Archive for February, 2010

Getting the Word Out
February 27, 2010

She was a 16-year-old student at Monroeville High School who, along with managing school work and after-school activities,  had to deal with a relationship with an on-again, off-again boyfriend. While her father tells me she knew there were issues, she had no idea things would turn violent.

Demi Cuccia was killed by him in October 2007. Stabbed 16 times. However, her family doesn’t want Demi to be just another tragedy. Just another statistic and the statistics are overwhelming when it comes to teen date violence. 1 in 3 teenagers has fallen victim to abuse of a physical or sexual nature from a dating partner. 1 in 5 teen girls falls into that category. Finally, consider teen girls are three times more likely to become victims of dating violence that adult women.

This February is teen date violence awareness month. Organizers believe it’s an opportunity to discuss a problem that often isn’t talked about in everyday conversation. Whether it be students not telling their parents or students not even knowing,  teen date violence victims often go through this uneasy and painful place alone.

Demi Cuccia: She has been remembered in various tributes by her friends and classmates. Now, her family wants to pay a lasting tribute: by making  sure other teens are aware of the dating violence that claimed her life.

Womensplace, a local organization which deals with domestic violence issues, worked with six different Allegheny county high schools to host sessions during the month on teen date violence. From role-playing to frank conversation, the goal was to get the word out to teenagers that this happens and that they can fall victim to it. Whether it be verbal, physical or sexual abuse, it does happen. The hope is that “knowledge” will truly be “power”.

Gary Cuccia, Demi’s father, tells me about a battle he’s waging on another front. Ever since his daughter’s violent murder, his family has been pushing for the state legislature to make teen date violence education a mandatory part of the curriculum for students in grades 7-12 in Pennsylvania. The amendment, named after Demi Cuccia, would mandate such education take place in school health classes.

The bill is set for a vote in the House next month and victory would send it to the senate. As Gary Cuccia told me, as painful as it has been for his family, he hopes this addition to the school curriculum will prevent another young person from experiencing the horror and pain that Demi did on that October night in 2007.

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Beating the Winter “Blahs” and “Blues”
February 25, 2010

February may be the shortest month in terms of days, but this year it has dragged on thanks to the heaviest snowstorm we have seen in years. The amount of snow, combined with the lack of sun, has been a perfect formula for an epidemic called the “winter blahs”. 

Technically, according to my recent conversation with  UPMC psychiatrist Dr Holly Swartz, its is when we aren’t feeling our best and feeling run down and a bit down. It’s not full-blown depression, but it is low desire and energy and we tend to eat a bit more. Those are the “winter blahs”. 

The “winter blues” are much more serious. It’s better known as Seasonal Affective Disorder and its much more common in women than men. It ranges from sleeping for much longer periods of time to feelings that life is not worth living. While it sounds dire, Dr Swartz tells me it can be treated rather easily with light therapy. Essentially, its prolonged exposure to special lighting daily. 

Beating the winter “blahs”: it’s as easy as snow tubing!

For the majority of us that feel the “winter blahs”, the therapy is much less about medicine. It’s about getting up and getting out. Forget the pills says Dr. Swartz. It’s about social contact during the winter … and its about exercise. Everything from skiing to snow tubing to talking a leisurely walk on those sunnier winter days. 

The most important thing is to get out and get active and avoid hibernation which many of us tend to do this time of year.  

Also beware of losing more than your energy this time of year. The winter, thanks to the lack of sunshine, can rob you of vitamin D. It’s crucial in everything from fighting of colds and flu to helping in cancer prevention. Foods that can bring the vitamin D back in your body include fish liver oils and certain fortified cereals. 

One last way to make those winter blahs go away? Remember its less than 30 days until spring returns to the region. 

A Celebration of Women and Athletics
February 20, 2010

While the world was glued to the Tiger Woods drama being played out on television in the orchestrated statement her gave, I attended an event that got very little attention but is what the world should pay attention to.

Chatham University hosted its 15th annual National Women and Girls in Sports Day. From humble beginnings, the luncheon has now become a staple on the school’s calendar. 30 local high schools were represented at this event in which the achievements of young women are celebrated – both past and future.

Student-athletes from Hopewell High School posing with the Chatham Cougar( photo courtesy: John Altdorfer )

 These young woman from different schools get together to meet on a personal level, break bread and share the common experience of being a woman in sports. We have had guest speakers, local women in the world of sports, who share those experiences unique to the female athlete.

Sure,  the days of Title IX which first leveled the playing field for women, is now nearly forty years old. Back then, there wasn’t money or opportunity for young women in sports. That seems like ancient history to the female competitors of today. But this luncheon is a reminder that the world for female athletes is different.

Students signing in at Nat’l Girls and Women in Sports Day at Chatham University ( photo courtesy John Altdorfer )

Women still do not have the opportunity to make the millions that their male counterparts do. Sure, there are golfers and olympic heroes who cash in, but pro leagues for women are far from the cash cow they are for men. Also, while women’s sports are carried on TV, they don’t make the money the male sports do or draw the ratings on the whole.

This year’s NWGIS award-winners with the Chatham Cougar ( photo courtesy John Altdorfer )

What these female athletes do is compete for the love of the game and with integrity. Despite the frailties of all of us, it’s not likely the world will stop to watch a press conference from a female athlete who has been unfaithful. Then again, female athletes rarely get the good press of their male counterparts, so this event was a chance to celebrate the good in the women’s games.

( Photo courtesy: John Altdorfer )

I was happy to serve as emcee for an event even more rare than a public admission of guilt and a public apology: a women’s college hosting the brightest female student-athletes in our area for a day of celebration and reflection.

With keynote speaker Dr. Aimee Kimball & Chatham President Esther Barazzone ( photo courtesy John Altdorfer )

On a day when the world was glued on Tiger, I felt like the fortunate one because I got to spend the day with real heroes … and real role models.

What Should Tiger Say? An Expert Weighs In.
February 19, 2010

Friday at 11am is shaping up to be one of those seminal moments for this country. An event in which everyone who can will be watching and waiting to see what happens. Some out of concern, some out of curiosity and some to mock and laugh.

I’m talking about Tiger Woods’ public statement tomorrow. If you don’t see it, you can’t blame the media. It’s on all the networks, the cable news channels, the sports channels and even YouTube will be carrying it live.

You can do more than watch it, you can actually make money from it. A British bookie is laying odds on the event. It’s 4-to-7 that wife Elin will stand by Tiger’s side ( you will lose no matter what ) and it’s 100-to-1 Tiger announces he retires.

However, the greatest bet will be what Tiger will say about what he has done and what he plans to do next. There has been speculation from so many different directions, it’s tough to know who really does know what could happen. That’s what makes a phone interview I had tonight so revealing.

PR Guru Mark DeMoss: An expert in damage control, his advice to Tiger is both simple … and drastic. 

Mark DeMoss is a public relations expert from Atlanta and his specialty is crisis management and damage control. He has handled many high-profile clients in positions while not as well-known were just as painful. He recently wrote “A Speech That Could Save Tiger’s Reputation, His Family and His Golf Game”.

I asked Mark why he wrote it. He just wanted to freely offer his advice on how to handle a crisis. He doesn’t expect Woods’ people to call him for advice, but he says the one-page statement offers some things Tiger’s people may not have considered.

He believes we are a society that accepts apologies and offers forgiveness when those who have transgressed. DeMoss says Woods can restore his reputation but he must be sincere and contrite. He also believes Woods should apologize because while his actions most directly involve his wife, everything he does affects thousands. Case in point, he is making his statement during the Accenture Match Play Championships. It’s certain to take away from the action and have other golfer steaming as Tiger takes the spotlight.

DeMoss’ statement has all the required apologies and mea culpas, but what made it stand out where four very drastic steps at the end. He suggests Tiger make four moves designed to prove his sincerity at turning the corner.  

1. Not play any golf in 2010

2. Not continue his golf career until he determines whether or not his marriage can be salvaged with Elin.

3. Ask three men: Jack Nicklaus, Tony Dungy and a pastor of their choice to mentor him and hold him accountable for two years.

4. Ask hs sponsors to release him from all contractual agreements.

DeMoss believes that by taking these radical steps, Woods will be looked at in a much more positive light and be able to walk away from tomorrow’s event with the majority of Americans in his corner.

We shall see.

The Race to the Race Begins
February 16, 2010

I can almost guarantee you are not thinking, amid the ice and constant snow, about Mother’s Day. Well, the folks at Komen Pittsburgh want you to do just that. At the very least, leave that Sunday in May open and join over 30,000 of your neighbors for the Race for the Cure.

Monday night at Bar Louie in Station Square, they hosted the kick-off party. The snow kept some away, but many turned out to sing, dance, win prizes and get psyched to enlist volunteers and get folks signed up early for the run/walk through Schenley Park.

Channel 4 has been the media partner with the Race since its humble beginnings in 1993. It went from 3,000 to nearly 40,000 in recent years. It’s a race, in fact the largest participatory race in the state, but it’s so much more. It’s a major fund-raiser in the battle against breast cancer. It’s a chance to honor survivors and recognize those who didn’t survive. It’s a chance to tell our moms we love them and to show our love for those we don’t know. Most of all, it’s a chance for our city to show that we can all work together for a common purpose.

Smiling with some of the supporters who came out for the Race Kick-Off

Michelle Wright has been the spokesperson for the Race since the start. I joined her almost 14 years ago … and together, we have seen this Sunday morning in Schenley Park become a mother’s day tradition. We hope you will join us.  A link to the registration page is on this website.

We had a great kick-off Monday night. Let’s make it even bigger on Mother’s Day!

New Car Fever: A Cure for Cabin Fever?
February 12, 2010

Are you sick of the snow or are you just sick of being trapped inside your home? Let’s be honest, for most residents of this region its been a week since they saw someone other than their family and their neighbors.  I think we all love our family … but you do need some time away.

I spent this afternoon at a place where I’m sure many will visit to get rid of thier “cabin fever” in favor of  “new car fever”. The Pittsburgh International Auto Show  is always a big event in this region, but given the fact many of us haven’t seen a car not covered in snow it should be a real treat.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Click here to watch the video of Andrew Stockey’s auto show tour.)

During my visit, I had a chance to see some of the new things coming out from the car dealers. There are the so-called “green” cars which are better for the environment. There are the always popular “concept” cars which won’t be in showrooms … just yet. While the one that will catch your eye will be the Corvette Stingray from the movie “Transformers”, the car that grabbed my attention was the Ford Edge. It’s not the outside that makes it so attractive, but its what’s on the inside.

This might surprise you, but Ford is one of the leaders in interactive technology. The idea is to integrate your car with your cell phone or personal device. Ford’s Edge actually makes your car into an iPhone. The dashboard is a touch screen which does all the things an iPhone can do. The only button you press in the car starts the ignition. The rest is touch screen technology.

While its fun to look into the future, the manufacturers I spoke with were realistic about the present. 2009 was maybe the worst year ever: not only for car sales but auto makers reputations. Between the bailouts and the recent recalls, people weren’t feeling good about their cars. However, there is a real sense of optimism at the show. The cars on display don’t skimp on extra or technology. The idea being that Americans still love their cars and after being stuck in the snow, they don’t need an economic reality check from their cars.

Whether you are planning to buy a car or not, it’s a good chance to see what’s out there and, more importantly, ask questions. There is no high pressure sale here. It’s a chance to get smart about your car … and about the next car you might buy. If you have concerns about the Toyota recall, then ask the Toyota representative.

Most of all, whether you hit the car show or not, try to get outside and get out of the house. Indulge your fantasies at the car show … or just indulge somewhere as long as  you get out of the house.

The Storm of “This” Century
February 7, 2010

I dug my car out from the parking lot of Channel 4 this morning after the snow had finally stopped. It took a half hour to finally free my Acura from two feet of snow. It was just proof that no matter what we have planned, mother nature runs this show.

As I left the station for home, I drove along the freshly plowed parkway. I gazed out the window to see the untouched snow cover the sides of trees, roadways, jersey barriers and various signs. The sun had just emerged and the combination of the bright sun on the white snow made for a perfect winter picture.

That’s the fun part of the blizzard. A storm so powerful that it knocks over trees and power lines and makes us prisoners in our own homes, also looks so beautiful the morning after before the plows, snow shovels and the pets have trudged through it.

Certainly, it wasn’t pretty the night of the storm. The snow came early and fast. It overwhelmed any previous predictions or forecasts … and, as Stephen Cropper told me, it was ever changing. The total snowfall kept rising by the hour and those who thought they time to spare found themselves getting stuck in snowdrifts.

The day after outside our studios in Wilkinsburg  ( Courtesy Jill Perkins )

The storm turned all but those who had to work late Friday night into prisoners in their own homes. I had enough friends who said as soon as they shoveled, five more inches covered the ground. Of course, if you lived on any side street, you might still be trapped inside your home.

That being said, the storm also allowed us to experience something rare: time alone with the ones we love. When its just you and your significant other or you and the kids, you find things to do. As some of my friends told me, you have a chance to “bond”. Hopefully no one turned it into time where everyone scattered around the house for personal time with their favorite personal electronic device.

I’m sure years from now we’ll be talking about this storm … and we’ll be saying where we were when it happened. The amount of snow that we received will only grow with the tales that are told about what took place. No matter what, we can all talk about our shared experience with the “Storm of this Century” … so far.