Laura Velasquez

Bid for Bachelors and Bachelorettes 2010

February 10th, 2010 at 7:51 am by under Entertainment, Weather

February 6th, 2010

February 6th, 2010

There are those moments in life where time seems to stand still. The world becomes quiet; objects and people outside of your immediate attention blend into the background, and you can count every breath you take.

These are powerful moments, they come seldom and when they do, last only a short time. They can only be brought on by something, or someone, that demands every ounce of energy and attention you have. These are the truly important things in life.

I had one of these “moments” on Saturday night, at the beginning of the “Bid for Bach” event, a fundraiser for Friends and Families of Cystic Fibrosis. Everyone had been asked to take their seats, the host and hostess had been introduced, and there had been a introduction given. We assumed it was time to start the bidding, then there was a pause, and the hum in the room grew silent. About the same time I noticed a girl, a teenager, standing at the back of the stage. Just then, the woman speaking said there was one last thing before the bidding was to start, and for this, she needed our undivided attention. “I need to hear a pin drop”, was the statement she made. Then she introduced the girl, Sohpia.

Confident and poised, she walked forward and stepped up to the microphone. In the next few minutes she gave one of the most compelling speeches I have ever heard. She described to us a little bit about her life, her life living with CF. She told us of the struggles she faces each day, and her hopes for the future, along with how important it is for her to stay healthy. By the time she was done, I had tears in my eyes, and I wasn’t the only one.

It was those few minutes when we all knew exactly why we were there…the bachelors and bachelorettes, the committee members, parents, friends, and attendees. Clear as crystal.

She received a standing ovation from the crowd, and left the stage. After everyone dried their eyes and sat back down, the bidding began and the first of over 51,000 dollars was raised…and they are still counting!

So I’ll say it again, thank you to all who donated, all who participated, and all who came out in support. Whether in a big or small way, you did make a difference!

eightWest Art Van Pajama Party!

February 1st, 2010 at 10:04 pm by under Entertainment, Weather
Ready to Go!

Ready to Go!



This was a riot, let me tell you!  Wait, I don’t need to tell you ladies, you were there!  Over 700 of you showed up to take in and enjoy a girl’s night out, and did we ever!

The night was set to start at 7 p.m., but by 6:30 so many of you were already in line, we decided to open early (considering it was so cold, and you were all in your PJs).  And that was all it took…the night was off to a great start!

Once inside there was so much to do, starting with Red Carpet photos with Rachael and Terri, which are all up at  Everybody got an eightWest bag as they entered, filled with a few goodies and the all important
map, to guide you around the store.  There were five main stations; Rustic, Contemporary, Bedding, Traditional, and Casual, designed to help you “Find your look”, which is really what the night was all about.  Each area represented a theme and was also paired with food (including desserts), cocktails, and a way to pamper yourself, thanks to Design One and their hair and make-up artists.

In addition we also had a stage set up, complete with music by “Nine Mile Smile” and demonstrations from Arthur Murray’s Dance School, Seva Yoga, and don’t forget some Zumba by Tara Lindquist!  It didn’t stop there; the cooking demos from Chef Brech of 25 Kitchen & Bar were a hit, the steady line for spray tans, and the list for complementary paraffin hand treatments was full all night.

The big bonus came if you visited each of the 5 areas and had your card stamped.  Then you were entered into a drawing for big giveaways at the end of the night, and boy, the crowd was pumped!  Jumping and screaming, full of excitement…I kinda wish I could have been entered into the drawing.  All sorts of things were given away; eightWest shirts, dance lessons from Arthur Murray’s, a wii from WOOD TV, 2 Sterns & Foster Queen Bedding Sets from Art Van, gift cards to Tropical Mist Tan, 25 Kitchen & Bar, Carlson Laser Aesthetics, Design One, Muriel’s, then jewelry from Stella & Dot, …and the list goes on. was a whirlwind.  It felt like the entire night went by in about an hour and I so enjoyed meeting everyone.  This PJ party was certainly a hit, and I can tell you it is only the beginning of all the fabulous things to come!!!

Stay West everyone:-)

What a Success!

January 12th, 2010 at 10:14 pm by under Weather

Juice BallLast Friday night I attended the Juice Ball held at the JW Marriott in Downtown Grand Rapids to celebrate local Chef, Tommy Fitzgerald’s, 40th Birthday.  While most would have wanted a cake with candles, among other things, Tommy decided he wanted juice boxes, as many as possible, to donate to the Kids Food Basket.

The Kids Food Basket is a local program that sends evening meals home with over 2,000 West Michigan school students everyday.  They come from 20 schools where 80% of children live at or below the poverty line, and sadly, more schools are on a waiting list.  The 100% juice, juice box is just part of what goes into the 1,000 calorie meal sent home the students.  As the most
expensive item, there is always a need for additional funding and donations.

This is where Tommy came in.  He decided to throw a two-part birthday bash with all of the proceeds going to the KFB.  The first part was a “cafeteria-style” dinner with celebrity lunch ladies in aprons (me included)!  We served just shy of 200 people; a menu complete with salad, macaroni and cheese, potatoes, and fried chicken, among other tasty creations.  It really brought you back to those hot lunch days, okay, maybe a glitz-ed up hot lunch:-)

Next up was the “Ball” part; a BIG party on the second floor.  Approximately 1,200 people joined in, and pitched in for the kids!  There was live music, a dance floor, tons of fun, pink and lilac cupcakes (very “West”…and I should add, very yummy), and pizza even showed up.  It was a hit from the start.  I might also mention that the weather was very cooperative, for January!

Pictures from the event are worth a thousand words, memories are worth more, but those juice boxes are part of what makes all the difference to thousands of kids right here, every night!  And with this party, hundreds of thousands of juice boxes will make their way into the sack suppers.  Thank you Tommy, thank you to the JW Marriott, thank you sponsors, thank you West Michigan…a little bit from a big crowd means a lot!

See you next year!

If you would like to volunteer with the Kids Food Basket, click here for more information.

Resolution Run!

January 4th, 2010 at 9:36 pm by under Weather

Finish LineFor the second year in a row, I participated in a “Resolution Run” to kick off the new year.  Last year, I ran a 5K through Lincoln Park in Chicago, IL on New Year’s Day when the wind chill was a whopping 8 above!  It certainly was not the best of conditions and truthfully, I was freezing the whole time, but I was so set on running, even if it was 8 below I was going to do it.  This year I found a different run to try out, the Wolverine Boots & Shoes Resolution Run.  This one was a 4 mile race around Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids on New Year’s Eve (I still got to sleep in…well if you call 6:45 a.m. sleeping in).

Weather conditions were surprisingly good.  At race time it was snowing lightly and a balmy 33 degrees with a wind chill in the mid 20s.  A few of the roads were a little slick, but it is December in Michigan, so that is to be expected.

In total, 667 participants braved the cold to finish the race and many others came out in support and lined the race route while holding signs and cheering.  One of the great things about races is that everyone has a reason to be there, you can just feel the energy.  For this particular race, not only were personal goals fulfilled, but each runner also helped to raise funds for P.O.R.T., the Pediatric Oncology Resource Team at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.  This team is in place to help the families of children who have been diagnosed with cancer or other life-threatening blood disorders.  One essential thing they do is organize Care Bags that contain personal care items and handmade quilt for the child.  They also supply phone and gas cards to commuting families and plan special events for parents and siblings, just to name a few more things.

So kudos to all of those who came out; to help, to run, to celebrate 2009, and start 2010 with your best foot forward.  Congratulations and best wishes for the year to come!!!

Also, if you are interested in helping out P.O.R.T., they have at least two more events coming up in the next six months; a Winter Night Out, and a Golf Outing.

Ready to Read?

November 17th, 2009 at 10:28 pm by under Weather

schoolsofhope_logo“The sky is the limit!”  That is what I tell students when they are trying their best;  whether that be in perfecting a sport, learning a new talent, tackling that “hard” math problem, or working to become a better reader.  I believe it is vital that every child knows that the harder they try, and the more they challenge themselves, the more they will improve.

Reading is a critical skill that is at the root of success and there is a program, right here in Grand Rapids, that is dedicated to helping GRPS students be the best readers they can be.  Schools of Hope, is a program run through a partnership between West Michigan’s Untied Way and Grand Rapids Public Schools, to help elementary students in first through third grades improve their reading skills.  This is done through the help of the community with tutors that volunteer 30 minutes of their time, once a week, to read with a student.  Tutors consist of high school students to seniors, and professionals to retires.  You do not have to be a teacher, or a college graduate to volunteer, all you are required to do is complete a 2-hour training session prior to starting.  This session will give you all the tools, ideas, and techniques, that will help the student you tutor be successful.

Since it began in 2001, Schools of Hope has helped thousands of children become better, more proficient readers.  Some will even go onto exceed grade level standards.  Last year there were roughly 1,200 tutors and this year they are hoping to increase that number to 1,500.

It is amazing what happens when the community pitches in and everyone donates a little…the results become tremendous.  I am second-year tutor through this program and every week I truly look forward to it.  One of the best rewards is seeing the improvement from the fall, when the school year starts, to June.  Words that used to be difficult are now read with ease, sentences that lacked meaning are now quickly understood (with improved comprehension), and pages that used to be read in a choppy fashion are fluent.  Not to mention, confidence is improved.

Now, (you know I’ll bring weather into this) we get a lot of snow here in Michigan (100+ inches in each of the last two years), and it gets really cold.  That being said, many of us may be able to find and extra 30 minutes in (what I know are already) our very busy schedules to help make a huge difference, especially during the winter season.  Sessions are held during the school day so depending on your work schedule you may be able to tutor on your lunch break, before or after work, or on your day off.  And here is another thing…it doesn’t cost you a penny (and I know free is not a word we hear very often)!  So what do you say…ready to read?

National Weather Association Annual Meeting

November 9th, 2009 at 10:55 pm by under Weather
Drove to Virginia Beach to witness the developing Nor' was 47 and raining!

Drove to Virginia Beach to witness the developing Nor' was 47 and raining!

If you follow me on Twitter, or are friends of mine on Facebook, you may recall some of my tweets/posts several weeks ago mentioning things like dual-pol radar, precipitable water values, and hurricane forecast improvements.  Well, these were just a few of the many topics discussed at the 34th Annual National Weather Association Annual meeting, held in Norfolk, Virginia, which I was able to attend.

My friends commonly refer to this as “weather geek week”, however, if you love the weather (and I do), it is perfect!  Plus, in the weather world, this is one of the big events!  Researchers and professors from major meteorology schools throughout the nation were in attendance, as was Greg Carbin, the Director of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK,  Bill Read from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, and Dr. Louis Uccellini from NCEP, to name a few.  The title of this years meeting was “The Future is Now: New Technologies and Techniques to Support the Weather Enterprise and Society: 2010 and Beyond”.  It sounds like a mouthful, but there was great data and ideas shared about the growth and accomplishments of technology in many aspects of the field.

Of the many topics, Dual Polarization radar is one of the hot ones.  It is basically an upgrade to the radars we have now at Weather Service Offices across the country (technically known as WSR-88D or Weather Surveillance Radar – 1988 Doppler).  Advances with this include; improved detection of hail in thunderstorms, rainfall rate estimations during flood or flash flooding events, better discrimination between rain and snow, and also elimination or reduction of ground clutter (buildings, birds, dust, etc.).

These improvement are possible because rather than just sending out a horizontal pulse, or beam, the radar will have the capability to send out a combination of horizontal and vertical pulses.  This has been tested and studied extensively in our Nation’s Heartland and is scheduled to be expanded country-wide within the next few years.  On the current plan, all radars, including the one in Grand Rapids, will have the dual-pol upgrade by the end of 2012!

It is amazing how far we have come and the advances that continue to be made. It truly was an eye-opening 4 days packed full of weather!

“That’s Entertainment!”

November 2nd, 2009 at 11:40 pm by under Entertainment, Weather
Cast of the First Annual Event

Girl Scouts and Cast of the First Annual Event

Happy November Everyone!  In this age of blogging, I thought it was time to try my hand at it.  My main goal will be to share important events, interesting weather information, and other tidbits that come along, which you may enjoy.  Now, the only question is where to start?

I know!  Last Thursday evening, an exciting event took place at the Wealthy Theatre, on behalf of the Girl Scouts, called “That’s Entertainment!”!  It was the first time an event such as this has taken place in West Michigan, but from the result, it certainly won’t be the last.  Through this combined network event, thousands of dollars were raised for the Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore, and, as a bonus, local media personalities got to show off their talents!

The evening was a jam-packed full of dancing, singing, laughing and tons of fun.  Brian Sterling, Dee Morrison, and I, along with others, took part in an opening dance, choreographed to “All that Jazz”, from the musical Chicago…complete with a top-hat!  After a stunning finale, the individual acts took off.  They included juggling, lip syncing, and even a rap number!  Brian Sterling had the entire theatre smiling from ear to ear with his comics.  To make it even better, Terri DeBoer gave him a glowing introduction and then showed off with a little baton twirling (she is really good).  While manning the flip cam, I prepared for my turn on stage.  Hula Dancing, how about that for a talent?  Surprised?  Yeah, so was I.  As a last minute fill-in, I learned the short dance in about 30 minutes.  Not perfect, but tons of fun, and definitely a great leg workout!

The night finished with the song “This One’s for the Girls”, an amazingly fitting way to end a fabulous night.

Big thanks go out to all who made it possible; everything from booking the theatre, arranging the food, tickets, talent, choreographers….Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.  It is so true that hard work does pay off.  Now I’m thinking, “Can’t wait till next year.”  Better yet, I think I already have my talent picked…but I’m not telling:-)