As journalists, we are ALWAYS searching for stories. Everywhere we go, we subconsciously keep our eyes and ears open. So it may come as no surprise that once in awhile, we come across amazing stories from the people we know ourselves.
Longtime KETV producer and friend, Jennifer Shatel and her family
Jennifer Shatel was a much-respected producer at KETV when I got my first internship. From the beginning, she was kind to me, included me in newsroom conversations, and gave me chances to write scripts and learn as much as I could. When I started reporting on-air, Jennifer was always very patient, yet always gave me constructive criticism to get better. When breaking news happened, or when a story fell through (or came up!) at the last minute, she was a model of control and made her newscasts look phenomenal, no matter what was going on behind the scenes :) She’s continued to send me emails about my stories or well wishes throughout the years, even since she’s left KETV–you never forget kindness like that, especially from someone you so respect.
I was among the many here at KETV who were stunned and saddened to hear Jennifer had been diagnosed with breast cancer. No matter what stage, what the prognosis, you hear a friend has cancer and it SHAKES YOU. It was actually Jennifer’s idea to do a story.. to follow along on her journey and show others the decisions that are involved and the factors that play into those decisions. I’m IN AWE of Jennifer for allowing us to do this–to allow cameras and all of Omaha (and beyond) into such a private journey. She did–and I was honored to share Jennifer’s story last Thursday night.
If you’re a woman who has been through the same journey, hopefully hers is something YOU can relate to. If you were recently diagnosed, hopefully Jennifer’s fight has given you the hope or inspiration you need to keep going. If you know of someone who’s been through cancer, this is a great perspective as to what they might be going through. A story we get to hear, thanks to one woman’s courage to tell it. THANK YOU, JEN!
One week ago tonight, we shared another story that again I had a personal connection to. April is Autism Awareness Month; autism is a disorder I have a strong passion for dating back many years. As a teenager, I became very close to a family touched by autism. As a college student, Autism Awareness was my volunteer platform while I competed in the Miss Nebraska system. I met so many families and kiddos battling this horrible thing.. and all of these years later, we still know so little about this horrible disorder. We do know the numbers continue to skyrocket.. now ONE IN 50 according to the CDC. 1 IN 50!!
Every April, I try to find a story to spread awareness of autism. A family with twin girls; one autistic, one not on the spectrum. An AMAZING young woman, graduating with honors, friends and dreams, showing everyone she can do anything she wants despite her diagnosis. Omaha’s Robertson family, noted philanthropists, who have donated so much of their time and money to help families just like theirs (they have two sons with autism).
Hagen Schaefer, 4, Soccer Superstar!
This year, a beautiful mother named Ashley Schaefer contacted me about her son, Hagen. She wanted to get the word out about the treatment that has given them so much hope, and given Hagen a new life in his parents’ eyes. The Schaefers have greatly decreased certain processed foods and sugars from Hagen’s diet, and are also trying chiropractic work, all part of the DAN approach, Defeat Autism Now.
Watch the Schaefer’s story and see what you think! They’ll be the first to tell you, many people have had negative reactions about what they are doing, and as always, we present both sides in the story and let you form your own opinion. My hope is that for any parent of an autistic child SEARCHING for answers, here is one more suggestion that seems to be working wonders for this little boy in Fremont. A little boy who recently played in his very first soccer game. His mom Ashley told me, ‘this is one more thing we were told he’d never be able to do!’ And just look at how happy he is out on that field :)
Finally, a story I hope you tune in for tonight or watch on ketv.com sometime this week. A few months ago, my husband forwarded me an email from a friend of his, promoting a golf tournament to raise money and awareness for cystic fibrosis. I don’t know this friend well, but I was touched by his story; he and his wife are raising not one, but two beautiful girls with cystic fibrosis.
Presley, 17 months, Noah, 5, and Alexa, 7
If you’re a parent, you know how HARD it is to watch your child go through any illness. You’d trade places with them in an instant so they wouldn’t have to feel any pain or discomfort. For the Halls, treatments help and research is promising, but there is no cure for this horrible disease affecting Alexa, 7 and Presley, just 17-months.
Alexa is an absolute SWEETHEART. She is a very bright little girl; she let me interview her and her answers were very clear and well thought out–not always the case for a first grader! Her sister, Presley, is A DOLL. The epitome of CUTE CUTE CUTE!!! If she hadn’t already stolen my heart with her bright, blue eyes and plump cheeks.. she absolutely would have with her fish impressions! It’s not fair these two perfect girls have to stop what they are doing twice a day to put on vests that literally SHAKE their little bodies, to break up all of the mucus clogging their lungs. It’s not fair they have to take dozens of pills EVERY DAY to stay healthy. It’s not fair Alexa gets sick every few months because a little cold to any of us, is a major sinus infection with great risks for her.
Her parents, Wendy and Steve, have so much hope for the research going on right now.. trials they say could make a HUGE difference in the lives of their girls and thousands of kids across the country. But as with everything, it will take MONEY, DONATIONS to pay for that research.. and the Halls agreed to share their story to encourage people to help them get there. Sometimes it’s hard to remember all of the facts and figures behind a cause, but these literally girls are IMPOSSIBLE to forget :)
As journalists, we LOVE telling stories. When it’s something inspiring, something that might help someone else, something people will remember, it just makes our jobs that much better.