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Ashley News Observer- Features


Race Across USA visits county
Ashley County was a stop along a 3,080-mile journey from southern California to Washington, D.C. for seven runners and a support team as part of Race Across USA.

The journey began in January in Huntington Beach, Calif. and continued through the southwestern states of Arizona, Mew Mexico and Texas. A short trek through Louisiana led the group of long distance runners into Arkansas.
Beginning in Magnolia, the troupe ran the rural roads of southern Arkansas until they came to Ashley County.

They reached Ashley County last week, ran through Crossett and stayed two nights in Hamburg at the middle school gymnasium before moving down Highway 82 to Chicot County and Lake Chicot State Park.

On April 10, the runners and their support team moved into Mississippi and ran eastward to Indianola as they looked forward to Alabama and the journey to the nation’s capital.

Sandy Van Soye is the race director. She handles the logistics and oversees the event or journey. She said she drives one of the four support vehicles that accompany the seven runners that include her husband Darren Van Soye, the co-organizer of the long-distance running event.

Van Soye said organizers could not use Race Across America because it is the legally owned name of a bike race patterned after the Tour de France.

Therefore, she explained, organizers chose Race Across USA as its title and www.raceacrossusa.org as its Web site domain.

The purpose of the event, Van Soye said, was to raise money for programs designed to help America’s youth become active in school and throughout the year.

The Web site outlines the purpose of the event, “According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. At the present time, 12.5 million children, ages 6-19 in the United States are obese.”

Solving that issue by drawing attention to it and by raising money to support programs that will get youngsters physically active is the purpose behind the project.



(Full story, photo in the Ashley News Observer)




Carousel-themed art created for Carousel School
A trio with a love for art and children came together to benefit a local pre-K school, The Carousel School, and as a group, they produced colorful artwork designed to bring additional life and excitement to the school and its children.

Dena Judge, Naomi Bivins and local teen Weslie Burt produced 16 large pencil drawings of carousel horses, a couple of poster sized drawings and several smaller drawings in black and white but mostly color.

“Shalonda (Thompson) is good at what she does and the school is special,” Judge said. “She has a heart for what she does.”

What Thompson does is manage the school as its director.

Judge said the children at the school are “special children, special” and “she wanted to help.”

Consequently, Judge came up with the idea of drawing a few colorful carousel animals for the school to put up on its walls. The few became 16 primary works and other small and much larger ones.

Judge said she is an amateur in the area of arts and crafts, but she explained that she and Burt focused on the task - and all three women are proud of what they produced.

“The kids and Shalonda have a special place in my heart,” Judge said. “She really works wonderfully with children.”

Judge said she didn’t do much and credited the energy she received from “Naomi and Wendy,” for what was done.

“Everybody likes carousel horses,” she said. “They are pretty and cute.”



(Full story in the Ashley News Observer)




Work is child's play for new Crossett pediatrician
For Dr. Kenneth Richards, his job is much like play time.

“It’s great,” he said. “I come to work and play with kids all day.”

The newest member of the Ashley County medical community, and the only pediatrician in the area, is now at work – or play – in the Ashley Women’s Clinic on Fred LaGrone Drive, adjacent to Ashley County Medical Center.

Richards said one of his major inspirations was, in fact, a pediatrician that he knew while growing up in American Fork, Utah, south of Salt Lake City.

“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor,” he said. “My pediatrician was a big influence, and I always wanted to help people. And then when I took a biology class in high school, that made the interest even stronger.”

After high school, Richards went to Utah State University for his undergraduate studies, followed by medical school at the University of Louisville and then a three-year residency at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria.

He had been in the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina for the past four years, and first heard of Crossett when his parents, Arlyn and Colleen Richards, moved here.

“My dad is in the IT department at Georgia-Pacific,” Richards said. “And my mom taught Dr. (Alan) Wilson’s kids piano lessons, and then he started asking about me.”

Richards said he finally decided to see Crossett himself, which he did just over a year ago.



(Full story, photo in the Ashley News Observer)




Ministry continues to support Wilmot
The uncertainty over the future of Wilmot Elementary School and a mid-summer move by the Hamburg school board to re-open the school for the upcoming school year had very little impact on Eagle Family Ministries.

The Bentonville-based religious organization never gave up on the Delta community as it maintained its annual plans for a week of building and support activities in the Delta community on behalf of the small elementary school.

Steve Tucker, president of Eagle Family Ministries, said his organization adopted Wilmot in 2000 and it has spent a portion of its summer in the small Ashley County town for the past 13 years.

An annual element of the summer project crafted by Eagle Family members is to bring and distribute school supplies to students at the elementary school. The organization also provides supplies and materials to Wilmot’s schoolteachers.

Tucker said his organization would still have come south to Ashley County and brought school supplies for the children of Wilmot even if there were not a Wilmot school.

He explained the students would have still needed the supplies; they just would have used them at a new school elsewhere in the county.

“We were still bringing school supplies for the children at Wilmot,” Tucker said.


(Full story, photo in the Ashley News Observer)




Haley Creek Boys still pickin' after almost 40 years
Classical music in New York City may mean Bach and Beethoven; but in Arkansas, classical music is gospel and blue grass.

The sound of guitars, mandolins, fiddles and a stand-up bass is the music of the south – particularly Arkansas.

In Ashley County, particularly in the Promise Land community, the Haley Creek Boys have long been spreading the word and playing the music that best represents classical southern culture – bluegrass and gospel.

The group came together in 1975 and will celebrate its 40th anniversary in just a few months.

Over the years, membership has changed and there have even been a few girls mixed in with the Boys; but the current 11-member singing group keeps alive the music and spirit that the original membership sought to represent.
The oldest member of the band is one of the original members, 83-year-old Ed Watt (mandolin, vocals).

The youngest is 37-year-old Jared Brooks (lead guitar, vocals). Despite being the youngest, Brooks knows the band’s legacy because he joined it as a youngster – 12-years-old.



(Full story in the Ashley News Observer)





© Copyright 2005 Ashley County Publishing, Inc.