A Fitness Plan to Win the Fight

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A cardio party is taking fitness center floors by storm.
WERQ pronounced “work,” is a dance fitness class based on pop, rock and hip hop music.

While it helps participants get and stay active – fitness instructor Liz Adams decided WERQ could be used for another positive purpose.

WERQ Group Photo 1

“I saw a friend’s social media post, encouraging donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” said Adams. “So, I contacted her and said, ‘I would love to host a charity WERQ to help you fundraise!”

Shortly after, the dance fitness planning began– and things quickly fell into rhythm. “I was thrilled when Liz contacted me offering to help,” said fundraiser Tina Mote. “My goal is to raise $1,000 in time for the St. Jude Telethon on Saturday, July 30. My portion is just one piece of a larger team goal – and I couldn’t think of a better way to raise awareness and funds for this cause.”

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The charity WERQ, held at Four Seasons II Health Club in Bloomington, Illinois took place July 9th. For a $10 donation, community members gained access to the WERQ party, complete with inspirational music, balloons, raffle items and a whole lot of dancing.

“There was a ton of energy in the room, I loved every minute of it,” said Mote. “Watching so many come together to raise money in an effort to defeat childhood cancer was incredible.”

“As a mother, I’m glad I could do something to help,” added Adams. “Those who came, danced and donated – every bit goes back to helping children win this fight.”

Among the many people who united for the special event, there was one in particular, whose personal story resonated more than the music in the room.

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31-year-old Lizzy Selzer, is a cancer survivor. Diagnosed with a malignant large cell brain tumor at the age of 10, St. Jude soon became part of her life.

“The hospital worked with my doctors back here to develop a plan – before being sent to Boston for experimental radiation treatments,” Selzer explained. “After three months of treatments I returned home, but kept following up with St. Jude during each step of my journey. I remember how welcomed I felt every time I walked into that building. The nurses knew my name, kids everywhere laughing through treatments and playing, doctors explaining my progress to me – and not just my parents.”

Selzer says St. Jude left a lasting impact on her life. Today, she works for a non-profit organization, raising money for the Memphis based hospital and other health care organizations.

She’s also focused on her personal well-being too.

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“Over the last five months, I have started my own health and fitness journey,” Selzer explained. “I’m an active WERQ fitness participant, and the people I’ve met through these classes have become good friends.”

That’s why, this charity WERQ hosted by Adams, meant so much to Selzer – because she knows firsthand the good that comes when people unite through fancy footwork and a lot of heart.

“Seeing this great group come together to dance and raise money for this amazing organization made me so proud to be a part of both of these worlds. Seeing WERQ and St. Jude combine was truly wonderful and I am so grateful to everyone who came out to support the hospital.”

Reflections from a Finalist: Take the Risk

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Life is full of risks.  Sure, they’re scary.

But I believe if we don’t take risks, then we’re not growing personally. We’re not developing new skills or learning new lessons.

Taking risks can be rewarding.

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Examples include:

  1. Winning a contest
  2. Making friends
  3. Discovering your talent and potential

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Taking risks can be miserable.

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Examples include:

  1. Embarrassing yourself in some horrific and/or comical way
  2. A person (or group) might not appreciate what you did
  3. You don’t win a contest

As someone who’s taken second, third and last place in a variety of situations, I offer these words of inspiration:

So what?

Looking at the pros and the cons…it’s important to note, the benefits of a risk (let’s be clear, a good risk) outweigh any of the aforementioned worries.

Take it from me, I’ve experienced outcomes both rewarding and painful and am better for it. Taking risks requires courage, humility and perseverance. Each one of those qualities is strengthened the more you try.

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When you take a risk, and it doesn’t go the way you thought…don’t wallow in sadness for too long. If your risk doesn’t yield ultimate reward, then the road splits into two paths.

Path 1: You take that experience, use it to improve yourself and keep trying.

Path 2: Curl up and do nothing.

My advice? Take Path 1.

Road

I knew I was taking a risky path when I chose to compete in the Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking. With more than 332,000 Toastmasters around the globe, this was no small feat.

The contest requires you to write your own speech. It must be seven minutes and inspirational. You have to win first place to advance to the next contest. Each time you advance, the competition gets tougher…the stakes get higher.

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But I love writing, public speaking, and competition – so I chose to take the risk. It was an incredible experience, and one I won’t forget. This entire process required loads of writing, memorization, and dedication to make a stellar product. And in August, I became one of top 10 best public speakers in the world.

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Did I win FIRST place?

No.

Did I give it my all?

YES.

Was I proud of what I did on the World Stage?

ABSOLUTELY.

Smile After the contest ended, someone asked: “How does it feel not to win?” I looked at them and said, “I don’t know. Because I did win.”

I could see their confusion. So I added, “anyone who chooses to take the risk, wins in some way. They get better… the outcome should inspire them to try again, or work harder. I admire every person who chose to compete in this contest, because their message made a positive impact on someone who was listening and in the end, that’s the real award.”

Taking risks is wonderfully exhilarating. And for some crazy reason, the more you try…the easier it gets.

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Reflections from a Finalist: Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking

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The 2016 World Stage
The World Stage…a.k.a., the “Big Stage.”

The 2016 Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking is over.

The stage lights are dim.

The ballroom is empty.

Stress levels are lower.

I can eat real meals again.

Like many Toastmasters who’ve returned to their homes around the globe, I too have made it back to the Midwest.

Now, I have to admit – waking up at home felt good…but there was also a sense of emptiness.

Semifinals stage
The Semifinal #6 Stage

Like when a big celebration you planned for months (think: wedding reception or graduation party) ends. The guests leave and you’re sitting alone. Scanning the room, you observe deflated balloons, wilted streamers, shredded giftwrap covering the floor…and you think:

What just happened here?

It feels like that– because preparing to compete in the Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking is an emotional roller coaster with twists and turns and detours and dead ends (shout-out to my finals speech titled, Recalculating).

With each contest you win…club, area, division, district, semifinal, final…the stress gets higher, your hopes get higher – you think: I might really be able to do this!

Semifinalist Wall
The Semifinalist Wall displays the names of nearly 100 Toastmasters champions. It’s a worthy public speaking wall.

All that studying (listening to CD’s from previous public speaking world champions, watching their DVDs, reading books, blogs and articles) I might just be able to do this! And maybe…just maybe, a fifth woman will be crowned “World Champion of Public Speaking!”

Semifinals victory speech
Semifinal victory acceptance speech.

Well…maybe that’ll be next year.

So what did I gain from this?

Put simply, I’m a lot wiser. I learned many lessons, made friends, had new experiences – pushed myself to limits I never dreamed of.

Many photo opportunities with new friends!

Getting on that world stage. Being one of the top 10 public speakers in the world.

Wow.

This was a great start to a first time journey.

More blog posts are coming, because many have asked, “What’s it like competing on the World Stage? How did you prepare for the semifinals? What’s the conference like? Why did you do this to begin with?

There are so many stories within stories, that it’s difficult to put it into one blog post…because that post would go on forever.

More to come…but for now:

I’m home and getting reacquainted with “normal.” Now about cleaning up that theoretical gift wrap….

Till then. The joy is in the journey.

–KK

From Normal to National: Mellissa’s Wheel of Fortune Journey

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Some might call her a wordsmith. Others might argue she’s a puzzle solving pro.  No matter which way you “spin” it, Mellissa Wahl is one lucky lady. This month she’s showcasing her letter lingo on the nationally televised game show Wheel of Fortune.

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“I have been watching it my whole life,” smiled Mellissa. “My family knows being a contestant is high on my bucket list.”

The journey began with a text message last summer.

“My step-mom wrote telling me the ‘Wheel of Fortune Wheelmobile’ would be in Forsyth, Illinois–and I knew I had to go!” Each year, the bright yellow Winnebago hits the road searching for Wheel of Fortune contestants.

Mellissa and the Wheel Mobile

“There were about 400 people there,” Mellissa recalled. “I was brought on stage to solve a puzzle–but couldn’t figure it out.” Still, there was a glimmer of hope. If the casting agents liked what they saw, (personalities included) they’d follow up with those attendees.

A short time later…Mellissa received an invitation from Wheel of Fortune for a final audition in Springfield, Illinois. “About 80 people were there, including show producers. They said, ‘we want outgoing energetic people full of enthusiasm–and good puzzle solvers.’” The producers released some people halfway through the afternoon. But they asked Mellissa to stay for an interview.

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“I knew this was my shot. I had to get them laughing, do something different to stand out,” she chuckled. “So I randomly said, ‘I can make a bird noise!’”

More than 10 years ago, Mellissa developed the chirpy call for her high school marching band show of The Lion King. And somehow…someway…in this moment…the bird call reemerged. “In my mind, it’s an exotic, tropical bird,” she smiled. “I just did it—right there, in front of everyone!”

The crowd, including the show producers roared. A short time later…Mellissa found out she made the show.

Wheel of fortune cake

“I was so excited! This February, I packed my bags and flew to Los Angeles, California for the taping.”

At the studio, she quickly learned playing Wheel of Fortune at home is dramatically different than on stage. “The cameras are kind of distracting—in fact, they’re pretty much right in front of you. The letter board is also at an angle which is different than what you see on TV,” she explained.

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Before going on stage, Mellissa had her hair and makeup done—and met Vanna White.

“She’s so down to earth, not to mention completely gorgeous without makeup. Vanna told all of the contestants not to be nervous, just go out there and have fun.”

Mellissa family and friends in LA

That’s exactly what Mellissa did.

“It was an amazing experience. Pat Sajak is so witty and kind. I did the tropical bird call for him too.”

You can catch that exotic display on April 14 at 6:30 p.m. central time. That’s when Mellissa’s Wheel of Fortune episode airs.

“I can’t tell anyone how I did until after that date” she explained. “But it was such a cool experience. One I’ll never forget.”

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And in this, ‘game of life’ if there’s one puzzle Mellissa solved thanks to Wheel of Fortune, it’s this:

“You never know until you try,” she said.

Now that’s truly winning.

Watch Mellissa represent Normal on Wheel of Fortune – Thursday April 14—6:30 p.m. central time!

AND…

Send YOUR ideas to Kim’s Kind Finds!

Know someone in Normal who’s going above and beyond for the community? How about a team of people coming together to help the cause? Email story ideas to: Kim.Normalite@gmail.com

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100 Priceless Gifts, in Pints

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For the past few decades…it’s safe to say, 66-year-old David Messenger has been on the American Red Cross radar.  That…and its speed dial.

Messenger pictured with his 100th pint of blood following his recent donation. Photo courtesy David Messenger.

“I’ve been giving blood regularly for the past 45 years,” Messenger smiled.  “My dad was a donor so donating was, ‘in my blood’ so to speak.  I started as a sophomore in college at the age of 19.  I had a co-worker who needed blood, and I figured I’d donate a pint to show my support for him.” Little did he know that pint…given back in the 1960’s would soon multiply into dozens of blood drive trips. “I just kind of looked for them,” Messenger explained.  “Been pretty much everywhere to give blood–churches, malls, hospitals, schools, even gave blood overseas while living in Australia.”

Messenger’s blood type is O positive—the most common according to the American Red Cross.  Recently, it’s been in the headlines due to a large shortage in itsRed Cross blood supply.

“It tends to happen in the summer,” said Ben Corey, external communications manager for the Red Cross Heart of America Blood Services Region.  “Many people take vacations, are out of school–schedules fluctuate.  But, we’re now asking donors who haven’t donated, and those who are eligible again, to make an appointment to give now to help ensure blood products are available for patients.”

“Blood is essential,” added Messenger. “Since it’s broken down into parts, be it plasma…red cells…platelets…up to three lives can be saved with one donation.” Through the years Messenger has saved a lot of lives, and recently reached a major milestone.

A few weeks ago, I gave my 100th pint of blood,” he smiled.  “One hundred pints or 12.5 gallons depending on how I look at it.  Only took me nearly five decades to achieve!”

Most people never know where their blood goes once it’s donated.  But in a few serendipitous moments, Messenger’s been privy to the impact of his gift.

“When I was a student in the X-Ray department at an Indiana hospital, I saw my unit of blood be administered to a patient staying there.  Kind of affirming…knowing someone so close by would be helped.  Another time, I learned my blood had been shipped to a children’s hospital in Chicago because it had an antigen they needed.”

100th unit close up

With each person he’s helped…Messenger’s good deeds aren’t going unnoticed. “His effort isn’t only impressive, it’s inspiring,” said Corey.  “One hundred pints of blood means potentially hundreds of people have been saved.  His commitment to give not only serves as an example for our Red Cross donors, but to our volunteers and the community as well.” So after all that giving…what’s next for Messenger?  Well, sharing the good will of course.

“I plan to stay active with the cause, and continue volunteering,” he said.  “I want others to know how important it is to give, and encourage them to donate.  Repay blood with blood.  If the Red Cross needs me, well…they know how to find me.”

How to Give:  Visit redcrossblood.org, download the American Red Cross free Blood Donor App or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to make an appointment or for more information.

Ann Rosenquist Fee and Joe Tougas star as Hank and Rita. Photo courtesy Terri Ryburn.

Music, a Movie, and a Nod to Route 66

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She’s been retired for more than a decade, but a local woman with strong artistic passion is busy working on a project she hopes is destined for the big screen.
“I promised myself before retiring, that I’d explore creativity in all aspects of my life,” said Terri Ryburn…and she has.

Ryburn, who holds a doctorate in history from Illinois State University has written plays, had plays published, does standup comedy, is writing a memoir, and performs in a local acting troupe.

Terri Ryburn
Terri Ryburn

“I put myself out there, and it can be scary, but I think back to that retirement promise,” Ryburn smiled.
Her latest project involves one of her former ISU students and a screenplay–thanks to a chance social media encounter last summer.
“I read a Facebook post promoting a show called The Best of Hank and Rita: A Barroom Operetta,” said Ryburn. Lo and behold, it featured Ann Rosenquist Fee, one of my favorite students. Ann plays Rita alongside actor Joe Tougas who portrays Hank—her husband.”

The show goes something like this:
Fictional couple, Hank and Rita, are a singing duo who hit it big in the 70’s. But now it’s 1986, and the couple’s fame is dwindling fast. Instead of performing big concerts in urban areas—they’re playing to diner crowds and small town bars. Hank (Joe Tougas) doesn’t know it, but his wife Rita (Ann Rosenquist Fee) is planning to leave him. She just needs one more “good” performance before calling it quits.

Ann Rosenquist Fee and Joe Tougas star as Hank and Rita. Photo courtesy Terri Ryburn.
Ann Rosenquist Fee and Joe Tougas star as Hank and Rita. Photo courtesy Terri Ryburn.

“I called Ann because I had a sudden flash–I saw this show as a movie,” Ryburn explained. “After buying the CD and seeing it live with my good friend Kathi Davis, I got really excited. I told Ann, ‘we love the music, we love the concept, and we want to bring Hank and Rita to Bloomington.’ Ann agreed!”
Ryburn’s plan (with the help of friends) is as follows:
1.) Shoot/edit a short film starring Hank and Rita this winter. Cinematographer J.J. Painter is lending Ryburn a hand.
2.) Submit it to film festivals this summer.
3.) Use the profits to fund a larger movie on Route 66.

“As a historian, I would love to call attention to Route 66 and the communities along the way,” Ryburn smiled. “Even more, The Best of Hank and Rita offers something for everyone. It’s funny, sad, entertaining (there’s love, adventure), it has great music, really a universal story.”Route 66

To help pay for the short film, Ryburn is performing standup comedy at the Eagles Club on Thursday January 28th, at 8PM. But that’s not the only gig raising money for the initial project. Rosenquist Fee and Tougas are bringing their live show, The Best of Hank and Rita to Bloomington on January 29th and 30th. Like Ryburn’s comedy—it will also be performed at the Eagles Club.

“I’m learning to live without fear. I’m learning, growing, and having fun,” said Ryburn. “After all, everything you say ‘yes’ to, leads to something even more fantastic.”
The hope is there will be a big turnout for each performance so Ryburn, (and Hank and Rita too), can make this cinematic dream—a reality. Perhaps that’s the last “good” show Rita is looking for.

A Night of Standup Comedy with Terri Ryburn             
Thursday January 28th
Eagles Club
313 S. Main Street Bloomington
8PM
Tickets: $10 at the door

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The Best of Hank and Rita – LIVE in Bloomington!
Friday January 29th/Saturday January 30th
Eagles Club
313 S. Main Street Bloomington
Doors open at 6:30 (cash bar, snacks available)/Performance at 8PM
Tickets: $15 in advance at hankandrita.com or $20 at the door (if available)

The short film will be used to solicit funds for the full-length feature film. To donate to Ryburn’s project, call 309-452-5325 or email tlrybur@ilstu.edu.

SHADOW

Tall Girl Appreciation Day – Views from “The Top”

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In honor of #TallGirlAppreciationDay (January 4, 2016)…

I was a shy kid.  Never spoke much in school.  But by sixth grade, I had a major growth spurt.  With each inch I grew, my confidence began to shine more and more. I eventually broke out of my shell.  Sure, I was taller than practically everyone in my class…but made the decision to hold my head high, (and take short dates to school dances).

After all, there isn’t much a tall girl can do to change it.

Through the years, I’ve noticed being tall comes with unique circumstances.  So, I’ve compiled them here to provide insight and perspective for anyone wondering what it’s like to step into these size 11 shoes.

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Being tall means having ADVANTAGES:

  • The best view at a parade
  • Fresh air in a crowded room.
  • Items are in reach…even on the top shelf.
  • You’re easily found.
  • Inherent punctuality (your long stride gets you places on time).

Being tall means being ADAPTABLE:

  • Rocking long sleeve shirts as quarter length instead.
  • Sporting pants as capris.
  • Straining to hear conversations taking place at or below your shoulders in a crowded room.

Sure Tall

Being tall means staying STRONG:

  • Smiling with confidence when somebody stares.
  • Having a witty response when you’re asked if you play basketball for the millionth time…and another witty response when people are disappointed you don’t play.
  • Standing up straight despite being a foot taller than guys and girls.
  • Holding your head high when you’re sent to the back of a group picture.

Being tall means ignoring the OBVIOUS:

  • “Gosh you’re SO tall!”…you think?
  • “You make me feel short.”   Mind blown.
  • “You’re BIG!” If big means big hearted, then yes…I’m big.

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Being tall means THIS:

  • Grace
  • Power
  • Visibility
  • Beauty

To my fellow long-legged friends, I applaud you for being YOU.  And, to everyone–own your differences, because the world would be pretty boring if we were all the same.  Enjoy everything you are.  Inside and Out.

#TallGirlAppreciationDay

#January 4

#StandProud