Monthly Archives: April 2009

Pets and bets aids animals

The Michigan newspaper Hometown Life featured James Labadie’s Self Expression and Leadership program in a recent article. Labadie’s project involves raising money for no-kill animal shelters, using Texas-Hold em’ poker and other events and a raffle at a day long extravaganza on Saturday, April 25. Details are in the article below.

Play poker, walk, bowl to help animals

Pets & Bets started with a “grand idea” last fall and has grown into a day-long fund-raiser for no-kill shelters, with activities for kids, adults, pet owners and pet seekers.

“We recruited a few friends, started with contacting a few shelters and in the last several weeks, they’ve been contacting us,” said James Labadie, of Labadie Graphics, in Waterford, one of the event’s sponsors.

Shelters that will benefit from the event on Saturday, April 25, at Bentley’s Restaurant, 5586 Drake, south of Walnut Lake Road, in West Bloomfield, include Almost Home Animal Rescue League, which runs a shelter in Southfield; Rainbow Feathers Bird Club and Rescue, in Garden City; Guardian Angels Animal Rescue, in Livonia; K 9 Stray Rescue League, in Oxford; House of Critters Animal Rescue, in Commerce; Michigan Ferret Rescue & Adoption Network, in Warren; Furry Friends Rescue in Brighton; GreyHeart Greyhound Rescue, Canton; and Project Kitty Connect.

Admission is free from 1-6 p.m. when family-friendly activities will include a pet adoption fair, pet photography, antique appraisal, raffles, chair massage, face painting, a pet fashion contest and tarot card readings. A speakers forum from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., will feature Deborah Schutt of Michigan Pet Fund Alliance on making Michigan a no-kill state; Royal Oak veterinarian John Simon on pet nutrition; Rebecca Godo of Project Kitty Connect on the importance of spaying and neutering pets; Eric Glick on estate planning for pets; and Amy Johnson of Rochester Hills, the founder of Teacher’s Pet, a program that brings at-risk children and shelter dogs together. Pets are welcome at daytime activities.

The evening session, from 6 p.m.-midnight, offers a silent auction, chair massages, tarot card readings, dinner, cash bar, appetizers and casino games, including Texas Hold ‘em. Tickets are $20 for casino only, $30 dinner only, $50 per person for both dinner and casino and $75 per couple for dinner and casino. Buy tickets in advance at (248) 636-PETS or visit

“One major goal is awareness of shelters and the second is finding homes for animals,” said Labadie. “We didn’t want to charge people to come to the adoption event. We did what we could to make if family-friendly. The fund-raiser is the third major goal of equal value to us.”

Mark Blondy, another major sponsor of Pets & Bets, created the event as a project for his coursework at Landmark Education development and training company in Livonia.

“He recruited me and I put my heart into it,” said Labadie, who has both adopted shelter cats and brought strays into his home.

Yoga for All

Joanna Faso’s project in Landmark’s SELP program was to bringing yoga to underprivileged citizens of Chicago. Nancy Gerstein wrote a story about the project and the issue Faso is addressing.

Taking Yoga to the People

Chicago’s affluent areas are rife with yoga studios that offer exquisite bodies and stress- free, enlightened spirits. Just the thought of yoga practitioners brings to mind young, flexible women and men dressed in the latest athletic attire sitting in lotus position at these modern, minimalist, glossy wood-floored studios.

While these Zen-like cultures work well for many, yoga teacher Joanna Faso’s mission is to teach the forgotten yogis: the people in underserved communities— shelters, transitional houses, retirement homes, and prisons.

Faso recognizes that people who are ill or in low-income urban areas may have never witnessed yoga’s healing modalities. As a result, people who need yoga the most are the ones who have the least access to it.

“Yoga is another means of healing, both physically and emotionally, and everyone could benefit by it,” says Faso.

Faso’s first stop—Deborah’s Place on Jackson. Her weekly one hour classes began March 11 and will alternate volunteer teachers from week to week.

Juanita Brown, educational services program coordinator at Deborah’s Place, expects the residents will learn how to relax and become centered in their bodies. “We’re creating opportunities for residents who wouldn’t normally get the chance to enjoy the benefits of yoga,” she says.

The classes revolve around basic yoga postures and meditation with students concentrating on becoming more “mindful” of the moment. Faso asks her students to keep their eyes closed and to feel their breath.

Retirement home and Cancer Wellness Center yoga teacher Jayne Alenier agrees. “It gives these groups a sense of community and helps with loneliness. The movement itself helps their lift their moods.”

Aliener finds many of the retirement home students are open to the spiritual part of the classes. “They’re getting close to the end of their life and the practice calms them.”

She adds that yoga students undergoing cancer treatment enjoy yoga practice because it gives them a sense of empowerment. “They may not have control over their disease but they do have control over how they’re doing the posture. And by staying in the present they can let go of their fear of the future.”

With yoga and meditation, visualization is fundamental to healing. Students use the feeling and focus of the breath to create confidence, practice acceptance, and sense their own energy. From a physiological standpoint, meditation practice can improve respiration, blood pressure and heart rate.

Faso is asking other yoga teachers to donate their time to these communities and has 8 other volunteer teachers on board so far. If you’re a yoga teacher and would like to volunteer , contact Joanna Faso at

Ultimately what does Faso want to her students to learn? “I’d simply want them to get a sense of peacefulness, self-awareness and the knowledge that we all have sacred space within ourselves.”

Sounds likes something that could benefit everyone.

People Empowered through Wellness Website

be-well.gifIn Landmark Education’s Self-Expression and Leadership Program, Amy Silverman helped pioneer the launch of BeWell, at, a website that creates events and resources that support wellness in all its aspect – physical, financial and personal.

One of BeWell’s premier launch events was the “Thriving Arts Initiative”, held January 19th in New York City, which was a party that featured a panel of successful artists designed to support the artistic community in moving from being “starving artists” to “thriving artists”. In addition to the panel, the party offered free consultations with experts including financial and investment coaches, personal trainers, weight loss specialists, and more.

A variety of other events – seminars, webinars, trips, and phone conferences – have followed quickly at BeWell, featuring a wide range of wellness experts in a variety of fields. Silverman herself led a conference call introduction to internet franchising on February 25th. ‘Be Well’ now offers a newsletter, a membership option (which includes special events and outdoor activities, shopping discounts, and more) and a large array of different wellness resources.

High Schools Come Together for Basketball Makeover

basketball-mike-jonesWhen Mike Jones of Dallas took Landmark Education’s Self-Expression and Leadership program (SELP), he knew he wanted to make a difference in his community in a way that related to basketball and the community – Jones works for ESPN, and formerly played basketball at Mansfield High School. He found his project in helping nearby James Madison High School, whose facilities weren’t nearly as nice as those at Mansfield. How he brought two high schools together and put on a basketball clinic in the process was the subject of a number of newspaper stories, including this one in the Dallas Morning News.

A team effort for two squads

Mansfield players assist in makeover of Madison’s locker room

By Matt Wixon

Two months ago, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition documented a home renovation in Keller. On Saturday, it was time for Extreme Makeover: Locker Room Edition.

There were no television cameras at Madison, but the project was worth prime-time attention. Madison’s players and coaches renovated their cramped, outdated varsity and junior varsity boys locker rooms with help from some people they had never met: the basketball players at Mansfield.

“I liked the idea of bringing the two communities together,” Mansfield coach Richie Alfred said. “I think my kids don’t know how good they have it. We have very nice facilities, and I think sometimes we take it for granted.”

The Madison and Mansfield varsity and junior varsity boys worked with about 40 other volunteers on the project, which included sanding and painting lockers, tearing out carpet and installing tile, replacing a window-unit air conditioner, putting up blinds for the windows and installing space-saving desks and cabinets.

They also installed a trophy case, which could be of good use next month because Madison is No. 1 in the Class 3A state rankings.

“The locker room is going to be a whole lot better,” Madison senior forward Nick Moore said. “There’s a lot more room.”

The project was the idea of Mike Jones, a Dallas resident who works in advertising sales for ESPN. As part of a leadership development course in the fall, Jones created Basketball United, a volunteer organization with the goal of bringing people together through basketball.

Then he began looking for a project.

“I was driving around and looking at community centers and basketball areas,” said Jones, a 1992 Mansfield graduate. “Then I came up to Madison, and I saw the basketball team walking into the gym. I thought this might be perfect.”

Madison athletic director Ronald Johnson and principal Marian Willard liked the idea. So did Madison coach Damien Mobley, who had spent the last two seasons with his desk in a drab, cramped locker room.

Jones, who played for Alfred, knew he could get his former team involved. But he also knew he would need people to donate money, materials and time. Jones raised about $3,000 for materials and got Radio Shack to donate a flat-screen TV, a DVD player and a stereo system. He got JK’s Cuisine to cater breakfast for everyone and Pizza Hut to provide lunch.

Jones also made sure the day wasn’t just about renovating the varsity and junior varsity locker rooms. He set up a basketball skills clinic for the players, led by Cameron Hill, the former director of player development at Kentucky and head coach for the United States Basketball Academy. Hill’s father, former NBA head coach Bob Hill, gave a speech to the players during lunch.

“It was a great experience,” Mobley said. “The locker room looks great, and the kids not only had fun, they learned some things.”