South Charlotte Weekly March 26, 2021

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Page 2A • The Weekly • March 26, 2021

Munch Madness brackets show major upsets

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by Justin Vick

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Charlotte Media Group has launched Munch Madness brackets for each of our newspapers and we have seen plenty of upsets after two weeks of intense voting. We use social media popularity as the core principle for seeding each restaurant, so it’s always a big deal when a No. 1 seed bows out of the competition before the Final Fork. No. 1 seeds have fallen in Downtown Matthews, Indian Trail and Waxhaw regions, as well as South Charlotte’s Pineville and Montford. Last year’s Union County Weekly champion, The Bridge, fell to Hickory Tavern in the second round. Here's a quick look at advancing restaurants. Matthews Mint Hill Weekly (Sweet 16) • Downtown Matthews: Jekyll & Hyde Taphouse and Grill, Stacks Kitchen, Pizza Peel, Kristophers Sports Bar • Greater Matthews: Kabab-Je Rotisserie & Grille, Chicken Salad Chick, Texas Roadhouse, Azteca Restaurant • Mint Hill: The Hill Bar and Grill, Jake’s Good Eats, Hawthorne’s NY Pizza, Dunwellz. • Sardis: New Zealand Cafe, Boardwalk Billy’s, Mi Pueblo Mexican Grill, City Barbecue Union County Weekly (Sweet 16) • Indian Trail: Hickory

Tavern, Sileo’s NY Deli, Tap and Vine, Mia Famiglia • Greater Matthews: Rockstore Bar-B-Q, Carnitas Mexican Guanajuato, Mario’s Italian Restaurant, The Steak ‘n Hoagie Shop • Monroe: Fox’s Alley, The Smoke Pit, Little Country Kitchen, Ron’s Grill • Waxhaw: El Vallarta, South Main Street BBQ, Stacks Kitchen, Fox’s Pizza Den South Charlotte Weekly (Thirsty 32) • Ballantyne: Bradshaw Social House, Cantina 1511, Duckworth’s Grill & Taphouse, Big View Diner, Mellow Mushroom, Flying Biscuit Cafe, Zapatas Mexican Restaurant, Hickory Tavern • Pineville: Park 51 Cafe, Pineville Tavern, Nakato Japanese Steakhouse, The Dive N, D.D. Peckers Wing Shack, Middle James Brewing Company, Machu Picchu, Park Place Restaurant • SouthPark: Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, Bentley’s Restaurant, Dogwood: A Southern Table, Portofino’s Italian Restaurant, The Palm, Cafe Monte French Bakery and Bistro, Original Pancake House, P.F. Chang’s • Montford: Moosehead Bar & Grill, Brazwell’s Premium Pub, RoCo - Roasting Company, Rocksalt Charlotte, Mellow Mushroom, Pasta & Provisions, Libretto’s Pizzeria, Brawley’s Beverage Vote at www.thecharlotte starting March 26 through midnight March 30.

Honoring Grit and Giggles By Mara Campolungo, Co-Founder And Executive Director of The Sandbox and Founder of Ordinary Angels

Who doesn’t love a determined, giggly girly girl? The answer is no one who ever met Elsie. Elsie Mireya Gonzalez Commodore was born in Charlotte and quickly became part of The Sandbox Family. After two weeks, she was medically transported to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, better known as CHOP, where specialized teams were put in place to offer creative solutions to address her rare congenital disease. Elsie was diagnosed with generalized lymphatic anomaly (GLA). In essence, there was an abnormal growth of lymphatic vessels in her bones, lungs, and other organs. From the get-go, Elsie’s family and caregivers witnessed her unwavering resilience and joy. As months turned into years within the walls of CHOP, everyone soon realized Elsie’s constant smiles belied a fierce determination. Yes, Elsie was determined to live as long as she had work to do here on earth. What work, you ask? Elsie’s contagious smile lit up rooms. People couldn’t leave Elsie’s presence without taking a bit of her joyful spirit with them. Elsie’s hospital room was situated in a highly trafficked area, and she was aware of who was coming and going, often blowing kisses to passersby. Elsie had so much love for people. She gave it and received it back in volumes. Keeping Elsie alive became an innovative dance between science, medicine, and faith. When abnormal lymphatic vessels leaked liters of fluid into Elsie’s chest daily, she would get critically ill. But Elsie always seemed to bounce back from near-death experiences, resolving to fight another day. In Elsie's day-to-day life, she was able to do the things that made her happy: she spoke with her bright eyes and her beautiful smile—which the nurses and staff learned were their marching orders—and she had a happy wave she offered with her body and hands that communicated her delight with something. Elsie became known as “The Queen of the PICU (Pediatrics Intensive Care Unit).” Over the years, when her body allowed, Elsie gave it her all. The hospital staff didn’t believe many of the successful outcomes Elsie experienced were even possible, including playing with toys, sitting in her exersaucer or high chair, playing instruments, and dancing in the crib during music therapy. Elsie proved anything is possible.

On March 8, 2021, Elsie passed away, just shy of her fourth birthday, which would have been on March 28th. Today, she is giggling in heaven, undoubtedly sharing her contagious smile and warrior spirit with the angels. The Gonzalez Commodore Family has experienced what no family ever should. They are comforted by many things as they struggle to cope with the loss of their beloved daughter… Elsie’s mom, Adayna Gonzalez, wants the world to know that Elsie was very smart. Her daughter knew how to navigate her world, especially the iPad: she knew how to find what she wanted to watch and select it, how to call people, and how to listen to her favorite music on her Spotify playlist. “She just didn’t have a chance to live her life beyond the doors of a hospital, exploring what the outside world had to offer her. Regardless, Elsie offered herself to others, making a difference in countless people’s lives,” and that’s a point of comfort for Mom. Travis Commodore says this about his daughter: “Though she never had an opportunity to experience life outside of the hospital and was often in pain, it was obvious to everyone that Elsie was grateful to be alive. She was feisty, sassy, incredibly smart, and resilient. She expressed her appreciation for everything that everyone was doing for her through her constant smiles and kisses to those who entered her room. Her positive disposition was incredibly inspirational to everyone she encountered, even those who only saw her through the lens of her Facebook Live videos. Elsie is proof that God exists, that love is transformative, and that some of our greatest sources of joy and inspiration can be found in the smallest of packages. Her legacy will live on.” Room 26 at CHOP will forever be “Elsie's Room,” and Elsie’s BFF, her big sister Nila, will always remember Elsie’s magnificent combination of happiness and tenacity.

We should all strive for such an endearing balance of grit and giggles, living out loud with fierce determination and joy. The Sandbox and others will be honoring Elsie with the #all4elsie movement, happening between March 26th and March 29th. We’d love for you to join us! On Sunday, March 28th—what would have been Elsie's 4th birthday—we are encouraging people in the community to do four things in honor of Elsie. This could be anything; 4 Random Acts of Kindness, Walk/Run 4 Miles, Read 4 Books, Deliver 4 Compliments, etc. Anything around the number 4 would be amazing! Be on the lookout for #all4elsie on social media as the community posts about their activities.

Also, Friday, March 26th through Monday, March 29th, SAS Cupcakes, located on Rea Road, will be hosting a cupcake sale in honor of Elsie. One hundred percent (100%) of all proceeds The Sandbox receives, will go directly to cover funeral expenses for Elsie Mireya Gonzalez Commodore. Dear Charlotte community, you always love so well. Elsie’s family and medical care team know how special she was; we want the whole world to know by spreading her legacy of grit and giggles, one silly and courageous act at a time. Please join us!

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