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Last updated: Sun, 22 Apr 2018 18:09:29 GMT

  Why not?: The mission and drive behind one of this generation's greatest point guards, Russell Westbrook Sun, 22 Apr 2018 15:22:13 -0400
In 2016, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder had a 3-1 lead in a best of 7 series in the Western Conference Finals on the team that had just posted the best regular season NBA record in history.
By Peter Lockwood
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
In 2016, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder had a 3-1 lead in a best of 7 series in the Western Conference Finals on the team that had just posted the best regular season NBA record in history. Fast forward a year later, Durant is an NBA champion on what was arguably the most overpowered team in NBA history, the Golden State Warriors. And Russ? Well, Westbrook had just accomplished something that hadn't been done in over 50 years: He set the record for most triple-doubles in a season, and was named the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player.
A broken friendship and the betrayal of a teammate had caused one of the most historic seasons in NBA history.
Westbrook led his team to the 4 seed in a stacked Western Conference. While his superstar teammates lacked consistency, he was reliable night in and night out. They currently are in a series tied with Utah 1-1. Westbrook led his team in points per game, rebounds per game and assists per game this regular season. He was seventh in the NBA in points per game, averaging 25.4; first in assists per game, averaging 10.3; and 10th in rebounds per game, averaging 10.1. He was the only player to be in the top 10 in all those three categories according to nba.com.
Last year, Westbrook achieved a feat many thought would never be done again - and hadn't been done in over 50 years. Then he did it again this year. Last season, Westbrook became the first player since Oscar Robertson (1962) to average a triple-double for the season.
To tally a triple-double, one must get at least 10 in three different statistical categories. Most commonly, this means getting at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Westbrook is the only player ever to accomplish this two years in a row, and he is climbing the all-time triple-double leader board at a ferocious pace. He currently sits fourth all time in most career triple-doubles according to basketball-reference.com and is subsequently one of only four players to have over 100 career triple-doubles. Westbrook is currently 77 shy of Robertson's record 181 career triple-doubles.
Westbrook is one of the most unique players in NBA history, but it doesn't stop at just his game. He is also known for his eye-catching taste in fashion - which never goes unnoticed when he shows up to a game. Westbrook has his own clothing line and makes plenty of appearances on the GQ website. He has been known to make interesting choices on the court, and it certainly carries over to some of his off-the-court fashion decisions, too. But, never-the-less, it keeps us entertained, which is Westbrook's job.
He takes his fashion very seriously. This can be attested to as one could find him at New York's Fashion Week this past year and giving a front-row report according to an article published on wmagizine.com for shows by Louis Vuitton and Dior. The article also quoted Westbrook saying his mother is his style icon, although he'd never wear women's clothes. Westbrook even has his own book, "Style Drivers," and has his own Air Jordan collection, "Why Not?", which has become a phrase that he has made his own and so much more.
While his style speaks for its self, it only speaks for its self once. Once for him, that is. In an interview on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" back in September of 2017, Westbrook talked about how he never wore an outfit more than once. Once he has worn it, he donates it to Goodwill or to friends.
This is not the only acts of kindness Westbrook is known for. His foundation - also titled "Why Not?" - is an organization he started back in 2012, according to the foundation's website, whynotfoundation.org. The foundation has a goal of inspiring kids. It encourages them to ask themselves "Why not have a better life?" - a question the organization want kids facing hardships and adversity to answer positively.
Westbrook knows what it's like to go through adversity as he himself had a rough childhood growing up in Long Beach, California.
He still has a lot to gain, but definitely has just as much to lose. A championship would bolster his reputation from a great player who had a knack for racking up triple-doubles and the 2017 NBA MVP as well as a regular on the all-star team, to an elite point guard who defined what it meant to never give up and to give it your all in order to win. He is, according to ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, "the most ruthless competitor in the entire sport."
Westbrook is climbing the record books in all categories and, while he is still in his prime, he is well positioned to someday become the all-time leader in triple doubles.
But would that mean anything to him if he never gets as ring?
He's had opportunities; he had a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals only to watch it slip away (and then with it his star teammate, Durant, who also slipped away). Even before that, he had been to the NBA Finals where he was crushed by Lebron James and the Miami Heat.
Westbrook has come up short every time no matter how much effort he has put in, but in the end, one man cannot win his team a championship. Even now, a team that was remade into what was supposed to be a force in the West, a juggernaut to challenge the Golden State Warriors, has faltered and it has been Westbrook dragging his team across the finish line into the playoffs.
He is simply an incredible man, a man who has lost so much, but has worked so hard and is determined to do the right thing and to be a winner. Westbrook has changed the game of basketball by playing the game with anger, energy and a ferocity that has never been witnessed before, especially not out of a point guard. There is still much to come from this man.
If you don't think he is capable of being known as one of the greatest players of all time, while inspiring so many young basketball players, then ask yourself "why not?"
  13th annual Colvin Cleaners Gowns For Prom' distributes record number of gowns, jewelry Sat, 21 Apr 2018 18:31:33 -0400
The 13th annual Colvin Cleaners 'Gowns For Prom' program, sponsored by The Allstate Foundation and presented by WKSE "KISS" 98.5-AM and host Janet Snyder, distributed a record 877 gowns and nearly 1,000 pieces of hand-made jewelry to high school students from throughout Western New York during distribution over three days last week at Shea's Performing Arts Center.
877 gowns were selected, fitted & cleaned for high school students
The 13th annual Colvin Cleaners 'Gowns For Prom' program, sponsored by The Allstate Foundation and presented by WKSE "KISS" 98.5-AM and host Janet Snyder, distributed a record 877 gowns and nearly 1,000 pieces of hand-made jewelry to high school students from throughout Western New York during distribution over three days last week at Shea's Performing Arts Center.
The young ladies selected from several thousand new and gently used gowns and were escorted by volunteers to three floors of dressing rooms to be fitted by professional seamstresses. The selected gowns were altered, dry cleaned, packaged and delivered for free by Colvin Cleaners to the young ladies' school in time for the prom.
"We were overwhelmed by the generosity of Western New Yorkers who donated so many wonderful gowns. It gave these young ladies so many to choose from, and to see them so excited when they found the perfect gown makes it all worthwhile for all of us," said Cyndee Billoni, who founded the program with her husband, Paul, president and CEO of Colvin Cleaners. "We are also so appreciative of more than 125 volunteers over the three days, including all of the seamstresses, who made this work so well for everyone."
For the 10th year, the young ladies also could select free, handmade jewelry created and donated by Marlena Gagner, owner of Meraki Jewelry Design. Gagner and friends created The Jewelry Box and, throughout the year, they make necklaces, bracelets and earrings for the young ladies to select once they have found the perfect gown.
The young ladies also can select shoes and purses, which are also donated to the program.
" 'Gowns for Prom' is a campaign which hit close to home for me as I had experienced first-hand the stress that trying to afford a new prom gown can place on a family," Gagner said. "I was inspired to help in any way I could, and what a better way to give back to the community than to create jewelry to help accessorize the gowns! Thus, The Jewelry Box was formed, and we are a team of caring, giving and creative artisans who share a common passion: to design and produce a variety of styles of jewelry and accessories for every young lady who participates in 'Gowns for Prom.' "
Gagner is always looking for volunteers and also accepts donated jewelry in any condition to be included in the collection or repaired/reworked into new pieces. Those interested can contact her at marlena@merakijewelrydesign.com.
Colvin Cleaners was in contact with nearly 90 high schools throughout Western New York. Students made appointments over the three days to select their gown. Many schools organized bus trips and several students were accompanied by their parents and/or teachers. To alleviate the anticipated increase in the number of young ladies looking for gowns this year, Colvin Cleaners arranged for donations at more than 40 All State insurance agencies, six Erie County Department of Motor Vehicles offices, the three Reeds Jenss locations at Native Pride Truck Plaza and Restaurant in Irving. In addition, more than 500 gowns were donated at a gown drive held for several hours on March 24 at the Reeds Jenss locations.
Along with the donation of gently used gowns, several hundred new gowns were donated by local retailers, including 87 from Jackie Blemel, owner of the Jacqueline Shoppe in Williamsville. A supporter for the past 10 years, Blemel is retiring this year.
"Over the years, we have sold thousands of gowns to young ladies for their proms. I know how important that day is for them, and to not be able to attend because they cannot bear the expense of a gown breaks my heart," Blemel said. "This is why I love the 'Gowns For Prom' program so much. To see the look on their faces when they find the perfect gown on the stage at Shea's is just priceless."
Paul Billoni was equally impressed with this year's program. He said, "Having the 40 All State Insurance offices collecting gowns, along with the Erie County DMV offices, allowed us to collect more gowns than ever. We just can't say enough about the generosity of our community. Our staff looks forward to this event every year and they welcome the extra work because they know how happy it will make these young ladies feel on their prom night."
Chris Billoni, vice president of Colvin Cleaners, said the company is now collecting gowns and coats for its winter "Coats for Kids" program at the collection sites used for "Gowns For Prom." For more information, visit www.colvincleaners.com.
"By collecting gowns and coats year-round and encouraging everyone to check their closets for unused items, we should be in great shape for next year's programs," he said.
  Studying abroad creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences Sat, 21 Apr 2018 18:08:20 -0400
Some of one's wildest dreams may seem far-fetched when, in actuality, they are easily attainable. Traveling to different countries is a dream that many people harbor throughout life. Fortunately, colleges have presented opportunities for students to continue their education while striving for once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
By David Carder
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
Imagine being born in Western New York and experiencing the cold, white winters and the beautiful, blossoming springs. Although there may be seasons that are preferred over others, the beauty that each season brings keeps you cemented in Western New York.
You may visit various states as life progresses, but for the most part, New York is the only place that will ever be considered home. Dreams of flying around the world and visiting some of the most astounding places - the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Opera House - always seem to be just that: dreams.
Some of one's wildest dreams may seem far-fetched when, in actuality, they are easily attainable. Traveling to different countries is a dream that many people harbor throughout life. Fortunately, colleges have presented opportunities for students to continue their education while striving for once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Mykayla Biechy never originally thought studying abroad would be something in her future. As a nursing major, it was highly discouraged to take time off from strict academia, as it would prevent her from graduating in four years. The classes she was offered were only available at specific times throughout the semester due to the design of the program. While in the program, it was almost impossible to transfer credits in that would be equivalent to courses offered within the curriculum. Taking any semester off would set back the nursing majors a full year due to when courses were offered.
Despite wanting to travel, Mykayla saw that as a dream that may never come to fruition.
However, "When I switched majors, studying abroad became an opportunity that was feasible without delaying graduation," Mykayla said.
She switched majors from nursing to business management and saw an opportunity present itself. Her boyfriend at the time had always expressed interest in studying abroad, specifically on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. After he presented her the opportunity to travel with him and study abroad, positive research and overwhelming support in favor of the idea pushed Mykayla to tackling this chance head-on.
"I had never been more than 40 minutes away from home before. I had never been out of the country, and this experience could allow me to get out of my comfort zone and grow as a person," Mykayla said.
Studying abroad is a perfect opportunity for Mykayla and others to achieve these simple desires.
Going abroad to various countries allows students and individuals to experience different aspects of the world. Every country showcases a large variety of cultures, people, attractions and more. Studying abroad not only allows individuals to continue their studies, but also provides an opportunity to branch out from one's typical surroundings.
Despite many college students struggling with the fight against procrastination, staying on top of classes and credits can really be beneficial.
Jamie Magone found this to be true as he was ahead of schedule with the amount of credits he had taken, so studying abroad in the spring semester of his junior year was an excellent opportunity that presented itself.
Going to school in Niagara Falls allows many students the opportunity to venture up to Canada when there is free time available. This was the only country Jamie had visited up to this point in his life, so studying abroad was his chance to finally venture outside of North America.
"The idea of being so independent and living in a new, big city for the first time was too exciting to pass up," Jamie said.
Studying abroad provided him the opportunity to grow as a person by creating a higher level of independence.
Being thousands of miles away from home for an entire semester is a daunting and anxious task for people. For Jamie, this opportunity was one that could not be passed up. While studying in London for the semester, he had the ability to visit other magnificent countries and tourist sites due to the close proximity England is with other European countries.
"Being in London put me in an ideal location to travel to other countries over weekends and breaks, as well. I visited Madrid, Rome, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Edinburgh twice, and several places in Ireland," Jamie said.
While some of these places may not have been on his initial radar before starting his semester abroad, being placed in an environment where the opportunities are endless is something unique that studying abroad provides for students. Apart from the opportunities studying abroad provides in terms of leisure activities, the academic aspect of studying abroad is certainly one of a kind.
"Study abroad is not merely a travel experience, but, first and foremost, an academic experience in an international setting. Our world has become increasingly interconnected and learning about globalization and intercultural perspectives is necessary for success in our communities and workplace," states the Niagara University website.
With the way the world is developing and becoming more diverse and technologically advance, it is crucial for students to learn in a variety of capacities. Learning about how different cultures interact with one another as well as how different cultures operate within the workplace is an important skill that students can learn while abroad. Diversity on all fronts within a professional setting is prevalent more now than ever, which puts an increased importance on being capable of working with people from different backgrounds, cultures, etc.
Tyler O'Meal also visited the Sunshine Coast and studied at the University of the Sunshine Coast for a semester. Australia's natural beauty and culture is immersed throughout the country in various shapes and forms and that is what attracted Tyler to studying in Australia. Although he had wanted to visit the country as a tourist for many years, the knowledge of a study abroad program with one of Niagara University's partner schools helped develop what once was just a dream into something tangible.
"Academically it was different. For each class we only had three or four assignments and tests for the whole semester. Each class had a lecture section one day and then a lab or tutorial section on a different day, with various tasks that were given in those sections," Tyler said. "Having minimal, largely weighted assignments helped manage my time a little better, because they required more work than some assignments at Niagara."
One way to diversify your skills as a student and as an individual is by taking in studies in different formats. Australia showcased a format of learning that was widely different than what was typically experienced in Tyler's studies stateside.
Taking in content and material in formats that one typically does not handle will build upon academic skills and create a better-rounded student.
Maybe studying abroad for an entire semester is not the best route for you, and perhaps the idea of being away from home and out of your comfort zone for that extended period of time is too much to handle while still in college, no matter what year you are. Fortunately, most schools will provide an opportunity for a shortened experience that still provides a well-rounded and diverse experience.
"My study abroad opportunity took me to three different countries over the course of two weeks - Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic. ... After a few weeks of studying abroad, I was ready to be back home. The two weeks is a perfect time length, because you get to see the culture of different countries and even meet people from all over the world - even if it's just a short amount of time," Bryce Guerrie said.
Studying abroad during a winter break or summer program is a more condensed option for students. These programs are usually associated with a class taken during the semester with the trip abroad associated within the curriculum.
Bryce was enrolled in a World War II class, so his trip abroad was focused around attaining a deeper understanding around events during that time period.
"The trip really made me feel more culturally knowledgeable," Bryce said.
Studying abroad is truly an experience of a lifetime. From being immersed into different cultures, visiting exotic and historic countries, and being educated in a manner unfamiliar to some, going abroad during college as a part of your academics is something every student should consider.
Mykayla discussed how studying abroad goes beyond experiencing different countries and cultures. It helps one discover more about oneself. Studying abroad allows you to grow as an individual and become more independent, responsible and prepared for the workplace.
"Students who participate in a meaningful international experience commonly refer to it as an astounding, life-changing experience, above and beyond the initial expectations of the participant. An experience that will challenge you, change you, and motivate you, study abroad is well worth the time, money and effort," states the Niagara University website.
  Before the championships: College recruiting is a business Sat, 21 Apr 2018 12:41:04 -0400
Picture this: Your name written on a huge digital scoreboard, a red carpet rolled out for you to walk into a giant arena, a room filled with every type of gear you could want - from shoes to shirts to coats - a wooden locker with your name plate on top, and a smiling coach who says, "You are going to be a star here. We will give you everything you want and more."
By Claire Wanzer
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
Picture this: Your name written on a huge digital scoreboard, a red carpet rolled out for you to walk into a giant arena, a room filled with every type of gear you could want - from shoes to shirts to coats - a wooden locker with your name plate on top, and a smiling coach who says, "You are going to be a star here. We will give you everything you want and more."
This description is the epitome of how many people would picture a college recruiting visit. In reality, this image is far from the truth.
At big schools, this may be true. I wouldn't know, because I was never recruited by the UConns, Dukes and Notre Dames of the collegiate sports world. And neither are the majority of potential college athletes.
While college sports are well known and loved in households, few see, and even fewer endure, the stressful, frustrating and, at times, heartbreaking process that brings athletes from their local YMCAs to NCAA National Championships.
Because sports are enjoyed as games, people forget that collegiate athletic programs are businesses. A coach's job, salary and reputation depend solely on the performance of their teenage and early 20-year-old employees. Because the stakes are so high, the pressure to recruit and bring in the best players is crucial.
Budgets, set numbers of scholarships and limited resources within athletic programs create the framework for competition between high school athletes looking to play at the next level. Not every player can go to a big-time school with seemingly unlimited resources. The majority of athletes grind in travel competitions, exposure tournaments, camps and showcases just to be seen by a scout. A smaller number of athletes get interest from colleges, an even smaller number get an offer. Only the smallest number holds multiple offers to choose from.
College coaches will do anything in their power to get the players they think will produce wins, championships and job security. I remember head coach Geno Auriemma was asked how UConn became so dominant in women's basketball. His response was simple: "Because we recruit the best players."
Because recruiting is the backbone of the multimillion-dollar industry that is collegiate athletics, it is treated accordingly: As a true business. Recruiters may use longtime dreams to sell their programs to players they want. The fragility of a high school athlete's collegiate dream, contrasting with sharp numbers of scholarships, is where conflict comes in. Tough deals and tougher decisions are the hard reality behind college sports. Many people don't recognize this behind the flashiness and glamour of game-winners and ESPN highlights.
Akira
In high school, this West Coast native was a soccer phenom. She committed to a high-level PAC-12 university in her sophomore year. However, in the middle of her junior year, Akira tore her ACL while playing in a high school soccer game.
After talking to her future college coach, her scholarship was revoked. This left her behind in her recruiting. She had cut ties with all colleges when she committed to the PAC 12 school, so she was forced to start from scratch despite not being able to participate in any games for the next seven months.
"I had to start completely over," Akira said.
When she returned to club competition, Akira quickly received a scholarship from her current university to play soccer and run track, as well. This college was giving her the best deal financially while still allowing her to pursue her dream of playing at the Division I level.
The only issue: "I didn't even visit the school before I came," Akira said.
This proved to be a challenge. She was recruited without ever stepping foot on campus or meeting the team. She never met her future teammates in person or saw the style her new team would play.
After completing her freshman season, Akira decided college soccer wasn't the fit she wanted. Although she stayed at her university, she currently does track solely.
Emerald
Playing collegiate sports is not restricted to players from the U.S. Players from across the globe compete for scholarships, and are often highly sought-after by college coaches. Because European players may be older than their American peers in their recruiting classes, coaches often look to recruit them for their experience and poise.
Emerald took an extra year in school in her home country, England, to get more exposure and hopefully offers.
"I was stressed because time was running out," she said. "If I didn't get an offer that year, I wouldn't know what I'd do."
With an ocean separating her from potential universities, Emerald had to use online game footage to get noticed and FaceTime coaches to keep in touch. She had less than three opportunities to be seen live by the college coaches, putting the pressure on her performance. The stakes were extremely high in order for her to get a chance to play in the states.
After her final game in a tournament in the U.S., she received an offer from her current college. She took an official visit to the college. Her trip was paid for by the program and it was one of her two Division I offers.
Although Emerald was unsure about coming all the way from her home to a cold, far, foreign country, the full-ride scholarship and chance to continue playing made the decision to commit a no-brainer.
Bree
Another soccer player, Bree, was recruited from Canada to play at a university in Ohio. She is black and, on her visit, met another black player.
"I was under the impression that there was an equal amount of diversity there," Bree said.
Finding comfort in this, she committed to play for the school's soccer team.
However, after arriving in the summer of her freshman year, Bree said she was shocked to see there were only white players on the team. The coach had failed to inform her the other black player had transferred out.
Bree didn't face any issues of racism, but she said she did experience underlying feelings of being left out by her teammates. Bree quickly decided to transfer from this school and find somewhere to play where she would be more comfortable.
She found a new fit at her current university.
"They needed a center back ... and they needed a center back that had experience," Bree said.
Because of her position, eligibility and experience at the Division 1 level, she was the only candidate for the job.
My Experience
Disclaimer: Personally, I believe everything happens for a reason. So, despite the heartbreak and disappointment, I know I am where I am meant to be.
In sixth grade, I told my coach I wanted to play basketball in college. I worked hard, stayed out of trouble and earned grades to keep me in line to achieve my dream. I played travel basketball for various teams, from the local level to premiere statewide teams.
Right before the beginning of my sophomore year, my mom told me to make a list of colleges that I was interested in, colleges with good size, had majors I was interested in, not too far away or were in a competitive league. I came up with my list of schools and emailed their coaches asking them to come watch me play during the upcoming evaluation periods.
In my next tournament, the scouts watched my team and my dream school contacted my travel team's coach about me.
After speaking to the coach at my dream school, I was asked to visit. I did, and I was immediately offered a full scholarship: Books, gear, meal plan and all.
"We love the way you play. You're just great out there," the head coach told me.
I was sold. I was wooed by the pristine campus, cute college town, famous ex-players, arena ... you name it. After the visit, I told the assistant coach that I would definitely commit in August after I finished my final tournaments for the year.
However, I never got the chance.
In an exposure tournament, the head coach of my dream school watched me as I fell, twisted my ankle and sat out the rest of that game. The next game, I missed a lot of shots. I was nervous and made it obvious.
The only call I got about my dream school after that was from my travel coach to tell me that they had revoked my offer.
Although this event broke my heart, embarrassed me and broke me down, it taught me a lot. My mom said I had two options: quit or keep trying.
Today, I'm playing college basketball.
But through the rest of my recruiting process, I had a chip on my shoulder. I was skeptical of what coaches said to me. How much was the truth and how much was merely sales fluff? I recognized that this process was more than a just my love for the game.
This was business.
  Community Missions' 'Walk for Niagara' takes right 'step' toward helping others Sat, 21 Apr 2018 11:44:47 -0400
Beyond what it already does for Niagara County, Community Missions of Niagara Frontier is literally taking a step toward serving its community - several steps, in fact. On Saturday, May 5, the organization will host its annual "Walk for Niagara" at Whirlpool State Park in Niagara Falls. The event helps to raise awareness and funds for the nonprofit organization's crisis and community service programs that provide clothing, food, shelter and other services to those in need.
By Zackary Kephart
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
Beyond what it already does for Niagara County, Community Missions of Niagara Frontier is literally taking a step toward serving its community - several steps, in fact. On Saturday, May 5, the organization will host its annual "Walk for Niagara" at Whirlpool State Park in Niagara Falls. The event helps to raise awareness and funds for the nonprofit organization's crisis and community service programs that provide clothing, food, shelter and other services to those in need.
Director of Communication Christian Hoffman recently spoke with students at Niagara University about the upcoming event, saying the walk is a "fun and easy event" and that "everyone is welcome."
"Walk for Niagara" includes a short, two-mile walk along the Niagara Gorge. Tim Hortons coffee and doughnuts will be provided before the walk begins. Once the walk is over, a hot dog lunch will be provided to all. Individuals or teams who raise the most funds will receive prizes.
In order to sign up for the event, participants are asked to fill out registration and pledge sheets at www.communitymissions.org or email Events and Volunteer Manager Francesca Catanese at fcatanese@communitymissions.org. Participants are asked to collect sponsorship pledges and donations. A minimum of $20 should be collected for individuals walking, and a minimum of $150 should be collected for those walking in teams. Teams should include at least five people. This money can be turned in at check-in, which begins at 10:30 a.m. on the day of the walk. Fundraising can also be completed online HERE.
The walk begins at 11:15 a.m.
Individuals may also bring along a dog (or dogs) on a leash should they want to walk with their furry companion(s).
Hoffman said the best part about the event is "how community-focused it is." He noted the walk is a great opportunity for NU students to collect service hours for their school, especially considering they attend a university grounded in serving the community.
Those who cannot make it to the walk but are still looking to help are in luck. Community Missions of Niagara Frontier accepts donations regularly both at its main agency located at 1570 Buffalo Ave., Niagara Falls, as well as online at https://www.communitymissions.org/. The organization takes all kinds of donations, including clothing, food, toys, personal care items, baby items, furniture and other household items.
The agency especially needs volunteers around this time of year. To volunteer to help with the organization's everyday activities, either visit directly at its main location, or fill out an online form. To do this, click "Help Us," and then "Volunteer Opportunities."
Since its founding in 1925, Community Missions has been one of the most active charitable foundations in Niagara County. The organization provides other services such as mental health housing and recovery services, plus youth, family and faith services. Hoffman said what sets Community Missions apart from other charitable organizations is that it "simply offers more services, including being the largest provider of mental health services in Niagara County."
In 2017, the organization provided more than 12,045 nights of shelter, 109,727 meals, clothing for 6,920 people and 187 opportunities for faith development. These numbers have steadily increased with each passing year.
In addition to the Walk for Niagara, a golf classic set for June 6 and a duck race slated for later this year, Hoffman said Community Missions hopes to add additional fundraising events in the future.
  5 benefits to going vegan Sat, 21 Apr 2018 11:44:11 -0400
As the New Year had been approaching, I was in a crunch to figure out what my New Year's resolution was going to be. Feeling pretty lousy, tired, under the weather, and overall just not myself at the time, I figured attempting to eat healthier and switching up my diet could be a decent start to fixing this problem.
I've been vegan for the past few months and here's what I've noticed
By Baylee Casper
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
As the New Year had been approaching, I was in a crunch to figure out what my New Year's resolution was going to be. Feeling pretty lousy, tired, under the weather, and overall just not myself at the time, I figured attempting to eat healthier and switching up my diet could be a decent start to fixing this problem.
Plus, my body had been screaming for some fruits and vegetables.
I remembered that, a few days prior, I had watched a documentary titled "What the Health." The film basically explains the roles played by big pharmaceutical companies, agricultural businesses and processed animal food companies that have been corrupted by government and "big business." It explains how this corruption has led these industries to have had a negative effect on the nation's overall health, and therefore promotes veganism as a solution to the problem.
I found it to be extremely interesting and encouraging to try veganism out. Keeping this in mind when choosing my New Year's resolution, I decided I'd give it a go. I wanted to start eating healthier, so what better way to do it than to go vegan?
I grew up in a primarily omnivorous/carnivorous family, where we typically ate meat and other animal products with every meal. I knew that, once I started this journey, I would be in for a treat. However, I wanted to challenge myself and see how far I could actually go with this.
The first couple of weeks were definitely more difficult than I had anticipated. I have basically gone my entire life eating animal products almost daily, so this new lifestyle took a bit of getting used to. For example, grocery visits took way longer than necessary. I was constantly turning to food labels to make sure no animal products were present. But that's OK, because I knew that, in doing so, I'd be helping save the planet.
Being vegan for the past couple of months, I've noticed a number of differences in myself as well as some other aspects in my life.
Here are five benefits to being vegan that might encourage you try it out, too:
Your Bank Account Will Thank You
It is a common misconception that with veganism comes spending ungodly amounts of money on groceries. However, this is certainly not the case, and you will actually end up saving more than you thought.
Before going vegan, an average trip to the store resulted in a $70-$80 expenditure each week just on groceries - for myself, might I add. As a vegan, my grocery expenses lowered, and averaged to be around $30 each week.
So, in other words if you do the math, grocery shopping as a vegan can save you money.
Your bank account will thank you in the end.
You Can Eat More Food
Vegans only eat plant-based foods, and therefore absolutely no animal products. This means no meat, no dairy and not even a drop of honey. Plant-based foods are much lower in calories than any meat or dairy products. Therefore, you can eat way more food for the same amount of calories.
As a vegan, it is essential for your health to eat more. Failing to do so could potentially lead to nutrient deficiencies. Eating more food will also fill you up and keep you satisfied for longer periods of time.
But overall the No. 1 takeaway here is more food!
Pictured is an acai bowl: acai, almond milk, papaya, mango, kiwi, vegan granola, peanut butter, coconut flakes and hemp seeds.
One thing to keep in mind as a vegan is the lack of vitamin B12 in our diet. B12 keeps our blood and nerve cells healthy, and it helps make our DNA. Without it, symptoms such as fatigue, nerve or mental problems, vision loss, heart palpitations, etc., could be present. Animal products are one of the only sources for obtaining it, so, as vegans, it is important that we take vitamin B12 supplements.
Besides taking supplements, an additional way to get B12 into your diet is through nutritional yeast - yeast that has been grown on molasses. Nutritional yeast is enjoyed by a number of vegans, not only for its B vitamin benefits, but also for its cheesy flavor.
You'll Have More Energy
Before my vegan journey, I was always tired. I felt that I was never getting enough sleep, even with eight hours of sleep at night and a two-hour nap during the day. I hardly had any motivation to get myself to the gym on most days, and all I wanted to do was lie in bed and watch Netflix.
However, since becoming a vegan, all of that has changed and I have noticed a drastic difference in the amount of energy I have. I feel like I'm constantly bouncing off of the walls - but in a good way. I wake up earlier (7 a.m. every morning), and am way more productive throughout my day.
Fruits and vegetables contain large quantities of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that your body needs. Together, they work to provide your body with the energy it needs to get through the day.
Shown is a "Buddha" bowl: white rice, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cucumbers and tofu.
Being in college, I am constantly surrounded by germs. Prior to going to vegan, I felt that I could never catch a break and that I was always sick. As soon as one illness went away, another one showed up shortly after.
I have been vegan for almost four months now, and have not once been sick. The copious amounts of fruits and vegetables that I have been eating have provided me with the energy and nutrients needed to build up my immune system. I can honestly say that I have never felt this good in my entire life.
You'll be in a Good Mood
Plant-based foods contain overwhelming amounts of nutrients. Since you are giving your body the correct amounts that it needs, your body will thank you, ultimately, by putting you in better moods.
Meat and dairy products contain toxins that aren't meant to be put into our bodies. These toxins tend to make our bodies feel lousy, providing us with less energy. As a vegan on the other hand, you'll typically be eating fairly healthier and taking in almost zero toxins, which can overall make you feel good.
It is scientifically proven that eating foods that are plant-based provide your body with more energy. Eating healthy makes you feel good about doing something good for your body and can increase your overall moods.
You are Saving the World
Turning to veganism comes with a number of benefits. Besides saving money, eating more, having more energy and becoming accustomed to better moods, you are - most importantly - saving the animals.
Millions of animals are mistreated and killed on a daily basis - in the most unethical ways - specifically for their meat. However, as humans, we have no nutritional need for the use of animal products. We can get all that we need through plant-based products.
For more information on the mistreatment of animals and veganism, I would highly recommend watching "What the Health," like I did.
Being vegan comes with a number of benefits. I would encourage anyone to try it.
Starting is certainly easier said than done, however, once you get through the first couple of obstacles, it gets much easier along the way.
Veganism is different than what most of us are used to. If you are interested, I would strongly suggest that you do your research, for there are so many benefits that come along with it.
  Niagara University comes together in fight against cancer with Relay For Life Sat, 21 Apr 2018 11:32:13 -0400
Cancer is a disease, but not just a disease for one person: It has an enormous impact on the ones who are diagnosed with it, along with their loved ones.
By Kelly McCuen
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
Cancer is a disease, but not just a disease for one person: It has an enormous impact on the ones who are diagnosed with it, along with their loved ones.
Every year, millions of people are diagnosed with cancer around the world. According to the American Cancer Society, cancer begins when cells grow out of control and crowd out normal cells.
There are many forms of cancer, which affect all different types of people - from breast cancer to leukemia, from adults to children, and from men to women. It has no format or time line as to who or when it will impact someone.
Cancer drastically changes the lives of the people it touches in more ways than one.
But it can also bring a community or even a college campus of students together to help raise awareness and money to help in the fight against it.
Relay For Life is the top fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. The event takes place across a number of communities and countries throughout the world. It brings people together to take action against cancer.
Each event is between six to 24 hours long, with teams walking around a designated track and members alternating laps, as someone is required to be walking at all times. The American Cancer Society says this event it signifies how cancer never sleeps.
Relay For Life brings people together to remember the lives lost from cancer and to honor the survivors. Whether someone has personally been touched by cancer or not, anyone is welcome to participate in Relay For Life.
"Events like Relay For Life mean awareness - being thankful for the strides we've made and hopeful for future advancements," said cancer survivor Diane.
On Friday, April 13, Niagara University held its very own Relay For Life for students and faculty, along with people from around the community. Teams and participants were able to raise over $10,000 for the American Cancer Society through their fundraising efforts.
The event began at 6 p.m. in the school's recreation center, where participants gathered together to begin the night. The Relay took off with a heartfelt opening ceremony, which led into the Survivor and Caregiver Lap. A few survivors and ones currently impacted by cancer who were present that night took the first lap around the gymnasium. Once they took that first lap, they were cheered on by the rest of the people in attendance, which was a moment that was incredibly special for everyone.
Once the Survivor and Caregiver Lap concluded, everyone else was encouraged to join in with them on the walk around the gym. Students, faculty members, adults and even children all joined together to start their night of walking for a cause.
It was a time for everyone there to get together and realize the reason behind why they were walking, whether it was personal or just because they wanted to help. Being able to be a part of something that seemed so small yet was so big in its impact was a once-in-a-lifetime feeling.
Although the constant walking around the gym was a major part of the night, and the significance of the ongoing fight against cancer was extremely important, participants were able to do several other activities throughout the night.
Around the gym tables were set up from a number of teams with further fundraising opportunities available for everyone.
Niagara University students Sofie Perrino, Natalie Durante and Emily Scarsella at Relay For Life.
One team present was comprised of Niagara University sorority Phi Sigma Sigma. Its fundraising event that night was lap beads. Participants had the opportunity to buy a necklace provided by the sorority. Every time a participant finished a lap, they were able to add a new bead to their necklace.
Phi Sigma Sigma raised more than $300 for the American Cancer Society with its fundraising efforts.
"It felt great to be able to raise money with my sorority for such a good cause," said Emily Scarsella, a student and Phi Sigma Sigma member.
Along with further fundraising opportunities, participants were welcomed with Zumba instructors for a portion of the night. It was a moment of fun and exercise that brought everyone together to laugh and have a good time.
Food, drinks, karaoke and much more were available for participants to enjoy throughout their night. However, the most touching part of the night occurred around 9 p.m.
Everyone was asked to gather around two large screens, which was the beginning of a very special moment. A video made with faculty and students from Niagara University played on the screens. It featured them holding up signs with words of courage and names of loved ones impacted by cancer.
The video brought tears to the eyes of people watching, but what came next was an extremely important part of all Relay For Life events. The room was dark, and the outer perimeter of the gym was lined with luminarias, which meant it was time for the Luminaria Ceremony. Names and touching words were written on the luminarias by several of the people in attendance.
 Each participant was also given a glow stick and was told to gather around the gym perimeter. A variety of reasons why people were participating that night were called out, and that was when everyone cracked their glow sticks and placed them in a luminaria.
It created a beautiful, glowing effect around the gym, which was a very sentimental moment for a lot of the people.
Silent laps were then made around the gym. That was a time to think about cancer survivors, people who continue their fight against cancer, and the ones lost.
The American Cancer Society explained the ceremony's meaning. The darkness in the room represents the fear patients feel when diagnosed with cancer. The light from the luminarias is to remind all those impacted by cancer that they are not alone.
The ceremony was a moment of complete silence and remembrance.
"The best part of Relay For Life was the ceremony. I believe it was extremely moving and I'll remember it forever," said Madison Genson, a Niagara University student.
Relay For Life is an extraordinary event that everyone should get to experience and be a part of at least once in their lives.
There are several events year-round taking place in a number of communities, states and countries. The Buffalo area alone continues to have these events throughout the upcoming months.
It is extremely easy to find an event that is close, to fundraise for it and to get involved. All one must do is visit the Relay For Life website and click on the tab that says get involved.
Cancer is a disease impacting millions of people each day, and to be able to help in the fight against it is something so rewarding and humbling.
For more information on cancer and Relay For Life, visit the following websites:
Relay For Life
 
American Cancer Society
  Is organic food better for you? Sat, 21 Apr 2018 11:02:53 -0400
Lauren Krafft, a worker in the produce department at Wegmans, has noticed an increase in organic sales over the past few years. After six years of working with all different produce, she considers herself an expert on different types of produce preparation techniques and their various tastes.
By Dominick Trippie
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
Lauren Krafft, a worker in the produce department at Wegmans, has noticed an increase in organic sales over the past few years. After six years of working with all different produce, she considers herself an expert on different types of produce preparation techniques and their various tastes.
"Organic fruits and vegetables are obviously more expensive than conventional produce, but sometimes they are not even worth the extra price," Krafft explained. "But in some cases, I would deem organic produce a must-have over conventional produce."
Many consumers base their food purchases on what is better for one's health. They believe that, by eating "healthier" foods, they will become healthy. But that is not always the case.
Nutritionists often come out with a new "superfood" that is supposed to be "super good" for one's health. Oftentimes, this endorsement is recanted or changed a few months later.
"I choose organic, because I like knowing for certain that my food - especially produce - has not been treated with any inorganic chemicals, dyes and pesticides that may do more harm to my body than good. Typically, organic food is produced more holistically and earth consciously, as well, and I like knowing that the food that I am consuming is not harming the sustainability of our earth," said Kim Moss, a Wegmans shopper. She said she is a strong supporter of buying organic food.
Organic food is not a new trend, but there are new theories testing whether organic food is any better for someone then non-organics.
The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs defines organic food as, "the product of a farming system which avoids the use of man-made fertilizers, pesticides; growth regulators and livestock feed additives. Irradiation and the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or products produced from or by GMOs are generally prohibited by organic legislation."
Organic fruits and vegetables are naturally grown and are not contaminated by chemicals that help the growing process. Organic protein is very similar, as it comes from animals that are not fed antibiotics and/or growth hormones. Lastly, organic milk contains more heart-healthy Omega-3 acids than conventional milk.
So why do people buy organic? After interviewing various Wegmans shoppers, there seemed to be common themes. As stated earlier, Krafft said, "In some cases, I would deem organic produce a must have over conventional produce." But what are these special cases?
Produce worker Steve Matthews, explained "There are 12 fruits and vegetables that shoppers should buy organic, because these are the most contaminated produce." He was referring to contamination by pesticides and man-made fertilizers. According to CBS, the 2018 "dirty dozen" includes: strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers.
Consumer Reports compared the prices of organic vs. non-organic food, and the results were not shocking. After surveying different retailers, Consumer Reports stated the following: At Whole Foods, bananas are .79 cents per pound, where as organic bananas are .99 cents per pound. Chickens are 2.49 per pound, whereas organic chickens are 3.49 per pound.
In fact, there was no organic food on the list that costs less than conventional.
Moss said she believes higher prices for organic food is to be expected.
"With that being said, I would much rather pay the higher dollar for a better product," she said. "For me especially, I choose quality organic food over commercial snacks, candy, etc. Also, I would much rather pay for food without chemical treatments that produce harmful side effects rather than pay long-term for prescriptions or be diagnosed with a disease in the future that may be linked to harmful chemicals in food, produce and meat."
Wegmans shopper Gina Trippie said, "I don't take into consideration the extra money spent on organics, because I enjoy knowing where my produce comes from and how it is made. I believe that is worth the extra money."
While it's true that many shoppers do not mind spending extra money on organic food, some wonder if organic food is more expensive than conventional because consumers are paying for peace of mind.
Lauren McMullen, staff writer for health.usnews.com, stated organic produce isn't any more nutritious than non-organic produce. She cited a study by Stanford University researchers from "A Monday in the Journal Annals of Internal Medicine." The conclusion she found is that organic foods are not healthier, at least in terms of included nutrients and vitamins.
Still, there are advantages to purchasing organic, including knowing where and how produce was grown, limiting the amount of pesticides entering one's body and, as some customers would say, a better-tasting product.
Of course, other consumers will not taste a difference. But The Plate, by National Geographic, said organic food "tastes the way produce should taste." This is because pesticides and other chemicals have not changed the plant. Produce that comes from the earth has a natural taste that many consumers find more appealing then produce affected by pesticides.
  Locals put in 'work' in working out for summer Sat, 21 Apr 2018 10:28:30 -0400
It's that time of year where everyone starts to put in the time at the gym to get their wishful "summer bod." Some people will put in hours at the gym to hopefully sculpt the body of their dreams while others will prefer sit and be content with "lifting pizza" from the comfort of their own home.
By Rebecca Toth
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
It's that time of year where everyone starts to put in the time at the gym to get their wishful "summer bod." Some people will put in hours at the gym to hopefully sculpt the body of their dreams while others will prefer sit and be content with "lifting pizza" from the comfort of their own home.
Everybody works out differently, has their own routines and takes their own amount of time when it comes to getting in shape. There's no time limit put on working out, and that's OK.
At the beginning of the year, many people will sign-up for gym memberships due to New Year's resolutions they want to fulfill and to see how long they will last following along their plan. There are also people who will open memberships later on, trying to beat the "Resolution Rush," or just for the heck of it.
"Towards the beginning of the year, we had close to 250-300 new members a month. Now we're about 180-200 a month," said Brianna, an employee at Crunch Fitness.
Within the Niagara Falls area, there are many gyms for the community to choose from. LA Fitness, Crunch Fitness (formerly known as World's Gym), Planet Fitness and other small, independently owned gyms are among those choices.
A favorite for many is Crunch because of the amenities it offers and what is included in each package.
The four-tier plans start with base, peak, peak plus and peak plus results. The base plan is the most basic plan, starting at $10 a month, and gives one use of the equipment throughout the gym.
The plans go up from there until one has use of the entire gym, fitness groups/classes, tanning/HydroMassage, etc., which is all a part the peak plus results plan.
With the male to female ratio in the gym, there tends to definitely be a higher percent of males in the gym at a given time, mainly using free weights, as compared to signing up and being a part of the classes that are offered.
Brianna said, "Men typically like to do their own thing. As far as classes though, definitely more women."
When referring to the "summer bod," many people picture more younger adults getting fit to look good for their summer days to be spent on the beach, and automatically think that is what the gym is filled with on a day-to-day basis. One would be surprised, though, because the age range is very mixed.
"We've got an 88-year-old women who takes the classes five days a week and we also have 13-year-olds that will come in and follow their parents to machines and do workouts," Brianna said.
The benefits of working out not only help one look good, but also feel better, as well. The image of looking in shape is just an incentive. The reason for working out is always to be healthier, but some people choose to work out in order to help with certain diseases they live with day to day.
"I have a severe case of Crohn's disease and my doctors recommended that I try to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle in order to stay healthy and stay in remission, and it seems to be working," college student Katie Snyder said. "I have always aspired to be stronger and that's what I'm striving for."
Working out for a little bit each day or even a week and starting to get into a rhythm going to the gym can make a huge difference.
Depending on what type of results one is looking for also depends on the amount of time one puts in to workouts, and how strict of a dieting plan one wants to follow.
For Mike Hull, he is following a strict diet and workout in order to "cut," a term that refers to leaning out muscles and shredding fat, as opposed to bulking. With bulking, one is working out to build more muscle, which is seen as a healthier way to gain weight.
In Hull's case, he said he spends six out of seven days at the gym, with one day being a rest day. During his workout days, he spends at least six hours there and, at most, 15 hours. In comparison to other diet plans of others, his eating habits are a bit different.
"I'm cutting, so my diet is protein-based and zero carbs to help my body burn fat cells for energy. I do intense weight lifting and cardio to achieve a lower overall body fat content," he said.
In another case, college student Brittany Rosso is also an avid gym-goer. She is looking to lean out, too, due to being a former cheerleader, where she used to build muscle easily. She also follows certain eating habits to coincide with her workout plan, but it's just not as strict.
"I usually don't have a strict diet. I know what my body needs to reach my goals, and how to accomplish what I want to accomplish," she said. "With that being said, I am generally a cautious and healthy eater, but I don't force myself to stick to on specific meal plan."
Often times, the type of diet and workout has to work with one's schedule and one's body. Not everyone can work with the same exact plan and expect the same results. One also has to make sure one is comfortable with what one is doing. This will help to achieve goals.
Katelyn Baran said she likes to involve a mix of cardio and free weights into her workout routine, especially HIIT workouts.
To some, these high-intensity interval training workouts are the death of working out. They are high-intensity exercises that are included in a routine to keep one's heart rate up. HIIT is a great option for those looking to burn fat quickly. (Click HERE to find more information and a variety of sets to try on your own.)
After her morning workouts, Baran said she prefers easy ways to consume protein to help fuel her body.
 "Normally I'll do smoothies, because I work out on the mornings, or protein pancakes with protein powder and with bananas," Baran said. "If it's later in the day, I'll do chicken, or tuna and with vegetables."
She said she has tried to meal prep in the past, but hasn't recently.
"Chicken is more expensive to buy, so I have more of a vegetarian diet with beans, chickpeas and tuna. I also try to have a lot of vegetables," Baran said.
A lunch meal made with an organic spring mix, chicken, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, and topped with a simple dressing. Also paired with an English muffin topped with organic hummus and sunflower seeds.
Agreed on by all: While one is working out, making sure one is conscious of diet and what one's body is consuming goes hand in hand.
Since Snyder started working out, she said, "I have started calorie and macronutrient counting everyday since I started this, and it really opened my eyes to how much I consume everyday. Ever since doing that and controlling my eating and macro intake, I feel like my workouts have been much more effective to my body."
If one wants to be healthy, it's not a one-sided relationship. One can't put all the work into working out and eat poorly, or vice versa. Although it's not a completely 50-50 relationship, one's diet is a tad more important.
Hull said, "Your diet is 60 percent-70 percent of how you are going to see results within the goals you make. Not just for cutting, but for working out in general requires a strict diet more so over lifting weights or exercise. You can lose weight, speed up your metabolism and become healthier just by eating right."
  'Yu-Gi-Oh!': Journey to becoming greatest of all time Sat, 21 Apr 2018 10:11:35 -0400
It's round one of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Championship Series in Atlanta, and I have been preparing for months - practicing hard. The pairings are announced, there is 1,458 duelists in attendance. Unfortunately, out of all those players, I am facing, the best one: Patrick Hoban, a player who has more tops and wins than anyone else in the entire world.
How one person manages to triumph over all when it never seemed possible
By Thomas Rowe
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
It's round one of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Championship Series in Atlanta, and I have been preparing for months - practicing hard. The pairings are announced, there is 1,458 duelists in attendance. Unfortunately, out of all those players, I am facing, the best one: Patrick Hoban, a player who has more tops and wins than anyone else in the entire world.
Considering this is an international card game, having that many tops and that many wins is quite impressive - especially when the second-ranked player only has half the amount of wins. I have no choice in who I am paired against, so I must, while already feeling defeated, walk over to my table number designated for my match against Hoban.
I sit down at the table, pull out my deck, roll the dice to see who goes first and begin to play.
Thirty minutes have gone by since the match has started. Hoban won game one and is probably going to win game two. hE countered my pendulum scales by using wavering eyes, giving him four cards while taking away three of mine. I felt as if there was nothing I could do.
At least 20 people are standing around, watching the match. This is a pressure most would not be accustomed to, and I am no exception. Hoban finishes me off with flawless  technical play. He wins the match and goes on to round two, where he will continue to be viewed as an impossible obstacle to each and every opponent he faces.
"Yu-Gi-Oh!" involves two duelists facing off in a one-on-one match to demonstrate both their technical aptitude and their creativity in deck building. It is a card game that involves a lot of variance, so consistently doing well is immensely inspiring.
Hoban is, now, one of the most known players worldwide for his accomplishments. However, like anyone else who's a competitor, HE had to work his way up.
Patrick Hoban (furthest to the right) with some of the most well-known players in the game.
Hoban's grind to become the best first began in 2005, in a way similar to most duelists: not knowing how to actually play. The majority of players who have fallen in love with this game started by watching the anime "Yu-Gi-Oh!" Hoban was no exception. At 9 years old, he would become obsessed, entering any tournament he could.
Although he did not perform well in the beginning that never deterred him.
"I had a villain named Robbie and to me he was the best of the best, constantly beating me - time and time again. However, it wasn't until I was told about metagame.com that I learned he did not even compare to some of the best players throughout the country," Hoban said.
This site, which no longer exists, was the root of Hoban's inspiration. He used it to study some of the best players and their card choices.
Hoban thought he knew even more than the pros and wanted to to demonstrate his skill.
His first regional competition would be located in Raleigh. Mentally, he was a shark; but it was as if he was against lions fighting on land. The majority of players were adults, if not teenagers. For this reason, Hoban finished with a lackluster record of 4-4.
Still, this record was astounding, because almost all players, with the exception usually being one if not zero, would drop at three loses. This is because, with three losses, there is no chance in earning any kind of reward. Time could be much better spent trading cards or hanging out with friends.
Hoban had not known it then, but his record would reflect the passion necessary for years 2011-13.
In his origins article, Hoban said that, following his tough losses, he found comfort in participating through an online community known as Yu-Gi-Oh! ETC. By actively participating in these forums, he obtained confidence and motivation.
Hoban would attend his first premier event, a Shonen Jump, in Nashville in 2010. He was eager to prove wrong anyone who doubted his skill on the local level. His first attempt was more successful than he could have even anticipated, placing in the top four out of 800 players.
Hoban had made a very powerful first performance, yet no one gave him the time of day. They called it a fluke. Feeling more rejected than ever, Hoban would go on to take top 8 at the national championship and top 16 at Yu-Gi-Oh! Championship Series Indianapolis. It was looking like Hoban was on track to being a well-known and respected player.
Hoban decided after these successes that he was going to fully commit himself. It seemed like becoming a professional player was within arms reach. He started attending every event for the next year, practicing for each tournament with any amount of free time available.
His first event was YCS Dallas. Hoban put up a fight and went 6-2 to continue playing the next day, but barely scraped by. He would lose the first round of the following day and be knocked out of the tournament. At the second event, Hoban was knocked out early in the tournament - again not topping a competition. Six more events occured, and Hoban had still not topped an event since YCS Indianapolis. He wondered how it could be possible. However, still dedicated, he decided to play in the eight events again the following year.
"I never saw anyone with that kind of commitment or dedication to anything. Trips are not cheap, so it's very surprising," three-time YCS champion Chris Leblanc said.
Although Hoban was still practicing just as much as he had for the three events he topped, he still could not manage to break through. Hoban would not make a top cut appearance at any of the 16 events he attended over a two-year period. In Hoban's arg feature, he would write that trying to understand the experience was impossible. But he was not discouraged and continued to practice.
Hoban was in a crippling state, financially. He only had enough to travel to one more event. There, he would get top 16. The prizing was enough for him to afford attending another event. Hoban was tops again, and the cycle continued. He went on to top 20 events between 2013-15, winning seven. It did not make any sense, and many people wondered what could have changed.
The conclusion was simple.
"I think he had the mentality that there would always be another event to go to, but when there wasn't that possibility he felt more inspired," said close friend and previous arg champion Nate Forte.
Hoban agreed with this conclusion. Not knowing what could be his last event triggered an incomparable work ethic and mindset when it came to the game of "Yu-Gi-Oh!"
Hoban has continued his success in recent years. He has written about how he practices. His book, "Road of the King," on how to get better at "Yu-Gi-Oh!" is available for purchase through Amazon. For those looking to improve, this is essential to player development.
  'Fortnite Battle Royale' taking world by storm! Sat, 21 Apr 2018 09:44:23 -0400
Epic Games released a game to the public not knowing how it would go over. Battle royale games have been on the market for a long time and, while they have been consistently popular, games such as "Players Unknown Battleground" and "H1Z1" have been out for a year or so. Still, Epic Games saw something that was missing.
How 'Fortnite' has affected the lives of millions of people
By Bautista Pedezert and Jake Hendry
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
Epic Games released a game to the public not knowing how it would go over. Battle royale games have been on the market for a long time and, while they have been consistently popular, games such as "Players Unknown Battleground" and "H1Z1" have been out for a year or so. Still, Epic Games saw something that was missing.
In the last five months "Fortnite Battle Royale" has gone off the charts. It has become the biggest hit when it comes to video games. The estimate revenue in February alone was $126 million. What makes this number crazy is that the game can be downloaded on one's console for free. "Fortnite" is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and now one can even play it on a smartphone.
The game consists of a similar concept of "Hunger Games," where one fights a battle versus 100 other people and tries to be the last one standing. The game has added many different modes as it has gotten bigger. It has now added a duo gameplay and a squad gameplay, allowing one to play with friends.
Although the game is completely free, one can purchase in-game content such as different outfits and other things that have caught the attention of millions of gamers.
Epic Games, the creator of "Fortnite," has had huge trouble keeping up with the number of people that started playing this game. It is clear that not even the company expected this to blow up the way it did. The game has gotten so populated that the company has had trouble with its servers, and had to shut the game down for hours many times already.
After just six months of availability, "Fortnite: Battle Royale" is the most watched game on twitch, which is the world's largest game-streaming platform.
"Fortnite" is taking the gaming world by storm.
This is the first video game that is free and has had the success it is having. In fact, the company has had so much success that it started worrying the bigger competitors in this industry. A normal video game for PS4 or Xbox One averages at $60. Since "Fortnite" has come out, it has been the video game with the most trends on Twitter and the game with the most views on YouTube. The reason for this is who has been playing this game. In the last handful on months, gamers have really hit social media with videos of them playing and doing things that has caught millions of viewer's attentions.
A streamer named Tyler Blevins, or "Ninja," has been the gamer that has changed the face of "Fortnite." He averages millions of views on all his videos and lately has put videos up with stars such as Drake, Juju Smith Schuster, Travis Scott and Marshmello. He is estimated to make a total of $350,000 a month because of his sponsorship with twitch, and through donations and subscriptions to his channel. He has had interviews on CNBC and Forbes talking about not only the success of the game, but himself as a streamer and how he has made a living for himself and his wife.
"Fortnite" has joined iOS this month and has already earned $25 million, making this a record-breaking number. The game has been downloaded by so many people they had to make an "invite-only" restriction meaning one can only start playing the game now if invited by someone else. "Fortnite" has already made an agreement with Android and is on its way to gain more than $500 million with these deals.
"Fortnite" coming to IOS made it more accessible than ever. With it being available on so many platforms, people of all age groups are finding ways to play it and become good at it.
Lauren Wilkie, a junior at the University at Buffalo, has come to be a big fan of "Fortnite" and said she really loved the addition of IOS accessibility.
"I love playing it on my phone," Wilkie said. "Console or PC seems too complicated, but with all the controls being in your fingertips, it makes it a lot easier to control and play. They are making it easier for people to get into it and that's what I love about it."
The impact "Fortnite" has made isn't necessarily all good, though. With how much the game exploded, it seems to have a lot of other games overshadowed. People who are popular streamers on Twitch or even YouTube have seemed to lose a lot of viewership depending on their game choice. Streamers of games such as "Call of Duty" or "NBA 2K" have had a huge dip in numbers since the launch of "Fortnite Battle Royale."
A streamer from Syracuse named Adam Kroft, or "Kizzy," was very big on playing "Call of Duty" on his stream. But once he started to realize people seemed to be more interested in "Fortnite," he switched to that and now plays that regularly.
"Switching over wasn't too hard," Kroft said. "I still have time to play other games, but I mainly stream 'Fortnite' due to the viewers I get, compared to when I play other games."
Epic Games has had a lot of success in a small amount of time. It is safe to say that it didn't see this coming. With all its "overnight success," people are wondering how the company is handling it. Forbes talked to "Ninja" on some aspects of the game and how game developers are working.
Typically, it is tough to continuously work as hard as Epic Games has, especially with the amount of success the company has had in the last couple of months. One sees games or even people with overnight success and they keep it at that, but the people at Epic seem to keep striving for more and working even harder than before.
"These guys have the damn goose - they don't have the golden egg, they have the goose, and they're popping out golden eggs every other week," Blevins told Forbes.
To an average person, this game may just be another video game, or at least they may have thought that at one point. Nate Kinser, an avid gamer, was skeptical on "Fortnite" in the beginning.
"At first, I wasn't exactly certain it was the game for me," he said. "When I thought of 'combat' games, my mind immediately went to franchises such as 'Call of Duty' or 'Battlefield.' I felt myself wanting a COD experience from 'Fortnite' and being put off at first play. After some time interacting with the game, I found that 'Fortnite' was never meant to be realistic combat like those other shooters, but a whole different genre. It is a great change of pace and one that I enjoy."
  Earth Day 2018: DEC, OGS announce state agencies save $28 million with sustainable practices Sat, 21 Apr 2018 08:50:48 -0400
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Office of General Services announced green policies at state agencies have saved New York taxpayers nearly $28 million in the first six years of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's administration, while substantially reducing paper use and waste.
Report finds green practices benefit New York's environment & economy
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Office of General Services announced green policies at state agencies have saved New York taxpayers nearly $28 million in the first six years of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's administration, while substantially reducing paper use and waste.
A new report released today by DEC and OGS also found state agencies are protecting pollinators by avoiding the use of pesticides, reducing toxic chemical exposures through green cleaning, and saving energy through efficiency measures and greening employee travel. 
The announcement was made during the state's weeklong celebration of Earth Day.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Through Gov. Cuomo's leadership, New York is implementing proactive programs and policies to reduce waste, prevent pollution and protect public health and the environment. It's clear from the report that our actions are having benefits for the environment and economy of New York, and I applaud the hard work and dedication of the interagency committee on sustainability for their continued effort to foster this important progress." 
OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito said, Under Gov. Cuomo's leadership, New York is paving the way and providing a model for other states to follow. I am particularly proud that, in May 2017, New York was awarded the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council's highest honor for its efforts to establish a comprehensive sustainable purchasing program.
State agency achievements include:
•77 percent recycling rate due, in part, to high rates of construction and demolition debris recycling by the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the State Department of Transportation;
•Purchasing 100 percent post-consumer recycled content copy paper, more than half of all copy paper purchased in fiscal year 16-17, more than double the amount purchased in FY 08-09;
•24 percent reduction in copy paper purchased since 2011, which has saved taxpayers nearly $28 million;
•11 percent reduction in the amount of waste generated from FY 15-16;
•On-site generation of 68.4 million kWh of renewable energy, enough to power more than 6,300 homes for one year; and
•Implementation of the DOT's award-winning pollinator protection project along Interstate 1-390 in Livingston County.
In addition, the state announced the finalization of one amended specification on food containers, and the tentative approval, pending public comment, of eight new draft green purchasing specifications and five amended specifications that will guide future purchasing to reduce environmental impact and exposure to toxic chemicals. The new draft and amended specifications are for imaging equipment, paint, adhesives, lubricants, trash bags, janitorial paper, deicers, brake pads, floor coverings, reusable bags, state funded lodging and indoor and outdoor pest management. These new purchasing specifications will reduce environmental impacts, including exposures to toxic chemicals, in their product class.
The report is available online HERE, along with additional resources about New York's green purchasing and operations on the state's "GreenNY" website.
Programs to reduce waste, improve energy-efficiency, avoid the use of toxic chemicals, and conserve water in state operations are part of a larger strategy to protect New York's land, air and water. New York is a leader in combating climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting open space, and enhancing water quality across the state. 
  Niagara County: Appreciation for Hospice Volunteers during Volunteer Week Sat, 21 Apr 2018 08:50:16 -0400
National Volunteer Week was April 15-21, providing the perfect opportunity for organizations across the country to honor volunteers for their selfless contributions, and recognize the irreplaceable impact of their time and energy all year round.
National Volunteer Week was April 15-21, providing the perfect opportunity for organizations across the country to honor volunteers for their selfless contributions, and recognize the irreplaceable impact of their time and energy all year round. Niagara Hospice showed thanks and appreciation to their many volunteers on April 19 at an Awards & Appreciation Dinner at Cornell Cooperative extension, catered by Donna Eick. Prior to awards being given out, volunteers enjoyed musical entertainment by Saxman Slim and the camaraderie of fellow volunteers and staff.
Years of Service awards were presented to Niagara Hospice and Camp Hope volunteers, with a special 25 Years of Service Award going to Barbara Reed, R.N. This was followed by the Pet Visit Award to Sadie and her handler, Mary Daily, who were unable to attend the event. The Ernie Leder Memorial Speakers Bureau Award was presented to Gregory Hood; the Hands for Hospice Award went to Adam and Lori Burns; the Mighty Niagara Half Marathon & Hospice Dash 5K Above & Beyond Award was announced going to Kevin Winkworth; the Camp Hope Outstanding Volunteer Award went to Vandra Ruppel; the Niagara Hospice Director's Award was presented to Mary Dixon; and the Patricia L. Evans Founders Award was presented to Barbara Jesz, RN.
"Our volunteers truly are at the heart of hospice care, having provided over 15,000 hours of service last year alone," said Tricia Degan, director of marketing, public relations and volunteer services. "Whether it's sitting with a patient while their caregiver gets some needed rest, or out in the community selling hospice bouquets, each of these very special people fill a need and answer the call to give of themselves and volunteer."
For more information or to volunteer for Niagara Hospice, call 716-280-0748 for an application or to register for the next training. More information and volunteer applications are also available at www.NiagaraHospice.org.
Since 1988, Niagara Hospice has provided end-of-life comfort, care and support to over 25,000 Niagara County individuals and families faced with terminal illness. For more information, visit www.NiagaraHospice.org or call 716-439-4417.
  Jacobs delivers $1 million to expand People Inc. health care delivery Fri, 20 Apr 2018 23:35:49 -0400
New York State Sen. Chris Jacobs announced he has secured a major investment of $1 million in state funding to support People Inc.'s efforts to build a brand new Elmwood Health Center.
New center would serve both developmentally disabled and general population
New York State Sen. Chris Jacobs announced he has secured a major investment of $1 million in state funding to support People Inc.'s efforts to build a brand new Elmwood Health Center.
"People Inc. has excelled at providing quality health care, first for the developmentally disabled community, and then the general population, for the last 25 years at their Elmwood Health Center," Jacobs said. "The need continues to grow, and I am very pleased that this $1 million will allow People to significantly enhance their health care delivery and realize their vision for the future."
People Inc. opened the current Elmwood Heath Center in 1994 to address the unique health care needs for people with developmental disabilities. These individuals often require more time with a health care practitioner and sometimes have medical needs that require them to see various medical specialists such as occupational and physical therapists, podiatrists, neurologists, behavioral management specialists and social workers. Their health care experience is greatly improved by being able to access all these services under one roof.
Over the last 25 years, the organization gradually expanded its services to the surrounding neighborhood. As demand grew in the underserved community, so, too, did its existing clients, and the agency now serves people from as far north as Niagara Falls to as far south as East Aurora. With a growing wait list for services, People Inc. developed its plans and vision for the new facility.
"It's amazing when you look at how much we have grown at our Elmwood Health Center. Twenty-five years ago, we started here because we saw the need for people with developmental disabilities to get the proper health care they deserve," said People Inc. President and CEO Rhonda Frederick. "We began to provide services to people without disabilities because we saw the need. We are addressing the fact that this community is a medically underserved area - that there are critical health care issues here - by working with Sen. Jacobs to build a new health center. People Inc. and our board of directors are thankful to Sen. Jacobs and, more importantly, we are appreciative that he has a vision, too."
"I can attest firsthand to the exceptional services the Elmwood Health Center provides to my sister, Jeanne. The attention she receives give her and my family peace of mind," said Robert Mayer, immediate past board chair. "As a brother, and a member of People Inc.'s board of directors, I thank Sen. Jacobs and People Inc. for obtaining these funds so more people can have the same experience here and at the future Elmwood Health Center."
Over the years, People Inc. has become an integral part of the Developmentally Disabled Alliance of Western New York. Barbara DeLong is co-chair of DDAWNY's family committee and her daughter, Laura, receives care at the Elmwood Health Center. She participated in the announcement and tried to put the funding into the perspective of a family member whose loved one will be impacted.
"The whole team at the Elmwood Health Center - doctors, nurses and office staff - are patient-focused," she said. "It is clear they are committed to providing quality care to individuals with developmental disabilities, which is often complicated. There is a calming presence here. It's wonderful that this funding from Sen. Jacobs will help others experience it in a new facility."
"This funding and the expanded care capacity it will create will go a long way to ensuring the most vulnerable in our society receive the most basic and critical care, and improve the quality of life for both patients and their families," Jacobs said.
  PHOTOS: Chamber Gala, back at Niagara Falls Country Club, bigger than ever Fri, 20 Apr 2018 23:35:08 -0400
The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce Gala returned to the Niagara Falls Country Club on Thursday, and the brand-new ballroom was jampacked. Business leaders, elected officials, residents, guests and friends arrived to show their support for the local commerce, tourism and events agency.
The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce Gala returned to the Niagara Falls Country Club on Thursday, and the brand-new ballroom was jampacked. Business leaders, elected officials, residents, guests and friends arrived to show their support for the local commerce, tourism and events agency.
Each year, the gala serves as an opportunity to honor the people and businesses making the River Region a better, brighter place. This year's awardees included:
Chairman's Partnership Award - Kiwanis Club of Lewiston
Lewiston Business of the Year - Canterbury Place
Youngstown Business of the Year - Lakeside Quarter Horses
Ransomville Business of the Year - Ed's Garage
Sanborn Business of the Year - Innovative Card Solutions
Village of Lewiston Citizen of the Year - Alexander & Colleen Swavy
Village of Youngstown Citizen of the Year - Helen Murray
Town of Porter Citizen of the Year - Linda White
Town of Lewiston Citizen of the Year - David Perrault
Chamber President Jennifer Pauly hosted the awards ceremony. Board Chairwoman Christine O'Hara offered welcoming remarks, while the Rev. Monsignor David LiPuma blessed the meal. Joe Webber provided live music.
Guests raved about the food, and took chances on a large assortment of prizes and baskets donated by local merchants and organizations.
  United Way: Buffalo Bills Nathan Peterman & Dion Dawkins visit Niagara Falls Boys & Girls Club Fri, 20 Apr 2018 22:38:35 -0400
The United Way of Greater Niagara, in partnership with General Motors Components Holdings of Lockport, welcomed Buffalo Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman and offensive tackle Dion Dawkins to the Boys and Girls Club of Niagara Falls on Friday.
The United Way of Greater Niagara, in partnership with General Motors Components Holdings of Lockport, welcomed Buffalo Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman and offensive tackle Dion Dawkins to the Boys and Girls Club of Niagara Falls on Friday.
The two athletes were on hand to create awareness of the importance of running before- and after-school programs in Niagara County. They posed for photos and exercised with more than two-dozen youth.
In 2017, United Way of Greater Niagara raised over $1 million to support 42 programs provided by 25 different agencies in Niagara County. The agency's mission is to invest in programs that focus on education, health and financial stability, and that deliver measurable results to improve the Greater Niagara Region.
To learn more about United Way of Greater Niagara, visit www.uwgn.org. (Photos by Joshua Maloni)
PHOTOS:
Dion Dawkins, left, and Nate Peterman with the youth.
  Chamber of Commerce hosts ribbon-cutting for Wilson House Fri, 20 Apr 2018 22:26:37 -0400
The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday for the newly opened Wilson House Restaurant & Inn, located at 300 Lake St.
The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday for the newly opened Wilson House Restaurant & Inn, located at 300 Lake St.
The historic Luther Wilson Family Cobblestone Home, originally built in 1844, has been remodeled and offers a casual menu, tavern area, porch and banquet rooms for special events. The Wilson House also offers seven bedrooms, each with a private bath.
PHOTOS:
  'Food Network Star' returns with new cast of hopefuls competing for culinary greatness Fri, 20 Apr 2018 22:18:41 -0400
Culinary superstars Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis are back to mentor and judge 10 culinary hopefuls for a shot at stardom in the new season of "Food Network Star," premiering Sunday, June 10 (9 p.m. ET/PT), on Food Network. Over nine episodes, the finalists are tasked with challenges that test both their cooking and on-camera skills, as they try to prove to Bobby and Giada they have what it takes to be a star.
Giada De Laurentiis & Bobby Flay back as mentors and judges in new season premiering Sunday, June 10
Companion series 'Food Network Star: Comeback Kitchen' and FoodNetwork.com series 'Star Salvation' give past & current finalists another shot at redemption
Culinary superstars Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis are back to mentor and judge 10 culinary hopefuls for a shot at stardom in the new season of "Food Network Star," premiering Sunday, June 10 (9 p.m. ET/PT), on Food Network. Over nine episodes, the finalists are tasked with challenges that test both their cooking and on-camera skills, as they try to prove to Bobby and Giada they have what it takes to be a star.
Before the main competition gets started, Valerie Bertinelli and Tyler Florence return to co-host a new season of "Food Network Star: Comeback Kitchen," premiering Sunday, May 27 (9 p.m.), as eight former finalists battle it out to earn a spot on the new season. FoodNetwork.com's "Star Salvation," hosted by Alex Guarnaschelli, also returns to give finalists eliminated during the season a chance to rejoin the on-air competition. Tune in to the finale on Sunday, Aug. 5 (9 p.m.), to see who is crowned the newest "Food Network Star" winner.
"This season's talented competitors have put everything on the line and left everything they have known behind to follow their dreams, hoping to earn a spot in the rarified world of food television," said Courtney White, executive vice president, programming, Food Network and HGTV. "Guided by Bobby and Giada, viewers will be amazed and inspired to see how the finalists develop, not only in the kitchen but in front of the camera, as they transform into what they hope will be the next 'Food Network Star.' "
On the May 27 premiere of "Food Network Star: Comeback Kitchen", eight former finalists are back to show they have grown from their previous time in the spotlight. Valerie and Tyler welcome the competitors back and challenge them with reinventing a TV dinner, while showing they've overcome the flaws of their past. The alumni must then marry two unlikely favorites and show off their creations in a well-executed, one-minute demo. One competitor is not up to par and eliminated from the competition. 
Over the course of the three episodes, Valerie and Tyler put the competitors through their paces to determine who will return as a "Food Network Star" finalist.
In the season premiere on June 10, the 10 "Food Network Star" finalists are greeted by Giada and Bobby at Universal Orlando Resort's Volcano Bay to kick off the competition. But first they are in for a surprise, as the finalists learn the results of "Food Network Star: Comeback Kitchen," and who will be joining the competition. As the competition kicks off, each finalist must make a portable version of their signature dish as they go head-to-head against each other, trying to convince park guests to try their unique creations. The heat is on and it's not just the volcano, as Bobby and Giada decide who will be the first sent home.
Over the course of the season Bobby and Giada are joined by special guests as they pull out all the stops to see which of these finalists have what it takes to excel, both in the kitchen and in front of the camera. Whether it is hosting their own live show with Ree Drummond in attendance, or putting their judging skills to the test to impress People Magazine editor-in-chief Jess Cagle, these culinary novices have their work cut out for them.
Other special guests joining the action this season include: Sunny Anderson, Richard Blais, Anne Burrell, Fran Drescher, Tregaye Fraser, Duff Goldman, Robert Irvine, Loni Love, Damaris Phillips, Jason Smith, Casey Webb and Molly Yeh.
The finalists this season are: Harrison Bader (Los Angeles), Katie Dixon (Hattiesburg, Mississippi), Jason Goldsmith (New York City), Samone Lett (Sanford, Florida), Rebekah Lingenfelser (Savannah, Georgia), Palak Patel (New York City), Christian Petroni (Port Chester), Jessica Tom (Princeton, New Jersey), Chris Valdes (Miami) and Manny Washington (Orlando).The returning "Comeback Kitchen" alumni battling it out to join the new season are: Trace Barnett (season 13), Adam Gertler (season 4), Debbie Lee (season 5), Yaku Moton-Spruill (season 12), Sarah Penrod (season 10), Amy Pottinger (season 13), Monterey Salka (season 12) and Jernard Wells (season 12).
Exclusive web series "Star Salvation" returns Sunday, July 1, and goes live just after "Star's" East Coast airing. Available on FoodNetwork.com/Salvation and hosted by Iron Chef Guarnaschelli, this culinary contest gives one eliminated finalist a chance to re-enter the competition, which will be introduced on "Food Network Star" on Sunday, July 29.
For more information on the new season of "Food Network Star," and to meet the finalists, go to FoodNetwork.com/Star. Catch behind-the scenes content all season long, including photos and videos from each week's challenges, plus find out more about the mentors and judges in exclusive interviews. On Twitter, use the hashtag #FoodNetworkStar.
  Owl City announces 'Cinematic' North American tour Fri, 20 Apr 2018 21:58:46 -0400
Owl City on Friday announced the "Cinematic Tour" - his first North American tour in more than three years. Kicking off this September in Milwaukee, the tour will bring Owl City (Adam Young) to 24 markets across North America in support of his new album - "Cinematic" - which is slated for release on June 1.
Matthew Thiessen & The Earthquakes to support on all dates
Owl City on Friday announced the "Cinematic Tour" - his first North American tour in more than three years. Kicking off this September in Milwaukee, the tour will bring Owl City (Adam Young) to 24 markets across North America in support of his new album - "Cinematic" - which is slated for release on June 1.
"After spending the last few years working in my studio, it's finally time to hit the road," Owl City said. "I'm excited to pack my bag, grab my guitar, and go on a journey that will take me around the country. See you on the road!"
Supporting Owl City on all dates is friend and fellow collaborator Matthew Thiessen & The Earthquakes. Thiessen is best known for his work as co-founder, lead vocalist and guitarist for the band Relient K, as well as his collaborative work on Owl City's breakout debut album, "Ocean Eyes."
The "Cinematic Tour" will bring new music to Owl City fans across the country in support of his new, sixth full-length album and first independent offering.
"Cinematic," which was preceded by a trio of three-song "Reels" (EPs) that are available now, is described by Owl City as, "A personal narrative, as if a film was made from key scenes throughout my life. My hope is there's a way to teach yourself to recognize and appreciate what I like to call, 'movie magic moments', so you don't miss out on them. That's what the title alludes to. You have an audience cheering you on. Everybody is in your corner. Do your best for them."
The entire undertaking represents the apex of Young's decade-long output to date. Hailing from the tiny town of Owatonna, Minnesota, he quietly became one of pop's most ubiquitous voices, selling over 2.5 million albums and 18 million singles globally. 2009's "Ocean Eyes" yielded a timeless smash in the form of "Fireflies," which went seven-times RIAA Platinum, soared to No. 1 in 26 countries, and ignited a meme frenzy in 2017 nearly 10 years removed from its initial release.
Among a discography of hits, "Good Time (feat. Carly Rae Jepsen)" also earned a triple-Platinum certification and toppled charts worldwide.
Presales for the "Cinematic Tour" start at 10 a.m. local time Monday, April 23. Public onsale begins at 10 a.m. next Friday, April 27.
Owl City will perform Sept. 15 at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto. For tickets and more information, visit owlcitymusic.com.
  14 become 10 on 'American Idol' Fri, 20 Apr 2018 21:58:30 -0400
After solo and celebrity duet performances with the top 24 contestants, the judges narrowed down the field to the top 14 finalists. Now the judges are handing over the reigns to America to start voting on who they want to crown the next "American Idol," as the search for America's next superstar continues on its new home on America's network, The ABC Television Network, Sunday, April 22 (8-10:01 p.m. EDT), streaming and on demand.
Journey to find next superstar continues as the top 14 perform, America gets to vote for first time
After solo and celebrity duet performances with the top 24 contestants, the judges narrowed down the field to the top 14 finalists. Now the judges are handing over the reigns to America to start voting on who they want to crown the next "American Idol," as the search for America's next superstar continues on its new home on America's network, The ABC Television Network, Sunday, April 22 (8-10:01 p.m. EDT), streaming and on demand.
In this episode, the top 14 contestants will perform solo, in hopes of winning over America's heart and being voted through to Monday night's top 10 reveal.
The top 14 finalists include:
  • Ada Vox
  • Cade Foehner
  • Caleb Lee Hutchinson
  • Catie Turner
  • Dennis Lorenzo
  • Gabby Barrett
  • Garrett Jacobs
  • Jonny Brenns
  • Jurnee
  • Maddie Poppe
  • Mara Justine
  • Marcio Donaldson
  • Michael J. Woodard
  • Michelle Sussett
Voting will open at the top of the show, at 8 p.m., and will close the following morning at 9 a.m. Viewers can vote online at AmericanIdol.com/vote, in the "American Idol" app or via text. One can vote 10 times per contestant, per method.
Helping to determine who America will ultimately vote for to become the next singing sensation are music industry forces and superstar judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie. Emmy Award-winning host and producer Ryan Seacrest returns as host of the beloved series.
•The top 10 finalists will be revealed Monday, April 23 (8-10 p.m.), streaming and on demand.
In this episode, America's overnight vote from Sunday will solidify the safety of the six contestants with the most votes. Those that are safe will perform a victory song, and the eight contestants who are in jeopardy will sing to impress the judges. The judges will choose four contestants to join America's top six picks, pushing 10 talented hopefuls one step closer to stardom.