Strength in Recovery


It’s not easy to recover from some of the most severe army wounds.  But that is exactly what Sam Cila – an American army veteran – did.  And not only did he work hard on his tremendous recovery, he decided to inspire kids in his son Evan’s school with his tale as well. 

After the attacks on 9/11, Cila joined the NY National Guard and was sent out to Iraq the following month with the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment.  Towards the end of his time there however, he was badly injured while on patrol outside the Green Zone, Baghdad, from an IED blast.  His entire left side was blown out and it took him three years to fight – and win – the hardest battle of his life; the recovery.  He worked extremely hard to guard against not having an amputation, that, at the time, seemed like the only option.  He did however, ultimately loss his left arm from the elbow down but even that didn’t deter him.

He had a prosthetic hand and arm put in and then started working with Operation Rebound – an organization operated by the Challenged Athletes Foundation which “raises money to help people with physical disabilities pursue an active lifestyle through physical fitness and competitive athletics.”

Inspiring Kids

Cila wanted to inspire the children in his son’s school at Aquebogue.  He wanted them to know about all the new technologies and scientific developments available, showing them that even in the midst of apparent despair, there is always room for hope.  As well, this Veteran’s Day he ran in the Riverfront24 endurance run, raising money for a local veteran’s services organization.

The PENewark Educational Efforts

Sometimes, parents and community leaders sit around and complain about the state of their public schools. Other times, energetic and charismatic people decide to take action and to make things better. The PENewark effort, spearheaded by Newark Mayor Cory Booker, falls into the second category.

In September of 2010, a bi-partisan coalition was created in Newark that included government officials and community leaders. The goal was to launch a comprehensive community outreach effort to get ideas for educational reform. In December of 2010, PENewark hosted 11 community forums and 25 mini-forums. They knocked on 66,000 doors and contacted 45,000 community members in total.

The first phase of their impressive efforts was created and managed by Tusk Strategies with Bradley Tusk. With the combined efforts of the Mayor, Bradley Tusk and Tusk Strategies and others, PENewark truly reached out to all areas of the city to find ways to make the Newark Public Schools better.

As a result of these efforts, a report was released by Rutgers University and New York University on May 12, 2011 showing how the community felt about their educational opportunities. Among other findings, the report showed that 74.3% of residents supported replacing principals at low-performing schools; 69.2% of residents polled were in favor of giving good teachers more pay; and 64.4% of residents agreed with the idea of replacing half the teachers at the low-performing schools.

PENewark continues to move ahead with their plans and goals to improve the schools in Newark and to elevate the educational opportunities for all. They received a great start with the help from Tusk Strategies and Bradley Tusk and they will move ahead to implement the many ideas and goals they have created.

Celebrities Just Being Dads


David Beckham – Best Dad

Or at least, that’s what his kids might have said on their way home from their fun day out with daddy Beckham to a pottery painting workshop.  Indeed, he probably feels his kids are the best too, because  no matter how many trophies are in this famous footballer’s cabinet, his favorite cup has to be the one painted by his six-year-old son Cruz at Color Me Mine in Los Angeles.  

Cruz was really focused on his work of art, and was given some guidance by a helpful assistant. But it seemed his older brother Brooklyn was doing pretty well on his own – beaming with pride as he presented his father a very colorful mug that he had decorated.  He hugged him as he handed it to him.  And to make the mugs even more cheerful, Beckham himself decided to have some input and grabbed a paintbrush to add a little something to his sons’ works of art. That showed he was truly into the whole thing, which obviously made his kids even happier.

He may be one of the greatest football superstars in the world, but, at the end of the day, this was just another story to prove once again that David Beckham is a super dad first and foremost.

Animals Rescue People and Vice Versa

Gentle Barn Activities Beneficial to All

It seems that it is not just animals in distress who benefit from being cared for by humans.  In fact, one could argue that it is the oft-abused humans who are gaining more benefit from their care for animals.  Gentle Barn – a Santa Clarita farm spanning six acres – has seen many of these miracles.  Indeed, people have healed themselves by working or volunteering at the farm that houses abused cows, goats, horses and pigs.

Perhaps the abused adults and youngsters relate to these animals because they were also once threatened in some very disturbing way.  Or perhaps the unconditional love given by the animals to the people who have more often than not been the victim of terrible abuse, gives them hope again.  Either way, both are doing well.

One example is the goat named Sophie who enjoys being read to by Solana Mejia-Schnaufer.  She believes she likes the book ‘The Hunger Games’ but not ‘Animal Liberation,’ as she tried to eat the latter but not the former.  Regardless of the goat’s taste in books, she has definitely helped Mejia-Schnaufer with various issues, to such an extent that the volunteer described her bonding experience with the goat as “a life-changing experience.” She had been struggling with eating disorders and depression for a long time which had even resulted in a suicide attempt.  She believes it was Sophie who enabled her recovery as she gave her hope that “life was worth living,” due to the goat’s “incredible calm and open energy.”

If one goat can do that for one person, just think how many other animals can help people.  Those individuals who suffer from any kind of mental trauma, or abuse, where no care facility can help them and even special drugs start to fail after some time, need a place like Gentle Barn to really get their spirit back.  Mejia-Schnaufer is one case in  many at the Gentle Barn that shows just how much animals can give to people who are struggling when there is no hope left and they feel like everyone else has given up on them and life is no longer worth living.  Keep it simple: let the animals do their jobs.

Celebrities Raise Money for Fire Victims

Kyle Chandler to the Rescue

Kyle Chandler didn’t hesitate when the opportunity arose to help victims from the Texas wildfire.  The Emmy award winner just showed up at Austin for Fire Relief (the Central Texas concert) and helped raise a staggering half a million dollars for those impacted by the wildfire.  Likewise, Natalie Maines (of Dixie Chicks) joined other music stars to help those in need.  These included George Strait and Willie Nelson.

Texas Fires

The fire began in Central Texas’ Bastrop County on September 4, 2011.  It culminated in the destruction of around 1,500 homes.  There were two fatalities.  This fire set the record for the worst of the Texas fires over the last year.  Indeed, a staggering 6,000 square miles has been scorched by fires in the state since 2010. 

Clearly these music artists have pure hearts of gold.  They stepped up when things got rough and really worked hard to ensure these victims had something to smile about.  Under no pressure, they gave of themselves to raise huge amounts of money for those going through a rough time – a true testament to the goodness and value system of Texans.