Saturday, March 27, 2010

song choice

Adam Golka almost made us late for The Breakfast Club. The piano virtuoso was practically forced to play an encore by Maestro Lucas Richman. My wife and I attended last night's performance by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. The second half of the concert was Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3. Guest artist Golka tore the roof off the place with his performance. He received an immediate standing ovation and while the applause was still loud and strong, Richman literally pushed the 22-year-old back to the piano bench. I've been to the symphony dozens of times and had not seen this happen before. Golka launched into an opus by Schubert as the orchestra members watched silently.

Between pieces in the first half of the show, the Maestro greeted the audience and thanked the sponsors as usual. He also got in a plug for his participation in Star 102.1's Dancing with the Knoxville Stars. I found it funny when he urged the symphony audience to go to the radio station's website, where they can find the link to donate in his name. I assumed that most of the crowd had no idea what he was talking about but I may have been wrong.

At intermission, web-connected cell phones were glowing and the Tennessee Theatre was buzzing with news of the Tennessee Vols. Their Sweet Sixteen game against Ohio State was nearing its conclusion. I heard one man say that he had smuggled in a radio with an earphone to listen to the game. Local PR executive Alan Carmichael let me look over his shoulder as he checked Twitter on his smartphone. That's how I learned that the Vols won just before intermission ended. The news spread to the audience as the musicians were tuning up for the Rachmaninoff concerto and a cheer erupted. I sent Carmichael and his wife, Cynthia Moxley, a message suggesting that the orchestra should launch into "Rocky Top."

Golka's encore meant that my wife and I didn't get to the Valarium until after 10:30. I thought we had missed the start of The Breakfast Club show but their opening act was still on its last song when we arrived. The popular '80s cover band hit the stage a short while later. My wife and I figured that they probably save all the best songs for last. Except for "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," I didn't hear any of my favorites during the first set, although the other fans seemed more than ready to Wang Chung last night.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

anchors aweigh

"Wow, that photo is like your dreams come to life! Nice," said the message from my friend Bean, who had just seen a picture I posted to Twitter. Three morning news anchors from three different television stations had come in to be interviewed about their participation in Star 102.1's Dancing with the Knoxville Stars.

I danced in last year's version of the event and my wife made a donation to East Tennessee Children's Hospital on my behalf. Each dollar raised by the dancers counts as one vote toward their total. My wife and I will donate again this year and I thought we might divide our dollars evenly between the fundraising pages for Tearsa Smith, Abby Ham and Allison Kropff. On Monday night my wife came home from a Knoxville Choral Society rehearsal with a different idea. She would donate to Lucas Richman's account.

I should have thought of that sooner. After all, the Maestro is dancing with Emily Loyless, the new co-owner of Academy Ballroom, who was my partner last year. Also, I'm the one who invited Lucas to participate via Stephanie Burdette, the Knoxville Symphony's director of communications. On top of all that, Richman's total is lagging behind the TV women, who have been tirelessly promoting the event on their newscasts.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

obscure little research facility

Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass autographed each of their first four Body Farm novels when I interviewed them about the books. Because our interview for "The Bone Thief" was recorded before the finished products were back from the printer, my copy is not yet signed. Neither is the extra copy that HarperCollins sent me as a donation for the silent auction at the Star 102.1 Radiothon to benefit East Tennessee Children's Hospital. I will get both signed on Thursday night at Books-A-Million in Oak Ridge.

Fans of the Body Farm are happy that "The Bone Thief" got a nice mention in the current Entertainment Weekly. The magazine gave it a solid B.

While I was clicking around on the WBIR website, I found an extended interview with Dr. Bass that was fun to watch. He says a lot of the same type of stuff that we talk about in our radio conversations, which seemed to surprise the off-camera interviewer. You can hear Jim Matheny say that the joke about putting road kill under your computer would be web-only content.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

walk and chew gum

Before I was asked to auction off a meal with the Bishop at the annual fund-raising dinner for Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, I had already agreed to be the honorary chairman for their "Kids Helping Kids Fun Walk." The event benefits Columbus Home, a refuge for boys who are victims of abuse and neglect. Sponsors are still needed for the walk. Sponsorships are $250 (full), $125 (half), or $50 (partial). Call (865) 524-9896 if you can help.

The annual walk will be on Sunday, May 16 at All Saints Church. The parish grounds have a walking trail that is popular with Knoxvillians of all denominations.

WBIR anchor John Becker and I recorded a public service announcement for the Fun Walk. He wore a WBIR track suit and I wore one of Fr. Ragan Schriver's shirts with a Catholic Charities logo on it.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

without a net

Skydiving and bungee jumping will never appeal to me. I wonder if the rush that you get from surviving is similar to the feeling I had last night when I stepped off the stage at the benefit dinner for Catholic Charities of East Tennessee. Event chair Tami Hartmann asked me to auction off an expensive bottle of Beaux Frères wine and then auction off dinner for ten with Bishop Stika right there in front of Bishop Stika.

photo by Cynthia Moxley; used by permission Cynthia Moxley and Alan Carmichael were seated front and center. I joked that I might finally rate a mention in Cynthia's Blue Streak blog, which was recognized by the News Sentinel's readers last fall. She wrote about the dinner and included a photo of me in full auction action.

At the time, I thought my anxiety came from doing shtick in front of the Bishop and so many priests and people I knew from church. In hindsight, I realize that my jokes were no worse than the things I said at the roast for Fr. Ragan Schriver. For example, I said that whoever bought the pricey Pinot Noir should share it with Bishop Stika because it was heart-healthy. I also said that I hoped someone from my parish would buy the dinner and once everyone was relaxed and in a good mood, they would lobby the Bishop for an additional priest to be sent to All Saints, which now has only two left. However, I can't remember most of the things I said. Fr. Christian Mathis, who recognized me from my blog, posted one of my jokes on Twitter. If you were there last night and can help me fill in the blanks, please leave a comment here.

The Bishop graciously accepted my wisecracks and afterward asked if I had previous auctioning experience. I told him it was actually my first time and that I had tried to copy Bear Stephenson, the great auctioneer at the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction. I still have a lot to learn. I think my case of nerves happened when the bidding for the dinner at any Connor Concepts restaurant slowed and eventually stopped at $3,500. I guess I was hoping for more.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

giving out wings

If the Old Farmer's Almanac wanted a sure thing every year, they could call the Knoxville chapter of the Salvation Army and ask for the date of media bell-ringing day. I remember each of those days being cold and raw, which makes sense for the first Thursday in December. This was at least the fifth year I have participated.

For the second consecutive year, Jonathan Haskell sent me to Sam's Club, which couldn't be more convenient. This year was better than last because the red kettle was placed near the entrance instead of the exit. Everyone entering Sam's has to reach for their wallet to show their membership card. It was pretty easy for them to grab a few dollars at the same time. When a parent let their small child put the money in the kettle, I let the youngster ring the bell a few times.

Alan Williams and Lauren Davis of WVLT had done a great job in the two hours before I arrived. I had to use my pen several times to push down the cash and make room for more. The bell ringer after me was a real ringing Bell, as in Bob Bell of a Christian talk station.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

think globally

Are local politicians supposed to be homers? I received an email today from an elected official in Knox County. The message suggested donating to charity instead of buying gifts for Christmas. The politician highlighted a worthy organization, the Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation, with a focus on their indentured daughters program.
During this holiday season, our family is looking for a different way to celebrate - instead of exchanging the usual gifts that no one really needs, we are sharing our love and good fortune with girls and families in Nepal.
As I read the five or six paragraphs about NYOF, which included a link to a PBS video on the topic, I found no fault with such a deserving cause. It was a nice sentiment which educated me about the plight of others. However the last line of the email gave me pause. If the elected official had not included it, I would not have thought something was amiss.
P.S. If you would rather contribute to an organization that helps children here in the United States, we also contribute to Share Our Strength and Remote Area Medical.
Since moving to Tennessee, I have been continually amazed and impressed by the work of Remote Area Medical. You may have seen them on "60 Minutes." Maybe that's why my knee-jerk reaction was that the local politician should be focused on the Tennessee group, perhaps with a P.S. about Nepal. Can you help me figure out why I felt that way and then felt guilty about feeling that way?

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

ginger snaps

Most people go to the Fantasy of Trees to see the trees, hence the title of the event. Volunteers from all over East Tennessee spend hours and hours decorating beautiful Christmas trees that are sold to benefit Children's Hospital. Having said that, I was more impressed by a display of gingerbread houses.

My wife and I attended a preview gala at the Knoxville Convention Center on Tuesday night. The building is right next to the real Sunsphere, which was represented in gingerbread. I also saw a house that looked like it was made of Pepto-Bismol and a structure that reminded me of the models of California missions that my kids had to build in the fourth grade at St. Finbar School.

Did you spot the entry from M&M Catering, a local BBQ favorite?

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

a cheerful giver

Today's blog entry has been, in a manner of speaking, donated to charity. I received a couple of emails asking for help. One gives you a chance to get some exercise before eating your Thanksgiving dinner. The other lets you spend big money on a one-of-a-kind item.

I remember your post about Bible Across America and I wanted to give you a heads up, Zondervan is auctioning off one of the Bible Across America handwritten originals.

The Bible Zondervan is auctioning is actually in three volumes. Each is leather-bound, and cumulatively contain 2,200 pages at 11x17 inches. It is the actual Bible that people wrote into and includes the handwriting of more than 31,000 Americans from all ages and walks of life during the course of the nine month campaign.

The auction is currently open on eBay at the following link: It will end on November 22, 2009 at 11:11 AM EST.

All proceeds of the auction will benefit Colorado Springs-based Biblica, the translation sponsor of the New International Version (NIV) translation, the translation used for Bible Across America.

I was hoping you could check out the auction, make a bid if you want to, and give a shout out on your blog. If you have any questions I'm happy to answer them.

Brian Burch
Here's another one.
Hey Frank,

If you think it's appropriate, would you consider mentioning something about the Hot to Trot race on your blog? Proceeds benefit Catholic Charities and Sister Martha's Food Pantry. Great way to get active on Thanksgiving Day, while giving back to the community.

If you can't, no big deal. I'm just trying to get the word out.

Gretchen Crawley

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Friday, November 13, 2009

(404) not found

When Emily Loyless texted to tell me that she was headed to Atlanta this weekend for a local version of "Dancing with the Stars," I eagerly clicked on the link hoping to recognize a news anchor or radio host among the participants. The contestants include a TV weatherman, a magazine editor and the head of a local convention and visitors bureau.

To my mild disappointment, there was no Ted Hall or Bert Weiss in the competition. The event did get me thinking, however. Which local celebrities should be invited by East Tennessee Children's Hospital to participate in the next edition of Star 102.1's Dancing with the Knoxville Stars? Leave your suggestions in the comment section by clicking here. I'll give you a big hint about who would get my vote:

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Monday, November 09, 2009

shouted out with glee

Before getting dressed for the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction, I had a thought. What if I accidentally wore the exact same thing as I did at last year's event? I happened to be on the phone with my daughter at the time. She went to my blog entry from 2008 and described the red tie and striped shirt I had on. I knew to wear the blue tie and a solid shirt this year.

Once again, the delicious food made it a night to remember. As much as I wanted to, I couldn't possibly taste everything that was offered. My wife and I got there early enough to see the elaborate Cabot Cheese and fruit tray before anyone disturbed it.

I got to chat with talented young singer Logan Murrell and her parents before the ballroom doors opened. Logan did a great job performing during dinner. She sang four or five songs including "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" and "Over the Rainbow." Julie Murrell emailed me recently to say they had seen some of my previous blog mentions of her daughter. She gave me a copy of Logan's Christmas CD to review.

No offense to Logan or to energetic auctioneer Bear Stephenson, but the main attraction at the Signature Chefs Auction is the food. 19 chefs from different businesses set up shop at tables around the perimeter of the ballroom in the Knoxville Convention Center. I found it funny that The Inn at Christmas Place was serving goose (seared foie gras over roasted corn polenta with port veal broth) while The Crown & Goose was serving reindeer (seared porcini dusted venison on top of pumpkin mash with candied pecans with apple cider spice glaze). The venison dish was my favorite entrée of the night. Not all the food was hoity-toity. The pork BBQ from Chandler's Deli had a delicious seasoning that I liked but couldn't identify.

Dessert was no slouch either. There was a long line for ice cream from Marble Slab Creamery. They brought a portable slab and offered two flavors. Their Double Dark Chocolate with Fudge was as good as it sounds. Rosa's Catering Service provided an End of the Rainbow cake with different flavors of icing.

My favorite overall dish was also a dessert. The Bananas Foster from Club Le Conte was so good I went back for seconds.

As in past years, I was there as a volunteer. My contact at the March of Dimes asked me to solicit donations from three tables. My wife made a small contribution when she heard that it would be doubled if we used our MasterCard. I also worked as a spotter at the live auction again this year. I saw some local celebrities in the room. WVLT anchor Alan Williams was as gracious as always. The event emcee was WATE anchor Kristin Farley who was representing Fox 43, where she does the 10:00 p.m. news. Kristin asked my wife if she could ham it up for the camera.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Fox Chase Farm was festooned with pink on Saturday for the first Ride for the Cure Virginia. It was one of only a few such events in the country and was the most successful. Susan G. Komen For the Cure will receive over $100,000 in proceeds. My friend Maureen, who bought the farm ten years ago, asked me to make announcements before and during the Ride.

The festivities started with the singing of the National Anthem by Angela Knight. She wore all purple with a sash that read "Mrs. Haymarket." She makes appearances on behalf of the Mrs. Virginia organization when she's not performing as a lyric coloratura with the Washington National Opera or singing her own Christian music in concert.

Several breast cancer survivors walked around the outdoor performance arena while Michael Bicoy of the U.S. Army Chorus sang "You'll Never Walk Alone." The hard part of performing that song is making the audience momentarily forget about Jerry Lewis. Bicoy succeeded easily.

One of the riders was Greta Kreuz from WJLA-TV. She took over the emcee role during the catered dinner under a fancy white tent. I sat at a table with Olympian Joe Fargis, who is revered among the Middleburg horse set. The dessert cupcakes were decorated with pink ribbons.

Most of the donations came from the riders and their sponsors. More money was raised with a silent auction set up around the perimeter of the dinner tent. Three celebrities I know donated items to the silent auction. Thanks go to Jimmy Kimmel, Susan Olsen and Richard Cheese. Everyone seemed pleased that the winner of $4000 in the 50/50 raffle was the guy who hauls the manure off the farm each week.

A crew from the PBS show "Equitrekking" shot video and conducted interviews with some of the participants. They posted a three minute story on YouTube.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

tick tock tober

In a way, I'm glad I got the flu when I did. It was a shame to miss several events over the weekend but it would have been worse if I had gotten sick a week or a month later. My October will be exceptionally busy.

The excitement starts later this week when I start an eight-week class at the FBI Citizens Academy. On one October weekend, we will take a field trip to the firing range. My uncle served in the FBI for many years. He and I will have a lot to talk about when I travel to Norfolk for a family wedding on another October weekend.

I was happy that my work schedule will allow me to emcee a great event in Virginia on October 10th. My friend Maureen is organizing the Ride for the Cure at her horse farm in Middleburg. Three celebrities I know have donated items to the silent auction. Thanks go to Jimmy Kimmel, Susan Olsen and Richard Cheese. By the way, Susan tells me that she already mailed off an autographed book to the auction before her son's cat used her last four books (including my copy) as a litter box.

I've already written about my plans to attend the screening of "Fish Bait" at Flat Hollow Marina & Resort on October 24. We are also going to attempt to participate in "Thrill the World," the worldwide "Thriller" dance. Director Jeff Joslin emailed me today to say that he is working on lining up a venue for a screening and party in Knoxville on Friday the 23rd.

With all this activity, there has to be something I will miss. Because of my commitment to the FBI Citizens Academy and because my wife will be singing at a wedding, we cannot attend her college reunion weekend at James Madison University. One of our favorite bands from our college days is reuniting for the event. The Skip Castro Band is playing a gig called "Boogie at Midlife."

But wait, there's more. I'm still undecided about whether or not I will attend the Knoxville Snuggie Pub Crawl on October 17th. What do you think? Obviously, I have the uniform of the day.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

hey y'all

Elaine Streno, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank, was impressed by the drawing power of Paula Deen. The Food Network star was in Knoxville today as Smithfield Foods made a meaty donation to feed the hungry. There was a strong turnout from donors and media members who wanted to meet the so-called "doyenne of Southern cooking."

Tearsa Smith from WATE and Beth Haynes from WBIR were on hand to interview Paula. I was fortunate enough to also get a chance to speak with her. I thought about having Paula autograph a stick of butter but decided on something more permanent. I printed a few pictures from my September 2005 blog entry about "Tricked Out Tailgating" and got Paula to sign one for me, one for a co-worker and one for the silent auction at next year's Radiothon.

Paula kept the picture of me with Michael Anthony Groover. In the interview, she said she's missing him while he rides his motorcycle in Washington.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

your mileage may vary

One of these days I hope to get back to Seattle to visit my friend Bean. For that reason, I've been trying to hang on to some frequent flyer miles that are in danger of expiring. I'll admit that I could have gone to the Emerald City by now if I hadn't been using all my vacation time for family trips. In 2007, we went on a 3,000 mile college search road trip. Last year's vacation was planned to coincide with freshman move-in. Earlier this year, my son and I went on Spring break together.

To keep from losing my accumulated miles, I need to have some sort of activity on my account every eighteen months. The last time I had this problem, I donated a few of the miles to charity. At that time, the American Airlines representative suggested I sign up for their dining rewards program to earn miles at participating restaurants. You would think that I would have no problem spending $25 at one of the eateries on the list. However, my year-to-date total is still zero.

I specifically looked for a restaurant in Florida where my son and I could eat, I could earn a few miles and more importantly have some activity that would save the 26,000 miles I am on the verge of losing. The decision was easy. We went to Cheeburger Cheeburger.

On Wednesday night I called the number for the rewards program to ask why my Cheeburger purchase hadn't shown up on my statement. In fact, my pork salad at La Costa should have earned me some activity too. The nice lady on the other end of the line explained that the credit card I had used had been taken off my rewards account. As it turns out, my wife had inadvertently assigned our joint credit card to another cause.

When we lived in Burbank, my wife was co-chair of the scrip program at St. Finbar School. She and another mom would sell gift cards from local grocery stores and other retailers. The school made a 3 to 5% profit on card sales. All Saints Church has a similar program with Food City and Kroger.

A few months ago my wife responded to a request from eScrip. She could donate a portion of certain credit card purchases. As a result, St. Finbar got 57¢ from my bill at Cheeburger Cheeburger. eScrip and the dining rewards program are operated by the same company. Any given credit card number can only participate in one program at a time. My wife logged in to her eScrip account and swapped our joint account number for some other cards in her purse. Meanwhile, I logged on to AAdvantage Dining and re-added the joint account number.

I'll start looking for restaurants we can patronize on our summer vacation in New England. Locally, I was glad to see that Pimento's Café has joined the program. I think I can talk our vegetarian friend into meeting us there for salad the next time we get together.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

pink ribbons

The silent auction items are starting to arrive for the charity event my friend Maureen is co-chairing. She owns Fox Chase Farm in Middleburg, Virginia, which will host the Ride for the Cure Virginia to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

The media sponsor for the October event is WJLA-TV in nearby Washington, DC. Maureen is thrilled that Greta Kreuz and Suzanne Kennedy are planning to ride horses at the function.

Susan Olsen has promised to send an autographed copy of her upcoming book "Love to Love You Bradys: The Bizarre Story of The Brady Bunch Variety Hour." Maureen sent me photos of two autographed items that have already arrived. Melissa Etheridge sent a copy of her greatest hits CD. My pal Jimmy Kimmel sent a personalized basketball jersey.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Emily Loyless went to Atlanta to audition for "So You Think You Can Dance" on Monday. My fingers are crossed for her to do well. Emily is an excellent dancer. My plodding performance in our rumba together doesn't quite do her justice.

A much better representation of Emily's skills is available to Knoxvillians via Comcast on Demand. She and Jeremy Norris did three dances at the Ruby Slippers Benefit for Family Promise of Knoxville. From the On Demand menu, choose Get Local, and then Special Events to see half an hour of highlights from the event. On the video, I saw several other instructors and students from Academy Ballroom dancing to the music of the Brad Walker Orchestra.

The ballroom staff is getting ready for a move to a new location in The Shops at Western Plaza. For now, they are still open at Downtown West, where some of the "Dancing With the Knoxville Stars" participants will reprise their performances on upcoming Friday nights. Terry Morrow and Gretchen Bartlett are set for this Friday with their respective professional partners, Rhonda and Mark Becker.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009


For two days each year Seth Linkous is the producer of the Marc & Kim and Frank show. He gets us through the annual Star 102.1 Radiothon for East Tennessee Children's Hospital. His real job is in the Community Relations department at the hospital. When we had the opportunity to broadcast from the Children's Miracle Network Celebration at Walt Disney World, Seth put his producer hat on again.

Yesterday, during the second day of the Radiothon, Seth asked me if I had looked at the pictures on my camera yet. He didn't realize I had already posted some in that day's blog entry. Seth used my camera to take a picture of me with three of the news anchors from WBIR on Thursday.

This was not the first time Seth has used my camera. While in Florida, I asked him to get some photos of me with Children's Miracle Network celebrities. He also snapped a picture of Terry Morrow and me with the guest of honor at Abby Ham's goodbye party. Getting back to yesterday, Seth claims that he "accidentally" took a picture of Beth Haynes' shoe. I wonder if her stiletto will get as many clicks as Stacy McCloud's boots.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

can you do a dollar?

The staff at East Tennessee Children's Hospital makes sure that Marc and Kim and I have an abundance of food and treats during the annual Star 102.1 Radiothon, which started yesterday and continues today from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. It's tough to exercise any self-control when local businesses show up with even more food that I love. If the good-looking treats from The Cupcakery had arrived before I had already eaten a piece of a staff member's birthday cake and a few Godiva chocolates, I would have grabbed one of the chocolatey ones. The bird's nest looked pretty nice too. So instead of eating a cupcake, I feasted my eyes by photographing them.

A highlight of yesterday's broadcast was the presentation of the proceeds from "Star 102.1's Dancing With the Knoxville Stars." To mark the occasion, professional dancers Emily Loyless and Jeremy Norris did what they do best to the tune of "Poker Face."

Lori Tucker, Mark Nagi and Terry Morrow handed over the big check. Later in the day, Beth Haynes, Russell Biven and John Becker came by to help ask for donations. You can phone in your pledge at (865) 656-KIDS or donate online via my fundraising page.

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