Boy Street Magazine June 2023

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June 2023 • Issue 6 • Volume 22 BOYD STREET NORMAN’S OLDEST COMMUNITY MAGAZINE Non-Profit Spotlight Transition House Norman Stamp & Seal Cashing in on Smiles Sooner Softball Pitcher Alex Storako TIGERS TAKE TITLE NORMAN TIGERS SURGE FROM BEHIND TO TAKE STATE GOLF TITLE Member FDIC Spend Life Fearlessly. Norman - East 801 12th Ave. NE Norman, OK 73071 (405) 579-7000 Norman - Hwy 9 4925 SE 44th St. Norman, OK 73072 (405) 579-7000 Norman - North West 570 24th Ave. NW Norman, OK 73069 (405) 579-7000
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JUNE CONTENTS ISSUE 6– VOLUME 22 2023 what’s inside on the cover /boydstreetmagazine @boydstreet Cover photo provided 18 26 34 What’s Happening Norman’s community calendar for June 13 Tigers Take Title Norman Tigers surge from behind to take state golf title. 48 Volunteer Spotlight Vote Yes for Kids committee co-chairs Kate Vahlberg and Carolina Cunningham 14 Transition House Changing lives by creating pathways for mental wellness. 18 “Resilience through Arts and Culture” Annual festival celebrates the city’s African American culture. 22 Cashing in on Smiles Norman business owner shares humor and positivity. 26 Swan Song Dr. Brad Benson retires after more than two decades of leadership. 30 Boyd Street Ventures Celebrating success, looking ahead to bold Oklahoma-based expansion 34 STORA1KO Sooner transfer pitcher looks to the postseason. 40 Whole Health Norman Regional breaks ground on a new behavior wellness center. 52 Service Spotlight Chief Financial Officer Frank Magness 56 OUFCU 40+ budget friendly activities to try this summer 60 Joe’s Wine & Spirits Refresh summer with saugvinon blanc 64


If you look at a situation through the eyes of gratitude, something powerful happens. Problems become easier to solve. Challenges reveal opportunities. And you begin to see the possibility in almost anything. For over 100 years, the Armstrong Bank family has truly appreciated serving up financial guidance and accounts to the people of this community. We’re grateful for our customers, for the work we do, and for the privilege of supporting our neighbors. Gratitude helps us do so much more for you.

Lindsay Cuomo Kathy Hallren | Shannon Hudzinski Chris Plank ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVES Trevor Laffoon - Perry Spencer - Jerry Wagner - PUBLISHER Casey Vinyard Boyd Street Magazine 2020 E. Alameda Norman, Oklahoma 73071 Phone: (405) 321-1400 E-mail: Copyright © Boyd Street Magazine Any articles, artwork or graphics created by Boyd Street Magazine or its contributors are sole property of Boyd Street Magazine and cannot be reproduced for any reason without permission. Any opinions expressed in Boyd Street are not necessarily that of Boyd Street management. BOYD
Roxanne Avery |





Vote Yes for Kids Committee


Bond issues are an important funding source for public schools and the Norman community has strongly endorsed such investments in recent years – passing two multi-million-dollar bonds, one in 2019 for $186 million over six years and another in 2023 for $353.9 million over ten years.

A portion of that success can be attributed to Kate Vahlberg and Carolina Cunningham, the co-chairs of the Vote Yes for Kids committee.

Vahlberg and Cunningham dedicated “countless hours advocating for the passage of the 10-year, $353.9 million 2023 school bond,” shared Chelsey Kraft, communications specialist for Norman Public Schools.

“They attended numerous presentations at school sites and with community groups, delivered yard signs, stood outside polling places on election day reminding people to vote, utilized social media to

promote facts, and shared their reasons for voting yes to let people know why this bond was so important for NPS,” Kraft said.

The district expressed its appreciation by awarding the duo the 2023 Public Education Ambassador of the Year Award.

“When families in 50 years and in 100 years look back and see all the great things that came from this bond, it will largely be thanks to the efforts of these two women,” Superintendent Dr. Nick Migliorino said. “Kate and Carolina’s efforts will without a doubt benefit the kiddos of NPS for years to come.”

The Vote for Kids committee was created in 2003 after a bond proposal failed to pass. This grassroots effort steps in to advocate where school districts are legally restricted to do so.

14 | June 2023
Carolina Cunningham and Kate Vahlberg with Dr. Nick Migliorino at the Celebration of Excellence awards ceremony.

“The Vote Yes for Kids team has come together to advocate for our kids and teachers for every school bond since (2003),” shared Vahlberg. “When Norman Public Schools started sharing information about the 2023 school bond, I knew I wanted to help ensure this bond passed for this generation.”

Motivated to “pay it forward,” Vahlberg said she is “passionate about serving our community.”

“Vote Yes for Kids taught me so much!” she said. “Not only did I learn a lot about school finance, but I met so many incredible people throughout our community. This experience provided me with new friends and a lot of hope.”

Cunningham said that volunteerism is “the backbone of a successful community.”

“You don’t have to be in charge to make a huge impact in whatever organization or movement you are

with,” she encouraged. “It can be so fulfilling when you see something thrive years after you were a part of it.”

Both have served the community in a variety of other ways as well. Cunningham has organized the Jog-athon at Monroe Elementary, served Alcott and Monroe’s PTA in several roles, and volunteered on a number of committees and boards. Vahlberg said she has fond memories of “volunteering at Safety Town, May Fair, Operation School Bell and many more.” She will be the PTA preside at Cleveland Elementary next year.

“I always encourage everyone to find a way to get plugged in and serve in some capacity,” Vahlberg said. “We are all busy with so many daily tasks that it often feels impossible to say yes to one more thing. But so often these daily tasks lead to isolation and exhaustion when we are truly longing for connection and community. Find something that is important to you and commit to volunteer in some way. It will change you and your community for the better.”–

“Find something that is important to you and commit to volunteer. It will change you and your community for the better.” – Kate Vahlberg



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Transition House’s mission is “changing lives by creating pathways for mental wellness,” and those who work at the agency hear that message often. One day, a Transition House client told Bonnie Peruttzi that the nonprofit saved and changed his life, because if the organization didn’t save it first, he couldn’t change.

“That was a profound statement because the reality is, if we can’t help somebody feel worthy enough to live first, they can’t make a change after that,” Peruttzi explained. “The process of change really does take much, much longer than most people want to believe. We’re dealing with levels of trauma, abuse, and neglect that are tied to the illness that leads people to our agency.

“The process of change takes a lot of very, very intensive and patient support,” Peruttzi continued. “This is a lifetime process, and Transition House is with our clients, by their side. It’s a strictly volunteer program, and we can’t force anybody into recovery or healing, but when people are ready, we’re an agency that can help.”

Transition House was established in 1982, with an original program designed to provide transitional living to adults with serious mental illness who were transi-

tioning out of inpatient psychiatric care to community living. The organization quickly realized that transitional living alone was not meeting the full needs of the clients, so Transition House developed its Community Outreach Program, which provides ongoing support, crisis intervention and socialization activities.

Peruttzi, who has been with Transition House since 1986 and is currently the executive director, said the stigma related to mental illness can cause people to immediately shut down in conversation. Thus, a lot of the work the agency does, along with directly helping clients, is to educate and support the community on mental health as well.

“The vision we have for our organization is a community committed to connection, recovery, wellness and joy, and our culture is that we listen, we respect, we support, we empower,” Peruttzi stated. “We do this not just with our clients, but as a collective partner in the community … We want to be good partners and to teach our clients to be contributors in the community. That’s really the focus of our organization - to help people transform their lives.”

Peruttzi also added that it is challenging work as many clients come to Transition House with extreme

18 | June 2023 COMMUNITY

levels of serious mental illness and often serious addictions. Additionally, Peruttzi emphasized that recovery is a wavy process and people may have periods of good times and fewer challenges followed by a relapse. Transition House doesn’t abandon clients when they hit challenges but rather supports them through those periods.

On June 3, Transition House hosts its annual June Bug Jam at The Well. At June Bug Jam, the stories of the clients are told through original music videos, and clients are involved in the show itself and in the production.

One of these music videos features the story of a client who was kidnapped when she was 12 or 13 years old. She was able to get out and return home after more than a year, but her life was never the same. She went through the program at Transition House, and the music video tells about her journey through recovering and healing following her kidnapping. Video content from the June Bug Jam will be available after the event on the Transition House’s website,

“Essentially what we’ve done is a qualitative research study on the work of Transition House in a music video and sharing the stories that way,” Peruttzi ex-

plained. “This is a way to put a different light on who these humans are and their journey and the fact that there is hope for healing.”

Transition House makes an impact in the Norman community, and the organization was recognized for those efforts on a state level this year. In April, Transition House was chosen as one of 21 finalists in the 16th Annual Oklahoma Nonprofit Excellence (ONE) Awards. The ONE Awards honors 21 organizations, and Transition House received a $5,000 grant as a finalist.

Peruttzi said it was an incredible honor to be selected for the award, especially as a small agency of five staff members, and that the recognition gave visibility to the work they do.

“I personally know clients who have been through the program over 30 years ago and who are still living their best life,” Peruttzi said. “That in and of itself speaks volumes to me that we’re making a difference.”– BSM

BOYD STREET MAGAZINE | 19 BY: CHELSEY KRAFT Monthy non-profit story presented by: Norman Stamp & Seal 110 S University Blvd •
“The process of change takes a lot of very, very intensive and patient support. This is a lifetime process, and Transition House is with our clients, by their side.”

“Resilience through Arts and Culture”

Annual Festival Celebrates City’s African American Culture

Norman Parks and Recreation, in partnership with community leaders, invites Normanites to the 3rd annual Juneteenth Festival, happening at Reaves Park on Monday, June 19 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Organizers say the festival will be centered around community, good food, lively entertainment and learning, and all are welcome.

“Juneteenth is an emancipation celebration, but just as I, an African American, take part in Oktoberfest or St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, all are welcome to come out to learn about and celebrate Juneteenth,” invited Anthony Francisco, financial director for the City of Norman and a member of the festival planning committee.

Juneteenth commemorates the anniversary of General Order No. 3, proclaiming freedom for slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865. Juneteenth “is about coming together and understanding where we have come from (and also) having uncomfortable conversations that people don’t want to have,” shared Kendall Hendricks, another member of the festival planning committee.

Juneteenth has been celebrated for many years but was first recognized by the City of Norman in 2020 and became a federal holiday in 2021. Tyra Jackson, an assistant director with OU’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and a founding member of the festival planning committee, said she often celebrated Juneteenth as a child “with block parties and barbeques,” outlining the day as “an important time with family and friends.”

“The history and significance of Juneteenth is a pow-

erful reminder that our ancestors overcame incredible adversity and that we still have so much power to shape the future we want to see,” shared Jackson.

Dr. George Henderson, the first Black dean at the University of Oklahoma, and J.C. Watts, a former quarterback for the Sooners and representative for Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District from 1995 to 2003, will speak at the festival. Henderson’s family was Norman’s first Black residents when they move to Norman and purchased a home in 1967.

Following remarks from Henderson and Watts, a talent show will recognize Norman’s thriving African American arts scene. A community art project is already underway and will be unveiled at the festival. Local kids are contributing to the piece at community recreation centers.

The Norman Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. is sponsoring a domino tournament and cash prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place. Jahruba and the Street People will perform their unique blend of Worldbeat and Reggae music, and the festival will end with a fireworks display.

“Black culture is engrained in American history and is shaped by artistic expression,” explained Jackson. “If joy is an act of resistance, then coming together on such a grand scale and bringing out the community is a reminder that we can choose joy even when things are hard. It’s a reminder that we belong here.”

To learn more about Juneteenth and the festival, visit– BSM

22 | June 2023


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Cashing in on Smiles

Norman Business Owner Shares Humor and Positivity

When Tyler LaReau bought the small downtown Norman Stamp and Seal store, he had no plans of becoming a custom gift guru. He wanted to do one thing - make an impact on the Norman community. Years later, his shop has become a Norman staple, engraving custom gifts and making people smile with their witty laugh-out-loud window message board.

“I owned an insurance agency next door and one day the Stamp and Seal store owner looked a little down, so I asked what was going on,” LaReau shared. “She

said she couldn’t find anyone to buy her business. I asked her the price and when she told me, I said ‘I’ll buy it’. My wife agreed as long as I kept weekends free for our family.”

When he took over the business, it was mostly notary and address stamps, but he had a vision to explore more creative business ventures. He purchased a few laser engraving machines and began engraving things like cutting boards. Soon he started engraving cups and became a Yeti dealer. He engraves just about anything customers can imagine, wedding

26 | June 2023

gifts like flasks and glassware, silicone bracelets, grill utensil sets and other. He is even in the beginning stages of branching out to offer embroidery services in hopes of personalizing things like backpacks, baby burp cloths and ball caps.

LaReau said the funniest engraving projects they do are plungers during the Christmas season that read, ‘Shitter’s full,’ a line from the popular movie, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” They will also engrave, “anything,” LaReau said, on a Yeti, leading to some comedic stories.

However, beyond the physical items the local engraving guru offers customers, he is offering up smiles for free, just ask laughing passersby or his almost 4k Instagram followers. In addition to photos of products, Norman Stamp and Seal, @NormanStampAndSeal on Instagram, posts regular messages just for the purpose of making people laugh.

The idea to begin a window message board with witty messages and bits of wisdom began when the store expanded. Tyler purchased the former home of a barbershop next to the original Norman Stamp and Seal building. They were able to tear down the wall between the two spaces, giving them a storefront presence on Main Street, prime real estate for a more visible message board.

“My favorite message I have ever done was probably when Lincoln Riley resigned and they were conducting a search for a new football coach,” LaReau said. “I put up a message that said ‘Joe C, Dude who sits by me at OU games knows everything. You should call him.’ It got a lot of laughs.”

LaReau said his suggestion for budding local business owners looking to get their start is to look beyond the bottom line and instead for ways to give their time and gifts to the local community. LaReau’s gift to the community? Laughter. – BSM



Dr. Brad Benson

Retires After More Than Two Decades of Leadership

30 | June 2023

The motto of the Norman Public Schools Fine Arts program - “We create quality of life for life” - takes not only strategy to achieve but also a leader with tenacity, expertise and creativity. Since 2002, that leader has been Dr. Brad Benson.

Born in Woodward, Oklahoma, Benson attended college at the University of Oklahoma, earning a bachelor’s degree in education and music education. He then attended Indiana University in Bloomington, studying music theory, before returning to Norman to earn his master’s degree in music education and then his Ph.D.

From August 1979 through December 2001, Benson taught orchestra and band from the beginning levels through high school. In January 2002, he became the director of fine arts for Norman Public Schools where he worked with visual art, dance, theatre, creative writing and speech, a position held until his retirement this month.

When asked about the impact he has had on the fine arts program, Dr. Benson gives credit to the board of education, administrators, principals and teachers who he said are amazingly supportive.

“I’ll give credit where credit is due and it’s all these people,” he said. “I think some things have always been really good at NPS and maybe what I did was further some things along and try to fill in the gaps. Because of the people I work with and an amazing fine arts staff, we’ve been able to move the fine arts forward through a team effort.”

One project implemented statewide began with the NPS fine arts program - the development of standards for dance.

“We started that, and it led to the development of standards for drama as well,” Benson said. He added that the NPS dance program is now certified and helps with the certification process for dancers.

Another project Benson championed is the implementation of Pre-K music, engaging even the youngest students in the arts.

The NPS calendar is packed with events including the All-City concert and All-City drama event, held for the first time this May.

“We had all-city events in all arts areas except drama,” Benson said. “The teachers and students did a great job with that.”

Another area of impact during Benson’s tenure was in visual art.

“We made a point to get our kids’ art out into the community,” he explained. “Our mantra was ‘classroom to community’ and it motivated a lot of the students when they put a piece of art into an art show downtown and people came in and ooh-ed and aahed. It made the kids feel great.

“Our teachers put in the extra work to make sure those art shows happened. Our art shows have grown, and we have received more awards than ever before.” Also during his tenure, Benson has arranged and composed music for ensembles including band, string and symphonic orchestra pieces for schools as well as for professional groups. He has presented at Oklahoma Music Education Association events and the Oklahoma Music Adjudication Association.

Benson has served as an adjudicator and conducted honor bands and orchestras in Oklahoma and surrounding states. He has presented arts integration workshops in Oklahoma and has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia. Dr. Benson published an article on the conditions of traveling teachers and coauthored a book on teacher leadership and another on teacher supervision.

He is a recipient of the Administrator of the Year award from the Oklahoma Music Educators Association, the Oklahoma Alliance for Arts Education and the Governor’s Arts Award for arts education. In March 2018, Dr. Benson was honored as the nation’s Outstanding Administrator by the Organization of American Kodaly Educators.

Looking toward retirement, Benson said it is bittersweet.

“The last day I shall work here, that makes me sad and makes me happy to have been here,” he shared. “This is a great place to work for education in general and a great place for fine arts. I feel like we are valued in the community which adds to how people feel about the fine arts.”

Benson has two grandkids and he is looking forward to spending more time with them.

“I love my job but, with grandkids, it’s hard to get to all their performances because of events I needed to be at. I plan on spending some time with them for sure.”

As the curtain closes on a chapter of his life, Dr. Benson said he wants to thank everyone for their support.

“I do want to say a big thank you to everybody… all the people I work with including my mentors, the people who have supported me and supported the arts.”– BSM


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Celebrating Success, Looking Ahead to Bold Oklahoma-Based Expansion

Oklahoma may not be the first place investors think of when it comes to venture capital but one local firm is already achieving its goal to change that. Boyd Street Ventures opened in August 2021 after years of planning by co-founders James Spann and Jeff Moore.

Spann, a businessman with 30 years of corporate experience and six years in the Marine Corps, is a proud class of ‘82 OU graduate whose vision for empowering Oklahoma entrepreneurship is rapidly materializing. An eager spokesperson, he recently made time to share about the future of the first-of-its-kind firm energizing Oklahoma’s movers and shakers.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in the past 18 months, particularly during a time that’s been rather challenging for venture capital firms. From raising tens of millions of dollars to invest in Oklahoma- connected companies to adding 10 under-the-radar companies to our portfolio, we’re very pleased with the progress of our Fund I. And we’re not done yet,” said Spann. “For a first-time fund. to see this kind of growth in the first 12 to 15 months speaks to the potential investors see in our mission. It was an ambitious path that has only accelerated since the opening of our headquarters at 331 W. Boyd St. last fall. We’ve experienced a really busy nine months and it’s not letting up.”

Anchor investors Bank of America and Gateway First Bancorp announced their participation in February 2023. March saw a partnership with OKC Minority Founder Accelerator, which focuses on empowering business innovators who identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC).

Later that month, Boyd Street Ventures announced $10 million in funding from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) as part of its Oklahoma Venture Capital Investment program, made possible through the federal American Rescue Plan (ARPA) State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). Every federal dollar award is required to be matched with at least a one-to-one or greater private donation, which in turn funds local startups.

In April, the firm announced its investment in Moat Biotechnology, which a Boyd Street Ventures press release describes as “a clinical development stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of novel intranasal and oral vaccines based on the SC-AdVax platform and exclusively licensed from the Mayo Clinic.”

Fund I, which opened in February 2022, has raised about $20 million of its $25 million goal, and has a hard cap of $50 million.

34 | June 2023 BUSINESS

“We’ve scheduled our initial close for August 31, 2023, right before the start of OU’s football season,” said Spann. “It’s been a really good year. Right now, we’re focused on adding the right people to our team and making sure we have the right processes in place as we close Fund I and start planning for future funds.”

“When we first considered the idea of venture capital in Norman in 2015, our original goal was a $5 million fund and everybody said we were crazy because there was no venture capital in Oklahoma. It was very purposeful to have OU as our platform. We have a lot of academic tech, faculty and staff and students solving open-ended problems. There is plenty of opportunity.”

Spann plans to add several more investments to BSV’s Fund I portfolio, with several promising startups currently under review by the firm’s Investment Committee.

“Our mission is critical to the growth of Oklahoma. We are advocates of economic development in the state and healthy returns for our investors..

“We’re based in Norman, grounded in OU. Our focus is how do we put the spotlight on the state of Oklahoma in a positive light and show we have the people, we have the technology, and we have the infrastructure that builds and commercializes that technology with a global impact.”

Ties to OU graduates, homegrown entrepreneurs and a commitment to hiring young people all add to the forward momentum aimed at buoying Oklahoma. “We’re building a team to reach the next generation. It’s invigorating, fun and fast-paced. There’s never a dull moment,” said Spann. “It’s a lot of work but work that needs to be done for our state. We are telling the story of what we have at OU, which rivals what you would see on the coasts in areas like aviation, physics and medicine. The state of Oklahoma is getting noticed. We’re on the move and we’re pulling others in.” Find out more about the projects Boyd Street Ventures has invested in and consider how you can participate at–

Founder/General Partner James Spann at BSV headquarters A meeting of BSV strategic advisors and portfolio company CEOs at BSV headquarters
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40 | June 2023 OU SPORTS STORA1KO One Thousand Strikeouts and Counting for the Transfer Ace

In a short amount of time, Alex Storako has become an important and integral part of the Oklahoma Sooner softball pursuit of a 3-peat. The first-year Sooner has already had a storied and illustrious career at Michigan, and now is a key part of the Sooner defense. Her path to Oklahoma and the immediate embrace from teammates and fans has magnified just how special Alex Storako truly is.


Storako grew up in Frankfort, Illinois, a southern suburb of Chicago. Sports, specifically baseball, were a regular part of Storako’s life from her earliest memories.

“My dad coached high school baseball when I was born,” Storako said of her baseball-loving family. “Since I was a baby, I was around baseball. I didn’t watch cartoons. I was put in front of SportsCenter, so I fell in love with baseball. I’m a huge Cubs fan. We could talk for hours on end about baseball and the Cubs and Chicago sports in general. “

With her love of baseball, softball became a natural fit. But Illinois is not necessarily a hotbed for college softball talent. Despite a legendary high school career, big offers were not rolling in for the Frankfort product. Storako was named to the 2018 MaxPreps All-American First Team and was a two-time Illinois All-State FirstTeam selection, boasting a career record of 70-19 with 918 strikeouts finishing with a 21-2 record with a 0.76 ERA and 255 strikeouts as a senior in 2018.

Entering her junior season of high school, Storako was uncommitted on where she would play college softball. She received some offers — mostly from smaller schools such as DePaul, where she initially committed during her sophomore year.

But Storako knew there was more out there, a bigger opportunity. Storako opened back up her re-


cruitment and remained uncommitted into her senior year. She joined an elite travel ball team, Sparks Premier 18U, and on the larger travel ball stage, she continued her success.

Finally, the bigger offers started to roll in… including Michigan.

“Going into that year uncommitted, I had the mindset of just enjoying the moment,” Storako said. “I tried to play to my potential and have fun, and that led to me performing really well and getting a lot of looks from a lot of places.”

Storako had bet on herself, and it paid off.

“I don’t come from a big softball area like California or Texas,” Storako said. “It’s exciting to prove a lot of people wrong. My family is big on blue collar so being able to work hard and watch it all pay off has been really special, being able to perform and show my dad hours on the bucket in high school really paid off.”


The marriage between Storako and Michigan was an instant success and Storako played a major role for the Wolverines from day one.

“My first collegiate start was against (then-No. 7) Arizona,” Storako recalled. “The most memorable thing about that game was when I gave up my first collegiate home run to Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, who’s now an Olympian… It was just like, ‘Well, welcome to the big leagues.’”

As time progressed, Storako established her place in Michigan softball history as an elite pitcher through the three complete seasons across her four years in Ann Arbor. She was a two-time First-Team All-Big Ten, NFCA Great Lakes region recipient and the unanimous Big Ten Pitcher of the Year as a junior in 2021. During her incredible junior season, Storako set the program’s single-game record with 22 strikeouts in a win at Michigan State. The outing headlined her nation-leading strikeout-per-seven-innings average of 12.9 and magnified her necessary role in the Wolverines’ second regular season Big Ten title of her career.

Storako had to carry most of the workload. In her four years in Ann Arbor, Storako pitched 563 2/3 innings. During her final season at Michigan, Storako appeared in 38 games — 29 of which she started in the circle. In 200.1 innings pitched, she struck out 300 batters and finished with a 25-8 record. In addition to her heavy workload in 2022, she pitched 142 1/3 innings as a true freshman and 146 as a junior. Last year, her ERA rose from 1.05 to 1.71.

With her final season of eligibility, Storako decided it was time for a change of scenery.


When Storako entered her name in the transfer portal, the first call came from a 405-area code. Despite having just finished off a Super Regional win over UCF, Patty Gasso had made it a priority to let Storako know she was wanted in Norman.

Storako had teased a “multi-city” tour to determine where she wanted to play her final season in college, but after one trip to Oklahoma, her decision was made.

“I surprised myself, even my parents on my recruiting visit when I didn’t go anywhere else,” Storako said. “I was prepared to take my fair share of trips to other places to check them out. But I’ve always been impulsive, even in my recruiting process in high school. I knew it in my gut, this was it.”

Despite having the type of attention in the portal that she had not received out of high school, Storako didn’t need the process to drag on any longer. She was sold on Norman, she was sold on Oklahoma.

“Coming here, looking at the campus, it had a smalltown feel. One of my best friends grew up in a small town similar to Norman. My getaway from the city was going to her house,” Storako said.

Storako’s decision and how quickly it came surprised everyone, including her family and Gasso.

“I surprised them when I committed and the fact that it was such a gut decision,” Storako said. “I didn’t see myself anywhere else. I remember telling my parents I didn’t think Oklahoma would call and I didn’t know if I wanted to visit. But my mom told me to do it to say that I did it... then I came here and realized this was it. This was the place for me.”


Storako is one of four transfer portal additions to the Sooner roster. Despite joining a roster that has already had a tremendous amount of success, Storako has excelled, but it was still a process to find her voice in the locker room.

“The transition was hard. I was a big leader at Michigan,” Storako said. “Coming here and trying to figure out when I can speak up and when I shouldn’t speak up, but also knowing and being able to trust one another… a lot of that was me figuring out how this system functions here. You’ve gotta tip your cap to Coach and the culture that she’s built.”

42 | June 2023

In addition to the small-town feel of Norman and the winning culture that first attracted Storako to the program, her teammates have embraced her as a part of its Championship level roster.

“When you’re able to buy in, trust each other and have fun not just on but off the field as well, being able to hang out in the backyard and play volleyball in the super competitive way we do or maybe it’s UNO, everything you do turns into a different kind of competition, you buy into the system and know they are quite literally doing every little thing to give us the best chances at being the best,” Storako said. “When you have that core group, and you trust in that, you can’t really say anything else. You don’t really doubt anything. When you have no doubt in yourself and your teammates, you can let it all go and play free and that is one of my favorite parts about playing here at Oklahoma.”

Storako has not only embraced and accepted the Championship mindset, but she has also become a key figure in the Sooners 2023 run. It seems as if she gets better every single time she steps into the circle.

“She is a young woman who’s got it together,” Gasso said. “Something has really clicked in her, and she gravitated to it. Whether is on or off the field, thinking about her future and preparing for what her dreams are, she is really put together in that way.”


Historically, softball has not been a sport that features a pitching staff. For the most part, it was one pitcher throwing most of the innings. The massive numbers of innings pitched wore on Storako at Michigan, and now at Oklahoma, she has a true staff to help lighten the load.

“Previously, I was throwing three games in a weekend,” Storako said, “So being able to throw a little bit less is really exciting for my physical health and my arm as a whole.”

Gasso has been consistent in adding arms through the portal to bolster the Sooner pitching staff since the 2016 postseason. That season Paige Parker did it all. She started 36 games and completed 32 of them. She threw nearly 60 percent of the team’s innings that year, and in total pitched in 69 of the team’s 76 innings in the postseason. The end result was a National Championship, but it was something that Gasso never wanted to put a pitcher through again.

Names like Paige Lowary, G Juarez, Shannon Saile, Hope Trautwein and now Alex Storako have been key in Oklahoma’s staff development.

“Hopefully the days of leaning on Paige Parker are over forever for this program,” Gasso said. “Because I hit a point where I was so uncomfortable with what we were doing with her physically, that I promised myself we were never gonna do that again.”

The staff has meshed and excelled this season, and the willingness of Storako to accept a different role is a major reason why. It’s also a role that is new to many on the staff including aces Nicole May and Jordy Bahl.

“It’s really hard to have this many really good pitchers and they all get along,” Storako said. “That’s special about our staff. We’re watching film, we’re making jokes... but we’re also asking all the right questions. When you understand each other that is really, really special.”

The group is tight and works well together. They’ve gone as far as adding nicknames to the group.

“Fire and Ice... Joe (Jordy Bahl) and (Nicole) May. Spice... which is me. Dice which is Deal. SJ is everything nice.” Storako said. “It’s really fun and being so supportive and that is really helping us propel through each lineup.”

Storako has an incredible future in front of her, both on and off the field. Storako was the first overall pick in the WPF draft and was the first-ever selection of the OKC Spark. Off the field, Storako envisions a future working in the front office of a professional sports team and has secured an internship with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The future looks bright for Storako. Her passion for softball and the Sooners have made it even brighter. “I have so much passion for the game. It’s been my entire life,” Storako said. “When you dive into the game within the game, that’s why I love pitching - the competition between you and the batter. Win each battle and get 21 outs. When I’m able to provide that kind of energy to my team and give that spark, I love being that outlet.”– BSM

State Champs

First Championship for Norman Tigers Boy’s Golf

On a final round surge, the Norman Tigers won their program’s first 6A boys golf’s state championship. Once the final putts settled at Bailey Ranch Golf Club in Owasso, Norman had rallied back from a fourth place start in the final round of the state tournament, erasing a seven-shot deficit, and winning by six strokes over Stillwater.

Head golf coach Gregg Grost said the championship coronation began with his first conversation with the team in the summer of 2020. During an outdoor meeting, Grost met with this current group of seniors as their new head coach after COVID erased their freshman seasons. The coaching architect of OU men’s golf’s first national title in 1989, Grost had come out of retirement and agreed to take the reins at Norman High in the midst of the pandemic.

“We talked about setting a standard, setting goals and how we’d go about it,” Grost said. “It’s been a project and four of the seniors on this year’s team were in that meeting. They’ve been here all the way through.”

The signs that a celebration like this might soon be possible for the Tigers were evident in the very next season. In 2021, Norman trailed by five strokes with nine holes left to play at Forest Ridge before rain washed away the rest of the state tournament. The Tigers didn’t get the chance to finish.

Then, last spring, Norman watched as Norman North celebrated its first state title on a course each program knew intimately well.

“Last year, at Jimmie, the goal was to do it at home,” Grost said. “We had a couple of really good seniors and unfortunately that fourth nine, which is in the afternoon round of the first day, we just didn’t get it done.”

While the goal of a state championship hadn’t changed entering this season, one part of the attack plan had. The Tigers understood what they needed to do in order to truly give themselves another opportunity as they had in 2021 at Forest Ridge.

“The goal is to give yourself a chance to win with nine holes to play and that is truly what I did all the way through college golf,” Grost said. “If you’re in the hunt with nine holes to play, anything can happen in team golf.”

Norman was paced by the individual state champion, Sebastian Salazar. The dual citizen from Venezuela fired rounds of 73, 72 and 70 in succession to top Edmond North’s Parker Sands by a single stroke.

“It was really awesome. It’s my first high school win and it came at State and our first team win also came at State,” Salazar said. “It just feels like all the hard work we’ve put in has paid off.”

48 | June 2023

It wasn’t just Salazar, though. Grost was quick to point out that Norman truly embodied the definition of a team. Seven players regularly moved in and out of the Tigers’ top five all season.

In addition to Salazar, that group included co-captains Dennon Norman and Ben Campbell, Quinn Robertson, Cade Wilson, Maddox Volentine and Benson Diehm.

Norman and Robertson fired identical scores of 225 over the three rounds to both finish 10th. Campbell delivered a three-day score of 238, while Diehm rounded out the Tigers’ scores with 247 strokes. “This is a group. They bonded, they pushed each other, they’re the best conditioned high school team I’ve ever seen,” Grost said. “They would rival some of my OU teams as far as conditioning, I think.”

The Tigers staged quite the finish, too. Norman registered the best team single-round score of any squad at the state tournament in the third and final rounds. The Tigers combined for a tournament-best 293 strokes in the championship clincher.

Initially, Norman’s golfers probably wished they were in that final group of teams to tee off in the tournament’s third round. Instead, the Tigers got the opportunity to post a score that the leading teams in Stillwater, Owasso and Norman North would have to match or surpass.

Grost insisted to his team that this was a positive.

“The guys were disappointed they weren’t in the last wave,” he said. “Of course, they are. Anybody wants to be in the last winner groups except I told them that’s a huge advantage because we’re now going to get through, we’re going to be in the clubhouse. The wind’s going to come up, the heat’s going to come up. Those greens were growing right in front of our faces. We wanted to get to the clubhouse and post a number.”

Mission accomplished. After tracking down the Tigers’ first state title, the full gravity of what this crown means for Norman probably hasn’t totally registered yet.

“I don’t think it really has sunk in yet about what we managed to achieve,” Salazar said. “(The wait) was anxious. We had to wait about 40, 50 minutes after we finished to know if we were state champions or not.”

Looking ahead to next season, Norman should be right back in the mix once again.

“Sebastian will be back,” Grost said. “Benson Diehm will be back as a sophomore with about 20 more pounds on him hopefully. Cade and Maddox, they both played a ton and played really, really well. I know they’ll be primed and ready. Then we’ve got a whole new group of freshmen coming that we understand are pretty good. We should have some fun next year. We certainly won’t be the favorites, but we weren’t the favorites this year.” – BSM



Norman Regional Breaks Ground on a New Behavioral Wellness Center

This May, Norman Regional Health System broke ground on the Behavioral Health Center at Porter Health Village. The complex is part of the Inspire Health plan meant to realign the overall physical structure of the system to better align with patient needs.

The free-standing, 48-bed facility will house both in-patient and outpatient services.

“This 48-bed facility prioritizes mental health for this region,” said President and CEO Richie Splitt. “It is sure to promote a stronger, more resilient community and state.”

According to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Oklahoma has some of the highest prevalence of mental illness. An estimated 950,000 adults in the state need mental health services and yet most are not receiving care. In fact, data from 2020 shows nearly 90% of adults and 55% of kids 17 and under with mental illness in Cleveland County went untreated.

“Mental health is an integral part of your overall physical health, and especially post-COVID and with our economic stresses, we don’t have enough care available in our communities,” said Dr. Farhan Jawed, the medical director and chief of staff for Norman Regional’s behavioral health services.

Dr. Jawed specializes in psychiatry and behavioral health and has worked at Norman Regional for 13 years.

“The leadership at Norman Regional has always considered mental health a priority,” he shared, as a key reason why he chose to join the health system. “They know that without providing adequate mental health care you are not providing comprehensive health care.”

Splitt said that “the health and well-being of our communities is critical to our state’s success.”

“By opening this new facility, Norman Regional is extending its legacy of providing exceptional mental health care,” Splitt added.

Jawed said that physical and mental diagnoses are often linked.

“Mental health is connected to medical health. You cannot separate the two,” he explained. “For example, people dealing with stroke tend to have very high levels of depression. The mind and body must be treated together.”

Jawed and his staff often say that Norman Regional’s behavioral health services are the “best kept secret in Cleveland County.”

52 | June 2023 HEALTH

“Most people know about Griffin, but not our facilities,” he shared. “Our facility is a very friendly environment. We want people to feel comfortable and welcome here.”

He pointed to staff tenure as another valuable asset.

“The reason for our success is our committed professionals. They take a personal interest in taking care of their patients,” he said.

The new center will feature spacious rooms, modern architecture and outdoor spaces which will enhance the variety of services offered such as support groups, yoga and even craft therapies.

“Typically, the darkest, dingiest corner goes to mental health but not at Norman Regional,” Jawed said. “There is a stigma (surrounding mental health) and that comes from people’s experiences. We want to break that, so people are comfortable asking for help.

“We need to understand that mental health is like any other medical issue. And here, you are going to get all the services you need in a clean, welcoming place.”– BSM

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Dr. Farhan Jawed, medical director and chief of staff of Norman Regional’s behavioral health services
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The Sheriff’s department has a new chief financial officer who comes with the experience to continue improving financial resources and systems while best utilizing taxpayer dollars.

Frank Magness caught the eye of Sheriff Chris Amason through his work at the State of Oklahoma Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency. Magness worked for the legislative branch conducting program reviews and was on a team analyzing COVID spending. He also worked on the DHS waiting list, compiling financial information concerning what it would take to accomplish that project.

“The Sheriff reached out to me and asked for the opportunity to bring to his department what I had brought to the State,” Magness said. “It was a great opportunity and is what I’m good at – numbers – combined with my need for public service.”

Born in Russellville, Arkansas, Magness moved to Cushing, Oklahoma at a young age with his mom, dad and older sister. His mom worked at Oklahoma State University for 33 years, giving him and his sister a campus to grow up on.

Earning his undergraduate degree from OSU in finance, Magness began his career in commercial bank management in Colorado. A decade later, Mag-

ness grew tired of what he thought banking should be. Magness then went into the oil and gas industry where he owned his own business doing leasehold interest, title examinations and other finance tasks.

During the pandemic, Magness went back to school, earning his MBA from the University of Maryland (UMGC).

While working for the State of Oklahoma, Magness also served on the project team for medical marijuana licenses.

“I worked on how to go from where Oklahoma was to where it needed to be, what needed to happen to move forward,” he said.

Magness also did an operational assessment for the State of Oklahoma Department of Corrections and showed how they could save close to $60 million dollars.

At the Sheriff’s Office, Magness is working on creating a data-driven system.

“We need to be able to be responsive instead of reactionary,” Magness said. “As the tax environment changes, as crime changes, we need to get out in front of all that.

56 | June 2023 This is a continuation of our series on public servants in Norman.

For example, SQ 780 changed the emphasis on how we handle crime, reclassifying simple drug possession as a misdemeanor and taking away the possibility of prison time for those whose most serious crime was having a controlled substance for personal use. We need to be able to handle that.”

The Sheriff’s Office knows the incarcerated people they deal with today are different than those from a decade ago.

“Sometimes law enforcement offices lag behind what happens in society,” Magness said. “For example, now there is a lot more acceptance of mental health issues as we continue to understand what the departments’ needs are. We need to be able to engage in today’s society as well as meet the needs of the department.”

Bound by statutes on what the department must do and how it has to be done is challenging. Taking that knowledge and working in the system is not always easy.

“For example, we want a certain problem fixed but not everyone knows how to do that,” Magness said. “We have to figure out what steps to take and what it will cost. We have to assess if that is in our current budget or if we need to put that into our next budget. My job is to give the Sheriff all that information so he can be more efficient at his job.”

Magness knows what he wants to accomplish at the Sheriff’s Office is a big task and that it doesn’t happen overnight.

“Hopefully when the Sheriff is done, he can hand it over to the next one and he can be thankful for all the information we left behind as we move forward,” Magness said.

As custodians of taxpayer dollars, Magness is constantly aware of not wasting money and finding ways to maximize the money the Sheriff’s Office gets for the services the community wants and needs.

“That’s what we want to achieve,” Magness said. “We want to be a good steward of the hard-earned money from taxpayers.”

Magness now lives in Edmond with his wife and two daughters where they strategically moved to split the distance between both sets of grandparents. In his spare time, Magness enjoys fishing and is an avid fly fisherman who has spent time in New Zealand fly fishing and says it’s a big passion of his.

Tired of talking to a robot? Call us and talk to a real, live person! Believe it or not, we'll answer the phone! 3500 24th Avenue NW, Norman 405-561-0300


It’s summertime! Get ready for long, lazy days filled with moments that are sure to become priceless memories for you and your family. And the best news? It doesn’t have to cost much at all.


1. Go stargazing. On a clear night, spread some blankets out in the backyard and get lost in the breathtaking beauty of the night sky.

2. Practice origami. Perfect for a rainy day, this paper-folding activity is calming, creative and costs almost nothing.

3. Plant a flower or vegetable garden. What better time to coax growing things from the earth than summertime?

4. Have a picnic. Pack up a basket that’s bursting with goodies, take a short drive to a scenic spot and enjoy a relaxed meal in the great outdoors.

5. Play a round of disc golf. Find free courses at local parks.

6. Go fishing.

7. Take a nature walk. Explore the neighborhood or visit a state park and take a leisurely walk, looking out for flora and fauna commonly found in the area.

8. Go biking. Feel the air in your face and get those muscles pumping!

9. Train for a 5K. Look for a local race benefiting a charity you support and start training for a run.

10. Clean a stream. Team up with some friends to clean up a local stream and then enjoy the beautiful sight of a clear waterway.

11. Hang a hammock. Outdoor naps are the best kind of naps!

12. Find a festival. Summertime festivals are always fun and they’re often free.

13. Plan an outdoor movie night. All you need for a night out at the movies is a bed sheet, (perhaps a borrowed) projector, popcorn and your favorite films.

14. Go bird watching. Look up pictures and info on local birds, grab a pair of binoculars and see how many winged beauties you can find.

15. Visit a farmers market. Enjoy browsing these outdoor markets and bring home loads of farm-fresh and in-season produce.

16. Go fly a kite. Build a kite from scratch or pick one up at a sports store and find an open field to let it fly.

17. Cloud-watch. Get down on the grass and let the afternoon pass you by over hours of watching clouds drift by overhead.

18. Make homemade ice cream.

19. Play flashlight tag. When night falls, bring the family outside for a game under the stars.

20. Paint a picture. Visit a craft store for some paints and a blank canvas, and then work on creating your magnum opus.

21. Write a story. Sit down in front of a blank screen or notebook and let those creative juices flow!

22. Host a cooking show. Invite some kitchen-happy friends over for a cooking competition. You’ll all enjoy a night of entertainment and get to feast on the results.

23. Build a Lego masterpiece. You’re never too old for the world’s most popular building toy.

24. Finish a puzzle. Lose yourself in a jigsaw puzzle. Then, glue your creation together and hang it on your wall.

25. Play charades. This old-time party favorite is still loads of fun to play at any time.

26. Build a sandcastle. Join the kids in a day spent creating a sandy masterpiece. No kids? Start building anyway – you may just find your inner child.

60 | June 2023

27. Go on a scavenger hunt. Gather up the family or a group of friends and divide everyone into two teams for an epic scavenger hunt.

28. Host a fashion show. Dig out your old favorites from college for a hilarious retro-style fashion show or go modern and showcase contemporary trends.

29. Visit a local museum. Lots of smaller museums have free-admission days and loads of interesting exhibits.

30. Build a cardboard box castle. If you’ve got piles of boxes cluttering up your garage, this one’s for you. Use a box-cutter to help your kids build a gigantic cardboard castle, complete with secret passages, dungeons and more.

31. Make sock puppets. All you need for this fun activity is old socks, some markers and googly eyes.

32. Have a water balloon fight. Perfect for a sweltering hot day!

33. Volunteer for a charity. See if a local charity needs extra volunteers during the summer months.

34. Make homemade Play-doh. Fun to make and even more fun to play with once it’s ready.

35. Paint rocks. It’s a relaxing out-of-the-box activity that costs next-to-nothing.

36. Make a campfire. Pile up some wood and grab some marshmallows for a night ablaze with fun.

37. Play backyard games. Think giant Jenga, ladder toss and more.

38. Learn a new language. Apps like Duolingo make this easy.

39. Host a yard sale. Get rid of clutter and earn some pocket change at the same time.

40. Go camping. Find a low- or no-cost camping spot and enjoy an inexpensive getaway.

41. Wash the car. Make it fun with extra sponges, lots of bubbles and some water guns.

42. Take apart an old appliance to see what makes it work.

43. Host a talent show. Find out what hidden talents are hidden among your family or group of friends.

44. Write a letter. Take pen to paper and make someone’s day.

45. Host a dance-a-thon. See who has what it takes to dance until they drop.

46. Spend a day at the library. Check out new releases and let your kids listen to the story hour.

47. Host a potluck dinner. Have everyone bring one dish and enjoy an evening with good food and good company.

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Refresh Summer with Sauvignon Blanc

Summer is here and it’s time for white wine. Whether you are ready to expand your wine knowledge beyond Chardonnay or you want to take a hiatus from Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc is a good place to start.

The name Sauvignon evolved from the French word sauvage (wild) and blanc for white. The grape probably originated in the Bordeaux region and migrated north to the Loire Valley where it was extensively cultivated. Cuttings came to America in the 1880s, and became popular when Robert Mondavi marketed it as Fumé Blanc.

As the grape was cultivated in various regions of the world, it took on slightly different characteristics. Cold climate grapes tend to be zesty with high acidity (think green pepper and green grass with tropical fruit notes). While warm climate grapes tend to produce notes of grapefruit and peach.

In the Loire Valley, wine produced in the area of Sancerre became very popular in early 20th century Paris bistros and is still a popular, affordable option in France. Unfortunately, it tends to be pricey in the U.S.

Puilly-Fumé and Cheverny are also made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes. In Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc is generally blended with Chardonnay and Semillion for a white Bordeaux blend. Although Sauvignon Blanc is not generally oak aged, some white Bordeaux blends are. However, Sauvignon Blanc should generally be drunk young.

Sauternes is a French sweet dessert wine made from Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc is a great wine to drink with lighter fare, such as roasted vegetables, white fish, pasta salad or sushi and is a great wine to serve on the patio to compliment lighter meals. Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc is now available in cans, making it a convenient choice for the poolside.

Enjoy the heat!


64 | June 2023

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