LipSense

I’m often asked what kind of makeup/clothing I wear on TV. So wanted to share a recent discovery called LipSense.

I put on makeup first thing in the morning, but throughout the course of the work day it fades. (On really busy days there’s barely time to reapply makeup sometimes!) So when I heard about ‘LipSense’ I was interested. You put on the color first, and then seal it with a clear gloss. This stuff DOESN’T come off! (The color I’m wearing in the picture above is called Fly Girl.) I easily wore it for 10+ hours and it didn’t fade!

Missing cat travels 2600+ miles, reunites with owner 4 years later

This story goes down as one of my favorite in my career so far! And anyone who is close to me knows I love cats 🙂

They say cats have 9 lives but this cat named ‘Boo Boo’ might just have more! Boo Boo is from California. She went missing 4 years ago and somehow turned up in Ontario last month! Since her owner doesn’t have a passport, an animal protection officer drove Boo Boo to Buffalo, and her owner flew there for less than 24 hours to reunite with her long lost feline. What are the odds? Talk about an epic reunion!

 

Speaking to students at Buffalo State

 

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On Monday morning I spoke to students at Buffalo State with my colleague Jenn about working in the TV News business. It’s part of the Peer 2 Peer Speakers tour  through the Buffalo Broadcasters Association. We talked about our careers, how we got into the business, and some tips. We went over things like live shot 101, tips for making live shots interactive, common field reporting mistakes, how to build contacts and find story ideas, and how to tease a story from the field.

This is only the tip of the ice berg of our whole presentation, but here are a few bullet points we discussed:

•Network, network, network & give out business cards everywhere you go to build contacts and find story ideas.
•Push people to follow you on social media, Facebook & Twitter.
•Read local newspapers
•Use things like Twitter and the Daily Skimm to keep up with national and international news on a daily basis
•Keep track of stories you cover, and when you could do a follow up
•When teasing from the field, make a specific promise to the viewer.

Broadcast Journalism is a wonderful field to work in, but it’s not one that doesn’t come without sacrifice. That’s why having a true passion for the job is so important. Since I graduated college in 2012, I’ve lived in 3 different states. I’ve picked up and moved away from my family more than once to pursue my career and jump markets. Not easy, but it has definitely been worth it.

 

One year anniversary at News 4

Today marks my one year anniversary at News 4 WIVB-TV! This month also marks two years in Buffalo, and 4 years in the business. Time sure flies! It feels like I was packing my bags to head North to my first full-time on air gig in Presque Isle, Maine just yesterday.

Four years and three stations later, it’s been a journey! I’ve lived in three different states, and too many different apartments to keep track of! lol

I have grown as a reporter. Story pitches, live shots, sweeps stories. But it goes beyond that. Moving away from home has given me a deeper appreciation for my family and a sense of community. It has also made me a stronger person.

Telling stories for a living has also made me a more worldly person. And I love that everyday is different. From crime to health stories to features, everyday I’m always learning something new through my reporting. I love telling personal stories that pull on your heart strings, and having the responsibility of informing the public about what’s happening in the community whether it be a serious news story or a soft one. Best job on the planet. Here’s to another 4 years and beyond!

People Inc. Recruitment Event

Yesterday I was a VIP Media Guest at the KeyBank Center, where People Inc. teamed up with the Buffalo Sabres to host a Recruitment Rally. People Inc. has various employment opportunities to help people with developmental disabilities and special needs move closer to their life goals and dreams.

Attendees had a chance to learn about People Inc. and interview on-the-spot with a recruiter, plus meet Sabres alumni and enter to win prizes, including signed items and game tickets.

People Inc. is actively recruiting for people to work within their group homes, as well as for behavior technicians, community based instructors, licensed practical nurses and registered nurses. It’s so important to fill these positions, because these people provide relief for the families of those with developmental disabilities who need to the support. There’s a need for direct support staff in several human support agencies across Western New York. (The growing need is related to the #BeFairtoDirectCare initiative, which I will continue to cover and plan to post more about here in a future blog post.)

I killed two birds with one stone at the People Inc, and also shot a piece for the 4 pm newscast. Here’s the clip:

Working with Kyle

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Meet Kyle Tilley! He’s a happy go lucky 20-year-old from Lake View NY. Kyle has down syndrome, and his twin Justin has autism. Both boys are very sweet, but his twin Justin struggles with severe behavioral issues. I have done a story before on the challenges the Tilley family faces with Justin: http://wivb.com/2016/12/29/lakeview-family-struggling-to-get-services-to-care-for-son-with-severe-autism-behaviors/

I met the Tilley family back in September, and started working with Kyle at the beginning of this year. At least twice a month on weekends, I take him out for 6 hours. (Official title for this position is a Self Determination Assistant.) I give his family a break and take Kyle to fun places like the Museum of Science, the Buffalo Zoo, movies, etc. Kyle is very easy to work with, and hardly makes it feel like work. He is very sweet natured, almost never says no to anything, and absolutely LOVES science. He also loves local news (I might know a thing or two about that 😉 ), and is a local celebrity himself! It’s hard not to love this kid, he’s so sweet!

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(Kyle loved getting a tour of the studio at Channel 4. He’s 4 Buffalo! 😉 )

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(Kyle loves movies science fiction/fantasy movies. Here we are at the Dipson Theatres at McKinley Mall, waiting for Dr. Strange to start.)

Sometimes Kyle packs a lunch, and sometimes we go out to eat. He follows a special gluten free diet and also does not eat anything with food coloring or artificial preservatives. For this position as a Self Determination Assistant I also had to take a CPR, First Aid, and AED training so I’m prepared to handle an emergency situation God forbid something were to happen.

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(Here we are at the Museum of Science in Buffalo.)

There’s a growing need for more people to work similar positions, and in group homes. That’s a big part of why People Inc. is holding a recruitment rally at KeyBank Center on Monday. Although I work with Kyle through a different agency, People Inc. also has similar positions. No two people are alike, so the experience will depend on the individual you are working with.

Working with Kyle has truly been a joy, and he makes it easy for me. Working with an individual who has a disability does require a level of patience and compassion. It comes easier to me, because I grew up very closely with my autistic brother Polyvios. But I can say from experience, that anyone who has the space in their heart to make time for someone like Kyle won’t regret it. I’ve become close with him and his family, and I’m happy to give his family a hand even if it’s only for 6 hours.

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(Kyle LOVES to play with Snap Chat! But who doesn’t. 😉 )

Advocating for the developmentally disabled

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This Monday, I will be at the Lexus Club in the KeyBank Center for People Inc. Recruitment Rally with the Buffalo Sabres. You can learn more about working with people with developmental disabilities, and how it hits close to home for me.  There’s a great need for human services support staff. (I  actually work with a boy who has down syndrome on the weekends. I’ll write about him in a future blog post!)  I did a story about the need for these types of workers back in November: http://wivb.com/2016/10/27/growing-need-for-more-human-services-support-staff-in-group-homes/

I wrote a guest letter in a special edition newsletter for People Inc. about my brother Polyvios who is on the autism spectrum, and how human services support staff have made a difference for him and our family:

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When love can be deadly

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This week a special sweeps report I did about the broken heart syndrome aired on Valentine’s Day. We’ve all heard of “dying of a broken heart” but it’s not just a figure of speech, you actually CAN die of a broken heart. Perhaps a bit of a morbid topic but in a way it’s about the ultimate kind of true love, someone who can’t love without you.

But it’s not always over the death of a significant other or a spouse. It can be the sudden death of a close family member, like we saw back in late December when actress Debbie Reynolds passed away just one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher.

For my special report, I spoke with a cardiologist and a local woman who experienced broken heart syndrome after her sister passed away 7 years ago:

When Melania Gromek thinks back to her favorite memories of her big sister, Florence, it’s the little things that come to mind.

“She was just a good friend, did a lot of things together. Christmas baking was always together, and we just got along well we understood each other,” said Melania Gromek of Cheektowaga.

They had a 16 year age difference, but a very strong sisterly bond.

“She was just there when I needed her, and she would call every week to see how you’re doing,” said Gromek.

In 2010, Melania’s sister Florence suddenly passed away.

“It was just a surprise, it was a shock actually. Something you didn’t expect to happen,” said Gromek.

The next morning, Melania said something felt off.

“My stomach just felt uneasy. It wasn’t a pain, it wasn’t pressure, it just didn’t feel right. And my chest just, a peculiar feeling which I’ve never had before,” said Gromek.

“She presented with chest pains, shortness of breath, EKGs and blood work everything pointing towards she was having a real heart attack,” said Mohan Madhusudanan, MD, FACC, Trinity Medical Cardiology, Catholic Health Cardiologist.

Doctor Mohan says unlike most patients who have a heart attack, Melania didn’t have any major blockages in her arteries.

“We treated her, she got out of the hospital, and when I reassessed her heart again in a few weeks her heart function came back normal and that is when we made the diagnosis, this is broken heart syndrome,” said Dr. Mohan.

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy known as the broken heart syndrome is caused by a sudden emotional stress trigger, but the symptoms, like Melania’s, can be subtle.

“He said you’ve had a heart attack. I’ve had a heart attack? I didn’t have any true symptoms I mean I wasn’t having trouble breathing,” said Gromek.

Dr. Mohan says the condition is not very common. In Western New York he sees 1 or 2 patients with broken heart syndrome a year. He says it’s most common in females ages 60 and up.

“Unfortunately based on the recent data, in about 4 to 10 percent of patients it can reoccur. We still don’t understand why,” said Dr. Mohan.

It’s been nearly 7 years since Melania’s sister Florence passed away. Some of the emotional pain has faded, but Melania still meets with Doctor Mohan to have her heart function monitored every 4 to 6 months.

“After the death of a closed loved one don’t disregard some symptoms because this would’ve been very easy for me to disregard and what kept me motivated I don’t know,” said Gromek.

Dr. Mohan says broken heart syndrome is considered an under recognized condition. Most people, like Melania, do survive the condition.

Emceeing VolunteerWNY Why Not You Awards

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As a local TV personality, I am sometimes asked to speak at local events and be an advocate for a variety of causes. Earlier this week, I emceed the first annual Volunteer WNY Why Not You Awards at Buffalo Riverworks. I presented awards to winners of several categories for their dedication to service.

The following are the categories:

The President’s Volunteer Service Award: This award was created to thank and honor Americans whose volunteer service inspires others to volunteer. VolunteerWNY honored 5 adults that have served a minimum of 100 hours through a VolunteerWNY partner organization last year.

Commitment to Service Award: The Commitment to Service Award recognizes a company, public official, or community leader for their outstanding efforts to promote & encourage volunteerism and service.

Outstanding Non-Profit Volunteer Program (or Project): This award recognizes a non-profit organization (501(c)3), municipality, government or service-learning program that has made significant changes and improvements in the condition of the community as a result of volunteering.

Excellence in Volunteer Administration: This award recognizes excellence in leadership of volunteers and administration of volunteer programs by a salaried or non-salaried professional.

VolunteerWNY is basically a hub for volunteering. It connected volunteers with different local opportunities for service. Giving without expecting anything in return says a lot about a person’s character. Not to mention it can be tough to find the time to go above and beyond to do extra when you’re juggling work and other responsibilities. Props and kudos to all of the nominees and award winners!

(You can check out VolunteerWNY here: http://www.volunteerwny.org and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thevolunteercenterwny/ )

 

 

Disability Housing Crisis

Hey guys, sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted to my blog! Between work, the craziness of the holidays and travel last month, working on side projects, and squeezing in 3+ workouts a week life just catches up to you sometimes!

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I wanted to share a recent sweeps special report I did. (It aired in December) It’s on the disability housing crisis in New York state. (But it’s also a problem in many other places across the country.)

More than 11,000 people with developmental disabilities across the state are on a waiting list for housing. Back in September a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the more than 2,000 people who are faced with that predicament here in Western New York. Now keep in mind, these individuals can’t be placed just anywhere. They need a supportive setting with staff who are trained to handle their behaviors and quirks. No two individuals with disabilities are the same, either. It is a very hard job that requires a lot of compassion and patience.

Because the life expectancy of people with disabilities has grown, those people need the services for longer, and that means younger folks who are coming through the system don’t have those opportunities.

I reached out to the New York state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. In a statement the agency said it is working to expand residential, day, and respite options and new residential opportunities. But there’s no indication as to when that might happen. You can watch the story HERE: Disability Housing Crisis

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(That is my 14-year-old brother Valantis to the left, and my 25-year-old brother Polyvios to the right. Christmas Eve 2016.)

This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart, because I have a sibling with autism. My 25-year-old brother Polyvios has PDD, Pervasive Developmental Disorder. Though he is on the higher functioning side of the spectrum, he still struggles with behavioral issues. Right now my mother basically does everything for him. My father works 60+ hours a week, and I live in another state. My mom is the one who gets services set up for him, takes him to and from programs, and deals with him when he’s having a behavioral outburst. It’s not something we ever want to think about, but one day my parents will no longer be here. What will happen to my brother? I would never leave my brother without a place to stay, but where will I be at that point in life? I plan to one day have a family of my own. I hope to have either an extra room in my home or have him living independently nearby, where I can check in on him frequently. But none of us really know what the future has in store, and where we will be at certain points in life. This is the problem that many families of individuals with developmental disabilities struggle with. I have faith that everything will fall into place when the time comes, but it is definitely something that is in the back of my mind and my parents all the time.

Some families are forced to looking for housing options and services, because their child is out of control. That’s the situation the Tilley family is in. I did a story about their struggle to get services for their son, Justin. Justin has autism, and severe behavioral issues. He has a twin, Kyle, who has down syndrome. This family has their hands full. It is physically and mentally exhausting. WATCH the story here, it will break your heart: http://wivb.com/2016/12/29/lakeview-family-struggling-to-get-services-to-care-for-son-with-severe-autism-behaviors/

This family is just one of thousands struggling to get services.

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