Archive for the ‘News’ Category

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.

A Normal Life: A Sister’s Odyssey Through Brain Injury

book-cover-199x300In a recent podcast, we had a chance to speak with Lyrysa Smith, author of A Normal Life: A Sister’s Odyssey Through Brain Injury, a book she wrote to spread awareness about carbon monoxide. In February 1995 Lyrysa’s sister Molly and her husband were looking forward to a ski weekend when a faulty heater in their motel room took Molly’s husband’s life and left Molly in critical condition.

After a harrowing rescue, hyperbaric oxygen treatments, an extended time in a coma and lots of therapy, Molly and her caregivers continue to be challenged by the brain injury inflicted by carbon monoxide.

Please listen to the episode and be sure to share it to help us get the word out, especially as we enter into the winter season when many will be travelling. If you don’t yet own a travel CO alarm, please consider buying one for yourself and also for loved ones this holiday season.

Listen to the episode.

Visit Lyrysa’s website to get a free copy of Chapter 1 of her book

Read Lyrysa’s blog post: Help Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

Do you have a story about carbon monoxide? Tell us about it and we may contact you to be interviewed on a future podcast episode.

Let’s Make Some Noise About Carbon Monoxide!

Carbon Monoxide is a Silent Killer…

You can’t see it. You can’t smell it. You can’t taste it.

There are ways to stop it though!

It’s free and easy and will help us amplify our CO Awareness message this season.

Share your social media status update with us!
We’re using Thunderclap to make a big noise about this Silent Killer to kick off our Fall 2016 campaign. Just click this link to donate your social media status on one or more platforms on September 13, 2016. (You need to sign up before that date to participate.)

Here’s how it works:

Click here to learn about other ways to get involved.
Protect your home and those you love from carbon monoxide!
Please install a CO alarm if you do not already own one. If you own one, replace it if it is more than 5-7 years old. Check the batteries to make sure it is operating property. When in doubt, replace! Consider purchasing alarms for those who do not have one or donating to LOK so that we may provide alarms for those in need.

Progress to date:

Young Artist Expo Celebrates Local Talent

The weather was beautiful as guests drifted up the front walk of the Lubeznik Center for the Arts during the 3rd Annual LOK Young Artist Expo on June 3rd. Local poet musician, Edie Rene Miller, played her guitar and recited her poetry for the gathering crowd as they entered the gallery.

LOK staff Simpson O’Brien, Arlene Francis and Kathy Sipple and volunteers, Liz Brenel and Yo Halliar, assembled behind their welcome table in the entry, greeting guests, helping students acclimate and accepting gifts from donors.

Student ambassadors Charlie, Siobhan and Jayla, along with other young volunteers greeted guests at the door, providing them with the rundown on the night’s exciting activities. Jordan, a friend of one of the South Shore Dance Alliance dance troupe members arrived and asked, “how can I help?” His simple question was representative of the overall mood and energy of the event. The evening is a culmination of lots of orchestrated, hard work on the part of the artists, dancers, musicians as well as their teachers and parents, plus lots of help from interested others who are happy to pitch in to make the evening a success.

The art on display from Bloomington Boys & Girls Club and Northwest Indiana artists in the Nipsco gallery was as impressive and diverse as ever. Janet Bloch, Education Director at Lubeznik Center for the Arts, lovingly hang the artwork and prepare the gallery to be welcoming for visitors with special nametags for students artists and their parents and plenty of kid-friendly snacks.

Several young artists gamely agreed to give an impromptu video interview via Facebook live streaming video for new LOK volunteer, Yo Halliar. Yo was a brand new volunteer and new to streaming video as well, but she made it happen, allowing people who couldn’t attend to share in the excitement of the evening.

Returning artists Jack Boardman displayed several pieces including a Picasso-inspired self portrait and an embroidered piece. Origami artist Hayley Schuberth displayed several paper swans and

Drums signaled the approach of the 6:00 performing arts start time. Drummers and dancers in traditional African dress led visitors into Lubeznik’s main gallery for a highly energetic opening number, a traditional African welcome dance, chosen by South Shore Dance Alliance Artistic Director, Larry Brewer.

As the drumming faded, Lubezik Center’s Erika Hanner, welcomed visitors, joking “that has got to be the hardest act to follow, ever!” She thanked the parents for the part they played in getting kids to their practices and making arts a priority for their kids, even when it wasn’t easy to do. She also thanked LOK Wishing Tree Foundation for its role in the unique partnership both organizations enjoy.

Next music instructor Sara Miller and her four young violinists offered a few numbers. Charlie Brown, 15, followed with a violin solo. Charlie was the lone performer in attendance from Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington. Charlie was chosen as a student ambassador this year; he began in the award winning LOK Performing Arts Program at the age of 10 and has steadily progressed with much practice each year.

After the violins, the music tempo changed to a decidedly uptempo beat with Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars. Even a little technical difficulty with the sound system could not distract the young dancers from delivering their best performance. They patiently waited, silent and in their positions, as the sound issue was corrected, then showed their stuff — some acrobatics and some old school break dancing moves and more.

The South Shore Dance Alliance returned to the floor after a costume change and performed an enchanting group number as well as a duet with student ambassadors, Sioban and Jayla. Siobhan, a graduating senior, went to the Alvin Ailey Summer intensive last summer, and the summer before she received a full scholarship from SSDA. Sophomore Jayla will attend the Alvin Ailey Summer Intensive in New York City this summer; last year she received a full scholarship from SSDA as well.

Kathy Sipple from LOK Wishing Tree Foundation offered brief closing remarks, thanking all for the part they played in the program’s success. “The foundation feels very good about offering scholarship funds to our arts partners. They take this seed money and grow it into something beautiful like what you saw tonight. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what does it take to raise arts opportunities for youth? It takes a community. It takes you. We appreciate every bit of help, whether in the form of time, talent or treasure.”

Please consider making a donation and/or getting involved as a volunteer or artist mentor/sponsor. With your help, we can sustain these important programs for our youth.

LOK Gets a Chance to Keep Duneland Homes Safe from CO

Left – Nate Williams, Center – Simpson O’Brien, LOK Communications Director, Right John Jarga, Fire Chief

The Lindsey O’Brien Kesling Wishing Tree Foundation is donating 18 carbon monoxide alarms to be installed during this year’s National Rebuilding Work Day on Saturday, April 30th.

Rebuilding Together – Duneland is the local affiliate of the nation’s largest nonprofit volunteer organization Rebuilding Together, based in Washington, D.C. RTD’s mission is to improve the quality of life of people in the Duneland School District who are physically and/or financially struggling through the rehabilitation of their homes. RTD is on track for its most ambitious year ever, with 14 homes and 5 community projects that need help.

LOK Wishing Tree Foundation partners with First Alert, a leader in residential fire and carbon monoxide alarm devices, to provide free and discounted CO alarms to those in need. 18 alarms have been donated to Rebuilding Together – Duneland for this year’s National Rebuilding Work Day. Chesterton Fire Chief John Jarga will do the installs.

LOK founder Dot Kesling states, “When we learned of this effort to help families in need rehabilitate their homes, we wanted to ensure a carbon monoxide alarm was among the improvements made. It’s a small insurance policy to protect the lives of the homeowners, but one that is too often overlooked.”

Virginia, The Courage to Create

We are excited to announce a new partnership with established artists who want to help support educational and enrichment opportunities for young artists. Virginia Phillips is the inaugural artist helping to launch this program.

Philips is a long time friend of LOK Wishing Tree Founder, Dot Kesling. The two met through a mutual interest in interior design. Dot was taken with the movement, color, energy and emotion she saw in Virginia’s paintings. “The fit with our organization’s focus on youthful, creative energy was a natural fit,” said Kesling.

Virginia Phillips has generously donated use of three of her images by LOK. The images below will be available via our Society6 site on a variety of products such as iPhone cases, laptop cases, pillows, mugs and more. A portion of each sale will help fund arts opportunities for youth. If you have a request for an item not listed, please email us to make a request.

Her art is all the more remarkable since she continues to create it despite health setbacks due to multiple sclerosis and advancing age. A documentary called “Virgina, The Courage to Create” was released in 2015 on Lakeshore Public television, chronicling her story. The trailer is viewable below. Check local public television listings for replays.

Leap Into the Arts Event to Benefit LOK Partner, SSDA

ssda (1)Founded in 2007 by Kay Wuchner Marcus and Heidi Pollizotto, the Leap into the Arts gala has been a major fundraising event benefiting and showcasing youth vocal, dance, and orchestra organizations in Northwest Indiana.  Thanks to Kay and Heidi’s tireless efforts  and the many Leap volunteers, in the last seven years, the gala has raised over $100,000 for participants.

 This year’s participating groups, all 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations, include:

      South Shore Dance Alliance

      Northwest Indiana Symphony Youth Orchestra

“Leap” provides much needed funds for these outstanding nonprofit organizations, and the gala provides a wonderful venue to showcase these talented NW Indiana youth.

We look forward to seeing you February 26, 2016 at this exciting and worthwhile event!

Order tickets here.

Friday, February 26th 6-10pm
Halls of St. George, Schererville, Indiana

2-8-2016 10-13-23 AM