Red Cross of Lamar County encourages community to help send holiday cards to our troops

The Red Cross chapter of Lamar County kicked off its inaugural “Holiday Mail for Heroes: Messages from Home” campaign last week, beginning an effort to get the community involved in sending cheerful holiday cards to active-duty soldiers during the coming holiday season.

Female soldiers receiving personnel hygiene items from the Red Cross facilities in Bagdad (Photo by Peter Macias/American Red Cross)

Female soldiers receiving personnel hygiene items from the Red Cross facilities in Bagdad (Photo by Peter Macias/American Red Cross)

The entire community was invited to the free festive event to learn how to get involved in the campaign for our troops.

This is a four-month campaign, in which ‘card-raising’ teams comprised of local citizens receive 50 Red Cross holiday cards that they will encourage friends, family members, acquaintances and anyone they can to sponsor the cards for $20 each. Once they sponsor a card, individuals can then customize it with messages of gratitude and support.

There are many opportunities for corporate sponsors to get involved as well, Red Cross officials said.

This campaign will culminate into a holiday card send-off event at Heritage Hall on November 6, where all the teams and corporate sponsors will gather to acknowledge the work of the teams, while also recognizing a local ‘Community Hero’ and ‘Military Hero’.

All the sponsored cards will then be gathered and shipped to deployed service members and military hospitals in an effort to bring them cheer during their holiday time away from family.

Santa delivers a Christmas gift from the American Red Cross to a wounded soldier during the holidays. (American Red Cross photo)

Santa delivers a Christmas gift from the American Red Cross to a wounded soldier during the holidays. (American Red Cross photo)

“We wondered how we could raise funds to support our work with service members at Camp Maxey and other local military families without trying to pull off another golf tournament or gala or walk,” Red Cross Lamar County executive director, John Davis, said. “With the creative help of a great board and volunteers, I think we’ve conceived a great campaign that will raise both awareness and funds for Red Cross service to the armed forces programs in Lamar County and also generate holiday cards and messages from home to send to deployed service members.”

The campaign committee is chaired by long-time Red Cross Lamar volunteer, Sally Hensley, and Captain Michael Ford of Camp Maxey.

“The campaign has been extremely well received by the community”, said Sheree Williams, Major Gift Associate with Red Cross in Lamar County. “Our local committee has been busy recruiting teams and sponsors and putting this campaign together.”

If you are interested in forming a team, joining the committee, or becoming a corporate sponsor, please visit or call Sheree Williams at (903) 737-4390.

American soldier poses with a Red Cross 'pet volunteer' at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in southwestern Germany. (American Red Cross photo)

American soldier is visited by a Red Cross ‘pet volunteer’ at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in southwestern Germany. (American Red Cross photo)

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters, supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood, teaches skills that save lives, provides international humanitarian aid, and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit, or @RedcrossNETexas on Twitter.

Tourism director sends “a million thank yous” to those who made 30th Anniversary Tour de Paris a success

The Lamar County Chamber of Commerce Tourism Director, Becky Semple, sent in to a letter that she’s written to thank the many volunteers and individuals that work so diligently and tirelessly each year to make the Tour de Paris a success.

tour-de-paris-2013This year, according to Semple, the event — which also celebrated its 30th anniversary — was a “grand success”.

This year’s Tour de Paris bicycle rally was held on Saturday, July 19, and began at 8am. The in-town route had been changed from previous years in an attempt to avoid most of the railroad tracks.

Cyclists from all over came to participate in the race, which had four routes available — the 35K (20 miles), the 60K (35 miles); the 90K (57 miles) or the 110K (68 miles). The race started and finished at the Love Civic Center, giving participants the chance to see the wonderful scenery that Northeast Texas has to offer.

On all routes there were friendly rest-stops (made possible by the many volunteers and sponsors that this ‘thank you’ letter is being extended to) located at different points along the way, giving riders the opportunity to enjoy a free, homemade hamburger, water and fruit smoothies.

A special Spaghetti Supper was held for the cyclists on the Friday evening before the Tour de Paris started.

For more information about the Tour de Paris, visit the website at or visit the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce website,

The following words are written by Semple to extend some much needed and public gratitude and appreciation for the efforts of those that made possible the successful event that brings so many to Paris each year.

A million “Thank Yous” for making our 30th Anniversary of Tour de Paris such a Grand Success!!

To the most WONDERFUL and DEDICATED VOLUNTEERS in the world!

We are so grateful to all of you and many more for all you did to make the 30th Anniversary of Tour de Paris Bicycle Rally a tremendous success!!

You spent months helping us prepare and finalize plans for his great event!

You made sure every cyclist was safe!

You worked on signage, and then you put out signs in town and all over the county. You made sure the cyclist knew every step of the way how to go!

Then you went back and made sure the signs were ok, and then you took them down!

You worked on streets and county roads filling pot holes and sweeping off gravel!

You cut low hanging limbs that might deter a cyclist on their ride!

You covered railroad tracks to keep flats from happening on 4th and Washington!

You put out many, many barricades!

You worked on the Trails both in Paris and Reno to make them safe!

You ran up and down the route all day until every cyclist was in!

You sponsored this event and made generous donations in product and monetary support!

You marketed our event to cyclists in your data base all over Texas and beyond!

You helped us to pre-register cyclists days before the event!

You donated goodie bags!

You donated neat items from your businesses for the goodie bags!

You stuffed the ‘goodie’ bags!

You helped set up the Civic Center for Tour de Paris for days and days!

You played music downtown and they loved being in a parade!

You honored us by coming a long distance to present the colors of our nation!

You held the American flag to wave proudly as every cyclist entered downtown!

You stood in the streets, and while protecting the cyclists you cheered them on!

You provided communication stations at every rest stop and other locations to keep track of how things were going!

You smiled and greeted each cyclist at registration and helped him or her in a timely manner both on Friday night and early Saturday morning!

You prayed for their safety!

You cut up fruit and arranged the refreshments before any cyclist reached your stop!

You took supplies to the rest stops and watched for weary cyclists!

You managed a Rest Stop, and you smiled, waved, and greeted each and every one even if they didn’t stop! They were impressed with that I will assure you!

You made your rest stop unique and fun!

You picked up, and brought back supplies and then returned many items that were borrowed!

You fixed flats!

You tenderly nursed a scraped knee!

You furnished dozens and dozens and dozens of the best cookies anywhere, and they were ALL appreciated!

You promoted and talked about the rally for months!

You took brochures to other rides around Texas and other states!

You helped with jerseys and socks, and sells were good!

You made a delicious chicken spaghetti supper for cyclists and volunteers to enjoy with all the trimmings!

You cooked a pancake breakfast for Champions!

You made fruit smoothies!

You grilled hundreds of hamburgers!

You made the hamburgers to order for each cyclist and volunteer, and we hope you got too eat one too!

You organized, counted and recounted and folded hundreds of shirts!

You followed cyclists all the way in to the finish!

You stayed after all had left and helped to clean up!

You continued to help sort through and return items on Monday and Tuesday of this week

You gave many hours of your precious time to make this event the best ever!

We heard many, many compliments through out the day Saturday, and from Melissa, Gina, Judy, Randy, Kem, and myself, we are truly grateful for YOU because YOU are the reason why people love to come to Paris and participate in Tour de Paris year after year!

God bless you ALL!

Becky :)

Paris Biker Church to host ‘Outside the Walls’ service with free hot dogs on July 26

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On Saturday, July 26, the Paris Biker Church will go ‘Outside the Walls’ to host a worship service – featuring live music, a message and free hot dogs — at Wade Park from 7-8 p.m.

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend the event, so bring your friends and family to give praise to our Lord.

The free hot dogs will be served for as long as the supplies last. Live worship music will be performed by the Craig Vance Band.

The idea of ‘Outside the Walls’ — coined by the Paris Biker Church — is an outreach ministry to reach as many as possible, especially those that may not think they ‘fit in’ at a traditional church. It is an attempt to go outside the walls of the norm and inform more people of the Good News of the Lord.

The Paris Biker Church is nondenominational and is located at 3900 Southeast Loop 286. Stop by for more information, and mark your calendars for the ‘Outside the Walls’ service on Saturday, July 26.

Family and friends gather to mourn the tragic loss of Gage Russell Kennedy

A candlelight vigil was held Monday evening as a memorial to Gage Russell Kennedy at the fountain on the downtown Plaza.

Many friends and family members gathered around the Culbertson fountain on Monday for a memorial vigil to mourn the tragic loss and celebrate the life of Russell Gage Kennedy, who went missing on Thursday and was found deceased on Sunday evening. (eParisExtra photo by Josh Allen)

Many friends and family members gathered around the Culbertson fountain on Monday for a memorial vigil to mourn the tragic loss and celebrate the life of Gage Russell Kennedy, who went missing on Thursday and was found deceased on Sunday evening. (eParisExtra photo by Josh Allen)

Many friends, family members, teachers and those that the young man touched through life attended, lighting a candle to represent the ‘eternal flame’ of his memory

Kennedy was known for his bright, constant smile and good spirit and attitude. A student at North Lamar High School, the 18-year old was known for his laugh by his close friends — friends who said it was a laugh that they would never forget.

“I always loved to see Gage’s smile when I’d see him walking down the halls,” North Lamar High School Principal Clint Hildreth said. “He had that kind of smile that could light up a room. He will be missed.”

The candlelight vigil was held at 5 p.m. and was organized by his fellow classmates and friends, students of North Lamar High School.

As close friends of Kennedy’s each shared stories with the crowd about his spirit, his laugh and the kind of person he was, reminiscing on the many good times they all shared, it became apparent that he had made a positive impression on many, touching the lives of those he had become close to.

A close uncle to Gage said that he was the rock of his family, always taking good care of his mother and his siblings. They’ve had some hard times, and without Gage they probably feel lost. We will all miss him, he said.

Kennedy had gone missing on Thursday, last being seen at 10:30 p.m. His body was later found alongside a rail spur between the streets of 10th NW and W. Center by a person walking along the railroad track. Upon making the discovery the individual immediately called police.

“Mr. Kennedy was tentatively identified by a family member who came to the scene after seeing police activity,” Paris Police Chief Bob Hundley said in a press release on Monday.

An autopsy has been ordered and results are pending. On Monday, Chief Hundley said, “There were no visible injuries to the deceased.”

An official manner of death has not been released yet, but police say the investigation is continuing. If you have any kind of information regarding this case, please call the police department at (903) 784-6688.

Please keep the family, friends and those struggling with this loss in your thoughts and prayers. Caring community support is crucial and helpful for those that are mourning this tragic loss.

There will also be a memorial service at the North Lamar High School auditorium on Wednesday at 3 p.m.

By Josh Allen, eParisExtra

Dylan’s Driver wants you

Paul Allen, Executive Director of Dylan's Drivers

Paul Allen, Executive Director of Dylan’s Drivers

Dylan’s Drivers, the program designed to prevent drunk driving by giving people free rides home, has given just over 3,600 rides since it was launched here two and half years ago. The service is non-judgment and fun and is available Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 10pm to 3am. However, the program is now examining whether or not to continue Thursday service due the inability to get volunteers to work the shift despite having hundreds and hundreds of trained volunteers.

“It’s just a difficult night for volunteers. They have school or work the next day and that makes it tough,” said Ronnie Ballard, chairman of the Dylan’s Drivers board. When asked if there were enough rides given on Thursday night to justify it, Paul Allen, executive director responded, “Yes, we give 6 to 10 rides on average on Thursday nights, it’s just that we are always scrambling around to line up Thursday night volunteers and a lot of times we don’t get commitments until that day, or worse Ronnie and Vickie [Ballard] have to step up again. There’s a need for Thursday night volunteers, we just need to train more or have those that are trained willing to step up on Thursday nights. Otherwise, we risk not being able to do it.”

Despite scheduling challenges for Thursdays, the success of the program continues to grow. At the recent board meeting Allen announced that the average age rider continues to drop. While Dylan’s Drivers is completely anonymous, it does try to keep track of two statistics, the location where rides are originating from, and how old the rider is (even if it is a guess by the volunteers). The average age this past month was 26, the youngest average since the service was launched.

This statistic is very important to the organization for many reasons, but most specifically since the program’s namesake Dylan Ballard was a teen when he and his three friends were in a deadly alcohol related crash that killed Ballard and another teen. Another recent alcohol related accident that left two teens dead caused much reflection by the board and its founders. “We know we are doing the right thing,” said one board member. “We have kept 3,600 people from getting behind the wheel that clearly knew they shouldn’t, so that’s great. But we have to better get our message to the younger kids.”

Dylan’s Drivers knew that gaining the trust of underage drinkers was going to be a challenge from the very beginning. Walker Clark, son of founding board member Mary Clark, told her when she first posed the concept to him, “Mom, if parents are the ones coming to pick you up, nobody is going to call.” It is for this reason that Dylan’s Drivers keeps putting out the message over and over, “It’s safe, it’s anonymous, and it’s non-judgmental.” The number one thing the organization cares about is getting those kids home safe. Over time, the message will resonate among the teenagers. Until then, Dylan’s Drivers keeps on giving rides home.

Dylan’s Drivers has also been voted a finalist in the Safeco Insurance “Make more happen” contest, winning $3,000. It is now in the finals to win $10,000. You can help. Click the link below and vote for Dylan’s Drivers. It takes less than 10 seconds and Dylan’s Drivers could win $10,000. 

Share this link with as many of your friends as possible and post on your facebook pages.

If you are willing to be a volunteer, especially if you can help on Thursday nights, contact Paul Allen at Dylan’s Drivers