Sammy’s Story

Posted on March 2, 2017 at 10:45 am

Samantha Hatting

BY REID IFORD, TUALATIN LIFE

In many ways, Samantha “Sammy” Hatting is a typical little Tualatin second-grader. She just turned eight years old, and her bedroom is filled with Barbie dolls. But in some way she’s little different. Instead of the usual Disney princesses, her bedspread is adorned with monkeys. Sammy loves monkeys. And while she frequently likes to do makeup and nails, she also likes to roughhouse and play laser tag with her big brother Ryan.

And Sammy is different in one other way. She possesses the sort of courage that would make a United States Marine proud. Sammy has cancer, leukemia to be precise. And for the last five months she has been undergoing a grueling ordeal of chemotherapy treatments. But as you learn in this story, far from being a victim, Sammy is taken control of her life and even at the worst times she reaches out to help other sick children at the hospital.

Sammy received her diagnoses of leukemia September 4, 2016, just as she was ready to start the second grade. She been looking forward to school, and was so devastated by the many negative changes in her life the events of this day are the one thing she will not discuss with people.

“We were just a happy family, before Sammy got sick,” explains her mother Jessica Christina. “Of course we had our bumps in the road, losing my mom to breast cancer in July 2015. She fought that for six years. She and Sammy were best friends, and that was heartbreaking to Sammy. As we got her okay with that, and she moved on and was ready for school, she got diagnosed. As soon as we told her, her eyes got huge, thinking it was going to be just like her grandmother’s, and we had to explain it wasn’t. Once she realized it wasn’t the same, she was all right with it. She looked at me and her doctors and said ‘let’s get these blood icky’s out of me, mommy.’

“The thing that scared me the most was knowing the battle she would have to go through, like watching my mom go through,” says Jessica. “It was just brutal. Worse than what the leukemia makes her go through is the chemotherapy. The medicine is so strong, it’s just insane.”

Sammy must repeatedly endure nonstop 24-hour intravenous delivery of the powerful chemotherapy drugs. She is exhausted after this, but literally as soon as she feels better she must go in for another dose. And this is repeated over and over and over. And yet all who know her say Sammy is the strongest one in the family, demonstrating a stoic attitude and simply accepting what she must endure.

“Watching her lose her hair, she was fine with it,” says Jessica. “She didn’t have a problem in the world with it. I had to go behind closed doors and bawl my eyes out.”

Although Jessica brought the children with her and she began her relationship with Aaron Fitzhenry six years ago, she begins sobbing when she describes how much Aaron loves the children, and the sacrifices he makes so she can devote all her time to caring for Sammy and her son Ryan. Aaron works in heavy construction, and he frequently travels away from home to take every job he can get to support his family, cover the mounting bills, and allow Jessica to not work.

“Aaron just loves Sammy,” says Jessica. “He loves both the kids. He’s always there. They just love each other. He’s wonderful.” There is a long pause as she tries to compose yourself. “I couldn’t have found a better guy to be there for me and my kids.”

“I want to say that Sammy is definitely going to win this battle, and that’s what I can tell you,” says Aaron. “I can’t tell you enough how much I love her. She’s a sweetheart and everybody loves her. Everybody she’s ever been around she has touched in some way. She’s just a sweet little girl. I’m just praying and praying and praying for a good result in this battle she’s going through.”

Jessica and Aaron wanted to thank the entire staff at Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel in Portland, who they say could not be more wonderful, compassionate, and professional in Sammy’s treatment. They said the people at Randall not only provide Sammy with medical treatment, but do so in a compassionate way that shows they care deeply not only for Sammy, but for her entire family

Despite all she’s going through herself, when she is at Randall Sammy reaches out to any child she sees suffering, and especially the new children who are just beginning their treatments and are obviously very afraid. When she saw how frightened one little girl was, Sammy went up and took her hand and asked if she wanted to go to the play room with her, telling the child there were Barbies and a big dollhouse. The two girls played together as long as their health allowed.

Sammy’s big brother Ryan just turned 13, but for the last five months he’s acted a lot more like he’s 20. Ryan insists on going to the hospital and Sammy is having her procedures, so he can be there for her. With Aaron at work so much and Jessica devoting her time to Sammy and often away at the hospital, Ryan stays strong for his sister, and has taken on far more responsibility than could ever be expected from such a young man. He’s working hard to maintain his grades so his parents don’t have to worry about anything but caring for Sammy. Ryan says he’ll do anything he can to help his little sister get better.

“She’s sweet,” says Ryan. “Even through all of this, every now and then she’ll come into my room and say ’do you want to play?’”

Jessica says a really big factor in helping the family at this time is the support they receive from the people of Tualatin, including students, parents and teachers at the children’s schools, Byrom Elementary and Hazelbrook Middle School.

“Tualatin is like no other place,” explains Jessica. “Everyone knows their neighbors, and cares about them. I go into a store and five people come up to me and ask how is Samantha. At Byrom they are absolutely wonderful, and call to check up on her all the time. It’s the whole community. It just feels good to know they are there. This really opens your eyes to how lucky we are to live here. We chose to go to Tualatin to raise our kids. The school district is wonderful, the community is wonderful, and our neighbors are wonderful. We couldn’t ask for better neighbors. Tualatin is a great, safe place for the kids to grow up,” says Jessica.

Mike Beason: From PTSD to Freedom

Posted on January 3, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Mike Beason

BY REID IFORD, TUALATIN LIFE

Mike Beason is a dynamic, outgoing bodybuilder filled with vibrant, positive energy. He is a motivational speaker, has started a charity to raise money to help veterans dealing with PTSD, and will be appearing in an upcoming movie.

As hard as it is to believe when you meet this lean, confident and physically fit human dynamo, just a year and a half ago Mike was 85 pounds overweight, deeply withdrawn, and crippled by depression. Mike, an Army veteran, has suffered from PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder – for a quarter of a century. At his lowest point, he held a gun to his head and squeezed the trigger. The weapon misfired.

But today Mike has turned his life around and now is on a mission to help others suffering with PTSD, particularly veterans. He has gone from shy and withdrawn to an outgoing public speaker, and in April will compete in his first body building tournament. So how did he make this miraculous change and become a motivating symbol of success for others?

“I believe from the bottom of my heart the way to change is physical,” explains Mike. “If we just start taking care of ourselves, our lives become so much happier. It is a whole new world for me, and I achieved it in just 15 months. Of course, I worked my butt off.

“Everyone needs a win. You need to set a goal and master something. You can be a bodybuilder, a mixed martial arts fighter, or even master using a yo-yo. I’m serious. Doing something for yourself, big or small, whatever you choose will aim you in the direction of pure happiness. People struggling with PTSD have lost control of their lives. Their self-esteem has gone away, and they’ve lost control of their body and mind. They need a win to get back on track. You can open yourself up to new experiences, but to do that you must challenge yourself. You need to be physically healthy. You don’t have to do what I do, but you have to do something,” Mike says.

Mike had such positive feedback from veterans dealing with PTSD who say he has helped them, that he formed a nonprofit charity to better meet their needs. “From PTSD to Freedom” is the name of his charity, a name inspired by his own journey. He already has a lengthy and ever-growing list of veterans interested in participating in the program he designed, and local gyms willing to participate. It is Mike’s goal to help every veteran he encounters who is dealing with PTSD.

But Mike hasn’t done it alone. Reginald Lee, owner of “Nutrition by Max Muscle,” is sponsoring Mike in his first bodybuilding competition.

“I don’t sponsor many athletes,” explains Mr. Lee, “but Mike’s story reached me, and I wanted to help him reach his goals. He walked into my store one day and started telling me about his history, and about his journey in getting into bodybuilding, and competing in an upcoming event. My brother was in Vietnam, and something about Mike touched me. We are providing our products to him, quite a variety which will support him as he prepares for the April competition.”

Another Tualatin business helping Mike is Boom Fitness, a gym located at Bridgeport. He works out in the gym, and they provide him with a trainer as he prepares for the April competition, which also helps him develop his program for veterans.

“Mike is a hard worker,” says Shea Cummings, a spokesperson for Boom Fitness. “I see him here for hours almost every day. As a veteran myself, I think his organization ‘From PTSD to Freedom’ is a great cause, and it really helps the community. It is good the way he ties it into fitness as a means for positive change for military members dealing with PTSD and depression. You are helping yourself by improving your body. Mike has helped a lot of veterans, and that’s what we need in our community.”

“Looking good is a critical part of feeling good,” says Mike. “Improving your physique, getting in shape, or even just getting a haircut and putting on some nice clothes will improve how you feel about yourself. When you look in the mirror and say to yourself ‘that person looks pretty good,’ you can’t help but feel good.”

Ms. Jillian Bullock is writer, producer and director of “A Sense of Purpose: Fighting for Our Lives,” the movie in which Mike will appear. An independent film producer located in Pennsylvania, Ms. Bullock decided to create the movie after learning about the staggering levels of sexual assault in today’s US military, and the subsequent problems caused by PTSD.

“Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day,” explains Ms. Bullock, “and a lot of that is a consequence of PTSD, which in turn often is brought on by sexual assault experienced during their service. The purpose of the film is to shed more light on the aftermath for these people when they don’t get the respect and support they need, and hopefully to change the way the military handles these problems in the future.”

People who report sexual assault often are victimized again by the system and the military brass – even other soldiers. So much so that less than a quarter of assault victims ever file a report. And while it may surprise people that Mike, a male, was a victim of sexual assault in the military, in fact more than half of all sexual assault victims are men. Yes, Mike’s PTSD was brought on by a sexual assault which occurred when he was a teenager in the Army. But after 25 years of misery, Mike decided to reclaim his life.

“It was getting physically fit that started me on the road to recovery and self-improvement,” says Mike. “It took time. When I first went into the gym I was withdrawn and angry, but I knew I couldn’t go on like this, that I had to change. I learned that taking control of yourself physically leads to gaining mental self-control, which in turn builds confidence and creates a pathway to a healthy life.

“Now I am so excited about life,” Mike says. “I’ve had people tell me, ‘Mike, you saved my life today.’ And that is a powerful feeling. I’m tired of people not getting what they deserve, especially veterans. I love doing this. I’d go through it all over again, every negative experience in my life, to be where I am today. It’s still hard, and I still have nightmares and flashbacks, and yet I feel that my life is a blessing.”

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Glass is His Canvas

Posted on at 2:03 pm

Donut Land, Tualatin

BY REID IFORD, TUALATIN LIFE

Steve Weichold, Window Painter. In one respect, the name says it all. But if you look for deeper meaning, it barely scratches the surface. Yes, the Tualatin artist paints on glass. But his story, like his work, is so much more complex.

You may not know it, but you’ve seen Steve’s work. It is all over Tualatin and all over the region, from Salem and McMinnville, reaching into southern Washington, and as far away as the coast. And with so much Christmas-themed demand for Steve’s art, it is especially prevalent right now. Yes, a fair share of those Santas and sleighs you see adorning local business windows were painted by Steve.

He’s been painting windows professionally for 40 years, and while he works year-round he still refers to it as his part-time job. Why part-time? Because, he says laughing, “I do it part-time, but all year round.”

Any artist will tell you it takes time, commitment and hard work to create and develop their style, but if there is such a thing as natural talent, Steve has it in spades. He began painting on Windows which he was around eight or nine years old. He explains that his career started entirely by accident.

“It wasn’t anything I planned on doing for the rest of my life,” Steve says. “I started painting my mom’s Bay Windows for Christmastime. Back in the late 1960s, when I was 14, a lady came over and asked if I would do her business window. I said I wasn’t interested, but then my mom said she would pay me five dollars! It grew from there.”

Unlike many artists, Steve (assisted by his wife Sharron) has a good sense for business. He has identified the types of businesses most likely to benefit from his services, and also the geographic factors which play into successful window advertising. One reason he’s been successful during the last 40 years is because he focuses on meeting the needs of his customers, he explains.

“There is a method to it,” says Steve, “and it is a matter not only of creating the right message, but identifying what sort of image will best convey that message.” He studies the economy, develop a marketing plan and budget suitable to their community. “It is great to help people with their businesses. I like to make a difference.

“Given the right circumstances, it’s very cost effective advertising,” he explains. “This is a good way of advertising for smaller businesses. I have about 300 regular clients I work with. I used to solicit a lot, but I don’t anymore. I have a Craigslist ad, which does a lot for me, and I get a lot of word-of-mouth business.

“Window painting says to drive-by traffic: something is going on here. The average driver might look for three seconds, so you have that much time to catch their eye and convey a message. It’s a very viable marketing tool, if you have the right exposure,” says Steve.

Steve has developed his own unique characters, which give his work a very distinctive look, reflecting his style. When he draws female characters they are frequently inspired by his wife Sharron’s eyes and face.

“In one picture, I made the girl character’s eyes brown, but Sharron’s eyes are green. Sharron noticed this, and asked me ‘who is that girl?’ I said, don’t worry, that is you. I just changed the eye color.”

If it sounds to you like Steve enjoys his job, then you’re absolutely right.

“The creativity aspect is wonderful,” Steve says. “It’s just awesome. I’ve loved the last 40 years. It’s been a wonderful run. I consider my skill a God’s gift. I was blessed with this ability to draw, and work on glass. It’s truly been a blessing.”

Steve has a Facebook page, listed under Steve Weichold. He can be reached at 503 692-1245.

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Tualatin Connection to Explosion that Rocked NW Portland

Posted on November 3, 2016 at 10:26 am

Reid Iford

BY REID IFORD, TUALATIN LIFE

The contractor working at a construction site where a natural gas explosion occurred in a Northwest Portland neighborhood on Wednesday, October 19, is based in Tualatin.

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