V3 April 2018

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Shining Star

No one lights up a room like Shammah Autry, and a story of perseverance is her reason for continuing to glow.




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Rome Tennis Center at Berry College, Photograph by Burton Photography

www.ceviandesign.com APRIL 2018 V3 MAGAZINE


april 2018 COLUMNS 10


J. BRYANT STEELE has a bone to pick with the NRA, and he remembers what an earthly evangelist who led the masses to the Promised Land meant to him. Staring a dry spell for sports in the face, JIM ALRED looks down to road to a NCAA College Football season on the horizon.


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Downtown Rome is one of the most sought after places to make a home for your business, and HARDY REALTY is happy to announce that the space for CEVIAN Design is open for businesses. One of Rome’s most beloved daughters, SHAMMAH AUTRY, opens up about a life worth fighting for, as she gifts us with the power in her smile. Rome area students get creative and we get a look at the winners of RACA'S FIREFLY FLING STUDENT ART CONTEST. No matter how one may feel about this controversial plant, it looks as if the country is primed for lighting up and cashing in on THE CANNABIS BOOM. Since she touched a basketball at the early age of eight, basketball followers of Northwest Georgia knew she was destined for Division One play. Meet Model’s big woman on campus, VICTARIA SAXTON. From Hardy Home p.18 photo by Burton Photography



APRIL 2018

Celebrating 20 years

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Publisher's Note

Spring is here and with it comes i my opportunity to coach boy’s 12U recreational soccer for the YMCA. I’ve worked my way through the ranks of 6U, 8U and 10U seeing the evolution of the game, from matches that were highlighted by super hero vs. villain battles (with elaborate sound effects while the game went on around my players) to what is starting to resemble an honest-to-god game of soccer. I was first pulled into what has become OWNER & CEO Ian Griffin quite a commitment after my son's first season of chaos on the pitch. It wasn’t the smoothest of seasons on the communication front and it didn’t take long to see that the goal—at that age—was just to get them interested in where the ball was on the field, so I figured it couldn’t be too hard to coach. I put my name in the hat and started the next fall. I’ve had the pleasure of coaching my son and several other players every spring and fall since. They are all still goofballs, but the competitive spirit is certainly starting to come out in most of them. As they have learned, so have I. It had been quite a long time since I left the sport of soccer and teaching is always different than playing. So, outside of a few very helpful coaching clinics, I figured it out for myself. For example, I never knew how motivating an order of Wendy’s Baconator Fries could be until I overheard my players discussing their deliciousness at practice one day. I decided to put an order of this coveted plate of grease up for grabs for the fastest player to complete a dribbling drill and the effort was electrifying. Whatever works, right? However, I do apologize for the staggering number of calories in the dish. As I mentioned before though, now that they are all a little older, the desire to compete is certainly more prevalent than before and managing those expectations becomes a bigger part of the coach’s job. We’ve had seasons where we lost more than we won and vice versa. But regardless, they were learning how to play the game the right way. We’ve had a good time no matter the outcome. As these kids approach middle school, my time with them is nearing its end, so I am really excited for the ones who stick with it move on to the Academy, middle school and high school levels. The YMCA wanted us to teach them the basics and I can say from experience that the group of volunteer coaches they have put together has done just that. And along the way I’d wager the coaches learned a lot from their players as well. How else would I know that Wendy’s achieved the perfect bacon to cheese ratio? Isn’t that what soccer is all about?

OWNER & CEO Ian Griffin EDITORIAL MANAGER Oliver Robbins, Jr. MAG ART & DESIGN Ellie Borromeo WRITERS Oliver Robbins, Jr., Erin deMesquita, Holly Lynch, Lauren Jones-Hillman, Jim Alred, Abbie Smith, Jennifer Luitwieler, Greg Howard EXECUTIVE PHOTOGRAPHER Cameron Flaisch CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER Andy Calvert AD SALES + CLIENT RELATIONS Chris Forino Greg Howard AD DESIGN Laura Allshouse Ellie Borromeo PUBLISHER V3 Publications, LLC CONTACT 417 Broad Street Rome, Ga. 30161 Office Phone 706.235.0748 v3publications@gmail.com CREATOR Neal Howard

Ian Griffin, Owner




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Guns N’ Moses

Cents & Sensibility with J. Bryant Steele I DON’T KNOW what to say anymore, except that I am willing to give up my guns, which I have never aimed at a human being, which are safely locked away and haven’t left home in years, if our elected “leaders” finally find the backbone to tell the gun lobby to stick its profiteering where the sun don’t shine. Another mass shooting at another school, 17 dead in Parkland, Fla. Maybe we’re not numb yet, after all, because the question of “what can we do?” has lingered longer than after Sandy Hook and Columbine. The articulate and brave student survivors of that massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have organized and spoken up to challenge adults supposedly in charge to do something. Dick’s Sporting Goods will no longer sell assault weapons. That’s good; but the problem is, that’s not where nut cases go to get assault weapons. Too

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many gun sales are transacted via small businesses, gun shows and classified ads. Florida, along with Dick’s and Walmart, raised the legal age for purchasing a gun to 21 from 18. I’m not sure how that’s going to help. Sure, there’s some scientific backup that cognitive function matures during that three-year span. But is it really going to make a difference? You can get a driver’s license when you’re 16, but you have to take tests. Why not tests, or background checks, before you can have a gun? Delta Air Lines also took a bold step, severing its ties with the National Rifle Association by ending pricing privileges for NRA members. The Georgia Legislature, led by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, responded by eliminating fuel tax breaks for Delta. Several cities, from Birmingham to New York, immediately made overtures to Delta to relocate. That shows how stupid and how immorally beholden to the NRA our people under the Gold Dome are. They would risk losing the state’s largest employer, a huge taxpayer, arguably the key cog in Georgia’s economic engine, and a brand that’s second only to Coca-Cola, just so the NRA can blow its nose in their back pockets? It makes me sick.

But the prospect of prosperity losing out to blind faith and blind-folded culture isn’t limited to guns. Georgia business leaders had high hopes of luring Amazon’s “second headquarters” – with a $5 billion campus and 50,000 high-paying jobs. Those hopes were jeopardized when Amazon took a look at various “religious liberty” proposals floating around the legislature, and the Delta snub didn’t help. Big corporations like to make their homes in business-friendly states. Now, you can cry “corporate welfare” all you want, but the bottom line is jobs and tax revenue – the common welfare, if you will. Cagle, the presumed next governor, and his acolytes would rather impose their blend of God (the Old Testament version), guns, and “family values” on job creators like Amazon and Delta, citizens be damned. But I digress. I haven’t yet resolved what to do about mass slaughter. That’s because I don’t know. But here’s where things seem to point. Don’t raise the minimum age to purchase a gun. Ain’t gonna help. Don’t arm teachers, as Donald Trump suggested. (Best-case scenario: An assassin bent on slaughter is gunned down by a teacher

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after only two or three people, instead of 17, have been killed. That’s not a solution.) DO require background checks. Require some sort of testing, as with driver’s licenses. Ban assault weapons entirely. Take some sort of oversight of the sale of guns through small businesses like pawn shops. But mainly, disarm the NRA. This is an organization that began with the ideal of marksmanship and shooting safety. It has also championed conservation. But it has devolved into a demagogue trained on making you afraid, and telling you who to blame. And putting your dues into the coffers of Casey Cagle and his like. I take back my opening sentence. I’m not going to give up my guns. I have promised to pass them along to my son. I know he will enjoy them. And I keep my promises, which is more than I can say for some people who took an oath of office.

Biz Bits

I was just going to skip commenting on the death of Billy Graham, but then I read something by my friend Marshall Jenkins, who is kinder than I am. So ... I never really liked Billy Graham. When I was growing up, he was part and parcel of the hellfire-and-brimstone culture that surrounded me; you know, get saved or spend eternity burning in hell. I was never dragged to a Billy Graham crusade, but we always watched him on TV. So, though Billy Graham cast no spell over me, I will say he doubtlessly influenced many lives for the better. He held to his values. He was never linked to any sort of scandal, like so many later televangelists. I understand why so many mourned him. Moving to a different set of moral standards, Donald Trump is being accused by a porn star (let me emphasize, porn star) of reneging on hush money to keep a sexual affair quiet. (Has anyone checked on whether Melania has purchased an assault rifle?) Trump is also being (mostly) criticized for imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. It will be quite some time before we will know definitively whether the tariffs helped or harmed, but the criticism is bi-partisan, and Trump’s chief economic advisor resigned after the announcement. Just after that Trump fired his Secretary of State. Turnover in the Trump administration.is like being the short-order cook at an I-Hop. It’s no wonder he changed his mind on going to North Korea. Toys ‘R’ Us is closing its doors. Kaput. Parents and grammarians alike are cheering.

*The views expressed in this column are those of the writer, and do not represent the opinions of V3 Magazine.

APRIL 2018





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Gridlocked ‘til Gridiron For the Love of the Game with Jim Alred

THE NCAA BASKETBALL tournament is over as is The Masters, and the Braves are most likely on their way to another sub .500 season. So of course it’s time to cast a way to early glance at college football. The college football season sits a solid four months away, or maybe a bit sooner depending on when you pick up this issue. I’m not sure my friends who support Georgia have yet to get over the shock of losing in overtime to Alabama in the national title game. But as in all things, time marches on and the teams that competed for the national title the year before find they have a long way to go to get back to the championship, unless they are Alabama of course. Speaking of the Crimson Tide, Nick Saban and company have an interesting dilemma that should prove fun to watch in the quarterback battle between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. For those that don’t remember, Hurts helped lead Bama to back-to-back national title games but discovered the going rough against UGA in this year’s final. 14


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Enter Tagovailoa, with almost no big game experience under his belt the freshmen wunderkind managed to pull off big play after big play, stayed calm under pressure and hit the gaming wining touchdown pass in overtime of the national title game. Hurts is a solid quarterback and can beat teams with his legs or his arm. But Tagovailo appears to be a virtuoso with more potential and a much better arm. As usual, Alabama returns a ton of talent and the Crimson Tide should be one of the top-ranked teams when the season starts. It will be interesting to see how Saban handles the quarterbacks. Two new head coaches will get a lot of attention this season as Jimbo Fisher takes over the reigns at Texas A&M after a solid run at Florida State, and Dan Mullen steps in at Florida after working wonders at Mississippi State. Fisher’s feud with Florida State over facilities (say that real fast three times), was one of several reasons he left Tallahassee. The Aggies boast amazing facilities and enough cash to keep the upgrades coming. However those perks come with a win often and win early issue. Fisher sits on the short list of active coaches with a national championship on his resume, and the powers that be at A&M didn’t lure him to College Station just to be competitive in the SEC West. They expect Jimbo to deliver a national championship, and they will want it sooner rather than later. No pressure, especially considering his schedule with the Aggies will be much more fearsome year in and year out than what he faced with the Seminoles. Mullen had accomplished about all he could at Mississippi State and although he didn’t appear to be Florida’s first choice for head coach, he has a solid pedigree and a good offensive mind. He

also knows how to recruit and compete in the SEC. The question is can he do enough to get the Gators back into solid shape. The offense has been abysmal over the past few years. The SEC East isn’t too strong at the moment though, so maybe Mullen can take what he has learned competing in the SEC West and get the Gators back into the national spotlight. Two other head coach hires, which should draw national attention, see former Nebraska stand out Scott Frost taking over the job at his alma mater, and Chip Kelly returning to college football and the Pac 10 at UCLA. Neither the Cornhuskers nor the Bruins have had much luck or many great seasons over the past decade. Frost worked wonders at Central Florida. If he and his staff can continue to recruit and develop talent, the Cornhuskers could return to national prominence. UCLA has several quarterbacks ready to battle and a couple of solid running backs, so look for Kelley to get the Bruins’ offense off and running early. If he can recapture the magic he had while at Oregon, then the Bruins could see a return to their glory days. Last year, Georgia’s early-season win against Notre Dame proved to be a boon for the Bulldogs and helped them along the way to the SEC Championship and the national title game. The Bulldogs landed the top-ranked recruiting class in the nation which should help, because they lose a lot of talent to graduation. The good news for Georgia is this year’s schedule isn’t as daunting and there isn’t a trip to a Notre Dame caliber team. However, the schedule could prove to be a downfall as well. If Georgia drops a key SEC game or two, the woeful

strength of schedule could keep them out of playoff contention. Clemson returns perhaps more NFL-level talent than any team in college football. The Tigers are loaded and should be an early favorite to get back to the playoffs. Incoming quarterback Trevor Lawrence from Cartersville could make things interesting at the signal-caller position. An early-season contest against Texas A&M could put them in prime position to run the table. Jim Harbaugh has made plenty of headlines at Michigan, including several times he’s needled the SEC and SEC coaches. However, Harbaugh needs to find a way to get his Wolverines to start winning more games. That won’t be easy with Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State all returning lots of talent not to mention Ohio State. And Harbaugh and his charges open at a loaded Notre Dame team, meaning they better be ready or the season could get long quick. And if Michigan falters again this season a big question will be how long the Wolverines stick with Harbaugh. And what about the Auburn Tigers, who shocked the SEC and the nation last November with wins over then top-ranked Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers finished the season in less than stellar fashion with losses to Georgia in the SEC Championship game and to upstart UCF in the Peach Bowl. Tigers’ coach Gus Malzahn holds a distinction no other SEC coach has – wins over Nick Saban. Whether the Tigers, who lost a lot of offensive and defensive stalwarts to graduation or the NFL can make another late-season run will be interesting to watch. *The views expressed in this column are those of the writer, and do not represent the opinions of V3 Magazine.

APRIL 2018



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Down on Mainstreet This anything-but-ordinary space is designed for entrepreneurs who like to work hard and play harder text ABBIE SMITH



ou might recognize 202 Broad Street by the popsicles on the lower level and black lettering crawling up the right side of the upper level. You might also know it as the home of CEVIAN Design, an architecture and interior design firm. For the past two years, the upper level of 202 has been a workspace for Mark Cochran, Owner, Architect, & Interior Designer and Audrey Kendrick, Project Manager & Architectural Designer. Cochran is a Rome native. His love for the town shows through his designs. Kendrick, who moved to Rome in 2014, manages and teams with Cochran on the many projects CEVIAN takes on. Romans will recognize their work all across town: there’s Rome Tennis Center at Berry College, West Rome Animal Clinic, Sisters Theatre at Berry College, Rome Urgent Care, to name a few. However, one of their most impressive designs is their own space at 202 Broad.

One might think that designing their own office would be challenging, but to Cochran and Kendrick, it was an exciting, if daunting, task. “When I first walked up here, I kept wondering what this was going to look like, thinking it would take me three months to figure it out,” Cochran says. “Believe it or not, I sat down in a caffeine-fueled rage over a threeday weekend and just knocked this thing out.” Looking around, it’s hard to believe that the stunning office space was once a storage facility, let alone that it was designed in three days. After walking up a narrow staircase, visitors are welcomed by high ceilings and an open floor plan. Bookshelves line one long wall, connecting the “office” to the “conference room”, which in this space is two custom-built desks near the front windows and a large conference table further back. “In architecture, there’s a concept called compression and expansion, which is the

experience of walking through a small, narrow space into a big, grand one,” Cochran says. “The narrow space makes the larger space feel that much bigger, and we have that here with the staircase.” Perhaps one of the most impressive feats of this office is that it feels open and lofty despite unique, black wooden planks on the walls. “This building was built in the 1880s and at some point during its history, it burned,” Cochran says. “If you look at the bricks, they’re blackened, but on the edges you can see that they’re actually red. We liked the look so much that we wanted to speak back to the brick and to the history of the building. That’s why we chose the Shou Sugi Ban.” Shou Sugi Ban is a Japanese process of wood burning during which blocks of cedar are burned, then immediately doused with water. This process not only achieves a burnt wood look, but also preserves the wood and protects it from bugs and rot without any “burnt” smell. The stunning texture contrasts beautifully with the original hardwoods, the brown wood stands bright against the black walls. This feature is not the only unique addition to the space. Broad Street properties are notorious for their narrow, long floor plans, which makes it hard to have natural light anywhere else but the front and back. However, the CEVIAN office feels bright and open thanks to a clerestory, a raised section of roof walled with glass. Further back in the office is a bathroom almost hidden in another wall of Shou Sugi Ban. At this point, the entire mood shifts as you enter the bar. The darker walls and floors remain, this time brick instead of burnt wood, but golden light replaces the brighter, natural lighting. This change, as well as a seating area, turns the space into a warmer, calmer area of the office. “The bar is probably my favorite part of the office,” Cochran says. “It feels completely different and it’s so nice to finish up work and visit with friends back there. It’s my dark and brooding bar.” he laughs. Past the bar is an outdoor area, which is something that upper levels on Broad Street do not normally have. It’s walled in and has plenty

of room for outdoor seating, as well as a fire pit. CEVIAN even has a projector and screen if guests are interested in catching a flick. “The outdoor space is probably my favorite part,” Kendrick says. “When it’s warmer, we’ll go out there with family and friends, watch movies and just hang out. We know it’s not something




people get in a space like ours, so we spend a lot of time out there when we can.” Locals know that properties like this do not come on the market often, especially in the quickly growing area of Downtown Rome. “Four or five years ago, commercial properties on Broad would come up for sale pretty regularly. Now, you’re lucky to see two as you’re out

walking around,” Cochran says. “There’s a lot of perks to working downtown; you get to walk everywhere and there’s definitely a sense of community. The people who work downtown have a passion for the town, for the growth of Rome, and that’s been great to have.” Right now, 202 Broad is the ultimate architect’s office, but it could be an equally

incredible office space for another local business. Both Cochran and Kendrick hope to see this space remain an office building, one that inspires creativity and a love for good work, just like their experience there. “It’s bittersweet to leave this place for sure, but if us moving means that Downtown Rome keeps growing, then we will,” Cochran says. “We absolutely will.” For additional information about the property or to schedule a showing, please contact Hardy Realty at 706-291-4321.



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S Shammah Autry and her beau, Clint Dillard 24


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“ The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one ” MARIANNE WILLIAMS

Shammah smiles TEXT Erin DeMesquita

PHOTOGRAPHY Cameron Flaisch

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HE COOL CASCADE of a Sunday afternoon rain falls across our shoulders and into our glasses; black coffee and sweet Grand Marnier. A tiny blue notebook collects droplets on the patio table; the ink-scrawled questions inside have been abandoned. This is no longer an interview. It is the purest of exchanges; a sharing of life experiences and raw human emotion, accompanied by a weighted realization that the plan in that blue notebook was entirely naive. Two thousand words will not do this justice. In fact, there are absolutely no words that could effectively convey the monolithic magnitude of this story. It is one of incomprehensible trauma, formidable loss, overwhelming affliction, and astounding resiliency. It could be your story, but here on these pages, it belongs to Shammah Autry. A sliver of sun cuts across the glass table in Shammah’s backyard as she and Clint Dillard, her boyfriend of five years, sip the warmth of their coffee. Shammah laughs as she offers up the comedic disclaimer that she is not wearing a bra. Still smiling, she adds that she’d given herself that “gift” even before all of this; and by “all of this” she means her visit to Emory University Hospital in October of last year for a double mastectomy. In July 2017, Shammah was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, and since then, her life’s path has taken many unforeseen turns. This aggressive disease, however, is not her first experience with traumatic, life-changing events or diagnoses; it’s just the most recent. Sitting beneath the soft rain, fear holds the request for detailed accounts at bay; the last active intention is to retraumatize. But it seems as though that’s not even an option. The time to give voice to these experiences has arrived. Do they define her or speak for her? She will tell you, openly and honestly, that it is not about definition. “I think, convert to water,” Shammah says. “I think experiences definitely have to change you but they don’t have to stop you. They just change your path a little bit.” The shapeless yield of flowing water is all too familiar for her. An eight year-old Shammah had to convert the day she said goodbye to her mother... on the kitchen floor of their home, where Jayne Townes Autry had been murdered by the blade of an intruder. White nightgown turned red from her own wounds, Shammah left her mother to seek help. Witnesses that day attested to a calm, collected child who did the only thing she could do at the time, tell the first person she saw. Dillard takes Shammah’s hands into his as he recalls the first time he noticed her scars. He gently runs his fingertips over the remnant of one of the eight stab wounds Shammah endured on that night in 1981. The scars that travel up the right side of her body are just the visible ramifications of her sustained injury; the internal toll was yet to be revealed. “Onset from the trauma, my body went into shock because it was protecting itself. I had a lot of stab wounds,” Shammah affirms. “I was in shock and I think it just shut my body down. Within about a year, I was diagnosed with [Type One] diabetes.” Trauma-induced diabetes (especially Type One) is a theory with countless experiences to support it, and it’s one that Shammah fully believes in. This diagnosis has had many years to run its destructive course; beta cells in her pancreas destroyed one-by-one, straining her kidneys to filter harder and harder. Diabetic complications led Shammah in and out of the hospital and, over time, the functionality of these organs continued to weaken.



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“ Shammah showed me that no matter the obstacles our bodies give us, we can and will overcome...changed my entire outlook on living with a lifechanging medical condition.” AMY VANHOFF BRYAN

“ Shammah is a light in dark places, she is brave and kind. A peaceful warrior, the sister I should’ve had but didn’t met until around ten years ago. I love her heart.” SAFFRON DEY

“ I can’t see Shammah and not smile. What is most impressive to me is that she devotes so much of her life to healing and helping others. I don’t know a person who gets that much joy from watching the spread of good in the world” OLIVER ROBBINS

“ Shammah’s beautiful spirit imprinted on my heart with our first meeting and has been there since. Her inner strength is far stronger than whatever this reality throws her way. She is and will forever be one of my Sheroes!” MARY CAUSBY EVANS

In the spaces between, more life was happening, and nothing stopped Shammah from grabbing it by the proverbial balls. She grins and says that she left Rome, at age 18, in search of “adventure and underlying love” after graduating from Darlington School in 1990. That was the point at which her cousin (and a strong piece of her support system) Jessie Reed, remembers her young adoration for her cool older cousin, whom she looked up to; a free spirit like her mother, according to family members.

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Shammah and her fur baby, Lady 28


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“ Strong woman who always gives and never gives up!” JONATHAN DAVID CARDINALE

“ Shammah, because you are beautiful inside out, you make life more beautiful and you are an overcomer!” AR MARTINEZ

“ Shammah has an inner strength that allows her to overcome all the obstacles life puts in her way. That same inner strength is passed on to all her family and friends. You cannot be weak around Shammah, it’s just not possible. Her beauty and strength are contagious.” OLIVIA PRATT

“ Shammah has enabled me to let go of some of the hate and resentment I held on to for so long. She is an inspiration to all she comes in contact with. You feel her energy, she beams with it. You will never be in a foul mood when you are around her, it’s impossible!” DANI COCHRAN

“ Sunshine! You can’t walk away from this lovely gal without feeling like you’re having the best day ever! For amazing energy and the best of vibes, all you have to do is see Shammah!” STEPHANIE MCCLANAHAN

“She was a rock star in my head,” Reed smiles, “...just this amazing person who would give me music for Christmas and teach me art. She would sit and draw with me on family vacations. Shammah and I have always been close; we’re more like sisters. She’s 11 years older than me, and she was like my hero as a kid. I just thought she was the coolest thing ever. I mean, I still do.” Shammah didn’t return to Rome until her late-twenties, when she was able to, both, offer and receive support from her grandparents who had raised her. After the birth of her son, Sam, Shammah finished what she had attempted to start at age 24, she went to school to become a massage therapist. For 12 years, she has been a healer in the Rome community, far beyond the bounds of her schooling. “There’s the physical work that she does with massage therapy, which is incredible, but then there’s the conversation that she has and the comfort that she would offer,” Reed explains. “Anybody who would see her would feel instantly close to her and connected to her, and accepted. She helps you see your own inner beauty, because she sees it.” “Knowledge is power, for anything, but your spirit can be used for good,” Shammah says, “... all you have to do is give your energy, intention and direction and it will take. Your intention is a lot more powerful when it’s pure.” Dillard can also attest to Shammah’s healing power; it’s one of the reasons he fell in love with her. “I’ve seen people come out of massages with her, and they look like they’re high,” he smiles. “They’re hungry, their hair is messed up, they’re flush. She’s amazing. And that’s part of her own healing too. If something was wrong with her, before all of this, she would give a massage and be fine. The energy going back and forth just seems to work it out.” He looks at Shammah and adds, “The knowledge is technique, and everything else is being honest from the inside.” In all she does, Shammah maintains a strong love for touch, connection and communication and she believes that what she is going through will only make her a more empathetic therapist. Given the physical exertion that Shammah puts into each massage, however, she has not been able to work in several months. Sitting up straight in her patio chair, she rubs her slender legs with the heels of her hands, as if charging her muscles; there is much more to tell, here. The diabetes wasn’t done with its debilitating damage. It was roughly a year into Shammah and Dillard’s relationship that her kidneys finally failed. In March 2014, she began the grueling treatment of dialysis. Shammah’s name remained on a transplant waiting list for both a kidney and a pancreas for several years...until finally, a call.

“ Shammah is an amazing example of love, courage, perseverance, and grace under fire. We are so lucky to love her...and be loved BY her.” TERRI MORGAN

“ In spite of her current health challenge, Shammah is positive, loving and determined, and this pervades the people and places around her” SUNNY SHROPSHIRE KNAUSS

“ I feel very lucky to call Shammah my friend. She makes me feel special. I think she makes everyone feel that way, like you’re the most important person in the world. Because she gives you her presence, all of it...with an attitude that inspires you. I want to be like Shammah.” JEREMY HARRISON

“This past Memorial Day, it’s 1:00 in the morning,” Shammah recalls the moment. “Clint and I are sitting around playing guitars, singing, hanging out, and the phone rings and they say, ‘Come get some organs!’” She remembers tears of both happiness and disbelief as they awaited the moment when she would be diabetes free for the first time since she was 10-years-old. But Shammah did not receive those life-changing organs that day. Four hours into their waiting, she and Dillard received another call...the call that told them the organs didn’t make it through procurement and were no longer viable. However, that moment of crushing disappointment and confusion turned into a surreal silver lining just days later, when Shammah received her cancer diagnosis. “If you get your transplant and something happens and your organs fail,” Shammah explains, “you have to go back to the bottom of the transplant list. Cancer probably would have caused it to fail… and the anti-rejection meds they would have had me on to accept the organ, would have allowed the cancer to just eat me alive.” She pauses, shrugs her shoulders and smiles, “Things happen. And they happen like they’re supposed to, even when it seems like it’s all just sucking.” Although she does have to be five years cancer free to receive a transplant, she will not have to begin again at the bottom of the waiting list. After the cancer diagnosis, Dillard says everything went so fast; “freight train after freight APRIL 2018



train.” The chemotherapy began in September, the double mastectomy in October, peritoneal dialysis all the while, which led to peritonitis (an infection in the inner wall of the abdomen) and set back weeks worth of chemo treatment. Shammah’s hopes of holistic treatment were dismissed, “I looked up so many things.” She holds up her index finger and thumb, “I came this close to buying a ticket to Tijuana.” She recalls being on the website to confirm phone numbers and addresses, and then read the contraindications at the bottom of the page...listed are transplant patients and diabetics. She is currently going through her last several rounds of radiation. The exhaustion from chemo, the torn tissue around her hip joints from dialysis medication, the atrophy, the terrifying falls, the time spent in a wheelchair, the month spent in agony from a pinched nerve, “Even through that,” Dillard says, “there wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t smile at some point. Even if she slept most of the day, then woke up in pain, at some point you could make her smile.” Laughter is definitely an important element in the Shammah/Dillard household. Dillard says that people often tell him that he takes really good care of Shammah. He smiles as he says, “You wouldn’t say that if she were a car,” they both laugh as he continues, “She wouldn’t crank, and the lights aren’t on and the tires are gone!”

“Yeah, you’re taking really crappy care of me, man,” Shammah returns, “You need to park my ass in the garage!” “Never a dull moment,” Dillard shakes his head. Shammah is out of the wheelchair now and using a walker. A visit to their home may mean that you catch a glimpse of her revving up her engine, walker in hand, and vrooming across the floor! Shammah does admit that she’s feeling fragile these days; the feeling of invincibility she once had has changed a bit. “I can’t even wrap my head around what she’s had to go through,” Reed says, “but she doesn’t take it personally. She just accepts that that’s what has happened. It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you’re around Shammah, which we all have a tendency to do. It’s fairly natural and she doesn’t do that, so being around her makes you feel stronger.” Shammah says she has always found strength in simple things, like social interaction, driving with no direction, sunshine, and ocean water. One thing she greatly misses is dancing. It seems that no matter who you speak with, this community has one common word that they use to describe Shammah...light. “I think people see that light,” Shammah affirms, “but I think it’s a reflection of themselves, because people drop their walls when they’re around me. And honestly, what we put up to cover our true selves is, typically, way more ugly than


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what’s under it. Even if it’s scarred or blemished, that doesn’t make it ugly, it just makes it real.” “Shammah’s very blunt, open and honest, and I think that’s what a lot of people like about her,” Reed adds. “The first time they meet her they feel like they’ve known her forever. “She is herself, and she’s not apologetic about it. She’s loving and kind and it gives people around her permission to be themselves...that’s what authenticity does.” There are days when tensions are high and pain is excruciating; days where those who love Shammah have moments of disheartened spirits and utter disbelief as she faces yet another heinous obstacle in her life path. But there is nothing in Shammah’s voice or vibration that yields to selfsympathy. Pity is unwanted, prayers (no matter the type) are welcome, and hugs are always ideal. “I am a positive, silver lining gal,” Shammah says, matter of factly, “and my life’s just been full of them.” She smiles wide and says, “In the words of the Grateful Dead, ‘Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places, if you look at it right.”

If you would like to give some love and some much needed help to Shammah and her family during this trying time, leave her a positive message or a donation @ gofundme.com/ukfave6.

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Firefly Fling Student Art Competition The Rome Area Council for the Arts (RACA) hosts the Firefly Fling Student Art Competition in conjunction with its annual Firefly Fling benefit.


“ Art has been my passion since I can remember, so it felt amazing to have something I did recognized on such a large scale. It was truly a surreal and memorable experience for me and I am so glad that I'm able to achieve success by doing what I love.” - First Place winner, Harmony Knight. 32


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Sarah Van Horst, 10th grade, Model High

HONORABLE MENTION May Khateeb, 10th grade, Model High


Hannah Durham, 10th grade, Pepperell High

HONORABLE MENTION Maddie Graham, 11th grade, Coosa High

HONORABLE MENTION Makalyn Voils, 12th grade, Model High

APRIL 2018



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Estate Auction SATURDAY MAY 12TH @ 10:00am

Lodge-Style Riverfront Home

8300+/- sq ft Home w/ 7 Car Garage on the Etowah River

Selling for the Settlement of the Estate of Troy Chadwick Carroll • Kingston, Bartow County, GA

6 b/r 8 ba (6f/2h) Riverfront Home located at 50 Jones Slough Rd, Kingston, GA

Peaceful Seclusion • Fishing • Kayaking • Canoeing • Water Sports • Lodge Style Ambiance • Possible Corporate Retreat


A Lifetime Collection of Native American Art and Collectables, Furnishings, Audio/Video Equipment, Pool Table, Fishing Equipment, Rugs, Lawnmowers, Yard Tools This auction offers the opportunity to not only own an Authentic Handcrafted Log & Stone home settled on a superb tract of land, it affords all the amenities of Riverfront living. CO-BROKERAGE: BROKER PARTICIPATION: Dempsey Auction Co will pay any licensed Broker/Agent a 2.5% commission for any registered client who successfully closes on the property. CONTACT OUR OFFICE FOR PRECISE DETAILS. OPEN HOUSE: Dempsey Representatives will be on site Sunday, April 22nd and 29th and May 6th; and Friday May 11th from 1:00-4:00. Dempsey Representatives are always available for private showings, please contact our office.



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APRIL 2018

No longer for hippies and High Times Magazine, the cannabis business has become a real part of the American economy. TEXT Lauren Jones-Hillman


been flowering Mother Earth since the dawning of time. Its cures for a plethora of ailments have been healing the world since the very first medicine man walked the earth. Under its influence, artists have created masterpieces we clamor to see in museums. Architects have used it to spark the ideas for the most breathtaking structures in the world. Musicians have used it throughout decades as inspiration for countless songs that have topped the charts. Scientists and scholars have used it to open their minds to nth dimensions, allowing them to discover formulas that have altered history. And - to this day - you’re pretty sure your calculus professor used it before he taught your 8 a.m. class. Cannabis has always been - and still is influencing the metaphysics of society. Whether it’s helping a cancer patient gain their appetite back or being passed around the living room shared with friends, legalization is sweeping across the nation, coming soon to a state near you.

LAS T DAN C E WIT H MA RY J A N E People have been reaping reefer’s benefits for centuries, whether medicinally, recreationally or economically. Colonists used hemp fibers to create cloth and rope that were integral in the early days of the United States. The cannabis crop played a major role of weaving the foundation of our country. Fast forward to the early 1900s when ganja began to gain its bad rap. During the 1930s, every state had regulations in place for cannabis which was widely used in pharmaceutical concoctions.

Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, was the most notable advocate for cannabis prohibition of the era. Anslinger famously sought horrific accounts of murder, rape and other crimes he could tie to cannabis. He also linked its consumption with racism by citing its use among African Americans and jazz musicians. It was federally prohibited in 1937 under the Marihuana Tax Act, which made its possession or transfer illegal except in medicinal and industrial uses. Cannabis was outright banned in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. For the next few decades, the black market flourished. As its sticky-sweet scent clung to their clothes, the hallucinatory effects of pot clung to the minds of hippies who only used the back door. The word spread throughout suburbia that marijuana was a gateway drug. It became something packaged tightly in Ziploc bags people purchased hastily in empty parking lots and smoked behind the bleachers during class changes. Some states recognized its medicinal effects between the 1970s and the 1990s, but by and large, cannabis remained demonized in the public eye. But in 1996, the purple haze shifted. Medical cannabis became legal again in California under the Compassionate Use Act. With scientific research leading the charge, the trend gained momentum

and to date, 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis in some form. Twentytwo states have legalized the use of medical cannabis, five states have legalized medical and recreational use and three states have legalized for recreational use.

O N E MORE TI ME TO KILL T HE PAIN “The fact is, medical marijuana is getting patients off things like methadone and opioids,” says Jeff Miller with conviction. Miller is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Plants Not Pills USA and Dispensary Deals USA, both of which are online businesses out of Tampa, Florida. However, he was born and raised in Rome, Georgia and has a career background with pharmaceutical and medical companies. “I’ve been working with the medical cannabis industry for three years now,” says Miller. “I educate physicians on how to get their certification through the Florida Department of Health so they can recommend medical cannabis to their patients.” In those states where this herbal remedy is legal, the diseases for which it can be used vary in

APRIL 2018



number and type. Some states have a broad medical cannabis program and others, a narrow one. “Currently, there are nine medical conditions in Florida - ranging from cancer to muscular sclerosis to ALS - that are approved for medical cannabis,” Miller says. “California has a very robust medical program,” says Alex Brown, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for SLO Cultivation, a medical cannabis collective in San Luis Obispo County, California. He says cannabis has been found immeasurably beneficial for cancer patients going through chemotherapy. “It helps them with pain, it helps them find an appetite when everything tastes like metal,” he says. “It’s extremely helpful for other conditions such as PTSD, insomnia, chronic pain and arthritis. The list goes on and on. People with very serious illnesses rely on it to survive on a daily basis.” Medical cannabis can be administered in a variety of ways including the whole flower, vape pens, topicals, capsules, sublinguals and edibles. Both Brown and Miller say there’s not really an unsafe method of consumption, as long as the product itself is safe and not blasted with harmful pesticides. “There are people who spray their cannabis with pesticides and that can be bad, especially when you’re going to consume it. When you heat it, the composition of those chemicals can change to be pretty dangerous stuff,” says Brown. But SLO Cultivation has a rich, agricultural background, and Brown and his associates don’t play around when it comes to safe cannabis. They utilize organic practices and beneficial insects. “We never spray the plant with anything that’s detrimental to put flame to, and we routinely have it tested. We make sure the parts per billion come back with what the standards will be (with even stricter regulations), not what they are now.”

O H M Y M Y, OH H E L L Y E S When it comes to using cannabis, whether it’s medicinal or recreational, the general word of caution is “start low, go slow.” That’s because dosing becomes tricky, especially when growing the herb has become an art and a science. “People will create genetics and cross-pollinate plants to increase potency, so maybe you don’t have to smoke a whole joint, you just take one hit,” explains Brown. “Or instead of eating an entire edible, you eat a corner of it. Where most of the industry is moving is really regimented doses: microdosing.” Regulations do require that companies clearly label their products to delineate the THC content, he says.



APRIL 2018

“It’s a problem when people just jump in without a knowledge of what they’re consuming; I wouldn’t do that with anything,” says Brown. “You need to start with a very low amount of it and see how you react. Figure out what’s right for you.” In the realm of medical cannabis, Miller says it becomes difficult when physicians try to prescribe exact amounts of cannabis, and laws shouldn’t attempt to dictate that they should. “The physicians in Florida have been put in a precarious situation,” he says. “The Department of Health is requiring them to know how many milligrams a patient is using a day, and that’s more like a prescription.” Medical cannabis is not a prescription, he says vehemently, because the very word “prescription” lends itself toward “prescribing an FDA and DEAapproved product.” “They’re venturing into dangerous waters, because this is a recommendation, not a prescription. Dosing is very tricky, and it’s really up to the patient to determine how much they need.” The healing properties of cannabis, while still being researched, cannot be disputed. Neither can the sheer amounts of green… green brings. There are currently eight states where recreational marijuana is legal: Oregon, Alaska, Washington, Nevada, California, Massachusetts, Colorado and Maine. Collectively, these states brought in more than $6 million in tax revenue in 2017. According to New Frontier data, legalizing marijuana nationwide would create at least $132 billion in tax revenue in the next decade, and with it, a million jobs. Brown says that while this is an excellent opportunity for states, they should tax cautiously. “There’s no other business that will be taxed the way the cannabis business will be taxed over the next few years. That will normalize when they see people are still buying it off the streets, but it’s a double-edged sword and hopefully, states use the revenues wisely,” he says. “They have to be careful, because you can’t tax businesses so much that major costs pass on to the consumer, because the black market will continue to thrive.”

H O N E Y, PUT ON TH AT PA RTY DRE SS Imagine getting all dolled up to the nines and attending a swanky dinner party where instead of a cocktail bar, there’s a gorgeous spread of artisanal chocolates - that are individually dosed with cannabis. This is exactly the direction in which many states are heading as recreational cannabis sweeps across the polls.

“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’d say within the next five years, we’ll go recreational,” says Miller of Florida. “It’s inevitable; that’s the next step. I’m neither in favor nor opposed to it, but it’s going to happen.” Brown, however, was in favor of recreational cannabis in California for a variety of reasons. Even before Proposition 215 passed in California, he and his associates were readying themselves to enter that part of the industry. Now, they’re covered up in paperwork in order to receive their state license to sell recreational cannabis. “This is an incredibly complicated endeavor,” says Brown. “It’s the most regulated, compliantdriven business in America besides the highest level pharmaceuticals. This is an entirely different standard which is not available to any other business currently operating in the country.” While the process is frustrating, Brown says it’s completely understandable, given the history of cannabis. “There’s still a stigma that’s been ingrained in many people’s minds that cannabis is a bad thing,” he says. “For years, the government told you this is a hardcore drug and it didn’t have any uses. It’s only been recently that millions of dollars have been poured into research and we’re all the sudden figuring out that not only is this fantastic, but there are community benefits.” The benefits, he says, include lessening the use of opioids, which is a major crisis affecting the county. He also considers eliminating marijuana on the black market and keeping it out of kids’ hands a major win. “I would love for it to be the way it is with alcohol to where you have to be 21 or older to purchase it,” says Brown. “Let’s get it away from schools. We need to have a process in place to keep kids from getting it, and you do that by passing laws and having a zero tolerance policy.” Eventually, Brown says, the use of cannabis will be normalized, and it won’t turn heads when someone pulls out cannabis at a party or gathering. “America is very much in favor of this,” he says. “It will become part of regular society.” He also has a hefty piece of advice for Georgians who are keen on getting into the industry. “Find out what’s going on and stay on top of it. There are great resources out there, and laws are being written every day,” encourages Brown. “Meet with other people who are interested. The people who are best prepared are the ones who will get those licenses.” Brown suggests scouting out cultivation areas, greenhouses or land on which they can be built. Keep your eyes turned toward the future, he says, focusing on those glistening, medicinal fields of green. “It will come to Georgia,” he says. “Just because your state isn’t ready, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be getting ready yourself.”

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APRIL 2018

EVIL N A BLUE RESS Who would have thought that the daughter of a Chieftain and a Gladiator would become an Angel in her community and Hell on the hardwood. TEXT Jim Alred PHOTOGRAPHY Andy Calvert

PEOPLE DON’T OFTEN begin glowing descriptions of amazing basketball players talking about their smile. But for Model senior Victaria Saxton, that beaming smile speaks volumes not only for her love of the game but for the person she is on and off the court. She holds the Model records for most points, most rebounds and most blocked shots in a career. She also sits on the top 10 all-time list in steals. And opponents and opposing fans see a dominating, tall, athletic terror capable of destroying their team in a myriad of ways. But the story of one of the best players in the nation and in Model High history doesn’t even begin on the court she dominates. From an early age, expectations existed for Victaria, or “V” as she is known to almost everyone. It’s not easy growing up being the daughter of two Roman basketball legends. Victarias’ mom, Consuelo “Nae Nae” Saxton, starred at West Rome High School, helping push, pull and cajole the Lady Chieftains to the state finals her senior year. Her dad, Victor Saxton, commanded the inside paint for an East Rome High School team that routinely dominated opponents and won the 1988 state title. Both went on to play collegiately and both got a shock when the tall, gangly kid who looked like she should be on a basketball court shied away from it. “She started out as a cheerleader. I was okay with it at first as long as she was happy,” Victor says with his rich deep baritone voice and a laugh reminiscent of the smile V flashes. “The more she kept growing, the more I kept thinking she should play basketball.” The thought didn’t escape her mom’s attention either. “I just could not believe she didn’t like basketball when she was younger,” she says. “My oldest daughter was the same way though. She didn’t really start liking it till later.” And as far as V was concerned, she wasn’t going to play basketball. “When I was younger, I always told my mom and my dad that I didn’t want to play basketball,” she says. “My mom kept on saying to just try it.” The trial came when she was about eight-years-old and for V it was anything but love at first dribble. “I finally tried it and I didn’t like it. I couldn’t shoot the ball, and I couldn’t dribble the ball,” she says. V’s frustration showed but her mom had a few plans. “I started trying to make basketball more fun and had to be creative. She kept analyzing everything too much, asking why we had to shoot the ball into the basket and why we were dribbling it,” Nae Nae says. “I worked with her and just focused on making everything fun, and it started clicking.” While her basketball skills began to take shape, V faced a huge obstacle. As a first grader, she had to be hospitalized with a bad case of asthma. The attack was so severe it could have cost her her life. Over the next several years and even to this day, she has to be careful and manage her asthma. “Every November for 11 years she was hospitalized right around her birthday because of asthma. We really didn’t think she would be able to go far in sports because of the asthma,” Nae Nae says. “But she has learned to control it, and she is doing wonderful now.” Asthma presented an obstacle for V but at the same time she began improving at basketball and beginning to truly enjoy the game.

APRIL 2018



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“In 10-and-under basketball, I told her she was going to have to learn to dribble, because she was going to be the point guard. She picked it up instantly,” Nae Nae says. “Everything I told her to do she was doing, so I realized right then that she was going to be coachable.” As she got older and grew the stories began to circulate. And one day Model High basketball coach Sally Echols met her future super star. “Andy Akin was teaching at Johnson Elementary School and I went there to promote our Big Blue Basketball Camp, and he introduced me to her. She had to be in the third grade,” Echols says. “Of course I coached her older sister and I would talk to her then and she always told me she wasn’t going to play basketball. That’s something I remind her of a lot.” While she downplayed the chance of playing basketball when she was younger, by the time she reached U-10, V’s talent and mindset were growing. “I was really starting to get it. I became the point guard in fifth grade. I was the tallest one on the court, so it was crazy,” V says. “I liked it, because I got the chance to pass everyone on the team the ball. But I also got comfortable scoring. I just started relaxing and started enjoying it.” Model Middle School coach Jody Quarles had seen and heard about V before she joined his squad as a sixth grader. “When I first saw her, she was like all bones and long arms and lanky,” he says. “She is probably the most fun-loving kid I’ve ever coached. That was even before I had seen her play.” V joined an already strong Model Middle program and began playing right away as a sixth grader. “Watching her play, you just knew she would be something special,” Quarles says. “She has a great attitude and work ethic and obviously a lot of God-given athletic ability.” 42


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“ I liked it, because

I got the chance to pass everyone on the team the ball. But I also got comfortable scoring. I just started relaxing and started enjoying it ”

In middle school, V realized she had to face down another obstacle. “I was so shy and I didn’t really like having to do things in front of a lot of people. I used to tell myself when I was little that I was never going to be able to go on a court in front of lot of people,” she says. “I had to get over that fear. The first time I started in middle school, I was sacred, but

I just went out there and had fun. I got over the nerves fast.” Model lost only one game in V’s sixth grade season before going on to win back-to-back middle school titles her seventh and eighth grade years. “I knew she was going to be great. The sky is the limit for her even now and we saw glimpses of it even then,” Quarles says. During her seventh grade year V grabbed a tennis ball and dunked it, causing Quarles and some other onlookers to double take. And as often happens with great athletes, coaches and others can point to moments and instances where the athletes managed to do something or rise to the occasion. “I think the eight grade championship game was one of the most dominating performances I have ever seen in a Middle School game,” Quarles says. “The chemistry that V had with other players like Libbey (Upton) and Moe (Welch) was amazing. And it wasn’t just about her, she wanted to get everybody else involved and made it a lot more fun because she did that.”

LtoR Victor Saxton, Victaria Saxton, and Consuelo "Nae Nae" Saxton

NaeNae remembers a game against Coosa Middle. “In the eighth grade, they were playing against Coosa. She went up above the rim got the rebound came down and then went back up with her left hand and it was above the rim too,” she says. “My brother was there sitting across the floor, because his daughter played for Coosa. He just looked at me and shook his head. We still talk about that to this day.” No one doubted V could make an impact on the high school level. In her first high school game against a Sonoraville team that would eventually reach the second round of the Class 3A state playoffs, V recorded her first double-double of her career, scoring double digits in point and grabbing double digits in rebounds, something that would become common place in every game V played. At halftime of that game with Model sitting at a double-digit lead and V already with her first high school double-double, Akin, who coached some of the greatest Model teams of all time, walked to the scorers table and shook his head. “That one is going to be special.” Model reached the finals of the Holiday Festival Basketball Tournament V’s freshmen year before falling to Region 7-AA foe Darlington. Two weeks later, Darlington visited Model and the area got a glimpse of what was in store for the next four years. “When I think about my freshman year, I think of the game where we played Darlington at home was probably my favorite game. I played the whole game and my asthma held up,” V says. “It felt good to beat them because we felt like we got back what we wanted.” Model and V didn’t just beat the Tigers, they dominated them. V recorded double digits in points APRIL 2018



and rebounds and added 12 blocks as well for a triple-double, propelling Model to the win. That win moved Model to the top of the Region 7-AA standings, and the Blue Devils haven’t left the spot since. Model has compiled a perfect Region 7-AA record during V’s four years. But as dominant as Saxton proved to be on the hardwood, she always wanted to ensure her teammates were as big a part of the game. “She is very unselfish. She wants to distribute the ball and help get her teammates involved,” Echols says. “She has helped carry the team for the last four years, but she does it in a humble way. It’s not about her.” V has the ability to score more points and grab more rebounds in the games, but chooses instead to pass the ball and to make sure other teammates get touches and opportunities. “I like to share, and I want to get everyone involved. I know I can score but it’s not going to be fun for everyone else if I’m the only one scoring,” she says. “I think it’s important for me to make good passes and to make sure the rest of the team gets involved too.” “She has helped carry her teams for four years. But she does it in a way that is humble and with the right leadership and the right attitude,” Echols says. And it’s fun to watch the interaction between coach and player. Before, during and after games, V and Echols talk. Sometimes it’s about a coaching point, sometimes it’s something else but each time a smile erupts on both of their faces. “She’s always saying something to me positive about the game,” V says. “Sometimes it’s something motivational other times she just tells me to have



APRIL 2018

fun. Coach Echols is my coach but she’s also a good friend. I can talk to her about anything.” And the results speak for themselves. The Blue Devils reached at least the second round of the playoffs the past four years, with Model bowing out in the state semifinals the past two years. As good as Model was a few other Class AA teams happened to be stacked as well, keeping V and her teammates from reaching the state finals. But she has proved many times that she has the ability dominate and take over a game, and the opening round of the state playoffs this season offered her the perfect opportunity. Putnam County, which had been ranked as high as No. 5 in the state before losing an early game in its region tournament, visited the Blue Devils to open the 7-AA playoffs. While Model jumped out to an early lead, a severe cramp in her leg caused V to leave and Putnam County rallied cutting into the deficit and threatening to oust Model from the playoffs. “You ask about a great game and I have to tell you V’s game against Putnamn County was amazing. She had to sit out most of the third quarter because of a cramp, but she still scored 38 points and had 17 rebounds,” Echols says. “Her dominance in that game was fun to watch.” “My leg hurt, but I knew I couldn’t stay out, because my team needed me. I was upset but I kept telling myself to calm down and I could get through it,” V says. “I got my leg to stop cramping and I asked Coach Echols to put me back in. I wasn’t going to let my team lose.” The game even earned some praise from her dad, who isn’t the quickest to offer it.

“People ask me what I think about how good a players she is. They think I’m crazy because I say that I’ve seen glimpses of greatness from her, but I know there is a lot more to come,” he says with a laugh. “That game against Putnam County she came out aggressive form beginning to the end. I thought that was a pretty good game for her.” A week and half before Laney rallied to down the Blue Devils in the second half of their Class AA semifinal game, V reflected on her high school career. “I’ll be sad when it’s over. It’s been so much fun and I couldn’t ask to play in front of a better crow than what we have here at Model,” she says. “But I know what is coming for me and I’m really excited about it.” And the future looks bright for V. She signed with South Carolina in the fall and will play for coach Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks next year. Almost every Division I school in the nation recruited her, but South Carolina stood. “Coach Staley is a great person. She has a great sense of humor and with everything she has done in her career it’s amazing,” V says. “And knowing that she has gotten a lot of other girls to the next level, I know she can help me get there.” When asked about the road her daughter has traveled from being the girl who said she would never play basketball to the rising star she is today, Nae Nae leans back in her chair and laughs. “It’s been so much fun watching this journey, because V makes it fun. She is always smiling and just about never gets mad,” she says. “I love to see that big smile on her face when she runs up and down the court. I know Coach Dawn and her are going to get along great.” And the crowd of parents and supporters who have been easy to spot in the stands the last four years wearing their Queen V t-shirts will be in tow even if the drive to Columbia is a bit further than the drive to Model. And in typical V fashion, when the final question comes asking her to reflect on her journey so far, she flashes a big smile, pauses, thinks and laughs a bit. “I never thought I would be the Victaria I am today. I look at my mom and dad and everyone and it makes me smile,” she says. “It makes my heart smile when everyone is happy. I hate for people to be down. I want everyone in the stands to be happy. It’s just so cool to be able to see everyone at the game having fun and being happy.” It’s possible to measure V’s impact with the wins, the points, the rebounds, the blocks, the double-doubles, the triple-doubles and the didyou-just-see-that moments. But perhaps the best way to measure her impact is to look at the smile; not only hers but her coaches, her parents, her teammates and the fans. Because when V flashes that 2000-megawatt smile, it’s almost impossible not to smile along with her.


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It’s time to

Spring Into Health This spring, Harbin Clinic challenges you to start fresh and prioritize preventive health measures. For proactive health management, men and women of all ages should see their primary care physician yearly for these routine evaluations:


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Visit harbinclinic.com/screenings to see which screenings may apply to you. Schedule an appointment with a primary care physician to spring-clean your health today!