A Little Girl, a Former Fire Chief and a Stylist to Celebrities Help Cancer Patients

Elliot (Elli) Madsen, 9, flashes a big smile as stylist Blair Leonard prepares to cut her hair for Locks of Love. Photo by Dee-Dee Madsen

By Carol A. Clark

Three kind-heartened individuals came together in White Rock this month for one simple purpose – to make others feel better.

Elliot (Elli) Madsen is nine years old. She is in Mrs. Mann’s 4th grade class at Chamisa Elementary School in White Rock.

“Elli decided to contribute to the Locks of Love Foundation all on her own, she is such a sweet kid,” her mother Dee-Dee Madsen said. “She learned of the organization in school.  Last year I told Elli that I wanted her to consider cutting her hair and she told me ‘No Mom, I cannot do that – I am giving my hair to the cancer kids – they lose their hair, too, you know.’”

Photo by Dee-Dee Madsen

Dee-Dee said that she was quite surprised to learn that Elli even knew about Locks of Love.

“I just suspected that other kids, maybe her friends at school, were doing this, too,” she said. “But come to find out, that was not the case at all. Elli made the decision alone. She did not advertise it, rather quietly sharing her decision with me several weeks after making it. Needless to say, I was and am very proud of my little girl.”

Photo by Dee-Dee Madsen

Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to cancer patients.

Blair Leonard of White Rock is a freelance hair stylist and makeup artist to movie and television stars filming in northern New Mexico. She donates her services to people who choose to cut their hair for Locks of Love, including Elli.

“Locks of Love is a very important organization and I’m happy to donate my time and services to help,” Leonard said.

Earlier this month, retired Los Alamos Fire Chief Doug MacDonald came to her to have his 13-inch-long hair cut for Locks of Love.

“I decided to grow my hair for Locks of Love after seeing the change on my sister in laws face when she put on a wig and looked in the mirror,” MacDonald said. “She was battling cancer and I could see the confidence return to her face when she put on that wig.”

MacDonald said he had no idea what an impact a wig could have on a cancer patient who had lost her hair through chemo. He decided in that moment to grow his hair to donate to Locks of Love.

For Elli, the decision came when she and the students in her class at school read about cancer.

“We were reading about cancer and my teacher told us about Locks of Love,” Elli said. “I decided I wanted to donate my hair because I thought that kids should be able to keep their head warm and they should be able to have hair.”

Elli Madsen with her new look. Photo by Dee-Dee Madsen

Elli’s mother describes her as “a very special little girl in so many ways.”

“I find it fitting for Elli to be in this situation because it truly displays the wonderfully compassionate girl she has grown to become,” Dee-Dee said. “Given Elli’s gift today, I ponder at all the possibilities yet to come for her and all of us who are blessed enough to know her.”

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Good Eats Southern Style at Kenny’s North Carolina BBQ

By Bonnie Gordon

Kenny Miller in front of the counter of his new kitchen at UNM-Los Alamos. Photo by Bonnie Gordon

For the last three years, locals have been enjoying fine southern cooking courtesy of Kenny’s North Carolina BBQ via Kenny’s mobile kitchen.

Now Kenny’s has a new home at UNM-Los Alamos. Kenny Miller opened his kitchen in the UNM-LA Student Center in late January and it’s now open from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“I really like having a stable place to work from,” Miller said. “I like providing people with a place to sit down and enjoy their meal. Every day more and more people are coming in and I want to see the whole place full. My goal is to serve great food at an affordable price.”

Kenny hales from Grifton, NC and his menu is inspired by his southern roots. He’s serving up southern favorites like grits for breakfast, collard greens on the side, southern fried chicken, catfish and of course barbeque.

Everything is homemade from Kenny’s special recipes. He’s especially proud of his “Grandma’s Sweet & Tangy BBQ Sauce.”

“Ribs and barbeque pork are my favorite things to cook,” Miller said. “I love to cook with oak wood.”

Cooking is Kenny’s lifelong passion.

“My mother and grandmother taught me to cook as a child,” Miller said. “When I was coming up, I cooked at family events and church events. Cooking isn’t just a job for me, it’s something I love.”

Kenny will continue to cook at local events in his mobile unit and also does catering. He can be reached at 661-4682 to schedule catering.

“I want to bring the taste of back home to Los Alamos,” Miller said. “My favorite thing is seeing people’s faces light up when they try my food.”

The Red & Black Ball Raises Cool $50K for Kids

Linda Daly, Executive Director of the Los Alamos Family YMCA, flashes the “Y." Photo by Greg Kendall/ladailypost.com

By Greg Kendall

The Family YMCA’s Red & Black Ball is a major highlight of the Los Alamos social scene. But, there is more to the Ball than dinner and dancing. The annual gala serves a very important and serious purpose: helping kids.

In 1955, The Family YMCA of Los Alamos was created by an act of Congress. The first Red & Black Ball was held in 2000 to help raise money for the gymnasium. Over the past 12 years, the  Ball has raised a whopping $330,000 for YMCA programs. This year was exceptional; the event raised approximately $52,000. The Red & Black is the traditional kickoff to the Annual Strong Kids Campaign. This year’s Campaign Manager is Emily McGay. The goal for the Annual Strong Kids Campaign is to raise $125,000. The campaign is off to a great start! Last year, the Y helped 125 families by awarding over $75,000 in financial aid for youth programs, membership and child care scholarships.

Los Alamos Family YMCA Executive Director Linda Daly said that the Y must raise $125,000 annually to help meet the need of those individuals unable to pay.

“No one is ever turned away because of the inability to pay,” she said. “We at the Y feel the single greatest thing we can do is to connect with youth in a positive, meaningful way, whether it’s as a novice coach in basketball, a teen leader at our teen centers, or as a counselor in our camps. And so we take a leadership role in providing teen programs and youth programs. We believe it is our role to provide opportunities for everyone to become healthier.

“We have also partnered with State Farm and the New Mexico Department of Health to provide free pre-diabetes education and support workshops and free workshops in chronic disease management. We at the Y believe strongly that we are stewards of our environment, and that it is our role to develop future stewards. So, we vigorously work to fund our Y Earth Services known as YES Corp and our Youth Conservation Corp (YCC) programs. We also fund an environmental educator to lead the environment clubs at both the Middle School and High School.”

The Y operates teen centers in both Española and Los Alamos. The YCC and YES Corp assist Craig Martin, Los Alamos County Open Space Specialist, with trail building and trail maintenance throughout the County.

The money raised at the 2012 Red & Black Ball comes from a combination of Sponsors, a Chairman’s Round Table and both a silent and live auction.

This year, the ball returned to the Hilltop House. This was the site of the very first Red & Black in 2000, when the hotel was owned by Roger Waterman. Ron and Kim Selvage, current owners, were this year’s exceptional gala hosts.

Their team, including Denise Smith (Hotel General Manager) and Chef Diego Torres went out of their way to make the evening special. The delicious dinner of beef tenderloin, lobster and asparagus was even topped off with a guitar shaped potato slice.

Over the last 12 years, many organizations have contributed to the Ball each and every year: Blue Cross Blue Shield, Espanola Transit Mix, Hilltop House Hotel, Neptune Company, LA Medical Center, LANB and TRK.

Los Alamos National Bank’s Operations Officer, Karen Easton, discussed LANB’s longtime support of the Y. “The bank has always supported education – that’s a fundamental aspect of the bank,” Easton said. “Investing in the education of our children is vitally important and the YMCA is an amazing community member that does so much to benefit youth and families.”

This year’s major sponsors include the aforementioned organizations and:

Energy Solutions, Los Alamos Public Safety Association, Modrall Spearling, Navarro Engineering and Research, RBC Capital Markets, Ruby K’s Bagel Café, Smith’s Food and Drug and Lou Santoro.

“This annual event is an opportunity for the youth at the Espanola YMCA Teen Center, which is operated by The Family YMCA, to show case the works of art they create during the classes that we host,” said Teen Center Director Ben Sandoval. “It builds character and motivates them to learn new art, new art forms and also encourages them to be regular attendees of the program because they know the Y provides them an opportunity to excel and grow as individuals.”

Three wooden wishing wells created by the teens were auctioned at Saturday night’s Red and Black Ball. The teens also created a wooden chest for the auction and 13-year-old Jennifer Perez created and donated a large acrylic painting.

Attending the ball for the first time were Los Alamos Medical Center’s newly appointed CEO, Feliciano Giron and his wife Joanna. “The Y plays such a key role in our community and its youth and the hospital have always been big supporters,” Giron said, adding that he, his wife and their four children are all members of the local YMCA.

Although the Red & Black Ball provides the Y with over 40% of the total goal for the annual “Strong Kids Campaign,” the remaining $73,000 must be raised from individuals and organizations in the community. To donate online, go to www.laymca.org

For more pictures of last Saturday’s festivities, click the following link: http://tinyurl.com/6q5ykld

Editor’s Note: Carol A. Clark contributed to this story.

The Legend of St. Valentine

A last-minute shopper picks out a Valentine for his sweetie at Smith's in White Rock. Photo by TK Thompson/ladailypost.com

The history of Valentine’s Day – and the story of its patron saint – is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Origins of Valentine’s Day: A Pagan Festival in February

While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial–which probably occurred around A.D. 270 – others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

Source: history.com

A Day Trip Excursion by Rail

By Greg Kendall
My wife and I decided to take an excursion down to Albuquerque for the afternoon on the Rail Runner a while back. We parked in downtown Santa Fe at the Rail Yard in the new underground parking lot. It cost a buck to park all day.

We took the short walk to the train depot and jumped on board at 11:20 a.m. Upstairs in the train there are groupings of four seats that face each other with a narrow table in between.

A ticket taker shows up after a while and you pay with cash or by credit card. The round trip to Albuquerque cost 8 bucks for adults, 6 for seniors and kids under 10 free. The trip is very scenic. In Santa Fe, the tracks parallels a nice bicycle/walking trail. You get a very different perspective of Santa Fe than you normally would when you drive through town.The trip to Albuquerque passes through several Pueblos that are off the beaten path.

The Rail Runner pulls into the station. Photo by Greg Kendall/For ladailypost.com

At one point, the train comes pretty close to the Rio Grande River near the San Felipe Pueblo. The trip takes just a bit over an hour and a half. Arriving at the Downtown Albuquerque station, we decided to have lunch at the Tucanos Brazilian Grill, which is located directly across the street from the train station.

I had been to a Tucanos Grill in Salt Lake City and it was just ok. The one in Albuquerque is fantastic! They have super variety in a salad bar (they call it a salad festival) and then while you’re enjoying that, there are waiters who come around with skewers of delicious meats that they serve to you at your table.

The meats are fantastic. There were different cuts of beef and chicken. They also come around with pineapple and vegetable skewers. My fellow travelers and I were highly pleased with our meals. The quality and service was excellent. The place was noisy and obviously very popular. We will definitely return to Tucanos Brazilian Grill (110 Central Ave. Southwest).

The Rail Runner is comfortable, convenient and a fun way to take a trip to Albuquerque for a Saturday or Sunday outing.