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NEVADA, Iowa — Having a lead role in helping Nevada High School students find a love for theater is a breath of fresh air for Karen Niblock.  “The students are the reason I’m here,” said Karen, who is also a seventh grade middle school teacher within the district.

After being diagnosed with a lung disease called Fibrotic Non-Specific Interstitial Pneumonia (NSIP) in 2016, doctors said the number of breaths left for Karen were numbered without a double lung transplant.  “They say I just have a couple of years if I’m lucky in my lungs and it could go quicker,” said Karen.

Her lungs are losing strength fast.  “I’m on oxygen pretty much 24/7 now,” Karen said.  Despite the adversity and like the students she’s directing for the high schools upcoming spring musical Sister Act, Karen hasn’t missed a step and continues to teach.  “This energizes me,” she said.

An extra boost came a year ago when the University of Iowa Hospitals accepted her into their lung transplant program and the Nevada community stepped in line.  “Transplants are never free,” said Karen.  Online videos and a GoFundMe account, put together by her co-workers, friends and students both past and present, are trying to raise $17,000  towards her upcoming medical bills.  “I’m overwhelmed.  This is one of those communities that reaches out to anyone that needs help,” Karen said.

Karen says the transplant call will come unexpectedly.  “They said sometime in the next four to six months I should get new lungs.”

When that double lung match is found Karen says she’ll have just twenty minutes to gather her essentials and hit the road for Iowa City.  “It’s a huge blessing but it is so hard to think about because it means somebody else is going to donate those lungs and that is hard,” said Karen.

The transplant may allow her to step back and take a deep breath but it’s these students that have already given her life.  “The only reason for me to do this transplant is to go back to doing what I love, working with students and helping them grow and be the best they can be,” said Karen.

Karen plans to meet with the lung transplant team next week where she will officially be placed on the candidate list.

 

You can contribute the GoFundMe created for Karen at this website:

https://www.gofundme.com/hold-your-breath-for-karen?fbclid=IwAR1wjGBvIZzAXh6xxV-GZ6PMsiWFh8RwwDr6IYiM9wI18arB4WBCEUqJLaY

DES MOINES, Iowa —  On Wednesday the Iowa legislature began what will likely be a long conversation over legalizing sports gambling in Iowa.

A legislative subcommittee considered four separate bills on Wednesday that would legalize betting on professional and collegiate sports.  A 2018 US Supreme Court ruling lifted the federal moratorium on the activity.

Prairie Meadows Casino is banking on the legislature legalizing betting.

“We can’t run odds, we can’t take wagers it’s not legal in the state so a lot of the T. V’s you see are dark right now,” Brad Rhines with Prairie Meadows said.

Prairie meadows invested $1.5 million in the hope’s lawmakers legalize sports gambling.

Part of that money paid for a 8,600 square foot state of the art sports betting expansion.

“It bodes well to have potential sports betting on the gaming platform we are poised to take advantage of it,” Rhines said.

Prairie Meadows likes its odds.

On bill a Senate subcommittee heard would legalize betting in all casinos and bring betting right to your cell phone.

All of the bills have the state getting a cut but not everyone sees it as a win.

“We are opposed to expanding gambling rights in Iowa,” Amy Campbell lobbyist I for Iowa Behavioral Health Association said. “13 percent of Iowans have been exposed to problem gambling in their lifetime according to the Mayo Clinic gambling can impact the brain like drugs and alcohol stimulating addiction”.

DES MOINES, Iowa —  Instead of a trip home, a Fort Dodge family took a tour of the Midwest. At one point the family ended up back where they started and then made an unexpected visit to Kansas City.

Last weekend, Jan Deal and her husband, Al, departed on their last leg home to Des Moines from Atlanta on a Delta Air Lines flight. The two had been on a vacation in Cozumel, Mexico.

Prior to arrival in Des Moines, Deal says the Delta pilot was having issues landing.

“I was bit apprehensive because of the excessive time in the air,” Jan Deal said. “We learned that Des Moines had equipment failure.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Delta Air Lines, and Des Moines International Airport says the device that assists pilots landing in dense fog was out of order, so the pilot couldn’t see and had to turn the plane back around to Atlanta. That caused the Deals and others to sleep in the airport that night.

“There were no rooms available because all the rooms were booked for the Super Bowl,” Deal said.

Much to the surprise of the Deals, they would experience the same outcome the next day flying out.

“We got over Des Moines and circled again for 45 minutes, and we were rerouted to Kansas City because of that equipment failure,” Deal said.

It took the Deals more than 14 hours to land in Des Moines.

A Des Moines pilot backs the decision not to land.

“You need to see where the concrete is. You need to be able to see where you are turning off. You wouldn’t want to get it stuck, especially in the wet mud,” pilot Stuart Rauh said.

The Deals say their vacation was worth the hassle of getting home.

The FAA says the problem has been fixed.

Delta Airlines apologized for the problems and issued the Deals vouchers for their next trip.

GRIMES, Iowa — Icy roads may cause drivers stress, but it used to crush the spirits of central Iowa public works directors emptying their salt storage. “There is no worse feeling for a public works agency than to know you are out of a critical aspect supply you need to keep roads safe,” said Bret Hodney, the public services director of West Des Moines.

In 2007, it plagued Des Moines, Windsor Heights, Clive, Waukee, Urbandale, West Des Moines, Pleasant Hill, Grimes and Johnston.

Urbandale Assistant Public Works Director Tim Stovie said, “We didn’t have enough storage at our facilities to last the whole winter so we had to bring in salt during the winter.”  That salt only comes from mines in Kansas. In the winter demand is high and so are costs. Hodney said, “They have lines a mile and a half long waiting for trucks to be loaded and that was the problem.  We couldn’t get salt in here fast enough.”

Needing a reliable delivery of salt at a moments notice but without having to individually build larger facilities, the nine cities joined together to build the Central Iowa Salt Storage Facility in Grimes.  It holds 22,000 tons of salt. Hodney said, “Now we can take all that salt and get it pre-delivered earlier in the year and take advantage of much lower pricing.”

Waste Management Authority paid for the $1.2 million facility. It took just five years for the nine cities to return the favor. “We paid for the facility just with the savings we had in salt,” said Hodney.

Harsh winters are not the only reason for the salt storage in Grimes. Metro communities are growing rapidly, requiring new developments, which require new homes that require new roads which need more salt. “Not only the commercial and housing but logistically we have 56 square miles of territory and eight hundred lane miles of streets.  It is a lot more than when I started 30 years ago,” said Hodney.

It is a model of teamwork paved in salt. “This was just a tremendous example and has been used as a national model for how other agencies can collaborate to solve a problem like we did,” said Hodney.

Pricing is not split evenly. The cities are billed for the amount of salt they purchase and store at the Grimes facility.

DES MOINES, Iowa — His face is hard to forget. So were his last words. Garrett Michael Matthias died last summer from a rare form of cancer when he was just five years old, but the disease didn’t kill his spirit.

“One of the things that my husband and I really wanted to do when Garrett was terminally diagnosed was capture the things he talked about in those conversations and in the way that he talked about them,” says Garrett’s mom Emilie.

In his obituary, written through the eyes of a preschooler, he asked for snow cones, five bouncy houses and a party, not a funeral. The obituary caught the eye of a central Iowa author who asked to publish it into a book. Emilie says her family had no intentions of ever doing anything more when the obituary went viral, but their decision to do so has been cathartic.

“It helps make sense of a senseless situation and really helps me to know that something okay came out of his death,” she says.

The title of the book “Dirty, Stupid Cancer” helps the family to cope. Emilie says, “When I read it, I laugh and I cry and sometimes it’s hard for me to get through it.” Each page, she says, is a glimpse into Garrett’s world as he fought the nasty disease.

“In the story, the illustrator did a great job of bringing him to life. He wanted to be a gorilla,” she smiles.

The Matthiases hope the book will help others learn how to have a bright outlook on life despite dark situations. Emilie says, “What a great way to educate other elementary students by having it in school libraries and the public library and we`d love to see it in hospitals on the oncology floor. Just to really inspire other kids going through a similar battle. We`d love to see it everywhere.”

The book can be purchased online. At the time this story was published, the book was temporarily sold out. The Matthiases say more books will be released later this week. One dollar of every book purchased will be donated to the University of Iowa’s Dance Marathon. In 2020, the family hopes to donate a portion of book sales to Unravel Pediatric Cancer, a non-profit organization.

DES MOINES, Iowa — At the Boy Scouts’ Mid Iowa Council, there is a new section all geared toward girls in the scouts.

“Let them know that all the same opportunities are out there for them. They just have to reach for them,” Scoutmaster Lauri Ericson said.

There are four all-girl scout troops under the Boy Scouts of America Organization in Iowa. On Monday, one all-girl troop had its first meeting. Troop 50 is led by Lauri Ericson. She is one of the first woman scoutmasters in Iowa.

“It’s so great to see the boys and now the girls transition from young scouts to responsible young adults. It’s a great feeling,” Ericson said.

This month the Boy Scouts of America kicked off its program called Scouts BSA (Boy Scouts of America).

The predominately all-male organization peels back a long tradition by allowing girls like Sophia Hoover to join.

“The most exciting because I have wanted to be in Boy Scouts for like three of four years, but I couldn’t because it wasn’t allowed,” Sophia Hoover said.

Scouts BSA is open to girls aged eleven to seventeen. Hoover is one of 18 newly enrolled girls in Iowa.

The Scout’s hope that by opening this program up to girls, it will increase declining enrollment. All the while, they will continue teaching Scout Law which among other traits includes being trustworthy, loyal, helpful and friendly.

Click here for more information on how to join.

IOWA — A number of Democratic presidential candidates have already made their first stops in Iowa, and more will be here in the next few weeks.

New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker announced his campaign last week and says he is making Iowa one of his first stops. He will start out in Mason City on Friday and make stops in Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. On Saturday, Booker has events scheduled in Marshalltown and Des Moines.

The Asian & Latino Coalition will be hosting Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard on Sunday, Feb. 10.  She will be speaking at The Machinist Hall in Des Moines.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will be in eastern Iowa on Feb. 10 as well. She will speak at events in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Davenport.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is also hoping to gain some momentum in Iowa. She will be in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Feb. 18.  Details for both events are pending.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The weekend warm up gave Iowans who got stir-crazy a chance to get outside, but that could actually put some people’s health at risk.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says when snow and ice melt this quickly, it can actually lower air quality. That’s why they are warning Iowans with respiratory issues or heart disease, the elderly and children to limit long periods of outdoor activity.

In a matter of five days, central Iowa has seen a temperature shift of 69 degrees from a low of -20 degrees early Wednesday morning, to a high of 49 degrees Sunday afternoon.

“It’s a bit bizarre,” Kaila Legget said. “I went to church this morning and someone was wearing shorts. Just the other day, people were in three, four, five layers not wanting to go outside at all.”

While it’s a bit sloppy and a bit muddy, it did not stop people like Legget and her dog, Hamm, from taking advantage of the warm up.

“Yeah, it’s going to be quite the bath. That’s for sure,” Legget said. “We definitely needed to get out of the house, [though]. He loves to be outside and this cold weather has just been pretty unbearable for him.”

Raccoon River Park was just one of the many places around the metro filled with people wanting to get outside.

“Well let me tell you, I’m a walker so I have to walk around the neighborhood. If it’s too icy, then I have to stay inside and keep vacuuming, and vacuuming because I’m so restless,” Sue Nestvedt said.

But this quick thaw can cause some problems for people outdoors. According to the Iowa DNR, when snow and ice melt rather quickly, it generates fog and leads to elevated fine particulate levels, meaning a lower air quality.

The air quality index meter is tinkering right on the line of moderate to good on Sunday, but still, the Iowa DNR is recommending some of the vulnerable to limit long outdoor exertion during this period of decreased air quality.

This fog can do more than just lower air quality. It can also affect visibility. On Sunday there was a report of a head on crash in Guthrie Center citing dense fog as the cause.

DES MOINES, Iowa — As soon as the clock strikes midnight on Sunday morning, the state of Iowa will be officially 365 days away from the caucuses. But for many, they feel like the political scene is already buzzing with multiple presidential candidates making their way to the state.

In Iowa, it doesn’t matter where you go, politics is always nearby.

“Well I’m surprised politics has anything to do with my beer these days,” a woman at the Iowa Tap Room said.

Thanks to the first annual Legislative Brew Off, where the Iowa House and Senate teamed up with local breweries to make pale ales for a one-of-a-kind competition, politics is even in your beer.

The beer they say is bipartisan is bringing up even more discussion exactly one year out from the 2020 Iowa Caucuses.

“Going into the presidential election, Harris, Booker, Warren, all running, those are all big names and there’s a big following for all of them. So I think people are pretty excited just to see what’s going to happen,” JD Stehwien said.

“I think it’s just that political climate we are in now right,” Mack Jorth said. “It’s just such a hot, emotionally invested thing for so many people that they are getting the leg up. People want to win the battle.”

Right now, there are 10 Democrats who have already declared their run for presidency or at least launched an exploratory presidential committee.

Having so many candidates 365 days out is rare, say local political organizers.

“In the 2008 race, Governor Vilsack from Iowa actually announced the day after the 2006 midterm elections,” Ankeny Area Democrat Vice Chair Jeff Perry said. “So there is always some early candidates that get in. The difference this year is the number of early candidates getting in.”

Still more candidates are expected to join the race.

“The candidates who have not announced their exploratory committees and haven’t been here yet better get here soon,” an Ankeny precinct captain John Olsen said. “Some of them do have track records here. Vice President Biden and Senator Sanders have people who are obviously waiting for their decision.”

Usually seeing about eight candidates at the Iowa caucuses when the democrats have an open race, Perry says this just may be the most crowded caucus yet.

“There’s going to be a lot more interest, a lot more candidates, from a lot of different backgrounds. So there is going to be a lot of excitement around these different candidates,” Perry said.

Corey Booker is the next presidential hopeful to be campaigning in Iowa. He will be in Des Moines next Saturday.

OAKDALE, Calif. – A man was caught on surveillance footage sitting in front of a porterhouse steak, a lobster tail and a 20-ounce beer in a California restaurant before pocketing the hunk of meat and walking out.

“What type of person will take a steak and watch the juice drip off and then wrap it in a linen napkin?” said House of Beef lead server Denise Loya. “It’s just highly unusual.”

Loya said the man dressed in a suit came into the Oakdale restaurant late Tuesday afternoon and asked for a table for four. She said he looked like a villain from an ’80s movie.

“Definitely a used car salesman or bad real estate agent. Slimeball,” she told KTXL.

His actions were just as animated. The video shows his eyes shifting constantly as he looks up at the surveillance camera and over his shoulder.

“Just keep your eyes on this person ‘cause his eyes, you can see him, you know, he’s watching,” said the restaurant’s owner, Steve Medlen.

One last look into the camera and the man picks up the slab of meat then folds it into the napkin lifted from the bread basket.

“He’s unethical,” Medlen said. “He’s out to commit a crime.”

Medlen said he decided to post the video on social media to catch the steak smuggler.

“The monetary part is not part of the equation,” he told KTXL. “The part that we want to do is take this person off the street.”

In the final moments, the man picks up his haul and walks away, all while a little girl watches in his direction.

“Be great if he would come in and pay his bill and apologize but I highly doubt that’s gonna happen,” Loya said.

The staff said if he had truly been starving they would have helped.

“We always help people,” Loya said. “When they come in off the streets, we will buy them a bowl of soup or a sandwich.”

The staff says that was a $56 meal. The owner did file a police report with the Oakdale Police Department but no arrests had been made as of Friday afternoon.