‘Nanyehi’ short film to debut at local film festival

BY STAFF REPORTS
04/23/2018 08:30 AM
MUSKOGEE – The story of Nancy Ward, legendary Cherokee warrior turned peacemaker, has made its way to the big screen in the short film “Nanyehi.”

The film depicts the struggle between peace and war and the fight to preserve tribal land in the 18th century.

“Sharing the story of Nanyehi has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career and my life,” Becky Hobbs, “Nanyehi” co-writer, said. “There is so much we can learn from her story that we need in today’s world. Her message of peace is one that inspires change and one that I hope will make the world a better place.”

“Nanyehi” features Cherokee Nation citizen Winnie Guess Purdue in the title role, supported by a local cast of 44 from northeast Oklahoma, the vast majority being CN citizens.

“The film incorporated the families of our cast and created a truly magical environment watching them share the story not only of Nanyehi, but of their own ancestors as well,” David Webb, co-producer for the “Nanyehi” film, said. “This cast does an amazing job presenting a compelling story in a way that is both educational and engaging for audiences of all ages.”
“Nanyehi” features Cherokee Nation citizen Winnie Guess Purdue in the title role, supported by a local cast of 44 from northeast Oklahoma, the vast majority being CN citizens. COURTESY
“Nanyehi” features Cherokee Nation citizen Winnie Guess Purdue in the title role, supported by a local cast of 44 from northeast Oklahoma, the vast majority being CN citizens. COURTESY

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa to expand

BY STAFF REPORTS
04/10/2018 04:30 PM
CATOOSA – Cherokee Nation Entertainment officials have announced that the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa is making way for a new expansion by beginning demolition of the resort’s oldest structure on April 12.

CNE officials said work crews would remove tent-like structure on the northeast side of the property during the next month and that a new structure would replace an 18,000-square-foot section built in 2002 that has served as the country and western-themed portion of the casino.

Officials said about 275 of the nearly 400 electronic games from the area would be relocated to other parts of the casino during construction, primarily on the second floor in and near the Grand Hall of the Cherokees.

Details on the expansion will be announced at a later date, officials said.

Since opening the first casino resort destination in Oklahoma in 2004, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa has gone through many transformations, officials said. In that time, two additional hotel towers have been added, along with a 2,700-seat concert venue, multiple restaurants and entertainment venues, a nonsmoking gaming area with a food court and sports bar, 23,000 square feet of convention space and a parking garage.

George Lopez brings stand-up to Hard Rock Tulsa

BY STAFF REPORTS
04/06/2018 03:30 PM
CATOOSA – Grammy-nominated comedian, actor and author George Lopez is bringing his stand-up comedy tour on June 16 to The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.

Tickets start at $29 and are on sale now.

“Time” Magazine named him one of the 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America, and the Harris Poll named him one of the Top Ten Favorite Television Personalities.

Lopez remains a hit with television viewers with his comedy series, “Lopez,” on TV Land. Starring and produced by Lopez, the series explores how he struggles between his two worlds and crises that are often of his own making. He also hosted “Lopez Tonight,” a late-night television talk show on TBS that represented Lopez’s return to series television after co-creating, writing, producing and starring his sitcom, “George Lopez,” which ran for six seasons on ABC. “George Lopez” remains among the top five comedies and top 20 weekly programs in syndication.

For more information on Lopez, visit www.georgelopez.com.
George Lopez
George Lopez
https://www.facebook.com/CASA-of-Cherokee-Country-184365501631027/

Martina McBride to play Hard Rock Tulsa

BY STAFF REPORTS
04/05/2018 08:00 AM
CATOOSA – One of country’s biggest stars, Martina McBride, is set to take the stage at The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa on Aug. 10.

Tickets start at $55 and go on sale April 5.

McBride’s show comes as part of the second annual Hard Rock Country Gold Series that’s bringing country music legends to The Joint this summer.

More than 18 million Martina McBride albums have been sold to date, thanks to her 20 Top 10 singles and six No. 1 hits like “Concrete Angel,” “A Broken Wing,” “This One’s for the Girls,” “My Valentine” and “Independence Day.”

McBride has earned more than 15 major music awards, including four for Female Vocalist of the Year from the Country Music Association and three for Top Female Vocalist from the Academy of Country Music. She’s also been awarded 14 gold records, nine platinum honors, three double platinum records, and two triple platinum awards.
Martina McBride will play The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa on Aug. 10. COURTESY
Martina McBride will play The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa on Aug. 10. COURTESY

Rock icon John Fogerty returns to Hard Rock

BY STAFF REPORTS
03/20/2018 04:00 PM
CATOOSA – John Fogerty, one of the most influential musicians in rock history, is seet to perform June 8 at the The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.

Tickets start at $75 and go on sale March 22.

Fogerty became a household name as lead singer and guitarist of Creedence Clearwater Revival in the 1960s and 1970s. During that time, Fogerty wrote some of the most memorable songs in rock ‘n’ roll, including “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Fortunate Sun” and “Born on the Bayou.”
As a solo artist, his success continued to skyrocket in the 1980s with the single “Centerfield.” The Grammy award-winner also wrote the hit songs “Change in the Weather” and “Rock and Roll Girls,” among others.

He’s been featured on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of Top 100 Greatest Guitarists and Top 100 Singers of All Time. He’s also been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well as the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

http://cherokeepublichealth.org/

‘Nanyehi’ returns to The Joint May 4-5

BY STAFF REPORTS
03/04/2018 08:00 AM
CATOOSA – An original musical based on the life of one of the most influential women in Cherokee history is returning May 4-5 to The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.

“Nanyehi – The Story of Nancy Ward” is the story of Ward, a legendary woman who was first honored in the 18th century as a Cherokee war woman, but then as a peacemaker during the American Revolution.

Tickets are $15 and go on sale March 1. There is a $5 discount for Cherokee Nation citizens and children 12 and under. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 918-384-ROCK or online in The Joint section of www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com.

The production features Tulsa’s own Tabitha Littlefield in the title role and Tahlequah native Travis Fite reprising his role as Dragging Canoe for the ninth consecutive time.

The musical is written by Nashville-based, award-winning songwriter and recording artist Becky Hobbs and playwright Nick Sweet. It has been presented four times in Oklahoma, twice in Tennessee and single productions in Georgia and Texas.
The “Nanyehi” cast performs during a production at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The musical returns May 4-5. CLIFF MOORE/COURTESY
The “Nanyehi” cast performs during a production at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The musical returns May 4-5. CLIFF MOORE/COURTESY

‘Hollywood Medium’ Tyler Henry arrives to Hard Rock

BY STAFF REPORTS
02/24/2018 02:00 PM
CATOOSA – Tyler Henry, E! Television Network star of “Hollywood Medium” and best-selling author, is bringing a special live evening to The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa on May 10.

Tickets start at $49 and go on sale March 2.

For the first time audiences will be treated to his new live show, in which Tyler will share and discuss his “Life Lessons I Have Learned From The Departed.” The show also includes a multimedia video presentation and live interactive Q&A.

Henry, 22, is best known for his hit series, “Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry” on E! Television Network. In each episode, Henry sits down and has one-on-one readings with Hollywood’s top celebrities, including Eva Longoria, Allison Janney, Ellen DeGeneres, Kris Jenner, Bobby Brown, Ryan Lochte, Portia de Rossi, Mel B, Lil’ Kim, Dr. Drew, Tom Arnold, Ru Paul, Khloe and Kim Kardashian, Jamie Pressley and Jewel.

His success crossed over to the best-seller lists with his memoir, “Between Two Worlds,” detailing his journey both in Hollywood and as a medium.
Tyler Henry
Tyler Henry

Hard Rock Tulsa ranked among best U.S. hotels

BY STAFF REPORTS
02/16/2018 12:00 PM
CATOOSA – The U.S. News & World Report has listed the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa at No. 2 on its 2018 Best Tulsa Hotels list, earning the destination with more national recognition as one of the top hotels in the country.

Cherokee Nation Entertainment’s flagship entertainment destination is one of two luxury hotels in the area that were named to the list. The Hard Rock Tulsa earned the Silver Badge based on an analysis of expert and user opinions, considering it among the top 30 percent of all ranked luxury hotels in the United States.

According to U.S. News & World Report, the Hard Rock’s place on the list takes into account the opinion of published travel experts and the overall customer satisfaction expressed in online guest reviews provided under license by TripAdvisor. Awards and hotel class are also taken into consideration.

For more information, visit https://travel.usnews.com/hotels/Tulsa_OK/.

In 2017, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa earned the AAA Four-Diamond Rating, putting the destination among the exclusive ranks of the best hospitality establishments in the country. Fewer than 6 percent of the 28,000 AAA-approved and diamond-rated establishments in the nation receive the prestigious distinction.
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa recently garnered a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa Silver Badge award based on an analysis of expert and user opinions, considering it among the top 30 percent of all ranked luxury hotels in the United States. COURTESY
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa recently garnered a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa Silver Badge award based on an analysis of expert and user opinions, considering it among the top 30 percent of all ranked luxury hotels in the United States. COURTESY

Loretta Lynn cancels upcoming show at Hard Rock Tulsa

BY STAFF REPORTS
02/02/2018 02:15 PM
TULSA – Loretta Lynn is cancelling her upcoming stop at The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.

“Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Loretta Lynn date, scheduled May 17, 2018, in Tulsa has been canceled,” a statement from her management said. “Refunds are available at point of purchase.”

Guests may request refunds by calling 918-384-ROCK or in person at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The Joint box office is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa is located off Interstate 44 at exit 240.

Culture

‘Remember the Removal’ cyclists find strength, develop leadership skills
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
06/20/2018 04:00 PM
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. – Autumn Lawless trained for the challenges she faced on June 15 as she fought the heat and hills of the Ozarks in south-central Missouri.

The 21-year-old from Porum, Oklahoma, said the training the 10 Cherokee Nation “Remember the Removal” cyclists endured from January to May prepared them for the rigors of riding for three weeks through seven states.

“Training was hard, but it was hard for a reason. We were all ready, and we’ve made it this far because of our training,” she said.

She said through the “RTR” program, which started in 1984 for youth leadership, she’s gained more courage and knows “she can do anything.”

“I saw a lot of our riders and how this ride changed them and how strong they were. They were more confident, they were better leaders, and I wanted to be a better leader. I know I can push myself...now. This ride has given me perseverance,” Lawless said. “The ride isn’t just what you see in videos. It’s not just people cheering you on and clapping for you. It’s the time you spend with your teammates on the road motivating each other to get up another hill or just checking on each other. It really is a family, and there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into this ride.”

Ahli-sha Stephens, 34, of Cherokee, North Carolina, said the main reason she wanted to ride was to experience some of the hardships her ancestors endured and “to be able to go where they had been and walk where they walked.”

“It’s something you can tell someone about and they won’t understand it unless they’ve been there and felt it for themselves,” she said.

Walking the now-preserved trails that Cherokee people walked 180 years ago was especially moving for her, she said. “It’s humbling knowing you walked where they walked, and you’re walking in their footsteps and are seeing things that they saw. It wasn’t easy, and I can’t imagine doing it the way they did it day after day.”

Stephens added that riding the trail with other Cherokees created a bond that gets stronger daily. “We rely on each other. We help each other, and we’re there for each other. I think if we didn’t have each other’s backs, it would make this journey a whole lot harder.”

Stephens said she’s also learned to be more patient and wants to use her abilities to help others and to “lead, listen and be a team player.”

“Overall, I think I will be more knowledgeable about who our people were, what they did and what they went through, what they faced. I think I will just be a better person all around,” she said.

Daulton Cochran, 21, of Bell, Oklahoma, said he wanted to ride to “connect” with his tribe better.
“I had a lot of friends who did the ride, and it seemed like it changed a lot of people afterwards, and I craved that, I guess,” he said.

Because of the constant strain of riding for two weeks, he said he couldn’t recall the exact spot that moved him the most, but it was a place in Tennessee where his Cherokee ancestors camped.

“I guess it was the idea of campsites really being gravesites. It really gets to you to see stuff like that,” he said.

He added that he’s appreciated taking on the riding challenge with his teammates. “The fellowship has been great. We all connect. We all hang out. It’s just a good thing. We’re a family now.”

Seth Ledford, 18, of Cherokee North Carolina, said he saw how the ride was a “life-changing” experience for others and wanted to experience it.

“It is a once-in-lifetime experience, and it will change you for the better. That’s what I heard about the ride,” he said. “So far the ride has been good. It has been tough at times, and emotional and physical. We’ve had a lot of tough times, but we make up and still like each other.”

He said he would take away leadership skills and bonds he’s developed with fellow riders. He also has learned to work within a team. “When I wrestle (in high school) I’m by myself in everything. This is really helping me with my teamwork.”

Education

Young named Tahlequah Public School District Teacher of the Year
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
06/20/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen Crystal Young on May 4 was named the Tahlequah Public School District Teacher of the Year for the 2017-18 school year. She is a third grade teacher at Cherokee Elementary.

Young was first awarded Cherokee Elementary Teacher of the Year in April, which put her in the running for the district award.

“It’s just super humbling, I think, when you get something like that, that you know your peers chose you,” she said.

In the fall, Young will begin her seventh year at Cherokee Elementary and plans to teach fifth grade. Before joining Cherokee Elementary, she taught two years at the tribe’s Head Start. However, teaching wasn’t her first desire. She said she initially wanted to become a lawyer and work in juvenile justice.

“Growing up, we lived in poverty. My dad struggled with addiction and things like that. So some of these students that I see, I was right there. I know exactly what they’re going through, and I wanted to show kids that hard work will get you where you need to be, and perseverance and work ethic and all those attributes, honesty, integrity, those things matter,” she said.

While attending college, she realized she worked well with children and changed her career path from lawyer to educator.

Aside from teaching, Young is the Cherokee language bowl sponsor and Together Raising Awareness for Indian Life sponsor for Cherokee Elementary. She said she exposes her students to Cherokee culture and to diabetes awareness through the TRAIL’s 12-week curriculum.

“When they’re an adult, this is going to help them. I’m hoping that we’re setting a good foundation for them to be not only good readers, good writers, good mathematicians but just healthy, good individuals,” Young said.

She said there are struggles with being a teacher and that she was one of the many teachers who rallied at Oklahoma City in April for more education funding. She said she believes it’s important to show students that when faced with adversity sometimes not going with what has always been done is acceptable.

“It’s OK to be willing to stand up for what you feel like is right and standing together and being able to bond,” Young said.

She said the rewards and struggles of being a teacher go hand in hand when coming in every day and giving her best while at the same time knowing so many kids rely on her.

“I feel like everything I’ve done or wanted to do has been, at the root of it, has been I wanted to help people. I guess just to encourage people and motivate people to be the best they can be,” she said.

Winning the district award puts Young in the running for Oklahoma State Teacher of the Year, which will be announced in October at the Tulsa State Fair.

Council

Gaming compact amended to add ‘ball-and-dice’ gaming
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
06/13/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Tribal Councilors on June 11 unanimously passed a gaming compact supplement with Oklahoma to allow Cherokee Nation’s casinos to begin offering Las Vegas-style table games such as craps and roulette.

The resolution follows Gov. Mary Fallin signing House Bill 3375 into law on April 1o, making the state’s tribal casinos eligible to begin offering “ball-and-dice” games as soon as Aug. 2.

Tribal Councilor Mike Shambaugh said during a May 31 Rules Committee meeting that passing the resolution was important.

“I think we have been progressive as a council in many different ways in how we support gaming. This could be a good way for more revenue, obviously. If other casinos are going to be doing it, we need to stay progressive. We need to do what it takes to be the best casino and give our casinos the best opportunity to succeed. I think this is a good step forward for doing this especially if the state is going to allow it. We need to take advantage of it,” he said.

Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission Director Jamie Hummingbird also said during the Rules Committee meeting that the CNGC has been working on regulations for the new gaming since April. He said the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa would be the first Cherokee Casino property to offer “ball-and-dice” games and that the CNGC is working with casino operations on “where and when” the other casino properties would begin featuring the games.

Legislators on June 11 also authorized placing 39.2 acres of land in southern Delaware County into trust. The acreage, known as Beck’s Mill “has a rich history as a trading post with a grain mill being operated in the 1800s,” the resolution states. The property is located along Flint Creek just north of Highway 412.

Legislators also approved a resolution “agreeing to choice of law and venue and authorizing a waiver of sovereign immunity” so that the Cherokee Immersion Charter School can enter into a software agreement with Municipal Accounting Systems Inc. The agreement will allow the school to submit certain financial information to state officials in the required Oklahoma Cost Accounting System.

Tribal Councilors also increased the tribe’s fiscal year 2018 comprehensive operating budget by $1.8 million for a total budget authority of $694.9 million. The changes consisted of a decrease in the Indian Health Service Self-Governance Health budget by $93,962 and increases in the General Fund, Enterprise, Department of Interior – Self-Governance and Federal “other” budgets.

In other business, legislators:

• Authorized a donation of a modular office building to Project A Association in Muskogee County, and

• Authorized a grant application to the Department of Health and Humans Services, Administration for Children and Families, the Office of Child Care for Tribal Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.

Health

Young adults need less sodium, saturated fats and added sugars
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
06/13/2018 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Establishing healthy eating patterns tailored to personal, cultural and traditional preferences that are low in sodium and saturated fat is essential to a balanced diet for young adults between the ages of 20 and 35, Cherokee Nation Clinical Dietitian Tonya Swim said.

“All the food and beverage choices a person makes matters,” Swim said. “For most healthy individuals a balanced diet should have a variety of vegetables and whole fruit, low-fat or fat-free diary, half of their grains from whole grain sources, a variety of protein choices, including lean meats, seafood and vegetable sources.”

Swim said that while a single healthy eating pattern will not fit everyone, all foods high in saturated fat, sodium and added sugar should be limited. She recommends individuals inspect their food’s nutrition facts label when shopping, especially for those who may buy frozen foods such as microwavable meals.

“Most meals like this lack in fruits and vegetables, so adding a whole piece of fruit and a steamed bag of frozen veggies can help to meet a person’s daily fruit and vegetable needs. This is also a great way to add in extra vitamins, minerals and fiber,” she said.

A good method of comparing the nutritional values of two or more food items is to examine the label’s percent of daily value, Swim said. “Search for items with the lowest amount of saturated fat and sodium and the highest amount of fiber. Five percent daily value or less of a nutrient per serving is low, and 20 percent daily value or more of a nutrient per serving is high. One nutrient that we want to strive to get more of is fiber, so this nutrient on the nutrition facts label should be as close to 20 percent daily value as possible.”

That advice is especially important for those who choose to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle.

“If an individual chooses to go 100 percent vegan, please be aware of nutrients that may be lacking in their diet, including iron, zinc, protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B-12, vitamin D and calcium,” Swim said.

She said food sources for proper iron nutrients include almonds, oatmeal and spinach, while hummus, some whole wheat breads and cashews are good zinc sources. Fortified foods are good vitamin B-12 sources.

For protein, Swim recommends peanuts, quinoa, edamame, chickpeas, lentils, black beans and kidney beans, while calcium can be worked into a vegan diet with turnip, mustard and collard greens, figs and kale. Fortified soymilk is also a good source of vitamin D in addition to calcium, while walnuts and flaxseeds are good for Omega-3 fatty acids.

“Following a plant-based diet or even a full vegan plan does have health benefits, such as a lower risk of heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes,” Swim said. “If a vegan plan is something you would like to consider, please speak with your health care provider and registered dietitian before you begin.”

Young adults should also be aware of what they might be adding to their drinks, including coffee.

“It’s important to note that some coffee beverages can include calories from added sugars and saturated fat, such as creamers. So be cautious when getting your specialty coffees,” Swim said.

Coffee consumption should also be “moderate,” according to dietary guidelines.

“A moderate amount would be three to five 8-ounce cups a day,” Swim said. “This would approximately 400 milligrams of caffeine daily. The exception to this may be if a person has a medical condition in which their medical provider has reduced the amount of caffeine they should have, so talk to your primary provider.”

Swim recommends those eligible for services with CN Health Services and seeking more information about individualized diet plans should contact their primary providers and ask to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian.

Opinion

OPINION: Addressing food insecurity for veterans in northeast Oklahoma
BY BILL JOHN BAKER
Principal Chief
06/01/2018 12:00 PM
The Cherokee Nation is steadfastly committed to our military veterans, those men and women who have sacrificed so much for our tribe, our country and our collective freedoms. Recently, we established a formal partnership with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma to help ensure these real-life heroes do not suffer from hunger and food instability. Nobody in Oklahoma, especially a military veteran, should go hungry.

This collaboration, which is the first time a tribal government has been involved with this local food bank program, means regular access to healthy and nutritious foods, and that will translate to better and fuller lives. It is a blessing that we are able to help, and it is the least we can do for those who have done so much for us.

This endeavor will create a quarterly mobile food pantry at the CN Veterans Center. Fresh produce, bakery items and nonperishable food items are available for about 125 veterans or widows of veterans through the collaboration. The first time we hosted the food pantry in late May, we distributed more than 10,000 pounds of food. The tribe will continue to help identify veterans in need, as well as provide volunteers to help staff the mobile pantry.

Today, the CN Veterans Center offers a wide array of activities for veterans. It serves as a place to sign up for benefits, play bingo or attend other activities, and now we have added the food pantry. It is just one more way we can meet the needs of our people.

The CN continues to look for ways to honor and serve our veteran warriors, and this partnership with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is another avenue to reach those in need. Food insecurity is a very real issue for families in northeast Oklahoma, and almost 20 percent of the households the Food Bank serves has a military veteran who resides there and utilizes the program. Additionally, national studies show veterans are affected more by hunger and food insecurity than the general population. Many struggle to put food on the table because of a myriad of issues, from employability after service to mental health and related trauma or an unwillingness to seek help.

Collaborating with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma means we are increasing and expanding its coverage and furthering its mission. Just like CN, the food bank wants to provide for our veterans so that they have what they need to prosper.

The CN also offers a food distribution program, which some veterans may also qualify for. For more information on the CN Veterans Center and food pantry, call 918-772-4166.

People

4-year-old Keys jumps into motocross
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
06/12/2018 08:30 AM
PARK HILL – Cherokee Nation citizen Cooper Keys is a 4-year-old with a passion for motocross. Born in 2013, Cooper began riding his 2004 Yamaha PW50 in February after finding tri-cycling slow and monotonous.

With half a dozen races under his belt on the peewee dirt track at Jandebeur’s Motor Sports Park in Okmulgee, he’s notched five third-place finishes and one second-place finish.

Cooper competes in the 50cc shaft drive/air cooled and 50cc beginner divisions and is the only 4-year-old racing against 5-to 7-year-olds.

“We got him a starter balance bike when he was about a year and a half old,” CN citizen and Cooper’s mother Emily Keys said. “Balance bikes don’t have pedals or training wheels, so he just kind of pushed himself around until he eventually got to where he could ride around without using his feet.”

Emily said Cooper soon began riding down hills, balancing perfectly on the bike that was designed for pushing around the yard.

“When he outgrew the balance bike, we got him a bicycle that resembled a dirt bike, which he mastered in no time,” she said. It was around then that Emily and her husband, Justin, began thinking that Cooper’s abilities” weren’t “normal.” Cooper’s agility was only surpassed by his constant request for a real (motorized) dirt bike,” she said.

“He was just gung-ho, and would not be quiet about it. My husband had a mini-bike when he was little but only rode it around the field, so we really knew nothing about dirt bikes or the sport,” Emily said.

She added that it was eventually her parents who sprang for Cooper’s first dirt bike, as a Christmas present. She said she thought he would just want to ride around the field with it. But that wasn’t the case. Cooper wanted to ride all the time.

“We were concerned about him racing at such a young age, so we just started at the bottom, learning everything we could on teaching Cooper how to ride safe and smart. We purchased every piece of safety gear a kid could have. Now the poor (child) looks like (a) mix between an astronaut and the Terminator when he’s all suited up to go,” Emily said. “He’s had some crashes but that hasn’t deterred him in the least.”

Cooper’s father and CN citizen Justin Keys said Cooper’s can-do attitude was only one of the qualities he noticed.

“It makes me really proud that he has such good sportsmanship and how he strives to make himself better. I mean he’s pushing himself more than anybody. He gets out there with a ride, ride, ride attitude and he never gives up. More than once, I’ve seen him fall down, get up and want to go again. You can’t teach that.”

“We don’t want him hurt, and it is scary putting him on such a fast bike, but we’ve done all we can,’ Emily said. “We continue to teach him about safety, and we can’t let our fears get in the way of something he’s that passionate about.”
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