Page 1

spring 2010

sHawnee People, places and style defined


Marissa's masterpieces


Moms claim their space

A fiery Flint Hills escape

Central Standard serenades



Philosopher and poet George Santayana couldn’t have put it any better: “ The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.”



spring 2010

sHawnee People, places and style defined


Publisher/Art Director Darby Oppold Editor Katy Ibsen Copy Editor Susie Fagan Advertising Sales Mary Hay (913) 631-1611 Manager Bert Hull Designer Tamra Rolf Ad Designers Shelly Bryant Tamra Rolf Photographers Tim Andersen Jason Dailey Contributing Writers Kim Antisdel Ryan Brown Carolyn Glade Dvorak Gloria Gale Susan Kraus Vince Meserko Kimberly Winter Stern Coordinator Faryle Scott


Subscriptions $22 (tax included) for a one-year subscription to Shawnee Magazine. For subscription information, please contact: Christopher J. Bell 609 New Hampshire St., P.O. Box 888 Lawrence, KS 66044 (800) 578-8748 | Fax (785) 843-1922 Or e-mail comments to


Shawnee Magazine is a publication of Sunflower Publishing, a division of The World Company.

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Maybe his words helped inspire our Shawnee Magazine staff as we worked on our spring 2010 issue. With a new season around the corner (given we have no more surprise snowstorms) and budding families surrounding us all, this is clearly the time to appreciate the people we love. What began as a story on “mom caves” actually became an overarching theme for this issue. Yes, it’s a place for matriarchs to escape and rejuvenate, but as our story would suggest, it’s also a place for them to celebrate their fortunes as a mother. We searched high and low for moms with home spaces to call their own, and when we found them, we were welcomed with open arms. We toured their scrapbook rooms, meditated in their reading rooms and enjoyed the gallery of quilts they’ve created for sons, daughters, mothers and other family members and friends. Their inspirations led us to a few special families who share the bond of adoption but gained more than they could have imagined. Two Shawnee families have become veterans in providing foster care to children seeking love and support. We learn their secrets to making these bustling homes functional and fun. With their dedication and open hearts, they continue to make a difference in the lives of many children. We also met Marissa, the Chinese-born daughter of Dennis and Terri Hitt. Marissa was adopted in 2005 and quickly brought oodles of love into the Hitt household. In only a couple of years she would also show an artistic nature that has wowed her parents and art connoisseurs. Channeling her Eastern culture, Marissa is making masterpieces by the dozens. And what is family without flair—or at least a colorful excuse to dance around? Emily Dumler, owner and creator of Lola Bella Designs, used tutus to fill a void as new mom. Before long she was marketing her line of vibrant custom petticoats to baby boutiques and moms needing an excuse to make their already adorable child even cuter. We also spent some time in Jill Goetsch’s family ring. In an effort to stave the fears of being a single mom, she found fitness to be the answer. Little did she know this would one day turn into a new family at the gym. As co-owner of Punch Boxing + Fitness in Shawnee, Goestch recognizes the motivations to be fit. Of course, no one ever said it was easy to be a mom, which is why we are giving back with our feature on spas at home. Consider it a new kind of mom cave, where you can relax, soothe your senses and enjoy an hour of peace and quiet—while dad and the kids are at the park, of course! Family has a way of bringing us back to center, and this spring we celebrate that. As the blooms appear and the temperatures begin to warm, take joy in the season of growth and rejoice with your loved ones.

Vol. 3 / No. 3


Departments Contents



shawnee living

A keen eye and deft hand give one designer’s home plenty of star quality



In Every Issue

03 Dear Reader 40 Q&A 46 best bets


Puttin’ on the Ritz

Seeking serenity now

Escape the madness and book a passage to paradise with an at-home spa

shawnee Businesses

VALOMILK continues to provide delicious memories


The candy man

Local profiles 22



The Sweet Pull of San Miguel

For some Kansas City residents, fantasy becomes reality

A standard of singing

Central Standard puts Shawnee on the map among male choral ensembles

Creating a masterpiece

A young girl’s paintings display artistic talent—and an undeniable influence from her Chinese homeland

health & fitness 38

It’s a knockout

Punch Boxing + Fitness gives clients a workout for the body and mind

For the Family 42


A room of her own

Savvy moms carve out their own home spaces BY Kimberly Winter Stern


Tulles of the trade

Lola Bella Designs creates colorful children’s tutus, hats and other fun accessories


BY Kim Antisdel


on the cover

The very young and talented artist in Shawnee, Marissa Hitt. {Photography by Tim Andersen} 28 marissa’s masterpieces 12 moms claim their space 44 a fiery flint hills escape 24 central standard serenades

Making a family

Foster parents share the joy of taking children under their wings

get away

44 Up in smoke

In the Flint Hills, spring sprouts early on earth licked clean by prairie fire

Funeral Home & Crematory

Memories onored H



voth home

story by

Gloria Gale

photography by


Jason Dailey


Puttin’ on

the Ritz

A keen eye and deft hand give one designer’s home plenty of star quality

Step inside Kristin Voth’s Shawnee townhome and you’ll swear Astaire and Rogers just twirled by. There’s enough old Hollywood style to set your toes tapping. Here’s why. Voth’s design would have been right at home in Tinseltown’s heyday when graceful curves and luxurious materials reigned. Her two-story residence is the essence of that vision styled with careful editing. “I don’t like a lot of clutter,” she says, acknowledging the clean lines of her chic interior. This is a woman who has a firm grasp on design. After receiving her associate’s degree in interior design from Johnson County Community College, Voth admits she’s happy to be refining her skills under the tutelage of Kansas

Interior designer Kristin Voth used a thought-out color palette when designing her luxurious bedroom.



City interior designer Danie Dunn. “Someday, I hope I’m as successful as she is,” she says.

Lots of luxe Three years ago, Voth decided to buy a home in Shawnee because of all the hills and trees. “It reminded me of Wichita, where I grew up. Plus, I loved the layout of this particular home: two bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms. All of the public spaces are located on the first floor with two bedrooms upstairs,” she says. “One of the draws of buying this home was the opportunity to customize all of the finishes throughout. I wanted neutral background on the walls and floors, then pops of color for accents.”

top left Voth spared no detail in creating spaces that exude old Hollywood style.


above Left An inviting dining room is often the scene for modern entertaining.


above right The spacious kitchen allows plenty of room for Voth to prepare any menu.

In the kitchen Voth chose oversize ceramic tile on the floors, dark-stained cabinets and Formica countertops with a granite look in deep shades of black, gold and brown. One of the reasons she likes the kitchen is its functionality. There’s plenty of room to cook—one of her passions—and ample storage. Just beyond the kitchen, creamy beige carpet anchors the glass-top contemporary dining room table handsomely flanked with four white leather chairs. “These chairs, along with the two side chairs upholstered in a playful zebra print in the living room, get lots of raves,” she notes. A full-length mahogany mirror leans against the wall, defining the dining room space. “It looks more modern this way,” she says. Voth prefers furnishings that don’t match. In her world, there’s a lot to be said for novelty and the unexpected. And with that, her coal black cat Reggie pops up on



the camel-colored Ultrasuede sofa casually accented with pillows in a red, black and copper print. Voth takes a momentary seat on the glamorous chaise longue opposite the sofa and ponders the room. “Eventually, I’d like to replace this coffee table [which she received from her mother] with a leather ottoman upholstered in a mock-croc print.” It’s apparent that Voth takes her decorating cues from the enduring style she’s learned from Dunn. “I’ve been working with Danie for six years. She’s the epitome of glamorous in a classic Hollywood way.” There’s little doubt Dunn has made an impression. The living and dining rooms clearly hark back to the Hollywood Regency style with clean lines, bold texture and strong color. From the red damask-print silk draperies accenting a Palladian window to the black area rug detailed with crimson circles to the touch of glitz from the mirrored console, there’s nothing shy or fussy. Within a comfortable 1,250-square-foot space, Voth has managed to pull off surprises. Case in point: the petite guest bathroom tucked off the living room. Embellished with a rich gray, gold and black leopardprint wallpaper, this pint-size room appears dramatically larger.

Princess sleeps here In direct contrast to the opulent tones used downstairs, Voth’s second-floor master bedroom suite is a study in femininity. “I like girly things without being ditzy,” she says. As a focal point, her queen-size bed overlaid with a satin-quilted sea foam and chocolate ensemble is meant to steal most of the room’s attention. There are other distractions, however: latte-colored walls, an antique vanity Voth painted white, gold table lamps and distinctive framed artwork. Everything is neatly arranged without being cramped. “That’s one of the reasons I bought the place—these two rooms were so large,” she says. Her sumptuous bedroom is only outdone by its equally alluring neighbor—the master bathroom. “My bathroom is really wonderful. It’s very accommodating. ... I even have my washer and dryer in the closet.” Everything in the room has Voth’s elegant interpretation, from the black chandelier dripping with black crystals over the tub to the zebraprint ottoman. This is an exceptionally feminine boudoir. Though totally comfortable in the modern age, her preference for 1940s grandeur is constantly being refined by her sure touch. Like Sinatra crooning My Way, Voth is following suit. sm

“One of the draws of buying this home was the opportunity to customize all of the finishes throughout." – Kristin Voth

TOP Drawn to various animal prints, Voth has included them in her décor and her wardrobe.

ABOVE The master bath was designed to be a relaxing, and inviting, hideaway for Voth.



home spa

story by

Gloria Gale

photography by

Jason Dailey

Seeking serenity now Escape the madness and book a passage to paradise with an at-home spa


Bloom where you’re planted—it’s a simple but wise notion.


In order to flourish, our senses must be fed the same way a seed needs nurturing. Several area business owners and experts share suggestions to help you create a sensory sanctuary at your fingertips. “In order to obtain our richest experiences, we need to value the inherent energy of the senses. Each sense speaks to our internal and external serenity,” says Liz Brown, director of the International Feng Shui Guild’s Kansas City chapter. One of the best ways to create a spalike atmosphere at home is by quieting your inner and outer world. Tapping into your five senses gives you the keys to eliminate daily stress and begin to settle into a more restful, mindful place.



Seek comfort and seclusion A haven within your home is the perfect place to escape the constant buzz of modern life. “There isn’t anything more enjoyable and mindful than to watch the birds, which automatically sinks you into a peaceful state,” says Doc Gover, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in Shawnee. Or replace the harsh clutter of everyday noise with sounds of tranquility. For some that is silence, while others prefer soft music, falling water, sounds of nature, chimes or bells. Whatever your pleasure, surround yourself with auditory delight.

“Whenever I want to relax after a hectic day at our restaurant, Country Club Cafe, I’ll brew myself a cup of South African rooibos tea. Herbal tea is so satisfying,” says Renee Rogers. Forming a sense of inner peace is the whole idea behind creating a spa at home. As you slip into the shelter of your personalized spa, your senses offer solutions to your well-being. Hearten to each and you will surround yourself with a feel-good, nurturing sanctuary. The effort is intoxicating. sm

Heaven scent Scent is the most enduring of our senses. Our smell receptors are directly connected to the limbic system, which controls emotions and memory. With our capability to recognize 10,000 aromas that influence mood, we have the power to enhance and even transform our emotional state with scent. Treat yourself and liberally use fresh-cut flowers and pots of aromatic herbs, candles, potpourri or incense. All of these quickly conjure bliss. “There’s a reason people send flowers to a hospital. They automatically provide color and aromatherapy—definitely an emotional plus. Loose cut flowers and plants brighten our senses, not to mention refresh the environment,” says Ben Russell, owner of Russell Florist & Gifts.

Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop 7347 Quivira rd. shawnee (913) 962-0077

Russell Florist & Gifts

Lucky bamboo, plants and flowers 6129 Nieman Road Shawnee (913) 631-5000 www.

A soft touch Satin, velvet, suede and silk—the mere thought of these delicious fabrics inspires delight. When you take time to feel the warmth of a bath, wrap yourself in a down robe or fleece blanket, brush an animal’s coat or use a massaging showerhead, your sense of touch flows with the moment. Want a natural high? Open windows to let in the breeze, walk across a warm floor barefoot or enjoy a sunbath. Then slather up with silky, warm lotion and relax. “I feel that it is very important to create a spalike environment in a portion of your home where you spend the most time,” says Stacey Raether, owner of La Vita Bella Day Spa. “The use of candles, essential oils, bath products, massage lotions and oils … all of these will aid in creating the ultimate home spa escape.”

Into the light Because light affects our relationship with the immediate world, it’s no wonder we wince when bombarded with harsh, blinding light. Extended days without sunlight can lead to a depressive state known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Control your visual environment by using soft pink incandescent bulbs or painting rooms in soothing monochromatic, natural or earthy colors. Spring is a good time to roll up the shades and open the windows, flooding your space with fresh air and natural light. Mirrors, shimmering crystals and sun catchers bounce light throughout a room, increasing what’s known among feng shui followers as chi or the energy of the universe.

The piece de résistance is anything that promotes satisfaction. Chocolate and wine provide bliss for some. For others, adding a slice of lime to a beautiful chilled goblet of spring water or eating slivers of fresh fruit is enough. Whatever your pleasure, buy the best and savor.

Tea, coffee 21911 W. 66th St. Shawnee (913) 441-2444

Feng Shui

Liz Brown, feng shui practitioner A Hand in Healing (816) 444-2725

La Vita Bella Day Spa

Skincare, oils, lotions 5416 Roberts St., Shawnee (913) 441-9090


Tantalizing taste

Country Club Café


A room of her own S av v y moms c a rve ou t t h e i r o wn h o me s pa c e s

Story by

Kim b e r ly W i nt e r S t e r n

photo gra phy by

J a s o n Da il e y

The scrapbooking, memory-preserving, craft-driven room of Jill Christian is more than a retreat—it’s become a bit of a business space.

With the help of family and friends, Rachael created the shelves and workspace.


Rachael Eve enjoys her scrapbooker’s retreat.


For Rachael, scrapbooking is more than a hobby–it’s a way to preserve the memories.

Move over, guys.

Scrapbo o ker’s paradi se f o u n d

Way over. The ladies are taking inspiration from your man cave movement and designing sassy, stylish rooms. Once the door shuts on these spaces, it’s just mom and her hobbies.

Whether it’s a home office, a craft

room for scrapbooking, quilting and sewing or a meditative nook bedecked with a comfy chair for curling up with the latest best seller, Shawnee moms are discovering

Pediatric nurse Rachael Eve is an avid scrapbooker who craved a place to stash the supplies and accoutrements of the popular craft, so she set up shop. She and husband Rob, along with her father-in-law Ted, redesigned a space that began life as a playroom for the couple’s two children. The ambitious carpenters built a shelf unit to hold Rachael’s myriad supplies. She purchased a desk, moved a plump hand-me-down recliner into a corner and chose a sage green valance to complement the buttery, offwhite walls. Rachael transformed a wine rack—found at a garage sale—into a storage piece by adding oversize cups to hold bunches of colorful markers. “This room serves a double function,” says Rachael. “I come in and work on a scrapbook project or curl up in the chair and read.” Rachael calls her personal space a work in progress and says the fruits of her labor—some 20 scrapbooks, including travel albums and volumes chronicling her son’s and daughter’s childhoods—are personally rewarding accomplishments.

the pure pleasures of a room to call q ui lt crazy

their own. Two of the best features of these mom-mandated rooms are their affordability



factors, with a homeowner’s surplus furniture, lighting, accessories and even innovative shelving and work surfaces





“T h is r o o m s erve s a double f u n c t i o n . I come in a n d w o r k on a s crapbook p r o j e c t or curl up in the c h a i r and read.” – r a ch a e l e ve

When Mary Jo Jansson and her husband were raising their three sons, her sewing was relegated to a guest bedroom. Once the boys moved out and were on their own, the couple made one of their rooms Mary Jo’s permanent sewing roost. But it wasn’t Halloween costumes and rompers that she wanted to create. “When my youngest son Kyle left in 2003 for college, his roommate’s mother, a good friend of mine, suggested we make the boys quilts for their dorm rooms,” says Mary Jo. Mary Jo comes from a long line of quilters—her great-grandmother’s treadle is a treasured heirloom, and her mother began quilting when she retired. Although Mary Jo says she only dabbles in the pastime, she has created 15 quilts over the years in the room-turned-studio. “My room is constantly evolving,” says Mary Jo. “It’s nothing fancy but holds my five sewing machines and baskets and tubs with supplies, an old television set, a boom box and a sawhorse table.” Mary Jo, who teaches family and consumer science at Hocker Grove Middle School, says her favorite quilt is one she created for the first child of her middle son and daughter-in-law. “I actually started making the ABC quilt when they announced they were going to start a family,” says Mary Jo. “My son said ‘Mom, we’re not even pregnant yet,’ to which I replied, ‘God can make a baby much faster than I can make a quilt.’”

Jill Christian has plenty of creative ideas, but her kids inspire her the most.


Jill Rademacher repurposed a small space in her basement into a relaxing room.

16 Rademacher’s swing was a gift from her mom, but without a porch she used it to complete her retreat.

Calmi ng space

“M y w h o l e objective w i t h t h is r oom is that n o t h i n g i n it remind s m e o f o b l i gation s or r es p o ns i b i litie s . I ’m f r e e t o r e ad, write o r n ap.” – J i ll R ade m a ch e r

Jill Rademacher, a mother of two with one on the way, cherishes her solitude. The space she and husband Mitch chose to renovate is in their home’s basement. Although it’s windowless and had been used for storage, the overhauled room is cheery and welcoming. “I selected a soft yellow paint for the walls to create a sunshinelike glow,” says Jill. “My whole objective with this room is that nothing in it reminds me of obligations or responsibilities. I’m free to read, write or nap.” Soft, billowy fabric draped across the ceiling and small white twinkle lights inject unexpected elements of magic. Two items that hold symbolic sentiment for Jill—a hanging swing and a framed watercolor—are centerpieces in the serene space. “The swing belonged to my mom, and she gave it to me when I bought my first house,” says Jill. “We didn’t have a place to hang it when Mitch and I moved here, so I decided to add it to my room.” The watercolor was a gift from the daughter of a patient Jill met and bonded with while volunteering at a local hospice; the bright painting has inspired Jill to take lessons. Fluffy quilts Jill found at secondhand stores and pillows add more soft touches to the room while a small, burbling fountain heightens the serenity factor. “I feel like I’m 100 miles from home when I’m in my room,” says Jill.

go t o y ou r r oom For two Shawnee moms, it’s about ensuring that the room is a relaxing retreat that doesn’t remind you of a looming to-do list, chores or tomorrow’s carpool. It’s a customized space to kick back, hum along with your favorite CD, create an heirloom scrapbook or finish a one-of-a-kind quilt. Hairstylist Jill Christian has defined a passion in her mom cave. This hip, modern space is where she creates iron-on patches and handmade scrapbooks for her Etsy store, works on her own scrapbooks and does projects with her kids on occasion. She encourages moms to write down the room’s intended purpose: office, craft room or retreat. “Or maybe it’s a combination of those things. That really determines how you design it,” says Jill. She’s filled the room with things she loves and punctuates it with sleek décor. Jill decked the room in bold black and white with a contemporary rug punctuated by bright files and storage containers. “And my blackboard says ‘Create inspire enjoy now repeat!’” says Jill. “I take that to heart, and it’s easy to do when I’m surrounded with things that make me happy.” Meanwhile, stay-at-home mom Nancy Bolyard went shopping in her own home to customize her space. “A folding table is my work surface and a baby changing dresser that my last son outgrew holds my paper,” says Nancy of her basement mom cave. According to Nancy, the simplest decision is choosing a color: Pick one that will make you smile. Equally simple is declaring the space a no-toy zone. “That is my steadfast rule,” says Nancy. “The only person I want to pick up after is myself.” After dedicating, decorating and punctuating a space, go use it. “Don’t put everyone before yourself. Stay-at-home moms are surrounded by their work all day, so it’s important to escape to your room on a regular basis,” Nancy says. sm

“ Don’t put eve ry o n e before your s e l f. Stay-at-home mo m s a r e s urrounded by t h e i r work all day, so i t ’s important to e s c a p e to your room o n a regular ba s i s . ” – Na n cy Bolyard


businesses Sifers Valomilk Candy Co.

the candy


5112 Merriam Drive

VALOMILK continues to provide delicious memories

story by

Ryan Brown

photography by

Jason Dailey


With a lifetime of candy making under his belt, Russ Sifers still needed a nudge to see it through to today. He is now president of Sifers Valomilk Candy Co. and the fourth generation to make Valomilk candies. However, he had to dig the business out of the grave at one point. The company shut down in 1981 due to a failed


relationship with a new owner. Then in 1985 Russ tuned in to a radio talk show and heard callers reminiscing about their favorite candy memories. The Valomilk name kept coming up. “People were talking about how much they loved Valomilks, how it was their favorite candy as a kid and now they couldn’t find it anywhere,” says Russ. “People missed the product, and the stories they were telling were fascinating to me. I was also thinking about my grandfather’s

ABOVE LEFT Russ Sifers, president of Sifers Valomilk Candy Co., has enjoyed making the marshmallowy morsels since he was a kid.

ABOVE RIGHT Sifers’ grandfather built the candy company by selling hand-dipped chocolate cups that still cure a sweet tooth.

antique equipment that was in the boiler room of the basement of the old factory. People remembered the candies and had stories and memories—emotional memories—that were wonderful.” So Russ reassembled the factory in Merriam and revived the Valomilk tradition. The candy can still be found, if you know where to look. Cracker Barrel restaurants are one retail outlet.

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businesses While at the Olathe Cracker Barrel, Danielle Jeffers indulges. “I remember buying Valomilk candy when I was a kid,” she says. “Now I am buying them for my own kids, and they say how much they love them.” Craig Pratt of Overland Park recalls a family recommendation. “My grandpa always said that there was no better candy than Valomilk,” says Pratt. “After trying them out, I have to agree. You get your money’s worth, and they taste delicious.”

Scrumptious beginnings Based in Merriam, Valomilk is the result of a delectable accident by Russ’ grandfather, Russell Sifers. He dipped scoops of runny marshmallow into chocolate cups and began making a new candy, which he dubbed Valomilk. The name came from the V for real vanilla, alo from marshmallows and milk to describe its creaminess. Company legend has it that Russ was named successor to the candy business early on. “My mother brought me to the factory in an Easter basket,” says Russ. “When she brought me there the first time, my grandfather introduced me as ‘Russell Sifers, heir to the business.’” Growing up, Russ worked at the candy factory and assumed that his surroundings were just like everyone else’s. “I would have access to candy anytime I wanted,” he says. “I had no idea that everyone didn’t have a candy factory available to them and all the candy they wanted at their disposal.” Russ learned the fine art of candy making from his father, and employees still follow the trademarked technique of hand-dipping the candies. “We do things the old-fashioned way at Valomilk,” says Russ. “The equipment that we used lasted for over 75 years before we had to replace it. They stopped making replacement parts about 50 years ago, but we never needed to upgrade our machines until recently. Hopefully these new units will last another 50 or 60 years.”

Hometown favorite


Valomilk candy may be familiar to residents of the Kansas City area, but the brand is still a well-kept secret across the country. Competing with industry giants like Nestle, Mars and Hershey, Valomilk has to continue to carve out its niche to remain profitable. “We’re a little like the mom-and-pop stores going against Wal-Mart,” says Russ. “We don’t have the resources or the household name like some of the big boys, so we have to be smarter about how we go about our business. We offer something that Hershey’s doesn’t—we offer memories.


Not many people can tell you about the time they had their first Hershey bar, but I get letters and e-mails all the time from people who remember the first time they had a Valomilk.” According to Russ, Valomilk products are not sold everywhere because some vendors have distributorship agreements with other candy companies. However, the candy continues to be popular and in demand. “People tell me all the time that they love our candy, and they love the memories associate with Valomilk,” says Russ. “We sell our candy where Hershey’s and Nestle’s candy won’t go—places like Cracker Barrel, where the other candy companies aren’t fighting over them. We’re special, and kind of secret to most people. I like that.” sm


profiles san miguel

story and photography by

Susan Kraus

The sweet pull of

San Miguel


For some Kansas City residents, fantasy becomes reality


Have you ever fantasized, even for a moment, about changing your life and taking off on an adventure? What would it take for you to decide to make that momentary fantasy a reality? Former Shawnee residents Wendy Weber and Jim Knoch have done just that. Wendy and Jim graduated from Shawnee Mission East High School—Wendy in ’65 and Jim in ’64. They dated in college and then went their separate ways. But decades later they reconnected and three years ago they married in Kansas City. A San Miguel eatery pulls in visitors with an authentic menu and welcoming atmosphere.


profiles Former Shawnee residents Jim Knoch and Wendy Weber have traded in the Kansas plains for community living in San Miguel de Allende.

While celebrating their first wedding anniversary, they traveled to San Miguel de Allende, a town north of Mexico City. There was something about the town, the lifestyle that moved their hearts. Months later, in a move many would label impulsive, they sold almost everything they owned and headed south. They had good lives, but it was about the possibility of something different. “It isn’t just the fabulous weather and sunshine but the warmth of the people and being part of a community on a smaller scale,” says Wendy. Life in San Miguel is about savoring: food, friendship, music and art. Lunch can take two to three hours. Shops close for siesta. There is little pressure to acquire more or better things. “Living here is not just about lifestyle but, on a deeper level, about values,” Wendy says. “We have a TV, and it gets U.S. cable, but it’s never on. We’re outdoors, we’re involved, and every week there is another festival or event,” she says. Indeed, any week in San Miguel may involve art walks, gallery openings, concerts, parades, fireworks or a traditional wedding processional that circles the cathedral complete with flower-decked burros, singers and mariachi bands. The public library bustles with activities and language classes, plus a café with U.S. newspapers. The open-air Bellas Artes hosts classes in painting, sculpture and music. Once Wendy and Jim settled in, they found themselves a part of an expat community that includes several people from the Kansas City area. The San Miguel metropolitan area has about 80,000 residents, including more than 10,000 foreign residents. More than a decade ago Howard Haynes, fifth-generation Kansas City native, packed up his life and moved to San Miguel. He first came simply to visit an old friend, but the unexpected happened. “I fell in love with the physical beauty, the culture, the Mexican way of life and the vibrant intellectual and artistic expat community,” says Howard, whose partner of 37 years, Bill Harris, a noted jewelry designer, felt the same way. “Everyone said I was making the biggest mistake of my life and would be back in a year,” Howard says. “It certainly was a risk, but one we were willing to take.” The move brought a shift in priorities. “We found a more reflective pace, a less-competitive approach to life, less focus on material things and more focus on creativity, artistic expression, relationships and what you could give back to the community,” Howard says.


As the warm sun sets, families stroll in the jardin.

While Howard and Bill had always donated funds and supported causes, their volunteer work became more personal and hands-on. “There is an immediate gratification, and the smallest contribution makes a difference,” says Howard. Like many expats, Wendy and Jim have become committed volunteers, working with schoolchildren and community projects. For these and other Kansas City transplants, evenings strolling the jardin (central plaza) represent their lifestyle shift. Families gather on park benches under the laurel trees, listening to music as the children play and the sun sets over the cathedral. “We just live one day at a time with nothing to prove,” says Howard. San Miguel de Allende is in Guanajuato, a sophisticated colonial part of Mexico with a rich history and culture. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has attracted artists since World War II. Life in San Miguel used to be a bargain, but its housing costs are now similar to those in the United States. While tourism is a vital part of the economy, it isn’t the rule. People sometimes think of expats as people who have run away, leaving behind an unhappy or difficult life. But these Kansas City transplants prove the opposite. They were happy people, involved and satisfied. They weren’t looking to uproot their lives. But they did. “It’s about the people, lifestyle, music, art and food,” says Howard. “And the giving, the sharing what we have with others.” sm



profiles central standard choir

story by

Ryan Brown photography by

Tim Andersen

A standard of singing sHawneemagazine

Central Standard puts Shawnee on the map among male choral ensembles


“There’s a lot of buzz in here.” So says Mike Neff, director of Central Standard, the award-winning chorus from Shawnee. Central Standard, he says, is a “group of young and young-at-heart singers” who compete and perform in and around the Kansas City area. Central Standard performed its Harmony on the Plaza concert in November at the Unity Temple. The choral group’s success has been celebrated locally and nationally.


profiles With a snappy blend of barbershop quartet and contemporary selections and plenty of energy, Central Standard offers a unique sound that is the result of hard work, dedication and a fraternal bond that borders on brotherhood. Founded in 2007, the group originally had 17 members. Founding member Mike Louque came up with the idea for the group on the way back from a choir concert in the fall of 2006. “Some of us got together, and we had a plan,” says Louque. “Most groups get together and sing, then learn the music. We wanted to go the other way—and that made us a little different.” With the end goal already envisioned, Louque and the other members of the group decided to have tryouts to round out members in the choir. “We invited about 50 people to come sing with us,” says Louque. “We pared that down to about 16, and the group evolved just the way we thought it would.” Demographics among the group’s 30 or so singers are varied. Members range from 55-year-old professionals to college students who travel all the way from Maryville and Columbia every Thursday to practice with the chorus; each one has a passion for singing and performing.

“Every week we get together and we share our love for singing,” says Neff. “Our members bring their friends to participate, and they are welcome to join us.”

Performance professionals Central Standard has evolved from a basement-singing group to a welloiled performing machine. In 2008 and 2009 the group won the Central States District Small Chorus Championship and in 2009 it won the Central States District Chorus Championship. Additionally, Central Standard will be represented at the Barbershop Harmony Society 2010 International Convention in Philadelphia. “We strive to be high-achieving,” says Neff. “We are competitive in our singing competitions, and that’s the result of how much work we put into our performances during practices.” The chorus has succeeded in competitions despite being one of the smaller choirs. There are 250 groups that are eligible for the competitions, but only the top 30 get to compete for the judges. “It’s rare for a group this small to succeed,” says Neff. “The secondplace group had 80 members, and other groups usually have close to 100

singers. For Central Standard to have 30 to 32 full-time members and be as successful as we have been—that’s pretty amazing.”

Preparing to pop The group assembles weekly at the Shawnee Presbyterian Church to practice. Under the watchful of eye of Neff, it resembles a team at basketball practice. He puts the singers through their paces over and over until they reach the performance level he wants. “The purity and unity of the sound is what is important,” says Neff. “You don’t want the individual voice to push the sound down. … We’re not just singing notes and words. The music needs some attitude.” Neff makes sure that the group functions as just that. There are some talented individual singers in Central Standard, but no one person stands out more than the other. “The hallmark of this group is that our sound has a lock and ring to it,” says Neff. “It’s not like singing in a quartet. We have created our own sound.” After a quick warm-up song, Neff runs each of the four sections through the scales to make sure their pitch and volume are where he needs them to be. Once the singers are ready, they start practicing for their upcoming competition. Neff listens with an adept ear, picking out an off note, a pushed breath or someone whose voice is rising a little too much for his liking.


left Director Mike Neff continues the Central Standard vision to maintain a choral group comprised of educated, well-versed members. above Central Standard has about 30 full-time members who travel from near and far for rehearsals.



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Finally, Neff puts the group through a performance that is nearly competition worthy, because, as he says, “You should sing your best every time, not just when the judges are watching.� With several upcoming performances and competitions, Central Standard appears to be ready to defend its titles. Lots of buzz, indeed. sm


profiles marissa hitt

story by

Vince Meserko

photography by

Tim Andersen

Creating a



A young girl’s paintings display artistic talent—and an undeniable influence from her Chinese homeland


Marissa Hitt paints in Chinese—or at least that’s how she describes it. She is an artist who tries to blend her Chinese heritage with her Midwestern upbringing—bridging the East with the West. Like any artist, she aims high and has an artistic vision that she tries to fulfill each time she puts the brush to canvas.

There is a method to the artistic madness of Marissa Hitt. She just needs color, memory and a dash of dancing.


profiles Marissa is also only 5 years old. Adopted from Liuzhou in China’s southeastern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region by Shawnee residents Dennis and Terri Hitt at 10 months of age, Marissa is a prodigious artistic talent. She has already sold some of her paintings, become the focus of her own blog and established a small “studio” in her basement complete with an easel and an array of brushes and paints. At first Marissa’s artwork just seemed like an enjoyable activity, but Terri and Dennis soon realized there was something special about their daughter’s talent. “I didn’t know she was really talented. I knew that I liked it. But really when we thought, ‘Wow, she really has a unique style that looks beyond her years,’ was when she was 4,” Terri says. At around 3½ years old Marissa began putting paint to canvas using her mother’s acrylic paints. At this early age Marissa began painting bonsai trees from her native country and doing it in a way that was entirely selftaught and self-motivated. Even now, Marissa has never taken formal lessons. While Terri provides tips on how to blend paint and use different types of brushes, Marissa says, “My mommy and my daddy are my helpers.” It is her perceptiveness and attention to detail that mark her abilities. Before she paints, Marissa goes through a preliminary process. According to her, she first wants to “paint

something in my mind” before committing it to canvas. “I stand back a little bit and make sure I know what I want to do first,” she says. Marissa says she likes paintings that “look like they come to life” when they are complete. Her parents marvel at this advanced understanding.

An (a)typical Kid “She’s an interesting mix. She can run around and be unfocused like a typical 5-year-old or she can be extremely detailed,” Dennis says. “She’s very absolute.” While being interviewed, Marissa dances around the house (she’s also a talented dancer), stops to eat and dances around some more. When she stops to draw, her eyes get wide and determined, displaying a level of precision. Terri and Dennis first noticed it when she started adding her own patterns and adornments to her coloring books at the age of 2. That meticulousness and determination haven’t gone away. “She may paint for 10 minutes or she may paint for two hours,” says Dennis, who estimates that Marissa has done more than 50 canvas paintings, each of which retains an Eastern sensibility. Her bonsai trees, butterflies and flowers all look distinctly Asian. Terri attributes it to a “subconscious search for identity,” where Marissa perhaps unknowingly is recognizing where she has come from and where she might be going in the future.

In fact, Marissa says one of the butterflies in her painting is “maybe flying to China,” an insight that seems to confirm her mother’s suspicions that her artwork is really an expression of self-identity and a subtle homage to her country of origin. Whatever her intentions, Marissa seems to have a conscious understanding of how her artwork functions. She differentiates her “Chinese” paintings from her “American” paintings. When she is asked to describe what she likes about each of her paintings, Marissa is able to pick out certain characteristics that make each piece distinct, a certain color that stands out, a textural choice that adds depth to her paintings or even a narrative to accompany her paintings, often adding “you know?” at the end of her sentences to make sure that her intentions and explanations are clearly understood. Even at 5, she seems aware of how the artist’s vision might not always be understood by his or her audience.

with others in coffee shops and through the Kansas Children’s Service League. above Marissa contemplates what she wants to paint before she starts. Butterflies are one of her favorite subjects.


left Marissa’s family has begun sharing her work


A bright future Her work is clearly connecting with an audience, however. Dennis and Terri are exploring several coffeehouses and galleries where they hope to display her work and will continue to sell her paintings to anyone interested. Homer’s Coffee House in Overland Park and The Great Frame Up in Shawnee displayed her work this winter; the Kansas Children’s Service League purchased three paintings and asked Marissa to paint a children’s chair for the organization. As for the future, Marissa wants to focus on more “American” styles of painting and is interested in working on painting a field of roses for her next project. As her abilities continue to progress, it’s likely more people will come in contact with her artwork. Terri attaches a spiritual significance to this. When they package her artwork for sale, for instance, they wrap

Terri and Dennis noticed Marissa’s talent early on but had no idea she’d stick with it for as long as she has.

it with a red string, which in traditional Chinese folklore is thought to tie people to one another. In the proverb, the red string may tangle and stretch but never break. “So we tie it up with that red string to show that maybe these people were destined to meet her and for her to touch them through her artwork,” says Terri. sm

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Farmers’ Market May–October

Lola Dumler

Tulles of the trade story by Kim Antisdel photography by Jason Dailey and Jennifer Henak

Lola Bella Designs creates colorful children’s tutus, hats and other fun accessories


hree and a half years ago, Emily Dumler faced a dilemma. Pregnant with her first child, she was preparing to become a stay-at-home mom but knew that could be daunting. “I had heard that some people just felt like they lost themselves staying home with their kids,” says Dumler, who had worked as a sales representative and was actively involved in various organizations. “I’m such a creative person. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I’m just the type of person who needs something to do.” With motherhood approaching, the Shawnee resident wanted to find a new pursuit after the baby arrived that wouldn’t be a full-time work commitment. It was fitting that her baby girl would prove to be the inspiration for her customized children’s accessories business, Lola Bella Designs. “When Isabella was a baby, she didn’t have enough hair on her head to hold fun bows and ribbons, so I would make little headbands for her,” Dumler says. “I’d go to the mall to shop or have lunch, and people would stop and ask where

Marley Honsey

I bought her headband. I would say that I made it, and they’d tell me I should be selling them.” It didn’t take long for Dumler to do just that. Starting small, Dumler made custom tutus and headbands for friends and family at first. After these initial sales—and the birth of her second daughter—she realized that customers could see and order her creations easiest on a website. Using both her daughters’ names, Lola, who will be 2 in April, and Isabella, 3½, Dumler created Lola Bella Designs in 2007 and later launched her website. “At first my website was pretty junky,” Dumler says. “Then I took what I learned in college [as a public relations manager major] and applied it to web design. It was just another creative outlet for me to make the website myself.” To show off her products, Dumler knew good photography was a must. Teaming with Shawnee photographer Jennifer Henak, a friend and neighbor, seemed like a great solution. “Jennifer and I have swapped things in the past,” says Dumler. “She’d use my stuff in her shoots and let me put [photographs] on the website, or she’d give me a discount on photo shoots of my kids. We help each other out.” Dumler didn’t stop at a website. With a little help from one of her biggest supporters, Lola Bella Designs became available at several baby boutiques in Kansas. While her husband, Scott, a pharmaceutical representative, was in Salina making calls, he noticed a baby boutique. “I asked him to go in and see if they carried my kinds of hats,” she says. The rest, as they say, is history. Now Lola Bella Designs can be found at Simply Baby and More in Salina and Hey Baby! in Manhattan. Krista Caffey, owner of Hey Baby!, isn’t surprised by the success of Dumler’s products. “People have made comments of how well the

Ella Coup

Claire Peterson

Lola Bella Designs

Lilly Henak

items are made,” Caffey says. “And of course, they’re just too cute. Emily’s creativity is excellent, and her production of the items is excellent as well.” The line of accessories features infant hats, toddler hats, tutus and headbands for girls, but the items aren’t limited to Dumler’s imagination. One of her favorite parts of the business is creating designs tailored to the client’s needs and suggestions. “I always tell people that the items on my website are great, but they’re just ideas,” Dumler says. “A lot of the time, people want something custom because they need to match a purple color in an outfit or something. Or they want it to be a certain college’s colors. That’s really fun for me.” Now pregnant with her third child, a boy, Dumler is not only thinking about being a mom of three but how the addition of a son might expand her business even further. “I don’t currently make anything for toddler boys,” she says. “But ask me in a year and I might have a different answer.” sm

Photography courtesy of

Health &

fitness story by

Vince Meserko

photography by

Tim Andersen

It’s a

knockout Punch Boxing + Fitness gives clients a workout for the body and mind


After her husband died in the Iraq War six years ago, Jill Goetsch quickly found herself a single mother with two young children and a third on the way. But rather than turning to antidepressants, she did something much simpler: She hit the gym.


“Everybody’s done cardio with their lower body. Everybody’s done step classes and run and walked, but this works your upper body just as much as your lower body.”

Jill found that the benefits of exercise went beyond weight loss and physical health. For her, exercise became a form of mental therapy. It was a way of releasing tension and avoiding self-pity—a means of finding solace amid tragic circumstances. “Sometimes I’d be on the StairMaster and crying and all that, but at the end of it I felt better,” Jill says. “Exercise helped me get through a rough patch then and still helps me better manage a busy life.” Eventually the pain began to wear off along with some pounds, and she was ready to get her life back on track. After moving to Shawnee, Jill met and married Brad Goetsch; together they opened Shawnee’s Punch Boxing + Fitness in 2009. Brad’s two-decade-long involvement with physical fitness made for an ideal complement to Jill’s life experiences. The two have tried to create a unique fitness environment. Punch Boxing + Fitness offers boxing and kickboxing lessons, but instead of training the next Mike Tyson, the lessons are intended to build strength and cardiovascular endurance and improve mental health. For those who are interested in becoming the next Mike Tyson, Punch Boxing + Fitness offers competitive boxing lessons. It also fields a boxing team, and three members have competed in tournament action.

Full-body workout While Punch Boxing + Fitness offers the usual gym amenities—treadmills, ellipticals, exercise bikes, weight-

– Brad Goetsch

LEFT Eric Biven works on a bag at Punch Boxing + Fitness where clients are welcome to test their strength and endurance in the ring.

below The Goetsch family gets together with the gloves on. From left are Gus, Brad, Cooper, Jill, Grace and Paige. below right Trainer Rudy Paredes, without gloves, leads a class on the proper strength-building techniques of boxing.

lifting equipment, 35 punching bags, Astroturf, boxing ring, jump ropes, ballet bars and even yoga and Pilates classes—it is the full-body nature of the workouts that set it apart. As Brad says, “You really feel like you accomplish something afterward.” In these classes, students learn the basic boxing stance before learning how to jab and throw combination punches and kicks. They also do traditional cardiovascular exercises like jumping jacks and push-ups. Brad says the weight of the boxing gloves combined with the resistance of the boxing bag makes these truly full-body workouts. “Everybody’s done cardio with their lower body. Everybody’s done step classes and run and walked, but this works your upper body just as much as your lower body,” says Brad. Student Kristi Flack says the boxing workout has been especially helpful in building her upper body strength and improving her cardiovascular health. As a competitive runner, she’s been able to significantly improve her half-marathon time as a result of the class. Even as someone in excellent shape, Kristi describes the class as “rigorous,” but she says the difficulty should not scare anyone away.

Everything but the kitchen sink

The father-son duo of John, 35, and Johnny O’Hara, 10, provide another success story. Each has lost 30 pounds in the last year while participating in multiple classes. Johnny says that when he was 30 pounds heavier he could barely run at all, but a year later the slimmed-down preteen says he can run as long as half an hour with ease. “The membership fee is way cheaper than a doctor’s bill,” says John. While the health benefits of these intense workouts are obvious, there is a common thread that seems to connect Jill’s life experience to those who use her gym: Exercise is also great for mental fitness. After being laid off from his railroad job for half a year, John was drawn to exercise for other reasons. “I came in to get stronger mentally, and then the physical part came and it changed my whole being,” he says. “I feel like I can walk through walls because of this place.” sm

Shawnee boxing facilities 24 Hour Fitness

11311 W. Shawnee Mission Parkway (913) 248-0724

Shawnee Fitness Club 6518 Vista Drive (913) 422-8200

Punch Boxing + Fitness 5437 Roberts St. (913) 441-1070


One of the people responsible for ensuring this rigor is Jimmy Warner, who teaches a class called The Sink. Jimmy, a former youth karate champion, describes the class as “a combination of everything. Heavy weights, cardio, basic karate skill sets and freestyle wrestling, and then just a dash of pain and suffering throughout the hour.” While these workouts are strenuous, the facility welcomes clients of all skill levels; classes can be tailored to meet the strength and ability level of each participant. Part of the appeal of small-group exercise is the camaraderie that builds among those in the classes. Brad says this helps most people overcome the fear of having to exercise alongside peers. “You hear [other people] hitting the bag, and that motivates you to go a little more,” he says. Jill adds that Punch Boxing + Fitness is a small club, and because of this, “you hold each other accountable and we all kind of get to know each other.”

Success stories


Q& A with

If we promise not to tell the others, will you tell us what is your favorite park in Shawnee? This was a hard one. I don’t want to cop out. Honestly, they’re all so special to me because I’ve had a hand in all the parks that we’ve done—we’ve either redesigned or redone—and I’ve had a hand in that. But each is different, and that’s what’s so nice about being in the position. The idea is that each park would have a different element … [each park] has a different structure and a different theme. OK, now my favorite park. It is Monticello Springs. The reason why I like this park the most is if you would have seen what it was to begin with … I tell you, the thing was a mess. And it’s funny, there are very few people who go to this park. It’s very unknown. What we’ve done: [Added] trails, we’ve cleaned up the dam, we’ve put a playground in, two shelters. One of the nicest shelters we have out there overlooks a 10-foot rock wall; it overlooks the pond that overlooks the dam.

Neil Holman

City of Shawnee Parks and Recreation Director


Neil Holman can often be found on the playground, pruning a tree or wandering one of Shawnee’s many parks. As the city’s parks and recreation director, he takes pride in the amenities offered at Shawnee’s outdoor destinations. “I was the first parks superintendent,” he says. “In ’98 was when I was asked to become the director, and that was just incredible. I loved it.” Loving it might be an understatement. “We’ve tried to put something different in each park to make it unique,” Holman says, so when the kids get up in the morning, they can pick a park and put on their imagination hat. This train of thought is allowing kids to dream up more than just a trip to the park. We talked with Holman to learn which park ranks as his favorite and what inspires his enthusiasm.


What do you enjoy most about this job? There’s just so much. … We’ve got parks. We’ve got a lot things happening in parks. We’ve got pools. We’re getting ready for the summer. There’s also the cemetery; there’s activities there. I am very fortunate. I think I do have the best job in Shawnee. You have something all the time. You’re involved in an awful lot of different things. You are certified as a playground inspector. What role does this play in your work? You know, I love designing. I can’t draw on paper, but I love laying things out and I can visualize pretty well. Most of the playgrounds that we do, I will pick and lay out the structures. That’s one thing about the job that’s nice that you’re able to do. You hire a designer that comes in and, you know, I always add my 2 cents! … I guess I’m still a kid too. We have 16 play structures. We also have a skateboard park, which is probably one of the nicest ones in the area and in the Midwest. We’re very proud of that.

What inspires you as a horticulturist? Going back to these park projects—to take a field and to turn it into a park with the turf, trees, the flowerbeds—that is what inspires me. … Taking something that’s just blah and turning it into something that’s attractive for Shawnee. Do you like to climb trees? I do climb trees. It’s also in my hat. I’m the city forester with my horticulture background, so I have climbed trees. My favorite tree is the ginkgo. That’s probably one thing kind of under the radar: Every park has a ginkgo in it. I love that tree. It’s a dinosaur tree. I think it’s one of the only trees that survived. What do you believe makes Shawnee a unique community? I know a lot of people have said it has the small-town feel, and it does. I think it’s a town that has a lot of opportunities both residential and commercial. … For me, I think Shawnee is a gold mine. I think there are a lot of opportunities.

Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Katy Ibsen.

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For the


foster care

story by

Carolyn Glade Dvorak

photography by

Tim Andersen


ulie Schoemehl and Kenny Hartman raise a house full of children in Shawnee. The only thing that differentiates their family from others is that they spent a little more time building theirs. Julie and Kenny are foster parents. Four of their adopted children are black; another is biracial. They recently adopted a girl who had been in their foster care, and they are hosting an exchange student. Kenny’s biological daughter lives on her own but visits frequently, and they care for two dogs from a bulldog rescue organization. After Julie learned she could not have children of her own, she and Kenny decided to enter the world of foster care with the intention of adopting some of the children. That was 10 years ago, and they have since cared for more than 70 foster children.


a family

Filling a void Vivian Ervin of Shawnee also embraces life as a foster parent. “My [birth] sons and their families think of these kids as brothers and sisters,” she says of her grown adopted children and young foster children. Vivian and husband Johnnie already had sons Michael and Gregory when they adopted Tonya in 1977 at the age of 2. “I never felt like I wasn’t part of the family,” says Tonya, now 34. “I always felt the attention, love and support.” After Vivian’s husband died and their three children were grown, she became lonesome. A friend suggested she look into foster care. “I had the intention of taking in one teen, found out I really enjoyed it, then after that I continued,” Vivian says. “For


Foster parents share the joy of taking children under their wings

Their household includes Sierra, a newborn when they adopted her, who is now 2. Then there’s Jacob, 7, Walter, 8, Isaiah, 10, Kadeja, 15, and Crystal, 17. Michelle, 17, is visiting from Switzerland, and Kenny’s daughter Courteney is 20. “One of the joys of this is a sense of family without boundaries,” says Julie, who is also the Kansas spokesperson for multiracial families Kansas Foster and Adoptive Parent Association. “Someone new is just absorbed.”


Julie Schoemehl and Kenny Hartman lead a family that works as a team. On top bunk, from left, are children Jacob, Walter and Isiah. On bottom bunk is Crystal with, from left, Kadeja, Sierra and exchange student Michelle Fontijne.

For the


years it was only teenagers, then (in 1994) I came across a darling little boy who was 2 years old and adopted him.” That boy, Jimmy, is now 17. In 1996 she adopted her third child, DeAndre, who is now 18. Currently she has two boys in foster care—one 7 and the other 10—plus children who attend her in-home day care center. Her days are nonstop. Getting the kids ready for school is just the beginning. After they are off, Vivian begins her day care business while also staying in contact with the schools on a daily basis to solve any problems that may arise. Once the children are home, there’s a little free time and snacks, then homework. After day care children are picked up, dinner is prepared and everyone helps in the kitchen afterward. She makes sure family time is part of every day. Julie manages a similar organized chaos. “It all works. … I don’t know how it all works, but it works. I’m very organized,” she says. In their home, meals are planned a week at a time. Everyone is assigned a day to clean, and everyone is responsible for their own space. The older children do their own laundry. Julie and Kenny’s home is on a cul-de-sac, which offers plenty of space for entertainment. They also have an acreage in western Shawnee put to good use with sledding and rides on the four-wheeler. Vivian uses the Johnson County Parks and Recreation programs as well as neighborhood pools to keep her children active. On weekends they might go roller-skating, shopping or to the movies. The children also skateboard and ride bikes in the neighborhood. While these activities are similar to that of many families, there are added challenges for foster or adoptive parents.

The diversity Many people are involved with each child’s life, and each child comes with a different history, Julie says. As foster parents they work with the judge, county officials, the social worker, the child’s birth family and other foster families that have cared for the child. Because some children have endured bad experiences, may have special needs or require medication, a foster parent needs to be flexible, according to Vivian. “Everyone is different, and you try to find ways to work with them,” she says. “Some have been to five or six homes, and there’s a fear of being put out. They don’t feel safe and loved, and they’re not sure anyone loves them.” Support from family, neighbors and schools is important for Vivian. It doesn’t matter who is in her care—the neighbors and neighborhood kids get her children involved. After being a foster parent for 18 years, Vivian says the school employees know her as well.

“I also have an extensive family, and they are behind me 100 percent,” she says. Tonya, who now has two children of her own, talks to Vivian every day and is often at the house. Michael and his family live close by and are approved caregivers in case Vivian needs to be gone. “It’s been a wonderful experience for me,” says Vivian, who is now 68. “I see the need is so very great—more so now than ever. I don’t have a lot of money, but I have a lot of time and a lot of love.” Julie and Kenny are thankful for support from community groups, Westside Family Church in Lenexa and other foster families. “We’re filling a need,” she says. “I think the greatest gift you can ever give a child is a family. You can never take that away from them.” sm

Should you consider foster care or adoption?

Julie Schoemehl says it takes about six months to become licensed for foster care or approved as an adoptive family. According to the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services website, as of November 2009 there were 390 children in foster out-of-home care in Johnson County. In that same time period there were 1,010 children in foster care in the Kansas City metropolitan area, which includes Johnson County.

Kansas Foster and Adoptive Parent Association

National Foster Parent Association

Kansas Department of Health and Environment

Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services


Vivian Ervin displays photos of her many foster children and adopted children.



away flint hills

story by

Gloria Gale

Photography courtesy

Joy g. Macherone

If you’re

lucky enough

to be in the


Flint Hills come April,

turn your gaze westward where a vast surge of grassy drifts and swells seems like the sea itself. An ocean of sky and prairie converge in this ancient grassland rooted in limestone shallows. Welcome to the tallgrass prairie, once a staggering 140 million acres blanketing the Plains. Today all that remains of this fragile ecosystem, cutting a swath 180 miles down the eastern spine of Kansas, is 10,500 acres—a mere 4 percent of which is preserved by a conservancy throughout the sparsely populated counties. In the rolling folds of the Flint Hills, the burning season comes early— as soon as the waves of bluestem and switchback are blanched and brittle. “This ancient, indigenous rite of spring ensures


Up in

smoke In the Flint Hills, spring sprouts early on earth licked clean by prairie fire renewal on one of the last great stretches of preserved native prairie on the North American continent—one that I’m humbled by and aim to protect,” says Jan Jantzen, owner of the Grandview Ranch and conductor of the annual Flames in the Flint Hills adventure. Visitors gather on his 135-acre spread, nestled deep into the hills, to join in the prairie burn. During a ritual of his own, Jantzen teaches those who make the annual trek to his ranch how to torch the grass every spring. Guests delight in hearing Jantzen’s soft-spoken recounting of pioneer grit. They receive his homespun wisdom and basics on fire safety before striding out to light the grass.

“This is a land of rock, fire, grass and grazing. Millions of years ago this entire area was an inland sea replaced over time by the tallgrass prairie. What the Native Americans learned from Mother Nature was that fire controlled the landscape,” he says. “Not only did it bring the buffalo herds to them instead of the other way around, it rejuvenated the land. Today, cattle have replaced the buffalo grazing on the new growth regenerated from burning.” The prairie burn is as critical today as it has been in the past millennium. “It’s about the best natural tool we have for pasture management,” says Jantzen’s neighbor and fellow rancher Brian Keith. Today Keith, who



below Adventurers participating in prairie fires help by raking brush and grass together into clumps. This tinder provides fuel for the fire.

below right Once visitors return to the ranch, they can revel in the ways of prairie life with a chuck wagon meal and songs of celebration.

ing from this whole experience,” says one woman from Mission who’s anxious to see what the nighttime burn has to offer. Once again, the wind becomes a critical factor; however, it usually dies down considerably toward dark. The fire is less heady, crawling and snaking in long lines instead of racing. Regardless, Jantzen assures the group, the whole scene will make fine images for all of the photographers in the crowd. Until then, there’s plenty of hot coffee simmering over the coals and acres of pastured hills to explore. “We owe a debt of gratitude to the past, and respect the rhythms of nature to ensure the future of this land,” says Jantzen while thanking his neighbors, volunteers and guests who have witnessed this year’s burning. The sun starts to dip over the hill. A plump songbird scatters as the group ambles out and over the ridge. This year, the rite of spring has been successfully coaxed. Flames in the Flint Hills once again is about to become history. sm

Kansas Flint Hills Adventures 151 Road 130, Emporia (620) 342-2625


owns approximately 8,000 acres where hundreds of cattle graze, will lend a hand to Jantzen and this year’s Flames in the Flint Hills participants. Equally engaging is the education a prairie burn provides for those who venture to the Flint Hills to participate and then spread the word about the experience. “I’m here just to see what all the smoke and fire is all about,” says one man who traveled all the way from Wisconsin. Another is determined to tell her students about the Flint Hills and the tallgrass prairie. She is eager to get started, but not before listening to a serenade of bluegrass pickin’ while moseying around to replenish tea, grab an apple and a handful of peanuts. The wind, which plays an integral part during the event, has died a bit during the afternoon. This pleases Jantzen, who leads his motley crew out into the north 40 acres. As his guests stand nearly shoulder-to-shoulder, Jantzen instructs them to rake the dried grass together in front of them and then light a match. A gentle breeze from the east helps ignite the grass, which in seconds fuels and blazes into a huge, hot line of flames. Galloping across the expanse, the fire licks its way across the field, leaving smoldering, blackened ash behind. The engagement takes about 3 minutes and 45 seconds. Participants follow the flames to the creek, smiling and astonished at what they’ve encountered. “It’s not your everyday experience,” says one woman, clearly flushed and exhilarated. “Right now, we’ll be serving dinner. Then, as dusk settles in, we will do an evening burn on an even bigger spread,” says Jantzen. Josh and Gwen Hoy, fifth-generation owners of the 10,000-acre Flying W Ranch in nearby Cedar Point, have started serving dinner from the back of their chuck wagon. Folks seem pleasantly laid-back, confidently discussing the entire affair while loading up on brisket and potatoes. Despite the smoky haze hanging in the air, “I’m still glow-


Mar - May ’10 March 15April 23

Traveling community history exhibit. This

free exhibit presented by Shawnee City Hall celebrates community history across Kansas. Highlights include stories about the state’s immigrant and ethnic history as well as information about life in Shawnee during the ’20s and ’30s. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. 11110 Johnson Drive. (913) 631-2500.

March 26-28

Just Between Friends Spring Shopping Event.

Bargain shop for highquality, gently used children’s and maternity items at the Kansas Speedway. 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (913) 302-3201. http://

March 20-21 and 27-28

Dodge for a Cause.

Perceptive Software’s fifth annual charity benefit for the Kansas City chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Teams compete on Perceptive’s regulationsize dodgeball court to raise money and earn a chance to attend the National Amateur Dodgeball Association outdoor tournament. www.dodgeforacause. com

March 31

Bob Reeder. A performance by Bob Reeder, an IrishAmerican musician and Kansas City-based entertainer, singer/ songwriter and events/ music producer. Reeder plays six- and 12-string acoustic guitars, banjo, cittern and bagpipes. 7 p.m., Waxy O’Shea’s, 11900 Shawnee Mission Parkway. (913) 631-1759.


suggested for various sized banker box of material to shred. Donations go to the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund. Event is from 10 a.m.-noon at Splash Cove parking lot at the Jim Allen Aquatic Center, at 5800 King Ave. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. residents may also recycle consumer electronics for a fee ranging from $10 to $20 depending on size of item.

April 10

Yesterday’s Tomorrow Benefit. Take in an evening of gourmet food, spirits, entertainment and live and silent auctions to support the Johnson County Museum. (913) 715-2550.

April 17

Run for Mercy. Ocean’s

May 29

City pools open.

June 3-6

Old Shawnee Days.

of Mercy’s seventh annual 10K run and 5K run/walk to benefit and support people with HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Registration available online. The race will take place at Monticello Trails Middle School. http://

Kick off summer with Old Shawnee Days at Shawnee Town by enjoying live music, a parade, carnival rides and games. This year’s concerts include Liverpool, a Beatles tribute band, and Starship. Free admission. www.oldshawneedays. org

May 1

Shawnee Farmers’ Market opens. Located

in the City Hall parking lot, the market features an assortment of vendors selling fresh produce, arts, crafts and baked goods. 7 a.m. Saturdays through October 30. (913) 631-2500.

June 11-13, 17-20

Theatre in the Park.

The 2010 Theatre in the Park season opens with Jesus Christ Superstar. This rock opera written in the late ’60s features a stirring score. Gates open at 7:30 p.m. and shows begin at 8:30 p.m. Adult tickets, $8. Youth tickets, $6. (913) 631-7050. www.theatreinthepark. org

May 1

KC WOW Bike Festival and Charity Ride.

Part of the Women on Wheels Women’s Intersport Network, the event celebrates women cyclists with rides in Shawnee Mission Park. The festival will offer rides for all abilities and experience levels, led by seasoned cyclists on and off road. Also enjoy demos, clinics and family fun. 8 a.m.-noon.

June 13

May 8

Community shredding.

Paws in the Park. Dog owners can come out for a day at Shawnee Mission Park beach with their four-legged friends. Walk on the trails, swim in the lake and watch demonstrations in a benefit for animals at the local shelter. (913) 236-1269. special_events/ pawsinthepark.cfm

The city will host its second annual community shredding event. Donations are

All events are subject to change.

E-mail your upcoming events for the calendar to

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Hspxjoh!xjui!Kpiotpo!Dpvouz he Shawnee Mission Outpatient Pavilion at Prairie Star Parkway, just west of K-7 and Prairie Star Parkway, offers the growing population of western Johnson County the convenience of receiving high-quality medical care in a convenient location close to home. Clare Rd. W. 95th St.

Smileys Golf Course


Monticello Rd.

Hedge Ln. Terrace

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)*+'(GiX`i`\JkXiGXibnXp#C\e\oX#B J--)).›0(*$ -.- $/,''› Health questions? Need a doctor? Call ASK-A-NURSE at 913-676-7777 or visit

Shawnee Magazine Spring 2010  

Shawnee Magazine Spring 2010

Shawnee Magazine Spring 2010  

Shawnee Magazine Spring 2010