Wounded Soldiers Catch Some Waves Thanks to Operation Surf

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Mark Brazwell (front) steadies himself while surfing with Operation Surf in Santa Cruz.

When San Jose native Mark Brazwell  suffered debilitating leg injuries in Afghanistan as part of a U.S. Navy explosives ordinance disposal unit, he had no idea that experience would lead to standing tall while riding the waves in Santa Cruz.

“It’s absolutely amazing; it’s beyond words,” Brazwell said, after a morning of surfing off of Cowell’s Beach near the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. After growing up Boogieboarding, bodysurfing, and skateboarding, he always dreamed of actually surfing. Thanks to a nonprofit program called Operation Surf, that dream became a reality last week—despite his injuries.

Brazwell and nine other soldiers—some missing legs, arms, or feet—got a week of surfing April 15-19, thanks to the program coordinated by the nonprofit Amazing Surf Adventures, in conjunction with another nonprofit, Operation Comfort.

“We had no idea it would be this intense, and there would be so much support,” Brazwell said, referring to the dozens of volunteers who made Operation Surf possible.

There were two volunteer surf instructors in the water for every soldier that particular day, with even more on the beach coordinating food, transportation, lodging and anything else the soldiers needed. [Read more…]

South Bay Blue Star Moms Hosting Casino Night to Raise Funds for Troops

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south-bay-blue-star-moms-casino-night-san-joseSouth Bay Blue Star Moms (SBBSM) is holding its 6th Annual Casino Night Fundraiser, on April 20, 2013, to support local veterans and military families, and to raise funds to send care packages to the troops overseas.

Casino Night is from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., at  The Lodge, 444 W. Alma Ave., in San Jose. Tickets are $25 per person and are available at sbbsmtickets@yahoo.com or at the door.

There will also be a Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament, at a cost of $20.00 per person. Advanced registration required; contact Carolyn at cwsilberman@yahoo.com.  All participants must be 21 years old or older, ID required; there are no refunds.

To attend the event, please call Cathy Crowder with the SBBSM at (408) 235-9835 or (408) 799-5151. [Read more…]

Five Ways to be a Good Neighbor in August

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Every month I highlight five ways to be a good neighbor either right where you live or in the community at large. Have any more suggestions to add? Share them in the comments section!

I’m also interested in hearing suggestions for future months. Feel free to contact me, or use our free community calendar listing.

1. Say “Aloha”: Enjoy the spirit of the Hawaiian Islands with both old and new friends at the 17th Annual San Francisco Bay Area Aloha Festival, August 4 and 5. The event is organized by the Pacific Islanders’ Cultural Association, bringing together entertaining dancers, arts and crafts displays, island cuisine, kids’ activities, and much more. The festival is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day at the San Mateo County Event Center, 1346 Saratoga Dr., San Mateo. Admission is free.

2. Spend a Night Out With Neighbors: Tuesday, Aug. 7, is the 29th Annual National Night Out, a community awareness campaign that stresses crime prevention, anti-crime activities, and the overall strengthening of neighborhood ties. Neighborhoods and cities all over the Bay Area are hosting activities from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The City of Cupertino is even hosting some pre-evening activities, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Target parking lot, 20745 Stevens Creek Blvd. Check the National Night Out map to see if your neighborhood is participating. At the very least you can leave your porch light on from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., or get a little more ambitious and invite your neighbors over for an impromptu gathering. [Read more…]

Good News To Me: Dec. 28, 2011

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“Good News To Me” is an ongoing feature that highlights good news from the media. If you see some good news, use our contact form to send us the link.

Having cut my teeth in the newspaper business, when people say “there’s only bad news in the paper,” I know it’s simply not true. Today’s Mercury News is a good case in point.Mercury News

Police Officer Raises Money For Family That Lost Home Before Christmas

The front page of the local section features three stories of people giving of themselves for others. Like the story about San Jose Police Officer Christian Camarillo, who was moved to help a family that lost their home in a fire just two days before Christmas. In just the last few days, Camarillo has raised $2,500 from other officers and friends to help the children have the Christmas they lost, and to begin rebuilding their lives. Other people and organizations have also stepped up to help; a list of how to participate accompanies the article. [Read more…]

Wounded Soldiers Get Week of Surfing They Will Never Forget

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Last summer this California Girl did something I always wanted to do: I learned how to surf. More specifically, I went to surf camp for adults with the Richard Schmidt Surf School in Santa Cruz, CA.

Richard is an amazing instructor and a really good guy. So I was not surprised when I saw a story in the San Jose Mercury News today about how Richard helped with a project to give wounded soldiers a week of surfing.

A nonprofit called Amazing Surf Adventures arranged the week with Richard’s help, as well as the help of a San Antonio, TX, group called Operation Comfort. Several Santa Cruz businesses donated services to the effort.

One of the best things about this is that even soldiers who have suffered amputations are able to get out into the waves and enjoy the freedom of being carried along by the surf. It turns out Amazing Surf Adventures was founded by National Amputee Surfing Champion Rodney Roller. It’s now led by a friend of Richard’s, Van Curaza, out of Pismo Beach, CA. [Read more…]

30 Ways to Be a Good Neighbor This Holiday Season – Part 3

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We started with how to be a good neighbor in your own neighborhood during the holidays, then talked about how to extend cheer to the community. Today is all about how to be a good neighbor to the world this holiday season.

  1. Use LED lights for light displays. According to physorg.com, LEDs last five times longer than regular lights and use 75 percent less energy (the link has several more great environmental holiday ideas).

    The Severns-Pease Christmas Display (www.severex.com) in Sunnyvale, CA., uses LED lights.

  2. Get creative about wrapping gifts. One friend of mine who wanted to reduce the amount of waste her family created during the holidays bought pretty fabric and sewed simple drawstring bags in various sizes to use for “wrapping” gifts. The bags are beautiful and will last for many years to come.
  3. Show your support for a soldier or veteran. A group called Soldiers’ Angels needs help delivering 190,000 care packages to deployed soldiers this holiday season and needs donations. The USO has it’s own care package program. Another great clearinghouse of information for how to help both soldiers and veterans here and abroad is salutetoservice.org. You may even find volunteer jobs right in your own community listed at the site.
  4. Give an alternative gift. For the person who has everything, you can donate to worthy causes in that person’s honor. You can visit the website of Alternative Gifts International to find an array of gifts that will help projects all over the world. Buy a cow or build a well for a village, or help education programs to build literacy. Or donate to nearly any cause you or the recipient believe in, and let that person know with a beautiful card.
  5. Sponsor a child abroad. For a monthly donation, you can help improve the life of a child in another part of the world. My family has participated with Children International for many years, and there are other wonderful groups that have similar programs such as World Vision and Compassion.
  6. Send a thank you to a former teacher, or greetings to friends far away you haven’t been in touch with for awhile. Let them know how much you appreciate them.
  7. Think Fair Trade when holiday shopping. Fair Trade is an entire movement that is trying to help communities lift themselves out of property by offering fair prices for products produced using fair labor practices in environmentally sustainable ways. Fair Trade coffee is probably best known, but you can also purchase chocolate, teas, spices, dried fruits, nuts, olive oil and wine. Fair Trade USA has an excellent website to learn more.
  8. Combine shopping errands to reduce fuel use. Plan out your shopping trips and try to come up with routes that use the least amount of gas (will probably help you save time, too!).
  9. Pray for peace. Take a few minutes out of each day this season to pray for peace not only in the world, but in your own community and even your own family. Just the act of praying will bring you a few moments of peace in your own life.
  10. Resolve to be a better neighbor to the world in the coming New Year. Make a new commitment to some act you haven’t tried before, like bringing reusable shopping bags to the store. Or think about conducting an energy audit for your home this year.

What have you tried? Let us know about it! And if you try anything on this list, please let us know how it goes.