Category Archives: Inspiration

From Near Death to Superstar: Texas Resident Kechi Okwuchi Reveals All in Her New Memoir

Kechi (courtesy of Kechi Okwuchi)

The name “Kechi” (pronounced Ketchee) may not be new to some people, as she finished 6th overall on the popular show, America’s Got Talent, in 2017. Which contestant was she? She was the one with the voice of an angel that had burn scars all over her face and body, which was evidence of her strength and her earlier life. She even got a “Golden Buzzer” from Simon Cowell when she returned for America’s Got Talent: The Champions in 2019. Clearly, many people saw past the scars.

Kechi Okwuchi, originally from Nigeria and now settled in Pearland, TX with her family, was one of two survivors of the ill-fated Sosoliso flight 1145 on December 10, 2005, that was packed by passengers from her private school, Loyola Jesuit College in Nigeria, going home for Christmas break.

A total of 107 lives were lost, including 60 of Okwuchi’s classmates.

Read more from NewsBreak…

GiGi’s 24 Hour Run for Inclusive Play at Playground Adventures

A passionate donor of PlayGrand Adventures, as well as a local Rotarian, will run for 24 hours beginning this Friday, March 4 at 6 p.m. in an effort to bring awareness to PlayGrand Adventures at EpicCentral and how it creates opportunities for everyone to play, to grow, and to connect… all together!

Who is Gigi?

Abigail, nicknamed Gigi, was born at 3 a.m. on March 9, 2005. Her father was out of town and got the first call at about 2 a.m. telling him that his wife, Vickey, was having a miscarriage at just 23 weeks into her pregnancy. When Vickey arrived at the hospital, the doctors examined her and discovered two things: Gigi was still alive, albeit barely, and time was of the essence. Vickey had a placental abruption where the placenta separates from the uterine wall. She was hemorrhaging and Gigi was not getting any oxygen. After an emergency c-section, the doctors resuscitated their little girl and got her heart beating again and breathing again with the help of a respirator.

Baby Abigail weighed in at 1lb 7oz and was 11 inches long. Her dad’s wedding ring could go all the way to her elbow. For the next four months, Gigi would fight for her life. Today, Gigi is just days away from celebrating her 17th birthday but also battles with the many challenges of Cerebral Palsy which she was diagnosed with in 2007. Benefiting greatly from inclusive and adaptive opportunities like PlayGrand Adventures, Gigi and her family, who are also close friends with the runner, are honored to have this inaugural event named after her and to help raise awareness for a life-changing playground project like this.

Can I run? How can I support?

The runner says, “I’m running for those that can’t so that they can get out and play more!”  You can show your support for this mission and for the playground project by making a tax-deductible donation.

This inaugural run isn’t about signing up, getting a t-shirt, and a medal. This is simply to raise awareness and funds to expand PlayGrand Adventures to ultimately serve more people like Gigi. That said, some people want to come out and support with their feet. So, while this is not an organized race whatsoever, we do welcome you to make your way to PlayGrand Adventures and join the runner for a lap or more. We ask that you complete an online form below so that we can look out for you and welcome you when you arrive. Don’t forget to bring your own water and snacks as there will be nothing provided.

About PlayGrand Adventures & PlayGrand Adventures Foundation

PlayGrand Adventures provides a safe and fun playground experience of epic proportions for all ages and abilities. The playground includes adventure areas that are designed to stimulate, challenge, and encourage the development of several skill sets while providing social interaction, a sense of discovery, creativity, and exercise. The playground is part of a much larger overall park project which includes The Epic, a state-of-the-art recreation center, Epic Waters indoor/outdoor water park, trail systems, The Summit 50+ Club, and amphitheater at EpicCentral in Grand Prairie, Texas. 

Currently under construction are two connecting hotels, a convention center, six restaurant spaces, parking garages, a water/light show on the lake, and an indoor adventure park. PlayGrand Adventures Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity with a goal of promoting the playground and raising the funds necessary to complete the construction of the full 10-acre development as well as for the ongoing maintenance.

More information about this event, the playground, and the foundation at

The ‘Grandmother of Juneteenth’ and a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Break Bread in Irving

A historic luncheon at which Ms. Opal Lee, 95, who is known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” because of her activism to make June 19 a federally recognized holiday, met with Raveen Arora, 72, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, for the first time on November 10 at Hackberry Creek Country Club in Irving.

Ms. Opal Lee gives a big hug to Raveen Arora

Before the luncheon, Arora released this statement:

This meeting today with Ms. Opal Lee is one of the highlights of my life.

The circumstances of our lives have been different, yet we have much in common. We both have experienced the pain of discrimination and racism at an early age, she from white supremacists who burned down her home when she was a child—racism made worse by violence. My family experienced institutional racism leftover from British rule of India, the same racism that I had to overcome as a child. I was present when my grandfather was forbidden to enter a ‘whites only’ cricket club because ‘Indians and dogs were not allowed.

But those same circumstances of my life led me to meet many famous people who helped shape the person I am today. These have included Mother Teresa when I was six years old. She became my mentor and teacher as I was growing up, teaching me compassion, humility, dignity, and respect. Later in life, at the age of 11, I met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with whom I discussed the inequality that I had experienced in India, and which had triggered my passion for helping others. He taught me that it is good to be blessed, but it is better to be a blessing. Much later, I met Muhammad Ali and then-Congressman John Lewis, and learned much from both men.

All these people left a profound impact on me and the way I lived my life and operated my businesses. I think the results can be seen in some of the awards I was lucky to receive and that was the underpinning of my nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. These included the Mother Teresa International Service Award; the Martin Luther King Jr Diversity Award; the National Restaurant Association Face of Diversity – American Dream Award; and the National Diversity Council’s Diversity First Award.

I list these awards not to highlight myself, but to show the similarities between what I work towards and what Ms. Lee also works towards and what she has achieved—she is already in the history books for her achievements! Our similarities lie in our beliefs about equality, diversity, and opportunity.

My signature phrase is “I am human. Nothing human is alien to me.” Hers is “None of us are free until we’re all free.”We are in fundamental agreement on both phrases.

Both high-achieving people share the same message of freedom and basic human rights.

Continue reading at NewsBreak

House of Shine Features Kid Entrepreneurs and a Holiday Craft Fair in the Christmas Capital of Texas

Photo Courtesy of House of Shine

House of Shine, a nonprofit, interactive museum dedicated to the study of self, is hosting a Holiday Craft Fair featuring young entrepreneurs on Saturday, November 13 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at 334 S. Barton St. More than 30 students ages 8 to 18 will showcase their talents in painting, jewelry, pottery, photography, textile crafts, and much more.

Each student is mentored through the creation and promotion process by a local entrepreneur. 10% of each participant’s proceeds will go to a charity of their choice. Holiday music will be played and sung by local students in the House of Shine backyard.

Additionally, House of Shine is bringing joy all season long through their Santa’s Mailbox. Stop by the House of Shine to send a letter to Santa in their unique Santa Mailbox. Letters will be accepted Wednesday, December 1 – Monday, December 20. Volunteers from the Grapevine community will be helping Santa respond to the letters.

They are also hosting the Christmas-focused “Shineworks” experience, a DIY meets random act of kindness activity. Using everyday household items, participants become Santa’s elves working in Santa’s workshop and create one-of-a-kind holiday-themed crafts. They leave ready to share it with a deserving person in the community. November 23, December 7, and 21 from 3:34 to 4:45 p.m.


House of Shine is a nonprofit, interactive museum dedicated to the study of you. Our mission is to grow confident and self-aware leaders, ages 5 to 95, to make meaningful contributions in their corner of the world. We believe that inside every person is a unique set of talents and gifts that are just waiting to be discovered. Whether you are five or 95, our interactive museum, K-12 curriculum, and self-discovery programs will help you unearth your SHINE – uncovering who you are and how you can make a positive impact on the world. For more information, please visit To see our program schedule, please visit

Peace Together hosts Annual Peace Walk

Peace Together, a Texas Nonprofit Corporation, whose mission is to build relationships between neighbors, no matter their differences, invites individuals and organizations to sign up for their annual Peace Walk to be held Saturday, November 6, 2021, in Colleyville, TX. The Peace Walk will continue the focus upon and promotion of the love and caring of our neighbors to the exclusion of hatred, bigotry, discrimination, and intolerance.

Registration for the event is free. All participants will receive water and snacks at the beginning of the walk. Peace Together T-shirts will be available for purchase.

The event will begin with free parking available at both Good Shepherd Catholic Community, 1000 Tinker Road, Colleyville, TX, and First United Methodist Church of Colleyville, 1000 Church Street, Colleyville at 12:30 PM. and other overflow facilities. Participants will be transported to the Colleyville Masjid for Opening Ceremonies beginning at 2:00 PM followed by the Walk, which will encompass approximately three miles to Congregation Beth Israel (“CBI”), also in Colleyville.

The route is stroller and wheelchair friendly. Food vendors and music will be available at CBI where closing ceremonies will take place at approximately 4:30 PM.

Various locations will be set out on the Walk route for rest stops and additional water. Transportation will also be available to take participants to CBI if they decide not to walk the full route or from the Masjid for those who prefer to be bussed to CBI where they can share stories with new “neighbors.”

Approximately 400 participated in each of the last two walks with the help of many participating organizations and the phenomenal help of the City of Colleyville. After postponement due to COVID in 2020, a much larger number is hoped for this year.

More information and registration can be found at You may also view an informational video at

About Peace Together

A core group of individuals began meeting in Colleyville, not long after the shocking and tragic events in Charlottesville, VA in August of 2017. Participants, organizations, and institutions supporting Peace Together continue to show that hatred, bigotry, discrimination, and intolerance should and can be replaced by the development of strong relationships among individuals, despite their different backgrounds, appearances, and beliefs.

Save the date for local artist Sontonya Necheal’s exhibition at Msanii Hous

Sontonya Necheal, who was one of the featured artists at the Irving Black Arts Council’s (IBAC) annual Black History Month exhibition back in February, is having a solo show entitled, “UNAPOLOGETIC” at the Msanii HOUS Fine Art Gallery, located at 1017 Broadway Street in Carrollton from July 2 at 6:00 pm to July 31 at 6:00 pm

The opening reception will be on July 10 from 2-6pm. Everyone is invited for this free event.

For more information, contact the Msanii Hous Fine Art Gallery at (972) 695-6063, email or visit their website.

Soul Line-Dancing Provides Freedom of Expression, Local Studio Provides Much More

I was fortunate enough to meet Flower Mound resident Isha “Boomerang” Hutchinson today at the Grapevine Middle School track on Pony Parkway. He is the proprietor of 410 Line Dancers, which is based in Coppell.

They offer soul line-dancing lessons, ranging from the easiest to most complex dances. They provide soul line-dance lessons to all, regardless of age or dance skill level, in a safe dance studio environment. There are no partners needed to learn the line dances to favorite Hip-Hop, R&B, Jazz, Zydeco, House, Dance, and Pop music. 

“We teach beginner, intermediate and advanced soul line dancing,” said Hutchinson.

Hutchinson is called “Boomerang” because that was his pledge name in the fraternity Omega Psi Phi. While Hutchinson pledged in 2004, his former business partner, Jerry, pledged in 2010. As a result, the name 410 was born.

“Soul line dancing is similar to Country Line Dancing, but it’s set to more soul music, R&B (Rhythm and Blues), Jazz, Zydeco music – all these different types of music,” Boomerang explained. “Really a lot of the movements are the same, but it’s a whole different culture. You don’t have to wear cowboy boots. And it’s a whole national culture as well.

“With our group, we travel. There’s always line dancing conferences when we are not limited by something like COVID. Normally, we travel to other parts of the country. We don’t compete – it’s just for fun. [Conferences are] more networking and socializing and camaraderie and just to have fun. You get to meet the people you’ve seen on YouTube. People create dances and put them online. We watch them and then meet up at conferences to get to know each other,” Hutchinson said.

Soul-line dancing has become a popular sensation recently.

“For me, I started this because I used to go to clubs here in Dallas and I would do ‘The Wobble’ [dance] and stuff like that – the same dances that everybody does,” said Hutchinson. “At this club, every once in a while, they’d throw a new [dance] in there that I hadn’t seen. I think the fun is when you get to get out there with everybody and you get to do your own thing. You take the dance and learn the steps, but then you can make it your dance. You have to put your own flavor to it.

“With this group [at the club], they didn’t really want me to be a part of what they were doing. It seemed a lot more personal at the time,” said Hutchinson. “I felt that they were being exclusive. Looking back now, I can see that wasn’t necessarily true. But I decided to start my own [dance business] that’s not exclusive.”

Boomerang’s former club is no longer in business.

“If they hadn’t gone out of business, I wouldn’t be where I am now. My [business] was really built on being inclusive – no inner circles, no cliques, no special treatment, no nothing. I do not want any of that. Then we started realizing pretty fast that there are people there for a lot of reasons that aren’t dance-related,” Boomerang said.

“Some are there because they are new to the Dallas/Fort Worth area and want to make friends, or they’re going through a mental, physical or emotional injury that they’re recovering from, so that inclusiveness became a lot more important. We fancy ourselves as a place to come in and be part of a family, and we care about them, and we really try to work on building their self-confidence and self-esteem, and it just happens to be through dancing,” Boomerang explained.

Boomerang himself has gotten a lot out of this endeavor and has also helped many people.

“First of all, [establishing this business] has enabled me to be creative because I can create dances and I can be creative in how to build a business from ‘ground zero’ to whatever it is. And I am also creative with designing clothes. I design head-to-toe, and that’s created some opportunities for us and what we’ve been able to do.

“We’ve had some movies companies come and ask us, ‘Would you like to design stuff for us?’ so we try to include our students in that, so they can really build their confidence. We do a lot of TV production. On one of my YouTube channels, we interview the other line dance choreographers and instructors, and that thing has gotten so popular.

“Initially we let our students do that and PSAs [public service announcements] as a confidence-builder. We do a lot of commercials because I’m good at Adobe After Effects and I’m a professional photographer and videographer. We do photo shoots and that builds [students’] confidence up. We do all kinds of different stuff,” Boomerang said.

“Now with COVID, we had to take it virtual, and that’s expanded our reach. So now, we have students all over the country. We get together virtually to celebrate birthdays, and I do an annual awards program where they get awarded [for their accomplishments] and then we throw our conference. So, we have that coming up. We keep a lot of things going on that help build [students] up,” said Boomerang.

However, 410 does a lot more than offer dance lessons.

“We also do public relations and help students who own their own businesses learn how to write press releases and things like that. This year, I have been mentoring my students about a lot of political science stuff,” Boomerang said.

“I’ve been telling them, as bipartisan as I can, about the difference between the two parties. A lot of people don’t know the differences between Republican and Democrat. I try to be matter of fact. I tell them, ‘This is what Democrats believe and this is what Republicans believe. Whatever matches up best with your own beliefs is probably the party you need to look at most, and it might be a little of one and a little of the other.’ [My students] need to know what [people] are saying when they say things like: Left wing, right wing, middle wing, conservative, liberal, socialist, and all of that so they can make an educated choice. I am really trying to help them to vote wisely,” Boomerang said.

Boomerang’s classes meet twice a week. For more information, visit, call 469-464-9104 or email

“No Cliques, No Drama…Just GREAT Dancing!!!”

North Texas Police Officer Who Doubles as ‘Captain America’ Gets New Superhero Look for Ride

On Wednesday morning, Midlothian Police Officer Christopher Douglas got a custom new look for his alter-ego ride.

“He said he wanted it Captain America-themed,” Nick Daryanani of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’s Custom Car Wrap’ in Dallas said.

“The real hero in him is going out and changing those kids’ lives.”

Officer Douglas dresses up as Captain America to visit sick children in DFW area hospitals. He brought in his Chevy Silverado to get a custom Captain America wrap, but didn’t know until the reveal on Wednesday that Daryanani would not take payment for it. The wrap was free.

Douglas dropped to his knees, overcome with emotion when workers lifted the tarp to show the truck.

“I knew it was going to be remarkable, I just didn’t know this,” Douglas said. “Unbelievable!”

Read more from NBCDFW Channel 5…

Homeless Detroit man bought abandoned house, spent 10 years renovating for wife

Work hard and never give up. It may sound trite, but perseverance can yield some amazing results. Such is the case for one Detroit man, who found himself homeless. With ten years of hard work, he was able to turn an abandoned house into a dream home.

The Road To The Abandoned House

Michael Gray, who is 67 years old and elegant-looking in a pinstripe suit and bow tie, cuts a fine picture. Surprisingly, just ten years ago, he was homeless. Struggling to find a job in Detroit, where he had lived all his life, things were tough.

“I had been going through a rough time in my life,” he confesses. “I was staying with my niece and sleeping in her basement.” His difficulty finding jobs was due to the difficult economic situation of Detroit, rather than his own situation. Gray has a good education and worked a variety of jobs in his life.

In 1986, he graduated from Spring Arbor University with a double major in English and psychology. While in his niece’s basement, he, “began to craft my rehab skills working as a laborer for guys who were fixing up homes to rent,” he said

His Nephew’s Abandoned House

In spite of this, in 2008 something life-changing happened. While riding his bike, Gray was struck by a car. For many of us, this would seem like one more misfortune in a long series of them. Fortunately, Michael Gray is more resilient than most. He took the settlement money he received from the accident and used it to purchase a house. “My wife had been with me through thick and thin,” says Gray. “And I told her that I was going to give her a house that she would be really proud to keep, live in, and show off.” At the time, Cynthia, his now-wife, was still his fiancee. 

Gray purchased the abandoned property from his nephew, a broker for Global Property Investment Group. The company deals in commercial real estate, but when properties in their holdings weren’t suitable, they could be sold to private buyers–such as Gray.

The Condition of The Abandoned House

Gray paid $1,500 for the abandoned house, but many locals were wondering if it was worth it. There were loose wires sticking out from the walls. There were a variety of pests, including mites, mice and spiders. The paint was peeling. The bathroom was covered in rust – not that it mattered because the plumbing was just not working. Nevertheless, Gray moved in.

“In Detroit, if you’re not there, or you don’t have someone there, someone will come in and take your stuff,” Gray explained. “It’s gone in a matter of 15 minutes.” Determined to, “make it a family home forever,” Gray slept on an air mattress in one of the four bedrooms, while he, “tore everything out, all the way down to the studs.” 

Gray did almost everything himself, and what he couldn’t do alone, friends assisted with. In 2012, he’d transformed most of the abandoned house into the home he had dreamed of–although repairs and renovations are still ongoing.

DFW Airport Interfaith Chaplaincy hosts RISE UP Prayer Breakfast on August 28


Dr. Tony Evans

The DFW Airport Interfaith Chaplaincy holds a Prayer Breakfast every year, and despite the COVID pandemic, the “show” will go on. Called RISE UP, the breakfast will be held virtually on August 28 at 9am and will feature keynote speaker Dr. Tony Evans.

“We are excited to have Dr. Tony Evans as our guest speaker at this year’s RISE UP Prayer Breakfast,” said Father Greg McBrayer, who is the Chairman of DFW Interfaith Chaplaincy. “He is one of the greatest preachers you’ll ever hear. He is very practical and always delivers his [message] in a context that everyone can understand.”

Dr. Evans is senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, which has around 10,000 regular parishioners, and he is one of the most well known and beloved preachers in the nation. Pastor Evans has authored over 100 books and has been heard on radio stations nationally for more than 30 years. He is also the founder and president of The Urban Alternative, which is a Christian Bible teaching and resource ministry.

“DFW Airport Interfaith Chaplaincy is blessed to have ministers from Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship on our Associate Chaplains staff and part of our Internship Program. We are all looking forward to hearing Dr. Evans encouragement message to help us navigate these challenging times,” McBrayer said.

Tickets are available now for $35, which covers the viewing of the program as well as a $10 gift card to either Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. All proceeds will go to the DFW Airport Interfaith Chaplaincy.

RiseUp Flyer Graphic

Download the flyer HERE

Purchase Tickets HERE

Questions? Email Jennifer Buchanan at