Aimee Couturier’s ten day bike trip in Africa helps educate orphans

From the “Spotlight”- Lockport Union Sun & Journal 7/16

         Many people are traveling for fun this summer, but one lady with local ties is traveling with a purpose. Today’s Spotlight shines on Aimee Couturier’s 400-mile bike ride for charity. Aimee is a Lockport native, graduate of Lockport High School and Syracuse University and currently works for Compass Group. The daughter of local businesswoman Barb Scirto Sullivan, Aimee is currently living in Charlotte, North Carolina.

            Those who know Aimee were not surprised to learn of her latest adventure. She traveled to Peru earlier this year. While she was there she taught English as a second language at an orphanage for a week, and then made the trek to Machu Picchu. She has completed a marathon in Ireland, and will do another next year in Prague. Aimee has also worked in Singapore, England, and for the Department of Commerce in both Washington and Germany. Today she embarks on a ten day journey across Tanzania as part of “RIDETZ- Kili to the coast for a cause.”

             Aimee’s fundraising letter helped her reach her goal. The total yesterday was at $6,625. “Most of you are aware of my passion for travel. In recent years I’ve included volunteering in my travels and have absolutely adored it. I think it’s an incredible way to see the world. You get to learn about the culture and people of another place in a way unlike any other. And in so doing, grow as a person; learning a ton about yourself. With that in mind, I’ve decided to do something a little bit crazy,” wrote the adventurous Aimee. In addition to the money raised for TFFT, Aimee is spending $4,000 to take the journey in support of this project.
             RIDETZ is a 400-mile donor bike ride across Tanzania from Mount Kilimanjaro to the Indian Ocean, following a 19th-century slave trade and early explorer’s route. It is crazy, I admit, but it will also be life-changing, physically exhausting and emotionally exhilarating. The organization behind this fantastic adventure is called The Foundation for Tomorrow. TFFT is a non-profit organization that was founded by Charlotte-native Meghann Gunderman in 2006, which provides scholarships for orphaned African children to attend boarding school in their home countries.
            From July 16 to 25, Aimee will be off on a new adventure. First, she raised money with the help of a lot of friends. “I am asking you to help me by making a tax-deductible donation that will go directly to TFFT, towards sponsoring a new child’s board and education, the construction of a learning center or library, or training the teachers at TFFT’s supported schools. My fundraising goal is $6000. Any contribution amount is always welcomed and very greatly appreciated. In return, you’ll get to personally follow me through blogs, online photos and videos that I’ll post during my trip. I’m sure they’ll provide for some great laughs – and maybe even some tears,” wrote Aimee. You can donate or follow Aimee’s journey at

The Foundation For Tomorrow uses education as a tool to fight poverty in developing nations throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. They strive to make the largest impact through educational scholarships, teachers training, and library and computer center constructions. TFFT supports orphans who would not be able to receive a primary, secondary or tertiary education. TFFT seeks to create environments in which peace, health and human welfare prosper as a result of a well-educated population.
            The TFFT website reports “There are 800 million people in the developing world who can’t read. We need to think of these children as our children. They are the world’s responsibility. As Bill Gates said at the World Health Assembly in 2005, “In our world today, some lives are seen as worth saving and some aren’t.” We can’t allow this. He went on to say he looks forward to when, “people will finally accept that the death of a child in a developing world is as tragic as the death of a child in the developed world.” This belief in the equal value of human life is at the core of why TFFT committed to shining a light on the situation in Africa.” There are photos and videos of  TFFT’s work at or follow the blogs at
             According to UNICEF, 10 million children die each year; 30,000 each day die from avoidable, poverty related causes. Through education, TFFT hopes to mitigate this tragedy. Education isn’t a hand out; it’s a hand up. For the cost of a new pair of shoes a donor can contribute to an education program in the developing world that can save/improve the life of a child.

            While packing for her ten-day trek, Aimee had to scale down her wardrobe to two tops and two pairs of pants, with limited space for luxuries. Her mom joked that her one comfort item was a stash of instant coffee, creamer and Splenda to help her face the day in a land where tea is the beverage of choice. What she plans to bring back with her is a heart full of memories and the joy of meeting some of the children she has helped. For her efforts to help children a world away, the Spotlight salutes Aimee Couturier.


In the home stretch for Relay for Life!

It’s been a while since I updated this site, with all the hoopla surrounding our “Mammary Mile” to raise money for the American Cancer Society! We passed our mile of decorated and dedicated bras and have raised over $10,000 and the bras will all be on display at the 10th Relay For Life this weekend in Lockport!

There is so much going on at Relay, from 2 p.m. Saturday June 19th to the closing ceremony at 6 a.m. Sunday June 20th. You can check it all out at

Come and celebrate “The Magic of Birthdays” as we celebrate all the years we’ve helped add to the lives of those battling cancer! You don’t have to be on a team to join us. Think of it as a big carnival of love and hugs, with plenty to do! From a cake decorating contest (we get to eat them at Midnight) to a kid’s tent full of activities and a KanJam tournament, there is something for everyone. Our HUGE Chinese auction has some great prizes and wonderful personal stories on Memory Baskets. In a couch potato mode? Just bring yourself a chair and sit down and enjoy the event! Watch the parade of survivors, then teams, then caregivers from your own comfy spot (Opening ceremonies at 6 p.m.) . It’s not about athletics! It’s about sharing the fight and showing support for those who battle cancer, from infants to seniors.

We have plenty of food, beverages and snacks for you to purchase so you don’t need to bring anything but your enthusiasm! All the proceeds go to the American Cancer Society, too. Rain? Heat? Cold? You name it, we’ve Relayed in it, and we’ll be at Emmet Bellknap School on Saturday no matter what Mother Nature throws at us. Please join us as we celebrate our community’s efforts in the fight against cancer! We”ll pass a MILLION AND A HALF DOLLARS RAISED this year, in our ten years of the Barker/Lockport Relay For Life. We’re celebrating ten years of love, hugs, tears and joy as a Relay family!

Join us! Bring your cameras, bring your checkbooks (all donations to the ACS are tax deductible), bring your fighting spirit and your party hat!!


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Next stop on the Mammary Mile- Bras & breakfast at PWT

March 25, 2010 by juliechatterbox | Edit

Okay gals, join us on April 17th at PWT Restaurant on Quaker Road in Barker. We’ll be there at 10 a.m. so you can come and decorate or donate a bra. Judy Remington will be serving up coffee and some decadent breakfast pizza. It’s the next step on the “Mammary Mile” as we get closer to Mother’s day… can you help us make the mile???

Check out the photos and fun at

Is The Chapel targeting Catholics?

The news of the Chapel’s partnership with the Palace Theatre was published several weeks ago, explaining that the church would broadcast services during “down-time” at the Palace, in exchange for some much-needed work on the facility by their volunteers, and an upgraded sound system. It sounded very good to me at the time, since I know how the Palace struggles to raise the funds to refurbish and revitalize our community jewel. Actually, a good friend of mine from Barker had told me about the move some time ago. He and his family attend services in Getzville and this would be a much shorter drive. We had a lively debate over just how many churches there already were in the city of Lockport, of several denominations. Our paper reported a week ago that the work on space across the street at the Old Post office building was nearly complete to welcome their congregation’s children for programs. I thought it was great to see more investment and activity in downtown Lockport. Who would have believed it would stir up so much controversy!
Holy Week turned into “holy cow” week as the controversy came to light. The television news was filled with news of some disgruntled Catholics taking exception to the high-tech allure of the Chapel, worried that they were targeting disenfranchised Catholics. Well, I’m a Catholic and though I get frequently disgruntled by a myriad of societal ills, I do NOT feel targeted. No-one from the Chapel came to force me to join in their worship services or community events. Truth is, I know many Catholics who have been to the Chapel in Getzville for special programs like the popular Christmas one, and not one of them has been put under a spell to defect from Catholicism. I have several friends who attend the Chapel. Being blessed with a very ecumenical spirit, I have thoroughly enjoyed spiritual, entertaining and thought-provoking visits to houses of worship of many faiths. I embrace the sharing of cultures and ideas and share my own religious views freely. I was saddened by the news that a local priest challenged the Chapel’s intentions so vehemently.
In defense of Catholics, it has been a rough few weeks for us. Our church has been rocked by more news of heinous acts by bad Catholics, and others who helped to cover them up. The story is not new. Every church, every service organization has its share of scandal and scandalous acts by a few, it seems. Do I condone or excuse them? ABSOLUTELY NOT! We need to have it all out in the open, to sort the facts from media distortion and sensationalism. Those to blame need to be punished severely according to the laws of our society, and certainly be kept from ever being able to take advantage of innocents. But, I digress. My point is that our priests face a huge challenge every day, trying to keep the congregation happy through Diocesan changes and the changing mores of our times. On this point, let me say that even those of us who are personally unhappy about church closings or merging, or the problems within the hierarchy of the worldwide church, the vast majority remain deeply rooted in our faith. The Catholic Church is my church, warts and all. It would take more than a giant screen and great acoustics to lure me away from the message, or from my faith.
Now, I don’t mean to say that the Chapel is all gimmicks and technology. They are Christians. Members are just as devout in their faith and belief in God and Jesus as are all Christians. They, as other denominations, have their own unique way of worshipping. WhileI prefer the age-old traditions and rituals of Catholicism, others are more comfortable worshipping in other ways. In my heart, I truly believe it is NOT the people of other faiths who are a threat to me or my church. Rather, it is the people of NO faith, those who do not believe in a universal goodness that commands us to love and care for each other on this earth, that sadden me. My Catholic God gave me free will (and a chance to face the consequences for every choice I made). I have to believe that every other human in His image has the same right.
I hope that the good people of the Chapel (and the Palace) will not think poorly of the “Catholics” or believe we harbor any resentment as a whole. I understand the frustrations of our priests for many reasons, but I hope they realize that it is not what’s “out there” that will affect our loyalty to the faith. It is what’s inside; both in our hearts and in our churches. It is human nature to resist change and to feel threatened at times. It is that shared humanity that sometimes keeps us from dialogue as friends.
Christianity has survived for over 2000 years. The tree has many branches now as others seek other ways to worship, to interpret and share the Word of the same Lord. Until we sit with Him at His table, we will not have the answers to the questions that divide us. In the meantime, the best thing we can do to honor the father is to get along with all His children.
Welcome to the congregation of the Chapel.

Farewell, my friend…

Nearly 20 years ago, I found myself a freshman in college at the age of 39. A Lupus diagnosis had changed life’s direction in midstream and I was starting over again. Buffalo State College opened my eyes to so much more in life and although it was a challenging change, it was an adventure I cherish.
I met a lot of amazing people along the way. One of them was a wonderful woman named Jan. She had finally found the courage to step away from an emotionally abusive and crippling marriage to try to stand on her own. It meant leaving her two sons with their father and climbing mountains of obstacles toward a wholeness of being, but she put very ounce of life into making a new life. We commiserated frequently and cheered each other on and she was an inspiration to me. Jan wanted to be able to work with others who were damaged by emotions they could not control. She knew the right doctor and the right medication could be life-changing. Yes, Jan wanted to help everyone.
We graduated, two forty-somethings in a sea of youngsters, and it was our own Olympic dream. I had moved a county away and we lost track eventually, despite well-meaning intentions to keep in touch. Isn’t that always the way?
I heard from Jan’s sister today; my number turned up among Jan’s possessions. Jan passed away earlier this month. She had 12 years after graduation of working with other clients, of mending broken wings and bruised hearts. I’m sure she touched and healed many people in that time. Sadly, she let herself be caught up in a relationship with someone who could not be helped, despite giving everything she had. It sapped the life out of her until she could see no more escape, and the self-doubts and feelings of hopelessness that threatened to bury her twenty years ago overwhelmed her again. Jan chose to leave this world, to end the pain.
What is it about human nature that allows some people to seek out or accept abusive relationships? It’s an age old problem that all the psychological and social sciences will never define or answer. Jan had so much to give others, to give to the world. I am happy that she had those years of happiness and success in between her dark journeys. Perhaps she was always meant to leave this world early, but was gifted with the time to forge a legacy. She leaves her mark on those who were privileged to share her heart and experience her kind and caring nature.
I am sad, my friend, for the pain that forced your hand in the end. I am sad that no one could help you through. I will remember the laughter and tears and endless cramming for those psych exams. I will remember a fragile flower who worked tirelessly to have a moment in the sun. Farewell, Jan. You will be remembered.


Okay gals, join us on April 17th at PWT Restaurant on Quaker Road in Barker. We’ll be there at 10 a.m. so you can come and decorate or donate a bra. Judy Remington will be serving up coffee and some decadent breakfast pizza. It’s the next step on the “Mammary Mile” as we get closer to Mother’s day… can you help us make the mile???

Pancake breakfast and Chinese Auction 4/28!!

Pancake Breakfast & Chinese Auction
Sunday, March 28th
8am-1pm @ The Barker Fire Hall
$5.00 Adults
$3.00 Kids 12 & Under
***All You Can Eat***
(Pancakes, Eggs, Potatoes, sausage, Toast, and Beverages)
Sponsored by the Somerset Masons
To Benefit the BCS Spanish/French Club