— To John and Kim Lefler, the Grand Traverse Area Veterans Coalition and the local veterans' community. Christopher Kowitz, who was in the U.S. Air Force from 2004-2010 and was disabled in an explosion during his time in Iraq, visited northern Michigan recently and was moved by the welcome he received from people he had never met before.
"I've been all over the country and never found a place like this," said Kowitz, of Florence, Oregon. "The community here is amazing."
The Leflers in early May were on their way home from a visit with 23 Medal of Honor recipients in Gainesville, Texas, when Kowitz contacted them, finding their information through the GTAVC website. John is president of the Veterans Coalition and Kim is a nurse practitioner at the Traverse City Veterans Affairs clinic.
Kowitz said he was struck by how the Leflers and others could make a stranger "feel like family" after he attended three different local events on Memorial Day and made a stop at Reining Liberty Ranch in Traverse City.
"(People here) don't look away after saying, 'Thank you for your service,'" Kowitz said. "That means a lot to me."
— To Bella Canfield. The Traverse City West Senior High School standout bowler decided immediately after the Titans in February placed sixth at regionals and were eliminated from the postseason that it wasn’t the end. Canfield hit the recruiting trail, and soon narrowed her choices to Campbellsville University in Kentucky and Huntington University in Indiana.
Ultimately, she chose Huntington, which offered Canfield a partial scholarship to be part of the women’s bowling team, which had only one Michigan representative, from Jackson, among 14 athletes last year.
“She’s one of the best personalities I’ve ever coached, as far as team spirit, work ethic, character, everything,” said West head coach Brian Rickert.
— To Spencer Cobb and Evan Stegenga, students at Traverse City East Middle School who are 2019 Michigan History Day state champions. The students entered their essays in the Junior Division.
Cobb wrote “Native Americans and the Transcontinental Railroad” and Stegenga penned “John Brown: Martyr or Madman.” As finalists, they compete at the National History Day event this month.