Embracing Change The Harpers Make Each Day Count

Embracing Change

The Harpers Make Each Day Count

Deidra Bowling-Meade

The Ashland Beacon

cale family

   Most days were spent working–the wife an RN, the husband a pipe welder.  They loved spending time together as a family.  The loving couple with their adorable 18-month-old son were enjoying a beautiful spring day.  The wife was fixing dinner for the family while the father and son took a ride on the four-wheeler.  Meet Cale, Becca, and Rowe Harper, whose lives changed forever on May 6, 2021. 

 

  Becca described Cale as having “an amazing sense of humor and always quick to crack a joke.  He loved fishing, hunting, or anything that had to do with the outdoors.  He could fix anything and was the go-to person in the family to do any handyman work.”  The Cale she knew was gone that spring day.  Becca recalled the tragedy, “I found the four-wheeler on top of my then 18-month-old, Rowe, and Cale was face down on the road unresponsive. Cale had an obvious head injury and was bleeding. They were both life-flighted to Cabell from Greenup to receive trauma treatment.  Rowe was taken to emergent surgery to suture up his head and clean it out.  He was in the hospital for two days and was lucky enough to not have any kind of head injury other than cosmetic.  Cale was unresponsive. His prognosis was poor, and I was prepared for the worst by doctors on his treatment team. Cale was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma (brain bleed) and a traumatic brain injury. He was rushed for an emergent craniotomy where they removed part of his skull to help the brain have room to swell.”  

   Becca made posts on Facebook pleading with the community to pray for Cale.  She could be seen holding Cale’s hand and praying over him for God’s will to be done and Cale to be healed.  Each day brought different fears, doubts, and heartaches.  Becca continued to have faith.

   “If I were not there to advocate for Cale while he was in the hospital, I do not think he would be doing as well as he is now. The doctors did not think I was being reasonable, and they thought Cale was going to die. I pushed for Cale. Not everyone has the medical background I do, and they do not know what to ask for. My advice to you is to find someone who does have that background and ask for their impartial advice. Don’t take no for an answer if you aren’t comfortable, and do not let the doctors bully you into making a decision you are not comfortable with.”

   Becca described the days that followed the accident:  “Cale was in the ICU for 30 days where he was on a ventilator and eventually a tracheostomy to help prevent pneumonia. He was fed through a PEG tube and was kept sedated until day 21 when he eventually was weaned off the sedation and given a chance to wake up. He started to respond to commands and was taken off the ventilator. On day 30, the skull was put back and Cale was moved to a regular med-surg floor. We waited another 30 days until he was eventually accepted at Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago for inpatient neuro rehab. He was there for over two months getting aggressive treatment to try and help him be as independent as possible at home.”

   The Harper family had to embrace a whole new lifestyle.  Their life could never go back to the way it was prior to the accident; however, it didn’t mean that they had to quit living. Having a support system to encourage and help also made the situation more manageable.

   Becca commented, “I have a lot of family and friends who go above and beyond the call of duty to help me. We moved in with my mom, and she helps me a ton raising my son and with Cale while I work. I also have an in-home sitter named Jessi who was sent to us by God himself. She loves Cale and takes him to therapy appointments when I work and takes care of Rowe while my mom and I are at work. The outpouring of love I received from the community when the accident happened is unexplainable. You do not understand how good complete strangers are until something unfathomable happens to you or your family. The people in our small town are good, and they are going to be there when help is needed, I can promise you that.”

   Becca and her family learned so much about traumatic brain injuries from the experience.  Becca explained, “First and foremost, I learned that the brain is an amazing thing, and no doctor or specialist can tell you what is going to happen 100% for certain when your loved one suffers from this injury. Cale’s injury was severe. I was told he would probably never walk, talk, or live a normal life. I was told by doctors that he would most likely live in a long-term nursing home on a ventilator. Obviously, that is not how his story turned out.  I think the most important thing is for people to start asking questions if they have them. People with TBIs are everywhere even if you cannot physically see them. Cale looks normal but if you had a conversation with him, you would soon realize something is a little “off” and that’s okay. He’s not dangerous. He is loving and kind. His memory just isn’t all there.  Cale is doing everything that I was told he would probably never do.” 

   Cale’s story is a miracle! He is doing well physically. He can walk, talk, eat, and do his own basic care. He does struggle with short-term memory, but that is getting better. Cale still cannot be left alone due to his impulse issues and memory. He goes to outpatient therapy a couple of times a week where they work on his memory and his right hand, which is weak due to nerve damage caused by the wreck.  Becca sees glimpses of the “old Cale” as he continues to be happy and jokes with everyone.  Cale also loves his son Rowe; they are best friends.  The accident didn’t ruin their relationship and love as a family.

   Becca is an advocate for traumatic brain injuries and wants to encourage the community to learn more: “Do not judge a book by its cover and ask questions. A traumatic brain injury does not have to be a death sentence. I don’t know if my husband will ever be the same as he was before the accident, but we are adapting to a new normal and he deserves love and acceptance just as everyone else does. I encourage you to do your own research on TBIs. You may be surprised at what these people had to go through just to stay alive and live normally.”

   We honor the Harper family this March for Brain Injury Awareness Month.  Your family is an inspiration as you continue to embrace change and make each day count.  Thank you for sharing your story. 

Celebrating a Lifetime Tomcat Herb Conley is an Ashland Icon

Celebrating a Lifetime Tomcat

Herb Conley is an Ashland Icon

Sasha Bush

Ashland Beacon

Sasha Coach Article

The man… the myth… the legend! Growing up in the early 1950’s Herb Conley got to witness some of the Tomcats’ most talented football teams in action. One might say that Conley had the pleasure of watching history being made. Little did he know then that he would become part of the Tomcats’ history more so than any other coach in Ashland’s history. His passion for the game of football is what fueled his drive as a coach. Conley dipped his toes into the world of football as a sophomore at Ashland in 1956 and played all three years of high school. He ended his football career with an undefeated season in 1958. Conley also had the pleasure of being an All-State football player, an honor reserved for the best of the best.

 

The lessons that young Conley learned those three years he took the field himself would stay with him a lifetime and is ultimately what helped to shape the foundations of his coaching career. As a coach, Conley is known for having the uncanny ability to will anyone into becoming the best version of themselves both on and off the field. Conley’s coaching career first began in 1966 when he was hired as an assistant coach for the Ashland Tomcats alongside Jake Hallum. In 1967, Conley along with fellow coaching staff had an amazing run and took home the state championship. It wasn’t until 1968 that Conley joined the Tomcats as the new head coach. Conley held the position of the Tomcats’ head coach from 1968-1976. During that time, Conley helped lead the Ashland Tomcats to the 1973 State Runners-up finish and the Class 4-A State-at-Large Championship in 1975. Conley would go on to inspire Ashland’s youth for many years to come. Conley has been both an educator and administrator for the Ashland Independent School System over the years. The impact that he made within the classroom was equally impressive as his coaching career. Coach Conley is truly a jack of all trades.

Conley’s method of coaching was unmatched by anyone as was his approach to being an educator. With Coach Conley, there was no “monkey business” inside the classroom or on the field. His style of teaching, serving the school in an administration capacity, and style of coaching were all described as strict and unrelenting. To be coached by Conley meant that you were to be coached by greatness. With such a rich and impactful history with the city of Ashland, it’s no wonder Coach Conley has a statue that adorns the entrance of Putnum Stadium. On Sunday, March 12, 2023, the Blazer campus hosted a reception in honor of Coach Conley who will be moving to Lexington to be closer to his family. Hundreds of current and former coaches, ball players, students, friends, and family gathered at the Anderson Gymnasium to pay homage to Mr. Tomcat himself.

Our esteemed Mayor, Matt Perkins was also present and presented Coach Conley with a key to our beloved city. “Coach you have left a lasting legacy that we will always be grateful for. I think of all the wins and championships that you had on the field but to me the greatest impact you had was in the classroom. (Perkins looked toward the crowd and stated) He was an educator, and he busted my butt more than once. (Voices from the crowd started yelling out ‘MINE TOO’… Perkins looked back at Conley.) Coach on behalf of the City Commission, we want you to know that yes you are moving away, but you will always have a way home with a key to our city.”

Coach Conley was truly surprised by Mayor Perkins’ kind words and to have received the key to a city that he loves so much. Conley’s face radiated with joy and surprise as tears began to fill his eyes. Conley shared with us, “I really appreciate everyone doing this for me. I feel like everyone always overdoes these things (celebrations) and that there are a lot of other more deserving people than myself. But, I am really thankful for all that everyone has done to make this happen. I have a lot of great memories of coaching and a few not so good ones.”  Conley recalled the time that the team had lost a big game and stated, “I thought they were going run me out of town, but they didn’t and gave me a chance. They treated me better than I deserved. I was fortunate enough to be blessed with some great players, great kids, and a great community. Without those things, I would have never made it and for that I am grateful.”

One thing is for sure and that is Coach, Educator, and Administrator, Herb Conley has truly embodied what it means to be “Ashland’s Icon.” Coach Conley has inspired so many and taught us all that success isn’t about what you can accomplish in life. Success is about what you inspire others to become. Coach Conley will go down in the history books as one of the most prolific and inspiring coaches of all time. The city of Ashland thanks you for all that you have done to help make this area so great and its people couldn’t agree more. Look at just a few of the many people Coach Conley has made an everlasting impact:

“I played a couple of years during my sophomore and junior year on the JAWS team, which was coached by Herb. He really made a man out of us. With the devaluation of men today, it is because of the teaching of Coach Conley that I am the man I am today.”- Dwain Porter


“My fondest memory of being coached by Coach Conley… well that’s easy… the entire time I was here at Ashland. Every practice, every game, every chance I got to be around him. He is just a great person.”– Ray Hicks


“Being coached by Coach Conley was one of the hardest and greatest times in my life. At the time, I didn’t think Marine bootcamp could be as hard as what Coach put us through. But, I would do it all again. Coach Conley was fantastic. He knew how to bring the best out of us. He worked us hard, and it paid off. We won the State Championship in 1967, which was the first ever. I’ve told him before that what you put us through back then would get you thrown in jail in today’s time. It was hard-nosed football, and nobody did it better than him (Coach Conley).”- Smokey Ingram

“He has changed so many lives of people thru the years. He is one of a kind. His leadership was just one of a kind.” -Yancy Ramey

“I remember when he was principal at Putnum, I was in the 7th grade and walked by him and I blurted out his first name. I said, “Herb,” and he just looked at me. Next thing I knew I was out in the hallway getting the paddle. I still feel the sting of that paddle even today, but I still love him. He is just a wonderful person, such a good Christian man.” Donna Suttle 

“When I first came into Ashland, Coach Conley really helped me and invited me to be the assistant coach at the middle school. He was so good at what he did. He was fair. He was tough. He was just one of the best.”- Frank Sloan

Reunited and It Feels So Good: Local Soldier Returns Home from Deployment

Reunited and It Feels So Good: Local Soldier Returns Home from Deployment

Sasha Bush

Ashland Beacon

Seals 1

There is nothing more satisfying than to witness the face of a child light up with pure joy and excitement. For three young children, March 9, 2023, brought an abundance of both. Specialist Damien Seals of the United States Army has been deployed since Sept. 11, 2022. Being away from his children, Ava- age three, Aiden- age five, and Alexander-age seven and his devoted wife Courtney for 179 days has been one of the hardest things this family has had to endure. Courtney Seals, wife of Specialist Damien Seals, shared that her husband joined the Army in November 2022 and was supposed to have been deployed until June/July of this year but due to some health concerns of her own, Specialist Seals was able to return home a little sooner than originally planned. Mrs. Seals stated, "Now that my husband is home, I am most looking forward to us being a family again and purchasing our first home together so that everyone has their own space to be themselves."

After being reunited with his wife, it was time to go to each of his children's schools and surprise them. It was a moment that Specialist Seals has looked forward to for many months. The first stop was their oldest son Alexander's school. Waiting in the front office of Summit Elementary School, Specialist Seals hid while his son walked through the door and his wife said, "I have a surprise for you!" It was at that moment that Alexander's face became overrun with a flood of emotions. The young 7-year-old took off running to the warm embrace of his father's arms and the tears began to flow. It was truly a moment full of pure raw emotion and a demonstration of just how strong love can be between a father and a son. Mrs. Seals stated, "the love he (Alexander) has for his father is simply unreal, and he has taken his absence during this deployment the hardest."

The next stop was Boyd County's Early Childhood Learning Center to surprise Ava and Aiden. While waiting for his children to come out of the gym, Specialist Seals shared that being back was "so relieving. Something that could not be put into words. I just feel like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Being back with my family has been on my mind constantly since leaving. I am just so excited to be back and to be standing here in this spot." Specialist Seals went on to add, "I am just ready to get back to normal and to be able to love my family. It's been really hard to not be around them."

As Specialist Seals waited for his children to come out of the gym doors, you could just feel his excitement and the excitement of all those present to celebrate this tender touching moment with him and his family. As the doors swung open, it was Ava who first saw her daddy and took off running with her brother Aiden not far behind. Ava squealed with excitement as she ran to her father, "DADDY!!! I LOVES YOU, DADDY!!!" Specialist Seals scooped both his children into his arms for the first time since Sept. 11, 2022. The children were simply elated with the return of their father. Little Ava then ran to her mother and wrapped her tiny arms around her leg saying, "Yea! Mommy, it's Daddy!"

I sat down with each of the children and asked them how it felt to finally have their daddy back home and what they were looking forward to the most. I first asked Ava, who was simply speechless that her daddy was finally home and grinned from ear to ear as she squeezed Specialist Seals' neck. Aiden said he was just so happy that his daddy was finally home and was looking forward to making food with his father. His favorite food of all is his father's famous mac-n-cheese. Alexander stated that it just felt so good to finally have him home and that he was looking forward to spending time with his daddy and doing all the things. Both Specialist Seals and his wife wanted to say thank you to both of their children's schools. "Both of the kid's schools have been so amazing during the time that he (Specialist Seals) has been away. I truly appreciate all that they have done for them and for this homecoming. It was bittersweet to be able to see my children's faces as they saw their father's because they have had a really hard time with him being gone." stated Mrs. Seals.

Zane Carter: Greenup County’s Own Global Superstar

Zane Carter: Greenup County's Own Global Superstar

Sasha Bush

The Ashland Beacon

Zane Carter

“Baby, when I'm next to ya

I can barely control it.

I get hypnotized, hypnotized.

Swimmin' into your ocean…

All your love and devotion

Every night, every night.”

   That is just a small excerpt from the hit song “Holiday” performed by the global pop group NOW UNITED (NU) which was formed in 2017 by former Spice Girls’ manager, Simon Fuller. The group is comprised of 18 group members each representing a different country and nationality from all over the world.  In late 2022, NU added a new member to the group when one of the members left. The newest member of this global sensation is none other than one of our very own from right here in Ashland.

   Zane Carter was born in Ashland in March of 2003 and is graduate of Greenup County High School. Growing up, Carter enjoyed hanging out with friends, going to church, playing sports, and doing live streams on the popular social media app, TikTok. Carter has been taking the music world by storm since joining NU. The group is famous for their upbeat music, and their popularity seems to increase with each passing day. I was fortunate enough to catch up to Carter and chat with him about his incredible journey from small town athlete to worldwide superstar.

   Growing up, did you always envision yourself doing something within the music industry?

  Zane: I have always been somebody that's had a love of all things musical. I didn’t really find out that it was something that I wanted to pursue until I was going into high school. Growing up my dad, his dad, and his friends were always playing guitars. So, I grew up around that and because of that I just have a special place in my heart for the guitar. There is just something special about how it sounds. As far as singing goes, there's not really anybody in my family that was

Carter, A8

really into that. When my parents, friends and other family found out I wanted to pursue a singing career… well it kind of threw them for a loop because it was something that as they say just kind of came out of left field. 

How did you come to the realization that music was something you were passionate about and wanted to pursue?

   Zane: Well to be honest, it really kind of happened by accident. I started out as a social media influencer, and I would often make funny videos. Then one day during one of my live streams, I had some music playing in the background, which is something that I always did. But on that day, I started to sing along to the music in the background. Well… my followers loved it and the positive response I received just came as a complete shock to me. I started getting requests to sing a song, so after that I put up the song “Let Her Go” by Passenger. I got such a positive response from my followers that it made me think “well alright, maybe I can sing after all.”

How did that make you feel knowing that your followers loved your voice and wanted to hear more?

   Zane: Ahhh, it was just amazing and shocking! I mean here I was doing something that I had never done before, something I had never really imagined myself doing, and something I hadn’t realized was even a possibility until that moment. Growing up, I always enjoyed performing because I was always involved in sports. Growing up my stage was a ball court or a field. I have always had that desire to perform, and now I am ON A STAGE! It’s just so incredible, and I have bene so blessed by the Lord. Being able to find something that I am truly passionate about, enjoy doing, and that others get enjoyment from watching… its… it’s just such an incredible opportunity and such a blessing. There has not been a single moment that I have ever felt like this wasn’t something I was meant to do. I feel like I am right where I’m supposed to be in life… right where HE (the Lord) wants me to be.

What were your musical influences growing up?

   Zane: When I was younger, I really enjoyed listening to Brad Paisley. He is just such an incredibly talented musician. As I got older, I really started to appreciate musicians like Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, Zach Bryan, and Shawn Mendes.

What has been the highlight of your musical journey thus far?

   Zane: Definitely going on tour. I just love being able to perform on stage. It’s just so surreal. When you are up there, you just get so pumped up seeing the crowd, the lights, and their response to our music. It just gives you a feeling that you can’t get anywhere else… it is such a thrill.

What do you do to mentally prepare yourself before a show?

   Zane: We all get together and have a pre-show talk and have a breakout… 1-2-3-UNITED and then we all throw our hands up in the air. It’s just a way of getting us all pumped up. For me personal… I prepare for every show by praying.

When you are on stage performing … how does that energy the audience gives you make you feel?

   Zane: Oh my gosh! I’m getting chills just thinking about it. It’s impossible to put into words. I know that might sound a little cliché in a sense. There really is not sentence I could give you that would allow you to picture in your head just how amazing it feels. It’s just a ridiculous feeling. I remember the first time I got to perform with the group. We were in Brazil, and we were performing in front of 30,000 people. There was this one song called “Beautiful Life” toward the end of the third act that I got to start out and sing in. There is the moment where we slow down and interact with the crowd.  Everybody has their flashlights out, and we started this clap chant that the entire audience joined in on. In that moment, it was just so surreal. I started to tear up; it was just so intense.

What is something that you would want to tell others who might have dreams of breaking into the music scene?

   Zane: Don’t be afraid to allow yourself to try new things.  You can’t just close yourself up to opportunities because they are out of your comfort zone or because it’s something that you don’t think others will think is cool. You have to believe in yourself and what you can accomplish. Never in a million years would I have thought I would be where I am today. If you would have told me a few years ago that I would be touring and performing on stage, I would have thought you were crazy. I am where I am today because the Lord has blessed me with this opportunity and the courage to try new things. You never know what He (the Lord) has in store for you and what He (the Lord) has planned for your life. Some of the greatest things in my life have come from stepping outside the box and trying new things. Because of that, I have met some of the coolest people and made some really great friends along the way. I have all these immeasurable moments that I will cherish for the rest of my life all because I was open to trying something new. So, for anyone just starting out… don’t be afraid to just go for it.

Let’s Make Leaders!  Addition of Athletic Council Builds Leadership in School and Community

Let’s Make Leaders! 

Addition of Athletic Council Builds Leadership in School and Community

Deidra Bowling-Meade

The Ashland Beacon

leadership council

   What makes a leader? Jim Kouzes who co-wrote The Leadership Challenge stated, “Leadership is not about titles, positions or work hours. It’s about relationships.”  Relationships are being built through the Ashland Paul Blazer Leadership Council and Gender Equity Committee started by Athletic Director James Conway this 2022-2023 school year. Students who are part of the athletics program at Paul Blazer High School are learning that leadership is important whether you’re playing a sport or not.  Effective leadership builds character and strengthens relationships, which in turn can make a school and community stronger.

   The students who were selected to the Council were identified to Conway by their coaches, peers, teachers, and administrators. The Gender Equity Committee consists of the same students from the Leadership Council, and they serve on many different athletic teams.  The group is required by the KHSAA to meet three times per year to discuss gender equity across the athletic programs. Conway commented, “Although the Gender Equity Committee is a KHSAA requirement, it is still very important to get our student-athlete’s perspectives on our athletic programs and to see where I can assist in trying to make their experiences great while they participate here as student-athletes at Ashland Blazer High School.  The Leadership Council has been a vision of mine to get started to assist our student-athletes in leadership roles.” Members of the Athletic Leadership Council include:  Cole Christian, Grace Delaney, Sawyer Edens, Nate Freize, Alden Johnson, Ella Sellars, Emma Slone, Laney Sorrell, Luke Stahler, and Emma Wiley.

   Conway invited Kelly Wells, who is the current Director of Athletics and Former Head Coach at University of Pikeville,  to speak to the council and committee about the importance of leadership and motivate them to go out and be leaders. Wells’ resume is unmatched when it comes to true leadership and a drive for success.  A native of Rowan County, Wells was a successful athlete at both the high school and collegiate level, beginning with his four year career at Rowan County where he holds the all-time scoring record.  In 1991, Wells began his collegiate career at the University of Tulsa where he scored 169 points as a freshman. At Morehead State, Wells was a three year varsity letter winner scoring 450 career points. In 1992, Wells was named to the All-OVC Newcomer Team and was recognized with OVC All-Academic Awards in the following season.

   After finishing his collegiate career, Wells spent 15 seasons overall as a head coach.  Some of his successes include capturing the 2003 Kentucky State Championship and being runner-up in 2004 while coaching at Mason County. He was named coach of the year after both seasons, coaching Chris Lofton who would go on to be an All-American at the University of Tennessee.  During his time at UPIKE, his accomplishments with the Bears include the all-time wins title in men’s basketball history. He won the NAIA National Championship in 2011, has captured four MSC titles and coached 23 All-Americans. Wells put together a 333-123 record at UPIKE, including winning the 2011 NAIA National Championship. Wells was named the NAIA Coach of the Year following that championship season.

   Conway expressed the impact of Wells, “Wells is ‘A Big Timer, Who Doesn’t Big Time You!’  All of his coaching accolades and accomplishments explain why he is a Big Timer, but the person he is explains why “He doesn’t Big Time you.”  He brings energy and enthusiasm to the room, and you feel better about yourself just being around him.  He is also a very humble person.  I have coached against his high school teams and our relationship has been longstanding.  He is been very successful also, so there is no better person to bring to speak to our student-athletes.”

   Wells enjoys speaking to young people about leadership because it has an impact on their life moving forward.  He discussed the importance of praising your peers and having a servant’s heart.  Wells stated, “There is a difference between leadership and entitlement.  Hard work should be your foundation.”  When Wells’ team won the state championship, their ring had the words “I am because you are.”  It takes everyone working together.  As Wells described it, “It matters who is the leader, but that leader must be the maker of the soup.  You have to have the right ingredients and follow the directions for it to turn out right.” Wells encouraged the student athletes to be change agents.  They have the power to change the culture of their team, school and community with something as simple as a smile or picking up trash. Words and actions matter.  Wells’ visit impacted members of the Athletic Leadership Council. 

   Cole Christian, who is an 11th grade football, wrestling and track athlete commented, “Hearing Mr. Wells speak was an honor and quite eye opening.  Hearing someone who has experienced so much success from around our area encourages others from this region to be successful and meet their goals. There are different kinds of leaders.  I think it is important to find your role and provide change in that role.  Leaders must do what is right, and it is important to spread that to others.” 

   Nate Freize, an 11th grade football and basketball athlete for Blazer, remarked he wanted to “be the outlier and do the things that nobody else wants to do or expects you to do because that makes a huge impact.  When people see someone like an athlete, who people tend to put on a pedestal, lead by example.  It makes a huge impact.” 

   Junior Laney Sorrell, who plays golf, soccer, and basketball for Blazer, stated, “I can help improve leadership by helping someone out whenever I see them struggling and making an effort to be kind and smile to everyone around me.”  11th grade volleyball player Emma Stone agreed, “You can’t be the best player you can be without being a good person first.” 

   Ashland Paul Blazer High School is truly building stronger leaders through the council.  The future looks bright for all these outstanding students.  Cole Christian confirmed, “This group helps to generate change and healthy conversations about sports and life.  Being a part of it is an honor and encourages future leadership.”  Let’s continue to encourage these student athletes making a difference.