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From thePublisher


Fifteen years ago, I met one of the most beautiful, kind, sweet young women. She was so excited to get married and was eager to tell me all about her wedding. I was honored to be hired as their wedding photographer. It seems like just yesterday. She and her handsome groom were like Barbie and Ken – beautiful and handsome and in love with one another. Being a part of a wedding, which is such an emotional time in the lives of couples, allows you to get to know them and care about them. Fast forward. Did I tell you that I loved this couple – and their families? Social media is good for keeping up with people you know and love but may not regularly see. Over the years, Ashley and Clint Duncan have grown up, to say the least. Now with three beautiful children, I love watching Ashley’s social media and seeing what wonderful parents they have become. It was there that I found out about Gracie’s accident. It was there that I kept up with her recovery. And it was there that I saw what amazing things God did in all of their lives! Taking the family’s portraits for their article allowed me the time to meet all the kids in person and talk with Ashley and Clint for a little while. They are still the down-to-earth, sweet people I met 15 years ago. They just have a few more responsibilities than they did then. LOL! I hope you enjoy reading about how they came together to help their family during a time of crisis. They will forever be one of my favorite wedding couples. May God bless you and yours…

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When God Stepped In By: Anne Granado Ashley and Clint Duncan stood next to their 14-year-old daughter Gracie’s hospital bed at LSU Health Shreveport and tried to stay strong when the doctor told them that what they had originally believed to be a concussion was, in fact, a traumatic brain injury. It was every parent’s worst nightmare. However, the story that followed is a testament to the family’s faith and a mother’s love and determination to help her child on the road to recovery. Ashley and Clint Duncan have been married for 15 years. Clint is the owner of Pipe Monkey Plumbing, a profession he began right out of high school. Ashley has been a dental hygienist for 16 years and currently works for Dr. Mark Addington. The couple has three beautiful children that keep them busy. “Gracie is fourteen years old, and she is carefree, always smiling, loves people and horses. She looks the most like me, but personality-wise, we are not the same,” Ashley says. “She is not very organized, and nothing bothers her. I am very organized, and I like to stick to a schedule.” Their middle child is Gunner, who is eleven years old. “He is very athletic, and honestly, anything he does, he does it well. From sports to making good grades, he is competitive and tries always to give his best,” Ashley says. “His room is always clean, and he has his own personal style with clothes and tennis shoes.” Though they did not think they would ever have a third child, Ashley and Clint cannot imagine life without their “caboose,” Greenlie, who is six years old. “Greenlie is a firecracker! She has a huge personality and never meets a stranger. Life would be pretty boring without her,” Ashley says. “She really looks up to her brother and sister, and she has big plans to be an even better barrel racer than her sister!”  For Ashley, the best part of being a mother is how full and busy her days are with the kids’ activities. Though it can also be challenging, Ashley loves filling her calendar with A LT M a g a z i n e | M a y 2 0 2 1

rodeos, tumbling classes, cheerleading, track, baseball, and volleyball. “The parenting advice I live by is to ‘take it one day at a time.’ I’ve become less particular and more relaxed on house chores and laundry the older I get and the more kids I’ve had! Now, I realize that all that can wait, and I’ll get to it eventually,” Ashley says. “I’m either more easy-going or just tired!” Most of the time, it is impossible for both Clint and Ashley to attend the same event. They have to split up to get the kids to all of their activities. Clint usually takes Gunner to baseball tournaments, and Ashley usually has the girls and their horses for play days and rodeos. It was on a busy day like this that Gracie had the accident that led to her injury. Ashley had taken Greenlie and Gracie to a rodeo event in Springhill, Arkansas. Gracie started riding horses when she was eight years old. After letting go of a short dancing career, Gracie asked her parents about horses. Clint had grown up with a horse, and Ashley’s grandfather loved horses. This family history made it easier to imagine owning a horse. Gracie started taking lessons from one of Ashley’s friends, who had a lot of experience working with horses on ranches. “Gracie never looked back; she loves it. Now, all my kids ride,” Ashley says. “Greenlie has been going to rodeos since she was two, and she’s fearless. She’s so proud that she started riding at age six, two years before her sister started.” Gracie has participated in several riding clubs like Foreman Riding Club, Texarkana Boots and Saddle Club, and the Southwest Arkansas High School Rodeo Association through the last six years. In 2019, Gracie was named the 2019 New Boston Junior Rodeo Queen.  On October 3, 2020, Ashley and Greenlie watched Gracie complete her barrel event and pole event, but instead of just leaving the arena, Gracie asked to stay and watch a friend compete. Ashley agreed and headed off to the trailer 013

with Greenlie. Ashley says that the next part of the story happened within a matter of minutes. “I was standing at the trailer waiting for Gracie, when the friend that Gracie wanted to watch passed me. I told her ‘Good job,’ and waited for Gracie to be right behind her,” Ashley says. “But, instead, a girl we know, Kenzi Crumpton, came up to me with Gracie’s horse, Dakota. Kenzi was talking about how much Dakota looked like her sister’s horse, and I was trying to focus on the conversation, but I had a feeling that something was wrong.” Ashley took Dakota and tied him up, but she could not shake her ominous feeling. “At first, I thought maybe Dakota had untied himself with the halter. He’s very smart, but he had a bit in his mouth, not a halter,” Ashley says. “I just had this feeling, so I started to look behind the trailers, and I looked out into this field where I immediately saw Gracie laying there on her left side.”  Ashley tried to remain calm, and many people later told her that she was calm, but inside, she was scared. She ran to Gracie and called for help. She specifically called for a Texarkana friend, Patti Moore, who always knew what to do in tough situations. “Gracie would squeeze Patti’s hand, but she was moaning. It was like she was just asleep and couldn’t wake up. She never did open her eyes, but when the ambulance came, she was kicking her legs,” Ashley says. “I had a friend get Dakota and Greenlie and take them home, and I got in the ambulance with Gracie.” When they arrived at the nearest hospital in Springhill, doctors decided to airlift Gracie to the nearest major hospital: LSU Health in Shreveport. Because of COVID-19 and weight limits in the helicopter, they nearly left Ashley there, but she insisted on going with Gracie. They eventually gave in, and Ashley joined her daughter in the helicopter. It took 12 minutes to get to the hospital in Shreveport. “I just prayed the entire time and kept saying, ‘Let her be ok,’” Ashley says. “The paramedics kept reassuring me that it was probably a concussion, and I felt like that was the best-case scenario. When we landed, it was a true Grey’s Anatomy experience. The doors opened, and 20 people were there waiting on her.”  They whisked Gracie away for tests, and Ashley was left waiting and praying. Later, a doctor told her that they did see two small brain bleeds on the CT scan, but they said that they should resolve themselves over time. There was no need for surgery, but they wanted to watch them and do another scan in 24 hours. At this time, Clint arrived at the hospital after leaving Gunner’s football game. In fact, the whole family arrived for support, but COVID-19 prevented them from coming inside. Instead, they helped in other ways. Ashley’s mom brought them clean clothes, family and friends volunteered to help around the house and take care of Gunner and Greenlie, and the family was flooded with calls and texts of prayer and support. The nurses at LSU were also an amazing source of encouragement. Ashley is still friends with one nurse, Nicki, on Facebook, who still 014

checks in on Gracie to this day. “We were completely in awe of the number of people who reached out to us. We could not keep up with the messages, so I started updating everyone on Facebook,” Ashley says. “Now, it’s like a diary of that time, and I’m glad we have it to look back on because some things just feel like a blur, and Gracie does not even remember the entire month of October.” Ashley and Clint never left Gracie’s side in that first week at ICU. That first day, the doctors sedated Gracie, and she slept most of the day. She was only up for minutes at a time, and Ashley says that even when she was awake, she was not “with it.” She would not talk or respond to them, and seeing her daughter that way was scary. “I noticed when we got her up to use the restroom that she was not using her left side. She was dragging her left foot. My grandfather had a severe stroke, and he had left-side neglect, so I noticed it immediately,” Ashley says.  After the second CT scan, the doctors told Clint and Ashley that one brain bleed had been absorbed, but they were concerned about Gracie’s lack of responsiveness and the lack of movement in her left side. They completed x-rays of her arm and a scan of her shoulder, but the x-rays showed everything was normal. Finally, on the third day in ICU, they did an MRI and came to the family with a different diagnosis. “They said that Gracie has a TBI or a traumatic brain injury. I didn’t know what that was at first, but I have since learned SO much about it. Gracie’s was called a Diffuse Axonal Injury, but most people know it by shakenbaby syndrome. Essentially, she had tears in her brain, and they were causing the other symptoms they were seeing,” Ashley says. “From that moment, it went from being hopeful to scary. I think at that moment, all you can think is, ‘Will my child ever be like she was?’” These first few days, Gracie’s smile drooped as if she had suffered a severe stroke, and she did not use her left arm or leg. When she came out of sleep, she could not talk. The doctors reassured them that Gracie’s brain injury would heal, but they had no idea how long it would take.”I just took it one day at a time,” Ashley says. “I heard them say that it could take a while for her to heal, and I just prepared myself to be there with her on this long road.”  Gracie immediately started speech therapy in the hospital. Ashley remembers that Melissa Olivier, the therapist who worked with Gracie, seemed to work miracles with her. “She got her talking within two appointments, and it was so amazing to me. Melissa started by humming the happy birthday song. By the end of the song, Gracie said, ‘Happy birthday,’” Ashley says. “Melissa knew exactly what to do. She worked on Gracie’s smile line by getting her to do exercises with her mouth. I would watch each session, and after Melissa left, I would do those same things with Gracie.”  One day, Ashley noticed Gracie moving her fingers like she was writing something on Clint’s leg. She asked him to get her a piece of paper and something to write with, and A LT M a g a z i n e | M a y 2 0 2 1

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sure enough, Gracie started communicating with them with pictures and words. The first thing she wrote was, “I am hungry!!!” But, Clint and Ashley wanted to ask her about what happened on the day of the accident. “Gracie has been riding Dakota for four years, and he’s never done anything out of character. We asked her if she remembered being at the rodeo, and she did. We asked if Dakota kicked or bolted, and she said no. Eventually, we worked out that she knew that she fell, and he had dragged her a little bit before she came to rest in the field,” Ashley says. “We may never know the reason she fell. We believe that she passed out that day. She hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch, and we noticed that Gracie didn’t have any bruises or scratches like she attempted to stop herself from falling. She’s fallen before and always caught herself, so this felt different.” In the hospital, Ashley worried that Gracie would be too fearful from this accident to want to see Dakota or ride him, but Gracie begged her parents to FaceTime with him and would cry to see him or the family dog. “One thing I had never heard about before Gracie’s accident was a neuro cry. Even when Gracie couldn’t talk, she would make this bizarre moaning crying sound,” Ashley says. “The doctors said that it’s very typical with brain injuries and that Gracie would make it when she felt emotion but didn’t know how to express it. She made it when she was first able to see her siblings again, and she also did it with little things like when she was cold and couldn’t tell us.” 

our family, friends, and even people who just saw her story on Facebook. It’s amazing what prayers can do.” Once Gracie was released from the hospital, the next step was to get her into a rehab facility that specialized in neurobased injuries. Ashley found one, but insurance would not pay for it. “They paid for the entire week in the ICU, but would not pay for rehab. We knew we would have to pay cash, and it was hard to get her admitted anywhere,” Ashley says. “We finally found one in Fort Worth, and we worried about the expense. But, we knew that we had to do it, one way or another.”  When they heard about the cost of rehab, friends and family rushed to help the Duncan family. Southwest Rodeo Association put on an auction, Hope Livestock donated a calf to raise money, and Texarkana Boots and Saddle Club did a benefit barrel race. “Southwest Rodeo Association also collected many donations, and people who followed our story on Facebook sent money. Some of them didn’t even know Gracie, but they read her story and wanted to help,” Ashley says. “I was overwhelmed, and it showed me that there are still good and kind people in the world. I’m not a crier, but all the donations did make me emotional.”

"Gracie’s story is a wonderful testimony for myself in keeping faith that God would heal her, and also the power of prayer in our community.”

The time in the hospital was hard on both Ashley and Clint. They had to rely on each other, and they had to rely on lots of support from family and friends. “We had two other children at home, and we had Gracie who really needed us. We wanted to hear every doctor’s report, and I wanted to be at every therapy session so that I could learn how to help Gracie,” Ashley says. “If you’ve ever stayed in a hospital for an extended time, that’s hard as well. There was very limited space. Clint slept in the chair that reclined, and I normally slept in the bed with Gracie. But, you just have to do it. You have to stay strong and do what needs to be done.” Gracie’s speech continued to improve with help from Melissa Olivier. At the end of every session, she would make Gracie say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” a verse from Phillippians 4:13. Ashley says that Gracie couldn’t really understand the significance of what she was saying, but she repeated it dutifully. “I think it helped me to hear it more than it helped Gracie. We leaned on our faith in God and on all the prayers we had coming every single day,” Ashley says. “Sometimes, I don’t think Gracie realizes how fortunate she is and that things could have gone a different way. But, I credit it all to God and to the prayers of


Gracie was able to go home the weekend after she was discharged from the hospital before she started rehab. It was the first time she was able to see Gunner, Greenlie, and her horse, Dakota. “We took a video of her walking out to see Dakota the first time. She was still not making use of her left side, and when she watches this video today, she cannot believe that was her,” Ashley says. “That weekend, Greenlie looked at Clint and told him that ‘Gracie wasn’t the same Gracie.’ It was heartbreaking. She knew that she was different.” That following Monday, Ashley and Clint made the drive to Fort Worth with Gracie. It was cheaper for them to seek outpatient care, so the couple got a hotel room and drove Gracie to rehab every morning at 9 a.m. and picked her up at 3 p.m. On the weekends, they drove home. It was a sacrifice for the family. Ashley and Clint would divide up the days. If Ashley stayed Monday and Tuesday, Clint would stay Wednesday and Thursday and bring her home Friday. They constantly shuffled the schedule, got help with Greenlie and Gunner, and made the long drive back and forth to Fort Worth. But, they knew that Gracie needed the help, so they committed to paying for her to stay for at least two weeks. “In the initial assessment, they told us that it would take Gracie at least 12 months to be back to herself. A year seemed like such a long time, but I’m a realist,”

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Ashley says. “So, I just decided that I wouldn’t get my hopes up and that I would take everything day by day. I knew we had a long road, and I was just going to pace it out. Every small thing she did was a big deal.” Ashley and Clint could not go into the rehab facility because of COVID-19, so Ashley could not see the actual treatments. However, they got reports from the therapists. They told Ashley that Gracie was being very combative that first week. “One of the issues was that the brain injury was making her tired, but the therapists pushed her instead of letting her come there and sleep,” Ashley says. “They said that she would get angry, throw things and hit, which are so very unlike my daughter, but it reminded me of my grandfather after his stroke.”

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There were other major changes that Ashley noticed in Gracie’s demeanor and physical ability. “One thing that was really noticeable was that even when she could talk, she could not carry on conversations; it was like she was there, but she wasn’t there,” Ashley says. “She was very monotone, and it felt like she was just going through the motions. Today she doesn’t remember the first weeks in rehab. She said that it was like she was in a dream.” They also noticed that Gracie lacked depth perception and impulse control. She would trip and fall, walk out in the middle of the street with cars coming, or eat extremely fast and get hiccups. If they stopped at the famous Buc-ee’s on one of the many road trips, she would grab candy off the shelf and start eating it. “It was like having a three-year-old again, and it was just bizarre. You just didn’t know what she was going to do,” Ashley says. “There were so many things that she had to relearn. It was a full-time job watching her.”  After two weeks in rehab, Gracie was making progress. At first, she could only squeeze five pounds with her left hand, but soon, she was squeezing sixty. She was also making progress walking and talking. Even though it was hard to push her, Ashley worked with Gracie continuously when she was at home on the weekends. Ashley also researched TBI recovery so that she could help her. “We did resistance bands, walked, and did planks. I read that running stimulates both sides of the brain, so I got her running with me. It felt like we were behind if we weren’t doing anything,” Ashley says. “I know she was sick of me, but I continued the facial exercise we learned in the hospitals, and I would constantly force her to use her left hand even with little things like washing her face.”  Ashley and Clint only planned on sending Gracie for two weeks to rehab, but after seeing Gracie’s progress, they decided to pray about adding a third week. “It was very expensive, but we wanted her to have the best treatment offered,” Ashley says. “Every time we saw her, there were small changes. So, we decided to send her a third week.” 

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Gracie progressed in major ways that third week. When Ashley came to pick her up, Gracie looked at her and sincerely asked her what had happened to her. “She looked at me, and for the first time, I felt like it was really my kid,” Ashley says. “She said that she knew she fell, but she had no idea what happened to her or how she ended up in rehab. I showed her my Facebook posts, and she just read them and cried. She could not believe that was her. Even the therapists at rehab saw the change. They jokingly told her about how she acted that first week, and she was so embarrassed. She had no memory of any of that.” Ashley took Gracie to the mall, and as they walked around, Ashley could not help but think that Gracie was acting “normal.” She said that it was like a lightbulb had gone off. “I truly believe that her rapid recovery had everything to do with all the people she had praying for her. People she didn’t know, like my patients at work asking about her and praying for her,” Ashley says. “When we took her to see a doctor, the nurse actually knew her from seeing her story on Facebook. I know that there is a lot of bad on Facebook, but there is a lot of good, too. Gracie’s story spread so fast, and she had so many people praying for her. Even Melissa from ICU would respond with Phillippians 4:13 on all of my posts. That verse got me through it.”  The next stage in Gracie’s recovery was to help her figure out what “normal” would look like back home. “We knew we had to hire a sitter when we were at work, get her into a rehab, and start homeschooling through Redwater ISD where she was in eighth grade,” Ashley says. Their first stop was a doctor who would help them get set up with rehab in Texarkana. However, he was in awe of her progress after only four weeks with a TBI. “He actually told us that she had progressed so much he didn’t see that rehab would help her. She was very happy about that news, but we wanted to be sure she wouldn’t regress,” Ashley says. “But, I knew enough at this point to continue helping her at home.”  They signed Gracie up for homeschool, but after one week, she said she was ready to go back to school. Ashley called the principal, who helped with accommodations and scheduling. “The biggest struggle in school is helping Gracie with short-term memory loss. Before her accident, she had all A’s in every class, but now, everything is much harder for


her. We will work on a concept over and over before a test or quiz. I will quiz her on it, and she will know it. But, she will go in for the test or quiz, and it’s like she has never seen it before,” Ashley says. “However, her teachers have been wonderful. Her math teacher tutored her every day for six weeks and reviewed her in study hall before a quiz or test. Her next grade was a 91, and the short-term memory loss is getting better all the time.” Next, Gracie started running track, and she wanted to try out for the high school cheerleading squad, especially since her arm was fully functioning again. “I worked with her over and over on her cheer. I was even saying it to myself at work!” Ashley says. “But, then we would practice, and she would forget the words. We kept working, and at tryouts, she did it and made varsity cheerleader just a few weeks ago.”  The most common question that Ashley gets when someone sees Gracie’s remarkable progress is whether or not she will ever ride her horse again. “Yes, Gracie is already riding Dakota again. The neurosurgeon did not clear her to ride in any rodeos in January, and she was disappointed. But, the doctor said that he wasn’t worried about Gracie’s current injury; he didn’t want her to get another injury so close to the previous one. So, we are riding with a helmet right now,” Ashley says. “We don’t blame Dakota at all. It was just something bizarre that happened that day.”  One unusual thing that Ashley remembers from the day of the accident is the fact that Dakota allowed himself to be caught. “Dakota is extremely smart and stubborn. If you try to catch him, he won’t come to you willingly. But, after Gracie fell, he went right up to a group of people. Clint Lummus got him, and then Kenzi brought him to us,” Ashley says. “I feel like it was his way of going to get help.”  Today, Gracie continues to progress and defy the statistics. What was supposed to take a year in rehab only took a little over a month. “Her injury was a life-defining moment for me. Her recovery has been remarkable, and Gracie’s story is a wonderful testimony for myself in keeping faith that God would heal her, and also the power of prayer in our community,” Ashley says. “People prayed for my daughter daily, and those prayers changed what doctors said would be a long road to recovery to a short walk. Gracie is truly a miracle.”

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By: Anne Granado

Skylar Smith is known as the “The Piano Man” around Texarkana, where he entertains crowds at restaurants, weddings, and events. People love him for his diverse playlist and his impeccable skill. He entertains the crowds, and they cheer, but what they may not know is that Skylar is mostly self-taught. His natural talent on the piano was discovered by accident, but his desire to learn and improve is part of what drives him to be the best. Skylar grew up in Hooks, Texas, with parents Steven and Angie Smith and brothers Shawn and Storm Smith. Skylar always remembers loving music and enjoying it, but he said he did not really appreciate it or notice all the nuances of music until he was older. “I went through different phases of what kind of music I listened to like rock, country, and even a phase of just listening to Lionel Richie!” Sklyar says. “But today, I pretty much listen to all genres of music except heavy death metal.” Growing up, Skylar joined the school band to be like his older brother, Shawn, who played the saxophone. Though he originally played the trumpet, Skylar was drawn to the piano and started playing. “I love music, in general, and I loved playing the trumpet as well. But when I started playing piano, it felt more natural, and the

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fact that I would play multiple notes and chords interested me more,” Skylar says. “Playing the piano is now one of my favorite things to do, and it’s something I would never give up.” Hooks did not have a piano teacher on staff, so Skylar began to teach himself to play by watching YouTube videos. “Eventually, I caught on to the techniques and patterns that songs tend to have. I would just practice every day once I got home and try to learn a few new songs a week,” Skylar says. “Also, the band directors at Hooks High School, T. Jon Kelly, Adair Melton, and Belyn Graves, were helpful with my interest in piano! They gave me lots of tips and advice about trying out in the jazz field. I’m forever grateful for all the musical knowledge that my high school band directors provided me.” After high school graduation, Skylar took classes for two semesters at Texarkana College. In that time, he signed up for music classes with MarcAndre Bougie and Mary Scott Goode. “They were amazing teachers! I learned quite a few things concerning music theory and classical training, and I can’t thank them enough for putting their time and effort into teaching me what they know and trying to help me become a successful musician,” Skylar says. “I would recommend any upcoming student to take


classes from them! It helped me realize that I have so much more to learn about music and piano.” Skylar’s first major job was playing the piano at his brother’s wedding. After receiving positive reviews, Skylar’s parents helped him start a name for himself in Texarkana. “My mom, Angie, deserves a lot of credit for helping me out in a business way,” Skylar says. “She was the one that mainly booked my gigs and helped me advertise. My parents also helped me get professional equipment to play at these gigs. I owe them so much.” After the wedding, Skylar’s next big job was playing at Scottie’s Grill in Texarkana. He played alongside his brother, which made Skylar feel a little bit more comfortable in front of the crowd. “I couldn’t have gotten where I am today without my family. They were very supportive of my goals and dreams,” Skylar says. “My wife, Carmela Aquino, also encourages my passions and career, so I’m very grateful for her company and time!”


While playing at Scottie’s, Skylar had to fight against his own nervousness, but he knew that he would have to make peace with those feelings if he wanted to turn his ability into a business. “I used to be super shy and scared to show my piano playing ability, but I’ve grown to have more confidence when playing songs and asking people if they want to request a song,” Skylar says. “Don’t get wrong, though; I’m still very shy and have a long way to go.” Since that first big job, Skylar has played at many restaurants, events, and weddings. He says that the most requested songs are “Last Date” by Floyd Cramer, “Piano Man” by Billy Joel or any Elton John song. “My playlist just has a random mix of songs; I try to play a little bit of everything to accommodate the crowd,” Skylar says. “I tailor my playlist depending on the situation. But it’s mostly country, rock, pop, and R&B.” When someone requests a song that Skylar doesn’t know how to play, he pulls it up on his phone and listens to it in order to learn it quickly. “But if it’s a complex song, I will

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tell the person making the request to come back next week, and I’ll have the song learned,” Skylar says. “It also brings business to the restaurant if they actually come back to listen!” Starting in May, Skylar Smith will be playing exclusively during the week at Naaman’s BBQ on Stateline Avenue. He will play Tuesday from 4 p.m. to close. He will play Wednesday for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and then he will play from Thursday to Saturday night from 4 p.m. to close. Darby Neaves, owner of Naaman’s BBQ says, “I went to Shreveport one night to check out my competition when I first started grilling steaks. I won’t name the place, but I didn’t think the steak was any good. However, I loved the piano player. The second time I saw him, I went up to him and asked if he played in Texarkana, and he said that he was from Hooks.” Darby started inviting Skylar to play at the restaurant more frequently. “I recently bought him a grand piano and asked him to play for the restaurant exclusively,” Darby says. “I think the world of him. He’s a great talent. He’s so humble, but he works so hard. He can play anything, and if he can’t play it today, he will learn it by tomorrow.” Skylar says that the more he played at Naaman’s, the more he got to know Darby, and the more he respected his business. “He’s a very generous man, and I trust him, so here we are today,” Skylar says. “I want to see his restaurant become the best around because he deserves it.”

frustration of struggling at first make you quit. I understand how it feels to constantly repeat playing a certain song until I get it perfect. You just want to be able to learn it quickly, but usually, you just can’t. It takes lots of practice and self-discipline,” Skylar says. “I think you should get started in whatever way makes you feel comfortable and take it at your own pace, but be persistent. Whether it’s taking lessons, reading a music book, or teaching yourself on YouTube, don’t give up on learning.” If you would like to contact Skylar Smith for your next event, please call 903-908-5354. 

For anyone who has a dream of playing piano but wonders if it is too late, Skylar would tell them not to give up. “Don’t let the

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Faith of a child...

By Michelle Cox

Chloe’s Journey of Faith Foundation is a small, local 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to supporting and advocating for local families that have children diagnosed with cancer. It was founded by 12-year-old Chloe Cox, daughter of Michelle and Matthew Cox, of Texarkana, Texas. She began this mission in 2016 during her battle with terminal brain cancer. From the moment Chloe arrived in Houston for advanced treatment for Glioblastoma brain cancer, she began her mission of bringing joy and love to others like her. We are blessed and thankful to be able to carry her torch today, honoring her Chloe Cox, Founder amazing faith-filled legacy and journey along with all of the other warriors! I knew it would be her legacy to do something big in life. We believed she would receive her healing and be a testimony to others of what hope looks like in faith and love for our Savior. You never saw her without a smile, even when she was scared or not feeling well. She wanted to make a difference and be a light to others. What we never expected was to have to build on what she started without her. Since Chloe’s passing in 2017, her foundation that started out as just a simple ministry turned into an official local 501(c)(3) in February 2019.  Over the past four years, we have had the opportunity to hand out over 2000 bibles with her testimony in them to kids attending Fields of Faith and have been a t-shirt sponsor every year since. We have handed out thousands of bracelets with some of Chloe’s favorite scriptures of encouragement as well. We have helped 13 local families who have children with cancer. We have handed out approximately 160 hand-cut, embroidered blankets tied with love to children at MD Anderson and surrounding areas. We have donated over $5000 to Alex’s Lemonade Stand for research and over $2,000 to other non-profits we support. We have donated approximately $12,000 to local families for travel expenses away from home during treatments and $5,500 for Chloe’s memorial scholarship fund with nine recipients as of 2021. This may not seem like much, but in four years, we have only had a handful of small fundraisers, monetary donations, and one “Knots for Noggins” 5K run to help us raise money to do this.  Our desire is to continue advocating for children with cancer as long as God needs us to. This journey was never one we would have expected, and even though Chloe did not have the opportunity to share a testimony of healing personally, she has shared her testimony of faith, hope, love, courage, perseverance, and her heart and motto of “never giving up no matter what,” through her foundation.  Our foundation is always looking for sponsors, volunteers, donors, and board members to keep us moving forward, building on what Chloe started. If you would like to help, please contact Michelle Cox, (903)278-9184, or donate through our website at CJOF.ORG. The month of May is dedicated to Brain Cancer Awareness month, and the ribbon support color is GRAY. Please help us as we support our WARRIORS, celebrate our SURVIVORS, honor those “AKEN and never give up HOPE by wearing the color GRAY through the month of MAY!  Approximately 300,000 children and teens around the globe are diagnosed with cancer each year, with brain tumors among the most common. Brain Tumors are the #1 cause of death by disease in children and adolescents in the U.S. One in every 285 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer. ONLY 4% of all federal funding is devoted to childhood cancer research. In the past 30 years, only four FDA-approved drugs – and one medical device – have been developed to treat all brain tumors. There has never been a drug developed and approved to specifically treat malignant brain tumors in children. 028

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of all kids who are diagnosed with the disease will not survive.


of every dollar spent by the National Cancer Institute is spend on children.




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Spring Fashion 032

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The weather is warming up, the flowers are blooming, and it is definitely time to bury our winter clothes and start looking for the latest in spring fashion. Thankfully, we have the best places in Texarkana to ready ourselves for this new season. Have you visited AbbyGayle's and Gayle's in Summerhill Square lately? These combined stores are filled with the most fashionable women's clothing, jewelry, and even gifts! We love their colorful spring pieces from a fun-and-flirty dress for date night to their staple pair of white jeans and a beautiful pink top. You should stop by 4059 Summerhill Square and check out their beautiful selection of spring fashion. Label's Boutique, located on Robin Lane, is another fun place for spring fashion. We happen to love their blues and whites while also adding in a pop of color and geometric design. If you have not tried their Liverpool brand, you should stop by 2801 Robin Lane in Texarkana now! Finally, who says you cannot be relaxed and still look great for Spring? Racquet and Jog accomplishes this task easily! We love all of their colorful pieces and the comfort that comes along with them. Fun pieces, all the hottest accessories, and of course, the most comfortable shoes, all in style for Spring. Find your stylish spring outfit by visiting them at 3435 Richmond Road. Of course, this entire fashion shoot would not be possible without a few helping hands! We want to thank Michelle Horton with Studio H Photography and the studio's influencer team for bringing these outfits to life for this fashion series. Many thanks to Araylia Simmons, Carlee Holder, CJ Horton, Emma Gamble, Erin Eppinette, Kiersten Malone, Kirstyn Greene, and Landi Willamson. Now, let's get busy ditching winter clothes and stepping into spring fashion!

4059 Summerhill Square | Texarkana, TX | 903-792-0056 abbygayle’s_gayles | Abby Gayle’s and Gayle’s A LT M a g a z i n e | M a y 2 0 2 1




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MOTH ER’S M ay 9 , 2 0 2 1


And now these three remain: faith, hope and l o v e . B u t t h e g r e at e s t o f t h e s e i s l o v e .

Love God. Serve Others. Teach Truth.



CHRISTIAN WARRIORS CHURCH, 2101 E 50th St, Texarkana, AR 71854 Sunday Services, 10 am | PASTOR MICAH HARP

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Lovely Cake

Kristi, Joe and Collin Bennett

Dessert Table

Laura Klein, Lisa Knighten, Robb Klein

Joe and Kristi Bennett, Karen Landsell, Scott Meganson

Carlton Jones, Matt Youung, Mike Cross

Kristi and Collin Bennett and Fabienne Thrash

Officer Luna, Corp Phillips, Sandra Harris


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Suzie TK Snippets By: Suzie Tyler

A Mother’s Day Message We have all made a plaster of Paris handprint to give our moms for Mother’s Day! We waited for her to unwrap it with pride and felt joy for the hugs we knew were coming!  While Mother’s Day is a joyful occasion, there will come a day when we no longer have our mothers!  I remember the first time I had to experience it. I could not attend services that day when everyone else was celebrating their mother’s being alive, and I had to wear a white corsage for the first time instead of a red one! I chose instead to go with my sisters to the cemetery, take flowers, and discuss our “mom memories” together as her girls. This day can also be a sad time for those who have never been a mother or lost a child at birth. No matter where you are in the sentences of these paragraphs, you are unique to be born a female, and we all have an extraordinary calling!! Isaiah 54:1 ESV* Mary, the mother of Jesus, was chosen to birth the Savior! Whether you are a single mom, a new or seasoned mother, an adopted mom, a mother-in-law, a stepmother, a grandmother, or a great grandmother, God has a special plan for you that only you can fulfill!  Whether you rock the cradle of a future president or give spiritual guidance to the next Billy Graham, God has chosen you for that special role that only you can play!   We all have a mother, whether by adoption or biological, and we celebrate her with joyful remembrance! Have a blessed Mother’s Day! You are God’s special creation! *“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord.

The Realities of Remarriage A new union can and should change your financial picture. For a variety of reasons, second (or third) marriages are becoming the norm. With them come blended families with ex-spouses, stepkids, half siblings and a whole new financial picture. We’re not discounting the power of love, but if you’re contemplating getting married again, there are questions you need to ask – and answer – to help your new marriage withstand some of the common pitfalls that can trip up a relationship.

What Are Your Priorities? In any new marriage, you’ll need to establish your joint financial priorities and set the wheels in motion to try to achieve them. It starts with taking inventory of your collective assets and liabilities, property, insurance coverage, banking, retirement and brokerage accounts – pretty much anything that has to do with money. Marriage is about love and trust, so when you’re discussing money matters, you’ll have to talk about your debt and obligations, too. Discuss how much debt you each have, your credit histories, and what exactly you owe to other parties.

There are questions you need to ask – and answer – to help your new marriage last. What if alimony isn’t enough for an ex who constantly demands more? Or you use debt to buy lavish gifts for your children after the divorce? Your intended 042

should know about those payments so you can work together on a plan to take care of your family without jeopardizing your financial future together. You’ll also want to think about how much each of you will contribute if there are disparities in income and to what accounts (yours, mine and ours, perhaps?), as well as how you’ll pay for your children’s needs and bills you incur as a family. Make sure to re-establish a “rainy day” or emergency fund, especially if your divorce took a toll on the funds you had saved. Consider setting aside some money for the fun things in life, too, like travel, concerts, and dining out. It’s a good idea to meet with your professional advisors and review what you’ve accumulated individually and how to put those assets to use to help you achieve your new financial goals. This is the time for full disclosure and getting on the same page. Whatever you decide will guide your planning decisions when it comes to investments, budget, and your savings.

Who Gets What and When? Getting married is one of those life events that should automatically trigger a review of your estate planning documents. It’s an opportunity for each of you to review your will, trust documents and beneficiaries on everything from your financial and retirement accounts to insurance and annuities. You’ll also need to determine how your property will be titled.

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What About Retirement? And as you consider your financial realities, don’t forget to take your future wants and needs into account. When it comes to retirement planning, there are a number of factors to consider. And some depend on the divorce decree from the earlier marriage. Did the ex-spouse claim half of the retirement assets in the divorce? If so, that means you may have less to retire on as a couple, and you’ll need to plan for that. Social Security benefits also come into play, particularly if you’re considering marriage later in life. Social Security rules allow exes and widows/widowers to collect benefits on their previous spouses’ records under certain circumstances. But remarriage generally means those

Do You Want or Need a Prenup? Even if you collectively decide to exclude your new spouse from inheriting, most states give spouses the right to onethird to one-half of your estate. This “elective share” is a given, unless you stipulate otherwise in a valid, welldrafted prenuptial agreement. Prenups are becoming more common as people acknowledge the prevalence of divorce and the effect financial disagreements can have on a relationship. This legal contract supersedes local laws and details what you want to happen to your assets in the event of a death or divorce.

For Better or For Worse As you consider merging your lives together, for better or for worse, take into account that second marriages and blended families add complexity to your financial and retirement planning (even as they bring emotional richness to your life). The key is to balance the complicated issues that blended families face with careful planning. It’s important to work with your loved ones, financial advisor and/or attorney to establish

ways to preserve assets in a way that makes sense for you and your family, whatever form it takes.

© 2021 Raymond James Financial, Inc. All rights reserved. Raymond James & Associates, Inc., member New York Stock Exchange / SIPC, and Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA / SIPC, are subsidiaries of Raymond James Financial, Inc. Raymond James® and Raymond James Financial® are registered trademarks of Raymond James Financial, Inc. Raymond James & Associates, Inc. Statement of Financial Condition A LT M a g a z i n e | M a y 2 0 2 1

financial focus

With second marriages often come blended families or the creation of a new one. Ideally, everyone will get along, and you and your ex will easily come to a fair agreement as to which family will pay for certain expenses. But it doesn’t always work that way. The court will mandate certain responsibilities, but invariably nonobligatory expenses will crop up. Decide now whether one of the biological parents will be responsible for this support, whether it’ll be a joint expense between the parents, or whether you and your new spouse will pay and where the money will come from.

spousal benefits will go away unless the later marriage also ends (see ssa.gov for more information).






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Fish Tales with Mike Brower Risky Business Fishing is not a “consistent” thing. We go today and catch fish and go back tomorrow, and it is like fishing the Dead Sea. Everything fish do is based on their world, not ours. Fish do not care if it is raining -- we do, but they do not. So we have to look back at past experience for some guidance in what to do to; either make a bad day a good one or just salvage the day with a couple of bites. Our past experiences are stored somewhere in our brain, and the older we get, the more storage we need. The real issue is recall -- making sure the right conditions are noted so we can try to recall the right information for the current circumstances. This is risky since the memory could be corrupted over time, and we could recall bad information, then spend too much time trying to make it work. Once I fished a tournament on Kentucky lake. I knew what the conditions were and was pumped to fish a particular pocket just north of Paris, Tennessee. I looked on the map, found the pocket, ran an hour down there, and it did not look right. I spent three hours looking around for the pocket only to finally realize that the pocket I was looking for was two locks and five hours away in Lake Pickwick. I wasted three hours because of faulty recalled information and felt like a moron. There is no good way to trigger correct memory except to write everything down and, even then, after a day of fishing, we will most likely leave something out. Whenever we look back to help ourselves today, we need to remember the risk factor and know that we will, at one time or the other, look stupid. Just don’t tell anybody. Happy fishing.


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MAY EVENTS 1st - Walk for Life with 1st Choice Pregnancy • 8am • Spring Lake Park First Choice Pregnancy Center will host their 21st Annual Walk for Life on Saturday, May 1st, at Spring Lake Park. The clinic’s goal this year is to raise $30,000. The majority of their fundraising goes directly back into our community through classes designed to help parents learn skill sets necessary for success in healthy families. 6th - Let’s Talk About Kids • 6pm • Levi Hall, Texarkana College Let’s Talk About Kids is being conducted to provide information to families and children who are affected by divorce. The seminar is open to all persons concerned with family separation. Attendance is mandated for divorcing parents by the Bowie County District Courts. 8th - 2nd Annual Ark-La-Tex Burn Run • 10am • Crossties Event Venue Join us for live music, group ride, car and bike show, kids activities, live auctions, vendors, casino night, and much more! Proceeds go to support Watersprings Ranch and Camp I’m Still Me! 8th - Texarkana Monster Truck Chaos 2021 • 2pm • Timberline Speedway Back by popular demand! 2Xtreme Racing presents Texarkana Monster Truck Chaos 2021! We’ve got a jam-packed lineup including four National TV monster trucks, Quad Racing, Kids Power Wheel Races, and tons of high-flying, ground-pounding action. Plus, ride on a Real Monster Truck! 14th - Diamonds for Doorways • 7pm • Silvermoon on Broad Diamonds for Door ways is a fundraising event hosted by Habitat for Humanity of Texarkana. The event will have a silent auction and with the purchase of a $100 ticket, you will have the chance to win a diamond ring from Crocker’s Jewelers valued at $5,500. Heavy hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be served. 16th - Relentless Unplugged • 7pm • Redbone Magic Brewing Join Relentless Unplugged @ Redbone Magic Brewing located at 1304 Texas Blvd in Texarkana, TX. 22nd - Just Love & Kindness Car Show & BBQ Cookoff • 10am • Crossties Event Venue Just Love and Kindness is hosting a Car Show & BBQ Championship Cook Off to raise funds to purchase Ready or Not Tots (Simulator Manikin Babies) for area schools. The idea is to take the glamour out of teen pregnancy and demonstrate the realities of the real life to young impressionable hearts and minds. Let’s return to life as we knew it, lets gather together, lets have fun, lets be safe, but, lets just get out of the house and have a good time together supporting a worthy cause. do you have an event to publish in the magazine? send your event name, details, date, and time to:



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2692 FM 559 | Texarkana, TX 3 bedroom 1 bath, 1600 sq ft house. 25x25 RV shed, 22x34 2 car shop, 12.39 acres of land. Back of property backs up to the golf ranch. Out of city limits. $440,000 For more info or to schedule an appointment, call 903.278.4148.

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Passion For Pooches Boston Terrier that loves to help in the flower beds!


Texarkana Animal League 3 months old micro bully mix that’s super sweet and wrinkly!


Boxer Rescue of Texarkana Let us get these babies homes! Gunner is a great dog!


Adopt, Don’t Shop!

Local Rescues


CONTACT LOCAL RESCUES TO FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION! BOXER RESCUE OF TEXARKANA Facebook.com/ BoxerRescueOfTexarkana MUTTLEY CREW GERMAN SHEPHERD RESCUE Facebook.com/ MuttleyCrewRescue PASSION FOR POOCHES (mostly small dogs) Facebook.com/passionforpooches TEXARKANA ANIMAL LEAGUE Facebook.com/ TexarkanaAnimalLeague TEXARKANA HUMANE SOCIETY TexarkanaHumaneSociety.org Facebook.com/ TexarkanaHumaneSocietyInc

Muttley Crew A German Shepherd breed that is precious!


The Animal Care & Adoption Center of Texarkana, Arkansas is located at 203 Harrison, Texarkana, AR, 71854. For more information, call 870.773.6388, or visit: www. animalcareadoptioncenter.org or www.facebook.com/AnimalCare AdoptionTXK. Please note, all dogs adopted from this shelter MUST be spayed or neutered. Spays cost $89-$104, neuters are $76-$92 depending on the weight of the dog. We also have SPONSORED dogs and cats! This means someone has already paid for their vetting! Come see who’s waiting! We are always in need of caring, capable volunteers to assist in with duties at the center, adoption events, fund-raising activities and more. Open Monday-Friday 11AM 5PM; Saturday 11AM - 2PM.


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Bill Spradlin Realtor 903-748-3186

Tracy Spradlin Broker 903-748-2477

Jan Williams Realtor 903-277-5771

Mother’s Day Would Be Grand In A New Home!

Pam Hollingsworth Realtor 903-277-1222

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Now Servicing the Dallas Fort Worth Area!

Amber McCormack Administrative Assistant 903-223-0710

Kailey McDowell Property Manager 903-559-1511

Brenda Elrod Property Manager 903-559-1511 A LT M a g a z i n e | M a y 2 0 2 1

1356 N. Kings Hwy. | Nash, TX 75569 | 903.223.0710 billsprad@aol.com | spradlintd@aol.com www.ImpactRealtyOnline.com 051


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Profile for ALT Magazine

May 2021 ALT Magazine  

The May issue of ALT Magazine of 2021!

May 2021 ALT Magazine  

The May issue of ALT Magazine of 2021!

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