Archive for July, 2010

Getting on the plane to fly to South Africa, I had no idea what to expect. I had been briefed on a general idea of what the trip might involve; however, I was not prepared for the experience that I would have. Getting to spend a week with the kids of Timothy House was truly an unbelievable opportunity.

Every morning when we showed up at the field, I could see each guy and girl’s face light up as they ran over to give us a hug –they all knew us by name. The days were spent playing games, singing in line and when it came down to the drills, the girls would give everything they had. Even if they couldn’t quite understand what they were supposed to be doing, they would all respond “Yes Coach” and try their hardest. Their effort was inspiring, especially considering how exhausted they must have gotten. One thing that made an impression on me was that neither the language barrier nor the fact that lacrosse was a new sport for most of them hindered their desire to give us their full attention and utmost effort. As a result, it wasn’t surprising how quickly they picked up the sport. It took me over a year to be as good as most of those kids became in one week. Getting to spend time sharing the sport of lacrosse and getting to know each personality was something I would not trade for anything.

There are several experiences that stand out in my mind – one was when we started out two of the mornings playing a game of ‘Freeze Tag.’ It was obvious that the kids were tired. They had walked a long way and it was early and cold; however, as soon as we started playing, each girl was sprinting her heart out to either ‘tag’ or escape the person who was ‘It.’  Not only where they working so hard for themselves, but they would risk being ‘frozen’ to ‘un-freeze’ all of their friends. If you had been tagged, you could be sure that within seconds someone would be crawling through your legs to unfreeze you. It was amazing to see that selflessness in a game so simple as Tag. I also loved how the person who was ‘It’ would always say “Touch” when they tagged you, as if you could not feel it!  This simple game expressed alot about how friendly, loving and cooperative the kids were.  They would do anything for us and they just wanted us to love them in return. 

 When the week was over, we had the chance to go from teachers to students when we presented our homework assigned the Sunday before: learning and performing the Diski Dance. Although it was embarrassing how much worse we were in comparison, when it came down to American girls vs. American guys, the girls took home the prize. It was great to see how excited the Vaalwater girls got when we won!

Bailey Ewing

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I had heard a lot about South Africa from my mom’s work with The Wilson Foundation and her trips there.  My teammates and I had been briefed on the community where we would be working and the challenges of the children and families who lived there.  We knew that many of the younger children didn’t speak English. Event though I was excited about participating in the lacrosse camp, I  really wasn’t sure what to expect. 

The first day, we went to the Waterberg Welfare Society to meet the kids who would be participating in the camp.  It was the 4th of July and the kids surprised us by painting their faces red, white and blue and singing “The Star Spangled Banner” which they had learned just for us!  We  then had our first lesson of the “Diski Dance”, the official World Cup dance.  That really broke the ice for the kids and for us, and we all looked forward to the week of camp ahead. 

The thing that impressed me most about the kids was their enthusiasm for everything we did.  Though they had walked a long way to get to the field every day, they were full of energy and loved doing exercises and drills, even running laps.  I especially loved working with the goalies and teaching them to catch, block and clear.  (The first lesson they learned -the hard way – was to never turn your back to the ball!!) 

Working with the goalies!


All these kids knew how to make the most of what they had, and it showed everyday on the field. They shared cleats with each other and would switch off on who got to wear them each day. They cheered for each other in drills and when taking shots. They always had smiles on their faces and were eager to learn the complicated game of lacrosse. They seemed happy no matter what they were doing, whether it was playing lacrosse, doing the Diski dance, or just braiding our hair. 

Performing the Diski Dance!


One of the experiences that touched me the most was going with Coach Xan and his Xtreme soccer team to help serve at the soup kitchen in the local township.  Most of these boys come from difficult situations themselves, yet they had stayed up late the night before making hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to serve to those kids who were less fortunate than they were.  At the soup kitchen, which was really just tables set up under an old circus tent, the kids lined up politely and waited for their food.  Some carried younger siblings wrapped in shawls on their backs.  After going through the line once, they lined back up for more until all the sandwiches were gone.  I was amazed that these boys who themselves are receiving support, were also giving back to others who were more needy.  That was a really great experience. 

Every day after camp was over, the kids would surround the coaches and give endless hugs and ask to have their pictures taken with us. They reveled in the instant satisfaction of taking a picture and being able to see that moment frozen in time two seconds later. Something as simple as seeing a picture of themselves was a huge deal to them, though it’s something that many of us take for granted. In five short days, those children showed me how to enjoy everything thrown at you in life and to embrace it with joy and enthusiasm.  It’s something I hope I will always remember. 

My new friend Phinius - a great lacrosse player!


-Rachel Mannes

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With all the excitement surrounding Friday’s activities, we all got to the fields early to get things started.  After our now-standard circle of prayer, lap around the field and warmup exercises, the kids were ready to begin.  On the girls’ side, Coach Sue and Coach Katie had kept the girls in their same groups from the day before, and they began a series of short, 6 minute games against the American players.  Joe finally got a chance to put on his official referee uniform and called penalties and fouls during the game.  The kids all played hard, especially against their American coaches, showing off all the great skills they had learned during the week.   

The girls play hard against Coach Sue!

Challenging Coach Katie

 Joe the referee makes sure everyone follows the rules!  

On the boys’ side of the field, the younger players took the field first, showing off their improved stick skills.  Then the older boys took over for a full-field game.  It was great to see them pass and shoot so well!  

After the games, Zach called over everyone to the Gig Rig, which was parked next to the fields.  It was time for the Diski Dance contest!  He divided the kids up with boys on one side and girls on the other, and the South African and American kids performed the Diski Dance, the official ‘Waka Waka’ dance set to Shakira’s song, which was the anthem of the 2010 World Cup.   

Zach gets everyone lined up to perform the Diski Dance

Despite their late-night practices, the Americans still needed help from the South African kids to get all the steps right, but everyone had alot of fun! 

The girls demonstrate their version of the Diski Dance!

The boys show off their best 'Waka Waka' movesThe girls take their turn doing the Diski Dance

After the dance contest, the group walked over to Farmers Hall down the road, for a special celebration that included a braai with pap (traditional South African foods), oranges and sodas.  Then, there were more dances on stage, and thank-yous  and gifts to all the American volunteers.  A special thanks was given to “Mama Barb” Cox, who helped establish the South African Lacrosse Project with her sons Kip and Harrison.  Zach presented her with a special beaded vuvuzela.  After many thank yous and gifts all around,  we then presented the kids with their certificates, signed by all the American coaches and volunteers.  After a final closing by Zach, the camp was officially concluded and the group stayed around for photos and final hugs.  

Zach presents "Mama Barb" with a special vuvuzela!"Mama Tori" with the Xtreme team boys, showing off their certificates.

It’s hard to believe the week is over, and it is also hard to adequately put into words how special this experience has been for all of us.  I know the WWS kids had a great time, and I also know that all the American volunteers have all experienced an incredible level of hospitality, camaraderie, teamwork and affection by all we met.  Like many experiences in life, this was one in which the teachers surely felt they were the ones who learned the most.   

"Mama Tori" with members of the Xtreme team, who proudly show off their certificates!

I know that I have cherished the opportunity to share my love of South Africa and its people with my husband and daughter.  I know the trip exceeded their expectations in every way, and it is something we will always remember.  I feel sure the others in our group would agree.

I also must admit that I loved being called “Mama Tori’ by 140 kids who were always quick with a smile and a hug!
On behalf of The Wilson Foundation and in particular Joe, Rachel, Haydyn, Bailey, Sarah and Tom, I want to express my deepest thanks to Barb Cox and Kip and Harrison Hart of the South African Lacrosse Project, for the opportunity to work with them on the 2010 camp.  And to our friends in South Africa, especially the incredible team at WWS – Mary, Zach, Hendrick, Phinius, Joy, July, Steve, and so many more- we send our heartfelt appreciation for your warm hospitality and incredible organization.  Your work and dedication are truly an inspiration.
Finally, a big thanks to Trisha Wilson and the gang at Wilson Associates, and also to the donors who have helped make our participation possible.  It has been an unforgettable experience!
Tori Mannes
Executive Director
The Wilson Foundation
July 2010

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The morning started early today for several of us. Sue, Katie and Tom left at 6 am to go on an early morning game drive at Welgevonden with Marion and Angus Frew, who manage Trisha Wilson’s property here and who serve on The Wilson Foundation’s board. Joe and I left shortly after that to go get the punctured tire patched and repaired.

The younger coaches got camp started this morning, beginning with the giant circle of kids on the field and Phinius leading the group in prayer. I am always impressed at seeing the leadership displayed by the young men of the WWS.  They are wonderful role models to their peers as well as to the younger kids in the youth program.

The group started off with a warmup lap around the field, and then Rachel, Bailey, Haydyn and Sarah did warm-up exercises and stretches with the girls, while Harrison, Cody and Max led warmups for the boys.  By the time the older coaches arrived, the group was starting on th e day’s skill drills and scrimmages.  The kids are really progressing in their games and we are all especially impressed with several of the boys and girls who seem to have just naturally picked up the game.

Coach Katie gives tips to the girls

The boys scrimmage all morning, and we cheer on Phinius as he takes on Cody, as well as the other boys who are challenging the Americans. Tom has really gotten a command of the Sotho language and yells commands and tips in Sotho. I have no idea what he is saying, but somehow, the boys do!

The boys scrimmage looks better each day!

Watching Sue in action is a real treat- she is always full of energy and constantly encourages, corrects, and cheers on the girls. The girls rotate in with short 7 v 7 scrimmages, and Sue calls for the next groups to take the field one after another so that all the girls have a chance to play. Bailey, Sarah, Haydyn and Katie take charge of different teams and Rachel works with the goalies. After each goal, the girls cheer each other, and each scrimmage concludes with the teams raising their sticks in unison. 

The girls celebrate a goal


The day ends in typical fashion, with words of praise and encouragement from the coaches and a prayer of thanksgiving from Zach for a wonderful day. Zach reminds the kids that tomorrow is Tournament Day, with a big celebration on the Waterberg Welfare Society’s gig rig, a Diski Dance contest, and finally, a braai (African cookout) at the Farmers Hall down the road. We all leave feeling tired but exhilarated after another great day.

Back at the cottages after camp, Zach, July and Mary from the Waterberg Welfare Society provide a version of the HIV/AIDS education program that they regularly provide at the area high schools. The presentation includes several activities designed to point out the risk behaviors involved with HIV/AIDS and to illustrate how the HIV virus can spread among a group of people. For our American kids, it was a frank and important education about a disease that has had such an impact on people everywhere, but especially on the community where we are working. Dr. Peter Farrant, chief medical director of the Waterberg Welfare Society, concluded the meeting by providing additional information and answering questions.

Zach, July and Mary from the WWS give a version of the HIV/AIDS education and prevention program they provide in area schools

It’s hard to believe our week of lacrosse camp is coming to an end.  We are all going to be sad to say goodbye to the kids but we are also excited about Friday’s games and the ‘Diski Dance’ contest.  The American kids stay up late on Thursday night trying to perfect their best Diski Dance moves so they can keep pace (or at least try!) with the South Africans.

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Day 3:

Wednesday, July  7

We were up early today, getting things ready for camp. Joe and Rachel began training Tepiso and Helen at the position of goalie.  Both did very well.

Rachel helps Tepiso in the net

Sue started the girls on some great drills, and the morning concluded with some short 7v7 scrimmages. Over on the boys’ side, I took photos as Tom and Mike drilled the boys on reverse and lateral moves.

The boys practice a faceoff

The sun was very hot today, and as I walked back to the bleachers I saw a boy sitting there with his head in his hands. He had a headache and was slightly dehydrated, so we gave him a ‘headache tablet’ (aka ibuprofen) and lots of water. At that point the van arrived with lunch for the kids, and I suggested we serve it in the shaded courtyard of the school.  Lunch today was hot dogs, oranges and juice.  I walked through the courtyard refilling cups of juice until there was no more.  The van then came back with more pb&j sandwiches which we also served to the kids. Needless to say, there was not one crumb left!  Each player was given a big bottle of water and I spent much of the afternoon reminding the kids to go fill up their water bottles and stay hydrated. The South African sun is amazingly strong, even in winter. We all have been getting sunburned despite using sunscreen, and we have found the temperature varies greatly during the day- hot when the sun is beating down, and cold enough for a jacket when the sun goes behind a cloud. In the afternoon, Rachel and Joe trained two new goalies, Bianca and Lulu. The other girls worked on draws and penalty shots, and Joe then referreed a few short full-field games. After camp ended for the day and all the equipment was put away, The Xtreme Soccer team boys played a scrimmage soccer game with our U.S. players.

Playing soccer with the Xtreme Team

We decided that a US vs South Africa contest would be unfair, as the Xtreme team boys are so good (they play in the 4th best league in South Africa). Luckily, they were gracious enough to split themselves into two teams with the Americans sprinkled in among them. Max scored early on, and the other team scored soon after with a ball that bounced in off the post. The Dallas girls, all former soccer players themselves, loved playing with the Xtreme boys and even commented, “you know, it was nice of them to pass the ball to us and keep us in the game, cause they certainly could have done just as well without us!” After the game, we walked back to the only vehicle we had – a 2-seater bakkie (like a small pickup truck) that we had borrowed- and found that the left front tire was flat! I instantly knew it must have been a result of my having veered slightly off the road more than once in an effort to get as far away as possible from the oncoming cars!  Remember that it’s tough for Americans to drive in South Africa- the cars all drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheels on the cars are all on the right side of the vehicle!  Luckily I never had to drive too far!

After taking the punctured tire to the nearby service station to pump it up, Mike (clearly the handy one in the group) showed us how to stop the puncture from leaking by inserting the screw from Rachel’s lacrosse stick into the small puncture in the tire. Hopefully that will keep the tire stable till we can get it patched tomorrow.

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Coach Tom and Coach Mike instruct the boys.

Tuesday, July 6

Again on Tuesday morning, an eager group of campers greeted us at the fields at Meetsetshehla High School.  We start each morning’s activities by making a huge circle, with all the players and coaches holding hands.  On this morning, Xan led us in a prayer to give thanks for the beautiful day and the opportunity to be together.  Then, everyone broke to do a warmup lap around the field, followed by stretching exercises and warmup drills.  Again, the boys took the left field and the girls took the right field.  Coach Tom and Coach Mike have a great command of the boys and moved right into some of the key moves that are part of the boys’ game (Disclaimer: I know a fair amount about girls’ lacrosse but not much about the boys’ game, which is quite different.  It seems like it’s more about running around whacking at each other with sticks!)  After serving the kids a lunch of pb&j sandwiches and oranges, we got back to work in the afternoon.

The girls learn how to work for a ground ball

At the end of the afternoon, Coach Sue gathered everyone around and praised their progress and encouraged everyone saying they were better than they were yesterday, and tomorrow they will be better than they were today.  We are so fortunate to have such experienced coaches in Tom and Sue- they know what they are doing and are really helping the kids progress with their skills.

Coach Sue offers encouragement and praise at the end of the day.

Also at the end of the day, all the kids come up to the coaches, “Mama Tori”, “Papa Joe”, and “Mama Barb” to give us their three-part handshake (more on that later) and a hug!  It’s a great way to end the day.

At the end of the day, the campers say 'thanks' with hugs for all of us!

I must admit that I feel more than a tiny bit guilty driving home in the bakky vehicle I am borrowing, while the kids are walking home over 2 miles, after a long day of running and playing lacrosse in the sun!  I resolve to walk instead of drive tomorrow!

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Monday, July 5

During school holidays, most high schools are totally deserted.  But on this Monday morning during the World Cup holiday, Meetsetshehla High School in Vaalwater was buzzing with activity.  The 15 South African Lacrosse Project volunteers arrived early to finish lining the fields and laying out all the equipment, sorting out the boys’ and girls’ lacrosse sticks, helmets, gloves, goggles and pads, as well as the T shirts.  The children had walked over from the WWS (a distance of a couple of miles) after gathering there for a breakfast of hot porridge.  It was fun for all of us to see the familiar faces of everyone we had met the day before.

2010 Lacrosse Camp participants and coaches

The first order of business was to give them their T shirts, which had been donated from Not Just Soccer in Dallas.  After getting their proper sizes, everyone was happy to pose for a group photo.

Next, the boys and girls divided into groups and went to their respective fields.  Coach Sue and Coach Katie assessed which girls had attended the previous camps and then sorted the girls according to age and skill.  It was quickly apparent that there were some language barriers, so two of the older girls, Sina and Johanna, were asked to help translate.  From then on, the teaching began in earnest!  The girls worked on basic stick handling and cradling, and they also worked on ground balls.

On the boys’ side, Coach Tom and Coach Mike took charge, aided by Harrison, Cody and Max.  Kip circled the two group, taking photos.  There did not seem to be many language barriers on the boys’ side, and in fact, by the end of the first day, most of the coaches had picked up a few key words in the native language, Sotho, so they could give commands in the boys’ first language.  Both Sue and Tom remarked that they could tell several of the kids had been working on their lacrosse skills since last year’s camp, and there were a number of real athletes in the group.  Rachel loved working with Simbisa and the other girls who wanted to try being goalies, and Haydyn, Bailey and Sarah worked with the rest of the girls on cradling, tossing and catching.  Monday’s camp passed quickly, and it was hard to figure out whether the coaches or the campers had more fun.  We all look forward to tomorrow!!

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I have been without Internet access for several days so I am going to attempt to catch everyone up on the activities of the past several days.

Saturday, July 3

On Saturday, we met up with the other half of the South African Lacrosse Project volunteers and drove up to Vaalwater to get settled.  The Texans in our group include my husband Joe and myself, our daughter Rachel, and her Highland Park girls lacrosse teammates Haydyn Anigian, Bailey Ewing, and Sarah Morgan.  In addition, we are so lucky to have Tom Greene, assistant mens coach at SMU, along with us.  The Maryland-based group includes South African Lacrosse Project (SALP) founders Barb Cox and her sons Kip and Harrison Hart, US Womens Lacrosse National Team coach Sue Heether, US National Team member Katie Chrest, and SALP members Mike Jackson, Cody Jackson and Max Crockett.

Our group has basically taken over Zeederberg’s Cottages, a lovely little oasis in town, located behind a cluster of shops.  We are divided into different cottages for sleeping but convene in the main lodge, usually in the kitchen or in the living room in front of a fire and a TV where we can keep up with the World Cup games.  Mary Stephenson of the Waterberg Welfare Society kindly stocked the refrigerator, and Saturday night we enjoyed a great mac and cheese casserole, salad, and garlic bread.  After dinner we gathered around the outside braai (campfire) for awhile, where the kids made a South African version of  s’mores, but we were all still pretty tired from the flight over so we all crashed early.

Sunday, July 4

On Sunday morning we gathered for a quick breakfast and then transported all our donated lacrosse gear to Meetsetshehla High School, where we would be teaching the camp. It was a great to see all the sticks, helmets, gloves, goggles, and pads that have been provided for our group, and even more amazing was to realize that the South African Lacrosse Project has literally introduced the sport of lacrosse to the children of South Africa!

In the afternoon we went over to the Waterberg Welfare Society (WWS), where we walked through a receiving line of singing children, who honored us on US Independence Day dressed in red, white and blue costumes with their faces painted like the American flag!  Others were in traditional South African costumes with faces and heads painted like the South African flag.  They then entertained us with traditional dances and songs.  They started with the singing of the South African national anthem, then surprised us by singing “The Star Spangled Banner”, which they were taught by Kate Gillette, a Wilson Foundation volunteer from Dallas who has been working at Timothy House for the past six weeks. 

A special moment in the festivities was the dedication of the wall around Timothy House, the youth center, where the children had painted the logos of The Wilson Foundation and the South African Lacrosse Project.  They invited Kip and Harrison to come autograph the SALP logo on the wall and thanked Barb and the boys for their incredible efforts in bringing the lacrosse program to South Africa. 

Next, youth center director Zach told us we must learn the Wacka Wacka dance, the official dance of the 2010 World Cup!  All the volunteers mixed in the with WWS kids and staff to learn the dance, complete with lots of vuvuzela-blowing and celebrating.

Afterwards, all the kids and volunteers grouped together for what seemed like hundreds of photos!  The dance proved to be a great ice-breaker and everyone left excited and greatly anticipating the week ahead.

Following the celebration, Zach drove us through the Leseding township, where we had a chance to see where the children lived.  Most of the township consists of tin shacks, most without plumbing and electricity.  Outside the

shacks, people gathered over fires and when they saw the WWS driving by, waved and smiled at us.  The drive through the township was an important opportunity to understand the local community and its challenges.  It seemed hard to believe that the smiling, loving children we had just met lived in such difficult circumstances.  But perhaps that is one of the main lessons we are to learn this week- that joy and happiness are not to be found in what we have or where we live.

We all look forward to the week ahead.

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The 6 of us and our 18 pieces of luggage landed safely in Johannesburg Friday evening. The first order of business was to exchange US dollars for South African Rand, and then purchase vuvuzelas for all!  After a quick change of clothes, we loaded up our gear with our driver Alan and set off for the bus station to catch a ride to the Ghana vs Uruguay game.  Johannesburg has vastly improved its public transport system, just in time for the World Cup and the bus ride was quick and easy.

Seeing the Soccer City stadium in person was so exciting.  From watching the games on TV you get a sense of its design, which is meant to resemble a traditional African calabash pot, but in person it is even more massive and beautiful. Navigating our way to our upper deck seats was easy, and we arrived just as the teams were being introduced on the field. The noise level in the stadium was unbelievable, with thousands of vuvuzelas blowing every second of the game. At times they created a sort of rhythm, as people joined together in a pattern of two blasts, then three, or with one side of the stadium blowing at intervals, then answered by the other side. You don’t pick up the nuances of vuvuzela blowing on TV back home as it all just sounds like the steady droning of bees!

Of course we were cheering for Ghana, which had beat the US for the chance to play tonight, and which was the only African team left in the competition.  It seemed most of the fans in the stadium were also cheering for Ghana. Everywhere you looked people were showing their support for Ghana: painted faces, hats, wigs, costumes, scarves, and many who were wearing the Ghana flag over their shoulders as a cape.

The game was exciting from start to finish. Every time Ghana got a corner kick or forced a turnover, there was a great crescendo of vuvuzelas. They had so many chances to win outright, especially the last PK of regular time, which would have advanced Ghana to the semis.

Instead, it all boiled down to what our goalkeeper daughter Rachel knows is every keeper’s nightmare: a game decided on penalty kicks.  The fans booed when Uruguay walked up to take a shot and loudly cheered each stop by the Ghana keeper. When the final Ghana shooter failed to score and the game was over, the crowd went almost silent and people took their vuvuzelas and left.  I think everyone was exhausted by watching 2 1/2 hours of top flight soccer!

To sum up the evening, I had a few final impressions: Soccer City is a beautiful facility, clean and well-organized. There was plenty of security and the crowd was civil and very well-behaved, much to my relief. Finally, there was an overwhelming spirit of unity and friendship among people of many nationalities and ethnicities.

As we left the stadium with thousands of others sporting the flags of Ghana and many other nations, I knew that this is what the spirit of the World Cup games is all about.  It was an evening the six of us will never forget.

On Saturday we meet up with the South African Lacrosse Project volunteers and head to Vaalwater. First, some much-needed sleep!

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Question:  How do you pack 125 lacrosse sticks, 100 pairs of lacrosse gloves and 160 T shirts into 7 duffle bags?

Answer:  We have no idea, but somehow we made it all fit! 

This afternoon we finished loading up our bags and boxes in preparation for our flight to South Africa tomorrow.  If packing all the donated equipment was a challenge, we can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when we meet up in Johannesburg with the other 8 volunteers, who will each be carrying extra bags of equipment, including two full-size lacrosse goals!  Should be quite a sight!  We are so grateful to Warrior, Brine, 1 Lacrosse, and of course Darren Hayes and the crew at Not Just Soccer for all their generous donations.  Sadly, the donated cleats did not arrive in time to travel with us but we hope to get them over to South Africa sometime soon.

We look forward to keeping everyone updated on our activities and experiences over the next two weeks!  Sign up by email to receive our blog updates!

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