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Donna Brantly survived the crash that took her husband James in 2007. Today the family gives back through the James P. Brantly Memorial Fund
“I’m only here because of Trinity County Search and Rescue,” says Donna Brantly. On December 29, 2007, Brantly and her husband James were traveling east on California State Route 299 when they hit a patch of black ice and left the road. James was killed. Donna remembers nothing of the accident. It was a series of chances that led to her rescue – two fishermen spotted the tracks in the ice, the passenger seat brackets broke so Donna was thrown backward and cocooned in the crushed metal. The search and rescue team worked for four hours to remove her from the vehicle, which was trapped precariously near the Trinity River.
After the accident, and after Donna’s long recovery, which included a full year of rehabilitation, she and her family began to learn more about the rescue team and the vital role they play in rural communities.
“They have to replace about a 1,000 feet of rope every year,” says Donna. She also learned that volunteer first responders often pay for their own training and emergency gear. In 2008 the James P. Brantly Memorial Fund was created to support the work of rural search and rescue organizations.
Donna and her daughter, Cheryl Kingham, believe that James would have approved of the work his legacy supports. James Brantly was a steadfast man who stuck with the things he cared about. He was a member of the United Methodist Church for 50 years, a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization. He worked in federal law enforcement for 30 years, earning the Commissioner's Meritorious Achievement Award for rescuing a woman on Palomar Mountain. He received citations from President Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy for his assistance during the Oxford riots when the University of Mississippi enrolled the first black student, James Meredith. His marriage to Donna spanned five decades.
“He was so handsome that the girls at my college accused me of keeping the photo that came in the frame,” says Donna, referring to the photo of the “tall, handsome sailor” she met on the Long Beach boardwalk at the dawn of the Korean War. It was only when James took leave and showed up at her dormitory with a flat of strawberries that the teasing stopped.
Cheryl describes her father as “very loyal, very loving.” He respected his wife, who had studied business and went on to be a business manager at the local school district.
“Big Jim,” as some people dubbed James, liked to give back. He often volunteered at his church and helped neighbors in their homes, doing plumbing and electrical work.
“He could fix anything,” says Donna, who also called James her “Handy Andy.”
The James P. Brantly Memorial Fund has supported small fire departments and search and rescue organizations by providing emergency equipment, training funds and supplies such as water purification equipment, intubation dummies and rope.
Donna, now 86, helps administer the fund along with Cheryl; the family lives in McKinleyville and regularly host Cheryl’s Girl Scout troop. Cheryl says that one takeaway from the tragic experience was that if you’re traveling you should make sure to have emergency contact information in the glove compartment of the car and other locations so first responders will know who to call if there’s an accident. The family adds to the fund every year on James’ birthday, January 16. To learn more about the James P. Brantly Memorial Fund, click here.
Through the program, participants will have an opportunity to hone their leadership and collaboration skills. The program is held in two-day sessions over the course of four months. The 2016 session dates are January 12 and 13; February 2 and 3; February 23 & 24; April 6 & 7, and April 27 and 28.
Cascadia Center for Leadership, a program of the Humboldt Area Foundation, is managed by Mary Gelinas and Roger James, who also co-direct Gelinas-James, Inc., an international consulting and training firm. As a team they offer cutting- edge leadership concepts and tools to emerging and seasoned organizational and community leaders. They strive each year to reach new participants with an interest in collaborating effectively within and across organizations and sectors.
The 2017 program marks the 17th anniversary of Cascadia. More than 400 people have graduated from its leadership program during that time.
“Cascadia continues to provide a unique opportunity for leaders from all sectors to learn and grow together for the good of their organizations and the region as a whole, “Mary Gelinas said. “Roger and I feel privileged to work with each person who commits themselves to their development as a leader and contributing member of our North Coast community.”
Additional guest faculty members include Dr. Robert Maurer, director of Behavioral Sciences for the Family Practice Residency Program at the Santa Monica-UCLA Hospital along with Heather Equinoss, an independent consultant with over 15 years of project management, meeting design and graphic facilitation and community engagement experience in public, nonprofit, private and community settings.
The cost of the program is $1,850 per participant and includes all meals, materials, and tuition. A limited number of partial scholarships are available. Enrollment is limited to 24 participants and an application is required.
To apply please visit cascadialeadership.org or call 707-442-2993.
Humboldt County’s Lao community has decreased in recent decades, as the children and grandchildren of refugees who moved here in the 1970s leave to pursue economic opportunity and cultural enclaves in larger cities, but those who remain have found a way to pass down traditions to the next generation: Dance.
The Humboldt County Lao Dancers received a Grassroots Grant from the James & Geneva Nealis Fund in 2017 to continue teaching children traditional Lao dancing. The dances reflect the history of Laos, and often occur in the context of important cultural celebrations such as the Lao New Year. The grant money was partially used on acquiring proper costumes, which are made of silk and sewn with gold and silver thread.
Auntha Say, mother of an 8-year-old dancer and co-founder of the dance group, says that putting the outfit and performing is transformative for the young girls.
“She loves it,” Say says of her daughter, adding that more children are now interested in learning the Laotion language and traditional instruments. “They know it’s special.”
Grassroots Grants are one way we put Opportunity Funding to good use. To learn more about Opportunity Funds, click here.
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