Ashland Middle School Students Receive Grant From Marathon

Ashland Middle School Students Receive Grant From Marathon

Lisa Patrick

The Ashland Beacon

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        Ashland Middle School’s STEM classes have done a lot of great things in the past few years, and they have big plans this year too. Marathon recently made it a little easier for them to pull off some of those plans by presenting them with a check for $15,000.

        On Oct. 11, Sheila Fraley and Ben Tibbetts from Marathon came to Ashland Middle School to present the check to Principal Rebecca Howell, teachers Mark Harmon and David Sparks, and a group of students from the STEM classes. The check is from a STEM grant that Marathon presents to local schools. Marathon has been involved with Ashland Middle School’s STEM program for several years and has also helped them “develop some of the projects that they’ve put on in their competitions,” remarked Fraley.


        Marathon “focuses on education, thriving communities, and, in this case, workforce development,” said Fraley, “because someday these great kids will come and work for Marathon.” Fraley said that when Ben Tibbitts brought the students’ plans to the committee at Marathon, they looked at it, and, knowing “the results they’ve had in the past,” we all “really felt like it was something that we should support.”

        STEM teacher David Sparks remarked the “STEM program at Ashland Middle School is pretty large and vast.” They cover 3D printing, computer science, space science, electricity, electronics, game design, and “you name it, we do it in some way, shape, form or fashion.” But, what AMS really tries to “focus on with our classes is problem-solving and community outreach.” Sparks stated that “the things that our kids learn through doing community outreach projects” are things that “they’re not going to get just sitting in a classroom. The only way for students to get these skills is by getting out there and utilizing the skills that you learn.” Sparks also mentioned, “These are also skills that are sought after by employers.”

        12-year-old seventh grader, Sebastian Tibbetts, is excited to be able to use some of the equipment that the grant is going to pay for such as a new 3D printer. Sebastian said there is a program that sends out “subscription boxes for kids who are interested in engineering, but some kids can’t afford them.” He and another student in the STEM program are going to “make one of those boxes.” Sebastian commented that the box “will be kind of cheaper but will still have the same quality of materials.” With the help of the STEM grant from Marathon, he hopes that they can get even more materials to go in the box. He said the 3D printer that the classroom will be getting “will help us with making some of the parts.” What Sebastian likes most about the STEM program is being able to present the project and show the judges all of the details. He hopes some of the projects he has helped with will get other kids involved and thinking, “Hey, maybe that could be me” because he hopes to get kids “more involved in the engineering process.”

        Sparks stated, “We pride ourselves in being able to offer our kids many different outlets” and with the way “the cost of everything has gone through the roof, we seek any and all things that we can get to better our program for our kids.”

Nurse Honor Guard of the River Cities Honor the Lives of Fallen Nurses

Nurse Honor Guard of the River Cities

Honor the Lives of Fallen Nurses

Sasha Bush

The Ashland Beacon

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   “Nursing is a calling, a way of life. Nursing is a service, a profession that cannot be lived in isolation. Nurses rely on one another for the synergistic effect of teamwork in our efforts of care giving. It is appropriately deemed that we honor our colleagues… not only during their career, but also at the end of their life’s journey.” Members of the Nurse Honor Guard of the River Cities hold those words near and dear to their hearts. It is what is known as the “Nightingale Tribute.”

   The Nurse Honor Guard of the River Cities are what you might call the unsung heroes of our community. Many do not even know that such a group exist yet the work that they do is unmatched by anyone and appreciated by all. Members of the Nurse Honor Guard work together to recognize both men and women that have dedicated their professional lives to nursing.


   Members will gather and attend the funeral or memorial services of fallen nurses at the family’s request. Showing up wearing their traditional white uniforms, they stand guard at the casket or urn during visitation as a way of honoring a fallen nurse. Their goal is to be able to provide comfort to the family/loved ones by honoring the duty and sacrifice that was made by their loved one who unselfishly dedicated their lives for the care of others.

   The Nurse Honor Guard of the River Cities was founded by a group of just six nurses on September 26, 2019. Since that date they have grown to a group of 11 board members and 43 regular members. The Nurse Honor Guard of the River Cities has paid tribute to 189 fallen nurses. Dorothy Spillman, one of the founding six, shared, “We have had family members express what an honor it is to have us at their loved one’s funeral or visitation services. However, it is an honor for us to be able to honor their loved ones. We receive such a blessing with every service we attend.”

   On October 14, 2023, the Nurse Honor Guard of the River Cities held its annual pinning ceremony and on that day 21 members received what they consider to be one of the greatest honors that they can achieve. “We are here to honor you… the nurses that have made difference in the lives of others through your work and dedication that you made in the Nurse Honor Guard. We are here to give thanks for all of your hard work for helping with our many fundraising efforts.” Explained Spillman.

   Ann Wiseman, Bobbie Meade, Carolyn Bailey, Carolyn Ross, Cathie Whitt, Charlotte Gullett, Cristina Garred, Debby Fosson, Dianna Charles, Joyce Salyers, Laura Dakes, Liz Spurlock, MaDonna Bryant, Marty Vanetter, Patty Gleichauf, Renee Dingus, Sandra Hieneman, Sue Schnider, Staci King, Toni Neal, and Wilma Virgin were all blessed to have this honor bestowed up on them.

   “Being part of this group has been my passion ever since it was formed. It has absolutely been a blessing to be able to do this. No one knows how hard a nurse works or what they go through except another nurse. We are so fortunate to be able to bring a little bit of comfort to the family during their time of need and to honor their loved one.” Noted Spillman.

Joyce Sorrell:  More Than Just a Survivor

Joyce Sorrell:  More Than Just a Survivor

Lora Parsons

The Ashland Beacon 


When I think about my Mamaw Sorrell, lots of things come to mind, but “cancer survivor” isn’t near the top of the list.  She was diagnosed in 1985, had a single mastectomy that same year, had a muscle-flap reconstruction in 1987, and has been cancer-free for nearly 38 years now.  While I don’t want to minimize the physical and emotional strain she endured during those years, I also know that she’s more than just that diagnosis.  Her life post-cancer proves it.  Allow me to introduce all the parts of my Mamaw Sorrell, not just the breast cancer survivor.


Mamaw was born in 1933 to Thomas and Lula Allen in Ashland, KY.  She and her brother, Homer, and sister, Juanita, grew up here in the area.  Mamaw married Charles Sorrell in 1950, and together they had three children:  Tom, Connie (Burns), and Janet (Cross).  They currently have six grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, and six great-great-grandchildren.  Mamaw worked at Garden Motor Court, Cinderella Fashions, Eagles Five & Dime, Hills Department Store, First Federal Savings and Loan, as a caregiver for her grandchildren, and ended her working years at Kentucky Farmers Bank.  It was while working at KFB that she was diagnosed.  A routine mammogram ordered by Dr. Okey Sanford, in November of 1985, led to the unthinkable, given that she was there only for her annual exam.  Surgery followed on December 6, 1985.  Because the cancer was caught early, she did not have to endure radiation or chemo and has been cancer-free since.  As a reminder, she remarked, “It is so important to go to those yearly exams!  I walked into his office completely healthy.  I had no idea.”

While Mamaw had a lot of jobs and life experiences before I was born, it’s been what I’ve watched since 1975 that paints the picture of who she is to me.  Witnessing her work years at KFB, I still recall thinking as a kid how impressive it was that my grandmother had a professional career in the business world!  These days would also find her going to high school sporting events, where she and Papaw would sit in the stands wearing Boyd County gear.  With six grand-children close in age, there were plenty of BC events to attend.  During these years, there was often a Sunday School quarterly and steno pad with notes laying on the kitchen counter, ready for Sunday morning’s Adult Bible class, which she taught at Meade Station Church of God for more than 30 years.  Etched into my memory are Sunday morning walks to church with our extended family.  I can also easily recall the odd-to-me-then Sunday morning tradition of running the sweeper before church, probably a result of the busy schedule she was keeping at that time, with after-school grandkid events, church work, and the hours she spent cooking and holding a full-time job.  Her life before cancer was richly blessed.

Life post-cancer has been the same.  Vibrance has marked every moment--from the way she’s chosen to live to the way she and her perfectly-silver hair wear the color red.  Mamaw’s life (which has included the unwavering devotion of Papaw) has found her caring for others repeatedly.  She opened her home and assisted my Great-Aunt Ollie at the end of her life and repeated the same with her niece, Debbie Buckley, during her own battle with cancer.  She also cared for her brother, John, until he was unable to continue living at home.  Her caring hands have reached out tenderly to countless family members and friends, allowing many of us to call their basement apartment or the mobile home on their property “home” at different points.  The years post-cancer also saw Mamaw actively involved in women’s mission events at church, using the skills of cooking and teaching, ones she’d perfected over the years.  She served as the church’s Treasurer during those years, was Sunday School Superintendent, and held positions on the Church Council and Pulpit Committee.  Somehow in the midst of the church work and full-time job, she also found time to make middle school formal dance dresses for some of us (one of those dresses being my very favorite ever--a hot pink and black polka-dotted two-piece ensemble, with a quintessential 80s pencil skirt, high-low hem overlay, and huge bow on the front waistline.)  Her hands found a way to make quilts for us when we got married, to crochet delicate doilies that still decorate our tables and Christmas trees, and to teach us along the way to do some of those things ourselves, though never with as much skill as she had.  If that wasn’t enough, she volunteered for the non-profit group called Reach to Recovery, which has been helping women during their breast cancer battle for more than 50 years now.  Through this organization, she was trained to assist other women by attending bra fittings with them or helping them adjust the fit of their clothing post-surgery.  And, the number of times over the years that she’s watched the great- and even great-great grandchildren in her life now--too many to count!  Ethan Parsons, great-grandson says his fondest memories of Mamaw are “anytime you get her laughing.  That’s always fun!”  If you really know her, you know her laugh is one-in-a-million!  I remember all of these things so much more clearly than the cancer diagnosis.

In true let-me-help-you form, Mamaw has a thing or two to say if you’re in the midst of any sort of battle--whether that be one against cancer or something else life has placed in front of you.  She advised, “God loves you and would love to fight that battle with you.”  She’s proven there’s life to live on the other side of what you’re up against.  It’s her faith that sustained her when she was diagnosed, and faith that has endured every other battle since.  The blip that was breast cancer has been dim for more than 38 years now.  She is so much more than just a survivor.  To try to boil Mamaw’s life down to a small article that focuses on her breast cancer recovery would be to paint you a flat, one-sided picture, when the reality of who she is and continues to be is so much more than just any one of these things, least of all a disease that doesn’t come with any measure of grace, beauty, or love.  That’s who my Mamaw Sorrell is.  She is the grace of God on two feet, stretching outward to show Him to the world.  She is beauty in the midst of the storms of life, a resting place for those who’ve needed shelter, food, clothing, wisdom, and care.  And, she is love--faithful to her family, faithful to her God, and faithful to give of herself when others are in need.  Yes, she HAD cancer.  At one point in time.  But, that was not the end of her story.

God is Greater Than the Highs and the Lows: One Woman’s Story of Survival Brings Her Closer to Christ

God is Greater Than the Highs and the Lows:

One Woman’s Story of Survival Brings Her Closer to Christ

Sasha Bush

The Ashland Beacon

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“That will never happen to me.” This is a common phrase we are guilty of either saying or thinking at one time or another in our lives. It can be anything from “I will never lose my job,” “I will never catch Covid” to “I will never get breast cancer because I have no family history of it. “

While knowing your family’s history is always important, we have to realize that we ourselves are not automatically shielded from something such as breast cancer just because no one else in our family has ever been diagnosed. This was the case with one local woman, Stacy Logan Brock. With no prior history of breast cancer within her family, the thought of developing breast cancer would have never really crossed her mind. Brock was going about her life like any other person. It wasn’t until one random day after work that Brock’s world was shaken, her faith tested, and her body felt as if she had been betrayed.


“I had come home from work and went into the laundry room to take off my work clothes and that’s when I felt a lump. It was right on the left side. I of course yelled for my husband (Michael Brock) who is a family doctor to come and check me out.  Of course, he went ‘all doctor’ on me and did an examination. That’s when he looked at me and said, “Yeah, that looks suspicious.”

The next morning Brock called the doctor, and she was quickly scheduled for a mammogram and ultrasound. It didn’t take too long for Brock to hear back about her test results… the verdict… Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.  

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC), also called infiltrating ductal carcinoma, is the most common type of breast cancer. It accounts for about 75% of all breast cancers that are diagnosed. This type of breast cancer is described as a cancer that happens when abnormal cells begin growing in the lining of the milk ducts and then invade the breast tissue beyond the walls of the duct. Once this occurs, the spread of the cancerous cells is more likely. Cancerous cells can find their way into the lymph nodes or bloodstream and then are capable of traveling to the various organs of the body, which leads to metastatic breast cancer.

Brock’s case had been caught early thanks to her awareness of her own body. Early detection can save lives, so it’s always important to know your body and be keenly aware of any unusual or unexpected changes. Brock’s husband, Dr. Michael Brock, shared, “Women need to pay attention to their bodies. Don’t blow things off. Don’t put things off. Don’t take the mindset that it’s never going to happen to me because you have to pay attention to your body.”

Brock was able to undergo a lumpectomy and six weeks of radiation. She has now been cancer-free since April of 2022.  “I’ve been cancer-free for about a year and a half. My family all got tattoos for me.” Brock also got her own tattoo, which is very special to her. “It’s God is greater than the highs and the lows with a breast cancer awareness ribbon made into it,” stated Brock.

“One thing that I tell everybody, and I know that not very many people can say this… but it (being diagnosed and getting treatment) was such a blessing to me. I met people I would have otherwise never met had I not been diagnosed. My faith became so much stronger than it ever was. I just had such a peace knowing that God had me… God had this. I cried the day I got the news, and I cried the day I rang the bell. I just knew that God had me in His hands, and I just needed to put my trust in Him,” Brock explained.

Brock did exactly that… she put her trust in the Lord and found strength and peace that surpassed all understanding throughout her breast cancer journey. From the moment she first found that lump to the moment she got to ring that bell, Brock understood that alone she could do nothing but with Christ at her side, all things were possible.

That day finally came for Brock, and she was able to ring that coveted bell signifying an end… an end to a long hard-fought battle that she won! “When I finally got to ring that bell… it was just so overwhelming. It was such a great feeling. After I rang the bell, we went out to dinner with my family to celebrate. We have made it our mission to be involved with any breast cancer fundraiser that we can,” shared Brock. The one thing that Brock would like for anyone who is facing that same journey is, “You have to stay positive and always have faith and know that God has got you. He will be there with you every step of the way.”  Remember, if God brings you to it, just have a little faith and He will see you through it.

It’s a God Thing

It’s a God Thing

Grace Phillips

The Ashland Beacon

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   Looking back at her experience with breast cancer, Cathy Collins says she can only think of one thing to sum it up….” it’s a God thing.”  Collins journey began in 2006.  She was a mom, grandmother, wife, and daughter.  She had begun painting as a hobby, was raising a granddaughter who was a toddler at the time and singing with the Gospel Tide.  It was a very busy yet rewarding life that was about to take a turn no one saw coming. 

   Collins had always been very adamant about getting her yearly mammogram and this year was no different.  She received a call soon after from her doctor’s office that something suspicious had been found.  The plan of action was to wait for 6 months and do a repeat. 

   It was difficult waiting for the six months to pass but at the same time Collins was sure it was nothing.   The day finally came, and Collins went to have the second mammogram…. this is where the “God thing” started.   When the mammogram was done, she discovered they had checked the WRONG breast.   It may have been a mistake; however, it was a mistake that possibly saved her life.  There it was on the films, a small mass that had not been there 6 months earlier. 

   “I received a phone call and was told I would need a biopsy which was scheduled and done rather quickly.  They said it would take about 10 days to get the results back.” recalled Collins.  By this time, it was early September 2006. 

   The National Quartet Convention was held in Louisville, KY during the third week of September each year.    The Gospel Tide had a booth space as a part of the convention to promote their ministry.  They also sang during a promoter’s showcase that allowed radio and concert promoters to meet groups as well as hear them perform live.  Collins traveled with the other group members, Larry, and Ellen Keaton, to Louisville for the week.

   “I knew I was going to have to call the doctor during the week for my results.  The National Quartet Convention was always a crazy, fun, and busy week.” Collins went on to add, “It was Wednesday, and we needed a few things from Walmart.  I sat down on the bench outside the door and Ellen went into Walmart to shop.  I remember thinking…I need to make this call, but I really don’t want to…but I’m sure everything is OK.   I called the office and the nurse said they had been trying to reach me with the biopsy results….it was malignant.   It was like everything was a blur for a while…. almost like I was watching what was happening.  All at once I felt as if everything just drained out of me. I just thought I have to tell someone and went in to find Ellen.”

   Ellen Keaton shared that this is one of the times she will never forget.  “Cathy walked down the aisle where I was, and she didn’t have to say a word.  There was this blank look on her face, she was trying to tell me but just couldn’t get the words out.  This was a lady that was as close to me as my own sister.  We traveled and sang nearly every weekend together for almost ten years.  I had no idea how to help her at this point. I just remember trying really hard not to cry.  I knew if I started, we would both cry.  I do remember asking her if she wanted me to take her home.”

   Surprisingly she said, “no.”  Collins noted that, “This was very strange for me. I almost couldn’t believe I said it.  The doctor wanted me to come in right away for the surgery, but I just felt like there was something there for me and if I went home, I would miss out on it.” 

   That night at the convention center, Collins shared her diagnosis with a few very close friends and each one prayed with her.  The group was scheduled to sing the next morning at a promoter’s showcase.  Doug Collins, Cathy’s husband arrived later that night to be with her. 

  The next morning the group sang at the Patterson Promotions showcase.  After they had finished singing, Pauline Patterson told the group that was gathered there about the news Cathy had received.   She asked everyone to gather around and have prayer ….and that is exactly what they did. 

   Collins recalls, “I was blown away by the outpouring of love I felt.  Not only at the showcase but somehow word had made it to several other groups there that we had sung with, and they were stopping by our booth to ask if they could pray for me also.   I can’t explain it. I should have been in a panic but there was just such peace all around me.” 

   Once back home a lumpectomy was done, and the results showed an aggressive ductile carcinoma.   “This was not a hormone related cancer, so medication was not an open.  I could have taken chemo or radiation. But doing both there was a greater percentage that it would not return. So, I opted for both” Collins shared.  She had eight weeks of chemo followed by 32 radiation treatments. 

   It has now been 17 years since that day in Louisville when Collins heard the word “malignant”.  Her granddaughter is now grown with a toddler of her own.  She has become an amazing artist and has sold several paintings.  She says she looks at things very different since then. “I think everyone should enjoy life every day.  You never know when your life will end.  I think of God in everything.  It was so funny the first time I was going to get on a plane.  I was really nervous and then I realized that if God can get me through cancer, then he can keep me safe on this plane.”  Cathy urges everyone to have their yearly mammogram.  Who knows…. you may have “a God thing” in your life also.