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Our Dragon family

It's game day! There's no more entrenched tradition than meeting under the Friday night lights -- and no where is the weekly showdown more jaw dropping than right here on my stomping ground. Don't mistake my bias. With three young Dragons at our house (ages 9-13), the Southlake Carroll pride comes shining through when it is "game on". It was a natural fit when Ozarka® Natural Spring Water, a brand with Texas ties for the last century asked me to share my thoughts about Dragon spirit. I also enlisted a few "green team" friends who are known for their sky high spirit to chime in with their game time rituals. You can't describe game day without starting with spirit wear. On Friday, the entire Southlake community turns green. Bus stops and schools are a collage of green and black, peppered with the words, "Carroll and Dragons". My own family is adorned in top to bottom dragon team apparel and often it is bedazzled, with plenty of bling! It wasn't long ago my girls were wearing their Dragon Youth Cheer uniforms on game day. I adore seeing the tiny cheerleaders all decked out with big, bright bows, along with young football players in their oversized jerseys. All of them dreaming of their day to come in the big stadium, tearing up the turf and flipping across the sidelines.   

Spirited Ways 

Those living outside the SH 114/Southlake Blvd. bubble may not understand our spirited ways, but this video produced by Ozarka® to kick off its "Taste the Texas Tradition" gives you a good idea of what the unique football tradition looks like when you are a Carroll Dragon: At our house, it is paramount to arrive early to the game. We like to deck out the car with flags and decals. It always looks like a Dragon parade streaming into the stadium. You feel right at home surrounded by fans adorned in green paint, head to toe. My kids limit the team tinting to fingernails and the occasional face paint. New to the list of fan favorites this year is the Ozarka towel, along with the traditional shakers and flags. We like to use plenty of "noise power" and have found the cowbell is really the best way to celebrate a big TD! There is nothing more exhilarating than a touchdown run and the deafening sounds that follow from the entire Dragon section! It’s like a high-octane, sea of green all waving, cheering and screaming. With the bright lights of the high-dollar scoreboard flashing -- there is no better, more heart-pumping moment for a Dragon fan.  

Serving It Up In Style: Tailgating  

Celebrations rev up long before most Dragon fans step foot inside the stadium. Traci Kuketz and her family, never miss a chance to tailgate at Dragon Stadium. It's been a fall Friday ritual for nearly 20 years. "We like to hang out with a group of our friends and just enjoy the hoopla." Kuketz, whose four children are all dragons, describes the tailgating scene as being like "one big family". I can tell you it is. I like to walk through the swarm of people who set up for the parking lot ritual. It is just a kick to check out the elaborate spreads being served up. The grills are fired up, kids are tossing footballs and friends are swapping stories about great games of the past. Most of all, fans are getting psyched about the game to come. Kuketz feels that rush of comradery and spirit. "It is incredible to be part of an entire community where everyone is a Dragon. There is never a negative word that is said. We stick together as one team."  

It’s Alive: Team Spirit   

Under the hot glow of the field lights, you can feel the Dragon spirit come to life. When you step inside the stadium, fans are greeted by a burst of energy -- between the brightly-costumed drill team, the cheerleaders and the pre-game. We like to sit with a bird’s eye view of the giant, inflatable helmet for the run-through to kick off the game. There is something intriguing and exciting to see the enthusiastic players and coaches rush through the fog onto the field. Just that quick, the action rolls into halftime; which is always a point of tremendous pride.The Dragon Band rocks the house. With more than 325 members, the musical performance is like a ballet on turf. It is riveting to see so many moving parts, move perfectly together. No game is complete without seeing Tracy Sloan Miller in the stands. She knows what is takes to keep the band marching to a solid beat. Her daughter, Macy Miller plays the cymbals and pours hours of practice time each week into the performance. "On Friday they go straight to the game and don't get home until after midnight. It's a huge commitment, but they love it." Miller says band members give up a chunk of their summer to rehearse and parents volunteer their time to make sure it all fits together. The band motto is, With Pride. "They recite that before every performance and they give it 110%."  

Huggs, Kisses and Victory! 

Everything is that much sweeter when the pigskin tug-o-war ends in a victory for the Dragons. Excellence is part of the fabric of Southlake Carroll and that includes the celebrated football program. Head Football Coach Hal Wasson just marked his 200th career win. His wife, Sallie Wasson may be the quintessential Dragon fan. She is a staple figure through rain, cold -- whatever the elements can dish out. She is always in the stands, sporting her good luck lapel pin. It says "I Love the Coach". She's only left it behind once and the team lost the game. Every game you'll find Wasson on the 50 yard line decked out in her "ritual" jewelry. “I wear two state championship necklaces and Dragon bracelets.” Wasson says after a TD she gives a high-five to the wives of the other coaches. After a victory, she can't wait to get down to the field to see her husband. "I always go to the field to give Hal (Coach Wasson) a hug and a kiss. The best one was on our 30th Anniversary. We kissed at Cowboy Stadium on the "Star" in the middle of the field." After she hugs her husband, Wasson says she always gives a big squeeze to the quarterback. Many times the QB is a former student. Wasson teaches PE at Johnson Elementary School. Wasson says her husband has coached in other communities, but there is no place like Southlake and its belief that "Once a Dragon, Always a Dragon."  

The Tie That Binds 

The football celebration doesn't end when the final whistle blows. Fans continue their post-victory hoopla with a feast at a popular burger spot on Southlake Blvd. Our family likes to mark a win with french fries and a milkshake! All of this talk of spirit and pride takes me back to my high school football days growing up in a small town in Northwest Kansas, where our tiny town could at one point only field a six-man football team. The players still gave it their all despite the small squad -- as a cheerleader on the sidelines, the six-man lineup didn't make me any less enthusiastic. Proud parents still rooted for every play and player. Nearly everyone in the town of 200 people came out to cheer on the team. It was the one moment, besides weekly church service that brought the community together. It makes one realize football is football and passion for the game is just that no matter what your locale; big city, small town or somewhere in between. The coaches and players show their passion every week because they know they are playing for something bigger, and the fans know they are cheering for something bigger. We may all have our slightly different rituals, quirks, ways to celebrate game time and victory but when it comes right down to it: we are all part of one goal: Protect The Tradition. Our Tradition!  

Show Your Football Pride and Win Water! 

What better way to show your spirit, than to share it? Ozarka® Natural Spring water is offering a year's supply of water to three readers who share their tailgating, pride and victory celebrations. To qualify submit your photo showing your favorite football tradition online at #TexasTradition or #H2OzarkaGood Luck and Go Dragons!

Besides supporting SLC athletics, I also write profiles of interesting people in the community. If you'd like to nominate a local resident for a BubbleLife community profile, contact Dawn Tongish at or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.

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Gay Donnell

Meet Gay Donnell, president and CEO of Lee Park & Arlington Hall Conservancy, a nonprofit formed more than a decade ago to oversee these two historic areas of the Dallas parks system. Donnell, who has been in the leadership role for two years is committed to restoring Lee Park and Arlington Hall and hopes everyone will enjoy the beauty and history of these, "Timeless Treasures". The Conservancy has raised and invested more than $2.5 million in private fund to restore and expand historic Arlington Hall, and almost $3 million in gifts for new garden and features in Lee Park. 

Donnell's passion is connecting people to their community. She has a lenghty career in advertising, public relations and broadcasting. After graduating from Texas Tech University, Donnell signed on with CBS affiliate KLBK in Lubbock, managing the station's promotion and public service, while hosting daily programs. She has also worked in business development for OrgSnyc, a Web 2.0 platform and social network for higher education.

Donnell is also active in numerous community nonprofits. She co-chaired the Walk to End Alzheimers earlier this month that included about 5,500 participants. She is also involved with The Family Place and the Dallas Public Library. Donnell credits her mother for instilling in her at a young age the desire to give back through volunteerism. She is now passing along that same spirit to her own two children. We wanted to know more about Donnell and her efforts at Lee Park & Arlington Hall Conservancy and she was kind enough to answer a few questions: 

Dawn Tongish: Please begin by telling us about the approaching anniversary of Arlington Hall Conservancy and nearby Lee Park.      

Gay Donnell: Friday, October 24th at noon will mark the date and time that Arlington Hall was dedicated 75 years ago.  We will host a luncheon at the Hall with a notable member of the National Park Service who will share the history of Arlington House in Virginia, the inspiration for our own Arlington Hall.  The women of the Dallas Southern Memorial Association, who helped raise funds for the Hall to be built, still meet there monthly and many are descendants of those who were present at the dedication in 1939. To further commemorate this historic milestone, I’m pleased to share the Hall’s history and memories with the community, when we open its doors to the public on Sunday, October 26th from 1:30-4:30 p.m.  We’ll have refreshments and tours to give the community a better understanding of the rich history of the Hall and why so many people have fond memories of it.  

DT: How did you become involved with Arlington Hall Conservancy and the efforts to preserve and renovate the historic building?    

GD: The Conservancy was formed in 1998 by five different organizations that had the common objective of seeing the Hall not only restored, but elegantly rejuvenated into an event venue that would help generate revenue to help care for it.  I’ve been with the Conservancy for two years now; I take pride in my role to continue the preservation and conservation of Lee Park and Arlington Hall, while also guiding the thoughtful development that is responsive to the needs of this growing Turtle Creek Corridor. Lee Park is like Dallas’ Central Park, so we are also very mindful of our role with regard to helping define the culture of our city.

DT: For those who aren't familiar with the building or the park, what kind of enjoyment does it provide citizens?  

GD: Lee Park is a beautiful green space in the heart of Dallas adorned by rolling lawns, gorgeous trees and a peaceful creek.  These landscape features are apparent as you drive down Turtle Creek Boulevard.  If you come into the Park, you’ll find many hidden treasures like a waterfall and overlook, some mini-forests with natural pathways through smaller trees and wood ferns, and even shuffle board and roque courts, which we will work to restore in 2015.   Arlington Hall is part of Dallas history but it is also a good place to learn more about American history.  Inside you will find a number of historic pieces including a Robert E. Lee signed report card from Washington College and a ribbon and program from his funeral.  That is why we are excited to open Arlington Hall for an open house on Sunday, October 26th, so the public can come inside and take in the beauty of the Great Hall and its crystal chandeliers while hearing more about the Hall’s history from the Dallas Southern Memorial Association docents.

DT: How can the people of North Texas and beyond help meet your needs for 2014? What are your biggest needs?

GD: First, they can come to Lee Park! I’m certain that once they do, they’ll share their experience with others.  Next, they can share that it’s the Conservancy that helps take care of the Park and Hall, and that we need the support of those who use and love the Park to help us do so.  They can join the Conservancy and take part in many fun, social and historical events that members can attend. They can join at

DT: Why is it so important to maintain this historic building for future generations to enjoy?

GD: Many memories have been created at Arlington Hall and Lee Park.  We have actually hosted several 50th wedding anniversary parties for couples who were married at the Hall!  I’ve heard of gentlemen who remember the Hall as the first place they asked a girl to dance, and from those who proposed on one of the terraces or front steps of the Hall.  And for some, it’s simply a nice spot to have a picnic or read a book.  It’s a magical place for many, and we want to take good care of it so that people can keep creating memories here for years to come.

DT: It took an army of volunteers to bring the historic structure back to life. Can you describe the effort? 

GD: In the late 90s, the Hall and Park were in sad shape. It’s a real testament to that Dallas spirit we all know, because several organizations approached the Park Board and City of Dallas to express concern and they offered to take action.   A public/private coalition began to form, with the objective of adding capacity to the Hall and helping it to “save its own life” as an intimate, first-class event venue.  The Lee Park and Arlington Hall Conservancy was formed and, in 1998, the City of Dallas authorized the Conservancy to manage the project, operate the Hall and spearhead fundraising. City of Dallas bond funds were combined with resources from corporate and private sources.  In addition, the number of talented volunteers who lent their time and expertise was vast, from engineers and architects to designers and historians.  We have members on our advisory board today who remember painting the Dallas Room themselves in 2002 when funds were running low.

DT: What has been your most memorable moment as head of Arlington Hall Conservancy?   

GD: Being part of the construction of the ramp linking Lee Park to the Katy Trail. When it opened on Sunday, October 12, it allowed the 15-20,000 people who use the Trail each week to easily move into Lee Park East and take in the beauty of the trees, creek and fountain. Many people don’t know that Lee Park spans across Turtle Creek Boulevard, but they certainly will now! I already know my next memorable event here.  It involves the Park and I hope to announce it before the end of the year.

If you'd like to nominate a local resident for a BubbleLife community profile, contact Dawn Tongish at or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.

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Allicia Graham Frye

Meet Allicia Graham Frye, chief executive officer of nonprofit Jonathan's Place, which helps child survivors of abuse, abandonment and neglect. Allicia not only oversees the daily operations of the facility, which includes an emergency shelter, but also spends time with the children being cared for each day. Allicia has spent her working career serving others; in part as vice president of support services at The Children's Shelter in San Antonio. When she moved to DFW she accepted a position that only served adults and found she missed working with children. When the opening at Jonathan's Place became available, it seemed like a perfect fit.

Allicia calls her current work both challenging and rewarding. We wanted to know more about her mission to help children in need and she was kind enough to answer a few questions:  

Dawn Tongish: Please begin by telling us about Jonathan's Place.

Allicia Graham Frye: Jonathan’s Place helps children who have been victims of abuse, abandonment and neglect. We offer a full continuum of care with specialized treatment for physical, mental and emotional healing. Our programs include (1) Dallas County’s only emergency shelter that welcomes newborns to 17 year old victims of abuse; (2) a girls residential treatment program for girls 10 to 17 years old in need of therapeutic residential care; (3) a foster and adoption program where we recruit, train and support foster and adoptive families; and (4) a runaway prevention and outreach program, National Safe Place, designed to educate youth about abuse and provide access to immediate help and safety to those in crisis.  On September 10, 1994, Jonathan’s Place opened as the first licensed foster group home in the State of Texas to focus on specialized services for children 11 years of age and younger, including newborns.  In the fall of 1999, the license for Jonathan’s Place changed to an emergency shelter. Included is a picture of of Jonathan. Yes, the Jonathan of Jonathan’s Place. He was the first baby fostered by Lisa Matthews (pictured) and serves as the inspiration to help North Texas’ abused, abandoned and neglected children. Today, Jonathan is all grown up and doing wonderfully.  We’ll stop ourselves before we get too sentimental.  Just know there are thousands of children like him in Texas – and that’s why we keep going.

DT: What are your duties at Jonathan's Place?

AGF: At Jonathan’s Place, I oversee all of the day-to-day operations and strategic planning for the organization.  While the management challenges facing a growing agency can be daunting, I make a point to spend time with the children in our care.  I assist with back-to-school shopping, hangout with the children the game room, art therapy room, and library, but the most precious moments are when I just sit with a child and hear about their day.  I find the moments spent with the children to be the most rewarding.    

DT: How did you become involved with Jonathan's Place, and why are you so passionate about the work being done at the center?  

AGF: I moved to Dallas from San Antonio where I was the vice president of support services at The Children’s Shelter.  I took a job with The Volunteer Center of North Texas but after a year I realized I really missed working with children.  Around that time Jonathan’s Place was searching for a new Chief Executive Officer and I decided to apply.  Although this has been one of the most challenging jobs I’ve had, it is also the most rewarding.  There’s nothing better than looking out of my office window and seeing children playing and laughing all over our campus.  Children, who just days or even minutes ago, were suffering from abuse and neglect.  I am truly blessed.     

DT: It can be difficult for older children in the foster care system to get adopted. Why is that and how do you begin to convince people to consider adopting an older child?  

AGF: Many people have this preconceived notion that the older the child, the more difficult the behaviors.  That is totally untrue.  Many of our foster families who attend our trainings are convinced they want younger children that look just like them, and as they start working on their supervised observation hours in our emergency shelter, they realize that it doesn’t matter the age or ethnicity of a child. They realize that all children need safety, stability and to be loved.  It’s amazing to watch that transformation. 

DT: It can be difficult for any nonprofit to pay the bills. How do you stay afloat? 

AGF: The State of Texas reimburses Jonathan’s Place for about 57 cents of every dollar it takes to care for care for abused children.  We count on the generosity of thousands of donors every year to care for the abused and neglected children from 21 Texas counties.

DT: How can the people of North Texas and beyond help meet your needs for 2014? What are your biggest needs? 

AGF: If I may be blunt, our biggest need is funding.  We see so much need to help the abused children in North Texas.  For example, with donor support, we are expanding our Foster Care & Adoption Department.  Last year, there were 17,006 confirmed cases of child abuse in North Texas (CPS Region 3) alone.  3,609 children were removed from their home.  In March 2014, there were a total of 3,435 children in foster care in North Texas, but only 2,085 beds in foster homes available. This left 1,350 children to live in shelters or outside the region. This new office and additional staff will help recruit, train and support foster families throughout North Texas and ensure abused children have a safe, loving place to call home.  Your support helps us make investments that make a real difference in the lives of children.

DT: What is the most memorable moment in your experiences at Jonathan's Place?

AGF: My most memorable moment is a series of months where we had the opportunity to care for a senior in high school named Faith. At the age of five, when Faith should have been worried about what color crayon to use, she was worried about caring for her one year old sister.  They were left home alone.  After a teacher called Child Protective Services, they were placed with relatives. After nine years of bouncing between family members in multiple cities, she was reunited with her great-aunt, but the situation wasn’t any better.  Their great-aunt refused to take medications to deal with multiple mental health disorders and could not meet the needs of Faith and her sister. Then, after attending four high schools in as many years, her great-aunt called the school last Spring and told them she didn’t want them anymore. With it being early in Faith’s last semester in high school, the Jonathan’s Place staff worked diligently to get her enrolled so she could graduate.  That’s just the beginning of how your donations helped. Soon, it was time for prom season. Armed with donated gift cards and money available from gifts to our recreation fund, Jonathan’s Place I took Faith on a prom dress shopping trip to Macy’s, David’s Bridal, and Terry Costa. In just a few weeks after prom, she was walking across the stage at her graduation (wearing a cap and gown purchased with donations. Today, she’s living with her sister in a Jonathan’s Place foster home, working a part-time job in retail, and attending classes at Collin College.  She plans to enter the highly-acclaimed music program at the University of North Texas. Faith has made an incredible impact on my life and strengthened my resolve to care for the abused and neglected children of North Texas. I wanted to share with you the opening paragraph she wrote for a scholarship application:  

“Music is the mother I never had, the father that never existed, and the love I have been searching for just about all my life. Being neglected is a hard situation to conquer: Waking up knowing your Dad will not be there, skipping kindergarten so you can care for your baby sister, and later, wanting to become an adult but not having family to help you learn how to grow; no matter how much you change yourself for them to even like you.  It makes you feel unwanted and unloved.  I found a way to channel the hurt and pain through music.”

DT: What is the first thing you do when you walk into work each day? 

AGF: To be honest, I smile.  Every time I walk on our campus I realize how a child’s life is being changed because we are here; because our community cares; because they are deserving of a safe, happy, and nurturing environment.  Working at Jonathan’s Place has a way of making all your personal worries, obstacle, and/or drama seem like nothing in comparison to what our children have been through.  Working at Jonathan’s Place puts everything in perspective. 

If you'd like to nominate a local resident for a BubbleLife community profile, contact Dawn Tongish at or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.

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Lori Higgins

Meet Lori Higgins, executive director of Bob Jones Nature Center and Preserve. The nonprofit is located in Southlake on almost 800 acres of preserve land that is also part of the Cross Timbers ecosystem. Higgins oversees a multitude of regular classes for children and adults, hiking trails, a native-plant garden, indoor exhibits and an eco-summer camp. She also supports education programs that stress outdoor activity for children who too often fall prey to spending too much with social media and video games.

Higgins brings a rich background of helping others to her post at BJNC. She has worked in the social service industry more than 15 years in a capacity of different jobs. When Lori isn't working, she enjoys spending time outdoors, with nature. We wanted to know more about Higgins and the Bob Jones Nature Center and Preserve and she was kind enough to answer our questions: 

Dawn Tongish: Please begin by telling us about Bob Jones Nature Center.  

Lori Higgins: The Bob Jones Nature Center is a 501c3 nonprofit located in the City of Southlake and beautifully nestled on almost 800 acres of preserve. We are also part of the Cross Timbers ecosystem. The Nature Center is named after John Dolford “Bob” Jones who was born a slave, was freed after the Civil War, and became one of the largest land owners in the area during the early 1900’s. Bob Jones and his wife, Almeada, were big on education; they built their own school-house which the current Walnut Grove Elementary school is named after.  The Bob Jones Nature Center has a RICH history. In fact, NBC 5 ran a story a few years ago on the Bob Jones Legacy during Black History month. There are plenty of opportunities at the Nature Center year-round for the whole family, including children’s classes, photography classes, special programs like Geocaching and Stargazing, hiking, bird watching, and simply relaxing on a bench.  We are also very are excited about our annual Naturally Sweet fundraiser presented this year by Grubbs Infiniti. On Saturday, November 1st  at 7:00pm. For more information: Christina and Michael Young are co-chairing the event. Mr. Young is a former Texas Ranger infielder and 7-time All-Star.

DT: What are your duties at Bob Jones Nature Center?

LH: As Executive Director, I am responsible for the day- to-day operations of the Nature Center; while fulfilling our mission “To restore and preserve the Eastern Cross-Timbers Ecosystem through environmental leadership, education, and compatible outdoor activities”. This means securing resources, operating strategically, thinking innovatively in the ways we engage people (children, youth and adults) about the importance and significance of preservation. 

DT: How did you become involved with Bob Jones Nature Center, and why are you so passionate about the work being done there? 

LH: I was introduced to the Bob Jones Nature Center during my time as Associate Director, for The Salvation Army DFW Metroplex Command in Dallas. I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector for the past 20 years in a variety of capacities.  My career has primarily consisted of providing programs and services to individuals who span the life cycle, from cradle to grave, and meeting the needs of individuals experiencing very difficult life circumstances.  I have always been a big believer in professional development. When the Bob Jones Nature Center Executive Director position was presented, I was excited to take my career into a new direction. Experiencing nature as a full-time job is a wonderful blessing! It’s a privilege to be part of the Bob Jones Legacy, restoring and preserving a portion of the Cross-Timbers ecosystem, and enhancing the educational focus of the Nature Center. I envision a Nature Center that is a unique destination in the Metroplex, with a sustained funding base, excellent educational programs, and an active volunteer corps. I’m passionate about preserving and enhancing this special location to ensure that everyone in the area has the opportunity to experience and learn about our natural environment.

DT: There is a wide cross section of activities for adults and children of all ages. In your opinion, why is it important for the community to feel a connection with nature and the ecosystem? 

LH: In my opinion finding harmony in nature is a fundamental principle we should all embrace as a matter of ensuring our natural resources; ensuring our survival. The community has to understand the impact our decisions have on our natural resources. The way we live today affects our soil, water, air, animals and plant life. If we don’t make good choices in our daily life, what do we leave the next generation? I read an article recently that National Geographic published titled “Connecting with Nature Boosts Creativity and Health”. The article was an interviewed with Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods Mr. Louv coined a term called "nature-deficit disorder" to describe the loss of connection children increasingly feel with the natural world. He argued this disorder affects the "health, spiritual well-being, and many other areas, including people's ability to feel ultimately alive." I agree with this theory as demonstrated with the loss of accessible open space, increasingly busy families’ schedules, and the over-emphasis on team sports over individual outside play and exploration, not to mention the amount of time spent on electronic and/or social media. Studies have shown that children and adults who spend time outside are healthier physically and mentally, have a higher self-esteem, good self-discipline, feel more capable and confident, are good problem solvers and the list of benefits goes on. 

We are in an era of change as people experience the impact our neglect has had on the natural environment. The Bob Jones Nature Center is in a position to support the change through providing tools to understanding an alternative way of life. Our motto “Educate, Conserve and Preserve” will become the mantra of the next generation. Baba Dioum, an environmentalist once said "In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught."

DT: A big part of what BJNC does involves nature education and conservation. Can you talk about the importance of instilling those concepts in the younger generation?  

LH: The Bob Jones Nature Center hopes to instill in the younger generation a greater awareness and a deeper appreciation for our limited natural resources. The Nature Center provides opportunity for children and youth to engage in an alternative outdoor environment that not a ball park or driveway. At some point environmental education has to be taken from the classroom (books) into the field (nature). You can only learn so much about a butterfly looking at a picture of its life cycle. You have to have the opportunity to experience a butterfly in its natural environment, the way it was meant to live not caged. There is also something to be said for the ability to sit still in nature or the calm created in observation. We are in such a high-stress, fast-pace and media saturated generation. The importance of slowing down and, to use an old cliché, “smell the roses” is a lost art we cannot afford to lose. Observation and listening skills are timeless and form the base of all wisdom.

DT: How can the people of North Texas and beyond help meet your needs for 2014? What are your biggest needs? 

LH: The people of North Texas and beyond can support the Nature Center in the restoration of the Cross-Timbers ecosystem, while preserving the Bob Jones Legacy.

  • Our biggest need is community awareness and financial resources.
  • The Nature Center has a comprehensive master plan we are in phase 1 of bringing the plan to life starting with raising funds at our Naturally Sweet fundraiser, Saturday November 1st at 7pm on the grounds of the Nature Center. It will be a fun-filled evening with live music, samples of specialty foods from dozens of local restaurants, a silent auction, and more!
  • North Texans (and beyond) are formally invited to attend! Proceeds raised this year will allow the Nature Center to fund a new beautiful Pollinator Garden. This inclusive habitat is specifically designed to sustain pollinators such as honey bees, butterflies, birds and other wildlife in the area, and also serve as an educational venue. By creating a habitat that supports local wildlife the garden becomes a living, interactive classroom where children and adults can learn about the roles of plants, pollinators, and other wildlife in a sustainable ecosystem. 
  • Adequate educational and Nature Center signage would be a huge asset.   
  • Known by the photography community for our beautiful, historical red barn we would love to secure the resources to reconstruct the barn to house exhibits. 
  • We’d like to restore our Natural Water Hole that will also function as a habitat for local wildlife and aquatic learning lab.
  • The need to restore our Prairie, creating wildlife diversity, is some of the project in our master plan. 

The Bob Jones Nature Centers needs are great, and we know with the support of North Texans and the community at large we can preserve this treasure.

DT: What is the most memorable moment in your experiences at Bob Jones Nature Center?

LH: My most memorable experiences have come from engaging the public. When people visit the Nature Center for the first time, it’s exciting to share the Bob Jones story, take the visitors on a trail walk, talk about the classes and special programs we offer, and explain our vision for restoring the preserve. It’s a joy to share my passion for this hidden jewel!

If you'd like to nominate a local resident for a BubbleLife community profile, contact Dawn Tongish at or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.

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Desmond Purnell

Meet Desmond Purnell, a reporter with the NFL Network since 2013. Purnell is an Emmy award-winning, seasoned journalist who served as host of SEC Gridiron Live for Fox Sports Networks and also reported from the sideline for Fox Sports. Before that Purnell was sports anchor and correspondent at KDAF-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth, where he covered the professional and collegiate teams for more than five years. Purnell brings great knowledge to his sports reporting. Before he was "on the air", he was "on the field". He played football at Mississippi State University.  

Despite logging a lot of miles on the road covering sporting events, Purnell is a dedicated exercise enthusiast. He is a zumba instructor and rarely misses a day teaching classes or training at the gym. Purnell realized long ago if he wanted to maintain the active lifestyle he learned from his father as a child in Mississippi, he would need to make working out part of his daily routine. One of his biggest joys is inspiring others to get fit.

We wanted to know more about how Purnell manages to maintain a workout routine while on the road, and what he recommends for someone who is just getting started. He was kind enough to share a few exercise tips:  

Dawn Tongish: On a scale of 1-10, where do you rank fitness?
Desmond Purnell: On a scale of 1-10, I rank fitness at a 25!!! I believe staying active and staying fit is the key to living a long and healthy life. It is also a great stress reliever. 
DT: What do you do to stay fit? Can you walk us through your weekly routine?
DP: I travel a lot working as an NFL reporter... but on a normal week. I try to get in the gym 6 days a week, three of those days consist of two work outs in a day. I take a lot of group X classes. I find inspiration and motivation working out with others. I take body pump (weight training) classes as well as cycling classes. Some days I may just play basketball for a couple of hours - great cardio! I also teach 3 Zumba classes a week. Zumba Fitness is so much fun, sometimes you forget you're working out, but believe me, it is a work out. I've have students who burn well over 800 calories during an one hour class. 
DT: As a reporter for the NFL Network, you are on move, a lot. Eating right and working out has to be a challenge. How do you eat healthy and exercise on the road?
DP: I hate to admit it but I do not always eat the healthiest of foods. The fact that I travel a lot contributes to that. Not sure if you want to print this but I have the worst diet ever! I am a regular at Chick-Fil-A. It's a shame because your diet is the most important part of staying fit. Trust me, I'm working on it! Sorry!!! 
My diet is a huge reason why I work out as much as I do. Fortunately, most hotels I visit have some sort of work out area. If not, I have no problems going out for a jog. Traveling is a huge part of the job description when you are a sports reporter. I've been doing this for over a decade now. I've become very discipline. Working out is simply a part of my daily routine at this point. Now if I could only have the same mind set when it comes to my diet.
DT: Have you always been fit, or was there a time where you let your routine slide?
DP: Growing up in Mississippi, I was always active. There wasn't much to do but play sports. I have three other brothers who were all involved in sports. My father did a good job at introducing us to athletics, at a young age. So my dad established the foundation. I went on to play high school and college football. Again, once you fall into a work out routine, it eventually becomes a way of life.  
DT: Women seem to shy away from weight training, thinking they will "bulk up". What do you say?
DP: From my experiences, If you mix weight training with cardiovascular training - the muscles become leaner and stronger. Weight training burns fat and increases metabolism. The amount of weight and number of reps is what dictates how bulky one becomes. Again, from my experiences, training with lighter weights but with more reps - mixed in with some cardio is the best way to lean out those muscles. 
DT: Along with your busy work schedule, you are a fitness instructor at 24 Hour Fitness. What does that feel like when you inspire others to get up and move and be healthy?
DP: I joined 24 Hour Fitness in March 2014 as a Zumba Instructor. Knowing people look to you for motivation and inspiration is an honor. When members tell me, taking my class is the highlight of their day or tell me they've lost 15 pounds, that is the greatest feeling in the world! I draw energy and inspiration from those guys when I see them giving great effort. I don't teach at 24 Hour Fitness for the money. I'm there to change lives through fitness. NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders said it best, "When you look good, you feel good." I want everyone to feel good about themselves. It's also a good chance to fellowship and build relationships with people who have similar health goals.
DT: What do you say to the person who wants to get started and just can't seem to take the first step toward a healthier lifestyle and exercise?
DP: Just go for it! People tell me all the time how hard and challenging certain classes look. Heck, I thought Zumba was tough until a friend dared me to take a class and now I'm hooked. I've heard people complain about how sore they've felt after classes. So what! Soreness is just laziness leaving the body. In order to get the results you want, you are going to have to find the time to put the work in. My schedule gets very hectic but staying fit is important enough for me to make time. It's ok to start off slow and eventually build your way up, but you have to take that first step and then stick with it!
DT: If you had to offer one fitness tip, what would it be?
DP: If you don't like doing a certain exercise or workout, quit it and find one that you do enjoy!

If you'd like to nominate a local resident for a BubbleLife community profile, contact Dawn Tongish at or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.

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Lisa Hembry

Meet Lisa Hembry, president and CEO of Literacy Instruction for Texas or LIFT. Hembry heads the agency that was founded in 1961 by the National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Dallas Section. Since then more than 45,000 low-literate adults have learned to read at LIFT. Hembry joined LIFT in 2010 after a rich background in government and corporate sectors. She served as president of DallasiMedia Network, four years as Dallas County Treasurer, two years as CEO of Dallas Historical Society and eight years as news director and public affairs director with KRLD and KKDA radio.

Hembry continues to show her dedication, serving on several boards including Human Rights Initiative, UT Southwestern Medical Center Board of Visitors and Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Council. We wanted to know more about Hembry and LIFT and she was kind enough to answer a few questions: 

Dawn Tongish: Please begin by telling us about Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT).


Lisa Hembry: We believe reading is a human right. Since 1961, LIFT has been enhancing lives and strengthening communities by teaching adults to read. The only agency in North Texas serving very low-literate adults, LIFT provides adult basic literacy services through GED preparation as well as English language immersion classes to over 5,000 adults annually with the help of more than 350 trained volunteer teachers, in Dallas, Collin and Tarrant CountiesReading is a basic job qualification. We also offer additional jobs kills training in all of our classes, using evidence based curricula, to help our students succeed at work and at home.

DT: What are your duties at Literacy Instruction for Texas?

LH: My job as President and CEO is to inspire, motivate and encourage our team, volunteers and adult learners to do the best that we can do in support of LIFT’s mission to teach adults to read. The best part of my responsibilities is to empower our adult learners to reach their personal and professional goals especially to create a better life for themselves and their families.

DT: How did you become involved with Literacy Instruction for Texas, and why are you so passionate about the work being done with the organization?  

LH: I learned about LIFT when I was president of Dallas IMedia Network and had the pleasure of interviewing a staff member and an adult learner. It made me aware of the magnitude of the illiteracy problem and the dire consequences for all of us if this is not addressed. Later, when the board sought new leadership I was recruited to provide staff leadership as President. Let me just say it is the most rewarding position I have ever had. I am passionate about our work because I love to read. I am an avid reader. And everyday I see the impact that learning to read makes on our students, many of whom have struggled with illiteracy their entire lives. It was life changing for me when one of our students shared  in amazement that she is now making more money than she has ever made and feels like she can finally live not just struggle. 

DT: In our modern world it is hard to imagine someone not learning to read or read well. Why and how does that happen? What is the impact on a person's life when they aren't literate? 

LH: It is difficult to imagine. Our students are smart, driven individuals and for native English speakers that have made it to adulthood without being able to read it is usually because of an underlying learning difference such as Dyslexia. The illiterate individual is unable to manage the tasks of daily living that are so easy for those of us who can read. They cannot apply for a job, help their children with homework, advocate on their own behalf or fulfill their potential as a member of society. Access to literacy training significantly reduces someone’s reliance on social services and that affects all of us.

DT: How can the people of North Texas and beyond help meet your needs for 2014? What are your biggest needs?

LH: LIFT is a privately funded agency that has served the North Texas region for over 53 years. We receive no government funding and rely on the investment in generosity of private funders to support our mission to teach adults to read. LIFT’s Bend the Trend Campaign to reduce adult illiteracy in our community requires collaboration with agencies that serve our population. Ideal partners have available space to offer classes in neighborhoods with high poverty and illiteracy rates. This is the centerpiece of our partnership model to offer literacy classes where people live, work and worship.

DT: How great is your need for volunteers?

LH: One of our greatest resources is people. We have an ongoing need for compassionate empathetic and willing participants in our goal to offer more classes to more people. Our strategic plan is to expand the number of partner sites significantly over the next five years. In order to do that we must have trained volunteers who are willing share their knowledge to help other people live a better life. We currently have 350 volunteers who teach classes, mentor and serve in the computer lab including in our English immersion classes at fourteen locations across the Metroplex, our GED preparation program that includes computer Essentials, and our Adult Basic Literacy classes.

DT: What has been your most memorable moment at LIFT?  

LH: There have been many memorable moments among those was our 2013 GED graduating class of 21 people many of whom never thought they could achieve this lifelong goal. We have thousands of students who come through our doors with inspiring stories but former student Dadrian Pearson is very close to my heart. At 13 he and his 3 siblings were abandoned by their mother and went to live with their grandmother. He was forced to drop out of school to help support his family.  For several years, he held a well-paying job in a warehouse until his position became automated. All of a sudden he was unemployed, with people to feed and clothe without his high school diploma or GED. That’s when Dadrian found LIFT. Determined to get his GED and make a better life for his family He worked really hard for almost two years, earned his GED and he now has full time job with benefits and educational reimbursement. Even better, his fiancé Jessica enrolled in LIFT classes and is now very close to earning her GED. 

If you'd like to nominate a local resident for a BubbleLife community profile, contact Dawn Tongish at or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.

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Destiny Rose

Meet Destiny Rose, the founder of Mumz4Kidz, a nonprofit designed to challenge teens to give up tradition and think about helping others. Rose, 16, who lives in Southlake created The Homecoming Challenge. The Carroll High School junior is urging students to give up the mum money and donate the cash -- which can reach $1,000 -- to the less fortunate. If you still picture a mum as just a flower, forget it. Today's mums often reach the size of a full body. Rose says the homecoming tradition is too excessive, and expensive.

Rose wants students to think about spending the money in better ways. In particular, Rose wants to help feed the underprivledged at Dallas-based nonprofit, Youth World Learning Center. Rose says it is easy to live with rose-colored glasses on and not see the need all around. She reminds us that $50 can feed a family of six. Last year Rose and friends donated their mum cash and fed 16 families. Rose wants to send a message that helping others through charitable work should come from the heart and be a lifelong committment.

We wanted to know more about Mumz4Kidz and Rose and she was kind enough to answer a few questions for us: 

Dawn Tongish: Please begin by telling us about Mumz4Kidz.    

Destiny Rose: Mumz4Kidz is a organization that blossomed from the passion of four high school students in 2013. Last year, instead of buying expensive mums for the homecoming game, these students donated to Youth World Learning Center, fed 16 families, and wore shirts to raise awareness for this children’s ministry. These students have worked for the past five years with other Carroll students in Students Standing Strong and SASO to help raise money to provide groceries to feed 400 families Thanksgiving dinner. Youthworld’s goal during the Thanksgiving season is to bring dignity to families by providing groceries, so they can be a part of the tradition of preparing a Thanksgiving dinner together.

DT: How did you become involved with Mumz4Kidz, and why are you so passionate about the work being done? 

DR: I created Mumz4Kidz this fall. Thanksgiving is all about being grateful for what you have, and living with a generous spirit. It’s time for students to step up and make a change in this community. Mumz4Kidz is a chance for students to give, and be a part of something huge! Every small act of kindness is part of a big impact. I’m passionate about the kids a Youthworld and my peers around me. The kids at Youthworld need us and we need to look beyond our everyday life and help others. It’s a win-win.

DT: Your desire to give back is inspirational. Do you hope to inspire other young people to do their part to volunteer in their communities? 

DR: It’s less about volunteer work, and more about loving others. It’s so easy to fall into the rut of living a selfish lifestyle. An immense number of young people are questioning their duty on Earth. I believe this is the next step. I pray everyday that this generation would live more generously, but even more importantly- to follow their passions as well.

DT: Homecoming is a big part of any teen’s rite of passage. Do you understand the reluctance on the part of some youngsters to "give it up" in the way you are asking?  

DR: I certainly understand that, and I want to simply offer an option to use the money in a different manner. I am not “anti-mum” or against anyone that wants a mum, I just saw an opportunity to give to children I am passionate about. We don’t need mums, but they do need food. Mumz4kidz offers an opportunity to do some good. Through this movement, I have encouraged people that want mums to donate as well.

DT: How can the people of North Texas help meet your needs for 2014? What are your biggest needs? 

DR: For next year, we are looking for corporate sponsors to take care of shirt expenses in order to maximize the impact of our donations. We are also looking to expand the reach of the movement into more schools throughout the metroplex. We have a vision for students standing up and spreading the word to their schools and youth groups. Imagine what we can do if we all work together!

DT: What is the most memorable moment in your experiences at Mumz4Kidz?  

DR: My favorite moment is when we deliver the groceries to the families. It’s a chance to physically serve others- not only financially, but from one family to another, sharing a beautiful moment. We aren’t just sending our money out to an unknown cause. There are real people that are now able to have a meal we sometimes take for granted. It’s the best part of all of this! 

DT: How do you plan to carry on this charitable work in your future?

DR: I plan to be involved in this organization when I go to college in two years. I want to empower students to own the movement in their schools, however I will remain very much involved. My hope is that students will not only donate and serve the children of South Dallas, but grow kinder every day, and make a decision to be the best person they can be, academically, socially, and philanthropically.

If you'd like to nominate a local resident for a BubbleLife community profile, contact Dawn Tongish at or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.

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Glenn Rosenberger

Meet Glenn Rosenberger, president and co-founder of North Texas Wounded Warrior Golf Association. As one of nine chapters of the Salute Military Golf Associaton, NTWWGA works to improve the lives of injured veterans and military members injured post 9/11 through rehabilitative golf experiences. Rosenberger calls the project a great blend of using golf to help heroes reach better health and well-being.

It all started in 2011 when Rosenberger found the perfect way to combine his wish to stay connected to military service and his desire to help people. Rosenberger served 34 years in the Air Force. When his son, Matt who is an avid golfer came across an article about the program it seemed ideal to launch NTWWGA. The father-son duo kicked off the charity and it has grown ever since. NTWWGA now has a partnership with Timarron Country Club in Southlake and helps countless wounded warriors each year overcome the scars of battle. We wanted to know more about Rosenberger and North Texas Wounded Warrior Golf Association and he was kind enough to answer a few questions: 

Dawn Tongish: Please begin by telling us about the North Texas Wounded Warrior Golf Association.

Glenn Rosenberger: The North Texas Wounded Warrior Golf Association (NTWWGA) serves as one of nine chapters of the Salute Military Golf Association (SMGA). Our mission is to provide rehabilitative golfing experiences to injured servicemembers and veterans residing in North Texas. Our goal is to improve the quality of life for these American heroes through the game of golf. Eligible veterans include those wounded or injured in post‐9/11 military operations, including those with Post‐Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The heart of our program is an eight-week adaptive golf clinic that we host at Timarron Country Club each spring.  Through our clinic, we provide golf instruction, golf equipment and golf apparel to program participants. Participants who meet our attendance requirements are offered a set of custom-fit golf clubs at the completion of the clinic. We maintain relationships with the warriors who register with our program, offering playing opportunities throughout the year. A video documentary of our program is hosted at Golf is our tool, but rehabilitation is our focus. The game of golf embodies strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, and mental discipline. SMGA/NTWWGA programs are designed to leverage these attributes to facilitate the healing process. The golf experiences offered though our program build lasting relationships that extend beyond the hospital and past the golf course. By addressing the unique needs of wounded warriors returning home from service, we assist these heroes as they reintegrate back to active duty or civilian society.

DT: What are your duties at The North Texas Wounded Warrior Golf Association?  

GR: I serve as President and co-founder of NTWWGA. I am blessed to lead a team of passionate volunteers who make this job very rewarding.

DT: How did you become involved with NTWWGA, and why are you so passionate about the work being done with the group?   

GR: Upon retiring from a 34-year career in the Air Force, I wanted to stay connected to the military and the people I love. At the same time, my son Matt was becoming an avid high school golfer. One Sunday in 2011, Matt read an article about the Salute Military Golf Association in a local newspaper. He was inspired to raise money for this wonderful organization. So Matt and I collaborated with SMGA and hosted a charity golf tournament for SMGA in September of 2011, the ten year anniversary of 9-11. We had a successful tournament, hosting four wounded warriors as our guests and raising $8000 for SMGA. Matt and I enjoyed working on this father-son project together and repeated our tournament in 2012 – this time hosting 12 warrior golfers and raising $12000. Along the way, we quickly developed a strong group of sponsors and supporters that allowed us to build upon our fundraising success. In 2013, we transformed our organization into a full service chapter of SMGA and established a partnership with Timarron Country Club in Southlake TX. Timarron’s staff and membership have warmly embraced our charity – they donate the use of their facility, equipment and instructor time to conduct our clinics. My team is passionate about the benefits that the game of golf offers to our nation’s injured heroes. Golf offers many benefits to aid in their recovery. 

  • Golf gets isolated warriors out of their house and away from their struggles.
  • Our clinics and golf outings allow the warriors to connect with a team of supportive peers who have similar experiences, allowing them to unwind with people they trust.
  • Golf requires mental focus and discipline. It is played in a setting filled with natural beauty. As the warrior concentrates on improving his game in this peaceful setting, he replaces negative thoughts and memories with positive thoughts and memories from his rehabilitative golfing experiences.
  • Golf is a well-known tool used to develop professional networking. Golf aids in the warrior’s reintegration into civilian life.

DT: What success stories have you seen related to the therapeutic efforts your group has been able to provide?  

GR: We have several warrior golfers who led isolated lives prior to their involvement with our organization. Now they are active in society, both professionally and socially. We have observed the smiles, the mental healing and restored family relationships. We’ve also seen success with our golfers during competitive golf experiences that add to the warrior’s sense of pride and accomplishment. Six warriors who are registered with NTWWGA have participated in the Warrior Open, a competitive golf tournament for warrior golfers hosted by President George W. Bush at Las Colinas Country Club. Curtis Fowler, a warrior golfer from our 2013 clinic, will make his inaugural appearance in the 2014 Warrior Open. Jason Leap, a NTWWGA Board member and warrior golfer will compete at Congressional Country Club in the Simpson Cup, a Ryder-Cup styled event between US and UK warrior golfers.

DT: How can the people of North Texas and beyond help meet your needs for 2014? What are your biggest needs? 

GR: We enjoy the support of numerous sponsors, both large and small, throughout the DFW metroplex. We recently completed the Fourth Annual North Texas Wounded Warrior Charity Golf Tournament at Timarron Country Club. The Airpower Foundation led the way as our title sponsor. This event is sure to grow and I encourage North Texans to support our organization by participating in our annual fundraiser. Donations of gift cards for our raffle and silent auction are always welcome. Though community partnerships, we also offer several “no-cost-to-you” methods of financially supporting our charity – see for more details.

Another need we have is for quality playing opportunities for our warrior golfers. If you are a tournament director/sponsor who would like to host a few warrior golfers in your tournament, our website has details on how to offer this benefit to the North Texas heroes registered with NTWWGA.  (Alternatively: “contact Curtis Fowler at or 817-773-6836 for more information.”)

DT: Can you describe the reactions from the warriors who participate in your events, and even from the volunteers?

GR: Many of our warriors have offered their testimonies of the effectiveness of the therapy we offer to media outlets and several warriors serve as program leaders within our organization. With our most recent fundraiser, we had a tremendous outflowing of support. Most of our volunteers have been with us for several years and support us in many different ways. Kyle Corey, the team captain and two-time district champion from Grapevine High School Girls Golf Team, serves as our junior volunteer lead and junior volunteer coordinator. She is an enthusiastic supporter of our program. In our recent fundraiser, Kyle netted over $2400 for our charity by allowing tournament participants to substitute her golf shot for their shot on a Par #3.

DT: What has been your most memorable moment at NTWWGA?

GR: In 2013, I was forwarded a video from a golf tournament director who hosted a foursome of warriors who participated in our clinic sessions. The video featured an interview with a warrior golfer who had recently completed our clinic series. In the interview, the warrior matter-of-factly stated that because of golf, he no longer has nightmares before and after the days that he plays golf.  This video is hosted at

If you'd like to nominate a local resident for a BubbleLife community profile, contact Dawn Tongish at or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.

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Delena and Ragan

Meet Delena Stuart Watson, founder of Ragan's HOPE, a nonprofit that assists families enduring medical issues. Delena knows the trials and hardship of having a sick child. Her daughter, Ragan underwent more than 50 surgeries before turning 15 and is the namesake behind the charity. Delena left a successful corporate career to pursue her passion to help others. She started a ministry at Fellowship Church that focused on children and that quickly grew into her overseeing more than 1000 volunteers. 

Delena still considers her greatest accomplishment her children, who are now grown. We wanted to know more about Delena and Ragan's HOPE and she was kind enough to answer a few questions: 

Dawn Tongish: Please begin by telling us about Ragan's Hope.

Delena Stuart: Our Mission at Ragan's HOPE is committed to helping parents of children with catastrophic illnesses or injuries endure the initial impact and embrace the future by providing financial, emotional and spiritual support, in the name of Christ. Our Vision is to help parents and communities lift up the children with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, to not only learn to rise up and meet their challenges, but to go on to live extraordinary lives.

DT: What are your duties at Ragan's Hope?  

DS: I am the founder of Ragan’s HOPE.

DT: How did you become involved with Ragan's Hope, and why are you so passionate about the work being done at the organization?

DS: Ragan is my daughter and she endured over 50 surgeries and over 100 day procedures during the first 15 years of her life.  She is now 26 years old.   We saw so many needs that families like ours could use and there wasn’t a foundation meeting those needs.   I would encourage you to watch our video

DT: It can be difficult for any nonprofit to pay the bills. How do you stay afloat? 

DS: We are blessed with private and corporate donors.  We also have a wonderful event in several cities called Night of Superstars. This event is to honor 20 children in the community that have excelled in the arts, community service, sports, academics, etc.   Although we do not look at this event as a fundraiser (other than to raise funds for the event itself) but if there are funds left over we use 25% to go into a scholarship fund and the 75% goes into the general fund to support the families in that community. I suggest you take a look at this link to better explain our Night of Superstars events

Greg Johnson originally founded this event and last year we pulled the event under Ragan’s HOPE which it is now a Ragan’s HOPE event.

DT: How can the people of North Texas and beyond help meet your needs for 2014? What are your biggest needs? 

DS: We continue to assist families throughout the year and so volunteers are always needed.  We have opportunities for those that want to be engaged with the families as well behind the scene roles.

DT: What is the most memorable moment in your experiences at Ragan's Hope?

DS: Seeing parents not only endure but learn to embrace their future…their new normal. It is wonderful to see parents getting back to work, providing for their families and then to give back to others by volunteering in some capacity.

DT: What is the first thing you do when you walk into work each day?

DS: Pray for our families and the overall foundation. 

If you'd like to nominate a local resident for a BubbleLife community profile, contact Dawn Tongish at or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.

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John McGee

Meet John McGee, chief operating officer at ER Centers of America Inc., a free-standing emergency room in Plano where patients typically receive care in 15 minutes or less. Under the FSER model, it is the goal to deliver quality care to consumers where they live and shop. McGee brings a wealth of corporate background to his position at ERCA. Previously he has served in senior executive positions with Chilton Corporation, TRW and Computer Science Corporation.  

McGee is also a civic leader in Highland Village, where he has lived for nearly a decade with his wife, Janet. McGee was elected to the city council in 2010 and serves on several boards. McGee is a U.S. Army veteran.

We wanted to know more about McGee and his duties at ER Centers of America and he was kind enough to answer a few questions: 

Dawn Tongish: Please begin by telling us about ER Centers of America.  

John McGee: ER Centers of America (ERCA) is a Free-standing Emergency Medical Care Facility (FSER) that is licensed by the State of Texas. The FSER model delivers high quality emergency care to where people live and shop thereby reduce the time-to-care. All ERCA facilities are Joint Commission accredited. The Joint Commission accreditation is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting certain performance standards. The Joint Commission accredits and certifies more than 20,500 health care organizations and programs in the United States. ERCA has been providing quality emergency medical care since January 2008. Basically, a FSER is an emergency room, not a urgentcare, without a hospital attached to it. We have:

  • Board Certified, emergency trained doctors and emergency trained nurses.
  • A complete laboratory licensed by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988.
  • A complete radiology department including x-ray, ultrasound and CT scan. 

ERCA’s model is built around responding to the long waits many patients endure at traditional hospital emergency rooms. With few exceptions, our patients are seen by the physician in 15 minutes or less.

DT: What are your duties at ER Centers of America.  

JM: I am the Chief Operating Officer. In that capacity I am responsible for aspects of our operations except medical care which is the responsibility of our Chief Medical Officer.

DT: To help the consumer, can you compare the experience at ER Centers of America to a typical emergency room visit at a hospital?

JM: Yes, I can.  

  • First, we have all the equipment and trained staff of a traditional hospital ER.
  • Our patients are typically seen by the physician in 15 minutes or less versus 2 – 3 hours in a hospital ER.
  • Our physicians and nurses have more time to spend with our patients. A typical FSER will see approximately 30 patients in a 24 hour period versus 100+ in a hospital ER.
  • Our facilities are designed for a calming and comfortable environment versus the cold, sterile environment of a traditional hospital ER.
  • We condense the time for medical testing and treatment to a fraction of a traditional hospital ER because all of facility is compressed into approximately 6,500 square feet. You don’t have to be moved to another building for radiology or wait for someone from the laboratory to come from another part of the facility.

DT: Consumers might be concerned about insurance and how that payment works at ER Centers of America. What words of advice can you offer? 

JM: Both Texas law and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) require insurance companies to pay providers of emergency care at the patient’s “in-network” benefit level regardless of whether or not the provider is “in-network” with the insurance company. Even though we are not an “in-network” provider with most insurance companies, the insurance companies are required by reimburse us according to the patient’s “in-network” benefits. Our claims staff works with patients and their insurance company when insurance company representatives do not understand the law.

DT: You are a City Council member in Highland Village. As a business leader and elected official, what do you see as the top challenges for DFW in the next few years?  

JM: The two biggest challenges in the DFW area…and, all of north Texas…are: Water and Transportation. 

  • The explosive growth in north Texas has strained the capacity of fresh water systems throughout the area. Adding to the problem is the introduction of the Zebra Mussel  which clog the pipes used in treating and transporting fresh water. 
  • North Texas is one of the fastest growth areas in the country. The growth has jammed our streets and highways. If we are to continue to grow we must provide superior roadways for both commercial and resident traffic.

DT: What is one thing about you that citizens and maybe your employees would be surprised to learn?  

JM: That I have been a political junkie for most of my life, starting with being student government president while in college.

If you'd like to nominate a local resident for a BubbleLife community profile, contact Dawn Tongish at or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.