http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgRocks painted with a crown and SpongeBob Squarepants are found at a Reasor’s Grocery story in Owasso, Oklahoma. The rocks are part of the Facebook group 918 Rocks! People in the group post photos of painted rocks they are hiding or have found in spots all over the 918 area code. The group was inspired by Hunter Kelley, a Cherokee Nation citizen who survived cancer. 918 ROCKS!
Rocks painted with a crown and SpongeBob Squarepants are found at a Reasor’s Grocery story in Owasso, Oklahoma. The rocks are part of the Facebook group 918 Rocks! People in the group post photos of painted rocks they are hiding or have found in spots all over the 918 area code. The group was inspired by Hunter Kelley, a Cherokee Nation citizen who survived cancer. 918 ROCKS!

Blind child in Oklahoma inspires Facebook group

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/28/2017 12:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. (AP) – Kimberly Politte cast the first stone and started a colorful rockslide.

Politte created the Facebook group 918 Rocks!

People in the group post photos of painted rocks they are hiding or have found in spots all over the 918 area code.

918 Rocks! once was an itty bitty group, but it has boomed in popularity. Barely half a year old, the group has almost 9,000 members.

The story behind the story — the person who inspired Politte to create 918 Rocks! — is her 8-year-old son, Hunter.

A cancer survivor, the young Cherokee Nation citizen can’t see all the colorful rocks.

“After we exhausted every option that was possible, the doctor decided that the only way to save his life was to remove his eyes,” Politte told the Tulsa World.

Since then, Hunter has been cancer-free. And that rocks.

Hunter was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare type of eye cancer, when he was 17 months old.

Untreated, retinoblastoma can spread to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy and radiation failed to eradicate the cancer, according to Hunter’s mother.

No parent should have to make this kind of choice, but Hunter’s left eye was removed in December 2010 and his right eye was removed the following month.

“I look at him every day and it touches my heart,” Politte said. “It makes me emotional because, just six or seven years ago, I could have lost him.”

Prosthetic eyes were crafted to look like Hunter’s eyes. Politte knows Hunter can’t see her when she looks into his “perfect” prosthetic eyes. But she said she connects with him on an emotional and “intuition” level more than she ever will with anybody else.

“He senses my emotions and I don’t have to say anything,” she said. “Just the tone of my voice, he knows.”

Like other boys his age, Hunter goes through phases when it comes to interests. He loves to read and uses a Refreshabraille device to dive into his favorites. He’s currently digging stories about Greek gods, including the Percy Jackson tales, and Harry Potter books. He loves to swim (even though he hasn’t got it quite mastered), loves Lego and even loves school. He has attended the Oklahoma School for the Blind in Muskogee since he was 3.

Hunter, of course, is the reason his mother, who lives in Claremore, commutes to Muskogee to work at Oklahoma School for the Blind. When asked how she feels about him, she said, “He is my world. I have given up a lot in life to make sure he gets the very best, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. He has inspired me to realize that a disability is not what should hold somebody back. They should not be defined by their disability. He can’t see, but he is advancing leaps and bounds. I have continued my college education because of him. I am currently a year and a half from graduating with my teaching degree. So he has been the reason why I do everything I do.”

Any good idea is worth borrowing. Politte borrowed an idea to launch 918 Rocks!

She said Hunter goes to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital every six months for check-up appointments. She couldn’t help but notice painted rocks on the hospital grounds. Web research told her the rocks were part of a venture called 901 Rocks. 901 is an area code in Memphis.

Politte became a participant, painting rocks to leave in Memphis. She and her mother talked about creating a similar group back home. They started 918 Rocks! in mid-September and invited a few friends. They placed rocks at random places —a bus stop, a gas station, a grocery store — for others to find.

“We just kind of played around with it,” Politte said. “It wasn’t anything we put a whole lot of time and effort into.”

Over time, all of Green Country became a staging ground for a painted rock version of an Easter egg hunt. Group members use the 918 Rocks! Facebook page to post photos of rocks they will distribute and clues about where to find them. Photos also are posted when rocks are discovered.

Besides rocks, what are group members spreading? Said Politte: “Smiles. Happiness. Joy.”
Excerpts of recent posts:

Pamela Shanholtzer-Robertson: “Had a really rough day today and then ... found my first rock. Just what I needed!”

Summer Dawn: “Found my very first rock tonight, hidden in a flower pot at Crossroads Church in Beggs. The strawberry rock is adorable!!”

Tiffany Contreras: “Found this at Indian Resource Center in #Tulsa. There was another beauty next to it.” Contreras said she didn’t take the other rock because she didn’t want to be greedy.

Politte said a goal of 918 Rocks! is to encourage families to spend time together by painting rocks, stashing rocks or searching for rocks.

“Let’s get off the phone,” she said. “Let’s not be so wrapped up in our social media and being stuck in our electronics. This encourages you to look around. Notice your surroundings. You may be walking into a gas station, and, if you’re not paying attention, there could be a rock right there in front of you.”

Politte said people are free to keep rocks they find or to “re-hide” them.

“The only stipulation is don’t put them inside a store that sells merchandise because it does look like you are shoplifting,” she said. “We try to discourage that. We also want people to, if they are going to place them inside of a business, ask permission for that first.”

Politte is pleasantly surprised that 918 Rocks! has mushroomed. She said membership in the group was 5,000 a couple of weeks ago. Considering the rapid escalation, count on that figure to soon double.

“I never would have imagined it turning into something like this,” she said, adding that she wants 918 Rocks! to get as big as it can.

“I don’t want it to be something that’s just a fad. I want it to continue.”

Politte spurred growth by adding Facebook friends to the group and by planting plenty of seeds. She said she has placed hundreds of rocks on 918 turf. Hunter chips in to help, using his imagination to, for instance, paint characters from books on rocks to be hidden.

“Seeing him every day and the things he does, it lets me know that I have done something right,” she said.

“There is nothing worse than having to see your child go through what he has gone through, and we still wake up every day and we have a smile on our face because he is here and he is doing great.”

Said Politte: “Something tragic has turned into something amazing.”

People

BY STAFF REPORTS
05/24/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Four Cherokee Nation employees recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute held in Fort Worth, Texas. Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley, Career Services Special Projects Officer Hunter Palmer, Commerce Entrepreneur Development Manager Stephen Highers and Jobs Business Development Coordinator Travis Gulley graduated on May 3. OU EDI is a 117-hour certificate program that provides advanced education for economic development professionals. “I’m excited that the Cherokee Nation now has four new graduates from the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute,” Kelley said. “This is a prestigious program, and the knowledge and training we received will improve many of the services we provide to tribal citizens and businesses.” OU EDI classes focus on business retention and expansion, real estate and credit analysis, as well as areas of concentration in marketing, strategic planning, entrepreneurship and managing economic development organizations. Students typically take one to two years to complete the program through a series of in-person seminars, workshops and discussion groups. “OU EDI is the premier organization dedicated to training economic development professionals,” Mary Ann Moon, dean, said. “These graduates represent some of the finest economic development practitioners in the U.S. working to support their local communities. My congratulations to them.” OU EDI began in 1962 and is celebrating its 56th year of service to the economic development community. Fully accredited by the International Economic Development Council, the program has trained more than 5,000 graduates and remains the world’s leading economic development teacher.
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
05/22/2018 08:45 AM
KALGOORLIE, Western Australia – From Europe to Western Australia, Cherokee Nation citizen Jeylyn Sharpe is making a name for himself overseas as a professional basketball player. “I get to continue to play the sport I love, get paid for it and see the world,” Sharpe said. “If I didn’t take the opportunity then I would never get that chance again and probably regret not doing it.” The 6-foot-5-inch standout from Ketchum, Oklahoma, said he didn’t seriously consider playing professionally until after his senior season at Rogers State University, where he accumulated 1,125 career points and was named the 2017 Heartland Conference Player of the Year. Emails and Facebook messages from agents overseas wanting to represent him eventually led Sharpe to signing a professional contract in 2017 with BBC Grengewald Hueschtert of the Nationale 2 League in Niederanven, Luxembourg. With help from an RSU assistant coach, the transition from collegiate to professional play was seamless. “After my senior season in college, he put me through a lot of workouts to get me prepared,” Sharpe said. “The pace of play at the next level is faster. The shot clock time is shorter. You always hear ‘Europeans are very fundamental’ and you don’t really get an understanding of that until you play there. We were doing drills I use to do in elementary school. That’s how we would start our workouts and work our way up to the more difficult things.” Sharpe also gave a “special thank you” to the same coach for fostering a connection with Australia after his season in Europe ended. Listed as a guard and forward, Sharpe is one of three Americans playing for the Goldfields Giants, a professional club in the State Basketball League of Western Australia. “I am very fortunate to be at a place that feels like a big family, all the way from the owner down to the water boy,” he said. “The owner, GM (general manager) and coaches have all had us over at their house multiple times for dinner or just to relax and hang out. My teammates are great. I have never once questioned their effort on the court.” Though struggling in the win column, Sharpe said he’s confident in the team’s direction. “Our games have been a fight all the way to the end. Sadly the win and loss column doesn’t show that,” he said. “But we are a team that has stuck together the whole time and never pointed fingers at one another. By the end of this we hope to be a playoff team and keep playing into September, hopefully being a championship contender.” As for the style of play overseas, Sharpe said there are differences. “In college, we had a lot of set plays and quick hitter offenses to score, but out in Australia and Luxembourg we just have different type of motion offenses and they let us play out of it. They know we are good smart players and they expect us to make the correct decision.” Sharpe recorded one of his best games against the Mandurah Magic on May 12, accounting for 38 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and five steals as the team won 105-104. He is also the only Giant named to the 2018 SBL All-Star Games to be held June 4-5 in Mount Claremont. When asked what he brings to the team, Sharpe said his energy and basketball IQ. “In college I played a little bit of guard some times and a little bit of a post. I would also have to guard posts and guards in college, so I can do the same at this level. I try to be the guy that you can put anywhere on the court and you can have confidence that I will get the job you are asking done.” Sharpe’s dedication and leadership have not gone unnoticed by coaches and teammates, who voted him vice captain after arriving in February. “I was honored that they picked me as vice captain after only being there a few weeks. I think that they saw the knowledge and leadership I bring to the table. You don’t have to be a leader with just your voice. You can set the example by your actions, and I think the team saw me do that day in and day out.” Playing overseas has also allowed Sharpe to take the Cherokee culture to that part of the world. “It is cool to be able to tell them that I am Native American and that I am Cherokee,” he said. “I get to show them some pictures of my ancestors, and I know a little bit of Cherokee language, so I am able to show them what that sounds like. It’s great to get an opportunity to show other young Native Americans that goals are achievable if you work hard enough.” As for the future, Sharpe said he’s “going with the flow.” “I have been going with the flow lately, just letting this basketball take me around the world,” he said. “I would really like to play in China and Dubai before I am done playing. After this season I will be spending some quality time at home with family and friends. I really do enjoy it out here and can see myself coming back for another season.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/17/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen and employee Stephen Highers on May 3 graduated from the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute. “Having graduated from the OU EDI program, I can now set for the test to become a Certified Economic Developer through the International Economic Development Council,” CN Entrepreneur Development Manager Stephen Highers said. According to the IEDC website, it’s a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization serving economic developers. It also states that with more than 5,000 members, the IEDC is the largest organization of its kind. “Economic developers promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities, by creating, retaining and expanding jobs that facilitate growth, enhance wealth and provide a stable tax base,” the site states. “From public to private, rural to urban and local to international, IEDC’s members are engaged in the full range of economic development experience.” Highers, who also serves as a Tahlequah city councilor, said he was excited to bring back knowledge he gained at the OU EDI to Tahlequah. “Economic development is not easy, especially if you don’t understand the data and process by which to make informed, sound decision. Through my coursework and training at the OU EDI, I’m able to bring back to Tahlequah concrete ideas and solutions that will enhance our future growth in a healthy, competitive, and objective manner,” he said. Highers said the program is a two-year program, and he has plans to become certified in the winter of 2019. For more information, visit <a href="https://pacs.ou.edu/edi/about/" target="_blank">https://pacs.ou.edu/edi/about/</a>.
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
05/17/2018 01:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Family, friends and community members gathered on May 11 at the Cherokee Casino Tahlequah grounds for a surprise ceremony for 9-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen Grant York. York suffers from several health conditions, including mitochondrial mutation. His mother, Kasie Mendenhall, said with mitochondrial mutation he is unable to absorb nutrients and hasn’t been able to eat solid food since he was 3 years old. In April, he was admitted to Physicians Choice Hospice. “The last two years have been hard on him. He has spent most of all of it in the hospital,” Mendenhall said. “Physicians Choice Hospice has allowed Grant to have his pain adequately controlled and for him to remain home and not in the hospital.” Caring for their patients is not the only thing PCH nurses do. They also grant wishes – Butterfly Wishes. York’s wish was to go to the “Dixie Stampede” in Branson, Missouri, and through the Butterfly Wishes program he and his family received an all-expense paid trip for him to fulfill that wish. However, before York and his family left for Branson, the nurses surprised him with a special ceremony that included York’s class at Keys Elementary School. This was the first time York met his classmates and teacher in person, Mendenhall said. The Tahlequah Police Department also joined the ceremony making York their first junior officer, and he even took the official TPD oath. He was also presented a certificate, T-shirt and badge. “Grant loves police and now he is a real police officer,” Mendenhall said. After a photo shoot for the family, the TPD gave York a police escort out of town. Once they reached Branson, the Branson police, fire department and Missouri Highway Patrol were waiting to escort him into town. Mendenhall said she was thankful for the community’s support her son and family received. “Seeing our entire community come together to support Grant and our family leaves me speechless. Without the support of the community things like this wouldn’t be possible,” she said.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
05/17/2018 08:15 AM
BROKEN ARROW – An old Vaudevillian joke goes something like this: “She shall now hang upside down while juggling pianos...on horseback.” Adding a horse to an impossible task makes the joke funnier and even more impossible. That is, unless you’re 10-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen Sophie Duch. Take away the pianos and that’s exactly what she does as a professional trick rider at rodeos. On May 11-12, Sophie and her trusted horse, Jesse, took their act to Broken Arrow for the 2018 Rooster Days Festival and Rodeo. Born and raised in Stilwell, Sophie’s love for western trick riding began when her parents took her to a rodeo in 2011 where the All-American Cowgirl Chicks trick riding team performed. “I knew we were in trouble the moment Sophie saw the Chicks perform. She was only 3 years old but latched onto the fence and watched their every move,” said her mother and CN citizen Shawna Duch. “After the rodeo, Sophie had to meet each one of them. I could tell even then she was hooked.” Sophie has received much help learning her craft during her young life, including from her first coach, CN-sponsored professional trick rider Haley Ganzel. “There’s a lot of people around here to help you,” Sophie said. “They’ll even loan you a horse if you need one.” This has never been a problem for Sophie. The other half of Sophie’s team, Jessie’s Girl, is a good-natured bay mare and has been with her since she fell in love with trick riding. “She (Jessie’s Girl) just kind of took to it,” Sophie’s father Troop Duch said. “She’s a natural show-off. She really shines once she gets in the arena.” Having a well-trained horse is key to the success and safety of the trick rider because many of the most difficult and dangerous tricks are performed with little or no control of the horse’s reins. Sweeping and precise ovals of the arena must be completed at the right speed to be successful. For safety’s sake, tricks are performed from the inside or left as the horse runs counter clockwise, thus keeping the horse between the acrobatic rider and the arena’s fence line. At the Rooster Days Rodeo, Sophie performed not only as entertainer, but she also carried the American flag into the arena for the national anthem. In her act Sophie performed three tricks and demonstrated twice during Jessie’s giant loop giving spectators on both sides of the arena a look. On the second night of the rodeo, Sophie performed her mounted shooting act, in which she shoots targets while on horseback. For more information, call 918-696-1648 or 918-696-1648 or email <a href="mailto: Shawnaduch@gmail.com">Shawnaduch@gmail.com</a>. ??
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
05/14/2018 08:00 AM
PRESCOTT, Ariz. – With more than 30 years of experience in public service, Cherokee Nation citizen Dale Deiter was recently selected as forest supervisor of the Prescott National Forest. Growing up in Arizona, Deiter said he developed a love for public service from his father, who served as a district ranger in Arizona and New Mexico. In 1983, Dieter began his career in the U.S. Forest Service, first as a volunteer and then as a wild land firefighter for the Gila National Forest in New Mexico for three summers and one summer for the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Jackson, Wyoming. During that time he also attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and a later a master’s degree in forestry. After college, Deiter landed a job as a pre-sale forester and then a hydrologist for the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. The hydrologist job took him to the Fishlake National Forest in Richfield, Utah, where he spent more than seven years in that position dealing with watershed management and restoration. In 2007, he went back to Wyoming where he served as the district ranger for Bridger-Teton National Forest, a position he held prior to his promotion as forest supervisor with Prescott National Forest. With a long resume under his belt, Dieter said the best part of having a career in the Forest Service is “leaving a legacy for public lands.” “The (national) forests are a place where people can go to have fun, so knowing you’re part of making that happen is very rewarding,” he said. Deiter said during his time with the Forest Service he’s traveled extensively throughout the western United States, even into Quebec, Canada, fighting fires. He said it’s “neat” to be able to work in places where a lot of people go for vacation. “You get the opportunity to fly the national forest either in a helicopter or a plane or on horseback or by snowmobile into the back country or even hiking as well. You just get see a lot of unique lands in a lot of places that people don’t tread,” he said. In his new role as forest supervisor, his job is to help with the oversight of the management of PNF’s 1.25 million acres of public land located across north central Arizona. He said the biggest challenge for him is adapting to challenging conditions facing climate change. “Even in my career, fire season has gotten longer and fires have gotten bigger, and we are seeing its impact even in terms as snowpack and spring flow and that then presents a lot of challenges in long-term-sustaining management of national forests,” he said. Deiter said he’s happy to be in his new position with PNF and plans to finish out his career there. “I am planning to spend quite a bit of time there. There are a lot of challenges to deal with there, and it’s a really neat forest with great people, and so I will finish out my career there,” he said.