Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fighting for the future

Muhammad Ali Fights in Vegas

HE’S BEEN CALLED THE GREATEST: Muhammad Ali, nee Cassius Clay was one Hell of a boxer. He fought in the ring and was excoriated outside the ring especially in during his early career. The brash young man had the audacity to have an in-you-face, arrogant style that he backed up with victories wrapped in poetic predictions. He was an amazing boxer and has since become an icon. Last night he came to Las Vegas to fight for the eighth time. But this time the fight was against crippling, vicious, debilitating opponents.

A BIT OF HISTORY: Las Vegas is a relatively young town. When my wife’s family arrived here from Illinois the population was less than the number of fans who can be seated in a college football arena. Services of many types were limited so when one of her classmate’s father began to show signs of Alzheimer’s the family took him out of state for treatment. The father passed away from the disease and the son vowed to provide a research center to attend victims and their caregivers. Thus the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health was conceived.

LARRY RUVO’S MISSION: Larry Ruvo, the Las Vegas High School alum and son of Lou Ruvo, was not sure what to do to help those in need of attention so he gathered a group of local Las Vegas business leaders and passed the hat. He then phoned the National Alzheimer’s Association and asked how the funds could best utilized. They suggested that he provide a means locally that could attend patients of the disease. Larry found land, convinced Frank Gehry, one of the world’s premier architects to design a building, and began construction in 2006. Patients were seen beginning in 2009 and was expanded to address various neurological diseases. He partnered with the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic and the result is the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Located in downtown Las Vegas on what used to be the railroad yards the Center provides treatment and research for suffers of neurodegenerative and neuromuscular illnesses.

The Center has drawn giants in the field and has begun research on the effects of boxing and other brain injury events on the brain. They are working on the development of a mouthpiece that will record the severity of blows to the head and transmit the data instantly. Larry Ruvo has raised funds to get the Center to the place it currently is, but maintenance of the facility is expensive. To help supplement the funding he holds an annual fundraiser called Power of Love Gala. Stars locally and from around the world pitch in and help with the fundraising. This year, on the occasion of the 70th birthday of Muhammad Ali, whose physical prowess has been ravished by Parkinson’s disease, The Power of Love Gala included a celebration of Ali’s 70th birthday. The event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena was a benefit for Keep Memory Alive, the fundraising arm of the Clinic as well as the Muhammad Ali Center, a cultural and educational complex in Louisville. ABC will broadcast the event at 2:00 pm on February 25 and ESPN2 will rebroadcast it later that evening.

The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center in Las Vegas treats illnesses such as the one that has virtually silenced the Champ, once known as “The Louisville Lip” for his quips, providing care for patients with dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s Disease, and Lou Gherig’s disease (multiple sclerosis).

In addition to Mr. Ali and his wife, other celebrity guests included Larry King, Stevie Wonder, Samuel . Jackson, Snoop Dog, Cee Lo Green, Jim Brown, Anthony Hopkins, Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Evander Holyfield, Ken Norton, Roberto Duran, Earnie Shavers, Leon Spinks, Ray “Boob-Boom” Mancini, and Lenny Kravitz. Other attendees included David Beckham, Ken Jeong, Siegfried and Roy, Andre Agassi and Steffie Graf, Dave Koz, James Gandolfi. Robin Leach was the MC.

WORLDWIDE AND LOCAL: Cleveland Clinic is known worldwide and has locations in three states and the Middle East. The Center in Las Vegas estimates that 80% of the 4,500 patients treated to date were Las Vegas locals. The Ruvo Center is conducting more Alzheimer’s clinical trials than any other institution in the country. Such research is crucial as one in eight people beyond age 65 will develop Alzheimer’s and one in two over age 85 will be so afflicted.

A history and photos of the Center can be found on Wikipedia at:

A little blogging music Maestro… Crystal Method – “Keep Hope Alive.”

Dr. Forgot

Saturday, February 18, 2012

House tragedy

The following piece was written by Daily News sportswriter Josh Yohe. The article sums up the situation much better than I can.

Tyler Boyd went to the house 48 times while leading the Clairton football team to its third straight PIAA championship during the 2011 season.

None of that mattered to Boyd when he was informed last weekend that he`ll never go to his house again.

Boyd, a junior who is being recruited by programs like Southern Cal and Ohio State, was playing in a basketball game against Bentworth last Saturday. As always, his mom, Tonya Payne, was in attendance.

During the game, Payne was informed that the house she had rented for the past 10 years was on fire.

An electrical fire, it was later determined, ruined her house. Payne and her children, Tyler and Brian, will never live there again.

"I was shocked," Boyd said. "My coach told me during the game. I couldn`t believe it. Just total shock."

When the shock wore off, reality set in. His house was gone. Many valuables in that house were gone.

"It has been so hard," Boyd said. "So hard. It hurts."

It`s time for the community to help ease his pain.

Boyd has represented Clairton with complete dignity during the first three years of his high school career. He is probably the WPIAL`s best football player, and I assure you his character is on an even par with his talent. There is something special about him. He is quiet but confident, competitive but not brash. Boyd and his mom are the epitome of class in every possible way, and they need our help.

It`s time to do the right thing.

PNC Bank has started the Tyler Boyd Fund, which is raising money for his family. Payne did not have rental insurance. She and her children are now living in an apartment.

"It`s alright for now," Boyd said.

The situation isn`t a good one for the family that has represented Clairton so well for so many years.

Some have already helped.

"A lot of people are asking how they can help and donating what they can," Boyd said. "Believe me, we really appreciate it."

It`s good to see some people have come through for Boyd and his family. Here`s hoping the giving continues.

True, the economy stinks right now. Lots of people are hurting. Clairton isn`t Fox Chapel. Money doesn`t grow on trees.


But if you`ve got something to give, you should.

The simple truth is, the city of Clairton only receives positive publicity thanks to its football team. Deny it if you`d like, but the Bears are the city`s lifeline. They instill a special pride every fall. Clairton is on the map around the country because of its football team.

And right now, Tyler Boyd is that football team.

The second of Clairton`s state titles, in 2010, was earned solely because of Boyd`s performance that day in Hershey. During the 2011 season, he carried the Bears. Yet another magical state title run was possible only because of his brilliance.

His maturity had something to do with Clairton`s winning, too.

When off-field problems erupted during the season — and this is something any football team must deal with — it was Boyd, normally the quiet one, who spoke up in the locker room. He became a man during his junior season, using the character that his mother so impressively developed to become not just the leader of the Bears, but in a way, a leader in the city.

Boyd gave the city a truly magical ride last fall. The least the rest of us can do is help.

If you haven`t seen Boyd play, you`re missing out. If you haven`t had a conversation with him, you`re missing out.

He is a good person. He comes from a good family. No family, of course, deserves to have its home destroyed. That Boyd and his mother are such wonderful people only make this story worse.

If you`ve seen Boyd play football, then you`ll agree with me that the day will come when he can buy his mother a mansion. He`s got that kind of gift.

But that won`t happen for many years. And until it does, taking care of this family in every way possible is the least the community can do.
Boyd is a treasure. So is his family.

They should be treated as such.

Note: Donations to the Tyler Boyd Fund are only accepted in the form of a check. They are being received by Danette Thompson in the elementary office and Linda Podroskey in the high school office. Checks are also being received at PNC Bank locations. Checks are to be made out to the "Tyler Boyd Fund."

Read more: Time to step up for Tyler Boyd - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Clairton Song

Yesterday's blog (see below) told of Hines Ward's visit to Clairton High School. Together he and the students at CHS wrote a song about the city. The words follow. It can be accessed on Youtube. See the link in the previous post below.

Lyrics to the song "City of Prayer" written and performed about the City of Clairton by Clairton student Carlton Dennis with Heidi Rojas from the USA Network show "Characters Unite":

Welcome to my city Miller Ave is the spot
Come to Neil C. Brown where the Bears are always hot
As we form together, its one big team
See nothing can stop us, from reaching our dreams
A lot of people say that our city is bad
They say our city is dying and our community is sad
But we can change all that, use our thoughts for the better
To find some way to put our city back together
Come together as a helping hand, stand side-by-side all women and man
And people look at our city as a stereotype
But 'til you come here man you dont know what its like, sing it:

I know your pain, I've been there before
But you don't have to live that story
We can survive, take my hand in yours
United we are one in the City of Prayer
City of Prayer, City of Prayer
United we are one in the City of Prayer

Perfection and love is when we all come together
When the races are the same and the color doesn't matter
When people treat their neighbors with dignity and kindness
It brings light to our society's blindness
And give a hand to the needy, give hope to the poor
Spread love proudly and open up your door
There's so many ways we can all act more mature
If we all come together we will win I am sure
All these characters welcome the wrong characters
Showing the wrong character, claiming the wrong character
But see we just can't stand here and fight
We have to come together, all characters unite:

I know your pain, I've been there before
But you don't have to live that story
We can survive, take my hand in yours
United we are one in the City of Prayer
City of Prayer, City of Prayer
United we are one in the City of Prayer
City of Prayer, City of Prayer
United we are one in the City of Prayer

We gotta come together, all...all
We gotta come together, all characters unite
all...all...we gotta come together, all characters unite:

I know your pain, I've been there before
But you don't have to live that story
We can survive, take my hand in yours
United we are one in the City of Prayer
City of Prayer, City of Prayer
United we are one in the City of Prayer

We gotta come together
City of Prayer, City of Prayer
We gotta come together
United we are one in the City of Prayer

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Clairton's Week in Review

More Catching Up Clairton

RINGS AND THINGS: So much has happened in Bear Country since we last met. But first let me remind you that the fundraiser for Championship Rings is still going on. We are asking all of the CHS Alumni, fans, friends, and family to help raise the money for the Championship Rings for the Clairton Bears as we did last year. Please send your donations to: Sue Wessel, 512 N. 6th Street, Clairton, Pa 15025. Please make your checks payable to the Clairton Athletic Champions Club.”

RUN TYLER, RUN: Tyler Boyd, a running back/receiver/defensive back for the Clairton Bears has received scholarship offers from Pitt, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Arizona, Arizona State and others. Once we learn where other Bears will attend college we’ll share that information.

HINES FROM HEINZ (field): With permission from Pop City, I share the following with you: “Just before Hines Ward joined students at Clairton High School to mentor one of them as part of an NFL program (aired on USA Network), the students spoke their minds to Hear Me.

Hear Me, a project of Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab (Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment), has collected thousands of stories from area students about their neighborhoods and their futures. The Clairton kids spoke out about their "desire to raise their community up, become role models and to be seen and heard as positive people," according to Hear Me Project Director Ryan Hoffman.

They were participating in Hear Me 101, a year-long video advocacy program during which students focus on changes they want to create in their communities or schools, creating video projects on community service and profiles of local change-makers. The students finished a production workshop hosted by Pittsburgh Filmmakers on Feb. 4 and will begin shooting this week to complete their projects by April 23, according to Jessica Pachuta, project manager. Steel Valley, McKeesport and Woodland Hills are also in the program.

Listen to some of the Clairton students and their stories now. As 10th-grader Marcaysia says, “We want to show that we have more to offer than just football”:

Carlton, in 11th grade, who was mentored by Hines Ward, wants to see more programs for kids and discusses the need for older kids to be positive role models;

Markea, in 12th grade, talks about the lack of activities in Clairton and the power of media to inspire positive change in the community;

Chelsea, in 12th grade, discusses the value of kids speaking out about what matters to them;

Nicole, in 12th grade, addresses violence and her desire for a safer community; and

Marcaysia, in 10th grade, wants students to improve themselves and help each other, hoping to see more activities in the area and more help from adults.

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Ryan Hoffman, Hear Me
Audio recorded and edited by The Consortium for Public Education”

MORE HINES FROM HEINZ: Rob Owen of the PG wrote: USA Network's public service campaign created to address social injustice and cultural divides, visited Clairton High School in November with Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward for its latest special, "NFL Characters Unite," which will aired on USA.

Steeler great Hines Ward met Carlton Dennis, a Clairton junior originally from Trinidad who faces discrimination similar to what Hines Ward experienced growing up. Ward and Carlton work with other students from the Hear Me Project, a nonprofit organization from Carnegie Mellon University's Create Lab, to write an anti-discrimination rap for a school pep rally.

"This film is a powerful and eye-opening journey into the most guarded corners of four football heroes' lives as they are brought back to their most difficult childhood memories by four incredible boys and girls who are currently living through those same challenges," said Charlie Ebersol, the film's executive producer, in a press release.

CARLTON ON THE TODAY SHOW: In addition to appearing on the USA Network special, CHS student Carlton Dennis and Steeler great Hines Ward appeared on the Today Show Friday. Here's video clip of that show:

THE VIDEO THEY’RE ALL TALKING ABOUT: The link below is to "The theme from USA Network's "NFL Characters Unite" by The Ontic, featuring Clairton students Carlton Dennis and Heidi Rojas." It was used as the theme song for the program broadcast on USA.

FROM THE OUTHOUSE TO THE PENTHOUSE: Every state is struggling to balance the budget. PA Governor Corbett decided to slash several items from the state budget including summer school funding for CHS students who needed additional help outside the regular school year. But representatives for the Heinz Endowments toured Clairton schools recently and reviewed the progress students had made during the years the program was in place. They decided it was significant enough to provide a $50,000 Equity in Education grant. The tutoring program had been in place for the past decade and helped Clairton schools make AYP for the past four years. The Heinz funding will be used to restart the after-school program as soon as tutors can be hired and to operate a summer program in June. From 2002-2003 until the current school year, the district -- like a number of poor districts across the state-- operated the program with state grant funding. During that time there was a marked improvement in students academic achievement in Clairton. Heinz Endowments will also provide $15,000 grant to the Clairton schools for teacher empowerment. The grant was submitted by Assistant Superintendent Elisabeth Erlich.

Ms. Ehrlich said the district got the idea for the program by working with student leaders and that all students in grades 7-12 have been placed into groups that are assigned an adult staff member as their mentor.

Two Wednesdays a month, each academic period is shortened by three minutes in order to create an extra period during which the mentors and students interact.

During those periods students will be encouraged to discuss their plans for the future and as part of the program, professionals and alumni will be brought in to talk about careers and their paths to success in adulthood.

A little blogging music Maestro… See the song above written and performed by CHS students.

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bears, etc.

Hines from Heinz: As mentioned in a previous blog, Hines Ward is featured on a TV program with CHS student Carlton Dennis. The show will air on USA Network at 4:00 west coast time (I've already set my timer to record) so I am assuming it will play at 7:00 pm this Friday on the east coast.The quote from a Daily News article reads in part, “Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and Clairton City School District junior Carlton Dennis will be featured as part of an upcoming documentary.” Divittorio goes on to explain that USA Network will do aa series beginning Feb. 10 entitled “NFL Characters Unite,” a series designed to help students deal with racism, bullying, and other forms of abuse. Featured will be Steeler great Hines Ward and CHS junior Carlton Dennis. Ward, the MVP of Super Bowl XL, spent time at CHS having lunch with the students, attending an assembly, and spending time with Carlton." Just one more snapshot of our community in the headlines for something good.

"Keep those cards and letters and checks coming in:" Sue Wessel tells me that the donations to help the three-time winners of the Pennsylvania State Championship Clairton Bears have begun to flow in. The kids need your help for the once-in-a-lifetime experience. Let's face it, as good as the Bears have been, most of the team will not earn scholarships for their football prowess, and for those who do it is unlikely that they'll ever win a championship. The experience of having been part of such a phenomenal run is something the young men will remember for a lifetime. Please send your donations to help cover the cost of the rings to:Sue Wessel, 512 N. 6th Street, Clairton, Pa 15025. Make checks payable to the "Clairton Athletic Champions Club.”

Just like the walls of Jericho: If you remember your Sunday School lessons, the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. Many of the locks on the Monongahela River look to suffer a similar fate. According to a recent investigative report by Tribune writer C. Togneri, "When three barges broke loose 10 days ago on the Monongahela River, bouncing off bridges, forcing road closures and slowing the morning commute, the accident resulted in yet-another unscheduled waterway closure in the Army Corps of Engineers' Pittsburgh District.

While most closures are not nearly as spectacular, they are common, according to local and national waterway officials. They promise to get worse.

Western Pennsylvania's 23 locks are old and, in some cases, crumbling, officials said. The Dashields lock and dam on the Ohio River has unstable chamber walls that move when vessels pass. At Lock and Dam No. 2 on the Allegheny, large chunks of concrete have fallen off chamber walls, risking vessels and crew. At the 76-year-old Montgomery Lock and Dam on the Ohio, the gates are so old and weak that two gave out in 2005 after loose barges crashed into them, although they are designed to sustain such a hit.

Combine that with continued cuts to federal funding for maintenance and operations, and the region's waterways are not only unreliable for industry, but approaching a "scary" status, officials said.

"We already have double the national average of unscheduled outages, and with cuts to federal funding, we're going to quadruple the national average this year," said Jim McCarville, executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission. "When you think about it, it's really quite scary."

In a nation full of aging waterway infrastructure, Pittsburgh's is the oldest. Designed to last 50 years, about half of locks in the United States are 50 years or older, according to statistics from the Army Corps. In Western Pennsylvania, 66 percent are 50 years or older. The Emsworth locks on the Ohio River are 91 years old, and of the eight locks and dams on the Allegheny, the youngest, in Rimer, is 74 years old.

"They are aging and fatigued," said Jim Fisher, chief of operations for the corps' Pittsburgh District. "The only good news is that we know there are major problems."

Rimer and another Allegheny lock, at Templeton, have been shut down because there is no money for upkeep. Commercial vessels must call 24 hours in advance to pass.

Federal funding for maintenance and operations in the district is expected to drop for a second straight year, from $101 million in fiscal year 2010 and $83.3 million in 2011 to $71.4 million in 2012, according to the corps. The 2012 number is a projection; officials expect to get the final number in days, said Dan Jones, an Army Corps spokesman.

"We're doing no more major preventative maintenance," Fisher said.

The corps oversees nine locks on the Monongahela River, eight on the Allegheny River and six on the Ohio River. Its repair fleet -- which responds to vessel and lock emergencies and maintains the locks and dams -- has slashed hours of operation from 24 hours to 16 hours a day, Fisher said.

In the Jan. 19 accident, two coal barges headed for U.S. Steel's Clairton Works got loose near the Liberty Bridge. One floated to the Ohio and sank; the other struck a moored barge filled with sand at Frank Bryan Inc., a South Side construction materials supply business. It ripped that barge loose, then pinned it against a Smithfield Street Bridge pier. The Coast Guard is investigating the cause.

U.S. Steel depends on the Monongahela Ohio River system for transporting raw materials and finished steel to and from its Clairton, Irvin, and Edgar Thomson plants in the Mon Valley, said company spokeswoman Erin DiPietro.

"Without an efficient water transportation system, these plants would be significantly less competitive in today's steel market," she said.

Coal shipped to Clairton is used to make coke, she said. The coke is shipped to U.S. Steel blast furnaces in Braddock; Gary, Ind.; Detroit; Fairfield, Ala.; and Granite City, Ill.

Last year, there were 475 unscheduled closures of locks on Western Pennsylvania rivers, mostly from equipment failures, but also the result of rarer issues, such as loose barges and flooding, officials said. Unscheduled closings blocked river traffic for almost 9,500 hours combined, federal statistics show.

"We no longer have a reliable system. It's as simple as that," Fisher said.

The Coast Guard closed the Monongahela for two days while crews salvaged the loose barges. Traffic on the Ohio and Allegheny was not affected."

Clairton boy passes away: Under the "What ever happened to" category, Larry Clipper left home for a brilliant career in higher education. His recent obituary reads as follows: "LAWRENCE JON CLIPPER December 13, 1930 - January 22, 2012 Naval Veteran and Scholar Lawrence Jon Clipper, U.S. Navy Ret. and Emeritus Professor of English Literature, Indiana University at South Bend, died Sunday, January 22, 2012 in Good Samaritan Hospital, West Palm Beach, after a long illness. He was born December 13, 1930 in Clairton, PA to Rose T. and Eli Clipper. After graduating from Clairton High School, Class of 1948, Lawrence went on to Brown University on an NROTC Scholarship and graduated in the Class of 1953. He then served as a line officer in the U.S. Navy principally on three ships, the USS Newport News, the USS Wisconsin, and the USS Intrepid, during the Korean conflict. After his naval career, Lawrence went to The George Washington University, receiving his Master's Degree in 1958. He moved to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he earned his Ph.D. Lawrence taught at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA; Ball State University, Muncie, IN; and Indiana University at South Bend (IUSB), South Bend, IN. He taught at IUSB for 28 years, retiring to Florida in 1994. He performed scholarly work on the Victorians, in particular the writings of Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens. He published several scholarly works on G.K. Chesterton. Professor Clipper is survived by his wife, Patricia Clipper of West Palm Beach and their two daughters, Melanie C. Zatti of West Palm Beach and Stephanie Clipper of Washington, D.C."

Keep the home fires burning: Roger and Kathy Tachoir are Clairtonians to the core. In addition to having their business in Clairton they both take active roles in the community. Roger sits on the School Board and Kathy is president of the Clairton Chamber of Commerce and serves on the City Council. Kathy's family were the proprietors of Grisnik's Bakery across from the post office. Kathy recently sent us an email announcing two upcoming activities.
Saturday, May 26, 2012, 3rd Annual Clairton Chamber of Commerce 5kRace/ 2 mile Race.
Saturday, September 15th, 2012 from 12-5pm 7th Annual Clairton CommUNITY Day.
If you live in the area, please plan to participate in both events. They could also use volunteers to help with the events so if you are able please email me and I'll pass your contact information on.

Can it be true? Finally, we heard from a questionable source about a local doctor. His business had been pretty slow. In fact one day he had only three patients. The first came in with a headache so he prescribed aspirin. The second came in with a stomach ache so he prescribed Maalox. The third was a local woman who came into his office and said, "Doc, I've been up in the mountains of West Virginia for six weeks and haven't seen a man. What can you do for me?" So he gave her eye drops.

A little blogging music Maestro… “My Little Town" by Simon and Garfunkel

Dr. Forgot

notify me now if I can count on you to volunteer or have any new ideas for us.