Category Archives: Benefit

A Willy Wonka of Idaho

willy-wonka-and-the-chocolate-factory-gene-wilder-image-600x337When Jackson McKenzie was in the sixth grade, he felt like his life was pretty boring. So, at a school show-and-tell he decided to beef things up a bit. “I made up that I liked to beat world records,” he says. Fueled by a lifelong love of reading Guinness World Records – “I’ve read every one since 2000” – McKenzie had stuck his foot firmly in his mouth. But then, something magical happened. After contacting the Guinness people and finding out that the easiest record to beat was creating the world’s largest M&M mosaic, he actually made his show-and-tell proclamation come true.

“I did it,” he says. His mosaic was a picture of a tree, a monkey and a sun. He glued the M&Ms onto a plastic grid and created the whole thing in his room. “But, it wasn’t official.”

Now, McKenzie wants to do it again, only this time, he wants to make it really matter. He has contacted the Guinness folks, and knows what “evidence” is required. He has designed his creation – a 124-square-foot mosaic that includes the state of Idaho and a snippet of our state song, “Here We Have Idaho.” (The current record is: 74.92 square feet.) McKenzie estimates it will take close to 30,000 M&Ms.

Jackson McKenzie, 17, and his M&M mosaic plans. Photo by Jeanne Huff

Jackson McKenzie, 17, and his M&M mosaic plans. Photo by Jeanne Huff

With the help of his dad (Idaho State Sen. Curtis McKenzie), he reserved the rotunda at the Idaho State Capitol for two weeks to allow he and his team to assemble the mosaic. “We will be working from July 27 to August 9 and the record breaking mosaic will be in display the following week,” McKenzie says.

Originally, he posted his project at $6,000 on Kickstarter, but he says he overestimated the costs. His new goal is $3,500 and he has a website set up for fundraising at

Anything he receives over the amount needed for materials – M&Ms, Elmer’s Glue, a plastic grid, and paper and wood for support – McKenzie plans on giving to Go On Idaho,, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Idahoans continue education past high school.

So, if you want to help McKenzie actually make his sixth grade declaration a reality, send him some M&M money. In addition to his website, you can contact him by phone – 899-0753 – or email: He says all project finances, including every donation and expenditure, will be tracked and publicly accessible on his website.

Whadya say, a little help to help jazz up McKenzie’s summer – and to give summer tourists something extra to see at the capitol?

Let’s do it!

Go, Jackson McKenzie!

Go M&Ms!

Go, Idaho!

Or, in the words of Willy Wonka: “Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination…”

For real.

Get your hand basket out

friends-tv-showWow, I don’t know about you, but it really seems like that old saw “the world is going to hell in a hand basket” is really happening. Maybe not for me (I’m knocking on the proverbial wood right now) and hopefully not for you — but lately I’ve been inundated with super sad news about my friends — and their friends or family members.

I find some of the sad news on Facebook. In my newsfeed, where I like to dilly-dally and scroll through funny videos of cats terrorizing dogs, or babies and puppies sleeping together, I’ve been stabbed in the gut with updates that are definitely not warm and fuzzy. And again, I don’t know about you, but every time it happens — and like I said, it just seems like it’s happening more and more — a small part of me that I am definitely not proud of, makes my finger waver over the thumbs-up “like” button. Sometimes that small, almost tiny part of me (thank God it’s nearly infinitesimal) rolls on by to the next, hopefully, much more upbeat update. Maybe another funny cat video.

But I really do like my friends — even all of my Facebook friends, some with whom I am really not that well acquainted.

And I do really want to help if I can — with a kind word, a sympathetic sentence or two. It’s a kind of a new way to reach out, and I’m not sure we are all yet comfortable about it. God knows, we have a hard enough time reaching out in person. I think it’s harder yet to do so with the buffer of a computer screen or phone scroll. Nobody knows you’re really there, right?

But like I said, I do, I want to help — and, when I can muster it up, sometimes a “comment” is all I’m good for. And many times, so many times, I wish I was better at saying something special or meaningful or coming up with some magic words that will ease my friend’s pain or suffering. Or maybe help her find a smile. maybe make him laugh.

Because, me too, I hate cancer, house fires, car, motorcycle and bicycle accidents. I despise crippling diseases, autism and Alzheimer’s. If I was a billionaire, I would give all my money to all my friends, hoping that in some way, I could buy them what they need or at least make it so their pain might be lessened with 500 pounds of ice cream, or their burden eased by an exclusive, intimate Louis C.K. in-home concert.

But all I got is words. And here they are. Today, although I am heartsick about one of my friend’s sister’s recent cancer diagnosis, and another of my friends whose husband was in a tragic motorcycle accident, and another one who is dealing with the mind-numbing trauma of visiting her mother who doesn’t remember her name or her face — I am going to single out two of my friends who are dealing with hardship. I am going to tell you about them, I’m going to tell you their stories, and maybe you will tell your friends about them and maybe they will tell their friends — and maybe we can just all pitch in to make a difference.

And if we can do that, we can be as good as billionaires toting suitcases of cash. We could bring as much joy as ice cream and maybe even bring as much happiness as a night with Louis C.K.

My friend Christine: Christine (who many call Queen or Queen of the Universe) lost her home and all her worldly possessions — yes, even her iphone — in a fire just before Christmas. She ran out of the blazing inferno with only the clothes on her back — and those were hacked off in the emergency room. Oh yeah, and she miraculously came through this ordeal relatively unscathed, except for eyebrows, eyelashes, singed hair — and a really nasty third-degree burn on the back of her leg. She just completed her third skin graft at the burn center in Salt Lake City.  There is a fund set up for her that you can donate to:

And my friend Will is putting together an event fundraiser that will be held at the Visual Arts Collective Feb. 21. Music, art, silent auction and more with all proceeds after bar tab going to Christine.

Here’s my second friend’s plight and plea: Meet Alex’s sister, Monica

When my brother Dan passed away a few years ago, one family who came to his memorial was not one familiar to me — but one with whom Dan had become close to. They worked at Dan’s favorite restaurant, Baja Fresh. He went there at least a couple of times every week and they knew to start his order — he always ordered the same thing — when he pulled into his parking space.

Alex — her name is actually Alexandra — had dropped out of high school and Dan constantly chided her about it, telling her to get her G.E.D. — “I’ll pay for it,” he would say. Alex did get her G.E.D. just a month ago. And, sort of filling in for her Dad and his promise, Dan’s daughter Dana stepped in and paid for it. I was the lucky person who got to deliver the check: 1619589_10202452354262866_1224159130_n

Well, while I was there, Alex told me about Monica, her 25-year-old sister. Monica has kidney failure and needs a kidney transplant, and hey, she also just had a stroke and found out she has a bad heart. Her mother, who, yes, is still working at Baja Fresh on Broadway in Boise, is frantically trying to figure out ways to make money to help her daughter. They need to raise $5,000 for the surgery and so far are up to a little more than $1,500. You can donate here:

This is the only way I can think of to help my friends. (Not a billionaire, remember?) And I vow to help as many as I can. I vow not to skip over their Facebook posts for funny cat videos — I will still watch the cat videos of course, but only after I say a few heartfelt words to my friends.

I turn now to the Beatles :

Please let me know if you have friends who need a little help from their friends.

Peace and love

You don’t need that latte!

I’ve got something — actually someONE — who rates head and shoulders over your afternoon caffeine fix.

His name is KC (his friends call him “Kace). He’s 12 years old and his Gramma (my friend and workmate) says “He’s a total social butterfly – laughing and smiling all the time. He loves everyone, loves school and his family.”

And, oh, yeah — KC has Angelman Syndrome.

It limits his speech, motor skills and communication.

But — someone in little ole Boise, Idaho has come up with software that could help KC — and other kids like him.

OneVoice – it’s a software for the iPad, and it has pictures for differently-abled people to touch so they can communicate with their family members, teachers and anyone else they need to “speak” with. According to KC’s Gramma “It is an amazing program!”

She is trying to raise money to get KC the iPad and the software. She’s about halfway there and I will vouch for her, this is not one of those I’m-the-king-of-Moldavia-and-you-have-won-the-lottery gimmicks.

This is for real.

And so is KC.

And so is his chance to finally say what he wants to say.

I say, let’s give him that chance.

Here’s the link:
Chip in for KC

A real win-win

Doesn’t matter what the scoreboard says come Saturday—the Boise State University Broncos are already winners.

The players and Coach Pete are teaming up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to give one little guy his dream come true: the chance to coach the BSU Broncos! Stephen, 12, has Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and is flying up to Boise all the way from San Antonio, Texas to join the Broncos Saturday, Nov. 6 on the blue turf at Bronco Stadium as they take on Hawaii.

EEEE!! Look out behind you! It’s the Halloween good news roundup

Photo by Brad Talbutt

Yep, that’s me.

A few years back, I convinced a group of my friends to help me check out some local spooky spots for Halloween. As you can see by my nonchalant mug, I was oblivious to any of the assorted scare tactics the zombie dudes were trying out, including those silly old chainsaws.

OMG, who am I kidding, those chainsaws are freakin’ SCARY, do you SEE the look of sheer, raw fear on my face? That face, ladies and gentleman, is a rictus of pure, unadulterated terror. I thought I was gonna die!

But seriously, it was a lot of fun and I am posting the photo for your Halloween pleasure and hopefully, to provide my tagalong friends a little blast from the past (Ted, Janice, Grant, Susanna, Amy, Kathleen, Brian, Brad: DON’T GO BACK! The scarecrow man is REAL!!).

But the real reason I posted that photo was to get your attention. I have a wonderful announcement to make and, unlike the daily newspaper that, appropriately enough, focuses on today’s and tomorrow’s news, I’m going to do a follow on a previous First, the good news story.

I just got off the phone with Greg Morris, director for Charitable Assistance to Community’s Homeless, or C.A.T.C.H. and he said the Harvest for Homes fundraiser for the Canyon County branch was a huge success: They were able to rake in about $15,000!! All to benefit homeless families with children. Catch C.A.T.C.H. of Canyon County on facebook.

I was doubly sad I hadn’t been there because not only was the place packed, the entertainment was spectacular. With dueling pianos as accompaniment, Tom Dale, mayor of Nampa, and Garret Nancolas, mayor of Caldwell, both grabbed microphones and crooned a few tunes to the delight of all.

“What a great night and it was wonderful to be able to explain our program to so many,” Morris said.

Finally, I would like to leave all you ghouls and goblins with a seasonal recipe. This is a special dish recently handed over to me by a former colleague (thanks Bridgett!). It may sound a little scary but don’t worry— so did those chainsaws and look how great that turned out!

1 med. pumpkin (make sure it will fit in the oven)
2 pounds ground beef
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped green pepper (I used red; same dif)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 4-ounce can sliced mushrooms
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups hot cooked rice, Uncle Ben’s (not instant)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease cookie sheet and clean out pumpkin (this is the gross and tedious part but bright side— free pumpkin seeds!). Save the lid.

Saute onion, celery, green (or red) pepper in 1 tablespoon oil. Add beef; simmer until browned. Add remaining ingredients including rice. If you want, you can also add 1 can of water chestnuts (I didn’t add them because Bob has an aversion to them, I have no idea why).

Fill pumpkin with the mixture and replace the lid. Bake 1 hour until pumpkin is tender.

When serving, scoop pumpkin and eat with casserole.

For dessert, here’s another spooky little blast from the past. Boo!

Shop ’til you drop for a good cause

Hurry! Call your friends, grab your purse and head for the mall tomorrow, Sat. Oct. 23 for a day of guilt-free girlfriend quality time shopping at Dillard’s. How is it guilt free? A portion of the day’s proceeds from participating vendors will go to the Idaho Food Bank. Last December, the organization fed 130,000 hungry folks during the holidays and handed out 30,000 turkeys. This year, they hope to up the ante.

At “Holiday Heart and Home” you can get holiday decorating home tips from Joe Kubik, interior decorator Joe Kubik from Carols Design House and learn how to put some spice in your life from Wolfgang Puck master chef Cat Chancey.

Feeling a little Saturday-morning lazy? No worries, have brunch in and shop online. You can bid on prizes and auction items at Idaho Food Bank’s website.
Idaho Food Bank auction

Call 208-577-2710, ext. 2710 for information or to buy tickets. Tickets are $50, with $20 returned to the ticket buyer in a Dillard’s gift card.

Now, to get you in that shopping mood, here’s one of my favorite shopping scenes that might even make you feel like dancing:

Helping the homeless on

Giving people who are down on their luck a helping hand, well, that’s really what it’s all about. That’s what C.A.T.C.H.—Charitable Assistance to Community’s Homeless—is all about.

I first wrote about this wildly successful city-private-public partnership in 2009, when it won a national award. But more importantly, C.A.T.C.H. has now helped more than 110 homeless families and more than 200 homeless children find their way back home. Incredibly, once they cross that threshold, most have been able to stay there—the program boasts a success rate of 86 percent, says Greg Morris, director of the program.

Now, C.A.T.C.H. is catching on in Canyon County and you’ve got a chance to lend your own helping hand at the first annual Harvest for Homes. The dinner banquet will be catered by Bon Appetit, there’ll be dueling pianos, live and silent auctions and you can rub elbows with Mayor Garret Nancolas. Fun, feasting and fundraising for a fabulous cause.

6-9 p.m. Oct. 26 at the College of Idaho Simplot Dining Hall
Tickets: $60 each or sponsor a table for $420
All proceeds will benefit homeless families with children.
For tickets or info call: 208.455.0444

C.A.T.C.H. of Canyon County is sponsored by the City of Caldwell, the Department of Health and Welfare, the United Way of Treasure Valley, local congregations of faith and local businesses. The program helps families by first finding them housing and then helping them deal with issues that may have contributed to their homeless condition.

Doc at the Flicks You Won’t want to Miss

Don’t miss one night only: Basquiat documentary at the Flicks

On Sunday Oct.3, TVCTV(Treasure Valley Community Television) and the Flicks are proud to bring an exclusive screening to Boise: Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child. The documentary is wowing critics and moviegoers across the country and has been chosen as “Official Selection” at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and the 2010 SxSW Film Festival. (Trailer:
The film centers on a rare interview with Basquiat shot more than 20 years ago by director and friend Tamra Davis, and chronicles the young artist’s meteoric rise and fall. It begins in the 1970s in crime-ridden New York City as Basquiat covers the city with the graffiti tag SAMO. In 1981 he puts paint on canvas for the first time, and by 1983 he is an artist with “rock star status.”
Basquiat was 25 years old at the height of his career, and today his canvases sell for more than a million dollars. With compassion and psychological insight, Davis details the mysteries that surround this charismatic young man, whose fortunes mirrored the rollercoaster quality of the downtown scene he seemed to embody.
The doc features interviews with: Julian Schnabel, Larry Gagosian, Bruno Bischofberger, Tony Shafrazi, Fab 5 Freddy, Jeffrey Deitch, Glenn O’Brien, Maripol, Kai Eric, Nicholas Taylor, Fred Hoffmann, Michael Holman, Diego Cortez, Annina Nosei, Suzanne Mallouk, Rene Ricard, Kenny Scharf, among many others. Follow @BasquiatDoc on twitter; become a fan of Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child on Facebook.
“Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child is a remarkably rich documentary possessing depth, range, insight and compassion.”
– Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times
“Lively and touching doc combines insider view of its art-star subject with smart present-day interviews.”
– John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter

This film is part of the “great docs and great talks” TVCTV benefit series now in its seventh year at the Flicks. Proceeds help support the Treasure Valley’s only community TV station. “TVCTV continues to fuel freedom of speech in our community and we are proud to be able to bring this stellar documentary that shows the power of freedom of speech to Boise,” said Peter Lutze, Professor in the Communication Dept. at Boise State University.

What: Exclusive screening of Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3
Where: The Flicks Theater, 646 Fulton Street
Tickets: $11 available at TVCTV or the Flicks. Call 343-1100. Support your local public access television station and promote freedom of speech.

Murder for a good cause!

1unexpeteddeaths-gal-psychoColonel Mustard. In the billiard room. With a knife.

You KNOW how much fun it is to play a rousing game of Clue. And who could forget the campy movie of the same name?

But let’s be honest: Haven’t you always wanted to play the game for real, with in-the-flesh humans, actual murder weapons and honest-to-gosh real rooms, instead of cards, a board and plastic baubles?

On Halloween, Saturday, Oct. 31, your wish will come true.

“Murder at the Grove Hotel” is a real-life (well, almost) murder mystery you and your friends can solve, “just like a game of Clue,” said organizer Wendy Maple. Here’s how it works: there are different suspects — a maid, a bartender, event host, former Grove employee, a sports rep and the hotel manager. And, just like in the board game, there are a variety of murder weapons and locations.

But Murder Mystery at the Grove has a delicious little twist: clues about whodunit will be scattered around the hotel in the form of cryptograms and it’ll be up to the guests to find the clues and solve the mystery.

“People aren’t going to be just sitting at their tables,” Wendy said. “They’ll be all over the hotel.” And, “we will actually have a body.”

Not to worry, the body will be a live one, Wendy said, laughing. And, in the end, the evening will be great fun for a good cause — The Wishing Star Foundation.

Wendy first got involved with the organization that grants wishes to sick kids when daughter Jessica became a volunteer. But then, after what at first seemed like a minor concussion, 19-year-old Jessica was diagnosed with Grade Two Astrocytoma (brain tumor). “She went from being a volunteer to being a Wish Kid,” Wendy said.

Now 20 years old, Jessica has had two surgeries and is recuperating. She’s in chronic pain and it will be another seven years before they can say she’s in remission. Last March, after Jessica’s second surgery, the Wishing Star Foundation granted Jessica’s wish for a spa weekend in Coeur d’Alene. That’s when Wendy started hatching the murder mystery idea.

“This particular chapter really concentrates on the Pacific Northwest, so the money stays local,” she said. And, unlike other wish organizations that stop granting wishes at 18, Wishing Star grants them for kids up to 21 years of age. “It’s really nice to be a part of this organization,” Wendy said.

Besides the murder mystery/scavenger hunt, the fundraising event includes hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar, dessert auction and prizes for best costume and best team name (CSI Boise anyone?). Plus, if you get a little spooked, the hotel is offering a special “deadly room rate” of $69.

Murder at the Grove Hotel — an evening of murder, mayhem, fun, food, libation — to support the Wishing Star Foundation
The killings start at 6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 31 — HALLOWEEN!
$60/person; $450/teamof eight
Get tickets for “a lethal evening:” 870-2089 or 412-2992


Good Divas of Boise Crooning for a Cause!

cher_jims_5254929_600largeforgalleryWho doesn’t love a good diva?

Cher. Diana Ross. Barbra…

Well, hold on to your hats, Boise, ‘cuz we’ve got our own divas to celebrate: Margaret Stigers. Kathy Miller. Rebecca Scott. Deb Sager. Sirah Storm. Kerry Rourke. Mary Weaver. Dana Oland. Rocci Johnson.

You can pay homage to all of ‘em 7:30 – 10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22. And they’re belting out their best for a good cause.

Join The Divas of Boise with Rosalie Sorrels for: “A Concert for the Children, a Benefit for the WCA” at Hannah’s, 621 Main St.

The event is dedicated to raising funds for the prevention of child abuse. So open your pocketbooks and plunk down the $20 donation. Not only will you be helping kids, you’ll get a night to remember from our very own divas.

Rosalie Sorrels

Rosalie Sorrels

BONUS: Twice Grammy-nominated Rosalie Sorrels will perform a solo set and join the Divas on stage for the last set of the evening.