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Steelers entertain crowd at DuBois Area United Way basketball fundraiser

Members of the DuBois Area United Way All-Stars took on the Black and Gold at Saturday night’s 16th annual basketball fundraiser at the DuBois Area High School to help raise money for the area’s less fortunate.

Pittsburgh Steelers players who participated in Saturday’s event included: Wes Lyons, Trey Griffey, Tevin Jones, David Johnston, Lavon Hooks, Louis Lipps and James Harrison.

For the United Way All-Stars, players included Adam Moore, John Dunn, Ryan Hultman, Derek Pierce, Dr. Algie LaBrasca, Dave Herzing, Melissa Gates, Maddox Bennett and Brooklynn Baummer-Vogel. Albert Varacallo III, owner/player of the DuBois Dream basketball team, which played prior to the Steelers game, also participated.

Though the Steelers beat the United Way team, 103-57, the event was for a good cause and raised at least $4,000, according to Executive Director John “Herm” Suplizio, who said a final total was not yet available. Over the years, the event has raised more than $160,000 for the United Way and it goes to the organization’s agencies.

In addition, the Steelers signed autographs and posed for photos with fans during the half-time of their game.

The DuBois Dream basketball team played a Charity Exhibition Game in honor of first responders prior to the United Way/Steelers game. All first responders attending the game received free admission but both games still benefited the United Way.

The DuBois Dream game featured players from ‘Year 1” and “Year 2,” as well as other local all-stars to compete against us in this annual fundraiser. That game was a close one, with the DuBois Alumni winning, 94-90.

Between the two games, Buddy Geitner, of Ridgway, had the opportunity to win a new 2018 Ford Echo Sport, courtesy of Murray’s Dealership. In order to win the car, he had 24 seconds to complete four different shots, including a lay-up and three other shots from various places on the court, but only made two out of the four.

St. Marys woman runs in 'Bunny Hop 5k' in memory of mother each year

ST. MARYS — Each year, a St. Marys woman laces up to run in memory of her mother and support a cause close to her heart.

The ninth annual “Bunny Hop 5k for Brain Aneurysm Awareness,” held traditionally the day before Easter, will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 20 at Benzinger Park in St. Marys.

Taylor Frank was 17 years old when she lost her mother to a brain aneurysm rupture.

“When my mom passed, we felt really lost and dumbfounded,” she said. “We had no idea what an aneurysm was.”

The family found out how common it really is — one in 50 people have an un-ruptured aneurysm.

“We think if we would’ve known sooner, she could’ve been saved,” Frank said. “After finding out how many people have been affected, we needed to get the word out to the community.”

As a teenager, running became a release for Frank, she says, and a way to cope with everything that happened. During her senior year of high school, she saw other 5k races do well, and decided to start her own.

The Bunny Hop 5k, benefiting the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, brings in many runners for the cause, Frank said, with at least 400 during the lowest year, and 700 for the highest. Last year, the event raised $109,000 for the BAF.

“It’s pretty incredible,” she said. “Our community is just not like any other. People are really generous.”

Some people there will just hand Frank a check for $500-$1,000, she says.

Several families who also have lost someone to the same thing make a point to attend each year, Frank said.

“It’s therapeutic for us to get together and share our experiences, and for me to share who my mom was,” she said.

Runners also leave with pamphlets of information and brochures.

Frank, who is also an Intensive Care Unit nurse with Penn Highlands Healthcare, said what she does today has a lot to do with her story.

“The nurses who cared for my mom were phenomenal,” she said. “It really made me want to become one.”

With Penn Highlands Healthcare incorporating neurosurgery, there will be the ability to help more people like her mom, Frank says, which brings her a lot of peace.

For more information, visit

Jason Getz 

Tiger Woods celebrates after winning the Masters during the final round on Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. The Masters victory was Woods’ first since 2005 and his first major since winning the U.S. Open in 2008.

Downtown DuBois shop brings spiritual community together

Jenn Ficentise has a passion for creating things that help people feel better and live better lives physically, mentally and spiritually.

Ficentise says the name of her shop, “Raven Moon's Oracle,” on West Long Avenue in DuBois goes back more than 20 years. “Raven” is, she said, the spiritual name behind what she creates.

The downtown shop opened in October of 2017. Ficentise is originally from Brooklyn, New York, where she had a website-based business of similar products. For three years after moving to DuBois, she had a spot in Kreative Kreations.

“I outgrew that space, (though), and built my own base in DuBois,” she said. “I’ve had this dream for 20 years, to own a metaphysical, spiritual shop.”

Everything she creates in the back room of the West Long Avenue shop is organic and natural, and has a deep meaning behind it, Ficentise said, such as soy candles and “blessing” candles, essential oils and sprays, good-luck charms, crystals and ritual oils for good fortune and healing.

“I stand behind everything here,” she said.

Ficentise said she also brings in local artists and consigners she trusts and supports.

The dimly-lit shop is supposed to be an “escape” for people looking for peace and quiet or just guidance, she adds.

She grew up around people of many different cultures, Ficentise said, and began creating to experiment with things like herbs and energy. She’s been making soy candles for more than 25 years.

“I got into all of this for myself,” she said. “I’m thankful people find guidance in my words.”

Ficentise, a tarot card reader, holds appointments and offers wisdom from spiritual guides with whom she says she connects.

The area has a large spiritual community, she adds, who have been very supportive. RMO hosts monthly classes, such as essential oils and crystal therapy, as well as gatherings that acknowledge different times or observations of the year.

“I’ve always wanted a space for the community to come and enjoy and talk without judgement,” she said.

The shop also carries items like herbal bundles, incense, dried herbs, books, chimes and crystal lamps.

“I love being able to create a place for people to leave their stresses behind,” she says.

She enjoys it when someone visits the shop and leaves with something that will impact their lives for the better, Ficentise said.

“I’m creating things that help people in some way, and that’s all I want to do.”

For more information, visit RMO on Facebook, or call 814-594-1863.

Local man putting the comics back in Comicon

ST. MARYS — A passion for comic books and a team spirit brought St. Marys native Jon Engel to running one of the newest comic conventions in the region.

The Fourth Annual 3 Rivers Comicon, or 3RC, will be May 11 and 12 at the Waterfront in Homestead. The con is run through New Dimension Comics, where Engel is regional manager.

Engel started working at KB Toy Stores while attending Clarion University. He became a manager there and retained that position until the stores closed down. Then Engel went to New Dimension Comics at the Century 3 Mall location. He moved to run the store in the Pittsburgh Mills and is now the regional manager, overseeing all six New Dimensions locations.

“My job has many hats,” Engel said. “Some days, I help with sales and customer analysis to help drive more sales and get the stores the right products for their customer base. Some of the other things I do is representing the store at conventions all over the country. I have vended in Chicago, as well as various places in Ohio, West Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Virginia, and all over Pennsylvania.”

Part of vending at other comicons is making connections to the talent at those conventions. Engel gets to sit down and talk to comic book legends, seeing what it would take to bring some to 3 Rivers Comicon.

Engel works for Todd McDevitt, and the two of them talked about starting a comicon when Wizard World Pittsburgh ended.

“Mostly, we had to figure out what we really wanted the show to be, which we decided to focus more on comics,” Engel said.

Many shows now relegate the comics to the fringes while cashing in on the movie/television personalities associated with comic properties. McDevitt and Engel wanted to make sure that their con did not follow that track.

“I mean, it’s in the title: COMIC-con,” Engel said. “I have always been tied to the arts. In college, I studied music, so art and artists, to me, have always been family.”

For some, the initial planning might have been the only easy part, but vending at shows became an asset to Engel and his boss.

“After that, it was finding a place to hold it and working out the logistics of hotels, marketing, and booking guests,” Engel said. “Luckily, between me and Todd McDevitt, who owns New Dimension Comics and 3RC, we have met some really amazing and talented people. So, getting a guest list was probably easier due to that.”

Another aspect of 3RC that sets it apart is the connected craft beers. Both McDevitt and Engel are big craft beer fans, so they have artists design labels and release 3RC-related beers around the time of the show.

The con and the six comic stores in and around Pittsburgh do not keep Engel from coming home every so often. When he does, it’s a chance to see family, but also see how much comic culture has permeated the national mindset.

“When I come home for holidays, and all my cousins are there with their kids, and they start talking about the latest episodes of Walking Dead or the newest Marvel movie, it really validates my career choice,” Engel said. “When you tell people you work in comic books, they either are very confused, or they immediately want me to price all the comics they have in their house! It’s something that no one thinks about as a career. But I have a lot of fun and love talking about comics and games with friends and family.”

That unlikely career choice leads Engel to tell people growing up in the Tri-County Area to broaden their horizons. Jobs do not have to look like the limited choices they may see around them.

“Work hard and be a team player,” he said. “Find something you love and follow it. But be willing to work anywhere and do whatever you have to until you get there. Don’t be afraid to take chances and try something new. There is always a new exciting path out there for you. But you won’t see it if you are staring at your feet.”

In May, however, at a new location, 3RC is waiting for people to come and join Engel to bask in comic book culture.

“Every year, my goal for the show is that people come, have fun, buy something they don’t normally get to see locally, and get to meet some of their heroes,” Engel said. “I always wanted it to be about the comic book community and sharing that experience with others. This is just the biggest one I get to help throw each year. If people have a smile on their faces, I’m happy.”

More information can be found at