(Photo by Adam Schrader)

Experienced balloonmeister to lead flight at Highland Village Balloon Festival

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Published in The Dallas Morning News on Aug. 15, 2014

It is the Tuesday night after world-renowned balloon pilot Pat Cannon of Highland Village garnered eighth place against 58 other pilots at the 2014 US National Championship.

Cannon, 67, is balloonmeister for this weekend’s Highland Village Balloon Festival at the Briarhill Middle School football field. The event is sponsored by the Highland Village Lion’s Club.

Cannon looks into the setting sun, turning his back to find the wind so he can get his balloon properly and safely inflated for the media preview. The plan on this evening is to inflate and glow a hot air balloon against the night sky.

Cannon has flown the national and world championships since 1989 and retired from high-stakes competitive ballooning last weekend. He said he feels good about the retirement and hopes to celebrate his victories over the years with successful launches and turnout at this year’s festival.

“I have two U.S. national championships that I’ve won and two senior national championships that I’ve won,” he said with a laugh.

Light wind stirs the purple collar of his Balloon Federation of America polo as his wife and crew chief, Carol, sits in the shiny red F350 parked in a nearby grass lot. The company truck is called the Taiho Niji-Go Hot Air Balloon Team company car. She is reading a book. She’s been his crew chief since Day 1, when the couple started ballooning as a family sport.

“My wife and I were looking for something to do in aviation,” Cannon said. “We tried gliders, helicopters and airplanes.”

Cannon said ballooning families often include several family members, since it takes a crew to get the balloon into the air.

“If you use people in your family, you get to know who they are and their processes,” Cannon said. “Unless you have family that will help you put up the balloon, you need friends there.”

Cannon said he has flown balloons in Japan, Austria and Australia and said they still communicate with people from the world championships in Japan in 1996.

Cannon’s said his love for the air started when he was a U.S. military helicopter pilot during a tour in Vietnam. He flew CH 47 Chinooks. When he returned, he used the G.I. bill to get his airplane ratings and has stayed in the business ever since. He also owns a company at the airport in Addison called Turbine Aircraft Services that provides product support for a series of turban-powered airplanes the Japanese built here over the years. Cannon also works as a designated pilot examiner to certify pilots for the FAA.

This weekend, Cannon said he’ll have to be careful. If the balloon goes too high in this airspace, he could hit the altitude cap and enter potentially dangerous airspace above Highland Village that is FAA-assigned for airplanes arriving at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. But, unlike airplanes, he doesn’t have to coordinate with the FAA and commercial air traffic controllers on a daily basis.

The mornings of the festival, balloons will fly either to or from the football field and try to drop bags of sand on a bull’s-eye to score points like at national competitions. Other competitions in the nationals include trying to land in a particular spot but can also be as complex as a global positioning system box in the sky that has to be hit or flown through at different levels.

In the case of this, Cannon uses propane for fuel and can’t dribble it into the balloon or maintain the same size of flame, so he pulses the flame to meter the heat into the balloon. As propane exits burner jets, it expands so rapidly it approaches -270 degrees and can freeze valves.

Cannon has a grown daughter who lives in Austin. So, she cannot be a regular crew member. This means he and Carol must recruit friends who like the sport.

He looks at the blowing trees and branches to determine wind direction and wind speed at different heights, which he calls micrometeorology. Friends and fellow Lions start arriving to help. Cannon is so focused on his task, he doesn’t greet the men, who all wear yellow work gloves. His attention shifts between the grass under his feet to the sun setting behind him. Dark clouds are coming in from the south, so he might not be able to inflate.

Carol looks up from her book, sees the gathering crowd and joins her husband outside. Four men take the basket and the bag that holds the balloon envelope out of the pickup bed and lay them on the grass. The envelope is the fabric that fills with air. They lay the basket on its side and tether the metal bars on the basket to the trailer hitch with a thick rope.

The men, under Carol’s guidance, unroll the 80,000-cubic-foot envelope.

Cannon instructs one of the men on the dangers of the fan, which is used to blow the balloon up when it’s on its side. He said that the $4,000 fan is the most dangerous part of ballooning with wood propellers that are known to come apart spinning inside a cage.

A couple of crew members pull the opening so the new wind can fill the envelope. Carol directs Allan Haugen, who is struggling to hold the balloon, which inflated and battered by the breeze can weigh as much as a car, straight.

Scott Rohn comes and takes his place. As the inflated balloon starts to rise, cars start appearing in the previously vacant lot to see the takeoff.

Excitement builds among the small crowd and the crew. Cannon squats behind the burner, occasionally throwing flame toward the balloon. Nearly 30 minutes after unpacking the envelope, the balloon is in the sky, and the men rush to keep the basket upright in a new game of tug-of-war against nature.

Cannon smiles, places his hand on the bars connecting burner to basket and swings in. The men gather, each holding the bars firmly. Cannon and his friends joke and laugh together as he occasionally hits the burner. And when he does, the men all lift matching green sleeves to wipe the combined heat of the burner and the night sky from their faces. Cannon, however, stays cool inside the basket, as the it finally settles on the ground.

The sun hasn’t quite set but he makes sure to hit the burners lighting the balloon against the oncoming storm.

Lewisville/Flower Mound editor Adam Schrader can be reached at 214-773-8188 and @schrader_adam on Twitter.

21-year-old Lewisville native Anne Winters pursues acting dream in Los Angeles

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Published in The Dallas Morning News on Jan. 14, 2016

Anne Winters, 21, uses her youthful looks to her advantage, usually playing 15- to 17-year-olds on shows like The Fosters, Wicked City and Tyrant.

After Winters begged her mother to help her land commercials in high school, her career quickly evolved.

“I thought it would be fun and I could make some extra money,” she said. “It would either grow into something more or it wouldn’t.”

It grew into enough to derail Winters from her plans of a traditional college track. By 19, she left her Lewisville home for Hollywood and hasn’t been without a job for more than six weeks since.

“She was always willing to perform in front of people,” said her mother, Karen Winters.

At 15, Anne won a Los Angeles talent competition, scoring a contract with a manager. She would return to Los Angeles for pilot season and callbacks.

“My sophomore year, I missed like 75 days of school, and that was tough,” she said. “I missed homecoming and all the fun things a high-schooler gets to do.”

That year, she booked commercials across Dallas and a Nickelodeon pilot. Ultimately, it didn’t run.

“To get anything so soon in the game was the biggest shock ever, particularly to my dad,” she said. “He’s still skeptical of my career.”

Her junior year, Winters took a break from Hollywood to focus on acting in North Texas and her goal to be accepted into the acting program at Southern Methodist University.

Staying close to home, she worked a movie called Cooper and the Castle Hills Gang that was filmed in her Castle Hills neighborhood.

Winters auditioned for SMU during her senior year at Prestonwood Christian Academy. But she already had a growing resume. Faculty asked her why she wished to attend school instead of following her Hollywood path.

“That’s when I chose to move and pursue acting for real,” Winters said. “If things didn’t work out after a year, I could always come back.”

Winters said she had backup a lot of starting actors don’t have. Her parents could afford to provide time and financial support.

Winters graduated in 2012, moved to California and enrolled at the College of the Canyons.

“I went to college for a minute and booked the role of Lauren in Sand Castles, which filmed in Indiana. Professors told me I had to choose,” she said. “I never went back to school.”

Sand Castles follows a family wrestling with the mysterious return of Lauren, a mute who had disappeared from a beach parking lot.

Winters said she landed the role because of her acting coach, Saxon Trainor.

“I was working with her a lot when I moved out there. She got the role of this drunken mom, and told producers I’d be great to play her daughter,” Winters said. “They loved how she was my coach and said it would be a good dynamic on set.”

In California, she rooms with Devyn Smith, an actress from Rockwall. In their free time, Winters and Smith visit different churches around Los Angeles most days of the week. Church provides Winters a social outlet with people her own age in a town where it can be hard to make friends. She also enjoys singing during services.

“It’s great to have a fellow Texan to room with so far away from home,” Smith said. “We have a similar foundation and understanding of our upbringing that creates a mutual respect and bond.”

During pilot season in 2012, Winters tested for a role seven times and didn’t get the part.

“It was devastating. It was the first time I had my hopes up so much,” she said. “I mean who tests seven times and doesn’t get the role? That’s crazy. But no, it’s not crazy. That’s normal, apparently.”

She went on to land her breakout role — “mean girl” Kelsey in a recurring, two-season spot on ABC Family’s The Fosters.

“I loved being on The Fosters because it was a bunch of kids and I got to make friends,” she said.

After The Fosters, Winters was in the Showtime movie Fatal Instinct. She also starred inAll is Vanity, a post-apocalyptic movie set for release this year.

“I carried a rifle around and had a country accent the whole time,” she said.

In a Lifetime movie, The Bride He Bought Online, she is the main character, one of three girls who prank a man. He discovers their identities and takes revenge.

Growing fame helped her book Tyrant, an FX drama about an unassuming American family drawn into a turbulent Middle Eastern nation. Winters lived in Israel for six months while filming season one. She said she could see missiles from her apartment.

She also went to Budapest for season two of Tyrant. Acting now pays all her bills.

Actress Jennifer Finnegan said she feels lucky to be Winters’ on-screen mother on the show.

“I’ve had the pleasure of watching Anne grow into a beautiful woman and extremely talented actress,” she said. “She’s a natural performer and always wants to listen and learn which makes her a force to be reckoned with. I adore her.”

Southern Denton County/Northwest Dallas County editor Adam Schrader can be reached at 214-773-8188. Twitter: @schrader_adam.


2009 — Gloria (short)

2010 — Summer Camp (Nickelodeon), A Christmas Snow (direct-to-DVD release)

2011 — Cooper and the Castle Hills Gang (Released online at castlehillsmovie.com), In My Pocket (DVD release)

2013 — Liv and Maddie (Disney Channel)

2013-14 — The Fosters (ABC Family)

2014 — Fatal Instinct (Showtime)

2014-15 — Tyrant (FX)

2015 — Pass the Light (Released in select theaters), The Bride He Bought Online (Lifetime),Wicked City (Hulu)

2016 (set for release) — Sand Castles (filmed in 2012 and shown at film fesitvals in 2014), All is Vanity

Disabled Lewisville couple faces unique challenges to remaining independent

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Published in The Dallas Morning News on Oct. 29, 2015

Shawn Koester and his wife, Monica, claim one functioning arm and a pair of unbalanced feet between them. But their brains are as sharp as ever.

Their diseases have made them develop logic skills greater than their able-bodied peers, Shawn said.

Shawn Koester and his wife, Monica. (Photo by Adam Schrader)

Shawn Koester and his wife, Monica. (Photo by Adam Schrader)

“Able-bodied people don’t realize what a process it is to put on your pants,” Shawn said. “I actually have to through a systematic process of how I’m going to brush my teeth, shower, comb my hair.”

Shawn, 50, and Monica, 42, live together without outside help as they both deal with disabilities. Monica has cerebral palsy, which comes with poor coordination, stiff and weak muscles and difficulty speaking. Shawn is a quadriplegic resulting from Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, which, much like muscular dystrophy, has left him without any muscle strength.

Fighting for independence comes with obstacles, they said.

“I don’t want to give up. I research ways to stay independent,” Shawn said. “It comes down to attitude and the will to make things happen.”

Shawn Koester and his wife, Monica. (Photo by Adam Schrader)(Photo by Adam Schrader)

Shawn Koester and his wife, Monica. (Photo by Adam Schrader)(Photo by Adam Schrader)

The disease isn’t fatal, and most people with it have normal life expectancies, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The Koesters use robotic electric wheelchairs. Their Lewisville apartment includes a motorized rail lift to carry Shawn through different rooms and lift him onto his bed and recliner. It keeps him out of the nursing home, he said.

“I have a lion inside of me, but I know that my body is disabled,” Shawn said. “I love football and run a college fantasy league online. I would love to play some football. My mind says I can do it, but my body won’t let me.”

Insurance paid for most of the lift; Shawn set up a GoFundMe campaign for the rest.

“I’m not completely paralyzed,” he said. “I can still move some, which is a blessing because I can scoot on the floor. That’s usually how I get around and use the computer.”

Shawn Koester and his wife, Monica. (Photo by Adam Schrader)

Shawn Koester and his wife, Monica. (Photo by Adam Schrader)

Monica does most of the caretaking. She cooks, cleans and takes care of their dog.

“I’m not as strong as I used to be and have issues cleaning and stuff, too,” she said. “We have to eat a lot of frozen stuff, which I know isn’t very healthy.”

In the meantime, Monica also works at Ross, a department store, across the street part-time to provide for the family.

“I like working at Ross, but it’s getting harder to do it because there are days I don’t feel very good or Shawn needs me,” she said. “But we do what we’ve got to do to stay independent.”

Monica used to ride her electric scooter to work day shifts. But now, she’s on a nightly schedule. Shawn said that a friendly co-worker drives her two to three nights a week, which has been a blessing as colder weather approaches.

“If a friend wasn’t willing to pick her up, she probably wouldn’t have a job,” he said. “We don’t really think it’s safe for her to ride her scooter across the street at night.”

Monica was raped more than 18 years ago, she said. The attack led to her now 18-year-old daughter, who also endured sexual assault as a child, Monica said. The Koesters met in an online chat room for singles soon after. Shawn helped her overcome the trauma.

More than their disabilities, Monica said, it united the couple in their fight for independence.

“Figuring out how to get the diaper on, dress Emily and being able to take care of her financially or otherwise was difficult,” Shawn said. “At one time, I was going to try to adopt Emily, but that didn’t work out. We actually missed out a lot on her growing up, which was difficult for Monica being the biological mother.”

The Koesters met Jan. 1, 1999, and were married July 2, 1999. Monica walked down the aisle. Shawn used a three-wheel electric scooter.

“My family was old-fashioned and didn’t want me to move in with him until after we got married,” Monica said. “When I was in Vegas for our honeymoon, they moved my stuff in for me.”

Monica said that unlike Shawn, she was sheltered growing up and that concerned her before the wedding.

“I didn’t know how to cook,” she said. “I was staying with my family, and they took care of the cooking and cleaning.”

Shawn walked as a child, but as he aged into adulthood, he needed support.

“Then I started falling down more frequently and had to go to a manual wheelchair that I was able to push myself,” he said. “When my muscles got weaker and I could no longer push myself, I got the electric wheelchair.”

This was around the time he married Monica — when he still had the use of his hands and could dress and wash himself.

“Sometimes when I’m trying to eat, I need help,” Shawn said. “Monica will feed me.”

Shawn said it’s been traumatic for Monica to watch his disease worsen.

“When we got married, we discussed the future and talked about how this is what we’d face,” he said. “Monica, the strong person that she is, understood that and decided to stay with me anyway.”

But Monica, too, has lost some of her ability. Her balance has worsened and her left arm, once semi-functional, is now unusable. Luckily, her speech impediment has improved some, Shawn said.

“When I met Monica, the communication between us was challenging,” he said. “Now we have no trouble with it.”

Monica says it’s because she talks more now.

The couple has lived together for 16 years — the length of their marriage. Ten years were spent in a Section 8 housing program, Shawn said. But those funds have decreased annually.

The Lewisville apartment complex formerly accepted Section 8 vouchers, Shawn said, but its new owners will not after December. The Koesters will have to start paying regular rent, which is around $950 a month.

They could try to find a new home that would take the funds, Shawn said, but a new place means costly transport and rebuilding the lift.

Shawn got his GED and attended Richland and El Centro colleges in Dallas.

“I didn’t get my degree, but I got a job in the computer lab and tutored classes,” he said. “Then I got a job as a computer operator at a bank association, which launched my IT career.”

Shawn then worked at JC Penney corporate headquarters, but his last job was at National Tech Team in Dallas before its move to Fort Worth. In all, he worked in the IT industry for 17 years.

“It was a real high honor to work for National Tech Team,” he said. “But with the baby and my increased ailments, I had to take my severance package.”

Shawn drove until 2009, when it became too difficult to transfer from his wheelchair to the driver’s seat.

“Since we don’t really go out now, we have our computer and TV and watch a lot of movies,” he said. “When we do get to go on dates, it’s awesome. It’s the little things that really give you joy and happiness.”

Now, Shawn can get stuck in the apartment for a month at a time because he doesn’t have reliable transportation. He can’t load his electric wheelchair unless a vehicle is equipped with a ramp or lift. So, he’s been researching ways purchase another van.

“God has blessed us with good brains, and I have looked into working from home,” Shawn said. “But I’ve been out of the workforce for more than a decade.”

Shawn said his IT skills are now obsolete like the technology he worked on, but updating his skills would cost money he doesn’t have.

“Reliable transportation is the only way to have any quality of life,” he said. “With a new van, I wouldn’t be able to drive — but my sister could.”

Not having to worry about paying rent would change their lives, Shawn said, and taking some of the stress off Monica having to work.

“We just want peace of mind that we can pay our rent, pay our bills and get our groceries,” he said. “Right now, we rely on those days she gets at Ross to get by. “It’s really frustrating; we don’t qualify for Medicaid and food stamps because we’re just over the limit. It just makes it tough that I can’t go out and work a full-time or part-time job to help pay the rent.”

Shawn said that living on a limited income is more difficult for people with disabilities, and living independently takes serious planning skills.

“If you needed to make some money, you can go to McDonald’s and get a part-time job,” he said. “We can’t, so we have to find other ways.”

Police designate safer space for trades

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Published in The Dallas Morning News and The Denton Record-Chronicle on May 23, 2015

The Flower Mound Police Department recently put up two signs marking two adjacent spaces in its parking lot. Police hope the signs, which read “online exchange zone,” will encourage smarter shopping with online classified sites such as Craigslist.

Wess Griffin, a Flower Mound police spokesman, said the signs are precautionary measures. So far, the town has been fortunate to avoid incidents in which an unwary buyer or seller gets ambushed when meeting someone with criminal intent.

“I can’t think of a single instance in Flower Mound where online transactions had gone wrong,” he said.

Craigslist transactions go flawlessly 99 percent of the time. It’s just one nice person trying to sell an object, and one nice person buying an object, Griffin said.

“If you’re someone who’s thinking about doing harm to someone else, hopefully you’ll think twice before trying to attempt that at the police department,” he said. “But I’m not going to say nobody would be brazen enough to try something in front of the police station.”

In February, Denton police Officer Orlando Hinojosa proposed the idea for online safe zones for Denton residents — also for precautionary measures. The safe zone in Denton is also at the police station.

“It wasn’t because we were having issues. Anybody will feel safe doing a transaction at the police department,” Hinojosa said. “If they don’t want to make the exchange at the station, I wouldn’t make a deal with that person.”

Online transaction zones have become popular because of several high-profile cases in which a buyer or seller went to meet someone and ended up getting robbed or killed.

A Dallas County state district judge recently declared a second mistrial in the capital murder case of Christopher Howard Beachum, according to a Dallas Morning News report. Beachum was accused of killing Gerald Canepa, 68, a man he met through Craigslist.

A post on the Richardson Police Department’s Facebook page mentions two robberies in which Craigslist sellers lured potential buyers to two homes in Richardson and robbed them at gunpoint. Similar crimes have occurred across the country, such as the case of Philip Haynes Markoff, the so-called “Craigslist Killer,” who is accused of one murder and two aggravated robberies in Boston.

Dan Rochelle, a captain with the Lewisville Police Department, said his station doesn’t have any designated safety zones. But residents are always welcome to do their exchanges at the station, he said.

“We’ve had plenty of reports filed that they didn’t get the merchandise they paid for,” he said. “But I don’t know of any that are violent in nature.”

The Flower Mound zones have received positive feedback on social media.

Greg Decker, a Flower Mound resident, said safe zones represent an improvement in services.

“I have done quite a few Craigslist deals, and I would never go to [someone’s house] or ask the other party to my house,” he said. “I used a public lot near a restaurant I patronized where I knew employees. I parked in sight, told my buddies what I was doing and to watch, and also had my own defense if needed.”

Brenda Stiles Johnson, another Facebook user, wrote the safe zones are also a great place for a divorced parent to drop off children with the other parent. Johnson said her divorced daughter is more comfortable now when she drops off or picks up her child.

“My daughter loves that Flower Mound has a place,” she said. “She has been meeting her ex in front of Denton PD, but both of them are in our town a lot as both work here.”

Griffin said his department hadn’t envisioned that the safe zones could be used by divorced parents.

“For years and years, our police department has been used for custody exchanges, and we encourage people to do that too,” he said. “It’s always good if there’s any ill will there.”

Griffin said the benefits of buying or selling items at the police department is that the station is staffed 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Additionally, the spots were chosen to be close to security cameras as possible, which would make it easier to identify suspects and vehicles.

Officers had not considered the possibility that some may use the safety zone for nefarious operations — essentially hiding in plain sight, Griffin said. For example, some drug dealers could think that conducting business in front of the station may prevent them from getting shot by potential buyers.

“I’d hope the safety zones would act as a deterrent, but you never know,” Griffin said. “We caught a guy stealing a bottle of hand sanitizer from our lobby on camera.

“If my dealer wants to meet me in the police department parking lot, I’m probably not going to show on that one. But you never know. Stranger things have happened.”

ADAM SCHRADER can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @schrader_adam.

Stump is named Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. (Photo by Kjunstorm, used under Creative Commons)

Cross Roads resident to again judge Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

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Published in the Dallas Morning News and the Denton Record-Chronicle on Feb. 1, 2015

Once again, dog lovers from across the world and celebrities from the stages of Broadway and the sets of Hollywood flood New York City’s Madison Square Garden for two days and nights in February for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

The show offers more than 3,000 dogs in the competition of a lifetime. They know when they’re being shown and respond to the applause.

But it’s not just the spectators and dogs who have a good time. Cross Roads resident Norm Kenney will judge 16 breeds at the 139th annual Westminster Kennel Club All Breed Dog Show on Feb. 16-17. This will be his seventh time judging at the Westminster show.

Kenney, who has been judging since 1978, has judged thousands of dog shows. His first time judging Westminster was in the early 2000s, and most recently in 2013. But his favorite experience in the past 37 years was judging the working group for the Westminster show in 2008, he said.

“I enjoy going across the country and the world actually, seeing the different dogs and the breeds. But Westminster is really the Super Bowl of dog shows,” he said. “It’s the best of the best.”

Tom Bradley, chairman of the Westminster Dog Show, said Kenney was picked to judge again this year because his base knowledge of the breeds. Kenney is approved to judge six of the seven groups of dogs found in the country and is working on getting approval for the last group, which in his case is hounds.

“This is no small feat and it takes someone with a strong dedication to the sport to be approved to judge all of the breeds that are recognized by the AKC,” Bradley said. “There are less than a dozen people in the U.S. who are actively judging who can judge all of the breeds. On top of that, he is well respected and a gentleman, which helps in finding him a place on our panel.”

The dog show extravaganza in Madison Square is the second oldest sporting event in the country, second only to the Kentucky Derby. In the 1870s, a group of men gathered in the bar of their favorite hotel to boast about their shooting accomplishments and their dogs’ abilities in the field. One night in 1877, they decided to put on a dog show — that they named after the hotel.

The organization and its show predate the founding of the governing body of the sport, the American Kennel Club, which was established in 1884.

Kenney will judge some of the more than 3,000 dogs competing in the all-breed dog show and the club’s second annual Masters Agility Championship at Westminster.

For any American Kennel Club dog show, including the Westminster show, a selection committee looks at a registry of roughly 3,000 judges. They send invitations to a few of those judges for the show. Judges are chosen to select winners at three different levels of competition, the breed, group and best in show.

In what is considered the first round of the dog show, Kenney and his fellow breed judges will select the best of each of the 192 eligible. This level of the competition is not televised. The winners of the breed classes, labeled “best of breed,” go to the group level — which are considered the finals, or playoffs so to speak, and televised. There, judges select the best of each of seven groups: sporting, hound, working, chariot, toy, non-sporting and herding groups. Each group winner competes for the top award, “Best in Show.”

In the working group, Kenney will judge Anatolian shepherds, German pinschers and Neapolitan mastiffs. In the toy group, he will judge miniature pinschers, Shih Tzus, silky terriers, toy fox terriers and Yorkshire terriers. In the non-sporting group, he will judge American Eskimo dogs, Tibetan terriers and Xoloitzcuintli breeds.

In the sporting group, Kenney will judge Brittanys, Spinones Italiano, Vizslas and Wirehaired Pointing Griffons breeds. This year, the dog show will add two breeds to its competition lineup: the Wirehaired Vizsla in the sporting group and the Coton de Tulear in the non-sporting group. Kenney will also have the honor of judging the Wirehaired Vizsla this year.

None of the breeds he will be judging is a breed he currently owns. But there is no extra preparation for judging at Westminster, he said.

In the coming weeks before the show, Kenney said he will just have to refamiliarize himself with the written breed standards of the breeds he will be judging.

“When a judge is invited to judge, usually a year or so in advance, you usually know at that time which breeds you are being invited to judge,” he said. “So now I’m really just getting the tuxedo out for the evening festivities.”

Kenney, originally from Boston, started breeding and showing Doberman pinschers in 1967. Over the past 48 years, he has bred a variety of dogs. He has judged all over Texas since moving to Cross Roads two and a half years ago.

“There is a great dog-loving community in Texas, from dog show handlers, breeders and judges,” he said. “The only thing I regret is that I didn’t move here 30 years ago.”

Kenney’s first love is for dogs and his second is for horses, which is one of the many reasons why he lives in Texas, he said. Cross Roads is in the middle of reigning horse country. Kenney, who retired from development and construction, has bred horses for the past 10 years. It has become his primary business. In between judging dog shows, he raises baby quarter horses with his girlfriend, Rhonda Nickels, and sells them at yearly sales. Right now, he is breeding foals and waiting for a bunch of them to be born.

Kenney and Nickels are also involved with Doberman and boxer rescue — volunteering to any dogs that need to be placed a helping them find new homes.

“The dog world is interconnected — whether it is pure bred or mixed breeds, we’re all dog lovers and want the best of the animals,” he said. “And it all starts with the American Kennel Club.”

The evening finals are televised live from 7 to 10 p.m. on CNBC, Feb. 16 and on USA Network on Feb. 17.

“I’m very proud and excited to go with Norm to watch his judging at Westminster Kennel Club,” Nickels said. “I am looking forward to seeing the best of the best in the dog show world.”

ADAM SCHRADER can be reached at 214-773-8188 and via Twitter at @schrader_adam.

(Photo courtesy Lewisville Helping its Heroes)

Group that ‘helps heroes’ raising funds to become nonprofit

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Published in the Dallas Morning News and Denton Record Chronicle on Nov. 7, 2014

Organizers of a group called Lewisville Helping Its Heroes are working to raise funds to incorporate as a registered nonprofit, tax-exempt group.

Formed in July, Lewisville Helping Its Heroes focuses on assisting service members, military veterans, first responders, educators and their families.

Angela Bennett-Engele, a longtime resident of Lewisville, is the group’s president. The group relies on volunteers from the community to accomplish its mission.

“It is unfortunate that patriotism has fallen to a record low, [but] through endeavors like this, we can turn things around,” she said. “It takes reaching one person to make a difference.”

The group provides much-needed services ranging from home repairs to purchasing clothing or food. So far, they have helped a single family and plan to help one family each year.

“We are a new group,” she said. “But we have grown and can’t thank the community enough for their support.”

Her father, Air Force Capt. Steven L. Bennett, died in the Vietnam War and was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. She has served with other veterans support organizations and as volunteer coordinator for the Fort Worth Veterans Museum.

“As the daughter of a Medal of Honor recipient, it is an honor to assist, and show my appreciation to anyone who has served their community or country,” she said. “Too often we overlook or take for granted the level of dedication these brave people have.”

Erich and Emilee Klein, owners of Badgers BBQ, came across the group on Facebook as they were scheduling the restaurant’s grand opening. Badgers focuses on serving service members, and the owners took interest in the group, Erich Klein said.

“Michelle — one of the officers of the organization — came in, sat down and talked to us about how we can have a mutually beneficial relationship,” Klein said.

Lewisville Helping Its Heroes treasurer Joey Hernandez is a carpenter. He helped with the restaurant renovations. In return, the restaurant owners let Heroes use their banquet space to pass out fliers and information about the organization during the grand opening Oct. 4.

“They [Helping Our Heroes] have been wonderful and believe in the same things we believe in,” Klein said.

The grand opening included a raffle, with proceeds going to the Heroes group to help the family of an area Marine. The group has provided birthday gifts for the Marine’s son, employment assistance and home remodeling work.

On Oct. 18, the organization held a fix-up party to get all the home repairs done in one day. A new volunteer, who worked to get the walls of the master bathroom retextured, was able to donate ceramic tile for the bathrooms.

“We appreciated that because we are only currently on a ‘peel and stick’ budget,” Bennett-Engele said. “It is so nice for our members to pull together to offer even better than what we can afford.”

Group members returned Oct. 25 to finish landscaping, paint, put down tile in two bathrooms and hang ceiling fans and lights.

“They did wonderful work,” Bennett-Engele said. “We really appreciate all of their hard work.”

The group later hosted a booth selling glow sticks at the annual Lewisville Spooktacular Trails and Glow Run Extravaganza, handed out candy and fliers and staffed a fishing game for children.

“Everyone was exhausted and just ready to get home and put their feet up. It was a busy, warm, loud, crazy, stressful day,” Bennett-Engele said. “But, in the end, we did what we set out to do and that was help our military family, and spend time connecting with the community.”

On Nov. 1, group members spent the day at an antique car show after event sponsors invited them to participate.

“What an honor for us,” she said. “We are so excited that people are taking notice of us and what we are doing for the community.”

Lewisville/Flower Mound editor Adam Schrader can be reached at 214-773-8188 and on Twitter at @schrader_adam.

barbecue, flower mound, ribs, cooking

Couple opens barbecue joint in Lewisville catering to public safety officers

News Stories Archive

Published in The Dallas Morning News on Oct. 9, 2014

Badgers BBQ, a new restaurant in Lewisville, has a mission.

Owners Emilee and Erich Klein serve family-style barbecue, but they also want to use their restaurant to honor “the badge”: law enforcement, firefighters and soldiers in the community.

Hence the name Badgers.

The restaurant opened in August and had its grand opening last Saturday.

Emilee runs the restaurant with Erich’s help. He is a full-time federal law enforcement officer.

Starting out

Erich, 43, has been with a federal agency in the area for almost seven years. He chose not disclose which agency.

When he was 16, he snagged his first job in law enforcement as a cadet at a California police department. At 21, he received his California police officer certification. He moved to Texas in 1999 and received his new certification in 2001.

“I decided not to pursue it for various reasons,” he said. “An opportunity rose up to get with my agency now, and here I am.”

Emilee, 43, has been in retail management since high school. After moving to Texas, she took a short break to blend the couple’s families before returning to work as a general manager for a fast-food chain.

The Kleins talked about opening their own place for years. Finally, they decided to stop talking and do it. Emilee left her job to start planning the new venture in December of 2013.

They shopped for space, but none felt right. One day, their insurance agent called to tell them the restaurant next to her office was going out of business.

The location on Lewisville’s Main Street, just east of Flower Mound, fit. It’s close to Lewisville and Flower Mound police stations. Attracting law officers to dine with them is part of their business plan.

“The landlords were open to everything. They were really trying to work with us,” Emilee said. “It was time, and everything fell into place, so here we are.”

Erich said they couldn’t have done it without support and input from his friends and co-workers. The Kleins said their two 15-year-old daughters Danielle and Shelly, who are in ROTC, and Lilly, 10, were instrumental in their success.

“They’ve really stepped up and helped put in sinks, scrub nastiness off the floor before we moved in,” Emilee said. “They learned how to cook barbecue and are our primary waitstaff.”

The Kleins suffered hiccups on the road to completion. Renovating the space was difficult and money was short. They feared failing to meet their deadline for opening.

“Because of a significant loss of money and having to pay someone to come back in and rebuild, we had to open very quickly,” Emilee said. “So we were not able to decorate like we wanted to, but we’re getting there.”

In the end, they orchestrated a successful opening with assistance from Helping Our Heroes in Lewisville.

Helping Our Heroes

Lewisville Helping its Heroes was formed by a group of friends who decided to help a military family in need. Their goal is to formally incorporate as a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. And they are raising money to get that done.

The Kleins came across the group on Facebook as they were scheduling Badgers’ grand opening.

“Michelle, one of the officers of the organization, came in, sat down and talked to us about how we can have a mutually beneficial relationship,” Erich said.

Lewisville Helping its Heroes board member is a carpenter. He helped with the restaurant renovations. Then, in return, Badgers let Heroes use its banquet space to pass out fliers and information about their mission during the grand opening.

“They [Helping Our Heroes] have been wonderful and believe in the same things we believe in,” Erich said.

Among the scheduled events for last Saturday’s grand opening was a raffle with proceeds going to the Heroes group.

Honoring the badge

The main dining room had not been fully decorated for the grand opening, but the Kleins decided to walk their guests through the planned decor so they could envision how it might look when finished.

A vinyl blue sign decorated with police shoulder patches from around the world greets customers as they enter Badgers. Soon, a red sign with firefighter patches will decorate another wall.

On the back wall, the Kleins will hang printings of the police officer’s prayer, the firefighter’s prayer, the soldiers’ prayer and the EMT prayer. They also plan to commission a mural dedicated to fallen heroes. A formally set table underneath the mural will always remain empty to remind guests of fallen soldiers who are not forgotten. Emilee said sugar and lemon on the table symbolize the bitter-sweetness of their sacrifice.

“When my customers come into my building, I want them to feel that overwhelming sense of pride that this is their country,” Emilee said. “People fight for their freedom to safely come to restaurants like mine.”

The restaurant also hosts a table reserved for on-duty, uniformed officers and firefighters. Its location allows officers a full view of the restaurant, the entry points and their cars.

Emilee said when the restaurant held a fundraiser for the Lewisville High School baseball team, all the tables were full and people were waiting. One group asked if they could sit at the reserved table.

“I had to tell them ‘no,’ and explained that the table is reserved specifically for on-duty officers. You don’t know when they will get to eat because they are always working. I want to make sure they get fed and have a place to kick back,” she said. “Once I explained that to them, they were like, ‘Absolutely, we will wait.’”

“It’s very cool that I can do that through my restaurant,” she said.