See Pictures Of The Downtown Birmingham Christmas Landscape


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So, at the end of covering all the events in the Birmingham Metro.  I went to the top of a parking garage, and took some photos of the downtown landscape.  I also stopped by and took a few photos of the Christmas tree at Lynn Park in Birmingham.  Enjoy!

The downtown Birmingham Christmas tree.

A post shared by Nathan Young (Geek Alabama) (@nvyoung44) on

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Kulture City In Birmingham Has A New Partner Named Microsoft


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UPDATE: This article is written by Karim Shamsi-Basha for Alabama NewsCenter.  Learn more at: http://alabamanewscenter.com

Above: Doctors Julian and Michelle Maha reading with their sons.

Four years ago, doctors Julian and Michelle Maha learned that their son, Abram, would never be able to say “I love you.”

He had been diagnosed autistic.

“That was the toughest week of our lives,” Julian Maha said, “We started mourning our situation, but quickly realized that we were actually mourning Abram’s hopes and dreams. He was given to us by God and his future is limitless. We started thinking how we could help him fit in this world.”

This life event led the Mahas to start Kulture City (www.kulturecity.org) – a nonprofit with the mission of creating a world where individuals with autism and their families are accepted and treated equally. Two weeks ago, Microsoft Corp. named Kulture City as one of 10 nonprofits to partner with for its Windows 10 Upgrade Your World Initiative.

“When we started Kulture City, we just wanted to help our son. Quickly we realized we needed to change the way the nonprofit world operated,” Julian Maha said. “We flipped the model to one that puts the recipients of the gift on an equal basis with the donors. We also sought to improve the quality of life of autistic children with tangible needs like tablets for communication, sensory-friendly outings, and education and jobs.”

After the Microsoft announcement, Kulture City has had national coverage with stories in Boston and Miami. Some of the other recipients of the $50,000 grant and partnership for life are: Standing with Malala, The Boys & Girls Club of America, Kind and Earth Citizens Organization.

“We were the youngest nonprofit to ever be chosen,” Julian Maha said. “For us to get this recognition after only 20 months of existence is not only a great honor, but also a validation of the impact we seek and the model we follow. It lumps us together with nonprofits that are revolutionary and significant.”

The Microsoft website explains the initiative: “Windows was built to help people do great things. Whether creating opportunities for youth, saving the environment, fighting hunger, enabling next generation farming, or inspiring 3D creation – Windows is built for those who do. In this spirit, we want to celebrate people and organizations who do great things and make a difference every day. We seek to inspire people around the world – not just to upgrade Windows, but also to upgrade the world. The opportunity is unique but it is true to the mission of the company and to the passion we each share to make a difference in the lives of our customers.”

Julian Maha considers the Microsoft honor the biggest that Kulture City has received. In 2015, Kulture City won the Community Cause of the Year from the Vestavia Voice, a monthly newspaper. It also was named the 2014/2015 Best National Non-Profit by GuideStar, a nonprofit watchdog. GuideStar and greatnonprofits.org named Kulture City the best-reviewed special needs nonprofit in the country in 2014 and 2015.

Kulture City is creating innovative and sensory-friendly events, which are held at locations such as the Birmingham Zoo, Birmingham Baron’s Regions Park, and the Alys Stephens Performing Center. These events cater to special-needs children with noise canceling headphones, fidget toys, weighted-lap pads, and other items that make their visit more enjoyable.

Eight-year-old Abram has progressed and is now able to communicate through a tablet, but there is something more significant taking place.

“Through a glance, a look, or a touch, Abram says ‘I love you’ to us every day,” Julian Maha said. “And for that, Michelle and I are very thankful.”

The Birmingham Hammers Are Going To The Big Time And Becoming A Pro Team


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UPDATE: This post is written by Solomon Crenshaw Jr. from Alabama NewsCenter.  Learn more at: http://alabamanewscenter.com

The Birmingham Hammers soccer team announced Thursday the team has been accepted as the newest member of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). League play for the Hammers begins in May 2016.

The Birmingham Hammers will join a professional soccer league in May 2016. (Len Louis/contributed)
The Birmingham Hammers will join a professional soccer league in May 2016. (Len Louis/contributed)

This is the latest step in the 2½-year effort of Hammers organizers to bring professional soccer to Birmingham. Morgan Copes, the president and general manager of the club, said organizers have had a schedule in their mind for accomplishing their goal.

“We are ahead of it,” he said. “We’ve got to prepare for next summer. We’re very excited going forward but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The Hammers played an inaugural exhibition season in 2015 at Vestavia Hills’ Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex. That will be the team’s home field next year.

NPSL, formed 13 years ago as the Men’s Premier Soccer League, is the fourth tier of professional men’s soccer in the U.S. The top tier is Major League Soccer, followed by North American Soccer League and United Soccer League.

“Most of the guys who play for us are still in college and are not able to be paid because of their amateur status and NCAA regulations,” Copes said.

The Hammers will compete in the league’s Southeast Conference against clubs in Atlanta, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville and New Orleans. According to the Hammers’ website, season tickets for the 2016 season will be available soon.

Learn more about the Hammers at: http://www.birminghamhammers.com

Enjoy their hype video below!

See Superheroes Visit The Kids At Children’s Of Alabama


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UPDATE: This post is written by Solomon Crenshaw Jr. with photos by Billy Brown.  Learn more at: http://alabamanewscenter.com

Above: Tiger Cummings poses with superheroes during the launch of Superhero Month at Children’s of Alabama. (Billy Brown/Alabama NewsCenter)

Madigan Brasher, Tiger Cummings and Laci Evans differ when it comes to a favorite superhero. Madigan, a 14-year-old from Calera, likes Captain America, while 9-year-old Tiger of Prattville roots for Batman. Laci, also 9 and also from Prattville, is wowed by Wonder Woman.

But the three who were among patients at Children’s of Alabama’s kickoff for Superhero Month agree that a hero displays courage. Organizers of Thursday’s event said it is the kind of courage patients at the pediatric hospital display every day.

It is in that spirit that Books-A-Million is partnering with Children’s, donating $15,000 to help make the experience of being ill a bit more pleasant. This was the first of several events planned at the hospital this month.

Honey Cook is the Child Life Center director at Children’s. She said donations from Books-A-Million and others made this campaign possible.

“This allows the staff to get involved with the patients and form a bond with them,” she said. “Throughout the hospital, we empower patients each and every day. This just allows us to take it to another level.

“Within every child lies the courage of a superhero. Today, Books a Million has allowed us to let their power shine.”

Scott Kappler, vice president of marketing with Books-A-Million, agreed. “The children are heroes and they can let their superpowers shine throughout the month,” he said.

Madigan said heroes are brave and kind, while Laci said they fly and have special powers. Tiger said heroes have to be good and help people “and get the Joker and people like that.”

Parents said that Children’s staffers are also heroes who help their children fend off injury and disease, the villains that invade their young bodies.

“The walk of courage takes the strength of faith. It’s their courage, their walk and their strength,” said Misty Brasher, whose daughter Madigan was diagnosed with leukemia. “But it’s also the people here that keep them going. If it wasn’t for upbeat people, these kids wouldn’t be as strong as they are.”

Stuart Cummings was overcome as he talked about the doctors and nurses at Children’s. He began to cry and hugged his son Tiger, who has suffered with prolonged abdominal pain.

Laci has osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Her mother said she can’t begin to repay Children’s.

“I owe them everything,” she said. “This whole hospital is forever in my debt. Forever.”

Kappler said the aim of Superhero Month is to tell the story of the hospital, hoping to have one from each county in the state.

“We were excited when they approached us,” he said. “The group here at Children’s has just been amazing to work with. My group, the marketing group that’s here today, is just excited to be involved and see the excitement that the kids will have on their faces when they get their capes and crowns.”

Learn More About The Horizons School In Birmingham


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UPDATE: This post is written by Michael Tomberlin from Alabama NewsCenter.  Learn more at: http://alabamanewscenter.com/

The recent first day of the new school year at Horizons School in Birmingham was much like what you would find at any preparatory school or even small college.

Students were moving into their rooms, parents of first-year students were more nervous than the students themselves, while returning students were all abuzz as they reunited with classmates.

But the young adults who attend Horizons School are what make it special.

The students at Horizons have learning and other disabilities and this is the first time most of them will live outside the protective havens of their parents’ homes.

In the three years they are at Horizons, the students will learn everything from hygiene to balancing a checkbook, from keeping up a home to holding down a job.

“If you think of the things that make an adult independent in this society, it’s someone who can maintain their own residence, somebody who can cook and clean, plan meals, keep with a daily schedule,” said Brian Geiger, executive director of Horizons School. “Those are all the types of things we teach here at Horizons.”

Horizons owns Terrace Court apartments in Five Points South, a couple of blocks away from the school itself. Students live in the apartments the first two years where they are learning everything from safety to laundry under the watchful eye of residential assistants who also live there.

During their time at Horizons, the will learn how to buy groceries at the Western Supermarket up the street, take the bus to the movie theater, hold a job at Chick-fil-A, Steel City Pops or any number of participating companies that work with Horizons students to first give them an internship to learn and often end up giving them a permanent job after they graduate.

Kelly (Horizons doesn’t release last names of students), a student from Florida who is starting her second year at Horizons, is “learning new life skills, job skills, learning just new things. It’s always good and, to me, fun to learn new things.”

She said she is glad to be back at the school and looks forward to decorating her apartment with her Beatles posters.

“I like it here,” she said. “It’s friendly people.”

Kelly’s mother, Connie, said she is proud of her daughter’s accomplishments in just one year at Horizons.

“I feel wonderful about it,” she said. “I see my daughter becoming more and more independent. The change and the growth in her is phenomenal. I’m so proud of her.”

Geiger said while it can be hard to parents to let go and become less protective of their child, the pride that comes with their independence is more than enough to replace that apprehension.

“Their parents’ goal is for the students to attain a significant level of independence so they don’t have to return home as young adults and live under mom or dad’s roof. And that’s our goal, too,” Geiger said. “We want everybody to maximize their potential. So, when they achieve their own bank account and they’re able to manage those funds correctly and when they can establish utility service in their own name, those are some of the hallmarks of independence in our society.”

A measure of independence

Alabama Power customer service representatives were at the school on opening day helping students put the power bill in their own names. It might seem like a small thing to others, but Geiger said it’s a big deal for the students.

Jessica is also a second-year student and is more than happy to list what she’s learning at Horizons.

“I learned to shop, how to budget for food, how to cook and how to clean,” she said.

Geiger said donors help with everything from movie night to providing scholarships for students in need. Volunteers work to organize fundraisers or even help around the school.
The students become fixtures in the Southside neighborhood. Though the students come from all over the U.S., many decide to live in the neighborhood after they graduate because they are familiar and comfortable there.

Until then, Horizons School is there to guide them to that level of independence.

“It’s exciting,” Kelly said. “I’m moving forward and, just, moving up and keep on going and learning new things. I’m real excited about that.”

Learn more about The Horizons School at: http://www.horizonsschool.org/