Len Forkas, a Reston-based businessman, is skiing to the North Pole in a few weeks to break the ice on support for kids with cancer.
The 63-year-old — who is described as an “ultra-endurance athlete” — plans to ski 60 miles to the North Pole in order to raise money for Hopecam, a nonprofit organization he founded that connects children undergoing cancer treatment with their friends.
“I know some people think I’m crazy,” Forkas said. “But I think of myself as crazy about Hopecam’s kids. I hope I’ve convinced everybody that I’ll go to any length to support them.”
For Forkas, the trek is will bring him one step closer to his goal of completing the Explorer’s Grand Slam, a physical challenge that includes a trek to the North Pole, the South Pole, and all the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents, known as the Seven Summits.
So far, Forkas has travelled to five of the Seven Summits. He hopes to check off this physical challenge by August 2024 in time for his 65th birthday.
He plans to fly to a Norwegian village at the end of the month to meet the expedition team. They will then fly to a temporary camp in the Arctic Ocean.
Forkas founded Hopecam through personal struggle.
In 2002, his son, Matt, was diagnosed with leukemia. Forkas received permission from Fairfax County Public Schools to install a webcam in the classroom of a school in Great Falls to make sure Matt could participate. He began competing in ultra-endurance sports at the time of his son’s diagnosis.
“The exercise helped me cope with the stress of Matt’s illness,” he said. Matt, now 30, survived the bout of illness.
Forkas hopes to raise $60,000 for the nonprofit organization by matching the 60 miles he will ski to the North Pole. So far, the campaign has raised over $10,500, as of this morning.
With Hopecam, kids are provided with a tablet computer with a webcam, internet access if it’s unavailable, and assistance to work with the school so they can take part in some classroom activities and see their friends.
The nonprofit organization is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It aims to overcome the social isolation that kids often experience while they receive cancer treatment.
“His North Pole journey presents a timely opportunity to showcase this noteworthy occasion,” Brett Fox, Hopecam’s development director, said.
Though they won’t appear among the best director nominees at the Oscars this Sunday (March 12), female and gender non-conforming filmmakers will be celebrated tonight (Wednesday) at the Mosaic District.
The Merrifield neighborhood’s Angelika Film Center (2911 District Avenue) is hosting Lunafest — a traveling film festival that showcases movies by and about women — to mark International Women’s Day.
With doors opening at 6 p.m., the festival will screen seven short films from 7-9 p.m. The screenings will be preceded by a “social hour” with light hors d’oeuvres, drinks and a raffle, according to the event page.
All proceeds will go to Girls on the Run Northern Virginia (GOTR NOVA), a nonprofit based in Fairfax that offers running programs designed to teach girls life skills like teamwork and self-confidence.
“We love hosting Lunafest each year because it allows us to bring our community together to celebrate new perspectives and be inspired by the ideas of what our program participants could become and achieve,” GOTR NOVA Development Manager Catherine Reeves Keller said. “All of the proceeds from the event go back to GOTR NOVA to fund our programming and empower our participants.”
Lunafest was created in 2001 by Luna, a brand of Clif Bar & Company that makes a nutrition bar targeted toward women. Since then, the festival says it has raised over $7 million for nonprofits, featured 175 filmmakers, and hosted over 2,900 screenings in the U.S. and Canada.
The festival lineup includes a mix of live-action and animated films:
Reclaim Your Water: Natasha Smith — As a member of the Ebony Beach Club, Natasha Smith surfs, skates, and makes her own waves.
Miss Chelove: From Java to the Streets of D.C. — As she paints a mural, artist Cita Sadeli (aka Miss Chelove) opens up about her life, her cultural heritage, and how she fell in love with grafti in the 1980s.
Pete — The true story of Pete Barma explores gender identity, Little League Baseball, the people who inspire change by being themselves, and the superheroes who champion that change.
This Is Beth — As celebrated rock climber Beth Rodden grapples with her body image, she rediscovers the love of her sport… and herself.
More Than I Want to Remember — After her southeastern Congo village is bombed, 14-year-old Mugeni sets out on a remarkable solo journey across the globe, determined to reunite with her lost loved ones and lift up the Banyamulenge people.
Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night — All cards are on the table when Noor, a queer Pakistani Muslim woman, brings her Puerto Rican girlfriend, Luz, home for the rst time on the family’s annual game night.
Swimming Through — Amid a brutal Chicago winter and the global pandemic, Deirdre, Helen, and Jennefer’s friendship grows as they commit to a daily sunrise plunge together in Lake Michigan.
Tickets to the festival cost $30 and can be purchased online.
Northern Virginia leaders are taking steps to assist victims of the earthquake that devastated Turkey and Syria in early February.
In an effort organized by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC), elected leaders plan to announce a local aid program to collect funds that will be used to purchase food packages for those affected by the disaster.
In a release, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay said the profound loss of life in Turkey and Syria is heartbreaking.
”But I’m proud to be a part of a community that rallies together to help those in need both regionally and internationally,” McKay said.
The goal is to raise $25,000, according to NVRC Executive Director Robert Lazaro Jr. The money will be used to purchase more than eight tons of food. Each package contains 30 pounds of food and costs $45.
“We are working with [the nongovernmental organization Embrace Relief] that is purchasing food packages in Turkey which in turn are distributed to area residents,” Lazaro said in a release.
NVRC Chair John Chapman said residents and businesses have always stepped up to help those in need. Previously, the region collaborated on a winter clothes drive that sent tons of blankets, coats, socks and gloves to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion.
“This time is no different. I urge folks to visit the website to make a donation to provide food to those families tragically impacted by the earthquake,” said Chapman.
Members of Fairfax County’s Virginia Task Force 1 search and rescue team were deployed to Turkey and Syria after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit on Feb. 6, killing thousands of people and displacing millions. As of yesterday (Wednesday), the death toll reached roughly 51,000 people.
The task force, which was part of a national response team assembled by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), returned to Fairfax County on Feb. 20 after 11 days of searching for survivors.
Leaders will officially announce the program at the Fairfax County Government Center Forum on Friday (March 3) at 3 p.m. In the meantime, the commission has set up a link to collect donations for the victims.
Photo via VA-TF1/Twitter
(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) The family of the man who died after being dragged by a Metro train at the Dunn Loring station yesterday (Wednesday) has launched a Gofundme to cover their memorial service expenses.
The man has been identified as 50-year-old Harold Riley by one of his daughters, according to reports by FOX5 and NBC4, which say that he had two daughters and four grandchildren.
The daughter, who organized the fundraiser, told FOX5 that her dad’s dog, Daisy, is a service animal and was wearing a service animal vest when her leash got caught in the doors of the train — contradicting the Metro Transit Police Department’s initial statement that the dog “does not appear to be a service animal.”
“We tragically lost my father today in a train accident. As he was exiting the train the doors closed while his service dog was still inside. The train took off and my father was taken with it,” the Gofundme page says. “We want to raise money to be able to have a nice service and have him cremated. My father loved his grand children and his dog more than anything and he was such an amazing ‘PanPaw.'”
The fundraiser has a set goal of $3,000.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority confirmed this afternoon that Daisy is indeed a service dog in a statement first reported by NBC4’s Adam Tuss.
“The dog found by MTPD officers, now identified as Daisy, had a sweater vest on when she was initially found, covering a harness that read service dog,” a spokesperson said. “Again, we send our condolences and sympathies to the family of Mr. Riley.”
Just this morning, WMATA told FFXnow that its police department “found the dog without ID and did not find any vest or markers to indicate the dog was a service animal.”
In a statement yesterday, Metro Police said they received a report shortly before 1:30 p.m. that a person had been hit by a train at the Dunn Loring station.
Based on the preliminary investigation, Riley had exited the train, but the doors closed on his dog’s leash before the animal was able to deboard. When the train started moving, Riley got pulled along the platform and onto the tracks.
Riley was transported to a hospital, where he died. Daisy was found unharmed on the train at the West Falls Church Metro station.
The police department said the train operator had conducted two “safe door checks” before moving the vehicle.
Camp Sunshine’s 15th polar dip — Freezin’ for a Reason — will return to Reston’s Lake Anne Plaza on Feb. 11 for a final hurrah.
Beginning at noon, spectators will gather to watch registered participants plunge into the lake — or take a “chicken dip” with just toes — to raise funds for Camp Sunshine, a nonprofit that organizes retreats for families who have kids with life-threatening illnesses.
“The Virginia Polar Dip has a unique aspect that adds to the fun,” Gail Toth, event founder and organizer, said. “We have a one-hour succession of splashes that brings plenty of cheers and laughter from the crowd of spectators.”
The event is the final dip after Toth and the team anticipate reaching their fundraising goal. Organizers hope to raise $100,000 for the charity in an effort to reach a $1 million target set when the event began in 2008.
Online event registration is open. On-site registration begins at noon on the day of the event, followed by the beginning of the polar dip at 2 p.m.
The fundraising model encourages registered participants to raise or donate a minimum of $100 to plunge into the frigid waters of the lake. Participants receive an event t-shirt.
The event was started by the Toth family, who took part in Camp Sunshine in 1996 when their 3-year-old daughter was a cancer patient. The family brought the event to Virginia to support other local families after they took part in a dip in New Jersey.
The inaugural Virginia event in 2008 brought 2,199 dippers to the lake.
Event organizers note that Reston Association does not maintain the lake for swimming standards. Typically, swimming is not allowed in Lake Anne.
Special Olympics Virginia is ready to make another splash at the Mosaic District.
The nonprofit’s annual Polar Plunge fundraiser will return to the Merrifield community for a fourth year on Saturday, Jan. 14. As in previous years, participants will jump into a pool of icy water to raise money for the organization’s more than 18,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities.
The event is Special Olympics Virginia’s first fundraiser of the year and one of five planned in the state for 2023, according to Senior Director of Development Ellen Head.
“I love that we start things off with a plunge because long before we had unified sports (where people with and without disabilities play on a team together instead of segregated) we had plunges which, by nature, are unified,” Head told FFXnow by email. “We have Special Olympics athletes alongside of everyone else jumping into the cold pools!”
The Mosaic District hosted a plunge for the first time in 2019. The event returned in early 2020 before taking 2021 off due to the pandemic.
Like last year, the Polar Plunge will be held on Strawberry Lane in front of Target. Check-ins will start at noon, followed by a costume contest and award presentation at 1 p.m. and the actual plunging at 1:15 p.m.
@polarplungeva is back at Mosaic on Jan 14! 🌊 🥶
Gather your friends and GO ALL IN. It’s time for a chilly pool plunge with the coolest Special Olympics supporters in Northern VA! All proceeds support @specialolympicsva
🔗 Tap link to sign up: https://t.co/Zy3SkLixeS pic.twitter.com/xCPKvi83zT
— Mosaic (@mosaicdistrict) December 14, 2022
Advance registration is currently open, and participants have already raised over $20,000, according to Special Olympics Virginia’s website. Proceeds from the Mosaic District plunge have grown every year, from roughly $35,000 in 2019 to $50,000 last year, according to Head.
For this year’s event, the nonprofit has partnered with Archer Hotel, which replaced the Hyatt House at the Mosaic District last year. As an incentive, the hotel will provide access to its suites before and after the plunge for the two teams and two individuals who raise the most money.
Collectively, the polar plunges raise close to $1.5 million each year, though Special Olympics Virginia hopes to exceed that mark in 2023, Head says.
The organization also hopes to see its program enrollment bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, which surpassed 23,000 athletes.
In addition to organizing free local and state-level sports programs and events, the nonprofit provides health and fitness resources. A clinic at its annual Summer Games offers free physical and mental health services, including dental, vision and hearing care.
“This is important since many of our athletes lack this care due to the limitations of Medicaid,” Heard said.
Male police officers in the Town of Vienna will forgo shaving razors this November for a second consecutive year.
Starting yesterday through Nov. 30, Chief Jim Morris has suspended the Vienna Police Department’s usual prohibition against facial hair to support its “Grow & Give” fundraising campaign, which aims to increase awareness and money for prostate cancer research.
The nationwide initiative benefits ZERO, an Alexandria-based nonprofit that assists prostate cancer patients and their families and supports research, treatment and educational programs.
“Last year, our small department raised the second-highest amount of any public safety organization in the country for the cancer charity — more than $8,000 — and that’s thanks to the generosity of our community,” Morris said in a news release.
The total funds contributed in 2021 easily surpassed the department’s $3,000 goal. It hopes to raise at least $5,000 this year.
Morris said the fundraiser is “especially meaningful” to VPD Public Information Officer Juan Vasquez, whose father died from prostate cancer.
“Participating officers hope that as they start to look a little scruffy in their efforts to support life-saving research,” the VPD said. “Others will be inspired to learn more about the illness and donate to the campaign to help find a cure for prostate cancer.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the most common cancers among men in the U.S. are skin and prostate cancer. The latter affects about 13 out of every 100 men, with the risk of getting the disease increasing with age. Black men and people with a family history of prostate cancer are also disproportionately affected.
According to ZERO, which launched in 1996 as the National Prostate Cancer Coalition, 98% of men with prostate cancer survive the first five years after a diagnosis, but that rate drops to 31% if the disease has reached an advanced stage.
ZERO is among several cancer-related nonprofits with a fundraising campaign that encourages people to forgo shaving during November.
The trend started in 2003 with the Australia-based Movember Foundation, which focuses specifically on men’s health. The California-based Matthew Hill Foundation introduced No-Shave November in 2009 as a nod to the hair loss that many cancer patients experience when undergoing chemotherapy, according to its website.
Photo via Town of Vienna Police/Facebook
A church in McLean and an orchestra based in Tysons have teamed up to do their part to assist humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine.
The Virginia Chamber Orchestra will put on a free Benefit Concert for Ukraine in the McLean Baptist Church sanctuary (1367 Chain Bridge Road) at 4 p.m. this Sunday (Oct. 16).
The concert will feature soprano singer Mandy Brown, violinist Emil Chudnovsky, and pianist Tatiana Loisha as well as the VCO String Quartet.
They will primarily perform classical music, including works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Joseph Haydn, and Antonín Dvořák, but Rogers and Hammerstein also appear. The program closes with “Shche ne vmerta Ukraina,” the national anthem of Ukraine.
While the concert is free to attend, the church will accept donations that will be used to provide medical supplies in Ukraine, according to VCO.
“The Virginia Chamber Orchestra is very pleased to partner with the McLean Baptist Church in presenting a Benefit Concert to provide medical supplies for the people of Ukraine,” VCO Board of Trustees President Douglas Lovejoy said in an emailed statement. “We welcome everyone to the concert and will appreciate your donations.”
Since Russian military forces invaded Ukraine in February, more than 15,000 civilian casualties have been recorded by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as of Monday (Oct. 10), though the organization believes the actual numbers of deaths and injuries are much higher.
Like in other communities across the U.S., acts of solidarity and support for Ukraine have become common in Fairfax County, from a regional winter coat drive and a fundraiser by local breweries to symbolic displays of the eastern European country’s blue-and-yellow flag.
The full program for Sunday’s benefit concert in McLean is below:
- “Sheep May Safely Graze” by Johann Sebastian Bach — VCO String Quartet
- “Uzun Hava” by Osman Kivrak — for violin and viola
- Selections from “44 Duets” by Béla Bartók, including Ruthenian songs from Ukraine
- “Allegro from Quartet in F Major, Op. 96 ‘American'” by Antonín Dvořák — VCO String Quartet
- “Polonaise Brilliante in D Major” by Henryk Wieniawski — Emil Chudnovsky, violin
- “Chanson d’amour” by Jan Tarasiewicz — Tatiana Loisha, piano
- “L’invitation au voyage” by Henri Duparc — Mandy Brown, soprano
- “The Winds are Blowing,” a Ukrainian folksong by Mykola Lysenko — Mandy Brown, soprano
- “Introduction” and “Rondo Capriccioso” by Camille Saint-Saëns — Emil Chudnovsky violin
- “Nocturne in C Sharp Minor” by Frédéric Chopin — Emil Chudnovsky, violin
- “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from “Carousel” by Rodgers & Hammerstein — Mandy Brown, soprano
- “Shche ne vmerta Ukraina” by Chubynsky/Verbytsky
The South Lakes High School PTSA’s annual “Do It Your Way 0.5K” fundraiser for its food pantry is back for a fifth year — and yes, there will be doughnuts this time.
Advertised as “the most rewarding 650 steps you’ll take this year,” the yearly walk has become one of Reston’s most popular fall events, drawing over 300 participants in 2021, according to the PTSA.
SLHS PTSA Food Pantry co-founder Roberta Gosling says the group hopes to get over 500 attendees this year.
After going virtual in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fundraiser returned in-person last year. The 2022 iteration allows walkers to participate either in person at Lake Anne Plaza from 2-4 p.m. on Oct. 16 or “online” by completing the 650 steps at any point during the weekend of Oct. 15-16.
Registration is now open, costing $10 for students, $25 for adults, $60 for families, and $25 per person for teams. A limited number of VIP entries are available for $100, which covers the cost of registration and offers “front row seats to all the action and additional goodies,” according to the webpage.
Race packets will be available at Lake Anne Brew House (11424 Washington Plaza West) from 10 a.m. to noon on Oct. 15 and on the day of the race, starting at noon. For the first 500 people who register, the packet will include a bib, finisher medal and other swag from the fundraiser’s sponsors.
The first 500 registrants will get a race packet filled with cool SWAG including a race bib, finisher medal, and other special goodies provided by event sponsors.
Other highlights include the race’s “famous” mid-point doughnut station, which will be back for the first time in three years. There will also be a live raffle for an $800 custom necklace with the food pantry’s logo donated by sponsor Aspen Jewelry Designs, the PTSA said in a press release.
All proceeds will go toward buying food, toiletries and other critical items for the South Lakes High School food pantry, which distributes those goods to more than 275 families in the South Lakes pyramid each week, according to the PTSA.
Launched in 2017 to address food insecurity among students, the food pantry initially focused on the high school before expanding to the full pyramid after a year. The PTSA says approximately 4,200 students in the pyramid qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, including about 830 high schoolers.
The pantry opens to South Lakes students every Thursday at the end of the school day. More than 140 students came to “shop” during the week of Sept. 23, Gosling said.
The PTSA also conducts curbside distributions to around 125 families in the pyramid, providing food, feminine hygiene products, and a “bonus item,” such as paper towels or laundry detergent. The pantry also mails grocery gift cards to families and delivers grocery bags to Langston Hughes Middle School.
A DogFest is coming to Reston Town Square Park tomorrow (Saturday).
The event, slated to take place from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. at 11900 Market Street, will benefit Canine Companions, a nonprofit organization that encourages clients and their dogs to live with greater independence. Activities include service dog demonstrations, music, games, speeches and activities for kids.
The event is free, but online registration is encouraged.
“Help us raise money to provide exceptional dogs for the over 400 people currently waiting for their new canine partners,” Canine Companions spokesperson John Bentzinger wrote in a release.
The organization was established in 1975 and is active in six regions across the country.
Dogs that take part in the event must adhere to several conditions, including being social, being up to date with vaccinations, and remaining on a leash no longer than six feet at all times.