Tag Archive | Chicago

Enjoying Life’s Journey

I LOVE to travel!!! Every time my family explores a new place, we put a pushpin in that city or country on our big, world map. Every place is unique, with its own defining traits and memories.

 

The Dominican Republic, always on ‘island’ time. South Dakota, the ease and simplicity of good friends and campsites. Hawaii, a place so beautiful I think God himself used it as a personal canvas. Phoenix, home of Spring Training, aka sheer happiness: BASEBALL. My paradise: Cancun, water so blue it captivates you.. you can’t look away, and you never want to.

I want to see it all. I want to walk the same fields in England Queen Elizabeth did in 1560. I want to climb Skellig Michael, the iconic Irish island Rey visits in Star Wars. I want to see South Africa, New Zealand, Denmark, Tahiti… and Harry Potter World in Orlando.

Travel is expensive. I miss my kids every single moment we’re apart if they don’t join us. But the moment I land after an adventure, I’m ready to choose a new destination and do it again. There are 7.6 billion people on our planet. Our globe includes endless oceans, 195 countries, nearly 7,000 different languages. In the United States alone, every city has it’s own sound, feel, people, food and pace. This isn’t the stuff of fairy tales or movies.. this is REAL. This is our world. We each only have one life… I want to fill it with as many experiences as possible.

At just 14 years old.. Rachel Young also has her passport ready.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I believe a problem facing our youth today is the lack of experiences they get,” Rachel told me. “Most kids don’t get to travel the world or see many interesting places. It’s so important that the youth of today see other cultures and learn about the history of the world.”

Rachel’s had great inspiration, encouraging her mindset through example. She was a Little Sister to Miss Nebraska finalist Steffani Jiroux, who has spent time dancing and modeling in cities across the world including Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Rome.

with STeffani

“When I was a Little Sister for the Miss Nebraska Organization, I got the opportunity to take a deeper look into what being Miss Nebraska really meant,” said Rachel. “I became inspired by all the contestants, including my Big Sister Steffani, to follow in their footprints. I’ve always wanted little girls to look up to me in a positive way, as I did to my Big Sister and the rest of the contestants. They really ignited my passion for performing and competing in these pageants.”

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Rachel was crowned Miss Twin Rivers’ Outstanding Teen 2018 in February. Just as she saw her mentors share their talents at Miss Nebraska, Rachel was provided more opportunities to sing, a passion she’s been fine-tuning for several years.

“When I graduate in 2022, I really want to go to Juilliard in New York City and be on Broadway,” said Rachel, currently  student at Adams Middle School in North Platte. “I get to perform in front of people that will help me ready my goal of getting on Broadway. I can also get scholarship money from these pageants to be able to afford to go to Juilliard.”

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Rachel is also using her title to encourage her peers to find their passions, whatever they may be.

“My platform is ‘Express Yourself, The Benefits of Extracurricular Activities’,” said Rachel. “I talk about joining activities and how you can benefit from them to kids of all ages. I talk to different groups and try to get kids involved in school. With high schoolers, they can get scholarships and go to college through these activities. I post things on my social media and try to talk to as many people as I can about it.”

Ask Rachel and she’ll tell you service is key for any Miss Nebraska titleholder.

 

“You should put others before yourself, especially when you have something to offer others to benefit them,” said Rachel. “Most [titleholders] don’t serve because they are required to. Most girls love to serve their communities and help others, this just gives them more chances to inspire people and help out.”

 

 

Even at this young age, Rachel knows she can lead others. People like her vocal coach, Nikki Schmidt, (“She is one of the most reassuring people in my life; she is busy, but somehow she always has room to help me learn and grow”), and the Miss Nebraska contestants she met as a little girl taught her that someone is always watching.. and it’s up to you what you show them.

“My favorite part has been the reaction of kids and how their faces light up when I come and talk to them and visit them,” said Rachel. “Little kids think it’s the coolest thing in the world when young ladies with crowns and sashes come take an interest in them. You are being an inspiration to these kids and it reminds you why you were chosen to have the title you do.”

Rachel will take that reminder on her next adventure.. to Omaha later this month, where she’ll compete for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen. Her current cover photo on Facebook perfectly describes her outlook, one that translates to this journey and most others we may all embark on throughout our lives.

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“My goal is to have fun, meet as many people I can that will help me benefit in the future, meet new friends, and do the very best I can,” said Rachel. “I am a very empathetic person and I care about everyone. I love volunteering and meeting new people. If you have fun, that’s a win right there. I can’t wait to see what this year will bring me.”

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To follow Miss Twin Rivers’ Outstanding Teen Rachel Young on Facebook, click here.

For more information about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook, or CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Twitter. You can also contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at KaliNicoleTV@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Competition takes place April 28 in North Omaha, Nebraska.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Nebraska State Fair Courtney Pelland

NEXT.. Miss Sandhills Outstanding Teen Olivia Terwey

Put Me In, Coach!

I love softball.

I used to be alright.. even good as a kid.  I remember once getting an in-the-park homerun when my friends came to watch my summer team in high school.  Not a lot of power, but I was quick.

Two babies and xxx pounds later.. I am slow.  No, really, you can hear Chariots of Fire playing in the background as I hustle to first.  And since I still don’t have a lot of power, I also earned the nickname 1-3, courtesy of my friend and current ESPNU superstar, Matt Schick.  STILL, I love softball.  So I was pretty geeked up when I was asked to take play in this summer’s Celebrity All-Star Softball Game as part of the 2015 AAA-All Star game at Werner Park.

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I was pretty terrible.  In fact, I was the only girl of the four of us who did NOT get a hit.

CLICK HERE to watch Matt Lothrop’s ‘highlights’ from the game.. at least Thor was good!

The MVP of the game was also one of the most popular targets for autographs after..

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Joe Ganz not only PUMMELED the first home run of the game, he casually mentioned that he actually planned to be a baseball player rather than a college football quarterback.

What?!?!

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

CLICK HERE TO WATCH’S KETV’S HUSKER THROWBACK THURSDAY ON #12 JOE GANZ!

THIS is the Joe Ganz most people know and remember, the guy who started as a backup behind quarterbacks Zac Taylor and Sam Keller, then took Nebraska on an offensive thrill ride when he became the go-to QB in the second half of the 2007 season.  All of this might never have been in a different place and time.. picture a scene from the Sandlot, in south side Chicago, with a shorter Joe “The Jet” Ganz playing baseball with his buddies.  It may not be so far-fetched; sources tell me Ganz’s Palos Heights Pony League team once played Papillion’s 10-year olds in a bid for nationals.

“I love baseball, it was my first love, growing up I played it and it’s all I wanted to do,” Ganz told me recently.   “Before Bill Callahan got here, I was going to play baseball for the University of Illinois-Chicago.”

That all changed the summer before Ganz was supposed to leave for college, when his parents received a phone call while Ganz and his siblings were on vacation in the Dominican Republic.

“They called me upstairs after I got done packing and they told me Nebraska offered me to play football,” said Ganz.  “The first memory I have [of Nebraska] is Tommie Frazier’s run against Florida.  I was hooked, both my Dad and I.  It was really a dream come true.”

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics

Fast forward to the Texas game in 2007.  Sam Keller hurt his shoulder late in the game.  Joe Ganz took the field and brought Nebraska within 3 points of clinching the game, finishing a touchdown drive and converting a 2-point play.

Two games later was one of Ganz’s favorite moments.  He started the game, and his parents and friends got to hear his name announced and see him on the big screens at Memorial Stadium.  He also TROUNCED one of college football’s biggest prospects, Josh Freeman. The Huskers beat Kansas State that year 73-31.  Ganz shattered several Nebraska records that day including 7 touchdown passes, and 528 yards of total offense.

“It was just something about beating Josh Freeman that really got me going,” said Ganz, who beat Freeman TWICE in his collegiate career.  It was a highlight for a team that saw plenty low points and ultimately, ended with Coach Bill Callahan losing his job in November.

Ganz was the starting quarterback when Coach Bo Pelini took control in 2008, not only learning a new offense but embracing it.  Ganz was named one of four team captains, the Husker’s MVP of the 2008 season and the MVP of the 2009 Gator Bowl.  When he threw a football for the last time as a Nebraska athlete, he held 23 Nebraska school records.

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“You wish you were still out there playing the game,” said Ganz.  “For me, I only got 16 games to play, so I always wanted to play more, play more.”

And clearly, Coach Pelini still wanted Ganz around, hiring him as an assistant.  Ganz learned an entirely new element of the game under his mentors and coaches, Bo Pelini and Tim Beck.

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“I had some great teachers that really taught me how to teach kids the game of football, not just to go out there and coach,” said Ganz, who says he formed an extra-special bond with one player in particular.

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“Probably the kid throwing the ball a little bit.  I’m always pulling for #4,” said Ganz.  “Tommy [Armstrong] and I are so close, to this day.  We talk all the time, I text him, wish him the best of luck.  He’s got all the talent in the world.  Now, it’s just–can he understand the different steps of this West Coast Offense Coach Riley and Coach Langsdorf are going to bring in?”

And Joe Ganz will be watching how that plays out much like every other Husker fan.  He was released from the Nebraska coaching staff along along with Pelini and his other assistants last fall.  Ganz talked quite a bit in our interview how difficult that is for coaches after recruiting these players, spending countless hours with them and their families, and building incomparable relationships with them in an environment few get to experience.. you just MISS that.  Ganz hopes he’ll get another opportunity to coach at the college level in the near future.

For now, Ganz is putting his Communications degree to use, offering radio analysis every week through the fall on The Bottom Line with Mike’l Severe.  The Chicago kid calls Nebraska home for now, often flying under the radar among Nebraska fans who don’t always recognize him.

“I don’t have the Kenny Bell afro, I’m not the polarizing figure,” said Ganz.  “Everyone always says ‘you looked a lot bigger on TV’, everyone thinks I’m really small.  I’m like, I used to be bigger, but after you’re done playing, you don’t want to go up!”

To those who do know and remember Joe Ganz, #12 hopes to show his appreciation.

“It’s very flattering,” said Ganz.  “I always take time to try and talk to everyone I can because you never know when that’s going to run out and people are going to forget your name.”

From what I saw this summer, the line of dozens upon dozens of fans standing in blistering heat for an autograph and a handshake, no one is forgetting Joe Ganz anytime soon.  It’s just one of those things about Nebraska Football; these aren’t just players, they ARE statewide celebrities.. often during their time on the field and sometime years after when they trade that football jersey for a Sunday softball replica.

“Soak everything up.  Relish everything,” Ganz says to today’s players.  “When you’re done, you miss going to work every day, going to practice the game that you love.  Relish it.  Embrace everything Nebraska’s about.”

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Thanks to Nebraska Athletics for the Photo!

For more on #12 Joe Ganz, CLICK HERE to read his official bio from Nebraska Athletics.

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WEEK ONE… CLASS OF 2010 ALEX HENERY!

WEEK THREE… CLASS OF 1971 JEFF KINNEY!

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For a full list of KETV’s Throwback Thursday Huskers, click on the Throwback Thursday index at the top of the page!

When I See You Smile

There are some people in the world who can literally light up a room with their smile.  Take one of my best friends, Melissa.. no matter where we are or what time we are at in our lives, her smile makes everyone around her smile.  She is PURE JOY, pure sheer goodness, and that positivity just radiates out of her.

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My best friends and I at Omaha Fashion Week.  Melissa is the hottie second from the right.  Thanks to Herb Thompson for the photo!

I first saw the young lady you’re about to meet when she competed in the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen pageant last fall, where she finished 1st Runner Up.  From that night on, I continued to follow her over social media through the pageant where she would win her own title, and I don’t think this teen HAS EVER STOPPED SMILING.

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MISS PLATTE VALLEY’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2015 EMMA KATE BROWN

(Photo courtesy J Allen Photography)

Now, as I read my interview with Emma Kate and see what’s behind that smile, her attitude not only inspires me.. she’s kinda knocking my socks off.  Emma Kate is fighting two chronic illnesses, Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.

“I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease when I was three years old, so we’ve been doing gluten free at our house before it was trendy,” joked Emma Kate.  “I cannot eat wheat, barley, oats, malt or flour.”  (For more on what Celiac Disease is, click here to read my interview with Miss Crane Festival 2014 & Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2012 Lianna Prill.)

Emma Kate has also been an ambassador for Diabetes awareness and research long before her pageant days, appearing on KETV First News for an interview with John Oakey several years ago.

“Something else unique about me is my love for public speaking!  I had a great time talking with John Oakey and showing him my dance moves,” said Emma Kate.  “I wasn’t nervous a bit, but I do think my interview skills have improved.”

She’s getting plenty of practice; Emma Kate is also a youth ambassador for the JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).

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Emma Kate: ‘Had a great time this morning volunteering for my favorite group, the JDRF. Met this little girl who was diagnosed with diabetes two months ago. She inspires me by how strong she is facing such a life changing disease. Loved getting to talk about my story and hearing hers.’

“My platform is turning Type 1 into Type None and it is about raising awareness and funding for a cure to Type 1 Diabetes,”
said Emma Kate.  “[It] allows me to tell my story to businesses in the area.  I also volunteer at JDRF events throughout the year.”

(For more about Diabetes and fundraising efforts in the Omaha area, click here to read my interview with former Husker Jay Foreman regarding his work with the Foreman Foundation, as well as Diabetes services through Nebraska Medicine.)

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Until I heard about all of this from Emma Kate during our interview, I had NO IDEA she faced challenges like this.  The 16-year old junior at Elkhorn South High School is on the go NONSTOP, participating on the dance team, in show choir, concert choir, in speech and in National Honor Society.  This year alone, Emma Kate starred in Shrek the Musical as Princess Fiona, and took part in a grueling competition schedule with Elkhorn South Blackout (the varsity show choir), including trips to regionals and then nationals in Chicago.

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And off stage, when she’s not volunteering, there’s yet ANOTHER side to this girl.

“Even thought I am super focused and goal-driven, I love to get lost in a great book,” said Emma Kate.  “I love the ‘Matched’ series, the ‘Selection’ series and the ‘Red Queen’ series.  One of my proudest moments would be when I recently got a group of my friends to start reading as much as I do.  Now we talk about books at our lunch table and it’s so much fun.”

One of those friends is Emma Kate’s fellow dance team member and Blackout star, Morgan Holen, the current Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

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“Morgan encouraged me to compete in an upcoming pageant.  I was hooked after my first pageant experience in November.  I was so impressed by the whole organization that I knew I wanted to take part in it,” said Emma Kate.  “I enjoy meeting like-minded, successful girls my age and learning about their platforms and experiences.  All the girls are so kind and I have made lifelong friends.”

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That is Emma Kate’s message to other teens who may read this; she wants to encourage them just as Morgan encouraged her.

“This program is relevant because there are more girls like me and other contestants who can benefit from the scholarships, volunteer opportunities and sisterhood of the pageants.”

I agree with Emma Kate on the positives that come from the Miss America Organization.  I DISAGREE with her that there are other girls like her.  That smile is simply one of a kind; welcoming, full of life, excited about what every day could bring.  She’s got ‘Outstanding’ on that sash for a reason.. and Emma Kate Brown is ready to prove it in North Platte.

Emma Kate Dance Team Pic (original)

(Photo courtesy Deyo’s Photography)

Follow Miss Platte Valley’s Outstanding Teen Emma Kate Brown, and contact Emma Kate for appearances or events via Facebook, Instagram and on Twitter.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant will take place June 5, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website or the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook and on Twitter.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Northwest 2015 LaRissa McKean

NEXT.. Miss Gering 2015 Kaylee Carlberg

To read more about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.