About Janelle Romano

Janelle Romano joined the Interfaith team in 2018. She is originally from the Midwest, but has lived on the East Coast and in Mexico. Janelle relocated to The Woodlands four years ago with her husband and three children and they now consider Texas home. She is a graduate of both Purdue and Southern Methodist University and enjoys spending time traveling with her family and giving back to the community.

Emerging Sports: Rugby

Rugby, which is highly popular internationally and on both coasts in the United States has recently enjoyed a surge in popularity in The Woodlands area. Rugby began in The Woodlands at the YMCA in 2002-2003 as a touch program. Frank Rizzo, the current Head Coach of The Woodlands High School Boys Team, had two boys who participated in that early program. After a few years, the boys wanted to take the sport to the next level and incorporate tackle into the game, which resulted in the formation of The Woodlands Rugby Club in 2005-2006. At that time, there weren’t many teams in Texas (only about 4 programs) so finding teams to play was a challenge and always involved commuting to scrimmage and play in tournaments.  A stark contrast to 2019 in Texas which included 18 youth teams (K- 8th grade), 24 high school girls’ teams and 32 high school boys’ teams (both junior varsity and varsity). 

3rd-4th Grade

Development and Growth 

The Woodlands Rugby program has experienced remarkable growth (from 100 kids in 2016 to 300 kids in 2019) and the success of the program (an all volunteer-run organization) is attributable to a multitude of factors.  

Two years ago, when the President of the board stepped down and the head coach left to take a coaching job for a professional rugby team, a new board was elected. The highly active board members serve three-year terms and voluntarily invest up to 30-40 hours per week in their role during the season. The new board members got right to work with a focus on uniting the boys’ and girls’ teams. The following year, they expanded the program as well as created a new logo and mascot. Their efforts are paying off, not only in the win category, but also in their efforts to secure sponsors, in the college recruitment of players, and the size and domination of The Woodlands Rugby teams.  

According to Charlotte “Charlie” Hopkins, President of The Woodlands Rugby Board, Head Coach Frank Rizzo is the key, “Frank is the reason why The Woodlands Rugby Team works. He is the reason we have been so successful. He is an unbelievable coach.” Frank Rizzo, a California transplant, was literally pulled into a college rugby game by the UC Irvine coach while in attendance at a game. He went on to play for UC Santa Barbara and Select Side Rugby when he received a call from New Zealand to play internationally. His rugby career involved play and experiences that took him all over the world from Australia to England. He is very thankful for the opportunities, friendships and perspective afforded to him through the world of rugby and enjoys sharing his love for the sport with the next generation. 

5th-6th Grade

Safety 

Another reason for the significant growth in the number of rugby participants in The Woodlands and across the country is the safety factor. Although many people tend to think of rugby, because it is a contact sport, as dangerous, it is considerably safer than football and there are surprisingly few injuries. As a result, many athletes are migrating from football and other contact sports to rugby. Coach Rizzo stated, “Rugby players aren’t getting concussions. In rugby you have to wrap them up. In football, all you have to do is deliver a blow.” Hopkins adds, “Safety is our #1 priority. We want our children to be safe.” The coaches will not allow kids to play in the games until they feel comfortable. The coaches have even been known to stop games if they felt it was getting too rough. According to Hopkins, in a survey of the parents last year, the feedback indicated that 99% of the parents felt that their children were being kept safe. 

Community 

The large expat community in The Woodlands also has contributed to the popularity of the sport in the area. The international community in The Woodlands makes the rugby team very diverse and is one of the aspects that many parents appreciate about the team. Not everyone can live and travel abroad, but because of having teammates from all over the world, their children are able to experience and develop friendships with individuals from other cultures.  

Finally, the amazing facilities and parks available in The Woodlands set the locale and team apart from other areas. The Come and Take It Tournament, now the largest youth rugby tournament in the state, is held in The Woodlands in March each year, with proceeds benefitting local charities. In addition, The Woodlands hosted the state tournament last year and will host it again next year. “The Woodlands parks and recreation are amazing. No one else has facilities like we do,” remarked Hopkins.  

To say that The Woodlands Rugby Team is a powerhouse is an understatement. The teams dominate in the state and the club is by far the largest club in Texas. The Woodlands Rugby Youth Teams took home first in every single age group in the state this year. The high school boys won both the state and regional titles and the high school girls were runners up. However, if you talk to the parents and the coaches, they will tell you that although the kids like to win, rugby and especially The Woodlands Rugby Teams are not about getting the glory, but about supporting their teammates. Parents love the long-term lessons and character building resulting from participation on the team. Hopkins says, “Rugby is not about superstars. It is about being a great teammate. You win as a team, you lose as a team.” In fact, according to Hopkins, when the players were asked at the end of season banquet what their favorite part of the season was, not one player mentioned winning the state title. 

High School Girls

What Makes Rugby Special 

Rugby is a good-natured sport where respect for one’s teammates and opponents is evident both on and off the field. It is an incredibly social sport; games are extremely competitive, but when the match finishes both teams come together and fraternize. Rizzo stated, “No matter where you go in the world, there is a rugby team and they will welcome you to join in a game.”   

Girls Rugby 

Yes, girls do play rugby, in fact there are many collegiate scholarships available for girls who play rugby. No, it is not just for big girls either. All shapes and sizes are needed, especially quick ones. Girls Head Coach Chelsea Peper says, “Cross-over athletes, individuals who played basketball, or soccer for example, make excellent players.” Rugby gives girls confidence and an opportunity to express themselves, they also develop amazing comradery and lasting friendships through the sport. Rugby builds hand-eye coordination and agility, honing skills that are an asset to any sport. Although girls’ rugby is not a varsity sport for girls in the state of Texas now, it is only a matter of time. 

Jr High Girls

Get Out and Give it a “Try” 

It is now easier than ever to take in a rugby game as the Houston professional rugby team, The Houston SabreCats, with a former Woodlands Rugby player – Kieran Farmer on the roster, had a new stadium built this year. According to Coach Rizzo, “The sport sells itself, and anyone can play rugby. The kids have the time of their lives. The clock is always running and the ball is always live, so it is a lot of improvisation. You create the game as you go.” Rugby is a great complement to other sports and even for the kids that aren’t very “sporty”. The coaches encourage youth to come out and “Give Rugby a Try” (a goal is called a “try” in rugby) in November. Every Tuesday in November, kids can try touch-only rugby for free.  

5th-6th Grade

For more information on The Woodlands Rugby programs, please visit: woodlandsrugbyclub.org 

High School Boys

1st-2nd Grade

In the Pink of Health Luncheon

The Marriott on The Waterway was inundated with fabulous attire in various hues of pink and teal at the 19th Annual In The Pink of Health Luncheon. The highly anticipated luncheon always features women adorned in gorgeous vibrant garments to help raise awareness and funds for ovarian and breast cancer programs that will stay right here in greater Montgomery County. Since its inception, In the Pink of Health has raided and distributed more than $5.5 million to support breast and ovarian health.

Caroline Raiford, Andrea Raiford, Andrea Alexander, Melissa Preston

Presented by Richie’s Specialty Pharmacy, and Co-Chaired by Debra Cooper and Dee Gelsomini, In the Pink of Health raises essential funds to fight cancer and assist survivors. “We have come so far in research and cure rates for breast and ovarian cancer, but there are still women who lose their battle every day. The money we raise goes towards closing that gap and saving our sisters, mothers, grandmothers, daughters and friends,” said In the Pink of Health co-chair Dee Gelisomini. Allocation of the funds from the event support the Interfaith Community Clinic to provide mammograms for underserved women, and the Canopy cancer survivorship center at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands among others.

The guest speaker for the event was ordained minister and motivational speaker Dr. Rick Rigsby. Following a successful career as a television news reporter Dr. Rigsby became a college professor— including 14 years at Texas A&M University—where he also served as character coach and chaplain for the Aggies football team.

Kathy Igercich, Amanda Poole

Dr. Rigsby shared his experience with the heartbreaking loss of his wife, Trina, to breast cancer in 1996. Dr. Rigsby’s inspirational remarks focused on the lasting impact his wife made and continues to make through her life of hope, and the dramatically different outcomes available to individuals diagnosed with cancer today due to the amazing contributions of organizations such as In The Pink of Health. His heartfelt story and comedic delivery had the audience laughing one minute and tearing up the next, but all were touched by Dr. Rigsby’s message of hope.

“For years, our In the Pink of Health committee has focused on inspiring and encouraging attendees so that when they leave, they can take what they heard and integrate it into their own lives and The Woodlands community,” said Josh Urban, senior vice president and CEO of Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center.

Natashia Douglas, Michele Whitworth, Leslie Reilly, Lindsay Donaldson, Heidi Goodwin, Kristyna Smith, Marylee Freund, Sondra Pekar, Brooke Milam

Memorial Hermann In the Pink of Health was founded in 2001 to fund cancer-related programs and services for patients and their families in the greater Montgomery County area. To learn more visit inthepinkofhealth.org or call 713.897.PINK (7465), or email inthepink@memorialhermann.org.

Read more about the In The Pink of Health featured in the latest issue of The Book The Woodlands

Blair Moon, Julie Ambler, Kellie Armstrong, Amanda French, Louise Smith, Kim Murphy

Paige Hull, Hannah Hull, Kelly Hull, Eric Pham, Marian Spence

Missy Herndon, Linda Nelson, Sarah Rhea

Mandi and Pete Roach

Lynne Charbonneau, Nancy W. Charbonneau, Leta King, Nancy Charbonneau, Dee Butts

Lynn Carr, Presha Carr, Katie Holditch

Linda Smith, Kashay Mendes, Lezlie Cuellar

Karen Riggins, Amy Brooks

Karen Carroll, Alison Henderson

Kylie Boyd, Carolyn Donovan, Holly Mayer, Lucy Gomez, Lynne Pickett, Missy Herndon, Anita Phillips, Jackie Charzma

Sherry Holman, Phalen Alfaro, Kairy-Tate Barkley, Janice Swan

The Woodlands Christian Academy (TWCA) Dedicates New State-of-the-Art Micah Academic Center

The Woodlands Christian Academy (TWCA) held a dedication ceremony for their new high school building last Friday, September 27, 2019. Named The Micah Academic Center, the 63,000 square foot building is the 6th academic space on the school’s 40-acre campus. U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady and Dr. Dave Anderson, President of the Grace School of Theology and TWCA founding member, shared remarks after Head of School, Mrs. Julie Ambler, opened the brief ceremony with a prayer. A longtime supporter of the school, Congressman Brady said, “The Woodlands Christian Academy has a reputation for exceptional academics in science, technology, engineering, art, and math. I trust this new campus will enable you to continue that tradition and continue to serve as an excellent academic foundation for the youth of our community.”

Following the remarks, Gill Staley, CEO of The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership assisted J.J. Hollie, President & CEO of the Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce with an official ribbon-cutting.

In addition to the state-of-the-art science and STEM laboratories, MakerSpace, art studio and gallery, fully equipped auditorium and lecture hall, and 22 classrooms, The Micah Academic Center will be able to accommodate the school’s growing student population.

The Woodlands Christian Academy is a PreK – 12th grade college preparatory school that integrates learning with biblical faith and challenges students to reach their highest potential – spiritually, academically, physically and socially. For more information visit twca.net.

Denim and Diamonds Gala

There was much to celebrate at this year’s Inspiration Ranch Denim & Diamonds Gala! The 11th annual event which was sponsored by Anadarko and held at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott honored Richard and Anna Pender. The Pender’s 40 plus acre White Bridge Farm just north of Tomball became the beautiful, expansive new home to Inspiration Ranch this year. The other honoree of the evening was Arena Energy who has been a long-time champion of Inspiration Ranch and has made significant contributions including providing an indoor riding “arena” that protects the special needs riders, volunteers, staff and animals from the elements. The highlight of the evening though was the powerful testimony by Amanda Shirley, the mother of one of the Inspiration Ranch clients describing the impact and benefits for her daughter Dayton.

John & Natalie Ford, Minnie Telaroli, Mark Beach

The silent and live auctions throughout the evening were filled with fantastic packages including an eight-day oceanfront, all-inclusive, luxury trip to Jamaica donated by Fox Travel, a private chef dinner donated by Amerigo’s and a legendary golf experience at the Insperity Invitational among others. The gallery wall, items in the general store and the always popular wine pull and giving boxes went quickly as well as guests clamored to contribute to the heartwarming cause. Inspiration Ranch is committed to never turning away a family for their equine-assisted therapeutic riding and mental health programs due to an inability to pay. The generous contributions from the Denim & Diamonds gala help them provide access to the therapeutic benefits for the 50 additional families still on the waiting list to join Inspiration Ranch.

Silent Auction

Inspiration Ranch is a 501 (c) (3) premier accredited center through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. Inspiration Ranch provides hope and opportunities for individuals with physical, emotional and social disabilities. To learn more, visit inspirationranch.org.

Amanda Shirley, Dayton Shirley, Kent Shirley

Keith & Taryn Gordon

Travis & Audra Palmer, Anthony Firmarture, Tracey Reyes, Elijah White

 

Michael & Susan Postus, Nathan & Kelly Dietrich, MG Tindall

Tim & Valerie Byers, Matthew & Stephanie Peloquin

The John Cooper School Develops Global Thinkers with Experience in Spain

The John Cooper School offers its students experiential learning opportunities during the summer.  This year 14 students and 2 faculty members traveled through the south of Spain, exploring the cities of Madrid, Toledo, Granada, Seville, Gibraltar, and Cordoba.  The purpose of the trip was to focus on global perspectives; it was designed to move students through awareness, understanding, appreciation, interaction, and experience in a foreign country and immersion in Spanish culture. The objective was to develop global thinking by learning social-mindedness, politics, environment, ecology, technology, economy, and culture. This learning happened by visiting historical sites, attending courses with instructors from the University of Seville, engaging in service, and living with a local family.

Sevilla

Upon arrival in Madrid the group travel to Toledo, the city of “Three Cultures” (Muslim, Jewish and Catholic), and stayed within the historical city walls. They visited the Cathedral, one of the most prominent Gothic buildings in Europe also home to El Greco’s masterpiece The Burial of the Count of Orgaz.

They traveled through Castilla la Mancha, with vast fields of sunflowers and scene of many of the adventures of Cervante’s Don Quixote. In Jaen, they saw expansive olive orchards where one of Spain’s main sources of income, olive oil, is produced. They even sampled chocolate produced with this golden treasure.

Gibraltar

In Granada, they were able to appreciate the beautiful Moorish architecture of the Alhambra and experience the diverse mix of cultures that coexist along its beautiful narrow streets. The group also engaged in a service project with senior citizens.  Each member of the group was paired with a senior who guided the student through the city, sharing stories about where they grew up, pointing out their favorite place for treats, as well as detailing historical events that have occurred during their lifetime.

During the five day stay in Seville, the students lived with an Andalusian family, sharing meals and family dynamics.  They attended cultural and culinary classes where they learned the history of Flamenco, how to cook paella and sample traditional tapas and “merienda”.

Cooking Paella

 

The group then traveled south to Gibraltar, part of the United Kingdom, and experienced crossing the border as most of its inhabitants do on a daily basis to commute to and from work. From the highest point in Gibraltar they were able to see the African shore of Morocco and visited with the famous Barbary macaques, an endangered species of monkeys at the Upper Rock nature reserve, where they also explored its cave full of impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations.

In Madrid, the group visited the Royal Palace, the Prado and Reina Sofia museums. They admired Picasso’s masterpiece “Guernica” and learned of its symbolism and history, other surrealists’ works from Dali and Miró captured their interest as well.

Plaza Mayor Madrid

Throughout the journey the students communicated in Spanish, engaging in conversation and making inquiries to their tour guides.  The group made 3D videos which will allow classmates to share their experience and enhance their learning through the use of this innovative technology.  In this way, the Cooper community as a whole will benefit from this experiential learning adventure.

Sevilla waiting for the bus

Royal Palace Madrid

Service in Granada

Classes

Introducing the Exclusive The Book The Woodlands Wish Guide

The Book The Woodlands is excited to announce that The Wish Guide, a chic, new companion publication of The Book will arrive in mailboxes this year WITH The Book The Woodlands!
The Wish Guide will resemble the beauty and sophistication of The Book with a thick matte cover and pages but in a more petite 7” X 10” size. The Book The Woodlands focuses on the people, businesses, and organizations that make The Woodlands an exceptional community while The Wish Guide will highlight unique local gift, dining and catering offerings available in The Woodlands to help you with your Holiday gift giving and entertaining.

Designed like a high-end department store look-book, the pictorial ads of must-have products and packages, engaging festive articles and community events calendar will make The Wish Guide an irreplaceable resource during the busy Holiday Season. Perfect to peruse again and again and durable enough to withstand sharing with friends, family, and guests. It is sure to find it’s rightful place on your coffee table during the Holidays with The Book TheWoodlands.

The Wish Guide will be direct mailed to area homes in The Woodlands as well as distributed in high-visibility locations throughout the area including Market Street and local hotels, reaching over 100,000 influencers locally.

The goal of The Wish Guide, as with all of the publications of Interfaith, is to raise money to serve our neighbors in need. Last year, with the help of our generous ad partners, Interfaith was able to serve over 8,000 individuals through the Holiday Giving program. “As our community needs rise, we at Interfaith continue to seek ways to build sustainability and grow revenue to provide the programs and services necessary to assist our neighboring families and seniors in crisis,” said Missy Herndon, President & CEO. “Through ad partnerships, businesses market their services and products, and fully fund the publishing of both The Book The Woodlands and now The Wish Guide. In turn, all proceeds of these publications fund Interfaith’s programs and services. We are so grateful to be in a community that cares.”

If you know of a business or event that should be considered for inclusion in The Wish Guide, please contact cmogler@woodlandsinterfaith.org

The Nightingale Society

I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took an excuse.” – Florence Nightingale

Nightingale Society Scholarship Recipient Liliana Covaliu, originally from Romania, has a multitude of excuses not to continue advancing her nursing education, she is the mother of five, cares for her elderly parents and English is her fourth language. However, following in the footsteps of Nightingale, she is not one for excuses. Covaliu was thrilled to learn of the Nightingale Society and be one of the first scholarship recipients. Covaliu plans to apply again upon completion of her BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) for another scholarship for her MSN (Master of Science in Nursing).

Liliana Covaliu and Diane Freeman

The Nightingale Society was created to help encourage continuous improvement and ease the financial burden additional training may cause for the nurses at CHI St. Luke’s Health. Diane Freeman, Chief Nursing Officer stated, “nursing requires constantly improving and specialization in training. Advanced training translates to improved diagnostics and better patient care.”

Inspired by Florence Nightingale, the Nightingale Society at CHI St. Luke’s seeks to aid nurses in their advancement in the valiant profession of nursing. Nurses provide compassion, comfort, and care; they are an essential component to the success of any hospital. The scholarship funds generated by the Nightingale Society are the result of generous contributions from donors including Brad and Kylene Beers, the Haag Family Foundation, physicians from the Caduceus Society including Dr. Peter Shedden, Dr. Vincent Aquino, and Dr. Syed Raza, Douglas “Woody” Lyons, Jr. and Michael and Vicki Richmond.

Dr. Vincent and Yvette Anquino

The first scholarships awarded by the Nightingale Society were distributed in the spring of 2019, with four nurses (Liliana Covaliu, Keira Ruben, Teresa McKenzie, Elaina Perry) each receiving $3300/year for 2 years. The funding can be used for technical training and advanced certification programs, advanced nursing degrees, employees who want to pursue nursing, clinical research and to retain top talent in nursing. Jim Parisi, President and CEO of CHI St. Luke’s Health announced the winners and remarked, “it is important for me and our organization to take time out to recognize our nurses and how much they do for our organization. Nursing holds a special place to me in my leadership role here, as I am a registered nurse as well. I may not be at the bedside with you every day, but I understand the challenges you face to meet your patients’ needs.”

For more information on the Nightingale Society, please contact Carolyn Hays at chays@stlukeshealth.org or 832.355.5855.

Scholarship Recipients with Diane Freeman

Dr. Peter Shedden, Jim Parisi, Diane Freeman, Dr. Vincent Aquino, Brad Beers

 

Summer Fun for Dads and Grads

Looking for a new and different experience for the Dad or Grad in your life this summer? Check out some of the hidden gems in our area for a new adventure to share with your special someone.

Take Flight- Helicopter Academy– Learn to fly a helicopter at the Helicopter Academy at the Conroe Regional Airport. An introductory flight lesson is $350 and includes an hour of ground instruction and a 30-minute flight. If learning to fly isn’t on your bucket list, try a 30-minute photo tour for two for $300. While you are there enjoy a bite to eat at the Black Walnut Café on the rooftop and watch the planes land and take off. For more information contact Matt Goodwin 602.432.1968, www.thehelicopterschool.com

 

Chef for a Day- TRIS- Experience a master at work. Shadow award-winning Chef Austin Simmons as Chef for the Day at TRIS The Woodlands. A personalized package may include selecting the cuisine and technique you would like to learn, prepping with Chef Austin and then tasting your creation at lunch, followed by a dinner at Cureight that evening. Price varies but starts at $400. For more information, visit www.triswoodlands.com or call 281.203.5641

 

Virtual Reality Lounge- Emergent VR Encounter- For the video game enthusiast, immerse yourself in virtual reality in the high-tech gaming lounge at Emergent VR Encounter. Featuring an expansive game library there is something for everyone. www.emergentvrencounter.com

Burn Some Energy- Texas TreeVentures- The new ropes course nestled in the trees at Rob Fleming Recreation Center in Creekside Park will have you soaring to new heights. The aerial challenge course is surrounded by the George Mitchell Nature Preserve and has adventures for both youths and adults. www.texastreeventures.com

 

Catch Some Air- Hangar 9 Wake Park- Just north of The Woodlands off I-45 is a hidden cable wake park, perfect for beginners to try wakeboarding. Don’t worry, if you are already a seasoned professional they have plenty of jumps and options for you as well. www.hangar9wakepark.com

 

Become a Warrior- Texas Axe Throwing– Yes, axe throwing is a thing, and it is now offered in The Woodlands. Texas Axe Throwing offers 2-hour “axe-periences” with expert Axe Masters available for individuals ages 12 and up. Winners earn the title of Lumber Queen or King. www.texasaxe.com

Women of Distinction

The 29th Annual Women of Distinction Luncheon and Awards was held on May 3rd at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott. The luncheon organized by the Montgomery County Women’s Council of Organizations, celebrates the outstanding volunteer and leadership contributions of women in Montgomery County.  Member organizations select and honor an individual volunteer who has made a significant impact to the organization through their outstanding volunteer efforts.

The sold-out luncheon featured Ms. Gigi Woodruff, Senior Leadership Development Manager at YMCA and Owner of Gigi Woodruff and Associates as the keynote speaker. Ms. Woodruff inspired the crowd as she spoke of overcoming low self-esteem as a child and becoming a force for good. She encouraged and challenged both the guests and honorees to embrace the differences we encounter, to thank our mentors and become mentors for the next generation.

New Danville Tea on the Lawn

The 2019 New Danville Tea on the Lawn held at the beautiful Madera Estates was held on April 26th. Richie’s Specialty Pharmacy was the Presenting Sponsor and Hoggatt was the Guest Speaker Sponsor for the elegant spring event supporting New Danville’s Day Program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Each year women flock to the event in their chic outfits and colorful hats and this year was no exception. The theme was “L’Art de Vivre” which means “the art of living”. Megan Jamaluddin, chair of the event expounded upon the selection, “The theme embodies the mission of New Danville to provide programs and services for their clients to help them to live vibrant lives where they can see the world as a place full of colors, textures and opportunities!”

(L-R) Tiffany Alexander, CeCe Ray, Allison Lime, Lisa Hill

Rev. Kimberly Constant of TWUMC graciously emceed the fashionable affair and helped showcase the wonderful work of New Danville. Guests were entertained by author, humorist and singer LaDonna Gatlin whose performance included an outstanding rendition of “This is Me,” from The Greatest Showman with the New Danville Silver Star Singers. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house! Guests dined on scrumptious delicacies from Churrasco’s while enjoying shopping in the Market Place prior to the program.

New Danville services adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities in an environment promoting dignity, respect and individual choice.

To learn more about New Danville, please visit: http://www.newdanville.org/

The New Danville Silver Star Singers and Client Council accompanied by John Massey and Donna
( L-R) Honorary Chairs Bev Earl and Melissa Young with Event Chair Meagan Jamaluddin

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