Vien Truong: Social & Environmental Warrior

She came from abject poverty, experienced social injustice, witnessed the ravaging of the environment, saw the connection of these issues maintained by a broken system, and became a voice for change. Vietnam was torn and ravaged by war when the Truong family fled to the United States. This era in Vietnamese history was known as the “Rationized Period’,” when the free economy was abolished and private enterprise and property ownership, were forbidden. Vien Truong’s family escaped this dark chapter of the country. The Pursuit to Freedom Her mom was pregnant, carrying Vien in her belly, when she got on that boat to escape war-torn Vietnam. She got in a boat with her husband, 9 children, and grandma. They were to row 500 miles in treacherous waters to get to safety in Macau. The very waters where many had perished in similar attempts. Luckily, their family was rescued by the Red Cross and sent to a refugee camp in Hong Kong – where baby Vien was born and lived her first year of life. The family ultimately made their way to Oregon.

Sherri Franklin: Rescuing the Least Among Us

Muttville: Finding new homes one frosted face at a time. It’s all snuggles, hugs, and love at first sight when a brand new puppy becomes the latest member of a family. As the years pass the furry family member has seen the kids grow up, go to college, and then embark on their careers, while mom and dad contemplate over their new empty nest. Ideally, Fido can live out his days in the loving care he has always known. But for some, they are turned out to pasture, or rather, dumped or sent to a shelter. Imagine in your old day being permanently separated from those you love and the comforts of home. The reasons are plenteous, sometimes a pet outlives its master, or age-related veterinarian bills become unaffordable, or an owner is no longer able to care for their beloved pet. It’s a sad ending for one who brought years of unconditional love, loyalty, and devotion to its human counterpart. But this is not the ending that Sherri Franklin will let happen to those furry seniors that cross her

Sharon ‘Ife’ Charles: A Chosen Life- Faithful, Fearless, Free

The Racial Divide In 1998, a young mother living in Crown Heights, N.Y. felt inspired to get more involved in her community. Only eight years after the infamous Crown Heights riots of 1991, she recognized that a growing racial division was once again resulting in violence on the streets. Sharon ‘Ife’ Charles had been observing the deteriorating conditions in her Brooklyn community since giving birth to her first child in 1989. But significant progress had been made since the riots and she was determined that Crown Heights would never again return to those dreadful days. The children, including her own, would have a safe community wherein to grow and prosper. To ensure that outcome, Charles knew a courageous change agent would be needed. As she did her grass roots work on the street during the day, and then searched her heart at night, she knew precisely who that agent would need to be. In fact, that soon-to-be heroic person was visible with every glance in her mirror. She was known on the street as ‘Ife.’ A Watershed Workshop To build

Michele Rigby Assad: Going Undercover in the CIA

Faith and vigilance empowered this CIA operative to carry out some of the nation’s most dangerous tasks. She never imagined herself working for the CIA, especially as an undercover spy. Far from being a tomboy seeking adventure in her back yard, she was a little princess pretending to be a ballerina prancing around the house in ballet shoes. She would dance and make up moves for her cheerleading squad in high school. Her aspirations did not include espionage or black-ops. Rather, she dreamed of being a pediatrician or showgirl. But as they say, if you want to make God laugh, show him your plans. Assad holds a master’s degree in Contemporary Arab Studies from Georgetown University. After graduation, the “almost ballerina” was in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s Directorate of Operations as an undercover officer. She worked in Iraq and other secret Middle Eastern locations as a counterterrorism specialist. No one could have imagined where this ballerina would find herself in adulthood. She would traverse 45 countries fighting terrorism. The Arab world would meet the cheerleader not tumbling about in a high

John Foley: From Pilot to High-Performance Speaker

This pilot turned speaker is making an impact to change the world in a very big way. John Foley’s dream of becoming a pilot for the Blue Angels started when his father took him to his first air show as a child. Little did he know his dream would eventually become a reality. After he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1982, he became a Marine Instructor pilot and was recognized as a Top Ten Carrier Pilot six times during his service in the Navy before fulfilling the dream of the most significant job of his life. Dreams Really Do Come True Shortly after earning his pilot status from the Navy, Foley became a lead solo pilot for the famous Blue Angels, the United States Navy’s flight demonstration squadron flown by America’s most qualified tactical aviators from the Navy and Marines. If you ever had the opportunity of going to an airshow, it’s likely that you’ve witnessed the beautiful precision of these powerful jets as they roar across the sky. During his career

Max Zorn: The Innovative Packing Tape Artist

This Dutch master takes to the streets lighting up cities with his works of tape art. Amsterdam’s old city center glows the brightest when darkness falls upon the winding canals lined with 17th century canal houses and historic cobblestone streets. This is especially true when a talented artist, using only a scalpel and packing tape, transforms the historic street lamps with his unique masterpieces. His name is Max Zorn, an innovative Dutch artist. Today, his work is illuminating Amsterdam, Europe, and the world, one light pole at a time. The jewel of Amsterdam is The Canal Belt with waters flowing through its ancient canals like the lifeblood in the city’s heart of art and romance. Many of the canal bridges are illuminated, creating reflections and ripples of twinkling lights in the water below. And on some of the lamps, if you look closely, a masterpiece adorns its glass. You can see an exquisitely detailed picture backlit by the light of a street lamp. Surely, this art, these beautiful images didn’t just appear. As the lamps glow ablaze and the sun sets, a

Mindi Abair: Gritty & Sophisticated

Her sounds of smooth jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and soul deliver a bone-shaking tour de force to her fans. Mindi Abair was the featured saxophonist on the 2011 and 2012 seasons of American Idol. She mesmerized us with her talent on the Late Show with David Letterman, and joined rock legends Aerosmith for their 2012 summer tour. She has won numerous music awards for her unique artistic expression. A Musical Heritage Abair was born May 23, 1969, in St. Petersburg, Florida, to a musically gifted family. Her grandmother, on her father’s side, was a talented opera singer. Her father was a saxophone player with The Entertainers, a band that toured frequently with family in tow. “My dad’s band never got really famous, but I was on the road from the time I was born until I was 5 years old. I was raised by the roadies and it gave me an appreciation for music and for traveling,” says Abair. It wasn’t until the band’s split that they finally settled down. At five years of age, Abair started what one

Mark Chauppetta: For the Love of His Kids

A man of many talents inspires those with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy to focus on ability, not disability. Every so often, a man is born with a spark that can’t be taught. Mark Chauppetta, 50, is one man who is helping to change the world’s perception of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) while making a name for himself in a variety of professions. He’s been a private investigator, an MMA fighter, a corrections officer, and a filmmaker. This February, he sat awe-struck in a crowded auditorium at the debut of the second rendition of his movie, A Father’s Fight. A decade in the making, the film details his life and fight to bring awareness to a disease that is inflicting considerable damage on his twin sons. For a man with many career pursuits, he has found his true calling by helping his sons and others face down this terrible disease. Powered by the love of his children, this film is a man’s work toward bringing dignity and joy to those afflicted with DMD. Destiny Calling Chauppetta is a private investigator who runs

Carl Sobocinski: Serial Restauranteur

Architect realizes his passion lies in hospitality and then builds a food empire. Traveling and eating are two of my favorite pastimes. I enjoy visiting new places, exploring local culture, and dining in what are some of the best local restaurants.  More often than not, I am pleasantly surprised. One of my favorite cities in America is Greenville, South Carolina, which you may have found in just about every article listing the most charming downtowns in America. In fact, I have enjoyed this city so much, I have returned on multiple occasions. Apparently, I am not alone in my assessment. As a matter of fact, the United States Census Bureau announced Greenville as one of the five fastest growing cities in America. In addition to a one-of-a-kind “floating” suspension bridge steps from Main Street, Greenville has a terrific array of restaurants, boutiques, art shops, and museums. On each of the three occasions I have visited the city, I’ve enjoyed the street fairs that are well-attended by visitors and locals alike. There’s the regular Thursday evening live music get-together near the

Terry Virts: Vantage Point from Space

Spaceflight is his passion but captivating us with a bigger picture of our blue planet is his latest mission. Looking down from the stars, it’s as if time stands still, and a catharsis, riddled with emotion and awareness envelopes the brain. Looking down at Earth — the pristine, fragile oasis, the island we’ve been gifted, and that has protected humanity from the harshness of space — awe and sadness comes over one, and then a hit in the gut with an undeniable, sobering contradiction that we need to protect it as well. Only a handful of humans have experienced this “overview effect.” Terry Virts is one of those rare individuals. A former Colonel in the United States Air Force, Virts is also a NASA veteran of two spaceflights aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2010 and the International Space Station in 2014-2015. In addition, he is an accomplished author, speaker, and thought leader. Virts spent seven months in space which included piloting the space shuttle, commanding the International Space Station, three spacewalks, and performing scientific experiments. All this was achieved