loved and supported,” Smith said. “I am overwhelmed by all of the aid we have come across.”

“The teachers were told to collect things and bring them to the station at the school, and the officers would collect them and take them to Irving Cares,” said Officer Greg Spivey at Austin Middle School. “Money is actually a better way to donate than items because of all the logistics of getting them down there. If you earmark something for hurricane Harvey relief, then all of that money will only be spent for hurricane Harvey.”

“As a facility, we went ahead and decided to announce a fundraiser to our staff and our students,” said Sean Flynn, principal of Lively Elementary. “If they paid five dollars, they would be able to wear jeans for the day and all of the proceeds would go towards the Red Cross to help with the hurricane relief.

“So far we haven’t received any new students, but we are prepared and ready to go. We have a home for them and classrooms. We are excited to have new students and provide them with all the assistance we can.”

During their fundraiser, Lively Elementary raised $2,541.10.

“Irving ISD believes that all students are welcome,” Anika Horgan said. “The response was so immediate that not only did I as a principal ask ‘what could we do’ but other faculty, staff, and students were asking ‘What do we need to do and how can we help out?’ Irving was quick to reach out and prepare the schools because new students were coming. It’s just the whole community aspects of saying, ‘How can we make sure we are providing everything the families need?’ It really shows how, not only the Irving community can come together but also how can Irving ISD come together.”

Toyota Music Factory crescendos into debut

The newly renamed Toyota Music Factory debuted to the public on Saturday, Sep.9 with a performance by the rock band ZZ Top.

“This has been a long time coming; we’re thrilled it’s here,” said Danny Easton, COO of Live Nation North America Concerts. “From our standpoint and Live Nation’s standpoint, it gives us so much more flexibility as promoters and bookers in the market because of the different configurations and the way we set up the building. We’re excited about the volume of acts we are getting involved with in the next 30 years.”

Development on the venue began over a decade ago, and ARK, the site’s developers, came on roughly five years ago. Easton says Irving was chosen because the city really wanted the project and was in a central location.

“To have a partnership with a city that is really desirous of a facility like this, that’s a big plus to start with,” Easton said. “If you look at Dallas-Fort Worth on a map and you put your finger in the center of it, it’d be pretty much Irving. We feel like we’re really giving people a shot to come from all over the Metroplex. It’s really not that far of a drive from Fort Worth, from Frisco and all of those places.”

The venue, which opened a week later than expected due to construction delays, has been in full-court press over the last month to meet an early September deadline.

“We had one of the wetter spring and summers on record and so we had a bunch of little weather related delays,” Easton said. “It just cumulatively balled together to put us behind. Rick (Lazes) and Noah (Lazes) of the ARK group have been working the construction crews as hard as they possibly could. It’s been pretty much a sprint to the finish.”

A day before its debut, the $200 million Irving Music Factory gained Toyota as a title sponsor. The car company recently moved its headquarters to Plano. That means the Pavilion at Irving Music Factory will now be called the Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory.

One of the amenities of the new space is the artists’ lounge that Easton hopes will attract prime time performances.

“I’ve been backstage to a lot of places in the country and I would put the backstage amenities here up against anywhere that I’ve been, which were key for us,” he said.

The 2,000 seat indoor venue hosts a $40 million convertible concert venue that has the ability to open up to an outdoor seating area and accommodate up to 8,000 fans. The pavilion also has the ability to convert into a smaller, more intimate venue.

“It’s the first time in the world anyone’s built a building that can have an indoor facility and also turn it into an amphitheater in a few minutes,” said Rick Lazes, co-founder and CEO of ARK. “That gives us a lot of flexibility no one’s ever done before.”

The opening marks a new wave of entertainment destinations for the Irving area with the Westin Irving Convention Center Hotel opening later in the year.

The site will continue rolling out more than 25 restaurants, entertainment venues, the Alamo Drafthouse, and office space through the remainder of the year. According to Lazes, a new site will open roughly every two weeks for the remainder of the year. The last piece will be the Sambuca restaurant opening at the end of the year before a final New Year’s celebration.

Graphic novels exhibit puts comics in spotlight

The Irving Arts Center became a little more animated with the new exhibit: “BAM! It’s a Picture Book: The Art Behind Graphic Novels.”

Featuring the works and publications of five popular children’s graphic novel authors/illustrators, including author of “Miki Falls” and how-to-draw instructor Mark Crilley, “Babymouse” author Matthew Holm, author of the “Lunch Lady” series Jarrett Krosoczka, New York Times bestseller and author of the “Big Nate” series Lincoln Peirce, and Eisner Award-winning author of “SMILE” Raina Telgemeier, the exhibit formally opened on Sept. 9.

The exhibit comes to the Irving Arts Center courtesy of The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) in Abilene, Texas. The Irving Arts Center has been partners with NCCIL for many years and each year hosts several exhibits from the organization.

“I was particularly interested in getting this [exhibit] to Irving, because it focuses on graphic novels,” said Marcie Inman, director of exhibitions and educational programs for the Irving Arts Center. “A lot of their other exhibitions tend to be picture books for younger kids. Graphic novels really span into the pre-teen and teen years. With this particular exhibit, it’s really nice because we have some books geared towards elementary-age kids as well as middle school kids and teens. I really wanted to have something a little different that would appeal to older kids.”

Inman enjoys bringing NCCIL exhibits to Irving because of both their educational and artistic value.

“The whole genesis behind NCCIL was wanting to give artistic credibility to these writers and illustrators as well as recognizing that children’s literature is an important genre,” Inman said. “These are some of the first books kids are exposed to and it needs to be good literature. Part of the whole success of early childhood and elementary-age books is the combination of words and images.”

To celebrate the new exhibit, the Irving Arts Center put on a comic-drawing event, “Comically Yours,” on Sunday, Sept. 10. Children were encouraged to draw their own comic books using the works of the authors featured in the new exhibit as inspiration for their works. Shelia Cunningham, an art instructor for events at the Irving Arts Center, said being both writer and artist is not as easy as people may think and she respects the often times difficult work these authors/illustrators do.

“The illustrators are fabulous. I think it’s really hard for illustrators to distill big ideas down into one little panel or have that very graphic representation for what’s going on [in the story],” Cunningham said. “I think it’s really hard, but they do a super job.”

Kathy McMahon, an employee with the Irving Arts Center, started reading graphic novels at a young age. She said one reason these novels are so popular is because they appeal to people of all ages and all interests.

“I grew up with comic books, and of course they were very engaging back then,” McMahon said. “I began to appreciate the fact that, even as adults, there are graphic novels that appeal to mystery or adventure, and it’s very much a medium for all ages.”

Marcie Inman feels graphic novels are not just appealing and entertaining for children, but they can also serve an educational purpose in teaching children who have trouble reading regular books.

“I think scholars and academics are starting to recognize the benefits of graphic novels for young readers,” Inman said. “In studies, they show that kids who may have problems reading or may have some learning issues often do very well when they’re exposed to graphic novels with the combination of the images, the text and the way to follow the narrative. It’s really starting to improve reading levels for certain kinds of young students.”

The exhibit will be on display in the lobby of the Dupree Theater until Jan. 28.

Set the date!

Irving Main Street Event
September 15 – 6 to 10 p.m.
September 16 – Noon to 5 p.m.

Irving Heritage District 217 S. Main St. Irving, TX. Free Admission, Free Parking.This annual street festival in the heart of the Irving Heritage District celebrates the hometown feel of Irving with attractions for all ages. Each year thousands of people attend this family affair, which offers live music, the Manifolds on Main Street Car Show, free rides and activities for children, food and shopping.


Ballet Folklorico at Cozby Library
September 16, 2 p.m.

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with a performance by Sima Ballet Folklorico! Stop by the Cozby Library and Community Commons to enjoy the bright costumes and traditional Mexican music and dance. All ages welcome to attend.

Compassion Experience brings poverty of Uganda, Guatemala to Irving

Walking through a self-guided tour of a replica schoolroom in Guatemala, Bridget Lewis and her daughter, Joy, were reminded of how blessed their lives are in North Texas.

“One child received a pair of socks as a Christmas gift,” Lewis said. “These are the kinds of things many Americans take for granted. It’s no big deal to get a pair of socks. We have so much. Then you see people who could be helped in so many ways, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, by just a little bit of kindness.”

Lewis and her daughter joined visitors of Compassion International’s “The Compassion Experience” in Irving from Aug. 11 through 14 at Grace Point Church. The event educated visitors about the realities of life in poverty through one of two self-guided tours of the lives of children growing up and overcoming poverty: Carlos in Guatemala and Shamim in Uganda. After the tour, visitors were taught more about the organization’s child sponsorship program.

“We have so much here, and then you see people who need a plate of rice and beans to stand,” Lewis said. “Carlos talked about working all day, going to school, then going to bed hungry. I hope people demonstrate more compassion.”

The 1,700 square foot exhibit space featured models of rooms and environments. The spaces were designed to mirror the real-life environments as closely as possible. The children in the stories helped design the rooms and even donated some of their childhood items as decor. The space takes anywhere from 2 to 8 hours to set up depending on the number of volunteers.

“We hope people learn more about what life is like for children living in poverty,” said Kate Amaya, regional manager for Compassion International. “The Compassion Experience is their opportunity to experience that in their local community without having to travel to the developing world. The stories of Carlos and Shamim are real people.”

Amaya helped place one of eight trailers across the country. The trailers travel almost every weekend of the year to different cities and churches. The Compassion Experience is solely church based, and Grace Point Church in Irving is one of the organization’s U.S. church partners.

Compassion International was founded in 1952 as a Christian child development organization. They provide at least 80 percent of their donor funding to program operations and extend their services to include counseling and preventative services.

Based out of Colorado Springs, the organization works around the world to release children from poverty. They partner with more than 6,700 churches in 25 countries. The core mission of the organization is their child sponsorship program. Amaya estimates the organization has 1.2 million children involved all over the world.

After the self-guided tour, visitors walk into the World Impact Room where they learn more about children in need of sponsors.

“It’s a continuation from the child’s story into this area,” said Emily Mathis, an independent contractor with Compassion International.

Mathis became a sponsor years ago during intermission at a rock concert when she was handed a packet and shown a video of the child sponsorship program.

“I was very moved by it,” she said. “I took the packet, and it was a little boy from the Philippines. I became his sponsor and started volunteering.”

Mathis is trained to have information ready for visitors who have questions about how the program works and about child sponsorship. She lives in the North Texas area and volunteers whenever the trailer passes through the area.

The World Impact Room ushers visitors to the Child Sponsorship Wall where cards hang featuring children living in poverty. Individuals can sponsor a children from one of 25 countries in Africa, Central America, South America and Asia.

Some children had a priority sticker on their card, indicating they’ve been waiting more than six months for a sponsor. On the first day of the event, Mathis displays all of the priority children first. Other stickers include one indicating they live in an aids-infected area as well as a child-rights violation area sticker, meaning there can be ongoing human trafficking. The cards also include the children’s stories on the back.

A basic sponsorship costs $38 a month and includes making sure the child has food to eat, clean water, free education including tuition, books, and uniforms, as well as free healthcare. Another component of the program is letter writing, a feature Compassion International hopes will keep the children involved in the program after their education.

“It’s key to helping them feel the hope they need for their future,” Mathis said. “Now that we’re taking care of their basic needs, we can open their eyes to a hopeful future. Now they can be somebody and change their community, change their environment, and do whatever they want.

“They all have different stories. One’s name is Kiwi from the Philippines. She lives in Dallas and works at one of the medical centers. They grow up and stay involved with compassion and some have started their own compassion centers, or their own ministries, or get their college degrees.”

The organization is Christ centered and part of the program teaches the children about Jesus.

“There can be many denominations,” Mathis said. “We present, and they have a choice.”

Including their basic child sponsorship, the organization offers twelve different categories of funding including emergency, disaster, aids relief and malaria relief.

Mathis estimates that 100 to 125 children will come away with a sponsor during the exhibit.

“Our goal is for people to be moved through compassion,” volunteer Ashley Castleberry said. “You see these hurting kids and then to make a difference by sponsorship is our main goal.”

Children learn ancient art of candy sushi rolling

Benihana, a sushi and Japanese steakhouse located in Las Colinas, hosted a sushi rolling event for kids at Valley Ranch Library on Saturday, Aug. 26.

Kids from ages 8 to eighteen learned about the history of sushi rolling and chopsticks and made their very own traditional and candy sushi.

The step by step hands-on project included two different types of sushi. The kids first made a traditional roll that included seaweed, sticky rice, crab meat, avocado, and wasabi with soy sauce. The second was a candy sushi consisting of a rice crispy treat wrapped with a fruit roll up topped with a candy Swedish fish.

“It was a unique experience we got to share with different cultures, and it was fantastic,” said Laura Escobar, mother of Isabelle Escobar. “I’ve never made sushi before, so I learned how the process works. The kids, including my daughter, really love sushi. Now she had the chance to experience it firsthand.”

The kids were given special chopsticks attached to the base to make them easier to use and a lesson on how to properly use them, including what not to do, rubbing them together, sticking them upright in a bowl of rice and crossing them on a table.

“I enjoyed eating the candy sushi, even though I didn’t get the chance to eat the real one, because we don’t eat meat,” said Isabelle Escobar (9). “When I get home I will make a vegetarian sushi.”

“We wanted to reach out to the community and get involved with the kids,” said Robert Meeker, Benihana’s general manager. “We want to make Benihana more available to kids and let them know that there’s more exciting things going on and the opportunity to eat sushi.

“I really enjoyed introducing them to the Japanese culture, teaching them about the chopsticks, proper etiquette, and getting them to try something that’s different or something that they may not have experienced at home. It’s having the opportunity to teach them something new that they probably haven’t seen before.”

Meeker explained that besides the candy rolling event they host once a year, the only time they offer candy sushi exclusively for kids at their restaurant is on Children’s Day on May 5. This Japanese national holiday celebrates children’s personalities and their happiness. 

“I loved how the kids were so excited about making sushi and how they wanted to come to Benihana for more,” said Manuel Rojas or Manny, Benihana’s head chef. “I am the chef that makes the hibachi and the sushi, so I am very lucky to be here.  

“We do this event every year. This is my first time doing this and I really enjoyed it. I have been working for Benihana for 16 years. Since my major job is doing hibachi this is a major change. I’m use to making sure the guests are being entertained and having fun by doing tricks, but I love being in front of people. I was really happy to be here today with all of the kids.”