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Hometown Proud

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In news we are often told not to start stories with a question, but today I am making an exception by asking, aren't 4-day weekends grand???  I'm back from one of the best long weekends I've ever had.  I didn't go anywhere fancy and didn't leave the Tri-State, but I was able to spend time with many of the people who are most important to me, and that, to me, is a huge win!

Now that I'm back and the batteries are recharged, I'm excited to tell you a little bit about my latest project here at the station!  It's a new feature series airing, generally, during the 6pm news called "Hometown Proud".

Most already know I am an Evansville gal and proud of it.  Sure, there are problems here, but there are problems anywhere and everywhere else, too.  So, I'm on a mission to highlight the good things and people of the Tri-State that might be hiding a little under the radar.

We are now a handful of stories into this series, and I'm looking forward to keeping them coming!  I'm going to try to blog about each story to pass along some of the behind-the-scenes things that couldn't make it on air.

The first official Hometown Proud story aired a couple of weeks ago.  It was about the news station at Sts. Peter and Paul School in Haubstadt.  Fourth and fifth graders serve as news and sports anchors, the meteorologist, camera operators, etc.

Sometimes people ask how we find story ideas.  I know I've talked about this before, but, this series is a great illustration of the different ways stories come together.  The tv station story came about because the teacher who organizes it at Sts. Peter and Paul sent us a letter in the mail asking us to come take a look at it.  I'm not even sure he was intending for us to do a story, but he and the kids definitely were glad we did!

                 

They are miles and miles ahead of where I was at that age!  We didn't have a tv station at my grade school or even high school!  They've rigged it up so they have a TelePrompTer (using a projector and a sheet type thing) and everything!  Adults put together the scripts for them, so they don't have to deal with the stress or writing under deadline, but they are doing a lot of the work themselves.  I was very impressed at the whole operation!  My hands-down favorite part of their newscast was the end.  After the last story the two anchors would turn and talk to each other just like they probably see on tv.  :)

We didn't even up having enough time to air it, but after their live school newscast, a couple of the kids even got to do a talk back with Dan, Beth and Byron at our station.  There were a few technological hurdles to deal with (a bit of a delay hearing each other), but I think that was pretty fun for them, even if they were a little bit nervous! :)

The next story we featured for Hometown Proud came to me via word of mouth.  I'm not sure who mentioned it, but I think I was talking to someone at UE about something else, and it came up.  I love when one story leads to another, especially one as special as JJ's.

JJ Bland has been battling Ewing's sarcoma (a form of cancer) for about two years now.  Talk about a nice kid!  Last August JJ's mom signed him up with the non-profit organization Team Impact.  They match kids who have serious and chronic illnesses with college sports teams.  Team Impact reached out to UE, and the baseball team welcomed JJ with open arms. 

One of the coolest things about the match is that it gave JJ a chance to get his competitive juices flowing again, as his mom told me.  He is a senior second degree black belt in taekwondo (good thing I didn't make him mad during the interview!), but since his diagnosis JJ hasn't been able to compete.  So now that's he's part of the Aces baseball team, he has a reason to cheer, even if he can't play.  This is a still frame from my video of him leading the Aces in their post-game huddle! 

                   

The college guys on the team have been great with JJ.  He and his mom told me they really appreciate how they welcomed him onto the team and talk with him after games.  He has his own jersey and everything.  The Aces season is over, but JJ seemed to bring them good luck this year.  They won the conference regular season title with him in the stands as often as possible.  Pretty awesome considering a year ago JJ knew pretty much nothing about baseball!

JJ is a quiet kid, or at least he was while I was around.  He doesn't say a whole lot while watching the games, and he isn't one to yell and cheer.  But he definitely watches.  And he had some great soundbites for someone who isn't even 12 yet!  He said this interview was easier than one he'd done in the past.  I'd like to think that's because I'm such a skilled interviewer (haha), but it sounded like the fact there was only one camera and no extra lights may have been the real reasons.  J  Either way, it was wonderful to meet JJ, his dedicated mom and some of the guys on the team.  And, how about this picture.  JJ's mom posted it the other day.  This is him on his first day of 6th grade and the last day of 6th grade.  Talk about a difference!  He still has a ways to go on getting that leg healed and ditching the crutches.  He should know more later this summer about how they will deal with that. 

                     

Then, last Friday, another story that I LOVED!  Months ago I happened to cover an event at Lincoln School in Evansville involving the foster grandparents program at CAPE, the Community Action Program of Evansville.  It was some kind of recognition for some deserving students.  I thought, hmm, this could be a good story- going back and profiling some of the "grandparents" later.

It took a while, but I was finally able to make that happen.

                 

I ended up shadowing one exceptional foster grandparent, Gary Merillat.  He worked as a teacher for 25 years, retired and got bored.  So, he heard about the foster grandparent program and decided to sign up.  Over the past four years, he has become simply "grandpa" to two boys at the school.  He not only works with them at school, every day he and his wife tutor the boys after school and take them on fun outings to places they may otherwise not get to experience.

It was pretty cool to see Gary in action.  The playground was probably the best.  Everyone wanted him to push them on the swings!  He may have been extra popular that day because the camera was pointed toward him, but I think he's generally got his hands full at recess. :)

And, I must say, Gary's wife's cookies were top notch.  She had made cookies for the boys to snack on after school the day I was there, and of course, couldn't let me leave without some.  Chocolate chip and some kind of spice cookie.  Delicious!!

                  

I've got another Hometown Proud story that will air Friday.  It's about some awesome kids at an elementary school in Owensboro who are learning the importance of being "men".  Hope you will be able to catch it!

In the meantime, here are links to the stories that have aired thus far, in case you missed any of them!  And, if you have any ideas of stories I can feature in this Hometown Proud series, please email us at hometownproud@14news.com!!!

TV Station at Sts. Peter & Paul: http://www.14news.com/story/25519210/hometown-proud-sts-peter-paul-schools-news-station?autostart=true

JJ and the Purple Aces:  http:://www.14news.com/video?clipId=10191666&autostart=true

Mr. Gary the foster grandpa:  http://www.14news.com/video?clipId=10197010&autostart=true

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

 

Until next time,

Erin 

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