Category Archives: Happenings

Those That Mourn Must Not Give Up

As we remember and celebrate the life and accomplishments of Robin Williams, it is important to take a few things away from his tragic death.

Suicide. Depression. When did these words become so taboo that those being crushed under the weight of such thoughts felt forced to deny them? To be so ashamed of their illness that they could not reach out for help?

In reality, those who ignore their cries or expect them to “be strong” are the ones who should be ashamed for creating a culture where it is expected of everyone to wear their socially accepted mask in public and face their demons alone—behind closed doors.

We must re-examine our expectations of everyone we interact with on a daily basis. Do you want to make a difference in this world? Stop judging people based on their appearance, sexual preferences, past addictions and life circumstances. Stop making them feel weak when they ask for help.

Sit down and LISTEN to them. Sometimes, all someone needs is for another human being to see their struggle without sitting in judgment.

A lot of celebrities and news outlets are expressing that they are “heartbroken” in the wake of this announcement. Although they have every right to feel this emotion, we must remember that Mr. Williams, and the millions of people suffering from depression around the world, are often so well acquainted with that feeling that it does not even shock them anymore. In fact, it lives behind every smile, every laugh and every mask they wear.

If you take anything away from the death of Robin Williams, perhaps it should be that we are all facing struggles—even those who appear to have everything. Remember that we are all human, and sometimes we all need a helping hand. Be a friend.

Finally, if you are battling depression, the most courageous thing you can do is tell someone. There is nothing shameful about reaching out for help. If you are uncomfortable speaking with someone you know, I encourage you to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Fall Bike Ride for a Great Cause

Virginia Tech is hosting a Veterans@VT Combat Cancer Bike Ride on October 12! The ride is fun activity for families and friends to participate in together as an effort to get outside and enjoy some beautiful fall weather.

In addition, proceeds from registration and donations will benefit the Blue Ridge affiliate of Susan G. Komen and student veterans at Virginia Tech.

Unlike most rides where riders choose one of several distances, this height-of-foliage season ride will feature a 20 mile loop that individuals or teams are invited to ride as many times as they like. This allows the ride to cater to all ability levels and ages, and makes it a fantastic family activity.

The ride will begin at 8am, rain or shine, and will remain open until 4pm. There will be bike shows, food stands, and a live band at the finish for your entertainment. So grab a bike and a friend and head to the Veterans@VT Combat Cancer Bike Ride on October 12 at Floyd Eco Village in Floyd, VA!

Register for the ride now at www.veteranscombatcancer.org. Registration is only $45, and it includes a long sleeve technical tee and a ticket for the chance to win some great prizes (including a bike)! You can also like them on Facebook by following this link.

 

Written by Eleanor Haeg.

Your Time Could Change a Life

wings6Gleaning for the World is announcing their new women’s program, WINGS. Around the world, women are forced out of their schools, jobs and society because of their monthly cycle. Annually, these women lose months of education and income because they do not have access to feminine hygiene products. It is devastating and abandons so many to violence, exploitation and prostitution.

These desperate women resort to any means available for help. They walk to landfills to get newspapers, dirty rags, corn cobs and even bark. In places where taboos are the worst, some women are forced to sit on dirt mounds or above holes for hours at a time.

This new program is an incredible solution. These kits provide all the supplies women need for their monthly cycle and can last for up to three years. That is an extra nine months of education, income and freedom. What’s more, it helps improve their self-esteem and empowers them to reclaim their future. No longer do they have to hide each month or dig through garbage to find makeshift supplies.

“I have been to some of these communities and met these women,” says WINGS program spokeswoman, Danielle Sarchet. “I have seen the happiness on their faces when they realize what they have, and it moves me to know that the volunteer efforts of women in Virginia will change these women’s lives.”

These kits are assembled by volunteers in Central and Southwest Virginia. Due to the donation of supplies and volunteers, they are produced at far below retail price. Fifteen dollars will produce and ship one kit to a woman in the developing world.

If you would like to volunteer to produce these kits (in part or in whole), contact Danielle Sarchet, WINGS and GFTW Volunteer Coordinator, at Danielle@gftw.org or call (434) 993-3600. For more information on what you can do to help, visit gftw.org/wings.

You Can Make a Difference

In 2014, it is estimated that 40,000 individuals will lose their battle with breast cancer. Others will fight their battle and win—but not without enduring immense struggle and pain. Those affected will span all ages, ethnicities and income levels. This disease does not care if you are a parent, child, sibling or friend. It does not even discriminate based upon gender. There are ways to reduce your personal risk factors, but there are many undetermined causes of cause breast cancer. This means it is currently impossible to prevent it. The chances are very high that you or someone you love will be affected in some way. Before that happens, we must stand together as a community to save the lives of those we love.

On April 12th, we ask you to join Susan G. Komen and Bella at the Race for the Cure in Roanoke. Joey Beck, race chair for the Susan G. Komen foundation, encourages participants to take pride in their contributions. “I think the biggest misconception is that we are just another event,” she says, “Unlike some events in our area, money contributed to this race will stay local. Seventy-five percent of funds stay in our area. The other 25 percent goes to national scientific research. That is why I got involved with Komen. There is only a matter of time before myself or someone I love is diagnosed, and I know they will be there.”

2012 Komen Race for the CureThis race is for both serious runners and those who would rather walk with their families. Participants who wish to race the 5K can request to be officially timed, and it will take place on a US track and field certified course. However, this race is not about finishing first. It’s about showing up, walking courageously, and giving your support to those who need it most. You might be surprised how many people, in our area alone, are facing this illness.

Beck explains, “Breast cancer is becoming an epidemic. Nationally, one in eight women will be diagnosed this year. In our region, that number climbs to one in five. Our region also has a higher mortality rate. Women know something is wrong, and they wait too long to get checked out. By the time they do, it is too late. What many of them do not realize is this is no longer an ‘old lady’s disease.’ The number of young people who are facing breast cancer is climbing every year. I know of teenagers that have been diagnosed. ”

A few hours on a Saturday morning and a small contribution to this race can help change course of this disease. Ladies, bring your husbands and children along! This event will be fun for the whole family. Participants will receive a Race for the Cure t-shirt, but you are encouraged to rock the color pink in any form: from tank tops and shorts to tutus and pink hair. This is our time to shine for those who are battling breast cancer, those who have survived it, and those who lost their battle. So find your best tennis shoes, collect your pink accessories, and go to www.komenvablueridge.org to register for the race. We’ll see you there!  

Written by Hayleigh Worgan

Ladies Night Out!

On April 10th, 2014, join the Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) for Ladies Night Out at Phase 2 in Lynchburg. This is the perfect opportunity to get out with your girlfriends and get great deals on shoes, handbags, and more! Plus indulge in facials, massages, and manicures from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. All proceeds benefit abused and neglected children in your community. Many in Lynchburg remember this event as the Heart and Sole Shoe Market, or the “CASA Shoe Sale.” With changes in the shoe industry that occurred several years ago, we were no longer able to get thousands of donated shoes for the fundraiser. Since we could not afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars on shoes to resell to the public, our board was forced to make a decision. We either had to cancel the event or restructure it.

doorprizes

With over a decade of success, we opted to restructure to a Ladies Night Out format. Last year was the first year of the new format and it was successful! We are hoping to build on that year after year as these funds are critical to our mission. With your $40 ticket (or cheaper if you get one of our girlfriend bundle packages), you will receive admission, a chance to win a door prize, one adult beverage ticket, heavy hors d’oeuvres, and optional beverage choices.

Admission includes the opportunity to shop in our Heart and Sole Boutique which will include, yes…you guessed it: SHOES, handbags, fragrances, and more at discounted prices. There will also be music, a photo booth, massages, manicures, and more! Plus 15 vendors will be on hand to showcase their products and services.

Get your girlfriends together and come out to support a wonderful cause! Follow this link to purchase your tickets, and we look forward to seeing you there!

Opera Roanoke Presents Handel’s Julius Caesar

March is Women’s History Month—a time when we celebrate the accomplishments of amazing women who have inspired us to do great things.  Locally, you will be able to see talented women come together at Opera Roanoke for a fantastic performance of Handel’s Julius Caesar.  Amy Cofield Williamson, Teresa Buchholz, Carla Dirlikov, and Toby Newman will be joined by a female cast to tell the story of Caesar’s campaign in Egypt.  It features dramatic scenes for each of the principal characters performed by artists who are not only gifted, but also passionate about our community.

Buchholz will play the role of Julius Caesar—something that many men would likely find challenging.  “There is really no room for anything remotely feminine in his character,” she explains. “That has to be conveyed both physically and through my singing.”  It is a challenge that she looks forward to undertaking, but she realizes her masculine portrayal will require strength and creativity.  “Acting comes from within.  It’s not something you should layer on externally.  It comes out of the music,” she says, “[Great] singers act with their voices, not just their bodies.”

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Teresa Buchholz

Much like her colleagues, she is dedicated to giving her best to this production.  Their admiration for Handel and each other, as artists, will likely be evident in their performance.  For some of them it will be the first time they have crossed paths.  Others have been with Opera Roanoke for many years.  Regardless, they have spent months preparing for their roles and learning about their characters.  They do not make light of their responsibility to tell a story to the audience.

Newman also believes that her voice will be one of her strongest assets.  She describes it as a viable connection to those watching, and adds, “You have to sing and convey emotions that [they] can feel.  Your voice is an actor.”  The production will give the cast ample opportunity to make those connections.

toby newman
Toby Newman

Playing the role of Cleopatra, Williamson is excited to share Handel’s work with the Roanoke audience because she feels as though she has already connected with her character.  “I have so enjoyed preparing for this role,” she says, “mostly because of the beautiful music [he] wrote.  Of course, who wouldn’t love having the opportunity to perform the role of Cleopatra?  I can’t wait for Opera Roanoke to bring this beautiful music and history to life!”  Her respect for the production is contagious, and every cast member is committed to making the experience both enjoyable and educational.

amy williamson
Amy Cofield Williamson

Phenomenal talent and passion for the stage is not all that makes these women unique.  Each one took a different path that led them to Opera Roanoke, and all of them display inspiring strength.  They stress the importance of having a mentor that brings out the best in you.  Many of them found mentors when they were very young, and almost all of them were inspired by strong women.  Dirlikov’s was her teacher and a famous African American opera singer, Shirley Verrett.  “She insisted that I strive for excellence,” she recalls. “She faced so much adversity in her career and never gave up.  I was fortunate to have her guidance.”

carla
Carla Dirlikov

We, as a community and an audience, will be the fortunate ones to see these ladies in action on stage.  Bella encourages everyone to celebrate Women’s History month by supporting the women you know who are doing great things in our community. Don’t forget to visit the Jefferson Center on March 21st or March 23rd to support this talented cast in their performance of Handel’s Julius Caesar.  For more information, go to Opera Roanoke’s website, www.operaroanoke.org.

For the Love of Books

lovebooks

Starting a book club in Blacksburg can be a little intimidating.  Of course, so can relocating to Virginia from Charlotte with your spouse and six children.  Mims Driscoll is no stranger to hauling herself out of her comfort zone.  Although the environment is new to the Driscoll family, they have learned to follow her lead by finding their inner resolve and challenging themselves to live in the moment.  The Driscolls have faced individual personal struggles, sending their oldest sibling off to college, and even illness.  Yet they have discovered that the best way to overcome any obstacle is to take matters into their own hands and fight for their own happiness.Driscolls2

Facing these challenges has also required open communication within their family.  It sounds simple, but sometimes speaking openly with those we love can be a struggle—especially when you know that they are facing problems of their own.  Driscoll admits, “I wasn’t aware of how fully [the move] would affect all of our children.  It became a journey as a family.  We reoriented ourselves as to what family life would look like.”

Her goal was to immediately engage everyone, including herself, into the community.  Before moving, she began calling her children’s coaches.  Over the summer, they were allowed to attend practices and workouts with their future teammates.  As a result, they saw familiar faces at school from day one.  Afterwards, she attended a “Blacksburg Newcomers Club” meeting–in spite of her nerves.  It was a success.  “Almost as soon as I arrived, people began introducing themselves.  By the end of the night, I had already made a friend who invited me to the movies.”

Driscoll often reminds herself and her children, “We can’t control every dynamic we are going to be faced with, but we can control our responses.  We will get back up on our feet with grace.”

She hopes that the book club will choose a book each month that focuses on the human spirit and its ability to overcome.  “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak is the club’s February selection.  It is a reflection of community values, and how, “in the time of turmoil, everything within us comes out: especially the desire for good, inner strength, and resolve.”

bookthief

“Books in the Burgs” will meet on the second Saturday of each month at 8 a.m. in the Blacksburg Recreation Center.