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Photo by Adam Ewing
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Sara Schaefer Photo by Matt Licari
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Some things keep coming back that you might wish wouldn't — like the perennial debate about where to build a new ballpark — but this collection of people and places we've featured during the past few years is worth revisiting. Here's how they're faring now.
Anna Clara Ellison ,
Cake Baker Extraordinaire
Cake Charmer , January , 2009 Straight out of Midlothian and James River High School, Anna Ellison got started working for crumbs at Baltimore's Charm City Cakes. While studying graphic design at the Maryland Institute College of Art, she landed an unpaid internship at Charm City by convincing owner and executive chef Duff Goldman of what she calls "her fun-loving-but-driven work ethic." Ellison evolved into the company's artistic director and executive chef, assisting in creating $1,000-plus sugary-sweet works of art — often under the unyielding glare of a camera after Charm City Cakes became the subject of the popular Food Network reality show Ace of Cakes, which ran from 2008 to 2011. She also demonstrated an addiction to Scrabble on the show. Two and a half years ago, Goldman moved six Charm City staffers to Los Angeles to expand the brand. Ellison is in charge of the West Coast operation. "Business has been good!" she says. "We do a lot of crazy things, a lot of wedding cakes and a handful of movie-premiere cakes." The clientele has included Taylor Swift, Hilary Duff, Jennifer Garner, Drew Barrymore, Ellen DeGeneres and Joan Rivers, and Charm City baked cakes for the premieres of such movies as Sharknado, Battleship and Riddick. And what about her other passion? "The shop definitely keeps me busy, but I will always have time for Scrabble. Thanks to smartphones, I play a ridiculous amount of Words With Friends, even though I prefer one-on-one and all at once — no cheating that way!"
Caressa Cameron Jackson,
American Woman, July 2010 After Virginia Commonwealth University student Caressa Cameron was crowned Miss America in Atlantic City, N.J., on Jan. 30, 2010, she embarked on a world-girdling journey of 250,000 miles. She watched the Super Bowl from Rush Limbaugh's luxury box, visited wounded U.S. soldiers in Germany and met President Barack Obama. She'd been preparing for this role of a lifetime since age 6, when she snagged the 1993 Someday a Miss America title in a Stafford County pageant. Born in Washington, D.C., Cameron grew up in Fredericksburg and graduated from Massaponax High School. Her life ran on parallel tracks, one of competitive pageants and another of advocacy and education related to the issues of HIV/AIDS; her uncle, Robert Lewis, died of the illness in 1995 while living at the Cameron home. The family then fostered a young girl born with HIV, and ostracism by some neighbors gave Cameron lessons that she never forgot. During middle school, she volunteered with her mother, LaVern, who served as an education coordinator for Fredericksburg Area HIV/AIDS Support Services, and after her Miss America stint, Cameron became a spokesperson for AIDS United, an organization dedicated to ending the disease. She speaks on behalf of AIDS awareness around the country. Nat Jackson, a quarterback at Massaponax High School and a Virginia Military Institute graduate, was Miss America's boyfriend. On Sept. 17, 2011, as reported in Fredericksburg's Free-Lance Star, he proposed during an arranged photo session. The couple tied the knot on Dec. 3, 2012.
"This Man is Innocent," 2011 When wrongly convicted of rape in 1982 at age 18 and sentenced to 210 years in prison, Marvin Anderson was a Lee-Davis High School senior and football player who wanted to become a firefighter. After more than 15 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, Anderson was released on parole in 1997, but as a convicted sex offender. Then in 2002, thanks to DNA testing, he was exonerated and received a full pardon from Gov. Mark Warner. Today, Anderson is district chief of the Hanover Courthouse Volunteer Fire Company. "I actually got involved with the fire and rescue service in 1975," he recalls, and as teenager, he served as a junior member, until incarceration ended his participation. "Once exonerated by the governor, I was reinstated, and I worked and worked, and here I am," Anderson says. "I've been blessed." A father of three, he assists in organizing the Hanover fire department's annual Santa Run. Anderson travels to legal conferences to speak of his ordeal and recently joined the board of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, the organization that assisted in reopening his case. Since delivering his talks to various legal groups, he's met people who've been through his situation — and worse. Anderson wants to assist in getting states and counties working from the same guidelines of investigation and interrogation. "Yes, people are amazed who don't believe this can happen in this day and time and with our justice system," he says. "But it happens every day."
Richmond Cycling Corps member
"Following the Bike," October 2011 After his friend Deshun Taylor was shot and killed on the sidewalk in Fairfield Court at age 14, Chris Mason promised himself he would find a way out of the housing project. Richmond Cycling Corps showed him the way. Founded by Craig Dodson, RCC started as the volunteering arm of a professional cycling team and became an inner-city youth outreach program soon after Dodson met Mason in 2009. A week before our feature on RCC hit newsstands in October 2011, then-17-year-old Chris Mason lost another friend to gun violence. On Sept. 18, 2011, Jamel Cobb, 19, was fatally shot in the Fairfield Court public housing community as he was walking from the Boys and Girls Club to a nearby basketball court. "To see our youth hurting from a senseless killing of their friend brought me back, quick and hard, to why this organization exists," says Dodson. Mason rode with Dodson in the Philadelphia Team Livestrong Challenge in 2011. A severe summer thunderstorm led the event organizers to cancel the race midway through, but the pair didn't let the storm stop them, riding through blocked-off streets to the finish. Mason became the first inner-city teenager to complete a 100-mile bicycle ride with the Richmond nonprofit, setting a high bar for the younger kids in RCC. "He was the first one through the wall," Dodson says. "On Oct. 5, we had our fifth kid do 100 miles in one day." Now the 19-year-old is a sophomore at Virginia State University in Petersburg. The first of seven siblings to graduate from high school on time and the only member of his family to attend college, Mason is studying fashion merchandising at Virginia State University. —Anne Dreyfuss Derek Cha, Entrepreneur and founder of sweetFrog "Reinvention Reigns," August 2011 Under the guidance of Derek Cha, Richmond-based frozen-yogurt chain sweetFrog recently opened its 300th location in Carlisle, Pa. The franchise has locations in 26 states, as well as the District of Columbia, England and the Dominican Republic. Cha used to operate two framing businesses, Art and Frame Depot and Art and Frame Warehouse, in Northern Virginia, which grew into a large chain of 80 stores nationwide. But the housing boom busted, and the implosion took with it the demand for framing. The Chas and their two children sought a new start in Richmond in 2009. He told us in 2011, "We turned to God, and we prayed day and night for a new business venture that would thrive in this economy." After six months of working odd jobs, Cha started a frozen-yogurt chain that he named sweetFrog. The "frog" is an acronym for "Fully Reliant On God." This summer, Cha expanded his holdings into real estate, with a $2 million purchase by his Sports Frog LLC of a 57-acre Chesterfield County tract near Clover Hill High School on Genito Road. The property had to be pulled from underneath a $130,000 lien in the aftermath of the failed SportsQuest project. Through a spokesman, Cha says he's currently considering residential development for the Chesterfield property. Cha says that he "did not anticipate this level of success," but he knew that if he "served a good product with good service and good branding, sweetFrog would experience growth." By year's end, the firm is expected to open 25 more locations.
Sara Schaefer continues to be "Obsessed With Making You Laugh," as our January 2013 profile suggested. The Midlothian native and Maggie Walker High School graduate's podcast with her partner-in-comedy Nikki Glaser got MTV's attention and led to their show Nikki & Sara Live — which wrapped its second season in October. Since we last checked in with Schaefer, she has created and executive-produced an MTV pilot for a fashion-themed game show and made her standup-comedy television debut on John Oliver's New York Stand Up Show on Comedy Central. In August 2010, Kate Andrews peered into " Rozlyn's Reality ," interviewing Rozlyn Papa, a controversial cast member of The Bachelor. A force of nature — Hurricane Sandy — brought Papa and her Scottish fiancé together in October 2012. The two knew each other through mutual friends; after his plane was grounded in the wake of the superstorm, he needed a place to stay, and Papa volunteered her couch. "I couldn't understand half of what he said — have you watched Trainspotting ? — but I think that may be why we got on so well." He proposed on Valentine's Day this year. Papa and her son moved to Glasgow, and the whole family plans to return to Richmond in 2014. "Happily ever after," Papa concludes, "no reality TV required." When we checked in with Mechanicsville wrestling champ and country singer Mickie James in January 2011 [" The Ballad of Mickie James "], the five-time World Wrestling Entertainment Women's Champion and one-time WWE Divas Champion had been abruptly fired by the WWE. She was building her side career as a country singer while performing for TNA (Total Nonstop Action) Wrestling, during which she won a TNA Championship. By early October of this year, however, she'd once again moved into free agency for her wrestling career. Currently touring nationally with her latest album, Somebody's Gonna Pay, she told Jonathan Williams of the Wrestling With Pop Culture website, "I'm not Carrie Underwood, where I can sing these massive beautiful ballads all day long. But I do have that rock edge to me where it is a little bit rough around the edges, because I'm a little bit rough around the edges."
Margaret Daugherty ,
Artifical heart patient
"Life Savers" and " A New Heart ," May and December 2011 Margaret Daugherty turned 47 on Nov. 3, and she marked her "heart birthday" on Sept. 1 — the second anniversary of the transplant she received at VCU Medical Center in 2011. Now living in Lexington, Ky., Daugherty and her husband, Brian Younglove, and son Colin spent 11 months in Richmond after being flown to VCU from Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Dec. 17, 2010, for what VCU surgeon Vigneshwar Kasirajan called "profound heart failure." Daugherty's failing heart was a transplanted organ that she had received 18 years earlier when she developed congestive heart failure. Without another transplant, she would have died. But there was no time to wait for one. So Daugherty became one of 21 patients that year to receive an artificial heart implant at VCU, where the procedure has been performed since 2006. Then she remained in Richmond until a human heart that was a good match became available. "It's been a long road," she says of her recovery. After returning to Kentucky in November 2011, "it took me a good four, maybe five months before I could walk without my walker." When she lies down at night, she experiences flashbacks and pain from nerve damage in her heels and the back of her head, which she says resulted from being on life support for about 13 days after her transplant, until she could breathe on her own. Daugherty had to back off from some of her previous martial-arts activities because of an abdominal hernia, but she still participates in a less physically demanding form of tai chi, which she credits with helping her to regain strength and balance. She also assists in teaching a class for seniors. "I'm a work in progress," Daugherty says, noting that she didn't start doing martial arts until seven years after her first transplant. About six months ago, she started driving again for short trips, and this fall, she put on waders for the first time in years and went fly-fishing with her husband. During a check-up with her Lexington cardiologist, Dr. David Booth, in October, she says, "we went through and looked at my blood work, and it looks beautiful." —Tina Eshleman Colin Goddard. A survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre turned gun-control advocate "Transformed by Tragedy," January 2011 He survived getting shot four times. Despite the resulting emotional hardship and physical challenges — he was told he might never walk again — Goddard graduated from Virginia Tech in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in international studies and a minor in French. He became the assistant director of victims and youth advocacy and federal legislation for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. In this capacity, he testified on Capitol Hill, addressed rallies, went on television and worked to bring attention to the "gun-show loophole," that is, sales by private sellers who aren't required to background-check buyers. Goddard left the Brady Campaign in mid-2013. The focus of a documentary, Living for 32, which tells his story within the backdrop of what happened at Virginia Tech and the 32 who died, Goddard travels to speaking engagements related to the film and on behalf of controlling gun violence. He told the Tennessean newspaper in September, "Usually I hear about [incidences of gun violence] on Twitter now, in front of a computer, and I just deflate into that chair. … The rest of that day is off. You try to do the rest of what you're supposed to do, but it's just off. You watch the body count go up. Then you get the calls from media almost like clockwork, ‘We want to have you on.' " Goddard says he doesn't want guns taken from responsible owners. "We need to speak specifically about the policy, not should we have more gun laws or less," he said. "We need to talk about gun-owner responsibility and what it means to be a responsible gun owner. We need to talk about a 90-second background check."
"One-Man Mission," September 2010 Back in 2010, we described Danny Yates' motivation thus: "Driven by the horror of Haiti's January earthquake, a Richmond native tries to help rebuild — one Haitian student at a time." Currently a second-year student at William & Mary Law School, Yates says of his Haiti experience, "Seems in some ways many years ago. I was young and made for a good story." The Maggie Walker High School graduate formed the nonprofit Hinche Scholars program to bring Haitian students to the United States to attend Barber-Scotia, a historically black college in North Carolina founded by the Presbyterian Church. He hoped to financially support Haitian students until graduation through Hinche. They'd then use their education back in Haiti to help rebuild the country. The Hinche Scholars initiative ultimately led to Yates' appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, but he gives greater credit to the late Kenneth Henshaw, who by chance heard Yates on the radio talking about his Haiti efforts with Bill Bevins, and offered to help. "I was an idealistic 19-year-old," Yates says. "He was a selfless volunteer." Henshaw and his wife, Gail, he says, were his role models. Through their branch of the national "I Have a Dream Foundation" organization, they had supported public schools through scholarship sponsorship and providing books for at-home libraries. The Haiti project managed to bring four students over, in August 2011. But Yates' involvement with the project has diminished following Henshaw's untimely passing in February and in the face of the ever-increasing demands of law school. Currently, two of the students are finishing coursework here at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College; another is at Barber-Scotia, and another is studying at Elizabeth State University. Yates interned in Richmond with the Troutman Sanders law firm, and now he's interning with the U.S. Department of Justice. "It's really opened my eyes to some of the federal problems in the city and whole region," he says.
Tales of the Tape
Olympian Kellie Wells [ "Proving Her Mettle," August 2012], a former James River High School track star, overcame sexual abuse, her mother's death in an auto wreck and a 2008 hamstring injury to excel in hurdling. In a London Diamond League race leading up to the 2012 Olympics, she won the 100-meter hurdles against favored Australian Sally Pearson — in only the second of 34 races that Pearson had lost at the time. Though Pearson finished back on top in the same event at the London Olympics, Wells took home the bronze. In September, Wells set a meet record at a contest in Padua, Italy, finishing the 100-meter hurdles in 12.75 seconds.
In May 2011's " The House of Burgesses ," we wrote of Virginia Commonwealth University Rams basketball forward/guard Bradford Burgess: "No nonstop tweeting, no dances and, most distinguishably, no visible tattoos. But on the court, after five games with 20-plus points and a layup in overtime to send VCU to the Elite Eight, Bradford has become a force to be reckoned with." The Midlothian native played 146 games for VCU, setting a CAA record and earning him the nickname "Ironman." In 2012, he signed his first professional contract with the Artois Leuven Bears, the top basketball team in Belgium, and as of Nov. 1, he was averaging 13 points per game for the team.
We spoke to former VCU point guard Eric Maynor in March 2010 [" More Daggers to Throw "] as he settled into his professional career in the NBA. VCU's all-time leading scorer, logging 1,953 points as a point guard, Maynor's buzzer-beating Duke Dagger in the 2007 NCAA tournament laid the groundwork for VCU's future success on the basketball court. In 2009, the Raeford, N.C., native was drafted by the Utah Jazz, and that same year, he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Then in 2013, he joined the Portland Trail Blazers, and he's now with the Washington Wizards. Playing as a backup to starting point guard John Wall, Maynor was averaging about 12 minutes a game as of early November.
Novelist and author of The Yellow Birds
"The Echoes of War," October 2012 Growing up bookish and shy in Settler's Landing as the third and youngest son of a divorced middle-class couple, Kevin Powers joined the National Guard at age 17 in 1998 to earn money for college, after his intellectual curiosity didn't translate into scholarship-worthy grades. He was shipped with his unit to Mosul, Iraq, in 2004. There and in the surrounding country, Powers accrued experiences that served as grist for his fiction. Afterward, he worked various jobs and studied English at Virginia Commonwealth University before getting accepted into the University of Texas' selective Michener Center for Writers. He finished The Yellow Birds in October 2011 and received his MFA as a Michener Fellow in Poetry from the University of Texas the next spring. Following the 2012 publication of The Yellow Birds , Powers received widespread critical praise, and the novel was a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction. Renowned author (and Richmond native) Tom Wolfe blurbed, "Kevin Powers has written All Quiet on the Western Front for America's Arab Wars." Heady stuff, but a writer must go on to the next thing. Powers spent some time in Italy while his then-fiancée pursued a graduate degree. Now married, he's currently working on a novel that, he hints, is set in Virginia at the outset of Reconstruction. "My first poetry collection, Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting, will be published by Little, Brown in April 2014. Not much to say beyond that. It was an exciting year, but I'm very happy to be home."
"Under 30 and on Their Way," September 2013 During the month of October, Praheme's debut film, Troop 491: The Adventures of the Muddy Lions, secured a screening at Richmond's Movieland art-house annex, the Criterion Cinemas, operated by Bow Tie Cinemas. This followed an emotional world premiere in May at the Byrd Theatre. The drama depicts a young man stuck between life's toughest choices and working through the challenges by joining the Boy Scouts. The project, which Praheme has been working on since November 2010, has now entered its crucial phase of public presentation and, he's hoping, eventual distribution. In an interview for a Richmond magazine blog post in the spring, he admitted to a feeling of tremendous relief. "Prior to this, I wasn't sure I was actually a filmmaker," says the 28-year-old. "I'm not the greatest filmmaker, but I know now that I have a movie to show, I'm capable of making one." He grew up a creative youngster named Patrick Ricks in Sherwood Park. Praheme — a nickname he picked up to distinguish himself from "20 other Patricks" — went through Richmond public schools and graduated from Richmond Community High in 2001. He went from making a video yearbook for his graduating class to the mentorship of Petersburg native and actor/director/producer Tim Reid. On the strength of Troop 491's performance in Richmond, Praheme says that the possibility exists for other Bow Tie multiplexes to screen the film. "This is what makes social media — and good old word-of-mouth — so important in the life of an independent film like this," he says.
Bricks and Mortar
In June, Virginia Commonwealth University announced that it would build the Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU, a free-standing facility on its downtown medical campus, much to the surprise of a group of community pediatricians and a major donor who were working to build support for a free-standing, independently operated property, as reported by Chris Dovi on his 408 blog for Richmond magazine . Bill and Alice Goodwin, supporters of Pediatricians Associated to Care for Kids, were stunned, and Goodwin said that he wouldn't put his $150 million gift toward a project that had its finances tied to an existing health system in the region. Now under construction, the $168 million, 640,000-square-foot VCU facility is on schedule for summer 2015.
Meanwhile, across town, VCU's planned 40,000-square-foot Institute for Contemporary Art has accrued $24.6 million of its $33.8 million budget, and in July, the dynamic Lisa Freiman was hired as director. In her first 100 days, Freiman met with a wide variety of Richmonders, from the mayor to the organizers of the RVA Street Art Festival. "After surveying Richmond, I understand fully now how this is an ideal place for an Institute of Contemporary Art," Freiman says. "Because art is in Richmond's core, poetics its essence." The ICA is currently seeking its chief curator and by summer will post for a performing arts coordinator and development director. The building itself is slated for completion in 2015.
Another transformative project first noted in May 2012 is also on the mark for that year: the conversion of Jackson Ward's long-neglected Leigh Street Armory into the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. "We will be operating in the first quarter of 2015," says Executive Director Stacy Burrs, adding that "the capital campaign for $13 million is ongoing." A component of the revamped museum will be interactive technology and a re-evaluation of its exhibited collection and what's in storage, as well as sending word to the wider community that as generations transition, the museum can be a worthy steward for posterity.