• Central Cabarrus High School Class of 2007

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  • Covenant Classical School Class of 2007

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  • J.M. Robinson High School Class of 2007

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  • Mt. Pleasant High School Class of 2007

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  • Northwest Cabarrus High School Class of 2007

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  • Off to the races

    Racers lace up their tennis shoes to support Young Life with a race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway

    By Christie Barlow
    [email protected]

    Angela Clouse has seen plenty of races in the time she has spent traveling with her husband, a chaplin for NASCAR. But last weekend Angela wasn’t watching from the stands, she was racing laps around the track herself.

    Where NASCAR’s drivers reach speeds of 180 miles per hour and can complete a lap of Lowe’s Motor Speedway in less than a minute, Clouse took a little over 10 minutes to complete each lap she made around the track. Clouse was in good company with around 200 others who joined her to race around Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Cabarrus County’s first ever Young Life Run and Fun Day.

    “My husband and I travel with NASCAR,” Clouse said. “He’s a chaplin so normally we watch the cars, so it was fun to run. It’s a great cause to help send kids to summer camp.”

    Young Life, a Christian non profit organization, took over the track for a different kind of racing Sunday morning. Instead of cars zooming around the track for hundreds of miles, runners toiled away at a 5k run that took them two and a quarter laps around the track. Despite the rain, competitive runners, teens, kids and parents were among those who ran or walked around the track at the Speedway to help raise funds to send kids to Young Life summer camp.

    The Run and Fun day was a chance for the whole family to get involved, said Nate Dimock, the area director of Young Life in Cabarrus County. People could walk or run, there were games, inflatables, live music, food and drinks and prizes for the top finishers. Those who participated parked their cars on the infield and set foot on the same track some of their favorite drivers were on last week.

    Racers came from all over North Carolina, but two Harrisburg residents took home some of the top spots. Clouse finished first in the women’s 27-31 age group and David Parisi, also of Harrisburg, placed among the top finishers.

    One-hundred percent of the proceeds raised at the Run and Fun day will send under-privileged kids to summer camp, Dimock said. Sponsorships from Lowe’s and Coca Cola allowed Young Life to donate all of the raised funds. Five years ago it cost around $2,000 to rent a 55-person bus to send kids to camp, Dimock said. Today, it costs around $6,000 to rent the same bus, in addition to the costs of running the camp itself. As costs continue to increase, Young Life relies on fundraisers like the Run and Fun day to send kids to camp, Dimock said.

    This fundraiser was new to Cabarrus County, but not to Young Life. Steve Gardner, the regional director of Young Life in the greater Charlotte area, brought the idea with him from Columbus, Ohio. The Young Life organization in Columbus would hold a 5k run in the Ohio State football stadium. The event was so popular there, Gardner decided to bring it to Cabarrus County. He wanted a location that would bring people out and get them excited about participating, he said.

    “There was no way (people) were going to drive to Charlotte to run in a park,” Gardner said. “(The race) is a great concept, but people aren’t going to do it. I tried to think of where would be a fun place most people wouldn’t have access to. I landed on the Panther’s stadium or the Speedway.”

    • Contact Christie Barlow at [email protected] or 704-789-9140.

  • Town holds line on taxes, raises water, sewer rates

    The Harrisburg Town Council formally adopted a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that would fund several new initiatives, but hold current tax rates.

    The $10.2 million budget holds the property tax rate at 13.5 cents per $100 valuation. A 6 percent increase to water and sewer rates will generate about $200,000 in new revenue, enough to cover the town’s debt service on nearly $3.5 million in capital improvement projects.

    By Jonathan E. Coleman
    [email protected]

    The Harrisburg Town Council formally adopted a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that would fund several new initiatives, but hold current tax rates.

    The $10.2 million budget holds the property tax rate at 13.5 cents per $100 valuation. A 6 percent increase to water and sewer rates will generate about $200,000 in new revenue, enough to cover the town’s debt service on nearly $3.5 million in capital improvement projects.

    Harrisburg’s water and sewer rates work on a tiered schedule depending on how many gallons are used, said Town Administrator Carl Parmer. Currently, water usage is charged at a flat rate of $8 for the first 2,000 gallons. For 2,001-9,000 gallons used, the fee is an additional $4.34 per 1,000 gallons. For 9,001-12,000 gallons used, the rate is an additional $4.74 per thousand gallons. The 6 percent increase would charge $8.48 for the first tier, $4.60 per thousand for the second tier and $5.02 per thousand for the third tier.

    Sewer rates work on the same concept. Currently, sewer usage is charged at a flat rate of $6.40 for the first 2,000 gallons. For 2,001-12,000 gallons, the rate is $4.38 per thousand gallons. The 6 percent increase would charge $ 6.78 for the first tier and $4.64 for the second.

    The increase will cost the average water and sewer customer an additional $2.40 per month, Parmer said. It’s first water and sewer increase since 2003, he said.

    New to the town’s budget this year is the fire department’s budget. The department was brought under the control of the town last year, but this was the first year the department’s budget was included in the town’s budget.

    Other than how the taxes are paid, residents shouldn’t expect any change based on the department being brought under the scope of the town. In the past, all fire taxes were paid through the county, which then distributed the funds to Harrisburg. Now, the same collection will occur for those living outside the town’s limits, but within the fire department’s jurisdiction. The fire tax for in-town residents will be included in the town’s bill. The council approved holding the fire tax at 7.5 cents per $100 valuation.

    To balance the budget, an additional $215,455 will be taken from the town’s fund balance, which acts as the town’s savings account.

    Included in the budget is funding for a fire marshal and a sergeant to oversee the town’s nine sheriff’s deputies. Both full-time positions are effective July 1.

    The budget, however, was not approved without some debate.

    The ordinance was approved by a 4-2 vote after councilman Jack Roden questioned a $20,000 line item appropriating funding to the town’s Parks & Recreation department for restoration projects.

    Councilman Bill Williams explained that the funds would be used to weatherproof a cabin that is expected to be relocated to the old post office site on Robinson Church Road later this month and to install a live steam train track at the site.

    “It would make it a unique park,” Williams said, adding that both projects would provide educational opportunities for visitors.

    But Roden expressed concern about the funding.

    “For us to spend money like that when we have citizens with serious sewer problems or citizens who have no water and sewer, I’d rather see us put it into capital improvements,” he said.

    Councilman Aaron Pherigo agreed.

    “I’d like to have a big Ferris wheel and all kinds of stuff out there, but I think until we can afford it, I don’t think we should do it. I think smart spending is important and keeping in mind what’s important to the citizens.

    “What I hear is a choo choo train and a log cabin is more important than basic services for our citizens.”

    In the end, Roden and Pherigo voted against the budget ordinance, which passed by a 4-2 vote. Councilmen Phil Cowherd, Michael Hart, Steve Sciascia and Bill Williams voted in favor of the ordinance, while councilman Tom Huntley was absent.

    At the meeting, the council also set a public hearing consider reducing the town’s Planning & Zoning Board from seven voting members and two alternates to five voting members and no alternates. That hearing will take place at the council’s regular monthly meeting July 9 at Town Hall.

    • Contact Jonathan E Coleman at [email protected] or 704-789-9105.

  • Zoning board could be cut to five in July

    The Harrisburg Town Council voted 4-2 last week to hold a public hearing to consider reducing the size of the town’s Planning & Zoning Board from seven members and two alternates to five members and no alternates.

    By Jonathan E. Coleman
    [email protected]
    The Harrisburg Town Council voted 4-2 last week to hold a public hearing to consider reducing the size of the town’s Planning & Zoning Board from seven members and two alternates to five members and no alternates.
    Councilman Aaron Pherigo, who serves as the liaison between the council and the board was not present at the meeting.
    The Planning & Zoning Board, which acts as an advisory board to the council, was expanded about 18 months ago to include the two alternates, according to Tyrel Moore, who serves as chairman for the Planning & Zoning Board.
    The request to expand came from county planning staff, who contract with the town for services, because of an increasing work load, he said.
    “The concern was that we as a Planning & Zoning Board have the number of members we need to conduct the business of the board,” Moore said.
    Moore said the recent announcement of The Epic development, which proposes building 3,000 new homes and 3 million square feet of commercial space near the Mecklenburg County line, will likely mean even more work for the Planning & Zoning staff.
    “I know it’s never a good time for cuts, but this is an exceptionally bad time,” he said.
    “It’s a huge project… I don’t think cuts could come at a worse time, not with the scope of what we’re looking at as a community.”
    In addition to serving as voting members in the absence of a full board, the alternates provided additional perspectives during discussions and useful information and insight, he added.
    “We’ve got a group of folks with a lot of experience who are prepared to do their jobs,” Moore said. “The two alternates have brought to the board new perspectives. Both of those guys are a little outspoken, but they speak out on behalf of the community. More information is always valuable.”
    Those favoring the reduction said they thought the town’s recent addition of a full-time planner should help alleviate some of the growing work load.
    Councilman Steve Sciascia also noted the frequency with which the board voted unanimously on a given issue, questioning the variety of perspectives on the board.
    “The supermajority has occurred all but one time in 16 months,” he said. “That was my point. The supermajority has occurred a supermajority of the time.”
    If the proposal to shrink the board does move forward, town attorney Rich Koch said some revisions would have to be made to the town’s Unified Development Ordinance.

    • Contact Jonathan E. Coleman at [email protected] or 704-789-9105.

  • Celebrating the arts

    Having married into a family that is passionate about the performing arts, I’ve found myself in recent years taking in musicals, as well as theater and dance productions on an increasingly regular basis.
    Since moving to the area to help start Harrisburg Horizons a little more than a year ago, I’ve made an effort to seek out opportunities to continue fostering my newly-acquired appreciation for the arts.
    I tried many of the regular places in Charlotte — The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center and other lesser known venues — but I’ve only recently discovered the wealth of opportunities here in Cabarrus County.
    This week, Harrisburg Horizons is proud to bring you the stories of two very different opportunities to take in the works of local and professional artists, many of whom live right here in our community.
    This weekend, the Piedmont Dance Theatre will present its third annual summer concert series at Village Park Amphitheater in Kannapolis, an event that features both professional ballet performers and local students studying at Piedmont Dance Theatre.
    The second opportunity, coming next weekend, is a collaboration of performers from local churches to create a program honoring the military. This event is all the more unique in that it is also a fundraising effort to benefit local military families.
    I’m not sure what it is about performing arts that grabs my attention, but I am certainly excited about the prospect of a growing arts community here in Cabarrus County.
    If you haven’t made any plans for this weekend, or next, mark your calendars for these upcoming events and make an effort to support these performing arts groups, if for no other reason that to support these important parts of our community.
    Who knows, you might even find, like I did, that you’ll enjoy yourself.

    Jonathan E. Coleman

  • Showcase in Spelling

    C.C. Griffin teen spells his way to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.

    By Justin Vick
    [email protected]

    It took more than an hour for C.C. Griffin Middle School students to recognize classmate Gideon Whaley among the 43 spellers remaining in the semifinals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

    Eighth-graders in the school cafeteria watching ESPN’s live coverage pointed at the nearby TV and shouted his name as the camera briefly showed the 14-year-old from Midland fidgeting in his seat.

    By the time Gideon approached the microphone a few spellers later, students huddled around the cafeteria television hoping to hear him correctly spell the word “cenacle.” But the first letter out of Gideon’s mouth was “s” — prompting a collective groan from the crowd.

    “Oh my God,” said 14-year-old Jessica Eudy, as students disappointedly walked back to their lunch trays. “I’m going to cry.”

    Gideon didn’t appear shaken by the miss. He smiled as he walked away from the microphone.

    After all, the two-time Cabarrus County Schools district spelling champ had already accomplished the goal he set this summer of advancing to the semifinals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

    Gideon acknowledged friends back home while on camera. He subtly scratched his elbow and raised his right eyebrow — much to the delight of his classmates.

    Travis Eurey, 14, said he asked Gideon before he left if he was nervous about spelling on the national stage. Gideon told him, “Not really.”

    Travis said he wasn’t nervous about seeing his friend on TV either, but more excited over the prospect of C.C. Griffin and the town of Midland being represented.

    Casey Crenshaw, 13, lives just five minutes away from Gideon and thought it was cool to see a neighbor advance this far in the competition.

    “It definitely shows that you can do anything,” Crenshaw said. “You don’t have to be from Hollywood.”

    ESPN began its coverage of the Scripps National Spelling Bee at 10 a.m., just minutes before students arrived to Margaret Lawson’s second-period language arts class hoping to catch Gideon’s appearance.
    “I know you’re excited,” Lawson told students as they scurried to their seats. “Gideon is the only celebrity we know.”

    Lawson used the spelling bee as an incentive for students to patiently sit through a lesson on synonyms.

    Down the hall, math teacher Diem Fletcher checked the Scripps National Spelling Bee’s official Web site to update students on how many children would be spelling ahead of Gideon.

    Thirteen-year-old Devin Cacke said she felt a bit humbled watching the caliber of words being spelled Thursday.

    “I thought he was smart, but I didn’t think he was that smart,” she said “He’s one of the cool nerds, and you don’t meet a lot of those people.”

    Several eighth-graders, including Lauren Hill, Olivia Jones, Chanelle Tignor and James Dragovich, said Gideon deserved to be at the national spelling bee after training so hard. Since elementary school, he’s earned nicknames such as “dictionary” and “word check.”

    “Just getting this far I think is a huge accomplishment,” said C.C. Griffin Principal James Williams.

    Social studies teacher Michael Williams said he’s sure Gideon will receive a warm reception when he returns home from Washington and not just because he went so far in the bee.
    “Gideon is just one of those kids who is so well liked.”

    • Contact Justin Vick at [email protected] or 704-789-9138.

  • A community honors a nation

    Community Impact Productions joins with 16 area churches and Cooperative Christian Ministry to put together patriotic musical fundraiser to benefit local military families in need.

    By Jonathan E. Coleman
    [email protected]
    In the days and weeks that followed hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Andy Gazak watched the tragic devastation on television and longed to find a way to help the displaced community.
    “Day after day I’m watching things unfold. I felt very compelled that I wanted and needed to do something,” he said. “God was really compelling me to function within my strengths. I began thinking over the idea of putting together a production.”
    Over the next three months, Gazak organized Community Impact Productions, a volunteer-based production group set to help make a difference in the Gulf Coast communities by raising money through a musical production.
    “At that time, ‘community’ was the Gulf Coast region,” he said. “Looking back now, the name fits. We want to impact the community, where ever we feel compelled.”
    Every June and December since the group’s first performance, Community Impact Productions has held an event aimed at serving the needs of the community.
    This year’s show “A Nation Under God” uses song and dramatic performances in conjunction with multimedia and special effects in a patriotic tribute to the country’s past and present. Appropriately, the show falls between Memorial Day and Independence Day, and just days after Flag Day.
    “This is not to politicize anything,” Gazak said. “We have friends, family, parents and loved ones over there now. This is good, solid, family entertainment.”
    Dianna Misegades is one of nearly 100 performers to take part in the musical.
    “Even if you don’t support the war, you have to support the troops,” she said. “We’re sitting at home and they’re fighting for our country.”
    Misegades is a member of First Assembly Church, one of 16 area churches representing seven denominations taking part in the event.
    “It’s an organization that’s trying to make a positive impact on the community,” she said when asked why she choose to get involved in the production. “This shows respect for the country and respect for God.”
    While Gazak recognizes the great needs within the community, he’s also realistic about his role in bettering those around him.
    “We didn’t take care of the need in the Gulf region, but we put a dent in it. Everybody needs to put their own dent,” he said.
    Gazak’s goal is to raise $20,000 through ticket sales and donations to help put a dent in the needs of local military families. A food drive is also planned. All proceeds above the cost of the production will be distributed to military families in need through Cooperative Christian Ministry.
    “Their purpose is to come into a community and be able to generate the enthusiasm to serve the community,” Ed Hosack, executive director of Cooperative Christian Ministry said of Community Impact Productions. “As they represent the engine, we represent the tracks to get the proceeds out into the community.
    “We will use those funds either to distribute food into the community or the financial proceeds to help families, particularly military families with financial needs.”
    Tickets to the event are available for $12 at local Christian bookstores and, if the show isn’t sold out, at the door the night of the show. Doors open at 6:15 p.m.
    A portion of the show will be performed in the food court at Concord Mills at 7 p.m. June 14.

    • Contact Jonathan E Coleman at [email protected] or 704-789-9105.

  • Lessons in ballet

    Piedmont Dance Theatre to host outdoor summer concert at Village Park Amphitheater in Kannapolis Saturday.

    By Jonathan E. Coleman
    [email protected]

    The Piedmont Dance Theatre’s third annual outdoor summer concert will be something of a homecoming for Courtney Conner.
    Conner, who was once a student at THE DANCE COMPANY, will bring her ballet career full circle as she returns to her roots to perform, this time as a professional with the Cincinnati Ballet.

    “It’s fun,” Conner said of returning to perform as part of the event. “It’s a good experience. When you start off with a company, you don’t get solos. It’s close to home, so I get excited to visit family too.”
    It’s also a good way to stay in shape while taking a break from her performances in Cincinnati, she added.

    Conner will join 10 other professional dancers from across the country and members of the THE DANCE COMPANY Youth Ensemble, who range in age from 13 to 17, on stage for the concert.

    The THE DANCE COMPANY is recognized as the only nonprofit dance company serving Cabarrus and Rowan counties and the surrounding area.

    “There’s a stereotype with a ballet company,” said Rebecca Massey Wiley, founder and co-artistic director at THE DANCE COMPANY. “We’re trying to present it in a way that lots of people will enjoy. If they don’t like the whole program, that’s fine, but I bet they’ll find something that really moves them.”

    As such, the performance includes a wide variety of individual ballet pieces. The show’s opening act, an 18th century classical piece, will be the traditional ballet most people are used to seeing. The closing, a piece by Piedmont Dance Theatre’s co-artistic director and Wiley’s husband, Daniel Wiley, will be much different, he said.

    Entitled Canvas no. 1, the closing act will be a world-premiere of Wiley’s interpretation of music and lyrics by Ray Charles.

    “I’m more literal and he’s not,” Rebecca said. “We’ve got everything you could possibly want in a dance program. I wanted that kind of program because people call all the time and ask, ‘What’s modern dance? What’s this? What’s that?’ So we want to show them.”

    The show, which should last about an hour and 15 minutes, has done well in the past, bringing in an estimated 1,000 people last year.

    It is ideal for those new to ballet, or for children, Rebecca said, in large part because of the atmosphere created in the outdoor amphitheater at Village Park.

    “It’s an excellent way to introduce children to dance because they’re not confined to a seat,” she said. “They’re not required to be in a bow tie. You come and go as you please. It’s very user-friendly.”
    With that in mind, she did suggest bringing a lawn chair or blanket and perhaps a snack.

    Despite the more laid back surroundings, the audience can expect top-notch performances from some of ballet’s best, Daniel said.

    “We’re lucky,” he said. “With our backgrounds, we know some of the best of the best, and that’s what we want to give our audience. It’s nothing watered down.”

    But the audience members aren’t the only one’s benefiting from the event. Dancing alongside professionals is a great confidence boost for the THE DANCE COMPANY dancers.

    “It’s a challenge. It’s a motivational tool, and it’s the ‘wow’ factor,” Daniel said. “We’re trying to provide the kids with what we didn’t have (getting to work alongside professionals at an early age).”

    • Contact Jonathan E. Coleman at [email protected] or 704-789-9105.

  • The search for a spirited squad

    Hickory Ridge High School holds cheerleading tryouts, selects squad

    By Christie Barlow
    [email protected]

    School spirit seems to be on the mind of many who will be attending Hickory Ridge in the fall. Students, coaches, athletes and student council executive board are already trying to come up with ways of welcoming everyone and building a community. Kay Love isn’t hoping that school spirit will develop over time, she’s hoping to have a hand in it from the beginning.

    Hickory Ridge High School Cheerleading tryouts took place last week at Pitts School Road Elementary and Love, the head cheerleading coach, was on hand to select both the varsity and JV squads for next year. Around 36 girls tried out for the squad. Love hopes to carry 12 girls on both the varsity and JV, with an additional two alternates on each team.

    The girls were taught sideline chants and cheers and a fight song routine and were asked to execute them from memory over the course of the tryouts. In addition, they were scored on their tumbling and jumps. Overall, Love was impressed with the amount of talent that she had to choose from.

    “I was very excited to see that most girls had some type of cheerleading training,” Love said. “I was very, very impressed overall.”

    Love, who will work in the front office at Hickory Ridge, will serve as the head coach of the varsity cheerleading squad. She comes from a strong background in cheering, having spent 12 years coaching for a national cheering organization, six years coaching all-star teams, serving as assistant cheerleading coach at Appalachian State University and spending several years coaching at the high school level.

    “It’s been several years since I’ve coached high school cheerleading,” Love said. “I’ve coached at many different levels. I’m really excited to (coach high school) again. It’s really neat to have a purpose and be out there cheering for a team.”

    Cheering on the schools teams and building school spirit are two of the most important aspects of the squad, Love said. Although the squad is responsible for cheering at only football and basketball games, the teams will be responsible for attending all the schools sporting events.

    The squad’s main goal will be to build school spirit and help build enthusiasm at sporting events and within the school, Love said.

    Those who tried out were excited to get in front of the crowds at football and basketball games, said Megan Gibson, a rising eleventh grader who currently attends Central Cabarrus High School.

    “We’ve all been (cheering) our entire middle school and high school careers,” Gibson said. “This is one way to represent school and get its name out there as being the best.”

    Both Gibson and Love are optimistic about the squads chances of competing with the more established schools. Gibson said that the chance to start new traditions and try new things will set them apart from other high schools. Love is looking forward to developing the level of talent that she will get with the squads, she said.

    “The ability and talent level is very high,” Love said. “It’s not an easy decision. That’s a good thing for me. There are lots of very talented girls that will make a good team. I definitely think we will be up at the top (of the competition).”

    • Contact Christie Barlow at [email protected] or 704-789-9140.

  • Here comes the bridal fest

    Hibernian Hall hosts one-stop wedding planning expo

    By Christie Barlow
    [email protected]

    A cake, a dress, invitations, jewelry and caterer are just a few of the decisions that a bride has to make before she can walk down the aisle.

    Many brides find they don’t know where to get started, but Laura Massey is trying to make it easy for them. Massey, owner of Head over Heels, a wedding and event planning company, held a Bridal Fest at Hibernian Hall last weekend. Around 50 brides-to-be gathered at Hibernian Hall to talk with vendors, pick up some tips, check out products and register to win some door prizes.

    There were caterers, travel agents, cake designers, jewelry makers, photographers and invitation displays, among other items, on display for brides to check out. Around 30 different vendors were there to talk with brides and discuss the different options and services available to them.

    Hibernian Hall’s Bridal Fest featured a display and show about makeup, mini beauty treatments from Mary Kay, photo sessions for brides, and a seminar on how to plan a wedding. The highlight for many of the brides was the three door prizes offering free vacations.

    There are a ton of benefits to attending bridal shows, Massey said. Brides can save themselves a lot of time attending these shows. They can be an opportunity to bundle a bunch of separate appointments into one day, Massey said.

    “Instead of wasting time making individual appointments with five different photographers, you can come in and see all the different people and make individual appointments later on,” Massey said.

    The big shows held at places like the Convention Center in Charlotte can be overwhelming and leave the bride with just as many questions as when she showed up, Massey said. At a smaller show, like the one at Hibernian Hall, visitors get the chance to check out what’s available locally, and have time to talk with the vendors.

    Nicole Taylor came to Hibernian Hall’s Bridal Festival to check out what was available in the local market. Along with her wedding planner, Edna Grace, Taylor was hoping to get some inspiration for her wedding. Grace encouraged Taylor to check out as many shows as she could, starting with Hibernian Hall’s show.

    “You need to know all that’s involved,” Grace said. “It’s a lot and can be overwhelming, you need to do it a couple of times.”

    Maryann Nance brought several of her cake designs with her and offered free samples of cake to those who attended the festival. Nance, who owns Creative Cakes, said she prefers the small shows because there are so many vendors and brides at the large shows, it is tough for any real communication or planning to take place.

    “At smaller shows you have time to spend with them other than ‘hello, would you like a piece of cake,’ ” Nance said. “There is more time to discuss colors and options with the bride.”

    • Contact Christie Barlow at [email protected] or 704-789-9140.

  • Walking for women in need

    Time on the treadmill helped Shelby McKee raise $700 for CVAN

    By Christie Barlow
    [email protected]

    Shelby McKee was on a mission when she set out to race money for CVAN’s battered women’s shelter.

    McKee pledged to walk 15 miles to raise funds for Cabarrus Victims Assistance Network, but that was just the beginning. She spent a lot of time walking on the treadmill and could constantly be seen walking through her neighborhood keeping detailed accounts of the distances she traveled.

    “I walked 15 miles total and three miles per week,” McKee said. “People could sponsor me per mile or give a one time donation. All the money went to CVAN.”

    McKee, a rising sixth grader at C.C. Griffin, got the project started as her fifth grade Academically and Intellectually gifted service project.

    The AIG program requires its students to complete a service project. Other students in the class raised money for Grin Kids, a charity for terminally ill or disabled children, worked at animal shelters or cleaned up parks.

    McKee and her mother, Jennifer Pruitte, talked at length about what she wanted to do as her service project.

    She debated about helping animals and planned on cleaning up Frank Liske Park, but couldn’t make up her mind about one particular task.

    Pruitte had her research three different organizations and see which one she could have the greatest impact on. McKee chose CVAN because there were children there that had nothing. Mckee was surprised to see that CVAN was like a mini-community.

    The first thing McKee noticed at CVAN was how much she had, and how much the people there needed, McKee said.

    McKee managed to raise $700 with contributions from her neighbors and classmates.

    One of the most surprising parts of the whole experience was just how far a dollar could go, she said. A dollar can buy a blanket, sheets, a couple of books, a stuffed animal, school materials or countless other items.

    In order to get pledges, MeKee went door to door in her neighborhood, made signs for the hallways at school and appeared on the daily announcements to tell students about what she was doing.

    She adopted a motto of “Help me help them,” said McKee’s grandmother Virginia Givens. She set a goal and knew she would meet it.

    She made her parents measure the exact distance she was traveling and wouldn’t cut any corners, Givens said.

    “She has a passion for this and has such a compassion for children and women in this situation,” Givens said.

    She would prepare a different speech every night for the next day’s announcements, said McKee’s step-father Rick Pruitte. She would spend hours at the computer typing and perfecting her speech. She wanted to make sure that it got people’s attention right from the beginning.

    “When she gets a hold of something she never lets go,” Rick said. “She’s extremely creative and dedicated.”

    McKee said one of the biggest lessons she learned was how important it was to help others and give back. She has so much and wanted to help others who weren’t as fortunate.

    “I really hope it helped them,” McKee said. “It felt really good. It didn’t take that much work, but it felt really good I was helping.”

    • Contact Christie Barlow at [email protected] or 704-789-9140.