Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Goodbye to a Friend, RIP Virginia Phillips

deep-blue-sea159068-all-over-print-shirtsFriend of LOK, Virginia Jean Phillips, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. Virginia was a gifted artist who generously donated several of her images to LOK last year, in an effort to raise funds for young artist programming. She was delighted by the technology that allowed us to screen print her images onto all kinds of media, including t-shirts; in fact, she ordered an extra large one for herself to sleep in. We’re so grateful to have part of her legacy live on through our program.

Virginia always enjoyed painting and drawing since she was a little girl. In 1987, Virginia became a serious painter, influenced by Harriett Rex Smith at a workshop at the Art Barn. She continued to paint there with the inspiration of German Expressionist Konrad Juestel. Virginia’s main focus was color with various degrees of abstraction. Her paintings have been identified as compositions in the style of Matisse, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.

Virginia was a being of color, light, compassion and love for those whose lives she touched. She had a good word, a friendly demeanor, and an artistic and cheerful manner in how she encountered people and the world around her. She was a successful business woman, an artist and an inspiration on so many levels to so many people. Music was often playing when she created new pieces of art, each with a special touch and a fabulous depth of color.

virginiaThough her works of art are what will remain on the physical plane, perhaps the deepest impression is in the hearts of those she touched.  A celebration of Virginia’s life and art will be held on Sunday, July 9, 2017 from 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. at the Art Barn in Jackson Township, 695 N 400 E, Valparaiso, Indiana 46383.

Chicago Rapper Ridgio to Appear at LOK Young Artist Expo

RidgioImpressed with his positive message during a chance meeting, LOK board member Arlene Francis introduced Chicago rapper Ridgio to the LOK Wishing Tree’s mission of unleashing the artistic dreams of youth. The mission culminates each year in early June for the LOK Young Artist Expo. This year, Ridgio will be joining in with a special performance on Friday, June 2nd at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts in Michigan City.

From the west side of Chicago, Ridgio is a budding artist who seeks to impact the World with the true word of God through his music. Ridgio is also an acronym that stands for “Realest Individual Doing God’s Incredible Overtaking”. He began taking music seriously at the age of 17; since then he has released 3 projects. He has performed throughout Chicago and will appear for the first time in Northwest Indiana on Saturday, May 20th in Gary.

Ridgio takes experiences from his troubled past and his journey with God to deliver a positive message, often including biblical references throughout his music. Ridgio states, “Knowing God is real is important, but knowing what he requires from us as men and woman is essential.”

Ridgio will also make an appearance earlier in the day on June 2nd at the Boys & Girls Club of Michigan City (performance open to members only). His performance at the Lubeznik Center on June 2nd at 6pm is free and open to the public.

Award Winning Origami Artist Returns to LOK Young Artist Expo

Origami dress by artist Haley Schuberth

Origami dress by artist Haley Schuberth

LOK Wishing Tree Founder Dot Kesling first met Haley Schuberth when she was just 12 years old during a holiday open house at Marc t. Nielsen Interiors in Valparaiso where she and Haley’s mother, Monica, were both employed.

Kesling says of the work Haley offered for sale, “The creative intricacy of her work really set her apart from others.” Fast forward to 2014, Haley was one of the guest artists celebrated at the LOK Young Artist Expo held at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts. Her origami sculptures and full-size dress made entirely from paper was definitely a show stopper.

Then earlier this year she won Best Emerging Artist award at an Art for Life / DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting Aids) event in Chicago. We are thrilled she is receiving recognition she deserves and are glad she will be back on exhibit at our 4th Annual LOK Young Artist Expo this year. Part of LOK Wishing Tree Foundation’s mission is to unleash the creative dreams of youth — we feel Haley’s works will inspire other young artists to do exactly that.

Hope you can join us! Friday, June 2, 2017 from 5-8pm at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts in Michigan City.

Congratulations to Hailey Schuberth on Best Emerging Artist! #aflchi #diffachi Underwritten by Cole Dannewitz.

A post shared by Art For Life Chicago (@artforlifechicago) on

Encourage Jim Pressel to Protect Hoosiers from Carbon Monoxide

We would hope as the district’s elected official that Jim Pressel would hear the concerns of the people in his district that there be no further opposition against the LaPorte Carbon Monoxide Ordinance as there has been in the past. The builder’s association needs to get out of the way and allow this ordinance to do as it’s written to do — to protect the people.

The reality is that the state is very behind in working with current building code. Until they play “catch up” to update the code, this ordinance needs to be in place. Carbon Monoxide is called the Silent Killer because you can’t see or smell it; however, Carbon Monoxide poisoning is 100% preventable. Prevention is detection. CO alarms are detection.

Jim Pressel of Pressel Enterprises, a home builder in LaPorte (links to Facebook page), is the State Representative for District 20, which includes large parts of LaPorte and Starke Counties. Whether you live in his district or not, feel free to contact Jim to share your thoughts about this important matter which will go before the next Fire Prevention & Building Safety Commission meeting on Tuesday, May 2nd at 9am.

Click to contact Jim Pressel. You can also visit his Facebook page and write a message there.

Jim Pressel

Click image to contact Jim Pressel.


Springing Into Art

SSDAAs most who follow the work of our organization know, LOK Wishing Tree Foundation has a dual mission. Throughout the fall and winter months, carbon monoxide awareness is our primary focus. As the weather warms and (usually, during “normal” weather cycles) CO is less of a threat, we turn our attention toward the other part of our mission: “unleashing the artistic dreams of youth.”

Today is the first day of spring and plans for our arts agenda for this year are underway!

LOK Heads to Indy to Provide Testimony About Carbon Monoxide Dangers

Dot Kesling is packing her bags to head to Indianapolis this week. She is coming to town to provide testimony in support of the LaPorte’s city carbon monoxide ordinance in front of the Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission.

Kesling is hoping that she can reach the hearts and minds of those who will be present. Previous bills have come before the Indiana Senate and thus far, have not passed. Kesling has begun a grassroots effort, appealing to city and county councils to pass CO ordinances requiring CO alarm installations. Unfortunately though, a state ruling has the power to overturn local decisions, so winning allies downstate could be critical to future legislative success.

Kesling is not a politician. She is not an attorney. She is a LaPorte, Indiana mother who lost her 22-year old daughter, Lindsey O’Brien Kesling, to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning over 6 years ago. In lieu of flowers at her daughter’s funeral, Kesling asked loved ones to donate to a foundation she created, LOK Wishing Tree Foundation, to honor Lindsey’s memory and to spread the word about the dangers of carbon monoxide, an easily preventable cause of death. Along her journey, Kesling has assembled a support cast of friends, relatives, volunteers, firefighters, business people, media professionals, CO survivors, family members of other carbon monoxide poisoning victims and even college students, which particularly warms Kesling’s heart. “Firefighters have their hands full. Peer to peer awareness and education like these kids are doing is our hope in further leveraging our co educational outreach,” Kesling adds. The tiny nonprofit has organized dozens of carbon monoxide awareness events over the past few years, most of them hosted at firehouses, in conjunction with fire prevention month. Though Kesling is extremely grateful to her network of volunteers for helping her spread the word about the dangers of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, it’s tough work…on a shoestring budget. With support from partners, the foundation has been able to make free and low cost CO alarms available to many Indiana residents who could not otherwise afford them.

46 states across the country have enacted some kind of CO safety law. “There is absolutely no reason that Indiana is not one of them! We need professional and elected officials to take leadership on protecting citizens about this; instead the burden from lack of protection currently falls to those citizens least educated about the dangers,” Kesling states. Carbon monoxide safety laws are not the result of partisan politics and are found in states both red and blue across the country. These laws protect citizens from needless and avoidable injury or death from the hazards of household CO exposure.

Dot Kesling with the Christner family

Dot Kesling with the Christner family

LOK Wishing Tree Foundation’s free CO alarms have saved at least one family in her daughter’s hometown of LaPorte, Indiana. In December 2014, just two months after receiving a free alarm at a LaPorte Fire Department carbon monoxide awareness event, LaPorte resident Alexandra Christner, her five-year-old son, and her baby son were awakened from sleep by their CO alarm while her husband was at work. They exited the home immediately. Firefighters found extremely high levels of CO in the house, reportedly from a faulty furnace.

Meanwhile, there have been far too many Hoosiers who have not been so fortunate… The LOK Wishing Tree Foundation has learned of at least  12 deaths in Indiana between 2011 and 2016.

While death is the most obvious outcome Kesling would like to prevent, the societal impact from non-fatal exposure is staggering as well, especially when compared to the low cost of purchasing a carbon monoxide alarm (typically available for as little as $20). If exposure to dangerous levels of CO occurs, victims may also face:

  • Average cost of an ambulance ride can range from $224 – $2,204, and typically $1,600 for Medicare beneficiaries. (U.S. Accountability Office)
  • Average cost of an ER visit is about $1,233 before major treatments are factored in. (Medical Expenditures Panel Survey)
  • Average cost of a funeral ranges $7,000 – $10,000. (

Carbon monoxide incidents are more common than most think. According to the CDC:

  • In 2007, there were 2,302 hospitalizations for confirmed cases of unintentional, non-fire related carbon monoxide poisoning in the U.S.
  • In 2007, there were 21,304 emergency department visits for confirmed cases of unintentional, non-fire related carbon monoxide poisoning in the U.S.
  • From 2000-2009 there were about 6,832 CO exposure calls reported annually
  • Accidental, non-fire-related CO poisoning in the US appears to account for over $1.3 billion in acute medical expenses and lost earnings annually. (Source:

Attorney Gordon Johnson has become a recent ally when he discovered the foundation’s blog. Johnson says, “The importance of working carbon monoxide detectors can’t be noverstated. Without a detectors, there will be no warning that someone is not suffering from a flu like illness, for which the common prescription is to go to sleep. Go to sleep and you are likely to die in a CO rich environment. If detectors are hardwired into the construction, then even if the batteries have not been kept fresh, the detector will warn in the overwhelming number of emergencies. The only logical choice is to get detectors installed, wired into to new construction.

“Too many in the medical profession see carbon monoxide poisoning as a binary choice, almost like choking. Your oxygen cut off too long, you will die. You somehow avoid death through asphyxiation, then you will be fine. But more than 40% of those who survive significant carbon monoxide poisoning will have long term neuropsychiatric symptoms. What does that mean? It means they will have brain damage, brain damage that is likely to disable them for life.

“There is no cure for brain damage. The only cure is prevention. CO detection is the best prevention and that requires working CO detectors.”

Kesling could not agree more. She understands that builders need to run profitable businesses and she would not deny them that. “What good is the American dream of owning a home of your own if the homeowner is dead or permanently brain damaged due to carbon monoxide?” Kesling implores. LaPorte City Attorney Rebecca McCuaig and LaPorte  Fire Chief Andy Snyder will accompany Kesling on the trip to Indianapolis March 7th in support of the grassroots efforts to establish CO city ordinances in the state.


Local Plumbing Company Goes Above and Beyond toward Carbon Monoxide Safety

LaPorte resident and development professional, Dionne Lovstad-Jones, donates her time to the LOK Wishing Tree Foundation and has served as a board member with the organization since 2013. Though she enjoys all of the foundation’s work, she has always been especially drawn toward their mission of reducing deaths due to accidental carbon monoxide. “It’s about saving lives. It doesn’t get much more important than that, right?” asks Lovstad-Jones.

In early February 2017 Dionne scheduled a routine service call for her home’s boiler. After servicing the boiler, technician Nathan (Nate) Betts of Dye Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning asked her if she had carbon monoxide alarms in the home. Rather than taking her word for it, he sensitively asked if he could see the location(s) of the alarm(s).  Betts then tested each alarm, and checked each for the expiration date.

Lovstad-Jones was so impressed with Betts’ care and diligence in inspecting the CO alarms in her home that she arranged a surprise “thank you” visit through Dye Plumbing Owner, Dan Combs. Dionne dropped in at Dye’s LaPorte office during a staff meeting with a box of chocolates during Valentine’s Day week as a special thank you for Nate. During the staff meeting, she shared her story as well as the story of her involvement with LOK Wishing Tree Foundation.

Dionne brought another gift as well, 10 CO Alarms, presented on behalf of the LOK Wishing Tree Foundation. The free alarms are made possible by a generous Community Power for Good grant from the Unity Foundation of LaPorte County as well as ongoing support from First Alert, a leader in residential fire and carbon monoxide alarm devices, to provide free and discounted CO alarms to those in need.

Technicians will be empowered to share the alarms at their discretion. Beyond these initial gifted alarms, Combs indicated interest in purchasing additional alarms for the purpose of continuing their efforts at keeping local residents safe from the dangers of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning and continuing efforts around our Take the CO Vow / Pay It Forward Campaign. The team of technicians agreed to share brochures and magnets from LOK to help spread the word about our work.

Nathan Betts (left) with his manager (and company owner), Dan Combs

Combs reiterated with all his staff the importance of checking alarms, stating that, “We really have the opportunity to make a difference and save lives from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.  The risk is real.  Each time we help a customer understand the importance of having a working alarm, and testing or replacing it regularly, we’re potentially saving lives.”

We appreciate Dye’s leadership in making carbon monoxide safety a priority. It seems like such a common sense thing to do — making sure homes are protected with a relatively low cost CO alarm. We hope that state and local legislators will follow Dye’s lead when language regarding state building codes is reviewed to decide if CO alarms should be required. There has been some push back that putting additional regulations on builders would cause negative economic impact. It’s hard to imagine that any potential negative economic impact would outweigh the societal impact caused by carbon monoxide each year. It is estimated that 95,000 people in the United States are exposed to carbon monoxide each year, resulting in costs of over $936 million for non-fatal exposures and over $34 million for fatal exposures. (From


Dye Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning; Dan Combs, owner
1600 Lake Street, La Porte, IN 46350

Sparrow Mobile CO Device Holds Promise for Saving Young Lives

Sparrow phoneLOK Wishing Tree Founder Dot Kesling lost her daughter Lindsey to carbon monoxide poisoning in November 2010. Since that time she has learned of other parents who have lost their children to CO as well. Don Johnson in Colorado has been a strong supporter and mentor to Dot, sharing insights into how to make changes that will save parents from this avoidable tragedy in the future.

Both Dot and Don agree that a mobile device is necessary to protect young people since they are so often on the go. Most teens and 20-somethings keep their mobile phones nearby constantly. Don Johnson has been working with a company called Eco Sensors that has been developing a device that promises to be a good fit for this demographic.

The SPARROW monitor is a dream come true for me especially since it links to the Otterbox phone case. My daughter, Lauren was killed by carbon monoxide, while trying to call for help on her phone. She never knew what killed her. The SPARROW monitor would have saved her life. I know people think it can’t happen to them but in fact it can. Such an easy and inexpensive way to protect the people you love.

Don Johnson, President, The Lauren Project

Sparrow is currently raising funds for the launch of the Sparrow device using the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform. Click here for more details.

Motivated by the death of Lauren Moilien Johnson, the mission of The LAUREN Project is twofold: to prevent similar tragedies by advocating for carbon monoxide safety; and to provide grants to persons who have been selected to participate in nonprofit international volunteer programs.

The Lauren Project Logo

Carbon Monoxide Legislation Update

CO Legislation MapWe have had some recent hopeful news and media coverage on the carbon monoxide legislation front only to be disappointed by proposed legislation being tabled or otherwise stalled:

  • Senator Michael Bohacek from Indiana State Senate District 8 authored Senate Bill 343 which would require the installation of carbon monoxide alarms in new single family and multifamily residential construction. The bill was read for the first time last week and referred to Committee on Commerce and Technology.

  • The LaPorte CO Ordinance has been tabled. We are not surprised, however, very disappointed as this draft was written in very general terms in hopes of avoiding hurdles from special interest groups.

  • Chesterton, Indiana’s CO draft has been tabled as well due to some legal issues, that they won’t disclose to us after numerous attempts to uncover.

It is our hope to keep steady pressure on legislators to get laws passed in Indiana.

Cities have the power to pass ordinances, even if the state has not, though the state does have the power to override local legislation. There is NO reason for this legislation not passing! It is not an issue that is not divided along party lines. It is a public health and safety issue that effects everybody and it is the responsibility of the decision makers down state to keep their constituents safe! This is not about Lindsey’s story alone. Many are effected by death or illness and the costs — both financial and non-financial — are devastating. Families who have lost a loved one or individuals whose health has been effected can obviously talk very personally about the emotional costs, but here’s a link that also shows some of the actual costs that often become the burden of tax payers as well.

Any help we can get from our supporters to accomplish this is most appreciated. Sign our petition and/or start your own if you are in a different voting district. Contact your legislators directly to let them know you care about safety and want to protect yourself and those you love from the dangers of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

Not sure what laws apply in your area? Check here to learn more:


Yes, Virginia, you are a Santa Claus!

LOK’s dear friend, Valparaiso Artist Virginia Phillips, made sure we didn’t have a blue Christmas last year by giving us the rights to use the image of another one of her beautiful paintings. A portion of the sales of these items raises money for our work toward carbon monoxide awareness and providing arts opportunities for youth in under-served areas.

Check out “Deep Blue Sea”, the new design, now available on a wide variety of products — everything from home decor to clothing and other functional items.

Visit our online Society6 store to order these as well as other designs and items. The percentage varies, but we typically earn about 10% commission on each purchase. As always, additional donations to directly fund our work are always appreciated.