Woodinville man is Big Climb honoree

  • Written by Deborah Stone
This year's Big Climb honoree is 21-year-old Curran Parker of Woodinville. Courtesy photo.
The Big Climb is a favorite Seattle event and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s WA/AK Chapter’s largest fundraiser.

In 2011, 6,000 people climbed the stairs at the Columbia Center, the state’s tallest skyscraper, and raised $1.6 million.

The 69-flight course has 1,311 steps, 19 steps per flights, and 788 feet of vertical elevation.

This popular area event encourages participants to be active, while applying their efforts to a greater cause. Not only do entrants get a challenging workout, but they also get the opportunity to support a worthwhile organization.

All funds raised through the Big Climb go towards the society’s mission to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and to improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

Since its inception in 1949, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has invested more than $750 million in research, which has helped contribute to the remarkable progress made in treating individuals with these diseases.

Survival rates for blood cancers have doubled or tripled and in some cases quadrupled over the years.

Unfortunately, there are still more than one million North Americans battling such cancers and the rate of diagnosis is every four minutes.

2012 marks the 26th year for the Big Climb.

The event will be held on March 25 and this year’s honoree is 21-year-old Curran Parker of Woodinville.

“We met Curran in 2011 through his team Climbing for Curry, which raised a whopping $16,000,” says Anne Christine Cochran, senior campaign manager for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s WA/AK Chapter.

“He is an inspiring individual with an amazing story of strength, courage, hope and survival.”

Parker, a 2008 Bothell High grad and current Cascadia Community College student, was working at the Melting Pot in May 2010 when he discovered a lump on his neck.

He underwent a biopsy and a scan and then came the bad news.

“I was told I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,” says Parker. “I couldn’t believe it! I was shocked. I had been in perfect health and it seemed so surreal that I would have cancer. I was 20 years old. How could I have cancer?”

Though he was upset, Parker felt better once he learned that the disease was 90 percent treatable the first time around.

He felt confident he would be OK.

But, after four months of chemo, the lump came back and he had to embark on another cycle of chemo that was more potent than the first, with harsher side effects.

“I lost my hair and dropped 10 pounds,” he explains, “and I felt nauseous most of the time. Unfortunately, the cancer still didn’t go away. And now I had only a 20 percent chance.”

Parker was sent to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance where he subsequently underwent another treatment protocol followed by a stem cell transplant.

Because the procedure wasn’t entirely successful, he was then given a form of chemo that he describes as the most intense of all treatments.

“It was really, really harsh,” comments Parker. “I lost 25 pounds and had to stay in the hospital for 12 days. I had no strength and could barely walk.”

Thirty days after the treatment and a second stem cell transplant, the words “cancer free” were finally uttered.

“It was so great to hear the news,” says Parker. “I felt like I had been through a war, a battle, and had come out victorious.”

Though there were times when the young man felt depressed and discouraged during his ordeal, he pushed himself to keep going, finding an inner strength to make it through one step at a time.

Initially, he was angry and questioned why such a bad thing was happening to him at this time in his life.

Anger eventually gave way to determination and an unwavering attitude of optimism and hope.

“The key for me was to be positive and to have faith that I was going to make it,” explains Parker. “I was lucky to have my family, friends and church support me. They stayed strong for me and gave me encouragement.”

Parker feels privileged to be the Big Climb’s honoree and expresses his appreciation for the opportunity to instill hope in others who are fighting blood cancers.

He adds, “I am a living example that faith and a positive attitude, combined with the right treatment, can make all the difference. It’s so important that the research continues to find better treatments and cures. And the only way that’s going to happen is with funding.”

As the honoree, Parker is giving speeches at various events, telling his story, and urging others to help support the mission of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“This is a cause I will be involved with for the rest of my life,” he notes. “And I will do everything I can to be a source of inspiration to others.”

Though there is a risk that the cancer will return in the future, Parker refuses to live under a shadow.

“That’s not me,” he says. “I have too much I want to do in my life and I plan to live it to its fullest. I don’t want to spend my time worrying about something that may or may not happen.”

Pet therapy program proves popular at Camp Korey

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Camp Korey with Bentley
Courtesy photo.
Camp Korey serves hundreds of children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses each year during its summer camp sessions at Carnation Farm.

Campers, who range in age from 7 to 15, are able to safely enjoy all the traditional camp activities, with the addition of full medical support and adaptive methods.

Participants choose the extent of their involvement depending on their appropriate level of challenge, which allows them the opportunity to try new activities in a fun-filled and positive environment.

Named For Korey Rose, a teen who lost his battle with bone cancer at 18, Camp Korey was founded in 2005 by Rose’s father, Tim.

The goal was to create a safe haven for other families dealing with childhood illness and serious medical conditions.

At Camp Korey, campers spend time with other kids coping with similar conditions and they quickly realize that they are not alone.

During their stay, these children, who have spent much of their lives in doctors’ offices and hospitals, are transformed into “just kids,” who get to swim, fish, go boating, ride a horse, enjoy arts and crafts, try climbing an indoor climbing wall and more.

One of the more unique and popular activities offered at the camp is the pet therapy program.

Now in its fifth year, the program is viewed as a valuable addition to the camp’s therapeutic milieu.

CK Matthew
Courtesy photo
“It’s truly a special opportunity for these kids,” says Camp Director Cora Weed. “They get the chance to work closely with animals, to groom them, take them for a walk, or simply interact with them in a safe and therapeutic way.”

She adds, “The animals, typically dogs and a llama, offer comfort and support and the kids just love them.

“The program allows them to be in charge, to have a more maternal or caring role, which is so different for them, as they’re used to being taken care of in their daily lives.”

Diane Rich, coordinator for the program, explains that the kids can also choose to simply “chill out” with the animals, which will lie quietly next to them.

“They don’t demand anything from the children,” she says. “They’re nonjudgmental. And because of this, the kids take comfort from them, knowing they are accepted just the way they are.”

Rich notes that the animals have a wonderful calming effect on the campers. They have also been known to boost a child’s confidence and elicit speech from the very shy participants.

She adds, “I’ve seen children who are basically nonverbal have this incredible reaction when they’re next to the animals. They seem to come alive when they’re allowed to interact with them. It’s amazing.”

Each animal has a handler and together they make up a team.

All teams must be registered with either the Delta Society, Therapy Dogs International or Therapy Dogs Inc.

Rich personally vets the teams, conducting assessments and interviews to determine if they will be the right fit for the program.

She explains that there isn’t one specific breed that makes a good therapy dog.

In the past, she has had teams with Saint Bernards, golden retrievers, pugs, bulldogs, English pointers, cavaliers and even a doberman.

As for the llamas, Rich says, “They’ve been phenomenal. They’re so calm and basically bomb-proof. Nothing bothers them. They’re better behaved than many dogs. They don’t spit either. These are not the norm though. They have the right personality and they’ve been well trained.”

The program has had many repeat teams, who enjoy volunteering each summer. They do it, according to Rich, because they love the experience.

“It’s beyond rewarding,” she explains. “It’s magical to be out there in this beautiful, pastoral setting, and being able to witness a child’s smile when he/she interacts with your animal.

‘It makes your heart smile in return. The experience just fills your heart. And not to sound corny, but it truly completes you.”

Camp Korey is searching for new therapy teams (pets and their owners) to participate in the pet therapy program this coming summer.

All teams must be registered with Delta Society, Therapy Dogs international or Therapy Dogs Inc. and go through an interview process with Diane Rich.

For those teams not yet registered with one of the three organizations, Diane Rich is happy to do an assessment of the team’s potential for therapy service.

If training is needed to help prepare for the therapy testing, Diane provides either private training or a therapy prep class to help ready a team to perform the required skills and aptitude exercises to pass the test.

If the team is ready for testing, Diane is happy to recommend evaluators.

For more information, contact Diane Rich at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Friendly, personal service, good food are keys to success of Twisted Café

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Twisted Cafe 004
The Twisted Café was voted Best Sandwich Shop in Woodinville. Photo by Deborah Stone.
Julio Ortiz is one happy man.

Recently, his restaurant, The Twisted Café, was voted sixth best sandwich shop in KING 5’s Best of Western Washington contest.

The café competed against 164 other establishments in the Cheap Eats Sandwich Shop category.

It was also voted Best Sandwich Shop in Woodinville.

“This was our first year to compete,” says Ortiz, “and we are very excited with the outcome and so grateful for the support of our customers, who voted for us.”

The Woodinville man, who has owned The Twisted Café for three years with his wife Julie, attributes his success to a combination of friendly, personal service and good food.

The café specializes in hot and cold sandwiches on freshly baked twisted bread, along with a variety of fresh salads and homemade soups.

One of the most popular sandwiches is the Twisted Cuban with its slow roasted pork, ham, pickles and Swiss cheese.

“People love it,” says Ortiz. “I’m told it rivals Paseo’s Cuban Roast. We roast our own beef and pork on site, which I think really makes the difference.”

The Woodinville man is originally from Cuba and immigrated to the U.S. 12 years ago.

Before he came to this area, he worked in New York, where he managed hotel restaurants.

He and his wife bought The Twisted Sandwich in Woodinville and changed the name of the establishment to better reflect the type of place they wanted to create.

“It’s a café now and we serve beer and wine,” explains Ortiz. “We’re also offering live music on Friday nights from 7 – 11 p.m. I want to help promote local musicians, who are looking for somewhere to play. It’ll be some jazz, some blues and some Latin stuff, vocals and instrumentals.” Ortiz adds, “There isn’t a lot of music in Woodinville other than at Big Daddy’s and that’s more bands and rock music.

“There’s a need for something more low key and very casual, where you can come, have a glass of wine and a meal for less than $20 and get a chance to listen to some live music. It’s an affordable night out.”

Ortiz is also planning on ramping up the catering side of his business. He hopes to branch out and market his services to local companies and offices, as well as do private events and parties at his café.

“I’m always looking for opportunities to grow the business,” he adds. “But, it’s important that I do it right.”

The Twisted Café is located at 12631 NE Woodinville Drive. For more information:

Veteran and newbie share rewards and challenges of the teaching profession

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Most educators will tell you they didn’t go into the profession for the money as it’s a well-known fact that teaching isn’t one of those careers that will make you wealthy.

It is, however, a job that attracts individuals seeking a different type of reward, one that can’t be measured by dollars.

Kerrie Douglas. Photo by Deborah Stone
“I went into teaching because it’s a profession where I believe you can make a difference,” says Kerrie Douglas, sixth grade teacher at East Ridge Elementary. “You can positively impact the lives of kids. And what’s wonderful about teaching that is rarely found in other professions is the immediate feedback you receive that lets you know if you’re getting through to your students. When one of them has that ‘aha’ moment, it is such an incredible feeling to realize that you have helped turn on that light bulb. There’s really no way to describe how powerful that experience is and that is really what motivates me as a teacher.”

Douglas has been an educator for a total of 41 years, with the last 20 spent at East Ridge. She has stayed in the profession all this time because of the joy she gets from working with kids and being present for their successes and achievements. She derives enormous energy from her students and takes pride in nurturing their minds and instilling in them a lifelong love of learning.

Her teaching style is hands-on and it is always driven by the needs of her students, both academically and socially.

“I want to see them as well-rounded people,” she explains. “I want to help develop their minds, as well as build their self-confidence and independence. It’s also very important to me that they are good citizens in the world. Respect is key and in my classroom. I always model respect with my students and I insist that they are respectful of others.”

Douglas didn’t set out to be a teacher initially. She was going to be a lawyer or an engineer.

“I’ve always loved math,” she comments, “and my father was an engineer.”

After her freshman year of college, however, she decided that she wasn’t really interested in either profession.

“I realized that I was a nurturer and these careers just didn’t suit me,” she adds. “Then I sat in on my brother’s class. He was a high school teacher. It only took once and I was hooked. I loved it!”

Though she taught middle school for a few years, Douglas was eventually drawn to the elementary level because she saw that she had the ability to make a greater impact. She explains that in middle school, you have less time to get to know the students because they’re always switching classes. At East Ridge, sixth grade became her niche. “Sixth graders are at a neat stage in life,” she notes. “They’re excited about learning and they’re independent, yet they still like the attachment to their teacher. They have a sense of humor, so you can really have fun with them.”

Douglas has seen many changes in education over the years. One of the greatest improvements she identifies is the collaborative aspect of teaching that is now the mainstay in most schools. Rather than teaching in isolation, as teachers did years ago, today, educators share curriculum and ideas with one another in an open environment.

“It’s wonderful to work together with other teachers,” comments Douglas. “We all learn from each other, which in turn benefits our students. We also give each other lots of support and encouragement.”

Another major change that has occurred in education is the focus on standards, which Douglas feels is important in order to ensure that all students get the education they need and deserve.

With the standards, however, teachers are more test-driven and have less options regarding curriculum. They’re also under pressure when it comes to their students’ performance.

“One of the biggest challenges with all the changes in education is the lack of time that teachers have to do everything that’s required of them,” explains Douglas. “Because of this, we are less able to incorporate the activities and projects we used to do with our students to supplement and enrich learning. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is.” She adds, “And then there’s the whole funding issue, which is affecting education across the nation. Cuts in education spending make it increasingly more challenging to provide quality education for all kids.”

A veteran teacher, Douglas is often called upon to be a mentor to first year teachers in the district. She notes the energy and enthusiasm that newbies bring to the profession and the fresh outlooks they have on education.

She worries, however, that they will burn out with the stresses of the job, which she feels are on the rise.

As for advice to the newcomers, she says, “Think of your students first. What’s best for them should always drive your actions. And collaborate with others as much as you can because it will save you time if you can help each other.”

She adds, “And above all, maintain a sense of humor. That’s really important when it comes to keeping your sanity!”

Tim Freeburg. Photo by Deborah Stone.
On the other side of the experience spectrum is Tim Freeburg, a first year math teacher working at Timbercrest Junior High. Though he always had a feeling he wanted to be a teacher, the pay initially deterred him and he ended up with jobs in investments and insurance sales.

“I quickly found myself missing the coaching I had done previously and decided to get back into working with the younger population,” explains Freeburg. “I decided I would volunteer in the high school and junior high to see if I really enjoyed the experience. After a couple weeks of observations and volunteer work, I applied to a teaching program and have loved every experience since.”

The local man, who was a 2003 Bothell High graduate, got an economics degree from Washington State University and his post B.A. teaching certificate from Central Washington University.

Although he student taught for three months and volunteered in schools as part of his training, Freeburg admits that there’s no substitute for the real thing when it comes to preparing someone to teach.

“Being taught how to teach is a funny thing,” he says. “My supervisors said the whole way through that you will learn strategies to help, but until you teach, you won’t know how to teach. And they were right.” He adds, “I was lucky though because I have a strong coaching background, which helped me prepare for my job. Coaching is very similar to teaching because the toughest part about coaching or teaching is how to connect and motivate kids. If you can make kids work hard for you on the field, you can get them to do the same in the classroom.”

Although there are many teachers who shy away from the junior high age group, Freeburg is not one of them. He truly enjoys this level because he views it as a very moldable developmental stage. It’s where, he claims, kids form strong opinions about mathematics that stay with them for the rest of their lives.

“If you build a solid foundation, experience success and practice in an environment where you can make mistakes and learn from those mistakes, math is no longer a scary thing. And by having an understanding of mathematics, you will have a higher chance of succeeding later in life. Whether it’s entry college courses, running a small business someday or just having the ability to critically problem solve day-to-day issues, you will be better prepared because of math.”

Freeburg tries to bring a lot of energy to his classroom to match the energy of his students and makes it a point to maintain a positive environment. He stresses effort above all and like Douglas, it brings him tremendous satisfaction in being a part of those “light bulb” moments. In describing his teaching style, Freeburg notes that he brings a coaching mentality to his classroom. He sets clear expectations and utilizes daily and weekly routines for consistency.

He adds, “The students know where to find information and can expect what will happen next. We work as a team and depend on one another. I encourage them to learn from each other as much if not more than they learn from me.” He adds, “I teach beyond the math like I would in sports. That means if it connects to a larger context in life and can help us become better people in life, we will address it and encourage the right behavior.”

As a first year teacher, Freeburg faces a number of challenges. The issue of time, as Douglas noted, is always a prevalent problem. Freeburg is trying to build his website, video blog and interactive flipcharts from scratch and although he has support regarding content and tips on how to teach, it still takes much time to shape his materials as his own. The other challenge is in regards to differentiating instruction.

“I have a wide spread of abilities in each of my classes,” he explains. “Some kids get it and can teach themselves with minimal support while others need lots of individual attention and work at a slower rate. To balance daily lessons which accommodate both learners is an ongoing challenge, but it’s very rewarding when the struggling students experience success and when the accelerated students push their knowledge to the max and seek out additional learning opportunities.”

The Northshore School District’s mentor program for first year teachers is a godsend to Freeburg.

It has provided him with numerous resources and training sessions, allowed him opportunities to bounce his ideas off veteran teachers and let him have the chance to observe other teachers in action both inside and outside of his building.

“I feel like the support around me cares about me developing and succeeding,” says Freeburg. “This in turn has helped motivate me to do the same for our students. It’s important for them to know I care.”

Timbercrest Junior High dancer plays Puss n’ Boots in ‘The Sleeping Beauty’

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

Elizabeth Kanning
Elizabeth Kanning. Photos by Scott Moore
Nothing says “Sweet Sixteen” better than Ballet Bellevue’s 16th anniversary season opener, “The Sleeping Beauty.”

First produced by Ballet Bellevue in February 1996, this beloved fairy tale ballet has over the years become a signature piece for Bellevue’s own professional chamber ballet company.

Rising star of Ballet Bellevue School and Timbercrest Junior High student, Elizabeth Kanning will perform with the company in the corps, as well as in the role of Puss n’ Boots in the upcoming performance of “The Sleeping Beauty.”

Kanning, who is in the Freshman Academy at Woodinville High School, attends classes at the Ballet Bellevue School five days a week and rehearses sometimes six days a week.

“It can be tiring, especially on nights when I have a lot of homework, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” said Kanning.

She has danced previously with Ballet Bellevue in “The Nutcracker” and “The Snowman.”

“The Sleeping Beauty,” accompanied by live orchestra, will be performed Dec 28 at 7 p.m. and Dec 29 at 2 and 7 p.m. at The Theatre at Meydenbauer Center in downtown Bellevue.

“The Sleeping Beauty” is a classic story of love and adventure that appeals to all audiences, with lavish costumes and sets, amusing characters and a beautiful score performed live by the Ballet Bellevue orchestra and conducted by Barney Blough. Many of the original costumes will be worn for this 16th anniversary production.

The ballet has always been an audience favorite, but it is also a technically challenging work for the dancers.

“The Sleeping Beauty,” based on the 1697 Charles Perrault fairytale, tells the story of a beautiful princess who is cursed by an evil fairy and doomed to sleep for 100 years - only to be awakened by the kiss of the handsome prince who loves her.

Elizabeth Kanning2Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty composition is often regarded as his finest ballet score.

The Ballet Bellevue production creates a whimsical experience for the entire family.

For information, visit ( For tickets, call (425) 455-1345 or Brown Paper Tickets 1-800-838-3006 (

Patron center seating is $55; adult tickets are $40, student/senior admission is $25.

Groups of 10 or more receive 20 percent discount.