May we present Utah Valley Magazine’s second annual “50 Most Fabulous People,” starting with the man behind the “Fablehaven” heaven — Highland’s Brandon Mull.
Mull over this: Brandon Mull, author of The New York Times Bestselling series “Fablehaven,” didn’t always plan to be a writer. Sure, he hoped that someday he’d get to “geek out and write fantasy books,” but hope doesn’t pay the bills. So instead of pursing his writing full-time, Brandon, a BYU grad, worked for several years in marketing while penning novels at night. In 2006 his efforts hit pay dirt when Shadow Mountain published the first book in the “Fablehaven” series, and Brandon decided to write full time.
“It was always the secret plan to write fantasy adventure stories, but it was so unlikely that it would become my day job,” says Brandon, a 34-year-old father of three. “I hoped it would happen but I knew it might never.”
The Highland resident has found his calling as a writer. All three books published thus far in the “Fablehaven” series have landed on the New York Times Bestseller list and the soon-to-be released fourth novel is likely to follow suit.
“It’s a huge relief as a new author to get that recognition because you’re looking to establish credibility with readers,” Brandon says. “People seem to like the books and the whole thing has been a relief.”
To say readers like the books may be an understatement. The series has been so popular that Avi Arad, producer of movies like Spiderman, Iron Man and X-Men has purchased the options for the film. Rights to Brandon’s other book, “The Candy Shop War,” were purchased by New Regency, producers of Marley & Me.
When he’s not working on future projects, Brandon spends much of his time touring the country, visiting schools and hosting assemblies.
Jenni Bowman makes the best desserts you’ll never eat. A Lehi native, Jenni has captured the national spotlight for her deliciously inedible faux cupcakes, tarts and other treats.
In December 2007, Jenni appeared on “The Martha Stewart Show” where she demonstrated her products on live national television. Jenni has also appeared on “Good Things Utah” and hosted her own televised craft show.
“They’re mostly for decoration,” Jenni says. “It’s nice to have a good looking cake on your cake stand. It looks like you’ve been working hard in your kitchen all day, but it never goes bad.”
Jenni, 28, started her business — Jenni B. Originals — because she was often bored while her law-school-attending husband studied at night. Dear Lizzie Boutique in Highland was one of Jenni’s first wholesale clients. Now, the UVU grad sells her creations at 20 different retailers across the country as well as online at jenniboriginals.etsy.com.
Joyce Whipple … “Come on down!”
On Feb. 20, 2008, the three words every “Price is Right” fan wants to hear were immortalized for one of Orem’s own.
Proudly clad in a BYU T-Shirt, the then 76-year-old Joyce came on down, went on up and won the show.
“I won the Showcase Showdown,” Joyce says. “It was so exciting!”
Joyce’s exciting win included bedroom furniture, 25 travel books and a trip to Bangkok — which certainly made up for losing “A brand new car!” in her individual game, Squeeze Play.
“I picked a two, and I should have picked a nine!” Joyce laments.
Regardless, Joyce credits her fabulous win to her accompanying children — and the BYU Cougars.
“Wearing that shirt definitely helped get me on the show,” she says.
Plus, it helped her win the hearts of 30 contestants from UCLA, a school that, at the time, had just lost to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl.
“We had been razzing them for losing the game, but in the end, even the UCLA guys were cheering for me. You could hear them yell in unison, ‘Joyce! Joyce! Joyce! Joyce!’”
BRIAN BROUGH & BRITTANY WISCOMBE
Brian Brough and Brittany Wiscombe are all about family. The brother-sister team works together at the family company — Candlelight Media Group — where they mastermind family-friendly films.
Brittany typically writes the scripts for the films, while Brian takes care of directing and producing. The pair pow-wow often as each film moves from idea to reality.
“We get along well,” Brian says. “It’s nice to have each other’s different viewpoints, but we also think pretty similarly and it’s nice to be on the same wavelength as one another.”
Together, Brittany and Brian have created a handful of successful movies, including “TurnAround,” “Beauty and the Beast: A Latter-day Tale” and “Everything You Want.” They are currently working on “The Christmas Angel,” a feel-good Christmas movie that will be released in late 2009, and “One Man’s Treasure,” an LDS-themed film.
RICHARD E. BENNETT, RICHARD S. BENNETT, DAVID BENNETT & DENNIS ANDERSEN
Life is all fun and games for local entrepreneurs Richard E. Bennett, Richard S. (Dick) Bennett, David Bennett and Dennis Andersen, the founders of Fun at Home Games, LLC, and producers of family-oriented board game “SwashBuckled.”
The idea for “SwashBuckled” was conceived by Dick in the late 1980s to keep his children from playing too many video games. An educator by profession, Dick wanted to make a board game that was fun and educational and could assist in teaching children geography and other subjects. He got together with son Richard, who was 12 years old at the time, and created “SwashBuckled.”
For years the pair dreamed of producing the game commercially but were sidetracked by other pursuits. In 2005, they recruited youngest son David and friend Dennis to create Fun at Home Games, and by the summer of 2007, “SwashBuckled” was available for sale.
The game has met with such success that the group plans to release several more board games in the near future.
Lehi’s Tiffany Berg knows tough.
She fought an intense battle with alcohol addiction — and won.
She supported her husband through a five-year battle with cancer — and never gave up.
She lost two homes thanks to crippling medical bills — and moved forward.
And she’s currently supporting her husband through an additional bout with cancer — and inspiring others in the process.
“I want people to understand that change is necessary, giving up is optional,” says Tiffany, who wrote the book “How Tough Moms Succeed in Tough Times.”
“Giving up is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” she says.
Tiffany uses her own experiences — both harrowing and victorious — in all of her motivational endeavors. And from author to keynote speaker to philanthropist (she co-founded the organization Heart 2 Home, which partnered with “Oprah’s Big Give” last year), Tiffany has proven that “tough” love is life-changing love.
“We tend to have this idea that if we do the right things, tough things won’t happen to us,” says Tiffany, who was Mrs. Utah United States in 2007. “But that’s just not the case. These are tough times, and we, as mothers, have to be tough. We need to be the strong women we are.”
Fritz Black knows what it means to cowboy up. Born and bred in Springville, Fritz is the entrepreneur behind Cowboy Leaders, a hands-on training program that teaches leadership skills via immersion into the cowboy world.
Fritz launched the program in the spring of 2008, teaming up with horse trainer Joe Reid to develop curriculum that teaches the value of work, consistency and integrity. The Spanish Fork man came up with the idea in 2003.
“As I taught people my philosophies on leadership I would often get questions about where I learned them,” says Fritz, who has 30 years of leadership experience. “I would always go back to my youth and the time spent on the ranch working with horses.”
Cowboy Leaders is operated at the Danglin’ B Ranch in Birdseye and is open to anyone looking to improve his or her leadership skills.
Orem’s Adam Abram is a jack of all trades and master of many. The 32-year-old is an artist, composer, writer, actor and producer. Although skilled in several areas, these days the self-taught painter is concentrating his creative juices on creating art.
“In the past I haven’t really focused on getting the word out about my art,” Adam says. “But now I’m focusing all of my energy on it, and it’s blossoming this year.”
In 2007, Adam won 3rd place in the prestigious Art Renewal Center International Art Contest in New York with his landscape painting of Mount Timpanogos. He placed second with his depiction of the garden of Gethsemane at the Springville Museum of Art’s Annual Spiritual and Religious Art Exhibition at the end of 2008. Adam’s works have been displayed at BYU’s Education Week, the OliveWood Gallery in Provo and the LDS Church Visitor’s Center in Salt Lake City.
As a composer, he has penned music for a handful of movies, including the motion picture “Church Ball,” the action flick “The 11th Hour” and for a spoof on FOX’s “24” called “CTU Provo,” starring Donny Osmond. Adam has also acted in several local movies.
KEITH & JODY RENSTROM
For 33 years, Keith and Jody Renstrom have been all work and all play.
The Orem couple runs the Valley Center Playhouse in Lindon, and their family-friendly theatrics have been applauded near and far.
“It’s been a lifetime of joy, fun and hard work,” says Jody, who has penned 15 plays and 40 original songs. “It’s been so rewarding.”
The rewards have come in a multitude of ways. From inspired casting (“The cast literally falls out of heaven onto our stage.”) to inspired unions (Keith and Jody purposely cast their son and an “adorable girl” — turned daughter-in-law — in a play together), happiness has been a permanent cast member in the Renstroms’ epic career.
And the best part? There’s no finale in sight.
“Keith is 87 now, and he is just so cute. He’s a trooper,” Jody says. “I’m in my — well, let’s say mid-70s. (laughs) And we can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Lloyd Ash is a man of many hats. A former mayor of Pleasant Grove, Lloyd is an entrepreneur, inventor and patent-holder. He is also the founder and lead research and development engineer of Ashross, a Pleasant Grove-based business specializing in mobile unloading systems.
From its first clients within the Beehive State, Lloyd’s company has grown to sell equipment to the likes of Exxon Mobile and other large corporations around the world.
All manufacturing activities for Ashross take place at company headquarters near the iconic Purple Turtle in Pleasant Grove. Interestingly, Lloyd was the man who built and named the Purple Turtle.
Better throw on another hat, Lloyd.
When Syl Carson took up yoga as a hobby 17 years ago, she didn’t intend for it to become her career. And it hasn’t — yoga has become her calling.
Syl began teaching yoga nine years ago after she moved back to Utah and couldn’t find an instructor in the area. At the time, Syl was branch manager at a local bank. At first, she ran her yoga studio — White Mountain Yoga — out of the bank’s basement.
Syl’s studio (the first of its kind in the valley) started with a handful of female clients but grew quickly. In 2005, Syl left banking to turn all her attention to yoga.
“It got to the point where I was making more doing yoga part-time than at the bank full-time,” says Syl, who established a yoga center in Provo’s Cottontree Square in 2007. “I feel like I retired at 35.”
The 41-year-old has more than 6,000 teaching hours and training in seven separate yoga modalities. She has released eight yoga guidebooks, five DVDs and six CDs. Syl is also a regular guest on KJZZ’s “The Home Team” morning program.
In addition to its large local following, White Mountain Yoga has an online community approximately 5,000 strong, with members from locales such as Nepal, India, Australia and Singapore.
BRITTANY CHERRY & BRANDON ARMSTRONG
For Brittany Cherry and Brandon Armstrong, it was written in the stars.
The teenage dance sensations — from Pleasant Grove and Lehi respectively — won the title of junior champions on Dancing With the Stars in May of 2008. And “excited” doesn’t begin to describe their winning reaction.
“We totally freaked out,” says Brandon, who’s been dancing for five years. “It was fun. They treated us like we were the president!”
“We were so excited!” adds Brittany, who’s been dancing for nine years and plans to “dance forever.” “We honestly didn’t think we would win.”
The judges, on the other hand, had no doubt. This is what the judges had to say about the tiny dancers’ final dance — the paso doble.
MOLLY CALL & NOELLE OPLIN
Molly Call and Noelle Olpin aren’t just crafters. The two Utah Valley women are also the entrepreneurs behind one of the state’s most buzz-worthy events — the Beehive Bazaar.
Since 2003, the Beehive Bazaar has been the area’s go-to showcase for independent designs, arts, crafts and edibles.
The first Bazaar was hosted in a private home and included roughly 20 vendors. Six years later, it has grown into a bi-annual, multi-day event with more than 50 carefully selected vendors. Visitors from in and outside the state buzz to the Bazaar.
“People are always saying, ‘I can’t believe we have this in Provo,’” says Noelle, of Springville. “We try very hard to keep it to things that are different than what you would normally see.”
The next Beehive Bazaar will be April 30 and May 1-2 at the Women’s Center in Provo.
Everything Dave Tuomisto touches turns to delicious gold.
First there was Bajio Mexican Grill (yes, that Bajio), which Dave founded in 2002. And now there’s Marley’s, the gourmet slider joint inside his newly built, first-of-its-kind Harley-Davidson resort (yes, a resort).
So not only can the man cook, he’s also the mastermind behind the $16-million, 60,000-square-foot motorcycle mecca in Lindon, an establishment that bikers all over the county — and country — are revved up about.
“I wanted to build a place everyone could enjoy,” Dave says. “It’s a place for bikers, scout groups, families — everyone. We’ve really got a cool vibe going.”
And if that weren’t cool enough, he built the resort with the nuts and bolts of Utah Valley’s history. The dealership was built with reclaimed steel, trusses and fixtures from the old Geneva Steel plant.
Last summer, 21 aspiring designers from around the world were carefully selected by General Motors Design. Their charge? To create vehicles of the future for emerging global markets that do not consume a drop of gasoline.
Among the lucky interns was Spencer Chamberlain, an Orem native, who was chosen from BYU to receive the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make an impact with his designs.
During the three-month internship, Spencer worked tirelessly to create a vehicle that challenged the boundaries of “eco-friendliness” both inside and out. He spent countless hours with his team creating a three-dimensional, fuel cell vehicle that meets the needs of consumers in emerging markets such as China, Russia and India.
ASHLY DELGROSSO COSTA
Ashly DelGrosso Costa has all the right dance moves. The Utah native starred as a dance professional on the first three seasons of the ABC hit series “Dancing with the Stars.” On the show, Ashly was paired with former New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre, rapper Master P and actor Harry Hamlin.
“I had such a great time working on the show and was blessed to get to know some really wonderful people,” says Ashly, 26.
The young mother took off seasons four and five after the birth of her son and returned for a cameo on the 100th episode of the show. Last season, Ashly appeared on several episodes as a guest artist.
Raised in Highland, Ashly got her dance training at Center Stage Performing Arts Studio in Orem, where her mother is part owner. Although Ashly is now living in Massachusetts, she returns monthly to Utah to teach master classes at the studio.
In addition to her dancing, Ashly recently released a line of jewelry called Choreography. Each set in the collection is named after a different ballroom dance. Choreography is manufactured in Utah and handcrafted by women.
Spanish Fork Realtor Kenny Parcell spent New Year’s Day on parade — literally. The RE/MAX Results Hall of Fame Member and Lifetime achievement award recipient was one of eight people selected to ride on the National Realtor Association float at the 120th Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Day.
“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Kenny says. “It was nuts how many people were there — over 1 million — and how many people tuned in to watch the parade on TV.”
Kenny, who is known for his real-estate savvy and customer service, was the only Utahn on the float. He was selected because of his leadership position on the executive committee of the National Association of Realtors. Kenny was appointed to that post in 2008 and is the youngest person in 100 years to hold the position.
“I knew I must have made it on camera because my phone started to buzz a lot with text messages and e-mails,” says Kenny, who was dressed up as a young fisherman on the float. “I got good face time on NBC, ABC and The Travel Channel.”
Denise Devynck has earned her wings — her angel wings, that is. The Orem woman is the heart and soul behind LetterstoSoldiers.org, a nonprofit organization that sends letters, care packages and support to Utah troops in Iraq.
Denise started the organization in 2007 after hearing about low morale among deployed military in Iraq. She began collecting cards from across the country to send overseas. Efforts snowballed, and last Christmas Denise coordinated the shipment of 1,566 care packages to service members in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq. The personalized packages included uniquely Utah gifts donated by local businesses like Neways, Kara Chocolates and BYU.
Denise, who is disabled from a spinal cord injury she sustained in a car accident, devotes much of her time to building the nonprofit. She has a goal to raise $25,000 to send out 2,500 care packages for Christmas 2009.
“I have gotten so many cards and e-mails back from troops letting us know how much it meant for them to get these things,” Denise says.
BRIAN NELSON FORD
Brian Nelson Ford isn’t a typical moneyman. True, the Highland man is a financial planner, but first and foremost, Brian is an educator. His mission? To free people from their monetary woes by teaching them the do’s and don’ts of money management.
To that end, Brian has published three financial books: “Marshmallows and Bikes — Teaching Children (and adults) Personal Finance,” “Financial Wisdom — Timeless as Nature” and “The 8 Pillars of Financial Greatness.” “Marshmallows and Bikes” won a regional EVVY award in 2008 for up-and-coming authors.
In addition to providing financial coaching to individuals and organizations, Brian spends time giving back by speaking at local high schools and colleges.
“It’s always been interesting to me that money problems are one of the biggest issues for people,” Brian says. “Money is an object. It’s very manageable. I want to help people learn about money so they can move on to their other goals.”
MINDY SPENCER & JEANNIE TUCKETT DAYTON
Jeannie Tuckett Dayton and Mindy Spencer are rolling in dough — bread dough, that is. The mother-daughter duo run Pantry Secrets, a Pleasant Grove-based company that teaches aspiring bakers how to make homemade bread from start to finish in one hour. The key is a “secret” recipe that has been honed by Jeannie over dozens of years and has only a few ingredients.
“What makes it so interesting is that we do 50 different things with the dough,” Jeannie says. “We don’t just make a loaf of bread. You can make pizza, calzones, buns, rolls, foccaicia bread with just the one recipe.”
Jeannie and Mindy share their secrets at baking classes hosted at Jeannie’s home, as well as on a DVD sold at pantrysecrets.net and at Maceys grocery stores, Bosch Kitchen Center, Lehi Roller Mills and Alison’s Pantry.
Personal trainers are known for being tough, but Gold’s Gym’s Clint Friel may take it to the next level. No, Clint, 53, doesn’t drive his clients into the ground. But he does know a thing or two about discipline. After all, the Orem man spent 28 years working in the Utah State Prison system. For the last six years before his retirement in April 2007, Clint was the warden at Utah State Prison.
Clint made the switch to personal training after retiring because he loves to work out. He says his age and his experiences at the prison set him apart as a trainer.
“I do push my clients but they can obviously stop when they feel like they need to,” says Clint, who also runs half-marathons. “After working at the prison I am good at reading people’s body language and that helps with personal training. I can look at their body and know what is going on.”
Clint warded more than 4,000 inmates and nearly 1,000 employees at the State Prison.
Andrea Curtis is a woman of many adjectives.
She’s brave, strong, motivated, hopeful, vigilant, determined and inspiring. Simply put: She’s a survivor.
Andrea, who is from Salem, was thrust into survivor-mode at a young age when she was sexually abused. And after years of bottled-up anguish, she’s turned that pain into power with a 15-minute film, “Cinders of My Soul,” which brings her heartbreaking story to life.
“I wanted to make a film about recovery,” Andrea says. “I wanted it to be about forgiveness and moving on. There’s not enough of that out there.”
The film, which won “Best Short Drama” at film festivals in both New York and Los Angeles, is touching and, at times, difficult to watch. But its message, much like its author, is one of healing and hope.
“It was so hard to make, but it was also therapeutic,” says Andrea, who made the film with local director Rob Diamond. “The most rewarding part has been meeting people the movie touches.”
“Outstanding” may be the official adjective used to describe Meredith Gaufin, but beautiful, talented, smart and giving would work just as well. Meredith, of Provo, was crowned Miss Utah’s Outstanding Teen in October 2008.
The 17-year old attends Timpview High School where she is ranked No. 1 in her junior class of 474. She is on the Honor Roll, is a varsity cheerleader and a founding member of the Green Team, a recycling program at the school.
Meredith’s platform for the scholarship program centers on helping children with cancer in Utah. She has already raised more than $1,000 for the Children with Cancer Christmas Foundation. The funds went to 90 families with children affected by cancer.
“I decided to raise money for the organization after one of my sister’s friends was diagnosed with cancer and I saw the toll that it took on her family,” says Meredith, who would like to be a pediatric oncologist.
Meredith plans to raise more money for the foundation at a summer luau and golf tournament.
RON & MAURINE HATFIELD
When Ron and Maurine Hatfield were serving an LDS mission in Germany, they came home with a new calling: support the Kakamega Village in Kenya.
While Germany and Kenya are worlds apart, the continental connection came from one inspiring woman: Bernadine Angalusha.
“Bernadine was working in Germany as a nanny and sending nearly every penny she earned to her village in Kenya,” Ron says. “She’d report back what they were able to do with the money, and we were amazed at how much they could accomplish with so little.”
So the Lindon couple began contributing to Bernadine’s fund, and when they got home from their mission in 2004, they quietly took it to the next level.
The Hatfields founded In Our Own Quiet Way, a non-profit organization that has set out to help the people of Kakamega. And from much-needed medical assistance (the foundation has partnered with local surgeon Dr. Kimball Crofts) to helping the village develop a farming co-op, the results have been miraculous.
“My wife and I often sit on our porch and talk about the wonderful opportunities we’ve been given to serve,” Ron says. “And the next thing you know we’re in tears. We’re in awe.”
That makes all of us.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but for Orem’s Daniel Gibbons, a few thousand words were worth $10,000.
Daniel was a top five finalist for the most recent national Wells Fargo Someday Stories essay contest. Daniel’s essay — which netted him a check for $10,000 and a shot at the $100,000 grand prize — explained his goal to become a physical therapist.
Daniel’s aspiration stems from his recovery after a car accident where he nearly lost his life. Daniel was stranded in a hospital in Flagstaff, Ariz., for three weeks rehabilitating a broken femur and pelvis.
“Through my own physical therapy experience, I found my path in life,” Daniel wrote.
Now a student at Utah Valley University, Daniel is a year shy of applying to physical therapy school.
Move over Dear Abby.
Creating Keepsakes magazine has a “Dear Lizzy” for the scrapbooking world — and she’s one of Utah Valley’s very own.
Elizabeth Kartchner, who lives in Pleasant Grove, became the magazine’s designated craft guru after applying for their “Scrapbooker of the Year” contest. And out of 500 applicants across the country, Elizabeth won the prize, graced a cover and became a columnist.
“Winning Scrapbooker of the Year was a dream come true. It’s cliché, but true,” says Elizabeth, who now teaches at Creating Keepsakes University in Provo and travels to Japan and throughout the U.S. in her new role. “I love that I get to share my passion of scrapbooking with others from all over the world. I still pinch myself!”
Elizabeth has done some pinching — and some blogging. She began her blog “Just Us” (elizabethkartchner.blogspot.com) in 2007, which talks scrapbooking, motherhood and life. And people are visiting it post-haste. Her crafty prose receives an average of 2,000 hits a day.
American Fork’s Ben Hammond, 31, won the prestigious Dexter Jones Award for bas relief from the National Sculpture Society in 2008.
A native of Idaho, Ben creates religious and contemporary sculptures. His goal is to create accessible art that appeals to a wide-range of tastes.
“I just want everyone to be able to appreciate it; from someone who doesn’t know anything about art to someone who is an expert,” Ben says.
Ben has received commissions from the LDS Church as well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His work is exhibited in Salt Lake City, Park City and Provo at the Hope Gallery, as well as other galleries listed at benhammondfineart.com.
You know those moments when you think, “I should write a book about that.” Well, Orem’s Terri Smith made good on her word.
After she struggled — as an adult — with her own father’s remarriage, Terri wrote the book “When Your Parent Remarries Late in Life.”
“I’ve had such positive feedback,” Terri says. “People have read it, practiced it and been thrilled with the results. That’s so rewarding to me.”
And the rewards keep on coming — from industry experts, no less. After reading the book, the founder of Successful Stepfamilies approached Terri to write an article for his monthly Ezine.
“He thanked me for writing the book and said he’s been waiting 10 years to find one he felt comfortable recommending to people,” Terri says. “It was very validating.”
Any “High School Musical” fan worth his or her salt knows the popular Disney movies were made in Utah. But not all may know that Bart Johnson, who plays Coach Jack Bolton in all three “High School Musical” flicks, is also a homegrown talent.
Bart attended Wasatch High School in Midway. His family founded the historic Johnson Mill, and Bart recently took over operations of the inn, which was named one of the four most romantic bed-and-breakfasts in the country by Redbook magazine.
In addition to his popular role as Coach Bolton, Bart has acted in five independent films and recently produced his first directorial project, “The Run.”
TARA JOHNSON & TAYLOR VALDEZ
Like most teenagers, Tara Johnson and Taylor Valdez love listening to music. Unlike most teenagers, they’re also recording their own. The Alpine girls are two parts of the three-part music troupe LOL, a Shadow Mountain Records group that focuses on upbeat music with a positive message.
LOL (short for Live Out Loud) was formed in 2007. In late 2008, the group released its first CD, Live Out Loud! The album — created by music industry professionals who have worked on albums by Hannah Montana, Whitney Houston and Donny Osmond — features 11 songs packed with advice for tweens and teens.
“I hope people learn things from our music because we really want to be good role models,” says Taylor, 14.
“I love the lyrics to LOL because they’re always so uplifting and put me in a good mood,” adds Tara, 12. “It’s nice to have good lyrics in my head.”
The group (rounded out by a male member) performs at events and assemblies around the state. In March, they’ll perform at the release party for book four in the Fablehaven series.
There is no friend like a sister — especially when that sister is Courtney Kendrick of Provo. Courtney, who is a writer, blogger and mother, cared for three of her sister’s four children from August 2008 to February 2009 after Stephanie Nielson and her husband were badly burned in an airplane crash. Other sister Lucy took care of the youngest child.
“We weren’t doing anything that most sisters wouldn’t do,” says Courtney, who has an infant son of her own. “It’s just that this time our numbers were called.”
Courtney has been documenting the family’s journey through the ordeal on her blog, cjanerun.com. Her blog gets around 40,000 daily hits from across the world and has captured the attention of national media outlets like The New York Times.
In addition to her blog, Courtney’s writing has appeared in “The Mother in Me: Real-World Reflections on Growing Into Motherhood.”
RevaBeth Russell is in a class of her own.
The super science teacher at Lehi High School has been inspiring students for 25 years — with sock demonstrations, CSI-style labs and original songs, no less.
“I was blessed with a mind that works differently than most people’s,” says RevaBeth, who was named the 2006 Science Educator of the Year by the Utah Museum of Natural History. “Everyone has a different way of learning, and it’s my job to present the material in as many different ways as possible — whether it’s through labs, rapping or dorky songs.”
RevaBeth has wanted to teach since she was 16. She even took notes about her teachers — what she liked and what she didn’t — and has it posted on her wall to remind her of the teacher she strives to be.
“I love everything — the students, the subject matter, the constant learning,” says RevaBeth, who says she’ll teach “until it’s not fun anymore.”
“It’s never dull,” she says. “The kids can be so funny when they’re not trying to be, and they can be so delightfully insightful it takes your breath away. I teach in Camelot. And if my kids remember nothing else, I want them to know I loved them and that they can do anything.”
You may not know his face, but you know his photos (especially if you’re an avid reader of Utah Valley Magazine). Orem’s Kenneth Linge travels around the globe shooting for corporate clients such as Mitsubishi, Canon and Bennett Communications, parent company of Utah Valley Magazine. He also photographs a limited number of families, children and weddings each year.
A native Norwegian married to an American, Kenneth photographed and lectured extensively in Europe for 25 years before he relocated to Utah in 2000. In the ’90s, Kenneth was lauded as Scandinavia’s most award-winning photographer.
In addition to being a famed photographer, Kenneth is also a well-known presenter and educator. He recently completed a tour of Europe sponsored by Epson.
“Teaching is, for me, as much of a passion as photography,” he says.
The master photographer runs the International School of Photography and offers seminars and workshops out of his recently opened 9,000-square-foot studio, InStudio, a Photographic Studio by Kenneth Linge, located in Orem.
There’s nothing “sketchy” about Alvina Kwong, even though the 26-year-old BYU grad loves to sketch, draw and create.
“My Imagination,” authored by Katrina Estes-Hill and illustrated by Alvina, takes readers on a girl’s imaginary journey into the outside world. Alvina drew on her childhood for the 32 pages of illustrations.
The book received a Mom’s Choice Award for 2008 and was a Starred Review for Five-Star Book Review.
Jill McKenzie isn’t a picky eater. But her six kids and husband are. So Jill did what any former personal chef would do — she made like Julia Child and wrote her own cookbook. In her book, “52 Weeks of Proven Recipes for Picky Kids,” released in September 2008 by Deseret Book, Jill shares family favorite recipes guaranteed to please even the pickiest of palettes.
Jill isn’t formally trained but hasn’t let that get in the way of her culinary career. For the past 13 years she has run her own successful catering business, and for a time she worked as a professional in-home chef.
“The whole idea for this book is to create a little spark to light a fire in someone’s life, to get a little bit of excitement back for dinnertime,” McKenzie says. “The idea is for mothers to reclaim their dinnertime; to be able to have the discipline and the consistency and the commitment to have real food for real families.”
Sounds tasty to us.
After eight years of working in the computer industry, Sarah Kimmel switched to being a stay-at-home mom. But, ironically, staying at home is what sent her back to work.
Shortly after Sarah became a mom, the Lehi woman searched for software to record the baby’s schedule. She couldn’t find any software that was up-to-snuff, so she got together with a friend and a brother to create the Daily Home Planner, a software program customized for families. Among its functions, the Daily Home Planner helps busy moms schedule weekly routines, plan meals, store recipes, create shopping lists and perform a host of other functions.
“We have an Excel sheet about a mile long of features we’re still trying to add,” says Sarah, a mother of two. “I am constantly thinking, ‘It would be really nice if the software did this or that.’”
Daily Home Planner was listed as one of the three best electronic planners by Fox News, has been reviewed by Simple Home Basics and featured on KSL’s Studio 5. Sarah and her associates are working on a Web version of the software, available at dailyhomeplanner.com.
What is 2,000 divided by 7? Badri Narayanan can tell you the answer — to the decimal point — and he doesn’t need a calculator to do it.
“Two-hundred eight five point seven one four two eight five …,” states Badri, IT project and QA manager of software development at Prosper. “Do you want me to keep going?”
Does it keep going?
“I don’t think there is a limit,” the new father confesses. “The numbers just show up in my head.”
Badri doesn’t just have a head for numbers; his head is numbers.
Growing up in India, Badri studied math for a compulsory 16 years and spent much of his free time playing with numbers. The 32-year-old came to Utah in 1999 to pursue his master’s degree at Utah State University and to live close to the mountains. He moved to Provo and joined the team at Prosper three years ago.
“I ruined the company’s entire productivity for a day when they found out what I could do with numbers,” says Badri, who is frequently called on to demonstrate his skills at company get-togethers and the like.
“I have to remind people a lot that I don’t just do math, I also work here,” he says.
To see Badri in action, go to Google Video and search “Badri the Human Calculator.”
STEPHEN & AUBREE OLIVERSON
The family that plays together, stays together — a statement that is true for Stephen and Aubree Oliverson, the father-daughter team that form local music group Moon Light.
Stephen and Aubree spend hours playing and making music, he on the piano and she on the violin. Together, they perform at weddings, parties, receptions and other special events throughout the Intermountain West. They recently released their self-titled CD (available locally at Borders) that features original compositions created by the pair.
An educator by day, Stephen is an avid composer who enjoys sitting down with his children to create original music. Ten-year-old Aubree is an award-winning violinist who won first place in her age division at the 2008 Utah State Fair Music Competition. She was a member of the National Suzuki Orchestra in Minneapolis in 2008 and has also won accolades for her original compositions.
“I love performing and writing music,” Aubree says. “I love to see that people enjoy our music.”
It’s safe to say Rick Walton is a bookworm. The Provo father of five is the award-winning author of more than 75 books, including children’s picture books, riddle books and poetry collections. Rick, who has been writing professionally for nearly 30 years, released his most recent book in February. “Psst! … Secret Instructions Every Girl Should Know” is co-authored by Cheri Earl, also of Provo, and is Rick’s seventh book with the American Girl series.
When he’s not writing, Rick can often be found at schools across the country where he shares his passion for reading and writing.
“I believe in the power of good books to entertain, inform and inspire kids,” Rick says. “I enjoy doing what I can to promote the rapidly growing number of great children’s book illustrators and authors we have here in Utah.”
A one-time elementary school teacher, Rick also teaches classes and workshops at BYU and elsewhere.
Rick dedicates as much time as possible to raising money for good causes. He’s done work for the Michael J. Fox Foundation (Rick also has Parkinson’s) and is working with fellow Utahn Kristyn Crow to create a picture book for kids newly diagnosed with diabetes (his youngest son is diabetic).
“I’m always looking for ways to use my skills for good causes,” he says.
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