Dinner-dance to benefit longtime Walla Walla ballroom instructor

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Several life-threatening health conditions have wreaked havoc with Walla Wallan Russ Chandler's ability to work and be active in the community.

A benefit dinner and silent auction is planned for Russ at 5 p.m. Saturday at Walla Walla Elks Lodge 287, 351 E. Rose St. The event will raise funds to help him with expenses related to his struggle with multiple medical issues, including cancer and heart disease.

"This benefit will help support Russ and (wife Mary Chandler) during this challenging time," said organizer Barbara Noel in a release.

The dinner features pan-seared free-range chicken, vegetarian lasagna, whipped potatoes, salad, roll and dessert. Roads Less Traveled and Burle Craven as Elvis will play music for dancing. The cost is $16 per person. All the proceeds will go into a special bank account for the Chandlers.

"As owners of Ballroom Dance Design studio for 20 years, Russ and Mary's passion for dance, as well as their caring attitude for others, comes through in their teaching of social style ballroom, Latin, and swing dancing," Barbara said. Russ also co-founded Night Moves Dance Club.

Active in the community for years, Russ was a member of the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation and participated in Leadership Walla Walla. He was general manager of Walla Walla Elks Lodge and held various lodge positions.

The Chandlers enjoyed careers in the medical field. For 25 years Russ was an orthopedic physician's assistant for Drs. Bob Ruggeri and Don Didelius at Walla Walla Clinic. After retiring, he managed Home Depot's paint and flooring department.

However, his continued desire for patient contact led him back to the medical field, where he now works parttime for Adventist Health Home Medical.

"Since February 2011, Russ has struggled with multiple medical issues, including lung and adrenal gland cancers and heart disease," Barbara said. "He is currently recovering from a partial lung removal and chemotherapy treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma of the adrenal gland.

During his recovery periods from cancer surgeries and chemotherapy, Russ has been unable to work. "Proceeds from this event will be used to help defray medical costs not covered by insurance and help ease their financial burden," Barbara said.

"Anyone who is acquainted with Russ and Mary know that they are always the ones giving to others. This is an opportunity for those of us who have received so much from them to give something back," Barbara said.

"Russ and Mary are grateful for the support they've already received from family and friends in the Walla Walla Valley and are anxious to be back in 'giving' mode again."

Donations may be made directly to a special Russ Chandler account at Baker Boyer Bank.

Contact Barbara to make reservations, which are requested, and to make donations to the silent auction at 301-0987 or bjg801@hotmail.com .

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Walla Walla native Susan Joseph Nielsen is the new vice president of communications for Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, based in Spokane.

Among her duties, Susan will manage the organization's marketing, communications, publications, media relations, social media, advertising and public relations.

Pam Lund, CEO of GSEWNI, said Susan's background in communications and public relations as an editor and journalist gives her the chops for the strategic role Girl Scouts has in the 30-county council area that includes Walla Walla.

"Susan's energy, leadership and creativity, coupled with her familiarity with fellow journalists, women and business leaders throughout our council area, will be an asset as we prepare to celebrate the Girl Scouts of USA Centennial year in 2012."

The daughter of Gabe and Margaret Joseph of Walla Walla, Susan has had leadership roles with national and regional energy, higher education, health care and publishing organizations.

The Green Park Elementary and Pioneer Junior High School alumna graduated in 1980 from Walla Walla High School, earned a bachelor's in communications in 1984 from Washington State University and a master's in interdisciplinary studies in 2005 from Eastern Washington University.

She is accredited in public relations through the Public Relations Society of America, a member of the Leadership Spokane Class of 2012 and volunteers with several regional professional and community boards, committees and organizations.

This branch of Girl Scouts serves nearly 8,000 girls and 2,600 adult volunteers in a region encompassing 20 counties in central and eastern Washington and 10 counties in northern Idaho.

She and husband of 251/2 years Scott Nielsen, also a WSU grad, have two sons, Peter, a senior at WSU majoring in business and hospitality management; and Grant, a freshman pursuing neuroscience with the hope of veterinary school.

For more information about the council and the many ways to be involved visit www.gsewni.org.

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Altogether, 1,196 children in Walla Walla and Columbia counties benefitted from a record number of gifted toys, stocking stuffers and books that were donated during Walla Walla's fifth annual Toys for Tots drive in the Valley.

The event coincided with the U.S. Marine Corps' 64th anniversary of the national Toys for Tots Foundation event.

"I am so grateful to the community for embracing Toys for Tots," said its local coordinator, Beth Swanson, in a release. The community gave 2,002 toys, 588 books and 460 stocking stuffers, she said.

St. Vincent de Paul, Walla Walla Public Schools, Children's Home Society, the YWCA and other nonprofits and the community's medical centers ensured Walla Walla Valley children received a little Christmas, Beth said. Other organizations supporting the campaign included the Early Learning Coalition, The Moms' Network, Book & Game Co., Community Bank, Providence St. Mary Medical Center, City Slickers, Inland Cellular, Assumption School, AAA Washington, NAPA, Tumac Machinery, O'Brien Chevrolet, Windermere, John L. Scott, Walla Walla Bread Company, Walla Walla Clinic, Parent to Parent, Walla Walla Sweets, Whitman College Bookstore, Legacy Ford, Oil Haus, Tiki Grille, Mama Mia Pasta, Walgreens, Tallman's, Waitsburg Hardware & Mercantile, Dayton General Hospital, Dayton General Store and Dayton High School.

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The preface of "Splendor in the Skies: Echoes from the Past," edited by Walla Wallan Don R. Hayes, a retired U.S. Air Force major, gives a glimpse of the life-and-death experiences of B-17 bomber crews in World War II:

"This book is composed of a great many of the finest examples of men and boys involved in the strangest and most unusual air war ever fought ... It's a whole new element, a deadly element -- the sub-stratosphere where a person will die within 3 or 4 minutes without oxygen. It's where a person will freeze to death in 4 or 5 minutes outside of his airplane -- an element never before a warground of super fast and deadly combat."

The word "splendor" in the title, said Hayes, who crewed in B-17s on bombing missions over Europe, comes only from "how great (the aircraft) looked in formation at 30,000 feet, shining and in the sun."

The book is a compilation of often harrowing and sometimes humorous stories submitted by members of the B-17 Flying Fortress Association, for which Hayes has put out a newsletter since 1990. Hayes also contributes items along with his poetry in the book based on his experiences in flying 30 missions as a flight engineer and top-turret gunner.

Hayes came to Walla Walla in 1963 and worked in the advertising department at the Union-Bulletin until 1977. He also started and built up the ice hockey program when the Ice Chalet first opened, and produced and directed the parade held in Walla Walla in commemoration of the nation's bicentennial anniversary in 1976.

Hayes said 500 copies of the book have been printed and will be made available for archive reference in local public and school libraries. People who want to buy a copy may send a check or money order to Hayes at P.O. Box 3398, Walla Walla, WA, 99362, or call him at 525-9442.

Contact Annie Charnley Eveland at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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