The Woodlands Fire Department

One interesting benefit of living in a community like The Woodlands, where land use and infrastructure are designed for optimal effectiveness and aesthetic appeal, is that generally things run so smoothly we are seldom aware of its working parts. Foundational services for public welfare, for example, are often taken for granted. Until we need them.   

The Woodlands Fire Department (TWFD) is one such entity. Born humbly in the early ‘70s with a handful of volunteer firefighters working from a trailer on Grogan’s Mill Road, the organization has continually risen to the many challenges of a changing industry and flourishing population. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. 

Today’s TWFD is a model emergency response task force, highly regaled and fully prepared for any need in the community. In fact, on the ISO (Insurance Services Office) scale of 1-10, which is the recognized measure of how well protected a community is by its fire department, TWFD has held the highest rating of ISO 1 since 2013. A feat less than one percent of all fire departments in the U.S. can claim. Less than one percent!  This level of achievement requires excellence in staffing, training, communications, community outreach, as well as strong, continued support from civic leaders.  

The Woodlands Township has long understood the importance of providing residents with the best possible emergency response services. “With an ISO 1 rating, The Woodlands Fire Department continues to be one of the elite departments in the United States,” says The Woodlands Township Chairman, Gordy Bunch. “Achieving this goal has not only kept pace with our growth, it helps hold our residential and commercial property insurance premiums at a manageable level. This is just one of many reasons The Woodlands is so special,” said Bunch. 

Line personnel at TWFD number well over one hundred these days, and they are no longer just firefighters.  They are career men and women of the highest caliber, cross-trained as EMTs, paramedics, and fully equipped with Advanced Life Saving technology and gear. They are on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Additional department teams specialize and train for response to hazardous materials calls, collapse, heavy, and high-angle rescue, swift water and trench rescue. Bolstered with a gleaming fleet of specialized engines, trucks, ambulances and rescue boats, TWFD is prepared for any fire, medical or rescue emergency. And with eight fire stations now in The Woodlands, typical response time is a reassuring 4.71 minutes.     

Station One on Grogan’s Mill Road is the communications hub for TWFD, as well as Montgomery County 911. Twelve round-the-clock dispatchers field emergency calls. During large community events like The Woodlands Marathon, or natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey, Station One’s large Fire Com room becomes command central. Numerous computers and large, elevated television screens with live feed from multiple locations allow emergency managers to work alongside one another, monitoring and directing conditions in real time. 

A 20,000 square foot, state-of-the-art Emergency Training Center near I-45 and Highway 242 facilitates the continually honed expertise of our firefighters. It is also the location for public education. Because safety begins with citizens, TWFD offers regular CPR, first aid, and fire prevention instruction to the community.   

Strong leadership by a succession of five fire chiefs has been key to the department’s success. After fourteen years of stellar management and direction, Chief Alan Benson retired earlier this year. A nationwide search for his replacement is underway, however Deputy Chief Doug Adams currently serves as Interim Fire Chief. 

Just as life these days is not as simple as it used to be, neither are our emergencies. TWFD Battalion Chief Jason Washington says, “We don’t get cats out of trees anymore, but if your house is on fire, if you think you’re having a heart attack or whenever there is a life at risk, The Woodlands Fire Department is fully prepared to respond.”

Photography Courtesy Derrick Bryant

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

20 Years of Heroes

Article by: Missy Herndon 

In 1999, in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of The Woodlands, an initiative was started to honor our local Hometown Heroes: individuals and businesses who exemplify the values of our great community. A Hometown Hero is a positive role model, usually with an extensive history of volunteerism who has sacrificed personal gain to achieve noble goals. Some may have received special awards or recognitions; others may have brought positive recognition to our hometown. All are leaders, who have shown courage and strength, who have been nominated by their fellow neighbors and peers.

Mr. George P. Mitchell inducted the first class of Hometown Heroes over 20 years ago at the very first Celebration of Excellence Gala. Since that time, 133 individuals, businesses, institutions and non-profit organizations have received this honor. All of this has been made possible through the generosity of The Woodlands Development Company and The Woodlands Villager. This year, we are excited to add seven more Hometown Heroes to our distinguished list of honorees! Once again, we celebrate these individuals and organizations, along with all of our Hometown Heroes at The Woodlands’ Celebration of Excellence Gala, which will be held on Saturday, October 5, 2019, at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott.

Nominations for Hometown Heroes open every year, mid-May, and are selected by a committee of Hometown Heroes from previous years.

Please join me in congratulating our 2019 Hometown Heroes.

JERISSA BELSHA, MD

Dr. Jerissa Belsha is a native Texan, born in Lockhart, Texas to a loving family where her parents worked as a school teacher and principal for the local elementary school. After graduating high school as valedictorian, she went on to attend Texas A&M University, graduating first in her class with a Biomedical Science degree. She completed her medical degree and pediatric residency at the University of Texas at Houston, where she was awarded Intern of the Year and served as Chief Resident. During her medical training, she was able to volunteer with World Medical Missions in Papua New Guinea, serve at HIV clinics in Botswana and Romania and gain valuable experience through a medical internship in Beijing, China.

After residency, Dr. Belsha joined a pediatric hospitalist group caring for newborns and sick children in north Houston hospitals. In 2015, she joined the local practice called Agape Physicians and has been caring for the children of The Woodlands community ever since.

Dr. Belsha has been described by her friends as a “quiet leader.” Her reach among charitable causes is considerable throughout the greater Houston area. Each year, she coordinates a group of 20 women to put together over 200 stockings for Houston’s Little Footprints program. To benefit Love Fosters Hope, Jerissa helps organize a family field day to benefit foster children within the organization and along with her husband, mentored two teenagers, helping to fulfill a need in their lives for parental figures. She is an active volunteer for many area charities including Interfaith, The Will Herndon Research Fund, Love Fosters Hope, Giving Goes Glam, Free the Captives, Montgomery County Food Bank and A Dress for Barbara.

Outside of The Woodlands, Jerissa has a passion to help others and served as a physician on numerous medical mission trips to Honduras and Costa Rica through The Woodlands United Methodist Church. In her most recent mission trip this past spring, she encouraged several friends to join her where they were able to serve over 700 patients in the course of three days. Her love of others is evident in all she does within her medical practice, throughout the community and most importantly with her family; husband, Thomas and their two children, Emma and Logan. Residents of The Woodlands since 2010, The Belsha Family embodies the spirit of giving.

MARY-LOU E. FITCH

Mary-Lou Fitch arrived in The Woodlands in 1989 and hasn’t stopped working in support of the community ever since. Mary-Lou was instrumental in forming many organizations in The Woodlands area including Class Act Productions, Grogan’s Point Residents’ Association and The Woodlands Orchestra. Mary Lou has been an active volunteer with a number of local groups, including Meals on Wheels, The Woodlands Pavilion Partners Wine Dinner, Cypress Woodlands Junior Forum, National Charity League – The Woodlands Chapter, and CASA. She has served on The Planning Committee for The Celebration of Excellence Gala since inception and regularly volunteers for Interfaith of The Woodlands driving senior neighbors to their medical appointments. She has also served as a former Board Member at MCYS and in various other roles with the organization.

Most recently, Mary-Lou joined the American Heart Association’s Circle of Red, volunteering for their Go Red Luncheon. She is also a member of The Montgomery County Republican Women and has served on their board as Vice President of fundraising. She loves her community and is always willing to help out, hosting many fundraisers and events in her home. Mary-Lou has called The Woodlands her home since 1987 and doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon, adding to her 30 years of volunteering and service. In her spare time, Mary Lou enjoys traveling to visit her four grown daughters and six grandchildren.

STEPHEN C. HEAD, Ph.D.

Stephen C. Head, Ph.D. became the fourth chancellor of Lone Star College (LSC) in 2014 after thirty years of service to LSC. Located in the north Houston metropolitan area, LSC is one of the largest community colleges in the nation. His priorities are student access, equality, success and completion; academic quality; workforce programs in alignment with community needs; and collaborative agreements with educational, business, civic and charitable organizations. He views the college as a critical contributor to the social, cultural and economic well-being of the community. His values include operating the college on a sound, fiscally conservative model based on data, efficiencies, accountability, and common sense. He emphasizes transparency, ethical behavior and a culture of high expectations and achievement. Dr. Head is active in a number of local, state and national organizations that support the community college mission.

Dr. Head and his wife, Linda, both work at Lone Star College and reside in The Woodlands. They have four successful children and three grandchildren.

ALEX SUTTON

Alex Sutton serves as Co-President of The Woodlands Development Company, a division of The Howard Hughes Corporation. He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Civil Engineering from Rice University and a Master’s in Business Administration from The University of Houston.

Alex is a Licensed Professional Engineer, a Certified Public Accountant and has authored a number of technical papers and articles, holding two patents for computer-aided management approaches to managing public works systems. His responsibilities at The Woodlands primarily focus on project and land development and commercial activities. He and his family moved to The Woodlands upon joining The Company in 1994.

His civic and industry involvement includes service as the current Chairman of The Interfaith Board of Directors, Chairman of the North Houston Association, Director, The Montgomery County Foundation, Director, The Woodlands Economic Development Partnership, Director and Past Chairman, Montgomery County Youth Services, Director, The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, Director and Secretary, The Woodlands Township, and he is a Member of the Urban Land Institute. An Eagle Scout, he was named The Tall Timbers District’s 2012 “Good Scout” honoree.

Alex and his wife Sharon live in The Woodlands Town Center and are members of The Woodlands United Methodist Church. They have four adult children and six grandchildren, four of whom reside in The Woodlands.

JOSH URBAN

Josh Urban moved to The Woodlands in 1994 with his family. An avid runner, there was not a week that went by that most people would not see Josh and his brother, Gabe, running throughout The Woodlands on their daily long runs. This commitment led Josh to finish 2nd in the Houston Marathon, with his brother not far behind.

Urban began his tenure with Memorial Hermann in 2000 as an administrative fellow reporting to Dan Wolterman, former President and CEO of Memorial Hermann Health System. From there, he went on to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, working his way up from Director of Hospital Operations to Chief Ambulatory Services Officer. In 2008, Urban joined Memorial Hermann The Woodlands as Chief Operating Officer under now-retired CEO Steve Sanders. Just five years later, he assumed the position of CEO. In that time, he has managed expansion and renovation projects in excess of $250 million and led the hospital’s pursuit of Level II Trauma designation. In addition, Urban has been instrumental in creating a culture of excellence, which has been recognized nationally in the areas of quality, patient safety, and patient satisfaction. Under his direction, Memorial Hermann is the third largest employer in Montgomery County, with over 2,500 employees in the community.

An IRONMAN himself, Josh was a major influencer in bringing the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas event to The Woodlands which has generated revenue close to $14 million for The Woodlands community during each of the last nine years.

A 2011 graduate of Leadership Montgomery County, Urban currently serves on the boards of multiple business and civic organizations, including The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership and Interfaith of the Woodlands. He resides in The Woodlands with his wife and son. In his spare time, he enjoys running, fishing, hunting, and travel.

MARKET STREET THE WOODLANDS

Market Street The Woodlands, established in 2004, has been providing The Woodlands a center for an exquisite shopping experience, a variety of fine dining establishments, a movie theater and green space where visitors can relax and enjoy the company of others. In these 15 years, they have become the go-to destination for retail therapy, as well as community events.

Market Street has committed themselves to The Woodlands community in many ways. They lend their support to dozens of area non-profit organizations; not only with sponsorships dollars but also by encouraging their employees to serve on their boards and various committees. Additionally, Market Street is known to connect their tenants with charitable organizations, helping to raise awareness of local causes and increase philanthropic support. Their Change for Charity program selects one non-profit organization for each quarter of the year as the beneficiary of the coins collected through the street parking meters. Since the program began, customer donations have exceeded $200,000.

Their Central Park area features a green space, performance stage and splash pad, giving families and visitors a beautiful place to gather. This area is also home to many events Market Street produces including their Spring and Fall Concert Series, Spring Fine Arts Show, Holiday Tree Lighting and Grand Chanukah Celebration. They have also generously hosted local events such as The Woodlands 4th of July Parade, The Woodlands’ Car Club Cars & Coffee For a Cause, the annual HEB Wine Walk, Cultural & Heritage Festival, Ten 4 Texas Road Race, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk, which bring hundreds of people together for fellowship and comradery.

LEADERSHIP MONTGOMERY COUNTY

Leadership Montgomery County (LMC) is dedicated to developing and enhancing the current and future leaders of Montgomery County by preparing emerging and existing leaders to understand local issues, grow their leadership skills, and connect with others to better serve Montgomery County.

LMC’s core program is a class of business and community leaders that spans nine months between September and May. Throughout this time, participants learn through sessions on Infrastructure, Education, Government, Public Safety, Economic Development, Healthcare, Serving Our Community and Leadership Development. The LMC program promotes knowledge, awareness, and insight into our community, providing an educational forum and leadership development opportunities for participants.

Leadership Montgomery County originally began as Leadership Conroe, launched in 1987 through the Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce. In 1995, through a collaboration with The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, the program evolved into Leadership Montgomery County. Since that time the Greater East Montgomery County Chamber, the Greater Magnolia Parkway Chamber, the Montgomery County Hispanic Chamber, and the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce have also become partner chambers, as LMC transitioned into a nonprofit of its own. True to its original mission, LMC has been shaping strong leaders throughout the community, producing more than 850 graduates during the past 32 years.

LMC graduates continue to grow as leaders through alumni lifetime learning offerings including educational programs, social activities, and opportunities to give back. LMC alumni can be found throughout the community serving as nonprofit board members, political leaders, CEOs, and much more.

 

 

Interfaith Celebration of Excellence Gala Honors 20 Years of Heroes

The Woodlands Celebration of Excellence Gala, themed “Twenty Years of Heroes,” was held at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center on Saturday, October 5th.

The 20th annual event, chaired by DeAnn Guidry, was dedicated to honoring the 2019 Hometown Heroes while also celebrating the nearly 130 heroes that have been nominated over the past twenty years. The highly anticipated annual event raises money for crisis assistance in South Montgomery County.

Upon arrival, more than 600 guests entered a beautifully decorated ballroom filled with intricate lighting and ornate floral arrangements. Pianist, George Ruehle, entertained the guests while they enjoyed the silent auction and cocktail reception.
Alex Sutton, Chairman of Interfaith’s Board of Directors, and Missy Herndon, President and CEO of Interfaith of The Woodlands welcomed guests and celebrated the Honorary Event Chair, Waste Connections, Inc. Interfaith’s service and mission were made evident by each individual who continued to take the podium.

Hometown Hero Attendees at 2019 Gala

Since 1999, when the original class of 25 Hometown Heroes were honored in celebration of The Woodlands’ 25th Anniversary, Interfaith has recognized outstanding individuals and organizations in the community by presenting them with the title of Hometown Hero. Touching videos played on the screens, reflecting the generosity of the 2019 Hometown Heroes. Each Hero was awarded a medallion, a Congressional Commendation presented by United States Congressman Kevin Brady, and a Senate Proclamation from Texas State Senator Brandon Creighton. The Hometown Heroes for 2019 are: Jerissa Belsha, MD, Mary-Lou E. Fitch, Stephen C. Head, Ph.D., Alex Sutton, Josh Urban, Market Street The Woodlands, and Leadership Montgomery County.

The event offered a fantastic live auction and fund-a-need opportunities that featured numerous luxurious experiences including a VIP trip to Disney, naming rights to the longest pedestrian bridge in The Woodlands Town Center, SEWELL for all Seasons, and various other unique items. Thomas Markle Jewelers provided a Tudor watch that one lucky winner was able to claim in the raffle.
Interfaith typically serves over 1,500 clients in crisis monthly, with those numbers expected to increase as the Holiday Season approaches. Gala guests were among the first to view a video testimony from a client who fell on hard times and utilized the many programs and services at Interfaith to help her and her children get back on their feet. The impact of this storytelling was felt throughout the room as attendees were asked to lend their support.

“We are so grateful to live in a community that shows up to celebrate and support each other,” says Herndon. “For 46 years Interfaith has walked alongside our neighbors in crisis. No matter the magnitude, we step in to help families rebuild. Being able to offer hope in the midst of devastation is only possible through the generous donations we are blessed to receive. We are forever grateful to our donors.”

Interfaith of The Woodlands is a nonprofit social service agency providing programs and services to meet the needs of The Woodlands and the surrounding area. Interfaith provides basic needs assistance and special programs to families experiencing a financial crisis, and supportive service through care and wellness programs to senior adults 62 and over, in addition to many community programs dedicated to improving the lives of individuals in need. For more information on Interfaith’s programs and services or to become a volunteer, please visit woodlandsinterfaith.org or call 281-367-1230.

 

 

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.

Hope Soars at Spirit of the Woods Gala

Nearly 500 guests gathered at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott for the Spirit of the Woods gala benefiting Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands recently. Guests were treated to highflying acts and daredevil drops all in support of the outreach and care Texas Children’s provides to underserved families in the community.

Michelle Riley-Brown addressing the nearly 500 gala guests to share the remarkable milestones from Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands since opening in 2017

Michelle Riley-Brown, president of Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, provided updates on the hospital’s successes since opening in 2017, including the remarkable milestones of completing 351,000 patient visits, more than 86,100 emergency center visits, and 18,787 surgeries. She also commended the astounding generosity of The Woodlands community, which – through this gala – helped raise more than $800,000 to care for the area’s most vulnerable children.

The stunning event honored Missy and Wayne Herndon who are an integral part of the community and continue to make a lasting impact on Texas Children’s. The gala was made possible by Stacey and Steve Bourque, as well as the dedicated gala committee.

Eric and Denise Lipar

Inspiring artwork by Will Herndon auctioned live during the event

Janet Wong and Brooke Schmidt

Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands leadership team: Ketrese White, Dr. Paul Sirbaugh, Ivett Shah, Michelle Riley-Brown and Dr. Jeffrey Shilt

teve and Stacey Bourque; Wayne, Missy, Magnus, Will, and Steele Herndon

Highflying act by Antigravity

Guests take in the festivities at the Spirit of the Woods gala benefiting vulnerable patients cared for by Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands

Content Provided: Chinh Phan

How Good Nutrition Slows Cognitive Decline

Your brain needs a variety of nutrients in order to develop and function properly. Almost everything you consume will directly or indirectly affect your brain. There is much evidence to suggest that what we do for the brain now can have a big impact on how it functions in the years, even decades, to come. A healthy diet has the potential to alter our brain health and mental function. Thereby delaying or protecting against age-related cognitive decline. Nutrition gives the brain the tools and building blocks it needs to perform vital actions like thinking, making memories, and repairing cell damage.

In order to be sure your brain has all the nutrients it needs to work properly, eat a wide variety of whole foods. This includes good sources of protein, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fish, and other sources of healthy fats. A healthy diet that is low in fat and high in essential nutrients reduces the risk of memory loss, helps prevent strokes and boosts alertness.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
The healthy fats, omega-3s and omega-6s, found in salmon, walnuts and kiwi fruit, provide many benefits. This includes improving learning and memory and helping to fight against such cognitive disorders such as dementia. Omega fatty acids are essential building blocks for the cell membrane of brain cells. They seem to reduce inflammation in the brain, as well as warding off the cognitive decline that often comes with age.


B VITAMINS
The B vitamins, particularly B12, B6, and Folate (B9), are critical for the cellular energy metabolism in the brain. B12 is important for a cell process called methylation, a basic chemical process that all cells, including brain cells, require to thrive. B12 also protects against age-related atrophy of brain cells and against damage to the brain’s white matter, which allows brain cells to communicate with each other. Without enough B12 in the brain, memory impairment sets in and gradually gets worse, leading to dementia. You can find Vitamin B6 in the highest quantities in potatoes, bananas, chickpeas, and oatmeal. You can find Folate in leafy greens, citrus fruits, peas, and beans.


PHYTOCHEMICALS/FLAVONOIDS
Phytochemicals are chemicals derived from plant sources that may help your memory. There are a number of types of phytochemicals. However, a key group that often acts as antioxidants is the flavonoids. You can find it in plant-derived foods like blueberries, apples, citrus fruits, and black and green tea. These compounds provide a multitude of health benefits to the body and brain. In addition, they play important roles in repairing damage in the brain by increasing levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce damage to cells in the brain.

ANTIOXIDANTS
The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative damage. Antioxidants and essential fatty acids help to protect your brain cells from everyday damage and age-related decline. Some studies have found that extracts from blueberries, strawberries, spinach, and blackberries have a strong antioxidant capacity. They may reverse the normal cognitive changes and memory problems that accompany the aging process.

CURCUMIN
Another type of flavonoid is a compound you may not have heard of, curcumin. You can find it in a common Indian spice and offers protection to the aging brain. Curcumin, nicknamed “The Spice of Mental Life”, is from the root of the tumeric plant. It benefits the brain by providing protection against neurological disorders. As an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-amyloidal agent, curcumin can improve cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.


VITAMIN D
In addition to supporting bone health, vitamin D serves important functions in brain health. It is thought to protect the brain against cognitive deficits that come with age. Vitamin D also influences certain proteins that help in neuron growth and development and is involved in many other important aspects of brain function like synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory.

The best way to preserve our mental health in the future is to nourish our brains in the present. How we eat now can dramatically affect our brains. More and more evidence shows that people who maintain good nutrition throughout life have less risk for cognitive decline and other brain diseases as they age. It’s never too late to reverse some of the effects of poor nutrition. Also, the choices you make today will influence your body and brain in years to come. This shows that changes in diet can enhance cognitive abilities, protecting the brain from damage and counteracting the effects of aging.

At Avanti Senior Living, the Avanti Green Kitchen offers meals with no grease or oil and no fried food. Meals include the freshest ingredients, no pre-made foods, taking into account the requests of the community. Find out more on the Avanti blog at: https://www.avanti-sl.com/

Content provided by Avanti Senior Living

Yes to Youth Gala

Elaborate costumes and intricate décor blew guests away as they entered the Ignite Their Light Yes to Youth Gala, a themed event benefitting Yes to Youth. The ballroom was striking with ornate lighting and elegant floral centerpieces. The lights served as a reminder for the cause-inspiring and helping children who have experienced difficult hardships. The Yes to Youth Gala, presented by Tricia and Jack Futcher, was chaired by Katrina Savage and Michelle Maggert, and honored Tom Pisula as well as Waste Connections.

The evening benefited Yes to Youth Montgomery County Youth Services, a private nonprofit organization dedicated to helping youth and their families overcome challenges. Yes to Youth offers crisis counseling, shelter programs, and prevention services aimed to keep youth in school and prepare them to be productive citizens.

Haley Garcia and Travis Ellard

The evening was full of powerful, emotional moments. A special dance performance to “This is Us’ by Boni’s Dance and Performing Arts Studio kicked off the night. Katrina Savage and Michelle Maggert, the Gala Chairs, shared various testimonies explaining the profound impact that this organization has had on so many. A powerful music performance by Theresa Black, Hannah Johnson, and Special Guests left the audience moved and inspired to give back. The live auction and raffle concluded the evening. The attendees left the Yes to Youth Gala with a kindled spark to truly Ignite Their Light and make a difference in the lives of others.

Patti, Dr. Lucian Rivela, Dr. Ann, and Jerry Snyder

Linda Freede, Worthing Jackman, Keith Gordan, and Michelle Little

Live Auction

Bret and Angela Strong

Ushering in Fall and Embracing Seasonal Décor

As the fall season comes to fruition it seems only fitting that we transform our homes into a place of warm color schemes and comfortable textures. Combine these with some deep scents of baking and cooking, and you capture the magical formula of cozy. Because you must ask yourself, “what is it that we are truly trying to create in our homes?” It’s a place of comfort, a place that you feel safe and secure. A place where we can escape the mundane activities of the world outside the home. This space isn’t just created for your enjoyment, it is to welcome others into it and share. To give them access to a space of comfort and security while they are in your home.

Just as there is a changing of the seasons outside we too express the gearing up of the holidays indoors. It symbolizes the fact that we have made it through another summer, another start to a school year, and another transition of our lives. This is the season where families and friends are the focus.

Fall gives us a color pallet rich in variety, offering choices for each individual’s discerning taste. The length of the decorating season should run from September 1st until December 1st. It’s important to let autumn linger in your home. Do not rush into the next season of home decor, let your home radiate the true presence of the season we are in. There is a universal acceptance to rush Christmas décor in a home. The urgency that is placed on bringing the Christmas season into a home is a misconception. A reminder that Thanksgiving is a holiday of gathering and welcoming others should be granted permission to hold a significant presence in a home.

When it comes to outdoor decorating:
Garnish your doors with wreaths and your porches with real and faux pumpkins. Incorporate hay to create dimension and height. Scarecrows are always a fun choice as are metal signs. When buying be sure that your outdoor décor can withstand the elements. Polyurethane spray is always a good buy from your local hardware store. Applying this will help items with color avoid becoming sun-bleached by the end of the season.

Hosting opportunities:
With so many opportunities to host friends, use this season to reconnect with those that are important to you.

One idea is to host a Sunday football party. The time of day is perfect because it allows your guests the morning for church or other plans, and they will be able to leave at a decent hour to prepare for the start of their next week. Be sure to pre-set the table for snacks. Fill trays of appetizers and have several bowls of chips. Having everything done before guests arrive will mean that you can enjoy them while they are there.

Another idea could be to host a progressive dinner in your neighborhood. Each house is in charge of a different stage of the meal. Choose three other families or friends in the area and pitch the idea to them. Appetizer, Salad, Entrée, and Desserts. Draw out of a hat to assign the respective courses. Choose a genre of food and let the rest be the choice of each hosting home. Opening your homes in the fall season will help remind you of all that we are truly thankful for during this season.

Interior Decorating:
Set the stage of your social gatherings by having swags of magnolia leaves on your staircase or mantles. Swap out your family pictures, change them to pictures that are set outside. Use pictures from years gone by of Halloween and Thanksgiving celebrations. Be sure to incorporate throw pillows and throw blankets. Layering your home creates depth. Have some pumpkins around inside your home too. Candles help to set the tone and the fragrance of your home, the season has amazing scents to choose from like apple strudel and pumpkin spice.

Color Trends of the season:
Navy, coral, spice and rich burgundies are all extremely popular. These colors are easy to find in wall art, lamps, pillows and accessories.

Quick Home Transformations:
There are several ways to completely transform your home without buying a lot. A set of lamps will dramatically change the space. You can update your home and replace lamps that might not be the look you’re currently trying to achieve. Another quick and easy way is to buy four throw pillows. You will be amazed by how much new pillows on your sofa or chair can change the look.

Remember your home is a reflection of who you are. You are the creator of the space, you share a part of your story each time someone is welcomed into your home. From the furniture you have to the color of your walls, it all leads back to you. This season of autumn invites you to open your home and let the love you have inside flow to others whom you welcome in. I wish for all of you to have a home filled with joy this season and to embrace the true meaning of the season as I also personally reflect with much gratitude for all that it is and always has been for me.

Happy Fall Y’all and Gobble ‘til you Wobble!

Author: Mallory Allison Dale is the owner of Laurie’s Home Furnishings in Tomball, Texas. Laurieshomefurnishings.com.

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

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