Today we celebrated Ruth’s 4th birthday and if you know Ruthie you know she has a strange love for all things princess and all things creepy For her party she chose creepy it turned out to be one of the best birthday party experiences of all time.
Every kid started out terrified but by the end every kid had a blast and held most if not all of the animals.
Kim with Kim’s Cold Blooded Creatures was the one who came and presented. She was fantastic and really we could not have dreamt up a better experience for kids and adults alike. Kim was custom fit her presentation for age group. She clearly has a passion and love for these creatures and her pets were friendly and patient with the kids. The kids could hold and play with the pets as much as they wanted and Kim encouraged and seemed to find joy in introducing her pets to each kid. I’m NOT a reptile person but this was truly a fun and thrilling experience. We highly highly recommend Kim and her company. I included her card below in case the experience peaks your interest. I felt like her price was reasonable for the remarkable experience that it was. It cost $150 plus a travel fee if $25 for I think an hour session which included a brief presentation and then plenty of time holding and playing with the animals that she brought. She probably brought about 15 animals. Geckos, snakes, a tarantula, a scorpion, turtles...the kids loved it.
This weekend my wife, Heidi, and I took a tour of a remarkable re-education center in Salt Lake City called The Other Side Academy. Few experiences have inspired us more than seeing the work and hearing the stories of those involved.
If you’re unfamiliar with The Other Side Academy or TOSA, it is an academy that through an application process accepts repeat offenders who have been in and out of the prison system. Over the course of two years, the program changes these men and women from the outside in. The program teaches participants through discipline, education, accountability, and love how to change their lives and live a life of joy and productivity as honest, law-abiding members of society.
The program is experiencing tremendous success. Over 95% of the program’s graduates are living productive, successful lives and are staying out of prison. The program is intense. Students say it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done. But when they graduate they are changed people who have new hope and a new life.
The remarkable thing is that TOSA is not a government-run program. They do not rely on tax-payer money or donations to operate. TOSA, through their own student-run businesses, is a self-sustaining program. The Other Side Moving company ( https://theothersidemovers.com/)
and The Other Side Thrift Store (https://m.facebook.com/TOSAThriftBoutique) both run by the students, are able to pay for academy’s operations. Both the moving company and the boutique store have hundreds of five-star reviews. The moving company has quickly risen to the top as one of the premier, most trusted moving services in the state.
As my wife and I received the tour of the facilities, we met numerous academy students. Hearing their stories and feeling the spirit of change, hope, and love in that building, we were truly touched. If you’d like to learn more, visit their website:
There are many ways to help including spreading the word, using their moving services, donating to their thrift store, and being a mentor. Heidi and I look forward to partnering with TOSA and being more involved and hope you will join us.
This is a late post but we wanted to thank those who came to the office for our thanksgiving pumpkin pie event last month. Every year, the Tuesday before thanksgiving we give out huge pumpkin pies to those we keep in touch with for thanksgiving. It’s a way for us to express our gratitude and thanks to all of you who have supported us over the years. It’s one of our favorite client events because we get to see so many of you and visit for a few minutes and catch up. It was a special day for us and so much fun. If you missed it, don’t worry, plan on coming next year. Happy holidays everyone!
We got to take the Branches with us to see the Utah Jazz blow out the San Antonio Spurs. Complete destroytion. The Jazz set a franchise record for made 20 made threes. Go Jazz! This was Anna’s first time to a jazz game. A great night.
Kate’s elephant is coming along nicely. This may be my favorite piece yet. She’s improving with every painting she does and it’s so fun to see.
We send our love and holiday greetings with this brief update on our family. Joe and Heidi feel lucky to be the parents of these four:
Kate (11)- artist, loyal friend, babysitter, beloved sibling, chef in the kitchen, diligent sixth grade student, conversant Mandarin speaker, and fun company for children or adults.
Anna (7)- reader of chapter books, performer of cartwheels and couch flips, enthusiastic learner of Chinese, leader of lava monster games on the playground, and entertainer of siblings.
Ruth (4)- proud pre-schooler, dancer diva, funny jokester, fan of snakes and black horses (this week), a beloved and sometimes tyrannical presence.
James (1.5)- effective communicator of sign language and a few words, snuggler, extraordinary trouble-maker, heart-melting smiler, and a runner (not walker).
Joe’s company, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate | Influence Partners, is growing and thriving. He’s thrilled about their leadership and their direction. He continues to assist clients with their real estate needs and appreciates the people. He’s looking for the next hobby (suggestions?), but enjoys his Church service and finds fulfillment in family (his girls all vie for daddy-daughter dates).
Heidi ran a couple marathons early this year (one with her niece who was running her first). Since then she’s been glad to have a bit of a running hiatus while participating in fitness classes or the occasional stroller jog to the horse stable with James and Ruth. The nonstop and ever-evolving needs of the four children are a constant and rewarding focus. She continues to lead singing with the children at Church and to teach some art at the girls’ school — both a joy.
We wish you the light and hope that prevail during this season. May it last you all the year! “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid... for the LORD thy God, he [it is] that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
The Willis family
Joe, Heidi, Kate, Anna, Ruth and James
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