Three Thousand and Counting — Area Students Unite to Donate Masks During Pandemic

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, local students are leading the charge in the battle to slow the spread of the coronavirus and making a big difference in the community.

Established in March by Cactus Shadows High School junior Angelique Cort, the AZ Mask Project focuses on harnessing the energy of a corps of volunteers to mass produce masks and provide them at no charge to critical care workers and compromised populations in the Phoenix area.

“In March, my mom [Corinne Cort] and I started sewing masks on a small scale,” said Cort. “Soon afterward we were contacted by HonorHealth whose needs were much greater. Arizona State Senator Paul Boyer learned of our efforts and expressed a need for thousands of masks. This was clearly beyond our capability at the time, so I started looking into ways to scale up the operation dramatically.”

Her search for volunteers and donors led to a partnership with Cave Creek Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Debbi Burdick, who put the word out across the district.

“Over 70 volunteers answered the call, and the AZ Mask Project was born.”

The homemade, reusable cloth masks are delivered to front-line healthcare workers, emergency responders and community organizations throughout Greater Phoenix, including Banner Health, Cave Creek Unified School District, HonorHealth, Infinity Hospice Care, Mayo Clinic and Phoenix Children’s Hospital, among others.

Cort says that the Project has special meaning to her because her life goal is to become an emergency-room surgeon. She also says that they couldn’t have accomplished this feat without the Project’s dozens of volunteers.

“The heart and soul of our Project are our generous, community-spirited volunteers,” said Cort. “Spanning the range from students to retirees and drawing from every demographic, resilient and relentless, these selfless individuals daily contribute their time, their energy, and their goodwill to make our community a better, safer, healthier place.

“Regardless of whether they cut fabric, sew masks, make pickups and deliveries, maintain our Facebook page, donate materials, or perform any of a host of other services, they quietly make a difference every day.”

Each week, Cort creates and oversees a staged fabrication process that moves materials through multiple phases of production. She coordinates volunteers, works with donors and interfaces with beneficiary organizations. Jeffrey Filer, another Cactus Shadows junior and patrol leader in Boy Scout Troop 15, proposed and implemented a robust system that enlists three Boy Scout troops (Troops 15, 323 and 3323) to fulfill the logistical needs of the project.

Every week, Patrol Leader Filer’s Scouts deliver materials to volunteers across the Valley, move partially completed masks from cutters to the next production location, pick up finished masks and deliver finished masks to beneficiary organizations throughout the Phoenix area. Together, Cort and Filer have sustained an effort that donates hundreds of masks each week, most recently surpassing the 3,000-mask milestone.

And they are not done yet. AZ Mask Project says that it remains committed to maintaining and expanding its efforts as the need exists, and Cort says that the group is continually in search of new volunteers.

“Everyone is welcome into our Fellowship of the Mask. For those who don’t sew, we welcome your help cutting fabric. We will provide the material and support you need to get started. We provide certificates of community service hours for our student volunteers. If you are already involved in making and donating masks, we are eager to partner with you.”
Residents interested in getting involved may contact Cort by email: chancecort@me.com. The Project also has a Facebook group: search “AZ Mask Project.” |CST


Photos courtesy of AZ Mask Project

Cactus Shadows Key Club Organizes Blood and Food Drives

The Key Club at Cactus Shadows High School, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Carefree, is continuing its service to the community by having both a blood drive and food drive. The blood drive and food drive are being held at Anytime Fitness, 29855 N. Tatum Blvd. (Cave Creek Road and Tatum) in Cave Creek.

The blood drive will be held Thursday, May 7, from 9am to 1:30pm. Vitalant will be administering the blood collection process.

The blood drive must comply with CDC rules; therefore, an appointment must be scheduled. Use this link for an appointment: www.bloodhero.com/index.cfm?group=op&expand=930897&zc=85331

Anytime Fitness is donating their facilities for the blood drive and drop off of staples for the food bank and animal shelters, including Foothills Food Bank, Puppy Luv Animal Rescue, Desert Star Horse Rescue.

The Key Club says that food donation drop off will begin Wednesday, April 22, and will be held Friday, April 24, Saturday, April 25 — and all Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays until the COVID-19 crisis is over — from 9am to noon.

Direct questions to desertfoothillspres@gmail.com or 480.681.5200.


Story was updated 4.24.2020 to correct the name of the horse rescue.

CCUSD Celebrates its Outstanding Educators

L–R: Bill Dolezal (principal, Sonoran Trails Middle School), Dick Gunderson, Eric DeVore, Barbara Gunderson, Dr. Debbi Burdick.

Eric DeVore named 2019 Teacher of Year

At the conclusion of the 2018–19 school year, Cave Creek Unified School District (CCUSD) celebrated great teaching with its annual Teacher of the Year celebration. Eric DeVore, a Spanish teacher at Sonoran Trails Middle School was named CCUSD Teacher of the Year 2019. DeVore was awarded $3,000 and will complete his application for the 2019 Arizona Educational Foundation’s Teacher of the Year program.

Also recognized were honorees Kendra Frigard, third/fourth-grade combo teacher at Desert Willow Elementary, and Doni Nasr, Spanish teacher at Cactus Shadows High School. Frigard and Nasr both received $1,000.

2019 Teacher of the Year Nominees & Honorees (L–R): Leighanne Harrison (kindergarten, Horseshoe Trails Elementary School); Susan Webb (third grade, Desert Sun Academy); Barbara Magtibay (second grade, Black Mountain Elementary School); 2019 Teacher of the Year Eric DeVore (Spanish, Sonoran Trails Middle School); 2019 Teacher of the Year Honoree Doni Nasr (Spanish/Spanish Immersion, Cactus Shadows High School); Kellie Combs (fifth grade, Lone Mountain Elementary School); 2019 Teacher of the Year Honoree Kendra Frigard (third/fourth grade, Desert Willow Elementary School).

CCUSD expressed its appreciation and thanks to community members, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Gunderson, for their generous donation to financially support the CCUSD Teacher of the Year program. Superintendent

stated that, “this is one of the most important celebrations of the year in the Cave Creek Unified School District as we honor our incredible educators.”

For additional information, call 480.575.2000 or visit www.ccusd93.org.

Rock the District Celebrates Ten Years

Fundraising event to be held April 12–13

Cali Rodi

The Carefree sundial will be shining with talent as celebrity headliners, alumni who made it big, plus 30 student bands take the stage for two unforgettable evenings in April to raise money for the Cave Creek Unified Education Foundation.

Rock the District is the signature fundraising event started by Cactus Shadows High School student Melissa Nelson and hosted by the Cave Creek Unified Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization. Since its inception, it has raised more than $200,000 benefiting Cave Creek teachers, students and schools.

This year’s Rock the District celebrity headliners include country stars Ryan Sims, Chad Freeman and Cali Rodi. As an example of how this stage can be a launching pad for big-time music industry careers, Rodi performed as a student at the first Rock the District back in 2009 and was recently signed by Keith Urban to his publishing company, BOOM.

Chad Freeman

Among the alumni students returning to their roots are Tia Penny the youngest to play in Alice Cooper’s Proof is in the Pudding and Homestretch, the band that won third place. Also appearing is Promise to Myself, an alumni band whose music has been chosen by Dutch Bros. Coffee to play in their locations across the country.

This year’s special 10th anniversary event will “turn it up to 11” with:

  • Sanderson Lincoln Black Label Lounge, a swanky place to relax with an adult beverage while enjoying the show
  • VIP Tables, allowing concert-goers to see the show up close
  • General admission tickets, allowing guests to rock the night away with the crowd
  • Food trucks including Firehouse Kettle Corn, Hibachibot, Kona Ice and Munch Box
  • A silent auction, where bidding is available now online, and continues at the live event
  • Online Tipping with a “Split the Tip” feature, providing half to the student performer and half to the school district

Chad Freeman

“Rock the District will be bigger and better than ever during our 10th Anniversary show dates on April 12 and 13,” says Rock the District organizers Kesha Cardinal and Sarah Byrne. “With the headliners, it will be a chance for all of Phoenix to see these world-class acts. With the alumni, it’s a chance to see how these former students have become up-and-comers in the music industry. For the students, this will be a chance for friends, family and neighbors to see these teen bands and singers take the stage and show the world what they got!”

Rock the District will take place April 12–13, at East Sundial Circle in Carefree. Gates open at 5pm both days and shows start at 5:30pm. To learn more or buy tickets, visit www.rockthedistrict.net.

Cactus Shadows High School Students Sweep ASU’s 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Contest

Cactus Shadows High School announced that Sarah Weiss, Angela Khammo and Mikaela Morris were the first, second and third place winners, respectively, of Arizona State University’s 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration contest. This year, students were encouraged to participate in the “Find Your Voice” campaign and asked to submit essays based on their own idea of “leadership through service.”

Jim Swetter, interim principal said, “I am so proud of Sarah, Mikaela and Angela. Their ‘Find Your Voice’ essays were truly inspiring and sent a powerful message. A big thank you to their teacher Christine Marsh for helping promote such a worthwhile contest. Cactus Shadows is very proud of their accomplishments!”

The Falcons were honored at the Thirty-Fourth Annual ASU Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast in this past month. The breakfast was held at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Phoenix. Family members, teachers, interim principal and superintendent all attended the event.

Cactus Shadows English teacher Christine Marsh said, “I am inspired by the girls’ insightful essays about leadership through service and grateful to ASU for providing this opportunity for students to be recognized for their creativity and writing skills.”

Cactus Shadows High School is part of the Cave Creek Unified School District. For more information, contact Interim Principal Swetter at jswetter@ccusd93.org or visit www.ccusd93.org.

Cave Creek Unified Education Foundation “Grants the District”

Members of the Cave Creek Youth Education Foundation and CSPress

The Cave Creek Unified Education Foundation (CCUEF) is best known for its yearly showcasing of musical talent, Rock the District, which not only grows, presents and applauds our students’ musical talents, but raises much needed dollars for our classrooms.

Last semester, CCUEF celebrated the Cave Creek Unified School District (CCUSD) teachers whose grants were funded with Grant the District and brought along members of the CCYEF (Cave Creek Youth Education Foundation) and two reporters from CSPress (Cactus Shadows High School’s award winner student-run newspaper). The annual Grant the District event has a CCUSD school bus traveling to the schools of the teachers receiving grants. Teachers and their classes are brought to the front of the school and surprised by the CCUEF Trustees who jump off the bus with a giant check, balloons and flowers. This year, a student group from Cactus Shadows High School — CCYEF, also rode the bus, along with a CS Press reporter and photographer and local dignitaries. Here are the 2018 winners:

Ms. Cardin, Ms. Taylor and Ms. Steward (Black Mountain Elementary) $2,302 for kindergarten Chromebooks

Ms. Hendrie (Lone Mountain Elementary) $2,250 for preschool

Ms. Camarasa (Desert Willow Elementary) $2,500 for El periodico

Ms. Bayless (Desert Willow Elementary) $2,268 for iPads for the art studio

Ms. Kerschbaum (Desert Sun Academy) $2,500 for “Don’t Put Your Health in a Pickle”

Ms. Stumpo and Mr. Nielson (Sonoran Trails Middle School) $1,000 for French 1 & 2 library

Ms. Lindstrom, Ms. Dahlke, Ms. Watts and Ms. D’Ambrosi (Sonoran Trials Middle School) $1,844 for Special Education Technology

Mr. Conklin, Ms. Fauss, Ms. Knuteson, Ms. Petrine, Ms. Skinner and Ms. Spiess (Sonoran Trails Middle School) $2,500 for adding technology to the Science lab.

CCUEF’s four pillars are: Classroom Supplies (including Technology); Music and the Arts; Health and Wellness; and International Learning.

Superintendent Burdick said, “CCUEF is a group of dedicated, hard-working volunteers who only want the best for our students and schools. They make sure each year that teachers have the opportunity to access additional resources for their classrooms and CCUSD is so grateful and lucky to have this small but mighty foundation supporting our mission, Inspire Excellence, through their four pillars.”

For more information on CCUEF, visit their website at www.ccuef.org.

Cave Creek Unified Superintendent’s Student Cadre Holds Blanket Drive

The Cactus Shadows High School (CSHS) Superintendent’s Student Cadre meets monthly with Superintendent Debbi Burdick and is no stranger to service projects. For two years in a row, the students have conducted a sock drive for homeless senior citizens who frequent the Justa Center in Phoenix. A Cadre member makes the flyer and monitors collection bins, which are placed at all Cave Creek Unified School District (CCUSD) school front offices, at the district office and at the Education & Community Services office.

This year, CSHS Varsity Football Head Coach Mike Hudnutt asked the players to bring socks for the drive to their year-end banquet. Thanks for CSHS Football and the generosity of the schools, district office and ECS office, Superintendent Burdick and her husband were able to deliver a SUV full of socks to the Justa Center in December.

At their recent meeting, the Cadre voted on another service project for the spring — The Santa Rose Blanket Drive. A Cadre member, CSHS freshman Madison O’Sullivan, brought this need to the attention of the Cadre back in November. This service project is asking the CCUSD community to donate new or gently used blankets to benefit the victims of the fires/mudslides in Santa Rosa, California. The service project will run from February 5 to March 1, 2018, with collection bins at all CCUSD school front offices, the district office and the ECS office.

Superintendent Burdick said, “I am so proud of this Cadre and their altruism, kindness and caring for others.”

For more information on the Cave Creek Unified School District, visit www.ccusd93.org or call 480.575.2000.

Carefree To Honor Veterans At Annual Community Event

The Town of Carefree will host its ninth annual Veterans Day presentation and musical tribute Saturday, November 11, 3–5 pm, in the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion, located in the Carefree Desert Gardens, 101 Easy Street, in Downtown Carefree.

The event will feature a mixture of patriotic and military music by Todd Knowles and his Main Event Swing Band. World War II veteran Colonel Blaine Keith, U.S. Marine Corps retired, will lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Special speakers will include veterans of the armed forces, including World War II veteran, Captain Lew Jenkins, U.S. Army, who will share their experiences from the past. This year the program will include a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace.” And, by popular request, the finale will once again include the bugle call, “The Last Post,” followed by “taps” on dueling bugles.

Barbara Hatch, founder of Veterans Heritage Project (VHP), will be in attendance with students from Cactus Shadows High School (CSHS) and Sonoran Trails Middle School (STMS), whose VHP chapters are now in the capable hands of two volunteer adviser/teachers: Bret Lineburg (CSHS history teacher), and Shannon Griffith (STMS English teacher). Their exhibit and books will be on display and for sale. Hatch is one of the recent recipients of the Hon Kachina Award for “improving the lives of others in her community.” Veterans Heritage Project students can now be found interviewing in 27 schools in Arizona, as well as one in Hatch’s Illinois hometown and a pilot program in Niceville, Florida. VHP will publish six editions of Since You Asked this year.

The Sonoran Arts League will share information about its Veteran Art Program. The Desert Foothills YMCA will discuss their veteran support programs. The Association of the United States Army will have a representative available to assist any veterans with questions. The Carefree Kiwanis Club will provide light refreshments and coffee from the Carefree Coffee Roastery with assistance from the Black Mountain Foothills Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

All area residents are invited to attend and enjoy the special presentations and join in the opportunity to honor those who have sacrificed for all. For more information, visit www.carefree.org or call 480.488.3686.

Foothills Empty Bowls Lunch And Art Auction Set For October 20

Online auction added to 2017 event aimed at helping feed hungry in need

The annual Foothills Empty Bowls Lunch & Art Auction 2017 will honor World Hunger Day Friday, October 20, and will be held at Harold’s Corral in Cave Creek, from 11am–1pm.

According to Pam DiPietro, executive director of Foothills Food Bank, this year the organization is adding a new feature to its Empty Bowls event. The auction will be on the food bank’s website, www.foothillsfoodbank.com, which gives people the opportunity to bid on 60 fine art and craft items donated by renowned local artists.

“We are excited to offer this auction online so people who support this worthy cause can spend the quality time they need to research the bid items,’ says DiPietro. “This has always been an amazing event with a great turnout, but this year we will take Empty Bowls to a new level with the online auction.”

Carole Perry and Robin Ray, two highly regarded Sonoran Arts League artists, brought Empty Bowls to the northern desert foothills to benefit Foothills Food Bank more than 17 years ago. Perry says that online bidding began September 20 and be available to bidders throughout the celebration, and that 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Foothills Food Bank & Resource Center to support its ongoing effort to provide emergency food and services to area families in need of assistance.

Lunch will be served in handmade ceramic or glass bowls. Individuals are encouraged to donate $15 to the cause and select their own unique bowl made by Arizona artists, and keep it as a lasting reminder of world hunger.

The Foothills Empty Bowls & Art Auction 2017 is sponsored by the Sonoran Arts League, Harold’s Corral, Marjon Ceramics and Laguna Clay. Other donors are Saguaro and Cactus Shadows High School students, Paradise Valley Community College ceramics students and local potters and artists who make and donate the bowls and auction items.

For more information, call 480.488.1145 or visit www.foothillsfoodbank.com.


Local Artist’s Glasswork Featured At Empty Bowls

Carole Perry, who helped create the Foothills Empty Bowls Lunch in the Northern Desert Foothills more than 17 years ago, knows glass. Intimately. Her business, Laughing Glass Contemporary Glass Art Studio, has been producing beautiful glass artwork for more than 27 years and thousands of Laughing Glass bowls have been a hallmark of the colorful glass and ceramic bowls offered each year as part of the Foothills Empty Bowls Lunch to honor World Hunger Day.

This year, Perry and other local artists’ glass and ceramic bowls will be available to participants who attend the event at Harold’s Corral, from 11am–1pm, Friday, October 20. Perry says she began working with the project because her local community supports artists and as an artist, she wanted to give back in a meaningful way. Perry and her Sonoran Arts League friends began by creating and donating bowls to the Empty Bowls project at the Arizona Center in 1997. After starting the Foothills Empty Bowls Lunch to benefit the Foothills Food Bank at El Pedregal in North Scottsdale in 2000, Empty Bowls now has found a home in Cave Creek. Today, Perry continues giving back while enjoying her own success as one of the top glass artists of her kind.

“When I came back to the desert, every magical, mystical thing came together for me,” says Perry. “I love what I do and this is where I learned the simplest of rules: the more you give, the more you receive…and, I get to live in the greatest place on Earth.”


Robin Ray’s Ceramics Boost Empty Bowls Event

Robin Ray mastered her craft while teaching visual arts to students of all ages for more than 26 years. However, as an accomplished painter and ceramics expert, she also took the time to help bring the 17-year-old Empty Bowls Lunch event to the northern desert foothills.

For the first five years, she gathered artists and friends to create ceramic bowls in the ceramic department of a high school. And, every year since, like clockwork, a cadre of ceramic lovers gets together at her studio in early September to make bowls for the October fund-raiser. Her leadership has resulted in thousands of additional bowls for the annual event.

Ray, owner of Robin’s Nest in Cave Creek, produces her own beautiful paintings, ceramics and murals for people from around the world. However, when it comes to creating distinctive ceramic bowls for the event, which benefits Foothills Food Bank, her peers and students love working on the bowls which will help focus people on hunger in the world.

“These special bowls will be filled with pasta at the Empty Bowls Lunch,” says Ray. “The amount of pasta that fills each bowl roughly matches the amount of calories a homeless person is provided in a single meal.”

Relay For Life April 20

Relay for Life logo

Walk with your community for a good cause on April 20 for the 3rd Annual Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. This unique overnight event will take place at Cactus Shadows High School, where team members will take turns walking, jogging or running laps on the track from 6pm-6am. Proceeds go directly to cancer research. Create a team with your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors and create hope.

“Please plan to join us for  many festivities to enjoy and memories to last a lifetime,” says

Cave Creek resident and team sponsor Leslie Jensen with Farm Bureau Insurance.

“Our relay has no finish line until we find a cure.”

If you’re not a walker but still want to participate, the public is invited to join the fun from 6-10pm for live entertainment, games, food and more.

Cactus Shadows High School is located at 5802 East Dove Valley Road, in Cave Creek.

Visit www.relayforlife.org/cavecreekaz and find out how to get involved, register a team and help in the fight against cancer.

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