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Journalism 101.  Start every story with your best sound and your best video.  Don’t bury the lead.  With that… this month is my last at KETV, after 15 years as a journalist at the only station I’ve ever known.

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When I was a little girl, I used to sit on the stairs in our split level house in Papillion, with my legs dangling through the steps and a notebook in front of me.  I would just write.  I would write about my day.  I would play the game Life by myself, and use each space as a prompt to write a fictional story.  I’ve kept a journal since I had huge glasses and buck teeth.  In college, long-form essays and papers weren’t hassles, I relished them; I love letting the words just HAPPEN, and the surge of accomplishment when those words come full circle and everything just FITS.

I’ve always been a natural ‘performer’.  I was the ham hogging the attention for our 1st generation camcorder, jumping in front of my Dad with a goofy voice or song whenever he had the thing rolling.  I tried out for show choir every year I could, and joined the speech team my very first year of high school.  Speaking just came easily for me; and I was GOOD at it.  Forensics, theater and choir were my LIFE in high school.

I was never in journalism.  I didn’t carry around a Barbara Walters lunchbox.  I floated around my first year of college not knowing where I belonged or what my future looked like.  My sophomore year at UNL, I took Introduction to Broadcasting with Tom Spann, and was fascinated by a world of history, SHARING history, writing, and reporting.  Somehow the idea of an internship surfaced, and KETV was the station I grew up watching.  My mom bumped into longtime weekend anchor/reporter Pamela Jones at a city meeting, got contact information for the intern program, and I emailed Managing Editor Joe Kasmir the next day.  I showed up for my interview a good half an hour early.. and I will never forget walking through the Newsplex doors, overwhelmed to see the same set and newsroom I had watched on TV for so long.  Julie Cornell and Rob McCartney were just finishing the 6pm broadcast, and Julie looked up and smiled at me.

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How do you sum up 15 years?

My first breaking news live shot at NP Dodge Park… that was God awful.

Covering my first night of tornadoes as an intern, Scott Buer at the wheel of the car, and me in the passenger seat wearing a green skirt suit and heels, trekking around in mud and rain COMPLETELY unprepared, but willing to stay out as long as Scott did.

Talking to a suspect in jail dubbed the ‘Bare Butt Bandit’, and hearing later from my best friend’s now-husband: ‘I said, Please God, let Brandi be doing that story..’

An Iowa shooting late at night with photojournalist Mike Richard, and then lying in the backseat on the way home  with my eyes squeezed shut, battling a nauseous migraine.

Live shots on the field at Memorial Stadium with Rob on one side and Jon on the other.. when a stray football was punted right into the side of my face.  Hearing my Assistant News Director Vonn Jones yelling in my ear ’30 seconds!!’ as I tried to regain my composure.. as did Jon and Rob (from dying laughing…)

Driving 8 hours throughout the night with Justin Riviera to cover an arrest in the Jon Benet Ramsey murder in Boulder, Colorado.  I was overwhelmed by literally HUNDREDS of rabid reporters; he shoved me and said ‘get in there, Petersen!’

Covering an afternoon and evening of tornado threats across western Iowa with photojournalist Dave Hynek.  Laughs because of a nerve-wracking live shot.. laughing that turned to chaos and sheer sadness when we learned less than an hour later about the tragedy at the Little Sioux Boy Scout Camp.  We worked through the night side by side, waiting for the details that would shake our community and the country.

Countless tears when things went wrong.  Crying to my roommate, wondering what I should have done better.  Coming home and sobbing to myself, questioning my decisions as not only a reporter, but a human being.

Westroads.  Derek Ruth.  The Butternut fire. The paralyzed bride.  Clayton Hildreth.  Evan Sharp.  Pediatric brain cancer.  Amber Harris.  Baby Lawrence.  La Paz, Mexico.

JP Carter.  John Matya.  Trisha Meuret.  Tom Elser.  Joe Kasmir.  Cathy Beeler.  Jay Roberts.  Vonn Jones.  Jon Schuetz. Sean McMahon. Justin Riviera.  Renee Ludvik.  Kristyna Engdahl.  Jeremy Maskel.  Adrian Whitsett.  Andy Ozaki.  Natalie Glucklich. Melissa Fry.  ROB, ANDY, DAVE. My coworkers that have become my family.

Through KETV, I met my husband.  I was on air throughout my pregnancies with both of my boys.  We moved; twice.  This is where we grew up; this is home.

At KETV we lost Joe, my mentor who hired me, fueled my passion for journalism, and always, ALWAYS pushed me to be better, while making me feel like I was really something special.  I often wish he had been alive to see me anchor ‘the big show’.

We lost Jeff Frolio, the photographer who told me about jazz, and how special music was for him and his wife.  It was the music at his final service that broke me down.

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Just like my stories… in so many ways, THIS story has come full circle for me.  My sweet ‘baby’ boy Easton will start Kindergarten in a few short weeks.  Guys, I need to be here with my children.  I need to hear about their days, I need to be there for school concerts and carnivals and dinner on our deck.  I need to hear THEIR stories, and I need to be PART of their stories when they look back and share them throughout their lives.  News is a business like no other; it never stops.  Tornadoes don’t drop from the sky from 9-5, Monday through Friday.  Tragedies don’t happen just while we’re on the clock.  There will be another journalist, waiting and ready, to slide into that spot next to Rob to anchor our evening newscast every night, but I am my boys’ ONLY MOTHER.  I am the ONLY MOMMA they will ever have.

God works in mysterious ways; he always has a plan, though we may not understand it as it’s unfolding.  Next month, I will join the Communications team with Westside Community Schools.  I still get to tell stories; GREAT stories about incredible students, teachers making a difference, programs that impact generations of kids.  I get to showcase the GOOD in our world; I get to WRITE.  But every day, I also get to go home to my family.  We can eat dinner together.  We can play at the park, and watch the sunset, wake up the next morning and do it all over again.  I know I’ll be home every Christmas morning, I’ll get to watch fireworks with my kids every 4th of July, I get to stay at the pool with them Sunday mornings instead of putting on my makeup, straightening my hair and heading to the station.  I need to say this: I have SO MUCH RESPECT for working parents, regardless of their shifts.  People all over America work crazy hours, love what they do, and love their lives at home.  I work with many of them here at 7!

For me.. it’s just time.  Still, as I write this, I still feel the tears welling up behind my eyes.  I am so excited for this new opportunity and new chapter in my life, but it truly is so hard to say goodbye.  My fear is that I didn’t matter.  That time will go on and it will be like I was never there. That sounds really narcissistic and egotistical; truly, I’ve tried to make a point in my career to NOT make everything about me, to make our stories about THE PEOPLE, PLACES, AND ISSUES we are sharing.  But to everyone throughout these 15 years who’s made me feel ‘like a big deal’.. to everyone who has watched us, followed us, trusted us.. THANK YOU.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  I don’t have words beyond that.. but I hope you understand the deep gratitude from the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU.

WATCH KETV.  You will NEVER find a better journalist than Rob McCartney.  This dude is one of the best human beings I have ever known; he cares, he listens, he is always asking questions and trying to dig a little deeper to share the most complete story possible, and I’d argue NO ONE is trusted as a journalist in our state more than Rob.  He is noble, smart, a leader, compassionate.  He is a good friend.  Bill Randby is HANDS DOWN THE BEST meteorologist you could ever turn to; NO ONE cares more about providing people accurate information than this guy, and truly one of the most genuinely KIND people I have ever met.  Kristyna Engdahl is BRILLIANT.  Her writing is phenomenal, she’s fair, she has a GIFT for public speaking and thinking on her feet, and I WISH everyone at home could meet her and feel her energy in person.. because she makes EVERY DAY better when you’re around her.  Andy Kendeigh is the big brother I never had–always supportive, always caring, just an AMAZING GUY and such a wonderful friend.  And holy crap, is this guy GOOD.  Athletes and coaches LOVE him for a reason–he’s hilarious, hard working, devoted to what he shares every night and throughout every season.  In addition… our future is so very bright.  Alexandra Stone, Chinh Doan, Laurann Robinson, Sean Everson, Matt Serwe, Cem Brinklow, Ashley Nodgaard, Josh Gear, Davonte McKenith, David Earl, Katie Bane, Tanner Kahler, Matt Lothrop, Camila Orti… all of the people you see and many you don’t… they are HUNGRY for good journalism.  They want to tell good stories.  They are willing to sacrifice sleep, personal time, personal LIVES, to make KETV the best it can be.  This team IS TRULY THE BEST.  You will not find local news in our state that is better–YOU JUST WON’T.

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I knew this day was coming.  I didn’t think it would be this WEIRD.  That’s the only word that makes sense.  I don’t have enough words, and at the same time, I feel like I’ve said too much.

We’ve got a few weeks left, Omaha–let’s make it awesome.  Westside, I hope to make you proud.  KETV, I hope I’ve made a mark, some kind of difference.

And to my boys.. I love you.  Let’s go hunt some pokemon and have a great morning together.

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Photo courtesy Photography By CB

Little Big Shots

Confession:  I ADORE KIDS.  Especially my own, but really, all babies and toddlers.  They are so innocent, sweet, cuddly, all of the above!  When I see a child doing something uber-impressive, like singing or dancing, I simply MELT from cuteness overload!

Case in point.. my friends Amanda and Bill’s little girl, JoJo.  At just 3 years old, this sweet thing is an AMAZING singer!!  She’s got an innate gift for remember lyrics and melodies, and was simply BORN to be a star!  When she sings her first national anthem at an Omaha Storm Chasers game, I will be the FIRST in line to buy my ticket!

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CLICK HERE to hear JoJo’s rendition of the national anthem (the hand gestures?!?!? I MELT!!)

Some kids just HAVE it, they have a special gift in their heart to perform.  At just 11 years old, Carsyn Long was selected to sing for Nebraska’s Miss America, Teresa Scanlan.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“Funny story: I went to use the restroom and of course, in walks Miss America herself!” Carsyn told me recently.  “As soon as she walked in, I was completely starstruck!  She ended up talking to me and touching me on the shoulder, and I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I ran out of the bathroom crying!”

A fitting encounter.. Teresa, the youngest Miss Nebraska ever crowned and the youngest Miss America since 1937, inspiring a girl who would become ‘the youngest’ in many of her future endeavours.

“At that time and still to this day, Teresa represented everything I wanted to be as a woman,” said Carsyn.  “Not only did Teresa exemplify the four points of the crown wonderfully (as I hope to do), but she sparked a fire in an 11-year old girl that has gotten me involved with this organization and has made me the young woman I am today.”

THIS organization.. is the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant.

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Carsyn was crowned Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2016 last summer, right before she started her sophomore year at Gering High School.

“I love anything and everything that has to do with performing,” said Carsyn.  “Put me on a stage, and I’m at home.”

SHAYLAS PHOTOGRAPHY

Photo courtesy Shayla’s Photography

At Gering High, Carsyn is involved with her school’s theater department, harmony show choir and speech team.  This year, she became the youngest person on the speech team to medal at state, winning Nebraska’s Class B title for Oral Interpretation of Drama.

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Carsyn’s fellow state champion and dear friend is also the woman who encouraged her to compete for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, Allison Baird, who became Miss Scotts Bluff County the same night Carsyn was crowned.

“My role model without a doubt is my older sister queen (and your future Miss Nebraska!) Allison Baird,” said Carsyn.  “This girl is absolutely incredible.  She is such a Godly girl and offers her whole heart to anything she does.  I truly admire her wisdom, drive and her belief in others.  Allie is part of the reason I ever competed in my first pageant in August!”

As Allison set out to spread awareness of her platform, (Click here to learn more!), Carsyn also prepared a personal message and campaign to share with others.

“My platform is called the ‘Heart of Art: Keeping Fine Arts In Schools’,” said Carsyn.  “Performing is something I’m really passionate about and so I wanted to incorporate that into my platform.  Through my platform I’m creating awareness, working towards improving funding, and offering more opportunities for kids like myself who have found their niche in performing.  Even in my school, our fine arts program could use some improving, so that really motivated me as well to make a change.”

Carsyn has attended community events, spoken at schools, and volunteered through her area (in the picture above right, delivering flowers to brand new moms in the hospital on Mother’s Day!)

“The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Organization has really been a strong outlet for me to reach several different audiences while promoting my platform and volunteering,” said Carsyn.  “I hae been able to offer my talents and time as well.  I’ve really been opened up to so many new opportunities and have made some amazing friends along the way.  Through this organization, I’ve been able to improve my poise and social skills.  I’ve truly been able to carry out the concept that it isn’t the crown that makes you a queen, but it’s what you possess in your heart.”

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Carsyn Long has a heart for art.. a passion for singing and speaking, and a drive to pursue her goals and dreams until they are reality.  Those are big goals for a young lady who just turned 16.. but remember, some kids just HAVE IT.

“I want to have the kind of impact that Teresa had on me to young girls,” said Carsyn.  “As Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, I would be able to promote my platform, the Heart Of Art, but I would also be able to leave the legacy and impact I have always strived for in this program and to people everywhere.”

SUNNY FRECKLES PHOTOGRAPHY

Photo courtesy SunnyFreckles Photography

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CLICK HERE to follow Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Carsyn Long on Facebook

For more information about the Miss Scotts Bluff County Pageant, CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page and HERE on their website. For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Cheryl Engelhaupt by phone at 308-783-2940 or at 308-635-8615.

For more information on becoming a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at kalinicoletv@gmail.com.

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The 2016 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Pageant takes place June 8-11 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Fur Trade Days 2016 Alex O’Connor!

NEXT.. Miss Platte River’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Emma Young!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Hello, My Name Is…

What’s in a name?!?

As a parent, you have an awesome responsibility (among MANY others) to give your child A NAME.  It’s the title they will likely use as identification for the rest of their life.  They have the world at their fingertips to make a name for themself, but that foundation starts it all.  How much of who we become is because of OUR NAME?

Take ADELE.  The woman has become a beloved figure around the world; even those who don’t necessarily buy her albums or like her genre appreciate her incredible talent and the depth of her music.  Adele means NOBLE.  KIND.  DIGNITY.  POISE.  I’d argue all of these traits are present in Adele’s work.

They also describe an Omaha teenager.. an ‘Adella’ now representing her school, the Omaha metro area, and young women everywhere.

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Photo courtesy C41 Photography

“Making a positive impact on everyone I encounter is most important to me,” Adella told me recently.  “I know in the world today with social media and society’s standards that we feel like we have to meet, we forget what amazing, beautiful ladies we are.”

Adella is now sharing that message with schools and groups, speaking as Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2016.  She started competing in pageants several years ago, becoming a finalist with the National American Miss organization.

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Last fall was Adella’s first try competing within Miss America’s companion system, Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.  The 15-year old sang, played piano, and won a title in Omaha on her first try.

“Being Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen has given me so many opportunities to not only spread the message of my platform, but will also give me opportunities later in life such as college scholarships.”

Adella also notes the business lessons she’s learned since winning her crown, including organizing and hosting an annual boutique, selling handmade scarfs, jewelry and home decor to pay for anything she wants and needs to compete for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen this June.  She works multiple jobs a week like babysitting, in addition to her studies at Skutt Catholic High School, where she is involved in student council and show choir.  Adella is also active in women’s prayer group and ministry council, and has modelled for Omaha Fashion Week.

“To people who criticize pageants or don’t know much about the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Organization, I would explain how this program has helped me grow in so many ways,” said Adella.  “I have learned public speaking skills, confidence in front of a crowd, the importance of being physically fit, embracing my own gifts and talents, how to budget, and most importantly, I have learned to become confident with the person that I am.”

That last part is why Adella wants to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, to become an ambassador for the organization and for her platform, ‘Overcoming Insecurities: Dreaming With Confidence.’

“I chose my platform because I know from experience that everyone has insecurities.  I personally have battled acne for a few years and I know that feeling insecure in your body can bring your attitude down,” said Adella.  “I don’t want anyone to ever feel like they aren’t worth anything, because everyone has special gifts and talents that they are meant to share with the world.  My platform not only helps girls surpass their insecurities, but to also realize that they have the power to positively affect their life and the lives around them.”

How does such a young woman have such a mature attitude and optimistic outlook?  Adella points to her cousin and role model, Mary (which, by the way, means independance, initiative, friendly and good-natured.)

“She wanted to be a successful woman right from the start, so she realized what she needed to do in order to achieve her goals,” said Adella.  “She started working at the bottom of a company but always had a smile on her face and was willing to work hard.  She now is in one of the top positions in her line of work.  She inspires me and helps me understand that if you work hard and stay positive, the sky is the limit!”

Capable. Focused. Independant.  Fully prepared.  Those are the words you see when you look up ADELLA… and the qualities THIS Adella wants to showcase across the state, as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

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“I am a very determined person, and I have worked very hard to get here,” said Adella.  “I see this as more than just a crown on my head, rather, it’s a job with responsibilities that I’m capable and ready to take on.”

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To follow Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Adella Smolsky on FACEBOOK CLICK HERE, or CLICK HERE to follow her on Twitter.

For more information about the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Pageant, visit THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE or THEIR WEBSITE.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Kelsey Ellis by email at omahadouglascountyOT@gmail.com.

For more information on becoming a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at kalinicoletv@gmail.com.

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The 2016 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place June 10 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Old West Balloon Fest 2016 Claire Holsinger!

NEXT.. Miss Queen City of the Plains 2016 Lianna Prill!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Sleepless Beauty

As a young professional, I counted down minutes until the weekend.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and did back then, too, but reporting is a stressful, non-stop business! Aaaah, the anticipation of sleeping in, lounging around doing nothing, taking naps, and then meeting up with friends at night.  My mid 20’s weekends were just LAZY.. and it was great.  The moment you have a child, that all changes.  Your weekends are still great, but being lazy is NEVER an option.  You are up when your kiddos are, you are lucky to get a bathroom break alone, and despite what feels like around-the-clock cleaning, your house often looks like a burglar ransacked the place and split.

I remember one moment in our newsroom after my first son was born and one of my in-his-20’s coworkers said “I just can’t WAIT for my weekend–I’m SOOOOO tired!”  Truly, I think my head slowly rotated on my neck exorcist-style and I said, “dude.  You don’t KNOW tired.”  I don’t envy my former self–I would NEVER trade this time with my little boys–but I kinda want to shake that pre-2011-Brandi and say ‘get off the couch!! Look how much free time you have!  Go for a run!  Volunteer!  You could have redecorated your entire house, woman!’

All of this makes me that much more impressed with young ladies like the Miss Nebraska contestant you’re about to meet.

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MISS NORTHWEST 2015 LARISSA MCKEAN

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“I am a full time student and I currently have three jobs,” LaRissa told me recently. “For a woman who loves to sleep, I don’t get much of it!  I am up most mornings at 6:30 and go to bed around 2 every night.”

And LaRissa’s college major is a tough one; she’ll graduate in just weeks from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting, specializing in Public Relations.  She’s already put those studies to use, involved in the Finance Club and serving as the VP of Finance for the Theta Omega chapter of Delta Delta Delta, in addition to work on the Standards Committee, as Recruitment Chair, and as a Rock Chalk Revue Director.

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LaRissa is also extremely active in dance, both for work and pleasure.  She’s part of the pre-professional dance company Art in Motion (AIM), teaches at a dance studio in Lawrence, Kansas, and is a dance instructor for Universal Dance Association.  All of this no doubt requires talent, dedication, and TIME, by my count, practice or instruction nearly every day of LaRissa’s week.  She notes she usually travels once a month for dance competitions, including a trip to New York City to chaperone 17 high school seniors performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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“I have been dancing since the age of three and started competing at four,” said LaRissa.  “Performing on stage is second nature to me.  The thrill of throwing every trick you wan to showcase in 90 seconds while smiling and being a source of entertainment is amazing!  I love being able to share my passion with others and putting all my hard work into an adrenaline filled routine!”

LaRissa says the Miss Nebraska pageant was a natural step for her to take to combine everything she cared about: talent, communication and education.

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Miss Northwest 2015 LaRissa McKean with Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Cherokee Purviance, and LaRissa with Miss Chadron Tosha Skinner and Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson

“I have known many contestants throughout the years and supported many at events, but I didn’t decide to compete until I saw what an impact pageants [could] have on my life,” said LaRissa.  “Every woman I’ve known in the Miss America Organization system has been driven to succeed and a huge role model to me.  Contestants have the opportunity to grow intellectually while being a leader in their community!  I love being able to impact others and make a difference in my state like the role models did when I was a little girl.”

Being Miss Northwest has also given LaRissa another opportunity to promote a cause she’s already connected to, support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

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“St. Jude provides care and treatment for children at no cost to their families,” said LaRissa, who visited the hospital in March.  “They also have top researchers [working to find] cures for cancer every day!”

St. Jude is also LaRissa’s chapter sorority’s philanthropy; she’s volunteered around the KU campus raising funds for St. Jude.  Now, on a more personal level, LaRissa sends letters to friends and family asking for St. Jude donations, she encourages dance teams to write support letters to St. Jude families, and she speaks to groups about St. Jude’s mission.

“I was asked to emcee the Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen pageant and was able to share my platform with the audience,” said LaRissa.  “It as a pleasure to share what I have been doing and how MAO has helped me pursue my passion in saving children who are suffering from cancer or diseases.”

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Could LaRissa McKean be any busier?!? And she’s not getting a break anytime soon.  Next on her list: Jayhawk graduation, moving back to Omaha (where this proud Millard South graduate was born and raised!), and making final preparations to compete for the title of Miss Nebraska.

Robert Frost once wrote: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”  LaRissa McKean is dancing her way through this journey, and never, it seems, taking a break to rest.

“I am happy to say I do what I love and it never feels like a day of work,” said LaRissa.  “All of these jobs and commitments makes sleep at the bottom of my to-do list.”

 THAT is marathon mentality, and the finish line, the Miss Nebraska pageant, is in Miss Northwest’s sights.

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(Photo courtesy Mindy Armstrong Photography)

Follow Miss Northwest 2015 LaRissa McKean

on Facebook and on Instagram.

To contact LaRissa for appearances and events email larissamckean@gmail.com.

For more information about the Miss Northwest pageant, click here to visit their Facebook page.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Marleta Hastings at 308-432-3847 or Director Renae Noble at 308-432-5129.  You can also email misscnwdirectors@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 3-6, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website, to visit the pageant on Facebook, to follow the pageant on Twitter, and to follow the pageant on Instagram.

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PREVIOUS.. **SPECIAL FEATURE** Miss Iowa 2014 Aly Olson

NEXT.. Miss Platte Valley’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Emma Kate Brown

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

Saving Baby Lawrence

There are few things more innocent, more perfect, more beautiful, than watching a baby turn because they recognize the sound of their parent’s voice.  Thinking back on those moments with my own boys brings me to tears.  I remember seeing their first smiles, and knowing they were smiling at me, their momma.

The first time I met Baby Lawrence, that’s what I remember most.  He only had eyes for his mom.

Shalina and Lawrence

We get Facebook messages, tweets, and emails everyday from viewers asking us to do stories.  THANK YOU for that!  YOU are the eyes and ears of our community, YOU are who help us tell stories.  I wish we could tell them all.

I don’t know how many messages I got that day last March, but there was SOMETHING about Shalina Bolden’s message to me that pulled at my heart.  A mother, writing to me from her son’s room at Children’s, where he had been for MONTHS.  Her son was very sick with a very rare disease; she needed help.

#CantStopWontStop

She had that phrase EVERYWHERE across her Facebook page.

#CantStopWontStop

Shalina Bolden would not quit fighting until her son was living a healthy, happy life.

#CantStopWontStop

***

Lawrence and my son, Evan, are less than two months apart in age.  As any mom does, I couldn’t help but compare the two.  First, BABY LAWRENCE IS A BIG BOY!!  I think during that first visit, Shalina told me she was buying 2T t-shirts for Lawrence’s 1st birthday outfit.  He was also popping four teeth at the time and was a drooling machine!  But while my little Evan was scooting around and playing with toys (mostly his brother’s), Baby Lawrence was stuck in his hospital bed.  The same hospital bed he had been in for FIVE MONTHS.  Lawrence was born with complete Di’George Syndrome, possibly the first child in Nebraska to have it.  Lawrence had lung issues, a heart defect and NO IMMUNE SYSTEM.  To even see him, my photographer Dave Hynek and I, as well as Children’s Media Relations Director Cherie Lytle, had to scrub our hands and gown up top to bottom, (including our faces, hair and shoes), before entering Lawrence’s room.  A simple cold that our bodies could fight off, could’ve killed Lawrence.

FIVE MONTHS.  He’d been in that bed FOR FIVE MONTHS.  That’s all I kept thinking about.  He hadn’t been to a park.  He hadn’t been in a stroller.  He couldn’t just crawl around his living room floor playing with blocks and Hot Wheels.  He’d been in a hospital room for five months.

That got to me, and what almost brought me to tears was thinking about the time he spent in that room alone.  Shalina worked full time at a nursing home.  She often went straight to Lawrence’s bedside after her shift, and her young daughters knew Children’s like a second home.  Still, I kept thinking of those hours she couldn’t be there, and of Lawrence, alone in his hospital bed.

“I just want Lawrence to have a chance at life,” Shalina told me that day, through tears.  “To understand what it’s like to not be in a hospital bed.”

Shalina got word of a procedure that offered hope; a thymus transplant only being performed by one doctor at Duke University, and it was not federally approved.  At the time Shalina contacted me, the state of Nebraska had denied the family’s request, twice, to cover a thymus transplant.  Doctors told Shalina Bolden that Lawrence might live to see his second birthday.

#CantStopWontStop

***

Our first story aired March 30, 2014.

 Baby Lawrence, wearing a onesie reading ‘Bananas for Mommy’, stole viewers’ hearts around the country (ABC News also picked up his story.)  Changes were already in the works; after our interview with Shalina we learned the state set aside earlier coverage denials.  Advocates with the state of Nebraska, Duke University Medical Center including Dr. Louise Markert, and Lawrence’s team at Children’s, all joined forces to figure out a solution.

#CantStopWontStop

***

April 14, 2014, I was sitting at my desk in the Newsplex and took a phone call.

It was Shalina Bolden, in tears.  Nebraska Medicaid approved Lawrence’s transplant.  Photographer John Matya and I were there as Shalina told her family, friends and the nurses who had cared for her baby for so many months, that Baby Lawrence was finally getting his surgery.  He had just turned 1 year old a few days earlier.

baby lawrence birthday

“It took a couple of minutes for it to digest and then tears just fell down my face,” Shalina told me.

At that point, Lawrence was third on the transplant list.  He had to be healthy enough to fly to Duke; he had to be healthy enough for surgery.

Shalina had to leave her job.. and her two daughters.  She had to find someone to take care of her little girls, while she took care of her little boy in a strange place far from home.

Bolden family

What Shalina thought would be eight weeks turned into nearly four months, waiting for that bittersweet moment when she’d leave her children to give her baby boy a chance at life.

baby lawrence july

#CantStopWontStop

***

August 19, 2014, Baby Lawrence, at just 16-months old, took his first jet ride.

lawrence on plane

“We landed and Lawrence slept through the whole flight and everything,” Shalina messaged me.

More waiting. Lawrence stood for the first time on September 18th..

September 18, Lawrence standing for first time

He started to learn how to crawl in his new hospital room..

lawrence crawling

His mom rarely left his side..

shalina and lawrence sept

..heartbreaking for this mother of not one, but three children.  While Shalina and Lawrence waited in North Carolina through August and then September, her sister cared for her daughters, Ja’Era and Ja’Lesia, 20 hours away in Omaha.

October 11, girls at school txt from teacher

“I miss my girls like crazy.  It is very hard to be away,” Shalina told me.  “My oldest daughter just had a birthday, that was super hard, but I’ve explained it to them so they understand why I’m away.”

#CantStopWontStop

***

September 26, 2014.
“A pray has been answered today!” Shalina posted on Facebook.  “I got confirmation that Lawrence will be getting his transplant October 9th!!! If everyone can keep him in your prayers.”

On the morning of October 9, 2014, ‘Baby Lawrence’ Bolden finally received the transplant his mom fought so hard for.

 October 9 post op 2
Later that same day, Shalina sent me a message.

“Everything went good, it only took an hour,” she said.  “He is already back to being busy Lawrence.”

See for yourself; click here to watch KETV’s follow up featuring Baby Lawrence’s story and transplant

I cannot get ENOUGH of this little man.  So many surgeries, so many needle pokes and painful procedures and long waits.  And yet, he is SO SWEET!  Always smiling, always big, open eyes checking out his world, and still, always looking at his momma.

shalina shirt

Author Elizabeth Stone once wrote: “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”

As a mother, you would do anything for your child.  You would take on their pain so they wouldn’t feel it.  You stay awake all night holding them if it gives them comfort.  You would die in an instant for them.

Shalina Bolden NEVER took no for an answer to save her little boy.

#CantStopWontStop

God willing, she’ll have her little boy home and healthy, with his sisters, for the first time in a year.. just in time for Christmas.

Hi, I’m Miranda Baby Weight

This is Miranda Kerr.

miranda and orlando

This is Miranda Kerr a few months after having her baby.

miranda after baby

This is how I feel about Miranda Kerr.

angry face

Ohhhhh, baby weight.  How I loathe thee.

There is an amazing new book out, written right here in Omaha, called ‘It’s Really 10 Months.’  It’s a compilation of emails sent between three friends while they were all expecting babies, and showcases the less than glamorous side of pregnancy that never seems to make the Carter’s commercials.  You can check out the book and the moms’ blog online.  I knew I would love this book when I read:

“Delivering the Truth…In What to Expect When You’re Expecting, it is recommended that the average woman gain between 25 and 35 pounds.  We found this statement slightly amusing as collectively we gained 150 pounds.”

I’m not going to reveal how much weight I gained with either of my boys, but let’s say I let out a ‘Hallelujah!’ in my kitchen when I read that.

So now that my sweet little baby is a few months old, it’s time to get to work.  Hello, MyFitnessPal and MapMyWalk apps!  Time to put Blurred Lines on repeat and hit the walking trails (yes, I still love that song.)  Adrian and Rob, when you see me inhaling Reeses Pieces at my desk, just rip that beautiful orange bag out of my hand!! I have this vision in my head of how I look that isn’t THAT far off how I USED to look.. then I catch a glimpse of myself during our newscasts or in photos and get the ‘Miranda Kerr Angry Face’ again.

I’m not writing all of this to solicit complimentary messages and comments–THANK YOU for what you have all sent, you are amazing and always, ALWAYS, brighten my day 🙂  But I guess, it’s just to commiserate with anyone else out there who doesn’t feel like the best version of themselves.  So let’s make a pact. Ladies (and gents!) are you with me?!? To anyone who want a change.. to the brides hoping to look their best.. to the new mommies out there, just like me, LET’S DO THIS!

Here’s a great article tweeted by the Nebraska Medical Center today titled ’12 Reasons you’re Not Losing Weight’–definitely food for thought!

***

awesome

You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

I’m BAAAA-AAAACK!

(That was meant to sound scary.. like Carol Anne’s warning on Poltergeist..)

WOW.. the last 12 weeks have certainly flown by!  For any of you wondering ‘where the heck did that crazy blonde go?!?’ my husband and I welcomed our son, Evan, at the beginning of the summer.  I am now back in the Newsplex after a wonderful maternity leave at home with our sweet boys 🙂

Evan

Thank you so much to EVERYONE who sent us messages of well wishes!  I’m slowly trying to respond to everyone, but it’s hard to focus when you’re looking at a face this cute! 🙂

While I was gone.. something happened here at KETV.. everyone disappeared!! Our team has lost some incredible journalists in the last few weeks.  We’ve also welcomed some new fantastic reporters, people I am excited to get to know better and I hope you tune in to see on KETV every night!  Still, I really want to share a little bit about each of the journalists and friends we’ve said goodbye to this summer.

Luby

Ryan Luby

Luby was my ‘desk buddy’.. he sat next to me here in the newsroom and we often worked the same shift.  My heart sank when I found out he was leaving KETV.

I can’t say enough about this guy’s talent.  Luby is ambitious, well-spoken, confident, and DEDICATED–so very dedicated to this thing we call journalism.  You will be hard-pressed to find a guy who cares more about our business and the stories he brings his audience.  The sky is the limit for Luby–I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in New York or DC in a few years if that’s where he wants to be.  Right now, he’s setting up shop as the newest investigative reporter at KOB-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  They are so very lucky to have him on their team because he is not only a fantastic journalist, he’s an incredible guy who ALWAYS made me laugh and who truly cares about the people around him.  Lubes–I MISS YOU SO MUCH ALREADY!

berlie

Nichole Berlie

The first thing I want to say about Nichole is pretty obvious… GORGEOUS.  Just stunning.. inside and out 🙂

I LOVED hearing ‘BP!’ when we’d bump into each other at a station shower or party, and I wish we could have worked together more! (John Oakey and those First Newsers kept her awesomeness all to themselves on the morning shift 🙂  Nichole is just a natural–a wonderful presence on air who makes anchoring the news look easy.  Both times I was out on maternity leave, I woke up to John and Nichole every single morning–and looked forward to it!!  She’s just such a kind, beautiful person–and it truly shows 🙂  If you need any more proof.. check out her send-off on First News. 

Nichole is heading to KSDK (News Channel 5) in St. Louis to be a morning anchor/reporter.   She is truly, truly missed by all of her coworkers here at KETV.

natalie

Natalie Glucklich

Another heartbreaking loss for me 😦  I ADORE Miss Natalie.. hands down one of the kindest, coolest people you could ever hope to meet.  And again.. STUNNING.  Just an absolute BEAUTY with a face made for TV and talent that makes her one of the best.  I LOVE watching Natalie’s work–her writing is so creative it just pulls you in and takes you along for the ride.  She lets people and their stories shine in her work, and here at KETV you could tell just in how she delivered the news that she truly cared.

Off camera.. Natalie’s aura–her style, the way about her, her kindness–just leaves you in awe.  She’s just AWESOME, no other way to say it.  Natalie has gone back to her home state of Oregon, hired as the main anchor at KOBI-TV in Medford.  I know Miss Natalie will ROCK her new gig and will love being closer to her family and to her beloved ocean, but I MISS HER DEARLY .Natalie.. it’s very lonely knowing I’m destroying the ozone alone here at KETV with my Redken-23 🙂

Todd

Todd and I go WAAAAY back.. even playing basketball after school with my husband when they were in junior high together in Millard 🙂  Todd and I first met through Omaha news legend and UNL professor Trina Creighton.. she paired us up together for a mock newscast back in 2003.  I was one of her students, Todd was one of her Master’s program classmates at UNO.  This is another person that was put on earth made for TV–between the Brokaw-esque voice, the intelligence and the awesome hair, Todd was meant to be a TV News Anchor 🙂  From Star City News, to First News Weekend, to an occasional evening newscast, Todd and I anchored together for several years here in Omaha.  He is truly a man of honor and a gentleman.

Todd is taking on an entirely different type of journey than Ryan, Nichole and Natalie–he is the new Communications Director for Omaha Public Schools.  A HUGE responsibility, and a role that Todd will no doubt excel in.  OPS–you’re in great hands!!  Todd, we miss you but know we’ll probably talk to you soon.. a lot.. and often 🙂

***

The KETV Newsroom is a different place now than it was when I left back at the end of May.  I miss those smiling faces–I miss the inside jokes, the laughs here in the ‘plex, and the good times outside the newsroom.  BEST OF LUCK to each of you, my friends.  I wish you all the best–you will always have a place in KETV history 🙂

I end with a funny goodbye… Natalie, this one’s for you 🙂

goodbye