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New bus carries Middleton students
A new shuttle run carries 17 students from an apartment complex to school, hopefully ending the teens’ dangerous practice of jaywalking across busy East Hillsborough Avenue.
In this screen grab from NBC Sports Network, the goal gets past Montreal goalie Carey Price on a shot by Tampa Bay's Ryan Callahan, but is disallowed because Alex Killorn not in screen) was judged to have incidental contact with Price in the second period of Sunday's game. Several seconds earlier, Killorn was tripped into the net and as he made his way out of the crease was leaned into by Price.
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John Travolta, left, shown with wife Kelly Preston in 2012, will be honored as India’s most popular all-time international star during the IIFA awards in Tampa. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
John Travolta to attend Bollywood film awards

Civic Association Stumps For Support

Posted Mar 23, 2007 by Sherri Lonon

Updated Mar 23, 2007 at 02:16 PM

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Many residents living in Town ‘N Country Park will be getting an unexpected knock on the door this coming weekend.

It’s all part of the The Town ‘N Country Park Home Owners Civic Association’s annual membership drive. The nonprofit volunteer agency serves about 3,800 households in the community that’s roughly bound Waters Avenue to the north, Memorial Highway to the South, Hanley Road to the east and Sheldon Road to the west.

With an average of about 400 paid members, the association holds annual membership drives to drum up support. This one will take place over the course of two Saturdays, March 24 and March 31.

“We have a half dozen volunteers who are going to knock on doors of nonmembers,” said Paul McShea, the group’s president.

Membership in the group is $15 a year. The money raised helps pay for maintenance of medians within the community, including those along Woodbridge Boulevard, Town ‘N Country Boulevard and more. The medians are mowed and maintained once every three weeks during the dry season and every two weeks during the rainy season.

“It’s all about the curb appeal,” said Bill Browne, the organization’s vice president and also the chairman of the Town ‘N Country Alliance.

While median maintenance is the group’s biggest financial obligation, membership comes with other rewards, officials said.

The 46-year-old group’s members have long lobbied on behalf of the community, serving as eyes and ears for residents. Past accomplishments have included such things as helping bring the Town ‘N Country Greenway Trail to life, stormwater/flooding control pumps along Paula Drive and Hanley Road, the cancellation of the Sligh Avenue extension along Channel G and more.

In addition to the big accomplishments, there are a lot of little, behind-the-scenes things the association does, said Browne.

McShea agreed.

“We do a lot of everyday stuff,” McShea said. From working with code enforcement and public works to address issues that impact the entire community to inviting informative speakers to the group’s meetings, association members are active in trying to improve the quality of life in the area, he said.

While the organization technically serves the 3,800 homes within the Town ‘N Country Park community, anyone from the area is welcomed to join the group.

“Anybody who supports our efforts, we welcome as a member,” McShea said. Membership for residents is completely voluntary, he added. “We’re solely a true civic association.”

Members, McShea, Browne and treasurer Bob Hood pointed out, don’t necessarily have to get involved in all the lobbying efforts. Membership dues help the community maintain its appearance, but extra people to help with projects is always appreciated, they said. Members can do as little or as much as they’d like.

“(We’re) strictly a voluntary association,” said Hood.

The group meets quarterly and also publishes a newsletter to keep members and residents up to date on a variety of issues regarding Town ‘N Country.

Anyone wishing to join who misses the knock on the door can attend the next meeting, April 26 at 7:30 p.m. at Jackson Springs Park, 8620 Jackson Springs Road. Information is also available on the group’s Web site at E-mail may also be sent to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for information.

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Library Closes Its Doors

Posted Mar 23, 2007 by Sherri Lonon

Updated Mar 23, 2007 at 02:14 PM

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The West Gate Regional Library opened its doors for the first time in 1974 to serve the people of Town ‘N Country. Those doors closed for good March 15, 2007.
While the library is now officially closed, plans remain to move it into a temporary location while a new facility is built on the 7606 Paula Drive site. The new, temporary home at 5455 W. Waters Ave., Suite 208, will open sometime in the near future.

According to library manager Suzy George, the County Commission approved the lease on March 7, paving the way for that building to be used while the new $10.8 million Town ‘N Country Commons is constructed on the library’s former site. The two-story commons will include a new library, a senior center and a Head Start. It is being paid for with proceeds from the half-cent Community Investment Tax that has also helped fund such projects as Raymond James Stadium.

Although the lease on the temporary site has been approved, there’s no date for the library to move into its interim home, George said.

“We’re going to try and reopen as soon as possible,” she said.

Right now, the library is awaiting a permit to do some minor renovations inside the temporary building. Once that is issued, a more firm time table will be likely, she said.

Once reopened at the temporary site, the library will offer all the services it presently does, plus have study rooms available for patrons’ use.

As the library wound down its last few hours last week, head librarian Elvia Vera said staff was keeping busy getting ready for the move. Staff will be reassigned to other libraries while work on the Waters Avenue location is completed. Once it’s done, the West Gate staff will reunite to open the facility.

“We’re nervous,” said Vera about the move. “There’s so much to do.”

Closing to make way for the new facility is bittersweet.

“We’re going to miss them and they’re going to miss them,” said Vera of the library’s patrons. “Most people are going to miss the circulation staff the most.”

While the library remains closed, patrons are being directed to other libraries, including the Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library, 11211 Countryway Blvd.

When the library’s doors reopen at the temporary location, staff is hoping patrons will follow, Vera said.

Kesia Woods and her daughter Chyniah were enjoying one of the library’s final days last week, taking advantage of the children’s area to read books and play games. Woods said she and her four children will use the temporary location, but she admits she’ll miss having the facility in the heart of Town ‘N Country.

“It’s going to be different,” she said. “We’ll miss it.”

Peter Duplin, a frequent visitor at the current site, said he would be unable to visit the new location. He is moving out of the area. Before he knew the old facility was closing, he’d already made up his mind he’d miss the library the most.

“I come here every day and read the newspaper,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”

For more information on libraries in the area, visit

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HARTflex Decision Delayed 1 Month

Posted Mar 16, 2007 by Stephen Hammill

Updated Mar 16, 2007 at 10:22 AM


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The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority’s new shuttle service,  HARTflex, will have its launch delayed for at least one month, according to the company’s board of directors.

According to Jill Cappadoro, Public Relations Director for HART, the decision to launch the program will be delayed until April 2, when the board will meet again to discuss the plan.

“Right now we don’t have a final launch date, but should get word at the next meeting,” she said.

The meeting will take place at the county center in downtown Tampa at 8:30 a.m. and is open to the public. Cappadoro recommends citizens also make their voices heard beforehand.

“We’re encouraging community comments,” Cappadoro said. Citizens can call the HART information line at 254-4278 to voice their opinions.
If the board approves the plan, HART will introduce its HARTflex neighborhood shuttle this year. The service will send smaller vehicles to circulate in specific neighborhoods, allowing riders to connect to HART bus routes or other neighborhood destinations.

Those proposed HARTflex service areas are Carrollwood/Citrus Park, Town ‘N Country, Temple Terrace, Seffner and Brandon. The service may launch incrementally, one neighborhood at a time.

The vans will provide door-to-door service. The service is proposed to run Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The cost of a trip on the HARTflex shuttle will be $1.50 per trip, with half-price for seniors, students and the disabled. The fare structure compliments that of HART line busses. There will also be unlimited ride passes available.

The cost annually to operate the Carrollwood area HARTflex service is still being negotiated. HART Community Liaison Kathy Karalekas said officials estimate a budget of $208,320, which equates to $48 per hour at 14 hours per day, running 310 days a year.

For additional information on routes and schedules, contact the HART information line at or visit

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Saving Cats Is A Passion Sanctuary Turns 15 In 2007

Posted Jan 18, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Jan 18, 2007 at 02:33 PM


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When Carole Baskin attended an exotic animal auction in 1992, she didn’t realize her entire life was about to change.

As Baskin watched a bobcat named Windsong go on the auction block, she noticed how frightened the animal seemed, she said. The cat had “her paws wrapped as tightly around her former owner’s neck as she could cling, while the auctioneer screamed into the loudspeaker – we knew we had to do something.”

That’s how Big Cat Rescue was formed. The nonprofit organization provides housing and care for unwanted, abandoned and neglected big cats at its Citrus Park location.

“It was never my intention to own an exotic cat or to begin a sanctuary,” said Baskin. “My late husband, Don Lewis, and I loved animals, and cats especially, but we never planned for what would unfold.”

What has unfolded since that November 1992 day has been the creation of a 45-acre refuge. The organization was initially housed on 4 acres in Town ‘N Country and then moved to its current site on Easy Street in Citrus Park in 1993.

Through the years, Carole said she’s learned by trial and error. What started as just she and her husband has grown to include several paid employees and a team of more than 100 volunteers.

“We made all the stupid mistakes that people do when they get involved in something they don’t understand, but we learned along the way,” she said.

With more than 150 different cats, ranging from tigers and cougars to lions and jaguars, the sanctuary now costs an estimated $800,000 a year to run, she said.

According to Scott Lope, director of operations, the basic care and feeding expenses for the animals runs about $1,000 a day.

The money to keep the sanctuary going comes from donations, adoption programs and other fundraising efforts. The money to pay for salaries comes from gate receipts on days the venue is open for paid tours, Lope said.

“Donations are donations,” he said.

The idea is to ensure that donations directly benefit the animals and efforts to help reduce the number of unwanted cats that find themselves abused, abandoned and neglected. Through the years, the sanctuary has put a strong emphasis on educating the public about big cats, their needs and the reasons why they should not be considered
house pets. To this end, Lope said the organization works to enact tougher laws and supports other agencies that are addressing the issue on a more worldwide scale.

“It’s not enough to help the animals in cages,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is act locally and think globally.”

Those efforts have become increasingly important as the sanctuary has grown, he said.

“We can’t rescue every animal,” he added.

With 45 acres in the middle of Citrus Park, Lope said the organization is dealing not only with its own growth, but also the growth around it. When the rescue first opened, Citrus Park was pretty rural, he said. There was no mall, few houses and no strip centers nearby.

As growth continues, Lope said the organization is doing what it can to ensure the animals remain protected. The agency isn’t anti-growth, he said, but it does want to make sure development is respectful of the cats.

“We’re hoping to work with them,” he said of future developers in the area.
Carole explained, “Fourteen years ago, we were out in the middle of nowhere and the development surrounded us,” she said. Moving isn’t an option, she added.

“We hope to solve the problem of so many unwanted cats in the next decade and can’t be wasting that time moving and re-establishing ourselves only to have development surround us every 10 years,” she said. “We would not be able to reach as many people as we do now if we moved out into the middle of nowhere and that would defeat our mission.”

Area residents can assist in the mission in several ways.

“The biggest way people can help is to come out and take a tour,” said Lope. “Our goal is to not have to rescue any more animals.”

In addition to tours, the organization also has several ongoing fundraisers and plays host to numerous events throughout the year to raise money for cats’ needs and special projects. There is also an on-site gift shop that raises money for Big Cat Rescue operations and also other organizations, as well.

Tours at the facility are offered Monday through Friday at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. for $22. Saturday tours take place at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. and again at 1:30 p.m. There is a special 9 a.m. Saturday tour for $12 that allows children under the age of 10 to visit the 12802 Easy St. facility.

For more information about the sanctuary, fundraising, volunteering, tours or the cats, call 920-4130 or visit

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West Gate Prepares For Move

Posted Jan 18, 2007 by Jessica Balanza

Updated Jan 18, 2007 at 02:04 PM


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As Hillsborough County officials seek out temporary quarters for the West Gate Regional Library, operations will continue at the current site.

The library will soon have to move into a different location while the current building at 7606 Paula Drive is demolished to make way for the new $10.8 million town center for Town ‘N Country. The center’s entire second story, along with a portion of the first, will become the library’s permanent home once construction is completed. The rest of the new building will house a senior center and a Head Start program.

Although a location for the temporary library has yet to be announced, the county is assuring library patrons a site that will offer full library services, including programs and meeting space, will be found. In the meantime, programs and operations will continue at the Paula Drive facility.

Since neither a date for the move nor a location have been finalized, the library is restricting announcements on upcoming events to a bulletin board inside the building.
Events will continue as long as possible in the current facility and will move along with the facility, said Suzy George, library manager.

In the meantime, some work is beginning that will help make the move easier, said Gene Ann Kennedy, president of the Friends of the West Gate Regional Library. The nonprofit group will host three upcoming “clearance sales” to help weed out not only its collection of books that are sold during fundraisers, but also books from the library’s collection itself, Kennedy said.

“We will be helping with the weeding (of books), with the move and some of the decisions (in the future),” Kennedy said. “We’ll be very, very involved (with the new facility).
What a wonderful time for new members to come in.”

The book sales are set for Jan. 20, Jan. 27 and Feb. 3 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the library. Most books will be half the price they are at typical friends group sales with no book running more than $5, she said.

And, as the friends group assists with lessening the load for movers, time is starting to run out on finding a new home. Construction on the new facility is slated to begin in mid-March, which means the library needs to be out soon.

“We’re hoping to be out by March 15,” George said.

George stressed that the library will remain open for business at its current site until the move and that a new location will be announced as soon as it’s approved.

The new town center is being being funded by the half-cent Community Investment Tax and grants, said Israel Grajales, senior architect for the county.

Membership in the friends group is $5 a year for an individual or $10 a year for a family. Members help fund extras at the library the county’s budget cannot pay for. This includes the purchase of specialized furniture, paying for programs, summer activities for children and so on. Membership is available at the library, and Kennedy promises it will be an interesting time for members.

“We will be busier in the next two years than in previous years,” she said. “We welcome new members.”

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St. Pete Beach Resort Gives To Town ‘N Country Institution

Posted Jan 11, 2007 by Sherri Lonon

Updated Jan 11, 2007 at 01:52 PM


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Holiday goodwill provided a Tampa charitable organization with its biggest Christmas present just in the nick of time.
On Dec. 27, representatives from TradeWinds resorts visited The Children’s Home, 10909 Memorial Highway in Tampa, to present them with a $30,259 check.

The money was the accumulation of the TradeWinds Children’s Home Special, where from Dec. 17-26, visitors to the St. Pete Beach resort who donated at least $30 received a free night’s stay.

“Every penny of that money went into this check,” said Kelly Prieto, spokeswoman for the TradeWinds.
Prieto said the program started as a last-minute idea that steamrolled into something no one would’ve expected. The resort reported more than 1,000 rooms booked during the period.

Keith Overton, the resort’s vice president and general manager, first conceived the idea of doing something charitable for the holidays. According to Overton, TradeWinds is a family oriented resort, and was looking for novel way to give something back.

“We were saying we have all these extra vacancies this time of year, why not let children who don’t have the privilege come to our hotel,” he said.
That idea evolved into something more ambitious, allowing regular resort visitors to get involved. Overton approached Gerard Veneman, The Children’s Home’s president and chief executive officer, with the proposal.

“The first time I heard this idea, I thought it was so simple, and so powerful,” Veneman said. “Every holiday season I say we need a few miracles.”
The miracle this year came in the form of the $30,000 check.

“We always depend on the goodwill of the community to make everything work,” Veneman said.
He said The Children’s Home must raise about $2.1 million in donations every year to keep it operations afloat. That comes to about 20 percent of a yearly funding budget that exceeds $12 million.

Typical fundraising events include golf tournaments and dinners. The TradeWinds idea was something unique, and in its first year, an unqualified success.
“Thank God they picked us,” Veneman said.

Overton, like all involved, was shocked at the outpouring of support for the program.
“We thought we might get 20 or 30 rooms sold, but the phones started ringing and didn’t stop ringing,” he said. “We just weren’t prepared for the response. It was overwhelming.”

According to the TradeWinds, more than 900 families stayed at the resort during the 10-day promotion. In fact, people had to be turned away.
“It was a stroke of genius,” Veneman said. “I don’t think any of us knew it would come out this way.”
About 60 kids live on the premises of The Children’s Home at any given time, while various intervention programs reach another 2,000 children in the area. Staff members stay with the young residents in cottages, and each child is assigned a primary caregiver.
“We’re trying to provide them with a parental model,” said Lynn Hoy, director of development for The Children’s Home.
The daily cost per child is $240.

“We have to raise $120 for every child every day through charities,” Veneman said.
The recent ceremony included a check presentation, followed by an ice cream social and pizza party for the kids.
During the presentation, Veneman said, “We are honored by such a huge check. We had no idea it was coming this time of year. Keith cooked this idea up and the response was unbelievable.”

The charity work isn’t done. Overton invited some of the kids of The Children’s Home to the TradeWinds on Jan. 6 for a cookout.
Overton also announced at the ceremony that the resort will continue with its room special through Feb. 28, as TradeWinds will donate $30 to The Children’s Home for each reservation booked.

“We may do something like this again next year,” Overton said. “We’re looking to keep the partnership going. We’ll sit down with Gerard and the staff and see what we can do.”

For more information on the TradeWinds Children’s Home Special or to donate, visit

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Tampa Prep Grad Receives Record Grant

Posted Dec 1, 2006 by Sherri Lonon

Updated Dec 1, 2006 at 01:50 PM


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One of Tampa’s native sons is making a name for himself in the fight against diabetes.

Tampa Preparatory School alumnus Rick McIndoe, class of 1980, has been awarded a $15 million, five-year grant for research into the study of diabetes complications.

McIndoe is currently the associate director of the Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine at Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Ga. The state’s only public medical school, the grant is the largest amount ever awarded to it.

McIndoe’s work has centered on the effects of diabetes complications. Currently using mice in his study, he hopes that by studying why these complications occur that the medical community can come up with therapy models for diabetes patients, he said. Additionally, hopes that they can better understand how genetic and environmental factors interact with the disease.

A Tampa native, McIndoe was raised in the Bay Crest neighborhood of Town ‘N Country.

His parents, Douglass and Ronda, are still Tampa residents after more than 40 years. They recall that as a Tampa Prep student, their son “was thinking of being a dentist.”
“But when he got into his second year of college, he got into research and never stopped,” remembers his mother.

He received his doctorate in immunology and molecular pathology from the University of Florida in 1991 at the age of 27.
In 1999, he returned to the University of Florida as an assistant professor, where he remained until 2002. He’s spent the last four years at the Georgia school.

While some doctors choose a disease research path that may hit close to home, McIndoe wasn’t drawn to diabetes research due to family history.
“Honestly, it was the funding,” he said.

However, McIndoe’s family does have something to say about his career.
“We’re very proud,” McIndoe’s parents said of their son. “He’s worked hard, and he travels all over the world to speak to people.”

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Setting Records

Posted Oct 12, 2006 by Sherri Lonon

Updated Oct 12, 2006 at 03:50 PM

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Leto High School senior and boys swim team captain Isidro Gonzalez attributes his team’s success to good sportsmanship.

“Our swim team is like a family,” he said. “We are all like brothers and sisters. We help each other out when we need it and support each other no matter what, through wins and losses.”

So far this season, the boys team has experienced many more wins than losses. The Falcons are 5-1 and on Sept. 26, Gonzalez, along with team members Jorge Barrios, Shane Cross and Jorge Ospina, broke the school record in the 200-yard freestyle relay. The previous record, set in 1992, was 1 minute, 45.34 seconds. The new record is 1:44:57.

“Team spirit is at an all-time high,” said coach Jim Lavelle.

Lavelle, a coach at Leto since 1981, said this year’s swim team is the best he has seen in years. There are 15 boys on the team, nine more than last year. They practice weekday afternoons at the Northwest Hillsborough YMCA from 3:30 to 5:30.

This season, Lavelle was thrilled to have Ospina, a recent immigrant from Venezuela, join the team. Ospina, a senior, is the first Leto swimmer in several years to qualify for the state swim meet. On Nov. 3, he will compete at the Hall of Fame Pool in Fort Lauderdale, swimming the 100-yard butterfly and 200-yard freestyle. His time in the 100-butterfly is an impressive 52.36 seconds.

“I’ve waited for so long for the moment I go to state,” Ospina said. “I can’t wait to hear them say, ‘swimmers take your mark.’ Then, I’ll rock and roll.”
Ospina began swimming at age 8 and competed successfully in Venezuela for many years. In 2005, he immigrated to Florida and moved in with his sister, hoping to catch the attention of college swim scouts. He would like to attend either the University of Florida or Florida State University on an athletic scholarship.

Lavelle said college recruiters may approach Ospina at the state meet, depending on how he finishes.

“They like to see how the swimmers perform under the stress of being in finals,” Lavelle said.

Ospina’s teammates support him 100 percent. He said the team’s welcoming attitude made it easier to transition from Venezuela to the states. He made friends quickly and was impressed by the other boys’ abilities.

“The team is very good,” he said. “We all genuinely love the water and love to swim. Swimming is good for your body and your spirit.”
Gonzalez, who enjoys swimming the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle events, agrees.

“I chose this sport because of the water and because it’s a great work out,” he said. “You work all your muscles. Plus, you have a great time.”

Some of the team’s new members wish they had discovered swimming sooner.
“I like the competition,” said senior newcomer Nick Crowe, who won the 50-yard freestyle during a recent meet at Interbay Pool.
“If I’d have known how much fun it was, I would have joined last year. My teammates are awesome.”

Still, Crowe will have more than his share of winning senior memories when the team’s season ends next month. Junior Jorge Barrios will lead next year’s team. Lavelle hopes the team will continue to grow in numbers and in spirit for years to come.

“The boys have created a big stir at the school,” he said. “It’s a rejuvenation for the Leto swim team.”

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Teenage Cartoonist To Instruct At Library

Posted Oct 5, 2006 by Clarisa Gerlach

Updated Oct 5, 2006 at 08:48 PM

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Some believe everyone has a special talent – it’s just a matter of finding it.

Luckily for Town ‘N Country resident Leah Lopez, 16, her talent was evident as a toddler, her mother Bobbi Lopez said, drawing on anything she could get her hands on.

This year Leah has realized a second gift, the ability to teach. Since March, when she launched Leah’s Cartooning Parties Inc. with the help of her mother, Leah has taught hundreds of children how to draw cartoons.

Leah will be teaching another class at the College Hill Library, 2607 E. Martin Luther King Blvd., Oct. 5 at 4:30 p.m.

Although she usually teaches younger children or a mix of ages from 4 to 19, she is expecting a mostly teenage crowd at the library. Leah said she will adjust the content she will be drawing to suit teenagers, such as anime characters.

“She is really just a wonderful artist,” said College Hill librarian Jen Obermeiyer. “She’s so young and talks to kids on their level.”

Leah has a partnership with the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System to teach classes in libraries throughout the county. She gets $75 per class, assuming the library provides supplies for attendees, and she said she’s done about 15 workshops in libraries alone.

“Naturally, after all the different crowds you become more comfortable because the first few times, it was pretty rough,” Leah said. “But now it’s pretty natural.”

Leah also teaches at a variety of events and venues, including birthday parties, churches, daycare centers, parks and Bobbi is currently looking into assisted living facilities.

Bobbi said the business has been going well, adding that there’s nothing like Leah’s Cartooning Parties in town.

“You can’t find anything like this on the Internet,” she said.

Bobbi said she’s particularly proud of her daughter because she’s able to juggle a busy business schedule and still gets straight A’s at her school.

Leah also focuses her creative talent on fine art, however, she said this has been somewhat compromised because of her busy schedule. She said her students often have new and fresh ideas, which she finds edifying, and she has her special moments while teaching.

“I love it when they drop everything and they’re all focused,” Leah said. “They’re not thinking of anything else, just what they’re doing at the moment.”

For more information about the workshops, visit or call 957-5524.

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