American Veterans Traveling Tribute (AVTT) and Sands Resorts Donate TWO HARLEY DAVIDSON SPORTSTERS

Operation Gratitude Sends TWIN Milestone 500,000th Packages

Van Nuys, CA - December 21, 2009 - With the classic roar of freedom catching their attention, more than 1500 Operation Gratitude volunteers witnessed the presentation of the organization's historic 500,000th Care Package, as a parade of motorcycles rode onto the Armory Drill floor delivering the keys to TWO Harley Davidson Sportsters.  The keys, along with several other unique gifts, were added to Operation Gratitude care packages, to be presented to two U.S. Service Members serving in the harshest combat zones overseas.

Co-founders Carolyn Blashek and SSG Elizabeth Cowie, who started the organization in 2003, thanked AVTT and Sands Resorts for their generous donation of the Sportsters, and recognized the tens of thousands of volunteers, donors and supporters who have contributed throughout the years to the assembly and shipment of half a million care packages.

"The 500,000 care packages we have sent are an expression of our enormous respect and appreciation for those who voluntarily put themselves in harm's way to protect our freedom," exclaimed Blashek.  "How totally appropriate that today we are sending a classic American symbol of freedom--Harley Davidson Motorcycles--to two of our bravest warriors, both of whom have served multiple tours of combat duty."

"AVTT's mission is to honor, respect and remember those who served and thus those who are serving," said Don Allen, founder of AVTT, donor of one of the Bikes.  "The occasion of Operation Gratitude's 500,000th Care Package is a perfect opportunity to ensure that our message of support and gratitude is seen and heard by our Military around the world."

Lee Rawcliffe, President and CEO of Sands Resorts, and donor of the second Sportster noted:  "This exciting 500,000th package event represents a celebration of all the brave Americans who wear the uniform of our great nation.  We are honored to put 2 very special packages in the hands of two different service members who represent our courageous heroes-- past, present and future--from all branches of the Military."

In addition to the Sportsters, the twin 500,000th packages will include a year's supply of both 5 Hour Energy and Emergen-C. hand-made scarves, digital cameras from Target, t-shirts, hats, dvds and pins from the Shasta Salute to America Bike Rally, the usual items and personal letters provided by more than 250 Corporate Sponsors and Friends, and by tens of thousands of individual donors across the country.  Days of Our Lives Cast Members Jay Kenneth Johnson, Joseph Mascola and Taylor Spreitler presented a Certificate for two VIP Set Tours.

Special deliveries of the matching Half Millionth Packages are being arranged.

A 4th Grade student from North Carolina, the winner of the "Guess the Candy Weight and Letter Writing Contest,"  was announced, having guessed within a few pounds the total weight of candy donated to Operation Gratitude this Holiday Drive:  110,000 pounds.

Blashek and Cowie informed the energetic crowd that the 500,000th package represented:

~ 4 Million pounds of product
~ $5.5 Million of postage
~ 25 Million individual items
~ $50 Million worth of product

sent to the troops through Operation Gratitude since its inception in 2003.

With the shipment of its 500,000th package, Operation Gratitude wrapped up its 2009 Holiday Drive, having delivered more than 100,000 care packages to U.S. Service Members this year.

About Operation Gratitude:

Operation Gratitude ( ) is the 501 (c) (3) non-profit, volunteer organization that annually sends 100,000+ care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individual U.S. Service Members deployed in hostile regions.  Our mission is to lift morale, bring a smile to a service member's face and express to all Armed Forces the appreciation and support of the American people. Each package contains donated product valued at ~$100 and costs the organization $11 to assemble and ship.

About American Veterans Traveling Tribute ("AVTT"):

AVTT ( is a veteran-owned project that travels the USA to provide a forum for communities to HONOR-RESPECT-REMEMBER all who have sacrificed their lives for our country's freedom. In so doing, AVTT also honors all Veterans and those currently serving, by letting them know they will never be forgotten. AVTT is funded through sponsorship fees, donations, and sale of merchandise at events. Donations to support AVTT's mission are qualified charitable tax deductions through The Traveling Wall Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization.

About Sands Resorts

Sands Resorts ( has been the leading provider of Myrtle Beach vacations for over 35 years. Established in 1972, Sands now includes seven major oceanfront resorts, restaurants, a water park,  the nationally known beach bar Ocean Annie's, and vacations featuring golf and theater packages, children's programs, and convention accommodations. Sands Resorts new "Hall of Heroes," honoring our military, police and firefighters who throughout history have protected our freedom, is open free of charge, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first floor of The Rawcliffe Center at Ocean Dunes/Sand Dunes Resort & Villas.

Operation Gratitude
Carolyn Blashek
818.789.0123; cell: 310.876.2594



Maquoketa, Iowa, Dec. 17, 2009: Maquoketa Art Experience presents a holiday performance by Maquoketa native, Chris Davis. Chris will play classical and holiday music on acoustic guitar. Free coffee will be served by Maquoketa native, Tony Schmidt. Christmas carols, sung by a group of Maquoketa Alum, will follow Chris' performance.

    Date: Saturday, December 26, 2009

    Location: Maquoketa Art Experience @ 124 S. Main Street, Maquoketa, IA 52060

    Time: 4:00 pm

    Cost: Free

    For more information: Call 563-652-9925.

Information about Chris Davis:

A native of Maquoketa, Iowa, Christopher began his musical career with the Clarinet. At 14 years old, inspired by Black Sabbath and Metallica, Chris took up the guitar. He began his guitar education with Scott Dalziel, and his interests soon expanded to include jazz and improvisation. As his interest in music grew, Chris became interested in classical guitar. His studies took him to Drake University. Christopher holds a Bachelor of Music Degree from Drake and is currently pursuing a Masters degree studying with Stanley Yates at Austin Peay State University. He has performed in masterclasses for world renowned artists such as Odair Assad and Christopher Parkening. Chris' performance experiences include solo classical guitar performances and work with rock, jazz, and Christian groups.

Information about Maquoketa Art Experience:

Maquoketa Art Experience is dedicated to bringing accomplished artists to Maquoketa, Iowa for short- and long-term residencies, workshops, and exhibitions. Springing up in one of the Grant Wood Scenic Byway communities, Maquoketa Art Experience exists to nurture artists and provide opportunities for developing art-related businesses in the area. Recognizing what Grant Wood saw in Iowa, Iowans and the surrounding landscapes, the artists and board of Maquoketa Art Experience are dedicated to creating easily accessible resources for Midwest artists. Similar to the Stone City Art Colony of the last century, Maquoketa Art Experience is committed to supporting arts and artists by creating local opportunities for artists to nurture and expand their talents and skills within the inspiring landscapes of Eastern Iowa.

For more information:

Phone: 563-652-9925


Through the years we see movies that take us to another level and inspire us to expand of which we are most grateful. 'What the Bleep' provided us such a leap! So join us this Friday or Saturday (Dec 18 & 19) at 645 PM as we review how far we have come spiritually, mentally,emotionally and physicially since being introduced to such concepts as fields of infinite locations, intelligent water experiments and of course the Polka party reception!


As always Spiritually and Healthfully yours

The Sparkles cheer team, a partnership between Pleasant Valley High School cheerleaders and Davenport's Hand-in-Hand, are being recognized for gathering to give back.

In November, a story submission from Sarah Herr of Bettendorf was named one of five national finalists in Modern Woodmen of America s Gatherings with Purpose giveaway.

The story received the most votes in the online contest, earning more than 4,600 votes over the two-week voting period.

Hand-in-Hand and the Sparkles will each receive $2,500 as contest winners. The presentation will take place during the Sparkles cheer practice. Members of the media are encouraged to attend.

When: Monday, Dec. 21, 5:45 p.m.

Where: Pleasant Valley High School cafeteria

Herr shared the story of a wonderful, and perhaps unlikely, partnership between a high school cheerleading squad and Hand-in-Hand, a non-profit organization providing critical services for families with special needs. The Pleasant Valley High School cheerleaders decided to create a high school-based cheerleading squad specifically designed to include students with special needs. To find potential participants, the squad volunteered to gather and cheer at Hand-in-Hand's annual Family Fun Walk fundraiser. The group dressed in uniform and spent the morning managing the games and painting designs on eager little faces. During the walk, the girls cheered on the participants with Hand in Hand, yes we can!

Through this gathering, the cheerleaders met several young girls and their families who enthusiastically supported the idea of starting a new cheer squad to include students with disabilities. Within two weeks, 10 girls with disabilities from Down Syndrome to autism signed on to be the first Spartan Sparkles! Since this time, the Sparkles have cheered through two football seasons and one basketball season in front of packed crowds and standing ovations. To express gratitude to Hand-in-Hand and more tangibly support its programs, the cheerleaders again gathered on a Saturday afternoon over the summer collecting donations for Hand-in-Hand. The group raised both awareness and $2,000 in donations for Hand-in-Hand. Two weeks later when they attended the next Family Fun Walk, the Sparkles had much to cheer about!

Nearly 100 stories were entered in the online contest and five finalists were chosen. The stories spotlighted families and friends who volunteered together to meet a community need, raise money for a local cause or add a volunteer activity to a social gathering.

Modern Woodmen members nationwide gather for good through local camps (chapters) and youth service clubs. The giveaway was launched to complement national efforts to bring people together to help others and meet needs in their local communities. Modern Woodmen sells financial products not to benefit stockholders, but to support its stakeholders members, their families and their communities. How? Through social, charitable and volunteer events where members gather.

Founded in 1883, Modern Woodmen of America touches lives and secures futures. The fraternal benefit society offers financial services and fraternal member benefits to individuals and families throughout the United States.

Washington, DC - In response to news that a long-standing cable dispute could leave 300,000 Iowans without Orange Bowl coverage, Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski today encouraging him to step in and protect the interests of Iowa's families before January 5. In a game of significant importance to Iowans, the University of Iowa Hawkeyes will play the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Orange Bowl as part of the Bowl Championship Series.

"On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of constituents in my district who would be affected by the Sinclair-Mediacom retransmission rights negotiations, I write to solicit the FCC to protect my constituents and the public good," Braley wrote. "The January 5th Orange Bowl, in which the University of Iowa is playing their championship game with Georgia Tech, is on FOX.  Mediacom's broadcast area is highly populated with the fans and alumni of the University of Iowa, and hundreds of thousands of Iowans stand to lose their chance to watch their team in the Orange Bowl if the FCC does not take action to referee the Mediacom-Sinclair dispute.

"I do not write to ask the FCC to take sides in this contentious negotiation.  Rather, I ask that the FCC step in and take the appropriate actions to protect the public interest in the event that Mediacom and Sinclair are unable to come to terms on a retransmission consent agreement."

Sinclair Broadcasting Group is currently renegotiating their retransmission rights with Mediacom Communications Corporation.  A similar retransmission negotiation failed to reach a compromise back in 2007 and resulted in Mediacom customers losing Sinclair's Cedar Rapids based CBS station and Des Moines based FOX station. Local media reports have indicated that parties involved are pessimistic that a deal will be reached prior to January 5.

Braley joined other members of the Iowa delegation in sending a letter to Genachowski on November 23.  A full text of the letter Braley sent is attached.


Rivermont Collegiate is ecstatic to announce senior Roshan Babu, son of Dr. and Mrs. Hari Babu of Rock Island, has been named a 2010 Illinois State Scholar!  This prestigious award is given annually by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), based on SAT and/or ACT scores.  Winners ranks in the top ten percent of the state's high school seniors from 752 high schools in all 102 Illinois counties.

Roshan, an aspiring young scientist, participated in the STARS (Student and Teachers as Research Scientists) program over the summer at the University of Missouri - St. Louis and was a Semifinalist in the 2009 Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology.  Roshan, who has attended Rivermont since Kindergarten, is currently researching competitive dental and medical programs at universities throughout the United States.  We look forward to Roshan's future contributions to the world of science and medicine!

For additional information on Rivermont Collegiate contact Cindy Murray at (563) 359-1366 ext. 302 or

Rivermont Collegiate is the Quad Cities' only independent, non-sectarian, PS-12 college preparatory school, ranked #1 on Iowa's AP Index.

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We would like to invite you to:
Waxing Encaustics by Helen Boyd & Jacki Olson
December 18 - January 29, 2010
Opening Reception: Friday, December 18, 2009 6-9PM
boyd & olson_fine art
Bucktown Center for the Arts
225 E. 2nd Street, Suite 201B
Davenport, IA  52801
The December show consists of new works and finished works at boyd & olson's art studio.
In the coming months, the studio will continue to explore the encaustic medium with all its
potential and versatility.
While Helen has been getting "set-up" in the studio, Jacki has been "waxing" the encaustics!
If you missed Final Friday last month, here is your chance to see Helen's encaustic workshop pieces
and Jacki's continuing exploration of the medium.
Check it out!

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (December 14, 2009) - Toyota Material Handling U.S.A. (TMHU), Inc. selected Hupp ToyotaLift to offer the company's line-up of Aichi, a Toyota Industries Company, aerial work platforms to the U.S. market.  Aichi's product line, including scissor lifts, crawler and wheeled-boom lifts, is designed specifically to meet a wide range of indoor and outdoor needs.

Hupp ToyotaLift was selected based on its excellence servicing of the industrial equipment industry, providing customers with top support in sales and rentals. Hupp ToyotaLift also operates a location in Davenport, Waterloo and Ankeny, Iowa, and in Peoria Ill.

"Hupp ToyotaLift was chosen to support the expanded offering of the Aichi product line to Iowa and central llinois because of its proven track record in supporting local businesses' needs," said Brett Wood, president of TMHU. "Hupp ToyotaLift will be a valuable resource for rental businesses, construction and other professionals seeking aerial lifts."

"We are honored to be among the distinguished list of Toyota Aichi dealers," said Kevin Hupp, president of Hupp ToyotaLift. "With the addition of Aichi's line-up including six models of scissor lifts, two SR-Series wheeled-boom lift models and four models ISR-Series crawler boom lifts, we are offering the market an extensive product portfolio, coupled with one of the best product warranties in the industry."

About Aichi, A Toyota Industries Company

Since its founding in 1962, Aichi has worked tirelessly to improve work environments in cooperation with its customers to create safer, more efficient and comfortable work sites for industries such as the utility, communication, construction and other industries.

The company has worked closely with its customers to improve job site methods by creating more efficient equipment tailored to each industry. Toyota Aichi dealers offer industry-leading support in every area of service, including parts, maintenance, financing, rentals and accessories.  For more information on Aichi products, please visit or call 1-800-852-0024.

About Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A., Inc.

Celebrating more than 40 years of established operations in the United States, Irvine, Calif.-based TMHU has been the No. 1 selling lift truck supplier in the U.S. since 2002 and currently offers a full line of high-quality lift trucks sold under the Toyota brand. TMHU, as the sole United States distributor for Aichi, now offers a line-up of aerial work lifts, including scissor lifts, crawler and wheeled boom lifts designed specifically to meet a wide range of indoor and outdoor needs.

Built on a reputation of excellence, Toyota remains the industry leader due to its quality, durability and reliability. Quality is the hallmark of Toyota's world-renowned Toyota Production System practiced at all Toyota manufacturing facilities, including Toyota Industrial Equipment Mfg., Inc. (TIEM). Most of the Toyota lift trucks sold in the United States are manufactured at TIEM, a zero-landfill facility, in Columbus, Ind.

TIEM, and all Toyota manufacturing plants in the U.S. and Canada, comply with the ISO 14001 standard from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and have been honored for their environmental management systems and dedication to continuous improvement.

Toyota's commitment to excellence in customer service extends nationwide. Sixty-eight authorized Toyota Industrial Equipment dealers, with a total of 188 dealership locations throughout the United States, offer comprehensive customer service support, including one-stop shopping for both new and Certified Used lift trucks, parts and service, fleet servicing, and financing. For more information on TMHU, please visit or call 1-800-226-0009.

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Youth For Understanding USA (YFU USA) is seeking local host families to host high school exchange students for the next school year.

Youth For Understanding is one of the world's oldest, largest, and most respected international exchange programs. Since 1951, YFU offices around the world have exchanged approximately 240,000 students. YFU USA is a private, non-profit educational program dedicated to preparing young people for their responsibilities and opportunities in a changing, interdependent world. YFU USA is certified by CSIET standards.

YFU USA will welcome new high school international exchange students this August. Our students come from different countries around the world. They speak English, have their own spending money, health insurance, will attend an American high school and will provide innumerable good memories and experiences to your family!  Open your doors to a new family member this summer and help him/her adapt to the U.S. lifestyle and culture. Hosting will be a wonderful opportunity to learn about other traditions and languages without leaving home.

Our host families are as diverse as our students. They are couples with or without children, empty nesters, single adults and also come from all cultural and economic backgrounds. Hosting an international exchange student can be an enriching experience for the entire family that will last a lifetime. By opening your home and heart to a student from overseas, your family will gain a new global perspective, many memories, and - quite possibly - a new family member!  You can host a student for ten months as a permanent host family, or for only six or twelve weeks as an arrival family.

Our trained YFU staff and volunteers are available to support you every step of the way. If you are interested in hosting a YFU student or would like more information, please call 1-866-493-8872 or apply on-line at


Bettendorf and Maquoketa Area Family YMCAs CELEBRATE 2010 WITH qca faMILIES!

BETTENDORF and MAQUOKETA, IA - December 15, 2009 - The clock is ticking and soon we will be rolling the calendar over into 2010. Celebrating the coming of a new year is a traditional "adult" event, but not anymore! Quad City area families are invited to attend New Years at Noon on Thursday, December 31 at the Bettendorf and Maquoketa Family YMCAs

"Our New Years at Noon event started out as a small gathering a few years ago and has grown into one of our most popular family events at the Scott County Family Y," said Tony Calabrese, Vice President of the Scott County Family Y.  "For many area families this celebration has become a holiday tradition. Each year we see more and more families join us for the festivities."

Bettendorf's New Years at Noon

New Years at Noon will be held from 10:30 a.m. - Noon, at the Bettendorf Family YMCA, 3800 Tanglefoot Lane, Bettendorf. The event is free for YMCA members and $3 per person for community members. This holiday tradition will include a count down to noon with father time, a balloon drop and party favors and holiday treats. In addition members and guests can also enjoy the area's only indoor aquatic center, which includes a 2-story water slide, zero-depth entry pool with frog slide, dew drop and bubblers.

Maquoketa's New Years at Noon

New Years at Noon at the Maquoketa Area Family YMCA will be held from 10am - 1:30pm, on Thursday, December 31. The event is $5 for YMCA family members and community families. The cost includes a holiday craft, swimming, snacks and a balloon drop at noon. The Maquoketa YMCA is located at 500 E. Summit Street, Maquoketa, Iowa. For more information about Maquoketa event call (563) 652-6566.

The Bettendorf and Maquoketa Family YMCAs are branches of the Scott County Family Y. Other branch locations include : Downtown Family YMCA, 606 West Second Street; North Family YMCA, 624 West 53rd Street; West Family YMCA 3503 West Locust Street, all in Davenport. For more information about the Bettendorf event call (563) 359-YMCA (9622) or visit the Scott County Family Y web site,