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BR Parents: One Amazing Kid - Mindy Jones

First published in the September 2021 issue of Baton Rouge Parents magazine and on its website. When a friend asked Mindy Jones if she would help her raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as part of the Baton Rouge Bees, Mindy agreed. That “yes” turned into a leadership opportunity for Mindy, as the next year she led the Bees’ fundraising efforts, raising more than $41,000. “As the campaign went on and I learned more about it, I realized how much this society does and how much they do for our community,” Mindy, 17, says. “My grandfather actually passed away from leukemia three years ago, so it’s a very personal journey for me.” Now a senior at St. Michael the Archangel High School, Mindy received the 2021 Ochsner Citizenship Award for Mission Integration, honoring her for “spreading the word about this campaign and LLS in general throughout the community,” she says. Her fundraising included other schools and companies to make a bigger impact.  “We did thing

BR Parents - Thrive: Supporting the Gardere Community with Service and Outreach

  First published in Baton Rouge Parents magazine's September 2021 issue and on its website . Through feeding, encouraging participation in school, providing financial support and much more, a local organization has been helping families in the Gardere community thrive for 20 years.  Opening Doors, a Louisiana nonprofit corporation, was launched in March 2001 by members of St. John’s United Methodist Church. The board includes a resident of the Gardere area as well as a member of the mayor’s staff. The nonprofit relies on volunteers to operate. Don Fuller was the organization’s first president, and Sandra Kuykendall is the current chairperson of the board.  “Members of the church wanted to expand their outreach and thought it would be best to do that through a nonprofit,” Kuykendall says.  Its nonprofit status allows Opening Doors to apply for grants to fund its work, and this year, the group received $15,000 from the Capital Area United Way as part of its ALICE Gra

BR Parents - September 2021

As my final issue as education and community sections editor, I wrote pages 14-21 and page 26 of the September 2021 issue of Baton Rouge Parents magazine. Read the magazine on their website .

BR Parents Blog: Goodbye Preschool, Hello Kindergarten

First published on Baton Rouge Parents magazine's blog. I’ve done this before, and I survived. I will do it again and survive, probably even thrive. But I’m still feeling lots of feelings about upcoming changes in our family’s life, mostly about sending our second daughter to elementary school for the very first time. Four years ago, I dropped my older daughter off for her first day of Kindergarten, and this August, it’s finally her little sister’s turn. I was all up in my feels with that first drop off, a million questions and concerns. I remember being hyper-fixated on cartwheel shorts–what are they and why didn’t we have any?! Although I have a rising fourth grader and elementary school feels a little old hat, I’m still feeling quite emotional about sending my baby to Kindergarten, launching her “real” academic career in a way. Our little one is ready to join her big sister, there’s no doubt about that. We are very grateful that both sisters will be at the same el

BR Parents - One Amazing Kid: Jorden Wingerter

  First published in the August 2021 issue of Baton Rouge Parents magazine and on its website. After picking up bowling less than two years before, Jordan Wingerter quickly advanced in the sport to finish second in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association State bowling singles tournament as a freshman and bowled her new high score of 255. “My dad is the one who really made me realize I have such a passion for this sport,” Jordan, 15, says. Although no one else in her family bowls, her parents, David Wingerter and Susan David, and older brother Logan recognize and support Jordan’s natural talent. Now a tenth grader at St. Joseph’s Academy, Jordan’s school coach Shelly O’Dowd has also been a driver of Jordan’s success. “I never knew that she was going to have such high expectations for me or that I could perform so well,” Jordan says.  Jordan also works with a personal coach, Page Dew. “He’s also one of the main reasons I perform so well and has helped me learn many

BR Parents - Thrive: Dancing Through Life, Including a Triathlon

  First published in the August 2021 issue of Baton Rouge Parents magazine and on its website. With the Special Olympics canceled for another year to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the options for athletes with intellectual disabilities were even more limited. But for 25-year-old Christopher Ballard of Denham Springs, a new athletic challenge presented itself: completing a triathlon.  Christopher has Down syndrome, so the Freedom Fest Triathlon in New Roads modified the cycling part of the race to accommodate his speed. Christopher finished the 400-meter swim, five-mile bike ride (instead of the 10 miles other competitors rode) and two-mile run/walk. “If they hadn’t had to close the road down early, he could have completed the whole thing,” says Mary Ballard, Christopher’s mother. “He had the endurance, they just didn’t have the time for him to do it.” The triathlon was a family affair, and Mary participated and finished as well. Their times were both a little over t

BR Parents: August 2021

As education and community sections editor, I wrote pages 14-21 and page 26 for Baton Rouge Parents magazine's August 2021 issue. Read the magazine on their website.