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The Parks brothers - Tanner, Cutter and David - are a formidable trio in junior pool leagues. Photo by Mason Callejas

 

Tanner, Cutter and David Parks have always had each other to entertain. Not dazzled by digital pastimes and video games, the Parks trio has become a force in junior pool leagues.

The 15-year-old triplets grew up around billiards inside their family’s pool hall, The New HQ, where they developed their competitive skill.

“We were playing since we could see over the edge of the tables,” David said.

The boys’ father, Darwin, gave them three sticks and let them play for fun. The family never expected to see the boys go so far.

“We were just happy to start playing pool,” Tanner recalled.

As his sons neared adolescence, Dad and his buddies in the local adult pool league – Amado Martinez, David James, Mario Bandin and Bill Huddart – taught the triplets the game.

“They’ve all picked it up extremely well. All three of them are very good shots,” Darwin said.

David Parks finished second in his division of the APA Junior Championships in St. Louis.

The Parks brothers took their skills to junior pool leagues in the Valley, spending many Sundays the past few years traveling State Route 347 to compete.

In July, all three competed in the American Poolplayers Association Junior Championships in St. Louis, Missouri.

“It was very nerve-racking, very nervous, emotional. It was all of the above out there with them,” Darwin said.

Tanner, playing in the 3 division with 93 other competitors, played five matches and finished in the round of 16. David and Cutter played in the 4-5 division.

“I prayed that these two would be at opposite ends of the bracket so that the only way they would meet it each other is if it was all the way for first and second,” Darwin said.

To Dad’s disappointment, David and Cutter were both scheduled at the bottom half of the bracket, setting up an eventual showdown between brothers.

“I was nervous because they had to play each other because I wanted both of them to make it far,” Tanner said.

David came out the victor in the tense, sibling game in the quarterfinals.

Having competed in the Billiard Education Foundation’s Junior National Championships in Las Vegas the year prior, David said he felt he had the advantage when it came to tournament play.

“I’m happy that at least one of us got to make it to the championships,” Cutter said.

David brought home the runner-up trophy in his division after a 31-33 score in the title game.

The triplets want to take their competitiveness to more tournaments in the future and perhaps introduce a junior league in Maricopa if they could drum up enough interest.

Their mother Jocelyn views pool as the final group sport the triplets will participate in before adulthood.

“I do believe they’ll grow up and go their own way,” Jocelyn said, “but, it’s fun, too. Especially because they can do it together.”

 


This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

Joseph Schott, whose mother Sue Ball lives in Maricopa, was killed in Phoenix Friday.

A grieving mother is hoping the driver who killed her son in a hit-and-run accident in Phoenix last week will come forward to authorities.

“It won’t bring him back but maybe it will bring our family peace and justice for him,” said Maricopa resident Sue Ball. “I promised him that would happen.”

Her 27-year-old son, Joseph N. Schott, was crossing mid-block near the intersection of 35th and Dunlap avenues July 20 at approximately 10:30 p.m. when police said a vehicle struck him and fled the scene.

Jeff and Sue Ball are mourning the passing of Joseph Schott. Photo by Michelle Chance

Ball said investigators with the Phoenix Police Department are working to find the suspect they believe was likely driving a white 2001-05 model Mercedes Benz C320.

Tips can be called into Phoenix Police Department or Silent Witness at 480-948-6377.

Schott was a hard-working electrician who wore his heart on his sleeve, according to family. He loved baseball and music, but nothing compared to the love he had for his family.

“He was just a great kid always looking out for his sisters and me,” Ball said.

The horrific news reached Ball the day after the accident as she shopped inside Maricopa’s Ross retail store on opening day.

The voice on the other line was her ex-husband Sam with the terrible information about their son.

Ball, blinded by tears and shock, exited the store and fell to the ground.

It was how the community reacted next that propelled her to publish a post on social media Thursday morning thanking total strangers.

“I remember seeing a lady that must have had some kind of trouble walking because I remember seeing a cane, and her arm reaching down, and she was able to pull me up,” Ball said.

Joseph Schott. Submitted photo

People she didn’t know surrounded and hugged her.

Store managers escorted Ball to a back office where an employee offered to help place a call to a family member to pick her up.

That employee was Sharolyn Winn, manager of a Gilbert Ross location who was assisting new staff during the opening.

“I have a child myself, and when I saw her and she said her son was killed, my heart was breaking and I’ve been thinking about her every day since then,” said Winn, who stayed and comforted Ball until her family arrived.

The outpouring of compassion has touched the family, Ball said.

Acts of kindness have grown to include meal trains and a GoFundMe account to assist in memorial costs.

“There’s been an overabundance of love and support,” said Schott’s step-father Jeff Ball.

A responsibility she never thought she’d have, Ball is now arranging her son’s celebration of life – while awaiting the day justice is served.

“I hope they get punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Ball said of the driver who killed Schott. “I hope they never, ever forget that moment that they took a life and they didn’t stop.”

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Aaron Petrus

 

By Aaron Petrus

Mentoring students is a very rewarding experience.

I’ve been mentoring for the past year with the Be Awesome Youth Coalition. I’ve learned a lot, including the realization that youth struggles are unique in today’s culture. Factors include social media, a shift in standards, and even family values.

I try to compare my childhood to the kids I work with today, and it’s difficult because our experiences are very different. Like many of the kids I mentor, I too grew up in a single-parent home. But as a kid I never dealt with suicide, depression or child abuse. It existed, but not at the rate these kids are experiencing it.

Issues like peer pressure, drugs and violence existed, but so did positive, meaningful adults in my life alongside my single mother like family, coaches and teachers; and they all guided me on the right path.

Today, social media, violent video games and access to YouTube have all impacted our youth in a negative way – especially in the homes or areas where parenting is not present. As adults, we believe if a child is at home playing video games or on their electronic device it means that they are out of harm’s way. This is not true.

Speaking with kids, many of them have learned a lot of their negative behavior from social media. Most parents are not even aware of what their children are exposed to. The Internet is loaded with teenagers acting in a manner that is totally inappropriate. Somehow, this has become a normal behavior and is accepted today or ignored.

Parents need to be aware of child predators, teen trafficking and cyberbullying. Victims of these tragedies can often become depressed and or suicidal. Statistics show suicide is on the rise among teens, especially teen girls ages 13-17.

Even though it’s different, some things remain the same, such as the human desire for connection, and the adolescent’s need for direction. Today, we have to look outside ourselves and think outside the box because the issues of the past are becoming more intense. But a competent and engaged individual can make a difference.

I’m proud to be a part of Be Awesome Youth Coalition. The Coalition has helped encourage and guide many teenagers and saved the lives of others. Please support Be Awesome Youth Coalition by volunteering, donating or connecting online. Let’s stop talking about the problem and become the solution.

BeAwesomeYouth.life

Aaron Petrus is a mentor for the Be Awesome Youth Coalition and can help connect you with opportunities to make a difference. He can be reached at apetrus@beawesomeyouth.life.


This column appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

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The top name for newborn girls remained Emma for the second year in a row.

Liam became the most popular name for boys born in Arizona last year, according to the Social Security Administration. The results were announced May 17.

The name Liam overtook Noah, the favorite in 2016. In 2017, 404 Arizona boys were named Liam compared to 380 brand-new Noahs.

Among girls, Emma remained in the top spot for the second year, this time by a heft margin. According to the data, 446 girls were named Emma to 400 girls named Isabella, which climbed three places on the list.

Liam and Emma were also the most popular names for new babies across the country last year.

 

Top 10 Popular Baby Names 2017: Arizona

BOYS

  1. Liam 404
  2. Noah 380
  3. Sebastian 344
  4. Alexander 329
  5. Julian 298
  6. Daniel 296
  7. Oliver 290
  8. Benjamin 272
  9. Logan 271
  10. Michael 268

GIRLS

  1. Emma 446
  2. Isabella 400
  3. Olivia 394
  4. Mia 380
  5. Sophia 274
  6. Ava 261
  7. Evelyn 261
  8. Emily 250
  9. Amelia 244
  10. Charlotte 242

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Priscilla Behnke and Brandi Homan of the Be Awesome Youth Coalition.

By Brandi Homan and Priscilla Behnke

Social Media is a great way to connect with friends, family and community. We realized recently at Be Awesome the youth we were attempting to reach were not connecting with us on Facebook but love Instagram.

We took some trainings. We set up an account, found some memes, took some photos and launched. We were ready. We were not ready. We knew it all wouldn’t be roses and we wouldn’t appreciate all posts, but how bad could some kids’ pictograms really be? A selfie with the occasional curse word? We were blindsided by a dumpster fire.

The least of our concerns were the frequent bird flipping of the camera. We witnessed video of vaping and showing off weed, couples commenting about the previous night’s fellatio, kids suffocating themselves with plastic bags, self-harm accounts, suicide ideation, nude selfies, and the gun threat that landed us on the phone with out-of-state sheriff’s deputies filling out a statement for the court.

Before you get a false sense because it was “out of state,” let us mention it had lots of hearts from local teens here.

Instagram has calmed down. We disrupted the anonymity they thought they were operating with and lost access in some cases. It turns out, when you tell a parent an account exists that isn’t supposed to, there are no more follow backs. Word gets out when you tell the authorities an individual wants to shoot the person who said something mean to them. If we started a new account under the handle Mandy_Bear_Spam_96 it would be unveiled again. We invite you to do so and see for yourself what youth are filling the emptiness with.

We asked students why we were like this. They said there was a desperate need for attention. In some cases, a legitimate cry for help. Others were dramatic attempts to be noticed. The more likes and hearts, the more you popular you are. The more popular you are, the more accepted you are. Translation: The more you matter.

We asked what would help. We expected to hear “more things for teens to do.” We were wrong. They said, “parents need to pay more attention;” “more family events for parents and kids to be together;” and “more teacher involvement for those who don’t have parents who can or who have parents who won’t.” Translation: Kids need to believe they matter.

This is new territory and its going to take brave, competent adults if we are going to change the hearts and lives of teens willing to live-stream their hickey session for validity. If you want to help, please contact us, join us or support us financially at www.mcaasa.org.


This column appears in the April edition of InMaricopa.

Brian French with his son Kyler, whom he adopted through the Department of Child Safety's foster program.

When it comes to giving back to the community, one Maricopa Realtor doesn’t draw a line between his personal and professional lives.

From taking on the role of a foster parent to going above and beyond to help his clients, Brian French of the Maricopa Real Estate Company tries to take a more benevolent approach to life.

“I’ve helped people move, paid for repairs, watched their kids,” French said. “I just want to help.”

It’s about building those friendships and paying it forward to the community, he said.

French, originally from Omaha, Nebraska, has been in Arizona since 2009 and Maricopa since 2010. Around that time, he was certified as a foster parent. After caring for more than a dozen children, French decided to take it one step further.

In 2011, he began to care for a 6-day-old boy who, in his short life, had already been through an incredibly traumatic circumstance. For French, that was when things started to change.

In Arizona, the Department of Child Safety will make every effort to keep a child with their family, giving parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles the chance to step up, French said.

For this young boy, that was not a possibility.

“He didn’t have anybody. [His mother] didn’t even know who the father was,” French said.

He took that as a bit of motivation and decided to adopt the boy he named Kyler. A year later, the adoption was complete, and Kyler was officially his.

French, at the time of the adoption, was married. But that soon ended. After a grueling battle, French retained full custody.

Being an athlete most of his life, French is a motivated individual with a positive mindset. He said he never let the experience hold him back from giving his son the best possible life. He has since stopped fostering, but not for a lack of trying.

“They [DCS] don’t tend to trust single men, I guess,” French said.

That means he gets to focus on Kyler and devote time to another relationship from which they are expecting a child soon. As his family grows, French’s future as a foster parent seems uncertain. But that’s OK, he said.

For now, he has the flexibility to be there for Kyler.

“I take him with me sometimes when I’m doing business or handing out flyers,” French said.

French said there are countless resources for people who want to foster children but feel like money is a factor, and he is willing to help anyone navigate the complexities of the system.

His advice for those interested in taking on a role as a foster parent but are reluctant to do so because of finances or a fear of the complex system is simple: “Don’t be.”

Maricopa residents Deborah and Carlos Weekly said French was helpful as a Realtor and a parent.

Several years ago, when in the process of facilitating the adoption of their grandchildren, Deborah said French helped the family secure a rental property when other realtors wouldn’t lift a finger, she said.

“He was really open to it,” Deborah said. “And, I found out after meeting with him, that that was because he was also a foster parent.”

Deborah and her husband developed such a bond with French they eventually used him when, approaching retirement, they decided to sell their home and downsize.

Not only is he a wealth of information and support when it came to the foster care system, she added, but his smile and positive attitude are something to behold.

“He’s got a really light and wonderful personality,” Deborah said. “When you see him he’s just a smile.”

Now, she said, they consider him and his son to be part of the family.

 

bfrench@live.com

623-451-1916


This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

It was a chilly and damp morning for the free Family Fishing Day and clinic with Game & Fish.

By Michelle Chance

Maricopa families participated in a free fishing event at Copper Sky Regional Park last Saturday, where they could catch and keep up to four fish.

The 13th annual Maricopa Family Fishing Day was Jan. 14 and was a partnership event between the City of Maricopa and the Arizona Game & Fish Department.

The department held a free fishing clinic during the event.

Instructors were on-hand to teach families the basics of fishing: how to bait a hook, cast a line and reel it back in.

Marci Alderman, sport fishing education program coordinator with Game & Fish, said anybody could participate, regardless of skill level.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’ve never fished before or you’re an experienced angler,” Alderman said. “It’s just an opportunity for families to get out and have some fun.”

To prepare, the city stocked the lake at Copper Sky with 1,000 fish prior to the event, said Special Events Coordinator Niesha Whitman.

The lake was stocked with white amur, bluegill, catfish and trout.

Ten-year-old Mireyna Marez and her grandpa Ricardo Franklin participated in the event and caught a few fish.

Marez said she would release a small fish she helped her grandpa catch back into the water, in order to “keep the bigger fish alive.”

Fun but low-cost and no-cost activities are available for family fun.

By Misty Newman

Are you looking for something fun to do with your family during the school year that will fit into your busy schedule and won’t break the bank?

We’ve compiled a list of activities in Maricopa and the surrounding areas for your entire family to enjoy.

1. Visit a Park

Whether nearby or on a daytrip, there are 27 Arizona State Parks for families to enjoy. Photo of Dead Horse Ranch State Park by Misty Newman
Whether nearby or on a daytrip, there are 27 Arizona State Parks for families to enjoy. Photo of Dead Horse Ranch State Park by Misty Newman

Local, state and national parks in Arizona provide many opportunities for fitness, fun, and leisure. Whether you want to go fishing, have a picnic or hike, there is a park to suit your chosen activity. Arizona State Parks website is a great resource for planning your visit to one of the 27 State Parks in Arizona. The Junior Ranger program encourages youth to be active in order to earn badges.

Get up close and personal with petroglyphs or go camping at one of the 21 National Parks including Casa Grande Ruins National Monument and Hohokam Pima National Monument.

2. Concert Series in the Park

This is a great event for your entire family to enjoy right here in Maricopa. The concerts are varied and include different musical genres to keep everyone entertained. This concert series will be held at the amphitheater at Copper Sky.

Visit www.maricopa-az.gov for more information on Concert dates and times.

3. Play in the Pool

This is probably one of the most common types of recreation that families enjoy together during the warm  months. Don’t have a pool in your backyard or have a community pool? Copper Sky Recreation has a large leisure pool with a waterslide, rock climbing wall, lazy river and an interactive splash pad for the little ones.

Visit www.maricopa-az.gov for dates and times the swimming pool is open.

4. Geocaching

Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting game that uses a GPS device. The goal is to find your Geocache (container) by using a specific set of GPS coordinates to navigate to the hidden location.

5. Have a Technology Free Night

Make it a point to have nights where no one in your family uses technology. Replace the video games, email, and twitter with taking a walk in the evening after dinner or going for a family bike ride.

6. Play in Your Own Backyard

Sky’s the limit on the games and fun you can have in your backyard. Set up an obstacle course and challenge your kids to come up with the ideas for it. The obstacle course doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. For younger kids, you can build an obstacle course with objects you already own, such as a hula hoop, jump ropes, and lawn chairs.

7. Disc Golf

There is more than one type of golf you can play in Maricopa. A popular disc golf course in Maricopa is located in the Maricopa Meadows community. Tortosa also has a course. It is a great way to spend an afternoon, be in the outdoors and get some great exercise.

8. Leaf & Feather Farm

This is a hidden little paradise just minutes away from Maricopa! Leaf & Feather Farm offers a spectacular variety of native trees, plants and cacti. While you are walking around, you will see numerous species of beautiful birds including macaws, peacocks, Amazon parrots and Alexandrine parrots. Leaf & Feather Farm is open Friday through Sunday to the public.

9. Hiking

Hiking is a great way to get exercise and to get out in nature. There are many beautiful places to explore that are only a short drive away from Maricopa. There are many hiking trails that are family friendly and close to Maricopa. These trails include A Mountain in Tempe, Wind Cave Trail in Mesa, and Papago Park in Phoenix.

10. Dwarf Car Museum

Experience the uniqueness of the Dwarf Car Museum. Visit the handmade works of art by Ernie Adams, originator of the Dwarf Car. He builds Dwarf Race cars and replicas of classic cars called Dwarf Car Cruisers.

Admission is free, and donations are welcome. Times vary, so call before heading that way: 520-424-315, http://www.dwarfcarmuseum.com/#!about_us/c12dk

11. Visit the Library

The Maricopa Public Library is your one-stop source of information, entertainment and the connection to your community. The library has a vast collections of books, videos, music CDs and periodicals for everyone in your family.

So whether you visit a park, play in the backyard, or visit the museum, these are all affordable ways to fit in some great times with your family.


Misty Newman grew up in Idaho and was raised in the outdoors. She loves to go camping, hiking, fishing, & rafting. In her past life, two of her favorite recreational activities included bungee jumping and rock climbing. She was a ranger for a state park, a Recreation Coordinator for the Boys and Girls Club, and the photo editor at the College of Southern Idaho. She moved from Idaho in 2007 and has lived in Maricopa since. She now enjoys exploring AZ with her two beautiful children. Visit http://www.maricopaoutdooradventures.com/

See her previous InMaricopa Outdoors stories:

Relive the Old West with Maricopa Mounted Shooters

Residents grow with Master Gardener course

Gun-safety tips from Maricopa Shooting Service

Avid adventurer changes life, now helping others

Hang gliding over Maricopa

Pacana Park remains in the heart of Maricopa

Introduction to InMaricopa Outdoors

 

The Johnson family works together as a team for academic and athletic success: (from left) Jayla, Johnny Jr., Josh, Johnny Sr., Shontray and Jabari. Photo by Michelle Chance

By Michelle Chance

The Johnson siblings are defeating the common narrative that student-athletes must often sacrifice their academic performance to excel on the court and field.

In fact, Maricopa High School students Johnny Jr., Josh and Jayla Johnson are proving they not only can balance the demands of the classroom and their sports, but they exceed in both as well.

Parents Johnny Sr. and Shontray Johnson said they have reinforced the importance of academics and athletics to their children from the beginning.

“First of all, we let them know that they are students first and then athletes,” Shontray said. “It’s a privilege to be an athlete.”

The Johnsons have seven children. Jaulisa lives in Colorado, Kyndra graduated from the University of Arizona, and Jahnei graduated from MHS in 2014 (she scored 546 points in two basketball seasons) and is attending Central Arizona College.

The family’s philosophy of setting high expectations in education and sports has clearly been embraced by the Johnson kids.

Johnny, Josh and Jayla play some informal hoops at the park. Photo by Michelle Chance
Johnny, Josh and Jayla play some informal hoops at the park. Photo by Michelle Chance

Johnny Jr., a senior at MHS, recently signed a letter of intent to play football at Scottsdale Community College. He was named All Section First Team in basketball, and he was honored during Black History Month by the City of Maricopa and The Flock Ministries for his classroom performance and being a young man of good character.

Johnny Jr. said overcoming social distractions in high school has been one of his biggest obstacles, but he said he keeps focused in part because of his long-term goal of becoming a top high school and collegiate athlete.

However, he also attributed his and his siblings’ success to their parents, both of whom were celebrated student-athletes themselves – Shontray played basketball at the University of Detroit Mercy, and Johnny Sr. played tennis at Montbello High School in Denver.

“They know the struggle between athletes and academics, so they push us because they know it’s hard,” Johnny Jr. said.

Shontray said she and Johnny Sr. use their experience to help guide their children to manage their time wisely.

“The balance in your life is extremely important when you are trying to play while in school,” Shontray said.

A sophomore, Josh was a point guard on the varsity basketball team, another All Section First Team selection, who said he recognizes a lot of student-athletes have a hard time, but “our parents really manage us and make sure we are on top of stuff at school, as well as sports.”

Photo by Michelle Chance
Photo by Michelle Chance

The youngest of the gifted trio, Jayla is a freshman basketball player at MHS who averaged 14 points a game before being promoted to the varsity team during the state tournament.

“It was exciting,” Jayla said, noting that despite being a young player in a position many would consider to carry a lot of pressure, the experience for her was positive.

Although her performance on the court is impressive, basketball does not dominate her time.

“Academics come before athletics,” Jayla said.

That all sets an example for Jabari, the youngest.

According to Johnny Sr., the family moved to Maricopa from Denver in 2010, and like a team on any field or court, the Johnsons have strived to flourish as a unit.

In fact, staying together as a family is how the family defines success.

“We love each other, we care for each other, we support each other,” Shontray said. “The most important thing for success is family.”

Three of the seven Johnson siblings, Josh, Jayla and Johnny Jr. all played basketball for Maricopa High School this year. Johnny is set to graduate in May. Photo by Michelle Chance
Three of the seven Johnson siblings, Josh, Jayla and Johnny Jr. all played basketball for Maricopa High School this year. Johnny is set to graduate in May. Photo by Michelle Chance

This story was published in the April issue of InMaricopa.