Category Archives: Amazing Kids

A Wimpy Morning

On Tuesday November 15, Copperfields in Petaluma opened their doors at 6:30 am to celebrate the release of “Cabin Fever”, the 6th book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Kids were invited to get a first peek at the new book, as well as enjoy an early morning breakfast of hot chocolate and donut holes.

For more pictures, check out the photo gallery.

Teen discovers disease treatment for science fair

"What the heck?" The Taz is mystified by the results of his experiment.

For the Science Fair, my 4th grade son created a very extensive experiment to find out which can of soda would spew the most from pent up carbonation. He used a Diet Coke, a regular Coke, and Squirt. In this vital experiment, he shook each can vigorously while we all stood by and waited, camera ready to capture the defining moment when we’d find out the true results. Unfortunately soda spew can be finicky, and the carbonated soda was projected with barely a send-off. In fact, it was almost like he hadn’t shaken the soda at all. The only one that seemed to bubble and froth at all was the Diet Coke, probably from all the chemicals that deem it sugar-free. Unfortunately, some experiments just don’t turn out the way we plan.

However, sometimes they turn out better.

Not in my son’s case- that one just plain failed. But in the case of an 11th grader, his Science Fair entry had the power to change the world. While my son was preparing cans of soda for a doomed experiment, Marshall Zhang of Toronto, Canada was busy creating a science experiment for his own Science Fair. The fair’s purpose was to have teens work with mentors to create a research project. Marshall had his own idea for a project, but wanted to be able to conduct it like a real scientist. So he contacted every professor he could to be able to work in their labs.

“Most of them said ‘no’ because I didn’t have the experience I needed,” he said. “I emailed the entire list of faculty in biochemistry at the University of Toronto.” Dr. Christine Bear, the very last professor on the list, said yes.

Marshall’s focus was on Cystic Fibrosis, a devastating genetic disease of the lungs that is generally fatal once a patient reaches their teens. It creates thick mucus in the lungs that must be loosened by repeated pounding on the back. And there is no cure.

Using a supercomputer, Marshall discovered two drugs that attacked the protein responsible for CF in different areas without attacking each other – meaning they could be used at the same time. He tested them on living cells, and the results were better than he anticipated. The two compounds worked together to defeat the defective protein – and proved stronger than the CF protein.

Marshall Zhang, 16, has found a promising treatment for cystic fibrosis. (Photo: Tom Devecseri, National Research Council of Canada)

Of course, the discovery still has to be tested on the human body to see if the results can be replicated on a subject with CF. And anything could happen – including toxic or ineffective results. But the discovery of these two compounds that work together instead of against each other in the treatment of a disease is groundbreaking in itself, and opens the door for future discoveries in disease research.

But imagine if Dr. Bear had said “no”, or if Marshall had given up long before reaching out to her. It’s possible that this discovery would never have been made. To me, this is not only a show of what persistence is capable of, it’s also proof that everyone is capable of great things no matter their age, their background, or how much they’ve studied in a subject. Scientists who have been studying CF for decades were not able to discover this treatment. It took a fresh pair of eyes with a new perspective to come across a breakthrough discovery that could help save the lives of those suffering from this debilitating disease.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Marshall Zhang received first place at his Science Fair. And Dr. Bear has invited Marshall back to the lab any time he wants to continue his research.  My son? He was a participant, just like everyone else who entered the Science Fair in the 4th grade. But who knows? Maybe this experiment will inspire his own world-changing invention of an unspewable shaken soda – thus ruining practical jokes far and near.

Have you ever insisted on pushing forward with something you believed in even while those around you were negative about the possible outcome? 

Girls on the Run Sonoma County

Guest post by Courtney Keeney, senior at Sonoma State University and a coach for Girls on the Run Sonoma County.

Clockwise from upper left: 1 – Penngrove & McNear Elementary GOTR girls handing out water at the Carousel Fund Run water stop in Petaluma, 2 – Penngrove Elementary & McNear Elementary GOTR girls volunteering at the Carousel Fund Run Race in Petaluma, 3 – GOTR team from McNear Elementary in Petaluma, 4 – GOTR team from Strawberry Valley Elementary in Santa Rosa

The clock strikes 3pm. A flock of young girls rush out of the classroom doors, fill up their water bottles and munch down a tasty snack from the lunch Mom packed that day. The youngsters can hardly wait for the program to begin. Sporting their bright seasonal colored Girls on the Run t-shirts, with running shoes laced, hair tied back and energy levels rising out of the roof, the feeling of being a part of a team and working towards a goal is an apparent form of excitement for these young girls.

With the mission “to educate and prepare girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living”, Girls on the Run Sonoma County reaches out to nearly twenty elementary schools and clubs in the local community. As a non-profit prevention program, Girls on the Run touches the lives of countless 3rd through 6th grade girls in the most pivotal years of their development.

After school, twice a week, the young girls come together with their team and two dedicated volunteer coaches to participate in interactive curriculum, addressing real life issues such as dealing with body image and the media, resisting peer pressure and making healthy decisions-while incorporating running and hands on activities.

“The energy, excitement, and how proud they feel is so emotionally inspiring”, said Strawberry Valley Elementary School Girls on the Run coach Shelly Bolander.

Bolander is in her second season at Strawberry Valley Elementary School and stands behind the program with all her heart.

“The program has an incredible message of being active at a young age, which is very important. Girls on the Run is the perfect balance of exercise, fun, and education”.

Any girl can benefit from the program and learn to work as a team. Don’t let the name scare you away. Participants in the program do not have to be strong runners. Running, walking, jogging, skipping; any form of exercise will do as long as movement is involved.

According to Bolander, the curriculum is very valuable and touches on extremely important life issues these girls will soon be faced with in their process of maturation.

Discussing difficult topics, addressing and confronting tough issues, learning the importance of respect and compassion for one another, admiring good role models, and understanding how to stand up for themselves are only a few positive perks the program instills in these young innocent minds.

At the end of this twelve week program, each girl has a goal to complete a non-competitive 5K run/walk event.

In her two seasons of coaching, Bolander remembers two particular youngsters that stand out in her mind, which were positively impacted by the program in a huge way.

“I had two girls struggling with their weight; they had a hard time committing at first. However, once that 5K event came around, these girls fought the hardest. Their determination shined through and they completed every last step of that run.”

Accomplishments such as these make this program very beneficial to not only the children, but also the supportive adult role models. Stepping aside from their busy lives to volunteer four hours a week to these young children, speaks volumes.

Girls on the Run participants will complete a community service project, volunteer at a local race and complete a 5K event in November to round up the season.

Empowered with a greater self-awareness, sense of achievement and a foundation in team building to help them become strong and confident young women, Girls on the Run Sonoma County strives to make an impact in the life of girls everywhere…one step at a time.

For more information or to become involved with Girls on the Run, please visit or email Executive Director Catrina Dierke at

Hope 4 Ella Day

Every morning, families rise with the sun and prepare for the day. Kids wake up and stall, having to be reminded constantly to get dressed, eat breakfast, pack up their school bags, make lunch, and for heaven’s sake, go get your shoes on! We are on them from the time they are up until the time they go to bed. We are tripping over their things in the living room. We are encouraging them to stay seated with the TV off until their homework is done. We are fixing them dinner only to have them turn their nose up at it. We are carting them from activity to activity, pleading with them to please stop picking on their brother, and don’t have the chance to collapse until they are finally in bed.

Somewhere in Sebastopol, one mom is wishing so much that she could endure all these tribulations with her daughter. You see, while we are taking for granted all these little trials our kids put us through, her daughter is lying in a coma, as she has been off and on for more than 55 days. Over the summer, 7 year old Ella was riddled with flu-like symptoms and sleepless nights. Her family had her tested for everything before finally taking her in for a CT scan. The results showed that Ella had developed a large cancerous tumor in her brain. The doctors were able to remove most of the tumor, but warned the family that there was a slight chance she might slip into a coma as a result. Most people are alert within two days. Ella was not. And her family misses her terribly. To make things harder, Ella’s body still possesses cancer cells that were not killed with her first round of radiation. Soon she will be starting a second round of radiation.

Of course, nothing could help relieve this family of the pain they are going through besides their daughter’s miraculous recovery. But Santa Rosa Community Market is looking to relieve some of this burden on their shoulders by helping them out financially. They have declared this Friday, October 22nd, Hope for Ella Day. On this day, they are donating 10% of their proceeds to the family’s fund to help pay for the mounting costs of their daughter’s treatment. This is just one of many ways Santa Rosa Community Market, as a not-for-profit organization, has stepped up to the plate to serve their community in whatever ways they can.

For more information on Hope 4 Ella Day, visit SR Community Market’s website at To read up more on Ella, please visit her family’s heartwrenching blog that details her battle against a cancer that doesn’t understand she’s just a little girl:

To donate directly towards hotel, food and medical costs, please send checks to Deborah and Glen Stewart: 11002 Peaks Pike Rd. Sebastopol, CA, 95472. Any amount helps!

Hope For Ella Day will be all day on Friday October 22nd during business hours. Community Market is located at 1899 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa.

Colorful Day, by Kaden Lewis

Most kids this summer are planning their next vacation. Or they are catching up on some much missed zzz’s. They are getting their fill of video games all day long or spending time hanging out with their friends. But 8 year old Kaden Lewis had a different goal for this summer. He planned to sit and be still.

And become a piece of art . (And besides this being a super cool opportunity, the chance to win $500 doing it didn’t hurt any either…)

This past weekend, Sculpturesite Gallery of San Francisco and A New Leaf Gallery of Sonoma (owned by Brigitte Micmacker & John Denning) celebrated 20 years of art as gallery partners and operators. Both galleries are well known for their exquisite sculptures, showcasing original pieces to be both admired and purchased. To commemorate their 20th anniversary, John and Brigitte invited local students to take part in creating their own sculpture – with a twist. The artists would be the sculpture.

Kaden’s mom discovered the celebration just days before the event, and she showed pictures of street performers to her son to give him an example of what would be at the gallery. Of course, the rest is history. Kaden was sold.

As Kaden’s mom told me:

“We had settled on a boy flying a kite and blowing a bubble (gum) when we discovered that the event was going to be 4 hours long. That’s when we switched to sitting on a bike. There was no way he was going to be able to stand for that long.

“We painted an old bike, a helmet, an invisible dog leash, the stuffed dog and his clothes. Kaden first had decided on neon pink but when he saw the bike primed in white, he changed his mind and insisted that white was the right color for his sculpture. I quickly had to run around town to exchange everything for white. Getting jeans white proved to be very difficult and I had to dig into my fine arts supplies and use a layer of gesso on both the jeans and the dog. We spent all day (Saturday) preparing for the event.

“The day of the event I helped Kaden into his stiff attire and painted his hair and any exposed skin. We then discussed what to title it. He came up with “Colorful Day”. I argued that it was white and not so colorful. He argued that it was ironic and funny. I explained the concept of the Ghost Bike to him and showed him pictures online but Kaden insisted that idea was too sad. He said riding a bike with your dog is a colorful day. I couldn’t argue anymore! Besides, I had to let go. This was supposed to be HIS sculpture. It was a long hot couple of hours at the gallery. At one point, Kaden whispered to me, “This is kind of fun. I’m getting so much attention. Everyone is looking at me and taking pictures. They’re like the paparazzi.”

The winner of the event receives a cool $500, a prize that this 8 year old is really excited about. But there are only a few more days of voting left. Once Saturday June 19th rolls around, the contest will be over and the winner will be chosen. I’ve left my vote, and hope that you’ll do the same – for Kaden or for any of the students who have taken time out for some art and creativity.


And if you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to visit the art at either one of these galleries:

Sculpturesite Gallery
Convention Plaza
201 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

A New Leaf Gallery
Cornerstone Place
23588 Hwy 121
Sonoma, CA 95476