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KISS star partners with Henrico organization

A&E show to highlight Simmons' trip to Zambia with ChildFund International
Gene Simmons poses with a number of students during his recent trip to Zambia with ChildFund International.
Gene Simmons, legendary lead singer of the band KISS, was on television June 25, but not in his usual rock-star role. His show, Gene Simmons Family Jewels, featured his recent trip to Zambia, where he met up with several children he sponsors through Henrico-based ChildFund International.

The experience was originally a surprise to Simmons, planned by his new wife, Shannon Tweed, for the couple’s honeymoon.

“[Shannon] decided she wanted to go to Africa, and that’s where this brainchild of hers started,” said Cynthia Price, ChildFund’s director of communications. Price worked with the show’s production company to coordinate the trip and accompanied the couple to Zambia.

Simmons sponsors more than 140 children, Price said.

“Gene came to ChildFund the way so many people do,” she said. “He was watching TV, saw the commercial, and he was moved by it, so he sponsored his first child, and then many more.”

Price hasn’t seen the episode but hopes it will portray the trip well. The trip began with Simmons being introduced to one of his sponsored children named Edward. Edward then walked Simmons around the area, showing Simmons the long distances from his water source to the road going to his school.

“Gene was overwhelmed by it,” Price said, “moved to tears actually.”

During the trip, the couple visited three different schools, where he met several of his other sponsor children. Simmons and Tweed were both impacted significantly by the poverty they saw.

“I will waste less, spend less and appreciate more,” Tweed said.

The episode aired on A&E.

“It’s a great way for people who might be considering sponsorship to see how real it is and the impact that a person can have overseas,” Price said. “And obviously, we hope it moves more people to sponsor.”

ChildFund International is headquartered in Henrico's Near West End. The organization was founded in 1938 by a former minister in Richmond to help children in China who were orphaned by the war, Price said.

Sponsoring a child costs $28 a month, and ChildFund works with local partners within the affected areas because “they understand the culture and environment and issues and opportunities,” Price said.

“You as a potential sponsor can pick which country you want, and we have 31 countries,” she said. “You can pick the age of the child, the sex of the child and then the money that you give each month goes to the child’s family and to the community.”
Community

Lions Club donates backpacks to elementary school

The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.

Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

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Entertainment

The Boathouse to open at Short Pump Town Center

The Boathouse restaurant will open at Short Pump Town Center in the spring, its third location in the region.

“People have asked us to come to the West End for years,” said owner Kevin Healy. “When the opportunity arose, we knew had to jump on it.”

The new restaurant will be located in a 5,800-square-foot space under the Hyatt House Hotel at the town center and will include a large outdoor patio. > Read more.

Getting a ‘mouf’-ful

Boka Kantina exceeds its strong food truck reputation
Already a fan of Boka fare from outdoor events with the Tako Truck, I was delighted to learn of the new restaurant, and eager to see if its reputation held up after putting down brick-and-mortar roots.

Would the food lose its zest if I wasn’t enjoying it in the great outdoors? Would it seem pedestrian served from an ordinary kitchen instead of a truck?

Would the tacos be less satisfying as an antidote to normal lunch hunger – instead of being ingested to stave off desperate hunger after a long afternoon of crowds, sun, and tedious lines? > Read more.

Lakeside microbrewery beginning to take shape

Original Gravity gets the green light to move forward with relocation, expansion into larger space

A Lakeside home-brewing shop has felt the gravitational pull toward the booming craft beer scene.

Original Gravity, a shop that sells beer and wine kits for homebrewers, has just been given the green light to start work on a microbrewery.

Owner Tony Ammendolia is expanding his 1,000-square-foot shop in Lakeside Town Center to 5,000-square-foot digs a few doors down to add a brewery and expand his supplies.

Ammendolia opened the home-brew supply store in November 2011 and since then he said business has taken off.

“I think I outgrew this place in the first year,” Ammendolia said. “We’ve seen steady growth and I’ve been looking for a place to expand to move the shop to get more square footage.” > Read more.

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