Henrico County VA
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Commercial appeal

Virginia Credit Union TV spot stars local talent
When Virginia Credit Union decided to produce television commercials featuring its members, among the stars who rose to the top in tryouts was Henrico resident Ronald Lanier.

Although he has long been active in the music ministry at Cedar Street Baptist Church, Lanier tends toward the sidelines and considers himself somewhat shy.

As director of the Virginia Department of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH), he keeps a low profile as well, helping to coordinate statewide services for the hearing-impaired.

But when the call went out from VACU for members to strut their stuff at an audition, Lanier couldn’t pass it up. “I fit the criteria, and the rehearsals fit my own schedule,” he recalls.

What’s more, Lanier just plain loves to sing.

“Singing has been a part of me,” he says, “from way back.”

Lanier (pictured) showed up at the studio audition fully prepared to sing the National Anthem – a number he is comfortable with after opening a baseball game at The Diamond. But he expected only to sing, having read that dancing was an optional part of tryouts.

After hearing him sing a few lines, however, the judges asked him to dance.

“That I was not prepared for,” he says. “So I put on an embarrassing display of the Electric Slide!”

Henrico residents featured
More than 80 VACU members tried out for the commercial, according to Glenn Birch, director of public and media relations at VACU. The tryouts were held “American-Idol-style,” with local celebrities as judges. “Everyone had fun,” Birch says, “even the people who didn’t make it [into the commercial].”

One dozen members participated in the first commercial that began airing in March, and another dozen (including Lanier) starred in the second commercial that launched this month.

Among other participants with Henrico connections are Stacy Barnett, who teaches English at Highland Springs H.S., and Robbie Cunningham, an Eastern Henrico resident and self-employed jazz musician; both joined Lanier in the second commercial. Justin Morris of Glen Allen, a long-time member of the gospel group The Soulsters, was in the first commercial.

Now that the 30-second spot has been seen locally, Lanier says he is constantly recognized and asked for his autograph.

While the fame and the positive feedback have been rewarding, Lanier says the highlight of the experience was a conversation he had with VACU Vice President of Marketing Deb Wreden, about the importance of providing closed captioning for the commercial.

“She was quick to assure me that it would be done,” says Lanier, “as they had not even thought of it before.” 

Captions for the grandkids
A native of Roanoke, Lanier was hit by a car as a child, and doctors discovered soon afterwards that he had suffered a hearing loss.

Between the hearing impairment and his shyness, it took some time for Lanier’s musical talents to come to light.

But, he says now, he always felt that he had something to offer vocally. In his senior year of high school he finally “took the big step” and joined the choir; before long, he was singing the occasional solo.

After moving to Richmond to attend Virginia Commonwealth University, he became a Henrico resident in the late 1970s, and has been a VACU member for 25 years.

Birch says that upon meeting Lanier, he was impressed not only by his efforts to advocate for closed captioning, but also by his commitment to “helping those with hearing difficulties navigate a culture that assumes everyone can hear.”

What’s more, says Birch, Lanier’s commitment to this goal extends beyond his professional interests to a family and personal level. Lanier and his wife adopted a deaf child, now 31; and their son has two children of his own, who are also deaf.

Lanier points out that lobbying for closed captioning does not just benefit those who are deaf and hard of hearing; it also makes sense from the advertiser standpoint.

“Seriously,” he says, “when television programs and commercials are captioned, you invite even more customers into the mix.”

But Lanier readily admits that captioning the VACU commercial benefits him personally as well, by allowing hearing-impaired family members to better appreciate the ad.

“I especially wanted my two grandkids,” he says, “to know what their grandfather is singing and dancing about!”

To view the VACU commercials, visit http://youtube.com/watch?v=sxv9WSKRCUY and http://youtube.com/VACreditUnion; or visit the Virginia Credit Union page on Facebook for photos and clips from the ads.


Community

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


There’s no excuse for kids and families to not get out of the house this weekend! The Armour House and Gardens has an “Egg-celent Egg-venture” planned and Reynolds Community College will host the Reynolds Family Palooza. If you’re looking to give back to your community, Dorey Park will host Walk Like MADD and coordinators2inc will present the annual Kids Walk for Kids. And a special event for children with special needs will be on Sunday – the Caring Bunny will be at Virginia Center Commons. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

A new meaning for fried chicken

Is it heresy to say – in this bastion-of-tradition capital of the Old South – that it's time for Southern fried chicken to take a step back and make way for a new fried chicken king?

Count me among the new believers bowing to Bonchon Chicken's delectable double-fried bliss. Hand-brushed with signature garlic soy or hot sauce, flash-fried once and then again, the decadent drums and wings take "crisp" to a new level. If you're eating with a crowd and everyone bites in at once, be warned: you might need ear plugs to handle the din. > Read more.

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