Archive for February, 2012

Blazing personality triumphs over fiery memories

Zack Wilkins sits in his living room with his family showing off his scars. Photo by Nikia Washington

By Nikia Washington

Like any average pre-teenage boy would be, Zack Wilkins is quieted by a game on his mother’s tablet for most of the ride to Cincinnati. Occasionally, he is heard asking his mother a question, or chatting with his grandmother who is sitting a row up from him, but for the majority of the trip he is silent. A stranger would guess nerves kept the 14-year-old in a hushed state, as he is the sole reason for the three hour ride to the  Shriners Hospital for Children. However, worries of the day’s events are the furthest thing from Zack’s mind. Its 9 a.m. in the morning and Zack is simply tired.

Stepping out of the van doors, and into the hospital lobby, the energetic, talkative Zack is now fully alert. He is joking and smiling as he strides nonchalantly into the treatment center – a silent insult to the other children who fear entering this building.

Just a year and half ago Zack could relate to those kids. Being recently traumatized by the event that would change his life, this would have been the last place he wanted to be.


In July of 2010, Zack and a younger cousin attempted to construct a bonfire in their grandmother’s backyard.

“It just felt really hot and I thought I was too close,” said Zack. Moments after feeling the heat, his cousin pointed out his pants had caught fire.

In the next minute and thirty seconds the two boys attempted to put out the fire by hand and water – neither were successful as the fire fought back. Zack eventually ran into the house and hopped in the tub, as instructed by his panicked grandmother, seizing the flames.

“With older kids, you’ll see misusing of gasoline or campfires” said Louise Hoelker, Shriners Director of Volunteers and Public Affaris. “Especially with boys.”

Zack believes gas from the can he used to ignite the bonfire dripped onto his pants, allowing the flame to catch easily.

“[Firefighters] said if I was on fire for any longer, it would have been to the bone,” Zack said. After an ambulance ride to Tiffin Hospital and a life flight to Toledo St. Vincent’s, Zack and his family were informed he had severe third degree burns.

“Burns severity is measured by how long a person is on fire,” said Tresa Wilkins, Zack’s mother. “Anything after a minute is usually third degree.”

Zack’s parents were not present at the scene of their sons injury, but arrived at the hospital soon after. Steve Wilkins, Zack’s father who instantly booked a flight back home from a North Carolina business trip upon hearing the news, said he didn’t know what to expect.


“It was rough,” he said, of when he finally reached Zack. “Seeing him all bandaged up was hard.”

Tresa, who arrived first at Tiffin Hospital and then had to travel to Toledo after Zack was life flighted, waited hours to know the severity of her son’s injuries.

“The nurse said ‘It’s bad, that’s all burnt skin,” she said, recalling the first time she saw Zack after the fire. His legs were under a thin white blanket and Tresa could make out the black skin underneath.

“If it’s first or second degree it will heal on its own,” said Hoelker. “If it’s third degree it won’t.  Eventually they need to take [the dead skin] off and put good skin on.”

Zack Wilkins' right leg received the most of the burn during the bonfire accident. Scars from the skin grafts starting mid calf and extend to his upper thigh. Photo by Nikia Washington.

Zack’s skin grafts took place soon after his arrival to the hospital. He still grimaces at the thought of the procedure.

“They said all they were going to do is take skin from my left leg and move it over to the burns,” he said. He remembers complying with a simple ‘O.K.,’ naïve of the intensity of the surgery.

“I didn’t know how bad it was going to hurt.”

Days, weeks, and months after that first surgery, frequent occurrences which would leave painful memories flooded Zack’s healing process.

“I lost my voice in the hospital from a lot from screaming,” Zack said, with the sense of accomplishment a boy his age would use when announcing he caught his first fish or scored his first touchdown.

Tresa, much less enthusiastic about the traumatic experiences, vividly remembers Zack being extremely vocal during his first shower where nurses scraped off the dead skin.

“That was one of the times where we had to walk out and leave him with the nurses,” she said. Seeing him in that amount of pain was unbearable.

Steve said Zack would calm down when he and Teresa were not around. Zack responded that whenever they left the room he felt like there was no point in screaming – there was no longer anyone there to save him.

Due to the severity of his injuries, Zack was rehabilitated during his initial three week hospital stay, and following his release. One of the skills he had to relearn was how to walk.

“The first time they sent him out to walk around the ward he almost collapsed,” Steve said.

Zack’s burns wrapped around his right knee, an area that is commonly known as one of the most difficult burn areas to heal and one of the most painful.

Occurrence likes these defined Zack’s life for at least a year after the bonfire accident; his rambunctious personality was affected as well. Zack’s younger sisters, Cheyenne, 12, and Madison, 10, would normally describe Zack as playful, funny, sometimes annoying, and protective.

“He was a lot quieter and didn’t smile much anymore,” Madison said, reflecting on Zack’s first weeks back home.

Cheyenne agreed saying his sense of humor was not the same. The two girls, along with Zack’s older brother, Nick, helped out with Zack when they could, but did not like seeing their brother in so much pain. Zack said one of the worst parts of the healing was when his dressings had to be changed.

“I had never heard him scream like that,” Cheyenne said.

“We had to go next door and tell the neighbors we weren’t hurting him,” Steve said. “That’s how bad it was.”

When Zack returned to school from summer break, he was still undergoing the healing process, which also caused complications at school. Some teachers did not understand Zack had a temporary physical disability and that he could not participate in activities such as gym class. Others did not comply with restrictions that were made to assist his healing.

“His injury did distract him from learning,” Steve said. During the healing process, Zack missed several days of school for checkups and appointments. However, with after school tutoring, Zack stayed caught up with the curriculum.

Other than the academic struggles at school, students were aware something had changed Zack over summer break. He had to wear compression stockings everyday to keep his bandages in place and he was obviously receiving special treatment in classes. But when his friends or other classmate asked questions, Zack had no problem answering.

“They asked how painful was it and did I scream,” Zack said. He chuckled slightly when he said he responded, “Yeah, I screamed a lot!”

Zack was also comfortable showing his wounds to friends.

“Some of them thought it looked cool, some of them thought it look weird,” Zack said confidently. It’s evident none of his physical changes bother him.

Zack’s parents agreed that throughout this entire process Zack has been as positive as a kid can be for someone who has endured an experience of such magnitude. Last year, he was invited by Toledo St. Vincent’s Hospital to attend the National Burn Conference in Galveston, TX based on his optimistic outlook during his hospital stay. Zack and his mother enjoyed the all expense paid trip, where Zack met many celebrity burn survivors.

Zack Wilkins, and his younger sisters Cheyenne (left) and Madison (right) joke around in their family room while watching T.V. Photo by Nikia Washington

Still, a year and half after his accident, the healing process continues for Zack. He and his mother came to Shriners Hospital for Children in Cincinnati, a Verified Burn Unit by the American Burn Association, in hope of finding an alternative surgery for the skin behind his right knee which is not healing correctly.

After Zack’s appointment he sits down for lunch with his mother, grandmother, and a few gentlemen from the Zenobia Shriners, which support the funding of the hospital. While eating, Zack casually discusses the results from the consultation he had today and, somehow, the conversation gets on the topic of scars. He and his mother laugh about something his father told him – chicks dig scars.

Zack grins big.

“Well I’m gonna have a lot of chicks,” Zack says. “Because I have a lot of scars.”



Most burns that occur are preventable.

February 5- 12th, 2012 is National Burn Awareness Week.

Celebrate, Practice Fire Safety, and Raise Awareness.

Bowling Green hot spots

By Max Filby

The new location of Mister Spots at 206 N. Main Street, in downtown Bowling Green, Ohio. Photo by Max Filby

Hot wings weren’t hot when Jim Gavarone opened his store in 1985.

Gavarone is a local businessman whose restaurant, Mister Spots, has heated up enough to boost his business into new locations and through an early rivalry with a big wig in the wing industry.

Gavarone developed the idea to open his original shops, and now his new one, after moving from Philadelphia to Bowling Green for college. Even after years of business, Gavarone says he “accidentally backed into,” his business.

“A few friends just double-dog dared me into it,” he says.

When Gavarone opened his store on Court Street on Feb. 17, 1985, his chicken wings quickly became one of a kind in the fast food market.

“We’ve done wings from day one,” Gavarone says. “We were kind of pioneers in that industry.”

Trying to wing it as a pioneer in the industry during the‘80s meant Gavarone was going up against another restaurant in Columbus, Ohio —Buffalo Wild Wings.  At the time, Mister Spots and Buffalo Wild Wings were two of the only places in the area that regularly sold wings, Gavarone says.

“It really became an intense rivalry,” Gavarone says.

The rivalry heated up even more when Gavarone later opened another Mister Spots in Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, Ohio State’s biggest rival. The move made Mister Spots and Buffalo Wild Wings even bigger rivals, Gavarone says.

After opening his second Mister Spots in Ann Arbor in 1986, Gavarome also catered at University of Michigan athletics events until about 2009.

“It gets to be too expensive after a while, they just keep wanting more and more of your profit,” Gavarone says. “It’s even harder to do when the teams aren’t winning anymore, too.”

Eventually, wings became more mainstream as Buffalo Wild Wings started to expand its franchise, Gavarone says.

Although he is still thinking about further expanding with the help of some Michigan alumni, Gavarone is just focusing on the new store in Bowling Green, for now. Gavarone still maintains Mister Spots’ Ann Arbor location by checking in with store employees at least once a week.

While hot wings may have been a rarity during Gavarone’s rivalry, about 33 percent of all wings are now ordered at “casual dining restaurants” such as Mister Spots, according to the National Chicken Council’s 2012 Chicken Wing Report.

“Wings used to be sort of disposable,” Gavarone says. “They used to cost 30 cents a pound, you know, and now they cost something like $3.30. They’ve just gotten so big.”

Although Gavarone may not be the man of a million locations or menu items, for the past 26 years, his sauce has been “spot on.”

“We make our own sauce,” Gavarone says. “It’s no garden secret though. We don’t have 82 flavors or any sort of nuclear sauce, but it’s pretty good. It’s basic.”

When Gavarone bites into a wing or sandwich at his shop, he’s so satisfied that the only word he can find to describe it is as basic as his sauce recipe.

“Deliciousness,” he says. “I truly eat this crap all the time.”

Although Gavarone’s sauce is “basic,” he won’t give away ingredients other than some peppers, pepper seeds and margarine.

At the original location, currently in operation, Gavarone tells his general manager not to give anything away, but he’s not talking about free food.

“Don’t give away any secrets,” Gavarone says as he laughs with Mark Koldan.

Gavarone nods and walks to the back of the restaurant.

“It’s great not just working with my best friend, but working for my best friend,” Koldan says. “My kids call him ‘Uncle Jim’.”

Koldan first met Gavarone when they played together on the club lacrosse team at Bowling Green State University back in the early ‘80s. When Gavarone played, Koldan was his backup goalie.

“Essentially, he’s my backup at Mister Spots, too,” Gavarone says.

Since being put in charge in 1986, Koldan has been “steering the ship” at Mister Spots, Gavarone says.

Although Gavarone is now more of a “behind the scenes kind of guy,” he sometimes still makes his own sandwiches and wings.

“Sometimes I’ll climb right behind the counter,” Gavarone says.

While Gavarone may not always be behind the store counter, customers such as five-year patron Michelle Crook still love his products.

“It’s on par,” Crook says as she finishes her dinner. “It’s local, casual and is pretty reasonably priced.”

As customers like Crook leave Gavarone’s old restaurant location, something similar will ‘mark the spot’ at 206 N. Main Street, his new location.

The doodle of Gavarone’s cat, Spot, wearing sunglasses, hangs on a sign above the doorway at each location. Gavarone did the doodle on the back of a textbook while sitting in a class at BGSU in the ‘80s.

“I caught a lot of flack for naming the business after him,” Gavarone says. “My land lord called it Mister Flops … he thought we wouldn’t last six months there.”

Beneath the sign at the new Main Street location, people peek in to ask if the new Mister Spots is open for business. They thank Gavarone as he sends them down to the Court Street location.

Gavarone nods

“Welcome,” Gavarone says as they walk away.

Inside his new restaurant in downtown Bowling Green, Gavarone plays around with Netflix on a newly installed TV as his electrician watches. With a few wires hanging below the screen there’s still some work to be done before Mister Spots officially moves to Main Street.

Gavarone nods as he talks with the electrician.

Everything inside the restaurant is new, from the pictures on the wall to the black table where Gavarone sits. Different from its Court Street location, the new Mister Spots is still “spotless.”

Although Gavarone never planned to settle down in Bowling Green, he’s glad his customers will continue to have the opportunity to taste something “authentic” at Mister Spots. Gavarone and his friends weren’t impressed with the edible options the city had to offer back in the ‘80s, a tradition he tried to break by opening his stores.

“I thought the food here was garbage for the most part,” Gavarone says. “If you want to eat pizza, then you want to eat pizza, but we were looking to offer customers something a little different and a little better.”

Gavarone sends another potential customer down to his Court Street location.

“The best part of all of this is the people,” he says. “At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”



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A Player from Unlikely Territory

By Ryan Satkowiak

It’s the first game of his collegiate career and BGSU freshman Ryan Carpenter is skating his second shift of the night.

A shot from the blue line deflects wide of the net and into the left corner. A brief scrum ensues before the puck is dug out by a University of Connecticut defender. However, the UConn player doesn’t get far as BGSU forward Cam Wojtala strips him of the puck at the bottom of the left circle. He drops the puck to a well-covered Carpenter, who curls the puck slightly to the left and shoots.


The sound of a train horn goes off, a red light flashes behind the net, the approximatly 1,300 fans at the BGSU Ice Arena spring to their feet in celebration. Just three minutes and 29 seconds into his college hockey career, Carpenter has scored his first goal, a quick wrist shot that beat Connecticut goalie Garrett Bartus six-hole — the area between the right arm and torso.

In the ensuing jubilation, Carpenter is mobbed by his teammates. The referee picks up the puck and skates it to the Bowling Green bench. He tosses it to one of the team’s trainers, who will later present it to Carpenter, a memento to forever remind him of that first goal.

While it was a moment he will fondly look back on, it still doesn’t change his opinion on how to play transpired.

“It was a pretty ugly goal, and I probably did the most embarrassing celebration after,” Carpenter said of jumping into the glass following the goal.

Carpenter added an assist later in the game and notched two more assists the following night for a four-point weekend. That effort was good enough to earn him Central Collegiate Hockey Association Rookie of the Week honors. But, it was just taste of what Carpenter would bring to the table for the Bowling Green hockey team.

Despite being a first-year player, Carpenter leads the Falcons in points and is fourth in the conference in freshman scoring. In fact, Carpenter is one of only two freshmen in the CCHA who leads his team in scoring.

His journey to get to where he is at is just as unlikely as his early-season success. Born and raised in central Florida, Carpenter grew up in an area crazed about high school football, not a hotbed for hockey players. What got him into hockey was his father, a New York native and hockey fan, even though he never played the sport.

“My cousins would always play roller hockey, and when I would got up to New York for Christmas, I would have a pair of roller blades and we’d be skating around in the basement,” Carpenter said.” That’s when I first started liking it.”

Carpenter said he started playing hockey on roller blades. Then, a semi-pro ice hockey team moved to town, opening up a sheet of ice in his area. He moved on to ice hockey when he was seven years old. That stroke of chance helped kick-start a career that would take him more than 1,000 miles away from home.

Ryan Carpenter skates with the puck during a game against Notre Dame earlier this season. Photo courtesy BGSU Athletics.

No matter what surface he was playing on, Carpenter has always been driven by being successful. In his case, success has been measured by scoring goals.

“Having that fire to put pucks in the net is something I’ve always had,” Carpenter said. “I always have that focus to try to get pucks to the net and help the team.”

That fire is something that motivates him to get better. Generally, Carpenter is one of the last players to get off the ice after a team practice ends. Whether it’s working on his shooting or doing extra conditioning, Carpenter has put in the extra effort in order to help improve his game.

Playing a cold-weather sport like hockey in a warm-weather state like Florida isn’t all that irregular. However, the level of success Carpenter has been able to achieve is rare. In the CCHA, the conference which Bowling Green competes, he is one of only 32 players, out of 289, who are from traditionally warm-weather states. These players range from states like California to Texas to Florida.

Carpenter knew the depth of the competition in the South was not as good as it is up north. To get recognized on a larger scale, he would have to make a move.

And move he did. When he was 16 years old, he went up to the Metropolitan Detroit area in Michigan to play Triple-A midget hockey for two years. While he said it was difficult to leave home and his friends, he was ultimately happy he made the decision.

And, according to Carpenter, the biggest adjustment for him was something most southerners have to deal with when first moving north.

“I had been up north but had never lived there, so the biggest thing for me was driving in the snow,” he said with a chuckle. “The first couple of times I got stuck, and there was drifting, almost hitting stuff. Luckily I didn’t get into any accidents.”

While avoiding accidents off the ice, he maneuvered his way up the competitive ladder on it. He played for the Victory Honda midget team in Detroit, before ultimately making the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League, the premier junior hockey league in America.

In his final season with Sioux City, he was elected the team’s captain, an honor for any player. Serving as captain generally requires a high level of accountability, something that Carpenter’s coach sees on a daily basis.

“He’s got so many different layers that he brings to the table,” said Bowling Green head coach Chris Bergeron. “He’s a great student. He carries himself like a professional. This isn’t something that he does when he wants to. It’s a lifestyle for him.

“There is leadership in Ryan. I believe he is going to be a guy who is going to be a leader, officially, in this program over his time here. There are a lot of things that he brings to the table and we couldn’t be happier to have him here.”

Part of that leadership comes from being the oldest of three children. Carpenter quickly learned that his younger siblings — Kelsey and Chris — looked up to him as a role model. That helped shape who he was as he grew up because he wanted to make sure to set a good example for them.

“Sometimes growing up I wasn’t the best example for them,” Carpenter said. “Being the oldest one, you eventually learn that if you do something wrong your younger sister or brother might follow you, so I wanted to try to do the right things.”

Carpenter committed to play at Bowling Green in June 2010. He said he liked everything about the school and the coaching staff on his recruiting visit. Bowling Green’s rich history — winning a national championship in 1984 and graduating multiple alumni to the NHL — and the chance to help rebuild the program were also big selling points for him. He enrolled for the fall 2011 semester.

Adjusting to college life is usually difficult for any incoming freshman. Add in the wrinkle of being a full-time student-athlete, it’s easy to see how some players struggle to maintain good grades. However, academics have not been an area of struggle for Carpenter.

Majoring in finance, he maintained his grade-point average above a 3.0 during his first semester. He said the busier schedule of college has it’s advantages.

“It seems that there’s not much down time, which is good and bad,” Carpenter said. “You stay busy and the day goes by quick. Sometimes it lets you get your mind away from the rink, which is good.”

On the ice, Carpenter quickly proved to be a key player on the team. During the first 13 games of the season, he lead the team in scoring, putting up 13 points for the Falcons.

His quick start caught the eyes of his teammates. Even though he’s only a freshman, Carpenter’s teammates hold a level of respect for him that is often saved for an upperclassman.

“His work ethic is great; he’s always in there fighting,” said Bryce Williamson, a forward who has played the majority of the season on Carpenter’s line. “He’s hard on the puck and he creates good chances for your line.”

Despite the early season success, Carpenter has run into the type of inconsistency and adversity that is often synonymous with first-year college players. Even though he still leads the team with 19 points on the season, he has only accumulated six points over his last 17 games played.

Even though Carpenter is now no longer a secret to opposing teams, Bergeron feels the reason for his recent struggles is something that is typical among young players, not a result of opposing teams focusing more energy on shutting him down.

“You just get [inconsistencies] with young guys. It’s a long first year both academically and hockey-wise and regardless of how prepared you are, you aren’t prepared enough,” Bergeron said. “Ryan is one of those guys that when he’s on, he’s difficult to stop, whether you’re keying on him or not.”

A devout Christian, Carpenter participates in on-campus religious activities, such as the h2o church. His faith is strong, as he participates in the group’s Fusion bible studies, and he offers thanks to Jesus Christ following games, thanking him for being blessed with the ability to play a sport he loves.

A career in hockey is his first choice for his post-collegiate endeavors. But no matter what he ends up committing his life to in the long run, Carpenter said that he just wants to help people in whatever way possible.

“I’d love to get a job after college, but I think just helping people is a goal,” he said. “I’ve grown in my faith my first semester here, and that’s something I’d like to do, helping people day in and day out, showing the love to others.”

A promise to study abroad

Danielle Alviani. Photo by Tia Woodel

By Tia Woodel

Hit with nerves, Danielle Alviani boards the airplane. She sits down in her seat without a family member or friend in sight. She is alone and traveling overseas for the first time in her life but is still excited for the road ahead. Being shy and quiet may have worked for her in the past, but Alviani will soon partake in a positively life-changing experience.

Alviani was in high school when her two cousins, Emily and Sarah Wichryk, studied abroad in college. With an interest in Renaissance art, Alviani made a promise to herself that she would study abroad somewhere she could experience art and fashion in new ways. Less than 10 percent of undergraduate students from Bowling Green State University study abroad according to BGSU’s Education Abroad website, and because Alviani was so shy, family and friends were skeptical.

Alviani grew up in a household with her parents, older sister, and younger brother in the small town of Beaver, Pa. Alviani, very close to her mother and family, said traveling when she was younger always included the entire family, and going outside of the country was never their desire.

Alviani, on the other hand, had other ideas about traveling.

“All through high school I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t graduate college until I studied abroad,” she said.

Alviani said her parents were supportive but didn’t actually think she would stick to it. Alviani’s best friend, Abby Perza, said she remembers Alviani talking about studying abroad, but like Alviani’s parents, she didn’t take it seriously.

“In high school, she was so shy,” Perza said. “I didn’t picture her doing something that big.”

Alviani was so close to her family that when she chose to attend BGSU, she was going to be leaving home alone for the first time. After two years as a fashion merchandising major, Alviani realized if she really wanted to keep this promise to herself, she was going to need to start taking some action. She went to the study abroad office, where she was given her many booklets on places to go.

BGSU offers students the option to study abroad in 20 cities, in 16 different countries on five continents, according to the University’s official study abroad video. With this many options, Alviani used her passion for art and fashion to help make her final decision.

“I learned a ton about the Renaissance and fell in love with the art from that period. Florence is known as the Renaissance city, so it just seemed meant to be for me to go there,” she said.

Alviani finished the application process and was finally on her way to studying abroad. Now she would be able to prove she was serious and tell her friends the news.

“When I told my friends that I was studying abroad, they all were very excited for me and I think a little shocked at the same time,” Alviani said.

Her best friend, Perza, was thrilled for Alviani but was troubled that she wasn’t going to see her for four months. Alviani did admit that leaving for four months, not knowing how much she would be able to talk to friends and family, made her sad. Perza remembered times when Alviani was homesick just being at BGSU and worried about her being gone for so long. Alviani said she went into the trip with an open mind, though, and was excited for the semester abroad.

The start of her trip helped Alviani recognize this was going to be something completely different from what she was used to. When first arriving in Florence, she remembers the chaos of the airport and getting to the apartment. As she stepped away from the group, Alviani called her mother.

“When I called her, I realized I was actually gone,” she said. “My mom wasn’t there to do anything for me; I was on my own.”


Danielle Alviani's study abroad group in Florence, Italy. Photo provided by Danielle Alviani

Alviani said it was great how quickly everyone got along the first night there, and even referred to the new group of roommates and other students in the apartment as “friends who became a family.” Alviani also remembers how intrigued she was exploring the city for the first time.

“I instantly saw how different everything was,” she said. “The buildings were so incredible. We would stop to look at one building for 10 minutes before staring at the next. Over here, everything is so modern, but the buildings there have been there for hundreds and hundreds of years. …the art and architecture all throughout the city of Florence… I was blown away every day that I stepped out of my apartment. It was a dream living in such a beautiful, ancient city.”
Alviani did miss her family and friends at home, but was able to keep in contact with them through Skype, Facebook and cell phones provided by StudentCell, which made it easier to be so far away.
“I talked to family and friends more than I expected,” she said. “I missed my mom; I’m definitely a momma’s girl.”
Alviani’s mother, Susan Alviani, said her daughter was always excited when she called home, talking about how much she loved the European way of life and the group of friends she had made.
“The trip was life-changing for her,” her mother said. “She gained an independence knowing she can do her own thing.”
Because of her daughter’s courage, Alviani’s mother even took a trip overseas for the first time to visit.
When Alviani wasn’t catching up quick with family and friends, she was absorbing as much art and culture as she could during her trip. This included visiting the statue of David six times and observing other countries’ fashions. She visited Germany, Scotland, England, Switzerland, Spain and Ireland.
Alviani said she thinks her trip will help her career one day now that she has a better knowledge of fashion outside the U.S. Her classes taught her the designing aspect of the fashion industry. She even said this experience made her think about possibly moving to Florence for a few years in the future, just to get a better glimpse of the industry there.

Danielle Alviani in Florence, Italy where she studied abroad Fall 2011. Photo provided by Danielle Alviani

Alviani explained her study abroad experience was like visiting a completely different world. She found it interesting to see how other people live and what they’re passionate about. It made her appreciate how Americans live and the experience changed her for the better.

“I came home with a different mindset,” she said.

Perza said she thinks studying abroad helped Alviani get over some of her shyness after being thrown into an environment where she was constantly meeting new people and making new friends. Perza also said Alviani was less reserved after her trip.

“She’s definitely a different person in a better way,” Perza said.

Regardless of being a shy momma’s girl, Alviani never let the doubt of friends and family get in her way of experiencing another culture’s art while studying abroad. She said she made the best decision of her life to study in Florence.

“It gave me a whole new outlook on life,” Alviani said. “I don’t think anything in my life will ever be comparable.”

Passion for Potter

By Erin Cox

Alexis Moody grips the broom handle. A drip of sweat rolls down her forehead before she catches it with the back of her hand. She looks down the field at her six teammates as they all begin to mount their brooms. She listens as the commentator begins to count from 10.


Her breathing quickens.


She feels a rush of excitement.

“Three…two…one…Brooms up!”

Off she goes, broom in hand, running down the field.

Moody is playing the game she loves – quidditch.


Moody is not just another “Harry Potter” fan. She has made “Harry Potter” a part of her everyday life.

Alexis Moody

Alexis Moody reads a trivia question during a BG Marauders sponsored event. Photo by Erin Cox.

Moody’s fandom didn’t stop with reading the books, watching the movies and discussing the differences between the two like many “Harry Potter” fans. Now that Moody is at Bowling Green State University, she has turned her fandom into a way to make friends by starting a “Harry Potter” club and a quidditch team.

“I wanted to be able to meet other ‘Harry Potter’ fans and create a place for people who in high school may have been ostracized for it,” Moody says.


Quidditch is the game played by witches and wizards in the “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling. The books, which were also made into movies, broke records in sales with the final book selling 8.3 million copies in 24 hours making it the fastest selling book in history, according to

Quidditch has transitioned from the beloved sport of the magical world to a beloved sport of Potter fans across the non-magical world, or muggle world as the series refers to it.


Moody made that transition for fans at BGSU and is helping others in the state make quidditch teams of their own too.

Moody started the BG Marauders, a “Harry Potter” fan club, in September 2010, and the quidditch team developed at the same time.

The BG Marauders meet once a week to discuss different topics, play games and watch videos relating to “Harry Potter.”

The BG Quidditch team plays quidditch. A team consists of seven players who hold broomsticks while they try to score points through one of the three goals. They usually practice twice a week and play against other college quidditch teams in Ohio and the surrounding states throughout the year.

Moody says she knows 40 people on campus just because of their shared love of “Harry Potter.”


Along with all this, Moody works on campus with classroom technology services. She also plans to graduate with a major in theater specializing in design technology in December 2012, so she has to leave her “Harry Potter” club and quidditch team in the hands of others.

“It’s been a struggle getting things situated and going well, but I feel confident that when I graduate, it will continue and do well,” Moody says.

Heath Diehl, the faculty adviser for the BG Marauders, credits Moody’s passion as instrumental for making the club and quidditch team possible.

“Her passion is rare,” Diehl, an instructor in the honors program where he teaches a class about “Harry Potter,” says. “She’s a bit fanatical, which is a good thing. She knows the series really well, inside and out, particularly in regards to quidditch.”

Moody loves the game and plans to keep playing as long as possible, but injuries happen on the quidditch pitch far too often, and Moody has suffered a few herself. It’s a rough contact sport.

“You don’t have to like ‘Harry Potter’ to love this game,” Moody says. “I want to keep it in my life as long as I can.”


Moody didn’t jump on the “Harry Potter” broom right away.

“I started hearing about it from all my friends in elementary school. I hated it. I didn’t want to conform,” Moody says.

Moody’s aunt, Barb Loehr, however, bought her the third book as a gift.

“Someone had loaned me the books on CD and I thought when I listened to them that Alexis might like it,” Loehr says. “We had always exchanged passions of books and games back and forth, and she was the right age for ‘Harry Potter.’”

Moody’s boredom led her to pick up the book in the summer of 2001 when she was 11.

Moody says she instantly became a fan. She had started reading the books near the time the movies came out, so all the hype thrust her into fandom and she wanted to learn all she could.

Moody’s dad, Darryl Moody, says her love for “Harry Potter” was obvious as soon as she picked up the books.

“Her passion and knowledge is far superior to any other ‘Harry Potter’ fan I know. It’s almost like she lives a ‘Harry Potter’ lifestyle and she truly understands and lives it,” Darryl Moody says.

Moody says when she read the books she felt she could really connect with the main characters Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. Their stories were relatable for Moody because she is biracial and comes from a divorced family.

Moody felt different, and Hermione and Harry were different than other students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

“I thought, ‘This is my life,’” Moody says.


Moody has used her love for “Harry Potter” to connect and build relationships with many of her friends.

Amanda Godfrey met Moody at her first quidditch practice last year and is now co-captain of the team.

“You could definitely tell Alexis was passionate about it. The way she talked about it, she had a twinkle in her eye,” Godfrey says.

Moody went with Godfrey to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando, a theme park that embodies the magical world of the books by having all the famous establishments of the series for people to explore. Some of the popular places the park includes are Ollivanders, the wand shop; The Three Broomsticks, the home of Butterbeer and Hogwarts the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Moody had already been to the park when it first opened. That summer she was working at Disney’s Epcot through the BGSU Disney College Program, and although she was scheduled to work, Moody went to the opening day of The Wizarding World anyway. She stood in line for six hours starting at 5 a.m. to get into the park that day. She visited The Wizarding World a couple more times during that summer.

“Each time I went, it was still exciting, and I was still entranced by it,” Moody says.


The “Harry Potter” franchise has millions of fans around the world who live, breathe and dream about “Harry Potter,” and Moody’s passion for Potter has put her in contention with some of the biggest Potter fans around the world – literally.

According to the International Quidditch Association’s website, nearly 300 Quidditch teams exist worldwide, and all can participate in the Quidditch World Cup.

As captain of the BGSU quidditch team, Moody led her team onto the pitch to compete against teams from all across the United States and Canada at the World Cup in November 2011 in New York.

Moody also holds the position as the Ohio state representative of the International Quidditch Association, which means if anyone in the state wants to make a team, he or she should contact her.

“I’m actively looking for teams, and I’d say I’ve been pretty successful,” Moody says. “Since I’ve been working in this position, Ohio went from having four teams to 14 in a year.”

Moody was also recently chosen for the organizing team of the Quidditch World Cup. The organizing team has 12 positions and she is the Team Communications Director, which means she will work with all the teams planning to come to the World Cup.


Even though the book series has ended and the final movie has been released, Moody knows her passion for Potter will not stop anytime soon.

Moody says some states have an adult “Harry Potter” fan club and she hopes to find a similar one in whichever state she lives in. Moody plans to work as a lighting designer for a theater in Chicago when she graduates.

She also thinks one day she might be able to apply her major to her passion for Potter.

“Maybe I’ll be the designer for a Harry Potter musical. Who knows?” Moody says.

Moody does know her love for “Harry Potter” will not end.

“The reason I am so passionate and involved with ‘Harry Potter’ is because I need it,” Moody says. “I need the people, I need the love and maybe the attention a little too. I literally can’t imagine my life without ‘Harry Potter.’”


Alexis Moody

Moody wrote all the trivia questions for the Harry Potter Trivia Night sponsored by the BG Marauders. Photo by Erin Cox.


Voice on Fire

Frankie’s Inner-City of Toledo, Ohio, has hosted its fair share of rock legends over the years. Since the bar’s opening, The Goo Goo Dolls, The Barenaked Ladies, Coheed & Cambria and more have rocked the walls of this humble midwestern hotspot.

On this night, it is cold outside Frankie’s, but the environment inside is that of a sweltering jungle. The members of the crowd crawl over one another in an attempt to get as close to the stage as possible, patrons at the bar lean against the railing, distorting themselves in order the best view. As the lights dim and the music begins with an epic guitar solo, the fans, clad in their bright blue, green and pink shirts, begin to scream and welcome in the next generation of Frankie’s talent, the band they love. Burn the Ships, with front man Kenan Smith, have taken the stage.

*  *  *

Burn the Ships perform their song "Sona Gratia" at a show in Toledo, Ohio.

Smith started the band back in 2006, when he, Dustin Gilbert, Adam Johnson, Cannen Hodgson, and Adam Chippewa were just out of high school in Brooklyn, Mich. Today they’ve performed at more than 100 shows, and released their debut album, and they are in the studio working on their second.

It’s Smith, though, who remains the driving force behind the Burn the Ships movement.
Smith has poured his heart and soul into the band from day one, getting the members together and ultimately deciding to turn a dark period in his life into a neon-bright experience for fans.
“I live for this band. It’s been my passion and almost my guidance throughout the past five or six years,” Smith said.
The “dark period” in Smith’s life came when Smith and his brother, Kyle, were growing up in Wisconsin and eventually Brooklyn, Michigan.
When Smith was 15 years old, he noticed a change in his mother. The woman who had been a great parent to her four children for years suddenly seemed distant.
“I guess I’ll just say that she pretty much became a physically present absentee parent,” said Smith.
To listen to Smith’s brother tell the story, it happened quite suddenly.
“She just decided to check the hell out one day. Wanted to live in some fantasy world I guess,” said the younger Smith.
The drastic change in his mother took Kenan Smith to a dark place. Like most teenagers faced with a life altering event, he had trouble processing. He began having trouble finding meaning in his day-to-day life. He found it next to impossible to feel passionate about anything or even communicate with his peers.
After about a year of this, Smith started writing music in his garage.
He suddenly rediscovered his voice. He became excited to get up in the morning, and began scribbling notes and lyrics on anything that was handy.
“It might sound corny, but it was like being reborn when I started writing the music,” said Smith. “I had something to be happy about again.”
Not only was he writing, Smith believed, he was writing with a purpose.
“Kenan went through some things, we both did, and whereas I channeled it into my stuff, he channeled it into his music,” said Kyle Smith. “He wanted to help people get from where he had been to where he was.”
To Smith this meant a few things, beyond just making a band.

Kenan Smith, in the garage where he began writing music as a teenager. Photo by Benjamin Romaker.


First, he wanted the band to be an outlet for people who might be going through some kind of their own trouble. Personable interaction with their audience followed.

“All of us had some moment when we were younger where these bands advertise being able to hang out with them backstage, but we always thought that was kind of an elitist thing,” said Smith.
In response to this, Smith intsructed the band to start doing the opposite. So instead of having fans try to come see them backstage after the show, they began walking into the crowd following their shows.
The second thing Smith came up with in an attempt to help get potential audience members from dark places such as the one he had been in, into the bright place he now found himself in, was a slightly more literal one.
“When we had those t-shirts made we almost went black. Then one of us, I can’t remember who, thought it would be cool for us to use some obnoxiously bright colors instead,” said Smith. “I loved it.”
Suddenly the band came upon their signature look. A handful of guys playing powerful music, wearing neon colored t-shirts and jumping in the crowd to hang out with their fans.
“They’re just a different experience,” said Meghan Crossman, a Burn the Ships fan. “When you go see them, you get an upbeat show with bright lights and really good crowd interaction, and it’s great.”
“We’re only getting started right now, we’re going to continue to grow and mature as a band. I think we owe it to our fans,” said Smith.
*  *  *
Back inside Frankie’s Inner-City, the band plays a half hour long set, during which Smith is high-fiving fans in the front rows, sporting a painfully bright yellow t-shirt, and pouring every ounce of himself into the performance.
Smith’s relationship with his mother still appears to be broken, but he learned to live with it, and rise above it.
When the show is finished, they jump off the stage and into the audience. After a while things settle down. Gilbert and Johnson try to show a younger fan how to play the introduction to one of their songs, while Hodgson and Chippewa share drinks with three fans who have become friends. Smith sits back, taking in the scene. He is in a good place.
“I could honestly care less if we’re the next Goo Goo Dolls or if we’re just little old Burn the Ships form Brooklyn. This, this right here, this has to be better than anything else,” said Smith.

Occupy: The fire of peaceful protest

By Tyler Buchanan

Gilbert Bentley waited patiently in the first row of Bowling Green Municipal court amid half a courtroom of supporters.  They wore orange armbands with the word Occupy on them in protest of Bentley’s trial.

Within a few minutes, it was over.  Bentley and his friend Taylor Johnson both pled no contest to charges of obstruction of justice and were sentenced to 15 hours of community service.

Bentley has had a long history of political activism.

At an age when most are uninvolved and disinterested in politics, Bentley attended a Farm Labor Organizing Committee rally in Toledo at age 14.

Six years later, he joined over 200,000 others to Washington D.C.’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, a satirical protest headed by comedians Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.

Now, Bentley sees his sentencing as the easy part.

“It was a lot harder being out there than it was dealing with court stuff,” he said.

For him, “out there” meant a small alleyway on East Wooster Street in Bowling Green, Ohio, where he and countless others camped out for six weeks in peaceful protest.

When his trial ended, Bentley knew this part of Occupy Bowling Green was over, but his fight was only beginning.

* * *

Bentley says it’s always hard to pay attention to politics and not get involved.  He credits a love for politics to an early “obsession with history and literature.”

His influences, political and literary, range from authors Oscar Wilde and Jack Kerouac to philosopher Noam Chomsky, and leave Bentley with a rich blend of social skepticism and desire for direct democracy.

His interests in Egyptians and Mayans may have been out of his reach, but the Toledo streets were much more physically and ideologically accessible.

The creation of Occupy Toledo satisfied both his political philosophy and his need for democratic activism.

The Occupy movement began in September of 2011 in New York City as Occupy Wall Street, a non-violent, civil disobedient protest.  Angry over wealth inequality and corporatism, protesters took over Zuccotti Park, a plaza near Manhattan’s Financial District, according to Occupy Wall Street’s website.

Many other concerned activists realized these themes elsewhere. Inspired by Occupy Wall Street, protesters in cities around the globe set up tents and created their own Occupy movements.

Traveling to and from Toledo to participate, it wasn’t long before he said he wanted to “bring that sound home.”

“We have a responsibility to our home town,” he said.

He and others assembled a march at Bowling Green State University’s Student Union to the Happy Badger, a local business.  It was there, he said, that the protestors decided to create Occupy BG.

The idea was simple.  No one person spoke for or led the group.  From the very first decision to form Occupy BG, every idea has been discussed and decided upon by the entire group.

They chose to set up camp in an alleyway in downtown Bowling Green known colloquially as “Fight Alley” due to its proximity to bars where some customers settle their differences outside.  Violence at Occupy BG, however, was never an option.

“We needed to display that we’re not a violent group,” Bentley said.

Public perception of the group became as important as their message itself.  Bentley and others knew that if the media and public could not respect those protesting, they would in turn shy away from the message Occupy BG protested for.

While Occupy protesters welcomed a variety of perspectives and opinions, its goals were to provide factual information and spread awareness of social issues.

Scott Hevner, a BGSU Firelands teacher who frequents the Bowling Green coffee shop where Occupy BG holds its meetings, said that while different ideologies are acceptable, it doesn’t make them more correct.

“People have this twisted sense of what constitutes equality,” Hevner said. “Democracy doesn’t mean everyone’s voice and speech is equal and ‘right’…people unfortunately interpret democracy this way.”

Day and night, there were usually at least one or two protesters camped out in the narrow alleyway, stopping any passersby to raise awareness of wealth inequality or to simply have a civil conversation of politics.

“It’s not a case of getting the message out, but getting more people to admit how they already feel or live,” Bentley said.

Bentley likes telling people about the approximately one in three children who are raised in low-income families, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty.

Or perhaps he will remind them that 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined, a fact corroborated by PolitiFact, a non-partisan fact checking website.

For six weeks, Bentley repeated these arguments and many others to the hundreds of people who walked by, with mixed results of support and disapproval.

He worked to get his messages through to everyone who walked by in the hopes that awareness and knowledge of political and social issues would rally support in the fight against what the Occupy movement stood for.

Many at first were not receptive, shouting to him “This isn’t Wall Street” or “Why are you here?” he said.

Taylor Johnson, another protester, remembers an early encounter when a person driving by told the occupiers to get a job like the “successful businessmen” who pay for the sidewalks they stand on.

“I thought to myself, I have a good opportunity and duty to pass onto these ignorant people who don’t know their taxes pay for these sidewalks,” Johnson said.  “It’s sad when victims don’t even know they’re victims.”

Bentley believes all Occupy movements, no matter how small, have their place in civic discourse, because the issues they fight for exist everywhere.

“You have to have Occupy in every small town, every nook and cranny, every dive bar, everything all around the country at once,” he said.  “You infuse people into a movement where they’re actively talking one on one.”

That’s why he was there, through rain-soaked nights and sunless days: for the ability each day to stop a person on their way to work in the morning or to the bars at night.  All the devotion, the weeks of time spent on the streets, all to make a person think, maybe even care if just for a moment, about wealth inequality or corporate greed.

Support and assistance came in ideological agreement, but also in tangible donations.  From financial contributions to donated food and supplies, Occupy BG continued to grow, its message of social equality beginning to take shape.

Then came the eviction notice.

Dated Nov. 29, 2011, the city of Bowling Green sent a notice to Occupy BG, giving protesters until noon, Dec. 1, to remove their tents, tables, chairs and other personal belongings.

“The First Amendment protections of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech do not include a right to use public property as a storage area,” the eviction notice said.

While city police ordered their belongings and materials to be removed, the protestors themselves were allowed to stay.

On Thursday, Dec. 1, the nearby city clock tower struck noon as over a dozen reporters waited for a potential confrontation, but the police never showed up. It was a small victory for Occupy BG, but Bentley knew what was coming.

Choosing to stay in the tents after the eviction deadline, Bentley went to sleep every night with a mass text to dozens of protesters and other supporters upon a police raid already typed out.  The police waited, and when the cameras weren’t running and no one else was watching, they moved in.

Bentley was ready.

* * *

Four days after their ordered eviction date, Bentley and Johnson awoke suddenly to the sound of steel pans hitting one another.  The pans were tied to the tent’s opening as a makeshift alarm.

As one police officer ripped the tent down, another poked his head inside and read the city’s eviction notice.

“When I saw him, I clicked send,” Bentley said.

Before the officer could finish the notice, other officers began cutting the tents with shears, he said.

Bentley and Johnson were given two minutes to leave the premises or be arrested.  Days before, the two had already made their decision to stay.

Amidst police shouting and threatening them, Bentley says that when their time was up, the police gave them one last chance to leave.

Johnson stepped back inside the tent.  Bentley stood his ground.

They were soon handcuffed and walked down the alley where they had lived in peaceful protest for a month and a half.

According to BGPD’s police report, 27 officers were involved in the raid that resulted in the arrests of Bentley and Johnson for obstruction of justice, who were “taken into custody without any issues.”

When he thinks about his decision to stand up peacefully to the officers, Bentley says he’s never been more proud of himself.

In all, Bowling Green spent two weekends and almost $10,000 training police for the Occupy BG raid, according to the Sentinel Tribune.

Public reaction, Bentley said, has only driven more support for Occupy BG.

“I’ve gotten a lot of free drinks.”

Ultimately, Occupy BG carries on, finding new ways to bring awareness to its fight for social equality.

“It’s surreal how much we accomplished,” Johnson said.

For six weeks in downtown Bowling Green, Bentley and others challenged citizens on the issues.  The alleyway now sits empty, as it did before their occupation.

While their camp is gone, their spirit and drive for working for a better, fairer America continues on.

“When the people are informed, they will make the better choice.”

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