Cause For Paws

March 23, National Puppy Day. Millions changed their profile pictures and posted photos on social media showing off their 4-legged friends.  It was a WONDERFUL day to be on Facebook and Twitter.

(Shameless plug.. here’s my ‘puppy’, Mack, forever young at 10 years and counting)

me and mack

For today’s featured Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, there’s cause to pause for pets EVERY day, not just March 23.  Helping animals, specifically promoting animal adoption, is her personal mission.

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MISS PANHANDLE’S OUTSTANDING TEEN MARIE KLIEWER

(Photo courtesy Deyo’s Photography)

“I started my platform P.A.A.W.S (Promoting Animal Adoption Within Society) in memory of my paralyzed cat, Lieutenant Dan,” Marie told me recently.

Yes.  Lieutenant Dan.  Marie says the cat was found at Sarpy County’s Town and Country Humane Society when he was a kitten, brought to her parents’ veterinary office and ultimately, to the Kliewer home.  For seven years, Lt. Dan was a treasured member of Marie’s family, even going on vacations with his humans.

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I started my Facebook page P.A.A.W.S. where I posted Lt. Dan’s success story and asked others to do the same,” said Marie.  “I also post articles on how to be a responsible pet owner and the benefits of adopting a pet.”

Lt. Dan has since passed away, but Marie has plenty of first-hand experience at home with four other cats and a dog.  She also volunteers every week at Town and Country walking dogs, cleaning cages and washing laundry.  She showcases pets available for adoption every month at area PetSmart stores, and has created P.A.A.W.S. T-shirts and wristbands to raise money for the shelter.

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“It’s all about service and what you do in your community to make a difference,” said Marie.  THAT, she says, is why she decided to compete for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

“I have been intrigued by pageantry ever since I was a little girl,” said Marie.  “I heard about Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant and all the great opportunities it offers through my cousin, Aleah Peters.  I especially love it because you get to choose a platform you are passionate about and love and share it with everyone.”

Marie is also a talented dancer, trained in Lord of the Dance Riverdance and tap.

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THERE’S MORE! Marie, just 15 years old, is ALSO an active sophomore at Plattsmouth High School.

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To Marie, becoming Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen didn’t add another burden to her already full to-do list, it tied together everything she already loves doing.

“This program is relevant for all young women,” said Marie.  “It instills good work ethic, love for your community and community service work.  It helps improve your interview skills, confidence on stage, self-esteem and public speaking.  All of these skills you learn through this organization will help you in life and to become a well-rounded person.”

Mature advice from a young lady who can’t even drive yet.

Marie Kliewer is DRIVEN.  Speaking on behalf of working mommas everywhere, I wish we could bottle her energy and share it! This already busy teenager has taken on her new responsibilities and embraced them, working with former TV News journalist Kali Tripp to fine-tune her speaking skills, and spending even more volunteer hours supporting the Children’s Miracle Network, Miss America’s community partner.

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It’s one thing to have goals.  It’s another thing to GO AFTER those goals.  And it’s pretty darn cool to see someone so young eagerly pursuing what she wants.  Definitely, cause to pause.

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Follow Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Marie Kliewer

on Instagram, on Facebook,

and on the P.A.A.W.S. – Promoting Animal Adoption Within Society Facebook page!

To contact Marie for appearances and events, please visit the Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook.

***

The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant will take place June 5, 2015 in North Platte.  For more information, visit the organization’s website or the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook and on Twitter.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Steffany Lien

COMING SOON.. Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Allison Baird

To read more about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.

Vision For The Future

The first time I competed for Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County, I was contestant #23.  This year, 11 young women competed in the local pageant.  It’s not clear why the numbers are lower than they were years ago, but it is discouraging to say the least for all of us who volunteer.  It’s FUN, it’s a great source of scholarship money, you meet wonderful people; I could (and have, on this blog!) go on and on about the positives women take away from the Miss America system.  My hope is that more women and teenagers will hear about Miss Nebraska, check it out, and see if it’s right for them.

This year, a 16-year old student from Lincoln Southwest High School did just that.

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MISS DOUGLAS COUNTY’S OUTSTANDING TEEN STEFFANY LIEN

(Photo courtesy of Jenn Cady Photography)

“Baton twirling is one of the reasons I decided to compete in a local competition for MNOT {Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant}, because of the talent portion of the competition,” Steffany told me recently.

Steffany isn’t just ANY baton twirler, she’s a 5-time world champion.

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“I am on the United States Baton Twirling Team, and will represent the US in Italy this upcoming April,” said Steffany.  The junior is also the feature baton twirler at Lincoln Southwest, and teaches baton and dance to children.  Her performance to win the title of Miss Douglas County’s OT was nothing short of incredible, a routine jam-packed with difficulty, including at one point, twirling the baton on her back.

Yesterday, I tripped standing up from my chair at Panera.

Steffany’s grace and skill are widely known; in February, Miss Des Moines’ Outstanding Teen Sophia Aguirre posted on the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County Outstanding Teen Facebook page: “Steffany Lien is one of my inspirations in the baton twirling world! I am SO happy she was crowned Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen! I wish her and your program nothing but the best!”

A connection spanning state lines (and state pageants!), hopefully the first of many for Steffany.

“I believe the Miss Nebraska Organization is a wonderful opportunity for contestants to make friends, learn critical life skills, and speak about a cause that is important to them,” said Steffany.

hanging with a girl from peru  dancing with children from a peruvian orphanage  giving toys to peruvian children

For Steffany, that cause is vision health for children.  The pictures above were taken last September, when Steffany traveled to Peru on behalf of the Peruvian Lions Club Organization, delivering 400 pairs of eyeglasses to those who need them.  She also spent a great deal of time interacting with children at a Peruvian orphanage; sharing toys, dancing and exchanging hugs.

“When I got there, I saw the great need for health care in South American countries,” said Steffany.  “The trip taught me many things about life, including the importance of vision health.  I would like to do my part here, in the United States (starting with Nebraska), by helping people before they have lifelong vision problems.”

Steffany has also embraced partnerships between the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen program and local businesses,  benefiting the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals, like Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.

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Steffany at a local IHOP Restaurant for National Pancake Day, and at a local Dairy Queen for Free Cone Day.  Both nationwide events raised thousands of dollars for CMN Hospitals.

This girl is a PERFECT example of the wonderful, symbiotic relationship between young women and the Miss America Organization.  Someday, the little girl in this photo may compete in a pageant because she met Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Steffany Lien.  Steffany has found another venue to perform an innate gift, all the while growing as a young woman, and person.

 “I have realized it is much more than talent,” said Steffany.  “Preparing for MNOT has improved my speaking skills and confidence, which will help me now and later in life.”

These pageants aren’t about shellac’ing on makeup and waving from the stands; they are about recognizing the young women in our communities who have talent, a passion for service, intelligence AND beauty inside and out.

Do YOU know an Outstanding Teen?

Steffany is.  She’s one of the 11 incredible young woman who want to be the BEST in the state of Nebraska, and will hopefully inspire a new generation of Miss Americas.  They have goals, they work hard, they are driven and they never stop smiling.  That alone should inspire all of us.

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Follow Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Steffany Lien

on the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook.  To contact Steffany for appearances and events, please contact omahadouglascountyOT@gmail.com.

***

The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant will take place June 5, 2015 in North Platte.  For more information, visit the organization’s website or the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook and on Twitter.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Kool-Aid Days 2015 Brooke Ludemann

COMING SOON.. Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen Marie Kliewer

To read more about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.

Stronger

I can try to explain what it’s like to compete in a pageant, but unless you’ve been there, up on that stage, it’s really hard to perfectly describe it.  I imagine it’s comparable to a pitcher stepping onto the mound for a baseball game, or a salesperson taking a deep breath before making that huge pitch for a campaign.  You work hard, you focus for weeks or months, and in the end, all of that effort comes down to one moment.  You get the win, or you do not.

My first featured contestant of 2015 knows how the pageant process works; she’s watched it, and lived it, her whole life.

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MISS KOOL-AID DAYS 2015 BROOKE LUDEMANN 

(photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“It’s unreal that I’m actually preparing to be on the stage that I’ve watched every year from the audience,” Brooke told me recently.  “I was a Little Sister, served with the Little Sister Alumni, represented Nebraska as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in 2011, and now, here I am.  It’s truly surreal to think that I have become the woman that I so admired as a child in the old high school auditorium or in the line for autographs at NebraskaLand Days.”

Brooke earned MY admiration several years ago.  I had only met the then 19-year old once, when on January 27, 2013, she was crowned Miss Star City.

Miss Star City 2013

Just four days later, January 31, 2013, Brooke posted the following on her Facebook page:

“Just wanting to say a quick but huge thank you to all those wishing congratulations and support. Because of a few calculating mishaps, I am no longer headed to Miss Nebraska. However, I am very proud to say I placed as the 1st Runner Up in my first Miss pageant ever. I respect the MAO organization for rectifying this situation and am proud of the girls going to Miss NE. God has other plans for me this year, because He REALLY wanted me to take this year off, but I pray His plans place me at Miss Nebraska next year! Again, thank you all so much, your support and love means the world to me.”

My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach when I read this post.  I’ve been a titleholder; I’ve felt the elation when your name is called, the excitement of planning to compete in Miss Nebraska.  Brooke had all of that.. and then she didn’t.  What’s worse, this was the last local pageant of 2013 to qualify for Miss Nebraska; Brooke would have to wait at least a year for another chance.

I simply can’t imagine how difficult it was for this young woman, who had experienced such a high as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, to lose the opportunity she so badly wanted.  Brooke confronted disappointment, posted a public message displaying grace, maturity and class… and moved on.

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Brooke returned to Doane College, completely committing to her studies in Business Marketing and her involvement in campus activities.  Brooke is the Service Chair with her sorority, Omega Psi Theta, involved on the Student Programming Board, a member of the Hansen Leadership Advisory Board, and she’s an ambassador for the college to new students.

“I LOVE service work.  Everyone has their ‘thing’ and mine is volunteering,” said Brooke.  “In high school, I volunteered over 600 hours in various projects, and I am right on track to match that for my 3-year college career.  I’ve made it a goal to bring my love of service to others in ways that they enjoy.  Service isn’t a chore, and I want everyone to embrace the love they can spread by lending a hand.”

Brooke’s love of Miss Nebraska didn’t go away.  Just five days before her 21st birthday, Brooke competed for and won the title of Miss Kool-Aid Days 2015, and punched her ticket to THIS year’s Miss Nebraska pageant.

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In a way, the work began all over again.  Since this photo was taken in early August, Brooke has spoken to approximately 1,500 students across the state of Nebraska, focusing on her platform of service: ‘Open Hearts, Open Minds: Education Through Service Learning.’

“I believe that everyone has a passion to change something about the world, but we never know what it is until we have that service learning moment,” said Brooke, describing ‘service learning’ as reflecting and actively learning about the world through service.  Brooke’s own moment came in high school, delivering coats to a family in desperate need of help.  “It was then I realized I wanted to help those who needed a leg up in life.  My goal is to bring others to find their passion.”

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“For younger students, I share ways that they can help others, helping them understand that ‘little people live out BIG love,” said Brooke.  “For older students, we tackle real service projects.  I was able to work with the Millard Central Middle School Student Council Leadership team to make 18 Project Linus blankets that were donated to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha.  Many students knew friends who had been in the hospital, so they were able to make direct connections to the impact they were making in a stranger’s life.”

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A quick glimpse at Brooke’s schedule via an edition of her monthly Miss Kool-Aid Days newsletter

But we can all volunteer without a crown, right?  Why compete in pageants? Why Miss America?

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“In a world that is so mindful of women’s rights, Miss America is a shining example of breaking the glass ceiling,” said Brooke.  “As a partner with STEM, we empower more women to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  We’re showing beautiful women on TV who will be doctors or engineers.  The Miss America program highlights some of the nation’s brightest, most well-informed, and well-rounded women, who are pretty to boot.  Former contestants are doing everything from sitting in the Senate of their states to performing on Broadway to being national news anchors.  Miss America is a driving force for women’s equality: empowering women to be exactly what they want to be and enabling them to pursue their dreams through scholarship and life skills.”

There’s also the talent competition, Brooke’s favorite part.

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“Miss America is unique in the fact that a large portion of our scoring is based on talent,” said Brooke.  “I’ve been singing for as along as I can remember and actually entered college as a vocal performance major.  I love the opportunity to put on a new persona, step on stage, and lay my heart out for the audience.”

Brooke Ludemann has already put her heart into this journey.. and it might have broken her heart once.

They say, ‘what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.’

This girl is TOUGH.  My guess is she’s got Kelly Clarkson on repeat, getting stronger everyday as she works hard and focuses again on this one moment to come in June: Miss Nebraska.

“{I’m competing} to represent and serve the state of Nebraska.  That is really what the job is all about, service to the people who have created the ‘Good Life’,” said Brooke.  “As Miss Nebraska, I hope to spread my platform to every county, eventually turn my platform into a non-profit after school program, and give back to the people who have helped me become the women I am today.”

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Follow Miss Kool-Aid Days 2015 Brooke Ludemann

on her Facebok page, on Twitter, on Instagramvia Brooke’s monthly newsletter,

and on the Miss Kool-Aid Days Pageant Facebook page.  To contact Brooke for appearances and events, please contact Angie at angie.trausch@gmail.com.

***

The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 3-6, 2015 in North Platte.  For more information, visit the organization’s website.

***

PREVIOUS.. Countdown To The Crown

NEXT.. Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Steffany Lien

To read more about the Miss Nebraska Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.

Countdown To The Crown

IT IS TIME.

In less than three months, life will change for two young women in our state, and possibly, the thousands of others they impact.

It’s time to COUNTDOWN TO THE CROWN.. who will be the next Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I’m sure there are many readers shaking their heads that I’m writing about pageants.  Many who believe Miss America and pageants in general are archaic, sexist and irrelevant in today’s world.

me

The girl in this photo? That’s me.  Well, a 21-year old, much thinner version of me.  When this picture was taken, I was Miss Omaha 2002, singing the national anthem for the Omaha Royals at Rosenblatt Stadium.

I found out about Miss Omaha and Miss Nebraska through a letter in the mail.  I had been active in choir and theater in high school, and was eager for the opportunity to sing on a stage again.  I got it.. and more than I ever could have imagined.

I learned how to become a better public speaker: to groups of students at elementary schools, to roomfuls of families at Metro Autism Support Group meetings, to reporters and other local personalities, to hundreds of people filling auditoriums.  I realized the value and importance of public service, focusing on Autism Awareness as my personal platform of service, and the impact you can have simply by caring and advocating for something you believe in.  I found new and exciting chances to sing and perform, opportunities I probably wouldn’t have ever had without that crown on my head.

My story is just one of COUNTLESS ‘Beauty Queen Tales’ right here in the Omaha metro area.  KETV’s Alex Hoffman, Omaha Fashion Week Producer Brook Hudson, Nebraska native broadcaster Brittany Jeffers; ALL competed in the Miss America Organization.  (For more, check out my 2014 post ‘There She Is’.)

What’s more, I think people want to be inspired.  We want to see the GOOD shining through in our world.  The young women competing for Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen exemplify that, and when I began profiling them leading up to last year’s Miss Nebraska pageant, thousands of people around the country logged on to read their stories.  These women MATTER.  (To read more about the Miss Nebraska Class of 2014, click here or click the ‘There She Is’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

In the coming weeks, I’ll again profile each of this year’s Miss Nebraska contestants; who they are, what’s important to them, and why YOU should care about what they are doing in our state.  As a new addition this year, I’ll also be profiling EACH Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant; 11 teenagers from across the state who will also compete to represent Nebraska.  Who knows, you may also see a few other surprises along the way.

STYLE.  SUCCESS.  SCHOLARSHIP.  SERVICE.

These are the four points of the Miss America crown.  They are a guide, for 24 of Nebraska’s best, trying to become the best versions of themselves and preparing to come together in just three short months for one, exciting week of accomplishments, intelligence, talent, and beauty (inside and out.)

Are you ready?

***

The Miss Nebraska & Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageants take place June 3-6 in North Platte.  For more information, visit the Miss Nebraska website.

FIRST CONTESTANT PROFILES COMING SOON..

Miss Kool-Aid Days Brooke Ludemann & Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Steffany Lien

Let It Snow

A SNOW DAY.

KETV First News meteorologist Matt Serwe put it PERFECTLY when he tweeted:

“Post about any snow during the week, and every high schooler be like…”

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Remember what it was like as a student, watching TV and listening to the radio nonstop just wishing you’d hear your school’s name as CLOSED for that one blissful day in the snow?  Now, TENS OF THOUSANDS of high school and college students across Nebraska and Iowa can also check Twitter and Facebook for closings.  This year, they are going above and beyond to not just watch, but PLEA for those days off.  And MAN are they creative doing it.

To be clear, neither Matt, nor I, nor ANYONE here at KETV have any power in determining a day off from school.  We wait for area superintendents just like everyone else.  We are merely the messengers.  But boy, we have been THOROUGHLY entertained by the requests coming into the newsroom.

THERE ARE THOSE WHO FLATTER AND BRIBE..

Emma Hasenjager :  thanks for being my heroes…hopefully! @brandipetersen @BillRandby @jsutfin

bill and us

Taylor Elizabeth: We need our heroes  https://vine.co/v/OFDBMKFrpxi

Andrew ‏@senor_andy: @brandipetersen you’re basically every metro area students best friend when it snows

Jessi ‏@jesssidwell: Hey @brandipetersen!!! My buddy @i_got_dilEMMAS and I are pros in the snow and will GLADLY shovel your driveway in return for a snowday

SOME MAKE AN EMOTIONAL APPEAL..

@sydney__nelson: @brandipetersen seems pretty dangerous outside… #snowday?? 

 B8-PyEGIYAAVjQZ  B8-PyEGIcAADVkc  B8-PyEJIAAEPjJo

@ptalm: @brandipetersen can school be called off tomorrow my wife left me

paradise ‏@jacobtroia: I’m blaming Brandi Petersen when I step out of my car; freeze, then break in half tomorrow morning

rachel winkler:   would be a shame if I got frostbite tomorrow walking into school….. come on @brandipetersen

Emily-Rose ‏@emilyvlach: @brandipetersen “give me a snow day” please?

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OTHERS TRY THE ‘NO SCHOOL OR ELSE’ TECHNIQUE..

Natalia: @brandipetersen if we have school tomorrow..

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Andy Page:   @brandipetersen @MattSerweKETV @BillRandbyKETV you are splitting apart friendships by not telling us

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Colton John$on: If Blair doesn’t cancel school its @brandipetersen ‘s fault

Jack Shoemaker: @ThorTripp is once again my favorite Omaha area newscaster. You know what you didn’t do @brandipetersen.

A FEW TRY.. OK, I’M NOT SURE WHAT THIS IS..

Langston ‏@ptalm: I heard about this ritual where if we all make moaning noises towards Brandi Petersen she will summon the ice devil and cancel school

THERE ARE THOSE WHO TURN TO RELIGION..

Evan English: Prayin for a cold day like…

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Will.i.am. ‏@willsynowiecki: We’re really gonna need you to pull through for us tonight @brandipetersen

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estelle mckinney: Do u think Jesus would have the 12 Apostles go to school in the Plz remember wwjd @brandipetersen 

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AND MY FAVORITES.. WHO TRY TO ‘USE THE FORCE’..

Travis Schwartz: @brandipetersen when outside is like Hoth you should cancel

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Nolan Harrington: How @brandipetersen wants me to go to school tomorrow

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Hannah ‏@uhlhannah: Help me @brandipetersen you’re my only hope.

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AND WHEN THAT MOMENT COMES.. AND WE TELL EVERYONE THEIR SCHOOL IS CLOSED..

ktown ‏@krgrinvalds: “@brandipetersen: WESTSIDE CLOSED MONDAY FEB 2”

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Bipolar Mike Riley‏@BipolarM_Riley: @brandipetersen will you marry me?

Brooke Gustafson: THERES NO SCHOOL. BRANDI CAME IN CLUTCH ONCE AGAIN

kates ‏@katie_fichter:  thanks brandi love u

Stavros Piperis: No school tomorrow and High School Musical is on. Love you @brandipetersen

grant ‏@wish__GRANTed: @brandipetersen you are the real MVP

***

So much love–AND LAUGHS :)  Keep it coming, folks!  Best wishes for students everywhere hoping for a cold, snowy winter.

And by the way, Bill has snow in this weekend’s forecast.

***

You can follow Brandi on twitter at @BrandiPetersen

2014: Year In Review

I mean, really, what’s the point of having a blog if you can’t hand out imaginary awards that are voted on by only YOU?

I’m a big believer in recognizing the POSITIVE things going on in our world.  In news, we certainly see the bad.  A lot of it.  Day in and day out.  But I think KETV does a great job of also highlighting the GOOD.  The students who vote for a special needs friend for Homecoming King.  The community rallying around a family in their darkest hour.  A business finding incredible success through simple hard work and dedication to their craft.

As we close out on 2014, here are my Year In Review Local News awards.

(Thank you for continuing to read though you are probably doing so while laughing.. not with me, just AT me..)

2014 KETV REPORTER OF THE YEAR

KRISTYNA

KRISTYNA ENGDAHL 

This lady is just FANTASTIC.  I don’t have enough adjectives for her.  Beautiful.  HILARIOUS.  Sharp.  Well spoken.  Fearless.  Respected.  Kristyna’s stories are well written and solid; if she tells you something, you know it to be true and researched.  Kristyna’s live presence is just AWESOME.  She’s articulate, she gets to the point at a scene, she shares what viewers want and need to know.  When Kristyna’s in our newsroom, our coverage is GREAT.  We have so many incredible journalists on our team here at KETV, but for me, Kristyna is our 2014 reporter of the year.  Now, as a person.. SHE. IS. AWESOME.  My day is truly brighter when I come in to work and see that beautiful smile, then hear her joking at her desk.  (Then I usually snort coffee up my nose laughing, because she is HANDS DOWN the funniest person in our newsroom!)  Like I said, I don’t have enough adjectives for Kristyna.  I do have a message to her: THANK YOU for being you!

Kristyna’s work in 2014:

First interview with Nebraska Governor-Elect Pete Ricketts

$100 Reward offered for return of Baby Jesus

Survivor recalls Sunday morning crash

Follow Kristyna on Facebook and on Twitter!

***

2014 KETV PHOTOJOURNALIST OF THE YEAR

DAVE

DAVE HYNEK (photo courtesy Jodi Hoatson, CHI Health)

Again, we have so many, SO MANY, incredibly talented photojournalists here at KETV.  Still, for me, Dave Hynek is THE BEST OF THE BEST.  Not just at KETV, but arguably, one of the best in the country.  Dave FEELS what he shoots–he captures moments with his eyes, his ears, and all of his senses.  I’ve been honored to share some INCREDIBLE stories this year and in 3/4 of those stories or more, Dave was the man behind the camera and in the edit bay, trying to piece together a vision I had written down on paper.  A brave, young woman speaking for the first time about the night her ex-boyfriend shot her in the face; Dave put the story together.  Our chronicle about Baby Lawrence, multiple stories spanning several months; Dave put the stories together.  Cassidy Collier, a teenager facing lifelong challenges after a terrible car crash; Dave put her story together.  The paralyzed bride who walked down the aisle, the Plattsmouth teenager who died from a mysterious illness, our one-on-one interview with former Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini–DAVE HYNEK was the man behind the scenes in each and everyone of these stories.  When we aren’t fighting over Dave in news, he’s also part of our sports team, often traveling with Andy to Nebraska football road games to shoot on the sidelines; AND he has his own production business, shooting weddings and special events.  Dave helped me put together my audition tape for the College World Series this year (singing, not playing baseball), asking nothing in return.  Dave may be one hell of a photographer, but he’s an even better FRIEND. Dave listens, works hard, he is KIND.  Hands down, he is THE BEST. (And a SUPERSTAR shortstop on the Team Paparazzi softball team!)

Dave’s work in 2014:

Cassi’s message

Saving Baby Lawrence

New mother battling terminal cancer

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2014 PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, ANDREW BEIN

No picture of Andrew, our Executive Producer in charge of our 10pm newscasts.. and that’s the way he likes it.  Andrew is always behind the scenes, plugging away at his computer or up in our master control booth, and the DUDE IS A MACHINE.  Andrew could hands down be working in any big market or network outlet in the country; his writing in concise, accurate, and entertaining.  The numbers show it–with Andrew in control, KETV has not only the #1 10pm newscast in Omaha.. but one of the most popular newscasts in the country.  Rob and I TRUST him.  We know his scripts don’t have typos that could trip us up.  We know he’ll guide us through breaking news, weather coverage and an ever-changing environment where situations turn in a heartbeat.  Producers don’t often get the credit they deserve in our business–they don’t get their faces and names on our stories and coverage when things go great.  Andrew deserves it–he’s one of the best, and we are VERY lucky to have him on the KETV team!

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2014 ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

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ALEXANDRA STONE

By ‘Rookie’, I mean new to us here at KETV, but certainly not new to this thing we call journalism.  This young woman is POISED, professional and quickly building a reputation in Omaha and beyond as a trusted journalist you can turn to for the story.  I recently put together a story with an interview Alexandra had conducted; she spoke with the mother of a young man who had been shot and killed.  These interviews are SO incredibly difficult.  What can you ask? What can you say? Alexandra was compassionate, caring, she asked the questions that we and our viewers wanted to know, but with tact and professionalism.  It was a lesson in how to conduct yourself in such a tough situation, to remember you are a fellow human being.  It was also Alexandra who, after 13 years in TV news, led me to CRY on air for the first time I can remember after seeing one of her stories.  Alexandra and photojournalist Matthew Lathan showed a young man with cerebral palsy, surprised on the field when his coach put him into the game for the first time all season.  It was just BEAUTIFUL story telling, and perhaps, a small glimpse of what incredible things this girl is capable of.

Alexandra’s work in 2014:

Bellevue football player receives sidelines surprise

Omaha native makes dream job reality

Women’s center helps immigrants escape domestic violence

Follow Alexandra on Facebook and on Twitter

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I wish I had an ‘in’ with a trophy maker so I could hand out a few more awards.  To photojournalist Tyler White for editing not one, not two, but nearly ALL of my Throwback Thursday Huskers stories (some of which required deep digging into the KETV archives, converting countless forms of video, and piecing it all together with my less-than-stellar knowledge of football).  To KETV’s official EVERYTHING Josh Gear, who produces, shoots, edits.. OK, the guy just does anything and EVERYTHING asked of him, literally, working every shift we have at KETV, with no complaint.  To legendary directors Tom Rock and Ruth Behrens, who are not only PHENOMENAL at what they do, but are always putting on a pot of coffee or bringing in made-from-scratch chili, because they are just KIND, WONDERFUL people.  We’ve just got a really, REALLY great team here at KETV.

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2014 STORY OF THE YEAR

For this one, I am completely, entirely, TOTALLY biased.  Because this one is very personal for me.  The story I will remember most from 2014..

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THE PARALYZED BRIDE WHO WALKED DOWN THE AISLE

Gina Giaffoliogne-Springhower stunned her wedding guests and 1.65 MILLION viewers by doing what so many brides take for granted, walking down the aisle on her father’s arm.  The KETV team (myself, photojournalists Dave Hynek, Ashley Nodgaard and Tyler White, and Assistant News Director Vonn Jones), along with the Giaffoliogne family and CHI Health’s Jodi Hoatson, spent weeks planning and working to share Gina’s story.  Gina spent YEARS preparing for this one moment, an instant that brought me to tears and inspired millions of people around the globe.  Gina’s story was shared by E! Online, People Magazine, Dr. Oz, CNN, ABC World News and World News Now, Good Housekeeping, Huffington Post, Courier Daily, and the NY Daily News, among others.  Gina–THANK YOU for sharing your story.  Your message, smile and spirit have no doubt changed lives, showing anyone facing a challenge that ANYTHING is possible.  You have given people hope.  To have any role in sharing your story is a blessing I can never say thank you enough for.  The world is at your fingertips, Gina–you are simple incredible.

My blog post previewing Gina’s piece: A Cinderella Story

KETV, Paralyzed bride walks down the aisle

KETV, Millions share paralyzed bride’s story

KETV, Paralyzed bride invited to Dr. Oz

Gina hopes to continue to speak across the Midwest and the country sharing her story and her inspiring message.  CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION!

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I have many goals for 2015.  I want to finish (and in some cases, START!) my boys’ Shutterfly books for each year of their lives.  I want to pick up again on one of my favorite hobbies, scrapbooking.  I want to FINALLY get back to XXX and lose all of my baby weight.  I want to be a GREAT wife, mother and friend.

Here at KETV, I just want to tell good stories.  Stories that inspire.  Stories that matter.  Stories that make us think.

It’s been a great ride, 2014.  Happy New Year.

You Think You Have Time

Buddha

I first heard this phrase a few months ago and thought, wow… this is so true. It seems we are always looking ahead and waiting for things to happen; we’ve got vacation circled on the calendar, or are willing the clock to speed up until the weekend begins.  Then, once in a while, we are reminded how quickly time truly flies.

You think you have time.

Here’s an unforgettable reminder of that to all of us from a woman who doesn’t take anything for granted.

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Kayla Hebenstreit and her husband, Joe, should be enjoying this first Christmas with their daughter, Kendall.  Kayla should be in stores, buying every pink tutu and sparkly pair of shoes she can find for that sweet baby girl.  This family should be smiling in every photo they take, just like this one.

Instead, Kayla Hebenstreit spends six days, every two weeks, getting around the clock chemo at the Nebraska Medical Center.  She’s battling cancer FOR THE FOURTH TIME.  One month after her ‘miracle baby’ Kendall was born, doctors told Kayla the cancer was back and she had less than a year to live.

I don’t even know how I would respond to that.  THREE SEPARATE TIMES, Kayla heard the word ‘cancer’, said NO, and beat this terrible disease.  Why, when she and her husband FINALLY got pregnant and had a baby, did this horrible thing, cancer, return?

Click here to watch Kayla’s story with KETV

 The Hebenstreits’ story is one of love and incredible strength.  Every kiss, every laugh means something because they truly know how precious time is.  At a time of year when it’s so easy to get wrapped up in ‘my Christmas cards aren’t done’… ‘how am I going to pay off these holiday bills’… ‘I can’t STAND so-and-so at the Christmas party!’.. this little family will remind you of how lucky so many of us are.

FAMILY 2

Thanks to J Sallenbach Photography for the photo

I believe God has a plan for everything.  I believe God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.  But why, WHY do things like this happen to people like Kayla Hebenstreit?  A beautiful woman, who dug deep to fight back so many times.  All she wants is TIME, time to live life with her husband and love her sweet baby girl, not yet three months old.

I don’t know.

I DO know Kayla and her fight have inspired thousands of people, evidence you can plainly see by checking out her website, Kayla’s Crew, and her Facebook page.  1,700 people packed a recent fundraiser to show this family support and to help them cover their costs.  I hope people who see Kayla’s story will have more appreciation for everything they have, as I did leaving our interview.  Most of all, I pray Kayla and Joe Hebenstreit are given a miracle, the only thing they want for Christmas.  TIME.