The Christmas Swans

More so than other holidays, the Christmas season brings with it a sleigh full of traditions. Holiday decorating, festive food and drink, gift exchanges, family outings and religious observances all provide deep reservoirs of emotion and familiarity for most families. That’s certainly the case with Scott and Janaè Swan, for whom Christmas is equal parts faith, family and fun.

Scott, a longtime TV news anchor for WTHR, and Janaè, a marketing executive with the Indiana Pacers, are steadfast in their desire to create a meaningful holiday legacy for their kids. “It’s about teaching kids what’s really important,” explained Scott, while sitting at the kitchen table in the couple’s cozy Fishers home. “Christmas doesn’t boil down to how many gifts you get. To me, it’s about celebrating Christ’s birth, spending time with family and having fun. It’s about creating memories.” Janaè agrees, “We just want to spend time together. Christmas is not stressful for us. We just don’t do that.”


What they do is have plenty of fun with the Swan children: London, 22, a senior at IU; Chandler, 20, a sophomore at IU; and his twin sister, Payton, 20, a sophomore at Purdue. One example is the family’s Christmas morning routine – similar to that in many households – but with a very personal feature. “When Santa comes to our house, he puts all the kids’ gifts under a white sheet. The cookies left for Santa are eaten, and the stockings are in each room filled with goodies. The kids come racing down but can’t see. That’s how Santa did it in Janae’s family,” said Scott.

It’s a familiar, and familial, tradition with deep meaning. “My dad died when I was nine,” Janaè shared. “Mom and dad had always done the gift sheet thing, and it was important for me to carry on the tradition – something from my dad.” Other annual traditions include an advent calendar with seasonal messages revealed each day of December; savoring grandma’s baked apples recipe; and watching the family’s favorite holiday movie on TV, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, while trimming the tree.

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase): “We’re kicking off our fun, old-fashioned family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols.” [from Christmas Vacation ]

For many years, the Swans frequented Stonycreek Farm in Noblesville in search of the family Christmas tree. “One year, I didn’t cut the base of the tree very well. We set the tree up, got it decorated, and during the night, we heard this crash,” remembered a chagrined Scott. “The tree had fallen down because it wasn’t level. I strung fishing line between the trunk and walls, trying to balance it, but it kept falling over.”

Janaè laughed, “We had about four ornaments by the end!” Eventually, they gave in and bought an artificial tree, and that too, had a memorable story. “It was the last one Walmart had, and it didn’t come in a box. There wasn’t room in the car, so we tied the tree to the top of the van with the strings of lights still on it. We drove home about five miles an hour, and thank goodness, the Colts game was on TV, so no one saw us!” Scott explained. Recalling the incident, Janaè failed to see the humor. “This was an all-time low for tacky – the kids were mortified,” she smiled mockingly.

Art (Clark’s father-in-law): “The little lights aren’t twinkling.”
Clark Griswold: “I know, Art, and thanks for noticing.”

“We live in a neighborhood with a real emphasis on Christmas lights,” Scott confessed. Added Janaè, “When we bought the house, we heard, ‘You know about the lights, right?’” and noted that ‘holiday light gapers’ often drive the neighborhood streets looking, in particular, for the house (not the Swans) with the reindeer poop fashioned using red Christmas lights.

“You don’t turn on the lights until the day after Thanksgiving – not before!” Scott emphasized. “You can put them up any time; just don’t light them. I don’t think I’m Clark Griswold,” he laughed, “but my son and I have always decorated the basketball goal with lights and the ball too. We put the lighted ball inside the net.” It is these stories and memories that the Swans cherish. “When the kids can count on the same things every year: putting the lights up; watching Christmas Vacation while decorating the tree; the advent calendar; the gift sheet – I think that’s good. The kids love those traditions, and someday they may continue ours and create their own,” Scott offered.

Christmas Swans

While they hold dearly to our Hoosier values, Scott, 50, and Janaè, 49, are native Californians. The couple began dating in high school in Corona del Mar near Newport Beach. Scott’s TV news career took the couple from Palm Springs to Hawaii to Indianapolis (yes, they left Hawaii for Indiana), then Salt Lake City and back to Indy where Scott has been with the NBC-affiliated station for 12 years. “I love what I do. When I was 15 years old, I took a broadcasting class and did a newscast for the first time. I was hooked,” Scott explained, even if it did include wearing makeup for the cameras. “When your husband says, ‘I can get you a discount at the makeup counter,’ that’s kinda weird,” Janaè laughed.

Janae’s position with the Pacers and Scott’s TV job often involve non-traditional business hours, and both have worked their fair share of Christmas Eves and Christmas Days. “The news doesn’t stop for Christmas,” reminded Scott. On those occasions when work conflicts with Christmas, “We change the celebration date as needed. The kids understand that we have crazy jobs. Luckily the kids are old enough to get it. It’s not the date so much as it is being together,” said Janaè. The holidays provide plenty of fond memories, including the time Scott cleared his Admirals Bay driveway using only a small fireplace shovel to dig tire tracks. “We were from California!” reminded Janaè. “My neighbors still give me grief,” a sheepish Scott added.

The Swans take impish pleasure in a particular kind of gift-giving creativity. Using Scrabble tiles provided by Mom and Dad, the kids must figure out the destination of certain family vacations. “We often surprise them with a Christmas gift of a spring break trip, but we don’t provide any details in advance. Usually it’s during flight layovers at the airport when the kids sort the Scrabble tiles to determine our destination,” explained Janaè. “Not until they’re on the plane will they know where we’re going,” laughed Scott.

The couple emphasized they’re modest with the number of Christmas gifts exchanged. “We have always preferred to put our money into memories,” said Janaè. And the Swans are unapologetic about the true reason for the season. “For us, it’s always about faith. This is Christ’s birthday. The whole month is spent thinking about that and looking forward to Jesus’ birthday,” Scott remarked. “Our faith remains a central part of what we do at Christmas.” That’s why advent services at their East 91st Street Christian Church home are so meaningful. And come December 24th, it’s a safe bet you’ll find the Christmas Swans sitting in a pew, although Scott may be working that evening. The news, indeed, does not stop for Christmas.

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Fishers Resident a Key Player on Gov. Pence’s Team

Sean Keefer at the wooden conference table located in the Governor's office.

Sean Keefer at the wooden conference table located in the Governor’s office.

Sit down in Sean Keefer’s Indiana Statehouse office, and you can’t help but notice a book entitled, Egypt, Greece and Rome, laying on his desk. When questioned about his literary choice, Keefer called it “a great book…my lunchtime reading.” Not exactly light reading, mind you, but it certainly defines the buttoned-down Fishers resident to a T. Public policy and state governance have dominated his professional career since graduating from Hillsdale College, then Indiana University with a master’s degree in Western European Studies.

Keefer, 36, has played key roles in the administrations of Governors Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence, including stints with the Departments of Labor and Health and the Secretary of State’s office. He was directly involved in Gov. Daniels’ “Major Moves” highway initiative, and while health department chief of staff, Keefer set about modernizing the agency’s record keeping.

In September, the governor moved Keefer from his position as commissioner of the Indiana Department of Labor to his current role as Pence’s legislative director. His primary responsibility now is shepherding the governor’s legislative goals through the Indiana General Assembly. “I work with [the administration’s] policy director on the governor’s agenda and then promote the agenda vigorously to move Indiana forward,” said Keefer, who also keeps an eye on the administration’s operational issues.

Promoting the governor and his agenda was an oft-repeated theme during Townepost’s visit with Keefer, who is nothing if not the quintessential political team player. When asked what a good day in the office is, he skillfully turned the focus back to his boss. “To be a resource and problem solver and advance the governor’s agenda,” he explained.

One would expect nothing less from someone watching the political theater (Greek theater?) that plays out in the General Assembly and then is tasked with crafting a functional strategy that is palatable to both Republicans and Democrats. “My approach is not a strong partisan mindset,” he said, acknowledging the presence and value of different policy perspectives. “Our approach is what the governor calls servant leadership….Politics is always contentious, but [the administration] put a strong emphasis on the values we agree with.”

Sean Keefer is at the Statehouse's Rotunda.

Sean Keefer is at the Statehouse’s Rotunda.

As a senior staff member, Keefer is among the governor’s chief advisors, working directly with Gov. Pence several hours each week on important decisions. In January, Keefer enters his first General Assembly as gubernatorial legislative director but hardly as a political novice.

He described himself as a longtime friend of House Speaker Brian Bosma. A Fort Wayne native, Keefer knows Indiana Senate President Pro Tempore David Long’s family. And Keefer said he has key contacts among Indiana Democratic leadership. “I’ve always had a good relationship in the past and am looking forward to developing [those relationships]. We all need to work together. The key is no surprises.”

While wholly Hoosier, Keefer does have an international flare about him. After college, the bilingual (Spanish) Keefer spent nine months in Spain. He met his wife, Gaby, while living and working in Argentina. They have two children, Santiago and Ramiro, and have lived in Fishers’ Meadowbrook Village since 2007.

An avid tennis player, the lefty recently won a tournament. That’s the only thing “left” about Keefer who clearly and unapologetically espouses conservative, Republican values. One gets the sense, however, that he’s open to alternative approaches when confronting the state’s challenges. “[There are] a lot of big issues [that can be] processed in different ways,” he said, noting that many states would like to be in Indiana’s position discussing how to spend a budget surplus.

Keefer called Fishers a community that is figuring out its identity. “There’s a lot going on in Fishers. The town is at a good crossroads,” he told Townepost. “Great people, great environment. I’m excited to see Fishers grow.”

With a first mayoral election looming, perhaps Fishers’ political leadership should thumb through Keefer’s desktop tome about ancient civilizations. There’s bound to be a few lessons learned about good governance in there.

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Geist, By George!

Paul George on Geist ReserviorAs a kid growing up in a Los Angeles suburb, he was a pretty good basketball player. However, it was his older sister who was the family hoops star. While playing college basketball in California, his hardwood reputation skyrocketed, leading to selection as a first-round NBA draft pick. Eventually this Indiana Pacer became a free agent, and while tempted by the bright lights of a major NBA media market, he chose instead to re-sign with the Pacers.

His name, however, is not Reggie.

The parallels between Pacers swingman Paul George and former Pacers star Reggie Miller are remarkable, including choosing to live in houses overlooking Geist Reservoir. “I guess it’s just history repeating itself,” said Paul during an interview after a recent Pacers practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “We have similar stories. Growing up, my sister, Teiosha, was the big-time basketball player, the town favorite (Palmdale, CA). I was her little brother until I came into my own.”

Come into his own indeed. After just two seasons at Fresno State University, the Pacers grabbed Paul in the 2010 draft (10th overall). Last year was a breakout season for Paul who was selected for the NBA All-Star team. In September, he signed a five-year, $90 million contract extension with Indiana. “I just love the city. Other places can have distractions. Here the city loves basketball, the state loves basketball….I couldn’t beat it,” he said.

It was a busy off-season for Paul. In addition to contract negotiations, he worked hard to improve his game. “It was a chance to come back a better player,” he said. Paul also bought a home this summer in Diamond Pointe and lives about eight houses away from fellow Pacer, George Hill. Growing up, Paul told his parents that someday he’d live in a big house on a lake.

Mission accomplished.

“When George [Hill] told me about Geist, I fell in love the second I was in the area and immediately started looking for a house,” said Paul who also shot down a rumor that he and George had been Geist-area roommates. “We just carpool together,” he smiled.

Paul George's HousePaul said he really enjoyed his first summer of lake living. “[Neighbors] are very helpful. The lady next door is in catering, and she brought me desserts and lunch. It was just incredible. Kids come to the door with snacks and treats all the time.” While he’s not bothered that people know where he lives (after all, Paul posted a photo to Instagram), he hopes people will respect his privacy. “As long as they choose an appropriate time to say hello, I’m fine with it,” he explained.

With winter on the horizon, Paul decided not to buy a boat just yet. “I didn’t want to when it’s starting to get cold. Next year I’ll have a boat, maybe a couple of jet skis, for people who want to come over and hang out.” He does notice when passing boaters shout greetings to him while standing on his dock. “Yeah, I get that a lot. I see the big party pontoons come by and people waving. They call out, ‘Good luck, Paul! We’re happy to have you here!’ So it’s great being up there [at Geist].”

Prior to the start of basketball season, Paul’s parents, Paul and Paulette, visited his Geist home for a couple weeks. Every morning, he’d see his dad out on the dock fishing. “My dad’s a big-time fisherman…so he’s been loving it.” Paul also has been known to drop a baited line on occasion. “George [Hill] owns a boat, so I’ll call him up sometimes and say, ‘George, let’s get on the lake.’ He’ll drive his boat over to my dock, pick me up and we’ll go out for the day and do our thing.” Paul also shared that George recently saved his beloved pit bull after the dog fell into the lake. “I wasn’t there at the time. Thank God George was at my house, and he was able to save him. That dog’s my buddy.”

Paul is a big fan of Bella Vita’s Chicken Alfredo but hasn’t yet discovered Mama Bear’s, promising he’ll pay a visit there soon for a cup of coffee. He’s also found a place to call home. “I love it. I enjoy being out there [at Geist]. You guys are friendly. If you guys would like to come by and say hi, make sure you bring some food! Thanks for your hospitality,” he smiled.

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HSE Teachers of Year

Cumberland Road Elementary School teacher Meg Strnat was selected for 2013 Hamilton Southeastern (HSE) District Teacher of the Year.  Strnat, a 4th grade teacher in the High Ability program, has taught for nine years as a second career. She has won many awards, including National Science Educator Finalist, 2013 HSE High School Most Inspiring Teacher and was also just announced as a Top 10 finalist for State Teacher of the Year.

Strnat says the kids make teaching worthwhile. She enjoys setting an environment where kids who are ready can take the challenge. This creates independent learners who are not only involved in their learning process, but are making their own choices and setting the pace. She enjoys this collaborative problem-based and project-based method of teaching.

Each of the 20 HSE schools also chose a Teacher of the Year. The teachers were lined up and ready for their public recognition at the Fishers/HSE football game in August, but a severe weather delay resulted in evacuation of the stadium.

HSE Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Smith said, “Our teachers of the year are high performers and great role models with positive attitudes and strong work ethics. They are well versed in their subject areas, know how to make learning fun and motivate students. They influence children’s lives.”

HSE Teachers of The YearWe now congratulate them all for being such wonderful forces for our children each and every day!

  • Maria Kussy Brooks School Elementary
  • Meg Strnat Cumberland Road Elementary
  • Suzanne Miksha Durbin Elementary
  • Marna Meyer Fall Creek Elementary
  • Geoff Godbout Fall Creek Intermediate
  • Jessica Renner Fishers Elementary
  • Gretchen Shafer Fishers High School
  • Donna Schiele Fishers Junior High
  • Debbie Kappus Geist Elementary
  • Tara Bertram Harrison Parkway Elementary
  • Amber Harling Hoosier Road Elementary
  • David Young HSE High School and Freshman Center
  • Tim Latimer HSE Junior High
  • Jennifer Kelham Lantern Road Elementary
  • Kathy Foster New Britton Elementary
  • Kristyn Hamm Riverside Intermediate
  • Chris Graves Riverside Junior High
  • Kathy May Sand Creek Elementary
  • Annette Probst Sand Creek Intermediate
  • Leslie Hopper Thorpe Creek Elementary
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Local Physician Among Hoosiers Searching for Answers to Breast Cancer

The insidious nature of breast cancer is well-documented. It is a disease not to be trifled with; a medical mystery with all-too-often devastating outcomes. What is less well-known is the significance and sheer volume of groundbreaking research underway in central Indiana into the causes, prevention and treatment of breast cancer. Indeed a global asset for cancer researchers – The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Tissue Bank at the IU Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis – is hailed as a critically important component in better understanding the elusive answers to why breast cancer happens and how best to treat it.

Lida Mina, M.D., is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the IU School of Medicine and a Carmel resident. Dr. Mina is looking at breast cancer from two perspectives: clinical work (she sees patients three days a week) and research focusing on triple negative breast cancer, a particularly stubborn foe with poor prognoses that claims too many lives. She also conducts research in BRCA patients and patients at elevated risk for breast cancer. The most common form of breast cancer is estrogen-driven, and treatment usually includes medications that block estrogen production. The problem for researchers like Dr. Mina is they don’t know what the drivers are for rarer forms of breast cancer. “We have no target for triple negative breast cancer,” she explained in a recent interview with TownePost Publications. “Chemotherapy works poorly in this type of disease, especially in advanced stages.”

The good news is a team of skilled professionals in Indiana is on the case. Dr. Mina, 34, earned her medical degree at the American University of Beirut in her home country, Lebanon, and has been with the IU School of Medicine for a decade. She is a member of what she called “an excellent team” collaborating on cancer at the molecular level using science, clinical trials and DNA research for a holistic approach to the disease. “We have made huge advancements over the past few years with certain kinds of cancer but are far from a general cure,” she said, adding that the important thing researchers now know is that breast cancer is not a singular disease. “We’re trying to figure out the various types of breast cancer and to not treat it as a general disease.”

Instead researchers are collaborating in a field of study called “personalized medicine” – that is, understanding what is happening in an individual patient’s genes and its implications for cancer prevention and treatment. “We are moving in the right direction,” she said. “We want to know what’s wrong with the cell at the DNA and molecular levels to better choose drug treatments instead of treating cancer as a general disease.”

Phase One clinical trials are underway at IU Simon Cancer Center which is among the few medical facilities using PARP inhibitors on humans. PARP is an enzyme (poly ADP ribose polymerase) present in breast cancer cells that, when inhibited by certain medications, can’t do its job in cellular division. “The whole point of the PARP inhibitor is it blocks the repair mechanism in cancerous cells,” Dr. Mina explained. Thus, the diseased cells die.

The Komen Tissue Bank provides researchers with a vast collection of healthy breast tissue. It serves as a control group against which researchers compare cancerous tissue to better understand why cells go bad. “That is its [the Tissue Bank] strength. It’s an important tool that’s been missing,” Dr. Mina said.

Still the best way to “treat” cancer remains prevention. Once it happens, it’s hard to get rid of it. “We know that diet and exercise are important [to prevention],” said Dr. Mina who also points to genomics. “Our understanding of breast cancer at the molecular level keeps me always hopeful.”

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Fishers Remembers 9/11

Event organizer Jim Laidlaw (orange shirt) stands proud on 116th street bridge in Fishers, overlooking Highway 69, where retired military personnel commemorated 9/11.

The 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City, Washington D.C., and the crash of a hijacked plane in Pennsylvania did not go unnoticed in Fishers thanks to two retired military men who make it their business to remind us of that terrible day. The duo stood along the 116th St. overpass bridge spanning I-69, waving American flags and sporting a large banner declaring, Never Forget! “September 11, 2001, is this generation’s Pearl Harbor,” said organizer Jim Laidlaw. “We need to remember it.” 8 years ago Laidlaw (U.S. Navy, ret.), and Dennis Lawson (U.S. Army, ret.), decided they needed to do something high profile to draw attention to the events of 9/11. After securing the necessary authorizations and license, the duo got the green light for their overpass event. Since then, they’ve perched themselves atop the bridge on every Sept. 11 – from dawn to dusk where the pair are often joined by like-minded volunteers who come to wave Old Glory – and to remember too. Fishers thanks Jim Laidlaw and Dennis Lawson for their dedication.

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Cal Burleson’s Called Shot


Cal Burleson at Stadium


Metaphorically speaking, it’s certainly correct to describe Cal Burleson’s career in professional baseball as “a home run.” Taking it a step further, one could rightly say it was a “called shot” by the 63-year-old Fishers resident. “I learned early on that I couldn’t play shortstop,“ Burleson shared during a recent coffee shop conversation. “But, I always knew I wanted professional baseball as a career.” And, for 39 years, off-the-field baseball management is the only job he’s had. “I’ve been grateful for the opportunity,” he added.


Burleson is vice president and general manager of Indianapolis Indians, Inc., the city’s first professional sports franchise. In 1975, he joined the team as Indians ticket manager. Over the years, Burleson rose through the ranks as business manager, marketing manager, assistant general manager, and in the fall of 1997 was named general manager. He joined the publicly owned team’s board of directors about a year and a half ago. “I’ve never asked for the next job. I just tried to do what it was time to do,” said Burleson.


Cal’s love of baseball began in his hometown (Akron, Ohio) where he played the game until age 15. “Usually third base. I wasn’t very good,” he conceded. As a kid, Burleson listened to radio broadcasts of the Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians. “My first memories go back to the two World Series between the Milwaukee Braves and New York Yankees in 1957 and ’58,” he recalled. “I can still remember driving a car when I heard that Roberto Clemente had died. I had to pull off the road. Clemente and Al Kaline were my favorite players. I met Kaline a few years ago – that was a real thrill,” he smiled.


When hitting curveballs became too challenging, Burleson jumped at the chance to be batboy and manager for his high school baseball team. He earned a business degree, and a master’s degree in sports administration at Ohio University in Athens – a college choice that was intentional. “It’s still regarded as the premier sports management [academic] program. That’s why I went there,” he said.


As general manager, Burleson takes four road trips with the team each season. Otherwise, he’s in a ballpark office that doesn’t overlook the pristine playing surface of Victory Field. “It faces west toward the parking lot!” he laughed. He busies himself with “bigger picture things” including a focus on civic activities to ensure that the Indians are engaged in the community. Burleson also represents the Indians at International League meetings, and is on the marketing committee for AAA baseball. His time also is taken communicating with the Pittsburgh Pirates front office (the Indians’ major-league affiliate) about business issues. “The major league team provides the players, manager and coaches, and pays their salaries,” he explained. “Bats and balls are a shared expense.” The Indians turn over a portion of ticket revenue to Pittsburgh, and Internet revenues are shared.


Burleson said he flirted with a call-up to the major leagues but, “That was more than 30 years ago. I’m where I want to be, doing what I want to do,” he said, contentedly. “I still enjoy watching the game. It’s what pulls you through the day. [You’re] working on other things, but there’s always attention to the upcoming game that night.”


Of primary importance to Cal is the fan experience at Victory Field. Burleson said he has a terrific staff that works hard to ensure the franchise fulfills its mission of providing affordable and memorable family fun. And, he’s quick to acknowledge the vital role that Victory Field plays. “The ballpark has given us an important base. It’s been a big part of our success,” he enthused.


Refreshingly, Cal Burleson takes a winning isn’t everything approach. “The team isn’t going to win every year, [but] it’s important to provide competitive baseball,” he acknowledged. Indeed, the Indians have won multiple championships during his tenure and as of this writing, the Tribe is in first place with the best winning percentage in all of baseball, including the majors. However, not everything that happens between the lines is covered in the rule book. “We had a challenge with ducks earlier this year walking across the field while the game was in play,” he laughed. “Right between the mound and home plate – three or four ducks. They flew off on the own. We didn’t shoot the ducks,” he smiled.


Burleson said he’s not thinking about retirement and intends to continue building the team’s brand and attendance, with little concern about tomorrow. “Baseball has a great future. People love it, they’re emotionally connected,” he said. “People love to go to games and have a good time. The most consistent thing I see is they’re smiling.” There’s no question Cal Burleson called his career shot, and that he knocked it out of the park.


To learn more about the team visit



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Damar Providing Autism Services In Geist Area

There is much discussion and reporting today about autism – it’s possible causes and how best to treat a condition affecting as many as one in 50 US school-age children. This is a 72 percent increase in the diagnosis since 2007. That, in turn, has prompted two relevant questions: Are we experiencing a marked increase in the incidence of autism or, are physicians and others doing a better job of diagnosing the condition, helped in part, by a rising comfort level in talking about autism publicly?

While these conversations continue in academic and medical circles, Damar Services, Inc., has extended its highly-effective autism treatment protocols to serve the Geist area. In early June, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Autism Services by Damar Specialized Services LLC opened a new clinic at 9905 Fall Creek Rd (intersection of 79th St and Fall Creek Rd).

Damar is the leading provider of treatment, education and other services designed to build better futures for individuals with the most severe and complex intellectual and behavioral challenges. The new Geist clinic specifically addresses outpatient autism services, and the organization said in a recent news release that its move to northeast Marion County was a recognition of the demand throughout central Indiana for therapeutic services in accessible locations.

ABA is recognized as the best-practice treatment for children with autism, helping them address the challenges with communication, social interaction, and restricted and repetitive behavior common in autism. “We recognize that treatment for children with autism extends well beyond the walls of a clinic site and long after the doors are locked for the evening,” said Dr. Jim Dalton, child psychologist and Damar president and chief of operations. “The most critical component in shaping the behavior of a child with autism takes place in the family home, guided by the parents and caregivers.  ABA Autism Services by Damar ensures that the family is not only engaged in treatment, but guides the treatment of the child,” he said in the news release.

With highly trained and experienced staff, a focus on evidence-based treatment and the use of technology, ABA Autism Services by Damar delivers cost-effective treatment that leads to measurable results for each client. Services include ABA therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, parent training, summer programs, evaluations, diagnostics, and evening and weekend hours. In a recent interview with, Dr. Dalton explained that families increasingly are finding financial help to cover treatment costs. “Many ABA programs are now covered under Medicaid and private insurance programs,” he noted.

With more than 97% of those served [all diagnoses] experiencing greater levels of independence and success, Damar’s innovative and research-informed services have consistently resulted in individuals of all ages acquiring essential communication, social and behavioral skills – allowing them to return to their family homes, return to their local schools, return to their communities, and gain greater levels of independence and opportunity, according to the release. “We look forward to welcoming new children into our programs and working with their parents, schools and communities to ensure their success,” Dalton said.

For more information, please visit

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The Mad Bomber Strikes Again (and it’s all good!)

Mad Bomber EmployeeEach Fourth of July, thousands of area residents gather for the annual Blast on the Bridge at Geist fireworks celebration. Some watch the aerial display aboard boats or while sitting on the marina bridge, others from the decks of shoreline homes, still others from favorite viewing spots surrounding the lake. But, I wonder how many celebrants give consideration to the “who” and the “how” behind this much-anticipated event?

Meet Marty Miller, Geist resident and owner of Mad Bomber Fireworks Productions. “I’m the kid who never grew up – that’s what my wife says,“ smiled Miller whose father launched Mad Bomber in 1982. “I started working there when I was 12 years old. You get to be a kid forever, and there’s nothing better than putting on a good show.”

I caught up with Miller and employee J.R. Brooks in the midst of a three-hour set up of a 15-minute show for a church celebration in Lebanon, Indiana. Miller explained that the secret sauce of a great fireworks display is variety and timing. For the Lebanon show, a combination of low-level effects and larger aerial shells were used, alternating between the two for pacing and to limit “dead sky” time. Shells were launched to a height of 150 feet or so using two methods: by hand with a highway safety-style flare, and with a hand-held electronic controller hard wired to the launch boxes. “The controller unit allows us to shoot as many as 400 shells. You get a lot of them in the air with this system,” said Miller.

In contrast, the Geist Blast show requires four employees working about 50 hours to set up the 45-minute show. “Geist is one of our more unique shows. We have four barges we set up and chain together. Everything is shot from those barges,” explained Miller. Once the barges are in the water, aligned properly, and pushed into place, organizers must then ensure that pleasure boats (and the people on them) are set back at a safe distance. Wind direction determines if the barges are nearer the dam or the bridge. “Depending on how the wind goes is how we set it up. We want the debris to land where we want it to land,” Miller noted.

Blast is an all-electronic launch requiring hours of wiring and testing. “It takes a long time because once you plug it in, you have to make sure you have continuity, and make sure the shooting cues are when you want them,” said Miller. The 3,500 or so shells are ignited with electronic charges – similar to how a model rocket is fired. The aforementioned transmitter in Miller’s skilled hands controls the entire show. Safety, of course, is of paramount importance. “Just like any other business, there are little things that can go wrong,” said Miller as he knocked on a nearby wooden platform. “We’ve been pretty successful, and a lot of it comes from experience and double and triple checking.”

Miller, who also is responsible for Holy Spirit Catholic Church’s athletic programs, joked that his coaching and administrative responsibilities are “more explosive,” and conceded Mad Bomber is definitely the fun job. After all, the last four digits of his cellphone number are 1776. “I get more satisfaction out of the Geist Lake show than I do anything else,” said Miller. “I’m pretty well connected in the community with the coaching and stuff that I do, and there are a lot of people who know I put on the fireworks. It kind of puts a bit of extra pressure on to make sure it gets done the correct way and it goes off the way I want it to go off.”

Miller anticipates his children will one day join the business, but not quite yet. “They’re itching to come out now, but I want to wait until they’re a little bit older. They certainly understand the danger of fireworks. There’s plenty of time to fill dad’s shoes.”

This mark’s the tenth consecutive year Miller has orchestrated Blast on the Bridge. He once did a $250,000 show in Chicago. And, considering the hundreds of festivals, football homecomings, weddings, even indoor fireworks for the Indiana Pacers, his will be awfully big shoes to fill.

You can learn more about Mad Bomber Fireworks Productions online at

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Fishers Hospital Gets A New Name

St Vincent Monument SignIn 1881 the Daughters of Charity arrived in Indianapolis with hearts full for Christian service and pockets decidedly empty. The nuns’ collective “wealth” was $34.77. They had come at the request of Bishop Francis Silas Chatard to operate a Catholic hospital in Indiana.  The Bishop gave them $50 more to begin their mission: converting an abandoned seminary into a hospital. Slowly, across the decades, the hospital expanded both its physical footprint and caring touch in the city. One can only imagine the wonder with which these humble servants would view today’s St.Vincent hospital system.

The latest iteration is the newly-named St.Vincent Fishers Hospital, which opened full services April 8, at 13861 Olio Road. “Our name change reflects our expansion from a freestanding outpatient healthcare facility to an expanded inpatient hospital,” explained Gary Fammartino, administrator, St.Vincent Fishers Hospital. “We listened to the community, and our expansion has been guided by what families in Fishers, Noblesville and surrounding areas told us they wanted most.”

The 110,000-square-foot, 50-bed hospital expansion is focused on wellness, women’s health and family health and includes: 30 medical/surgical beds, 10 labor-delivery-recovery-post-partum beds, and 10 observation beds. The expansion complements an existing emergency department, surgery department, all-digital imaging center, primary care offices, pediatric specialists, physical therapy and an adult and pediatric sleep lab.

Hospital leadership had anticipated such an expansion when St.Vincent initially located in Fishers. “We began serving this community in 2008 with the first freestanding emergency department and comprehensive outpatient services,” said Fammartino. “Our goal back then was to eventually expand upon these services to include inpatient care when our community determined it was time.”

According to information provided by the hospital, the facility offers many spa-like amenities “because that’s what today’s patients expect.” St.Vincent Fishers has applied for LEED certification (an environmental design designation) with the aim of providing patients, visitors and others with a healthier environment.

St Vincent New EntranceKim Nealon, chief nursing officer, noted the special attention given to St.Vincent Fishers’ labor-delivery and recovery rooms. “Included in a single room are a pull-down Murphy bed, a walk-in shower, and spa tubs that are available for labor and postpartum recovery. Our Center for Women and Infants, and medical-surgical suites are supported by in-house physicians 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Nealon said.

The new facility provides 24-hour room service for patients, a cafeteria with indoor-outdoor dining, and a chapel and spiritual family waiting area that are “integral to our hospital’s faith-based values system,” explained Nealon.

Fammartino emphasized that St.Vincent Fishers continues to devote a substantial portion of its budgets for charity care and community benefit locally, regionally and internationally in keeping with the tradition of St. Vincent de Paul. “Our hospital’s mission is to treat all persons with special attention to the poor and vulnerable,” said Fammartino. “Our core values of service to the poor, reverence, integrity, wisdom, creativity and dedication are the foundation of who we are and what our communities have come to know as the Spirit of Caring.”

More information about St.Vincent Fishers is available online at

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