"Opportunity always comes disguised as hard work." It’s a saying that rings true for one El Paso woman. Her opportunity was to audition for NBC's “The Voice,” and sing in Spanish instead of English. But it was her hard work and dedication to her talent that turned her into an overnight celebrity. Only on News Channel 9, you can get to know Elia Esparza.
When you hear the words, “Como la flor,” many around the world are reminded of the superstar Selena. Two weeks ago on “The Voice,” it was resurrected in a performance by a beautiful young woman who judge Miley Cyrus told her, "You did something totally different. People who stay true to who they are, that will get you so far." The performance by El Paso’s own Elia Esparza took “The Voice” and social media by storm.
In town for a quick stop in “The Sun City,” News Channel 9’s Faran Fronczak got to meet Elia, her family, and best friend at her home on the east side. When asked, "Why did you chose to sing in Spanish and why did you pick Selena?" Elia says, "I really wanted to show a different part of me. A lot of people don't know that I'm full Mexican and I can speak Spanish, and it's a huge part of who I am."
But also a big part of this El Pasoan... is singing. Her parents Francisco and Elia remember the moment at a birthday party they realized their 3-year old Elia was a performer, with Francisco saying, "Elia grabbed the microphone, and we said, 'Mi hija, sing! … And she just started going!"
But her parents weren't all that surprised, because it's in their blood. Her mother Elia says, "My dad sings. Francisco sings... his dad sings.”
Elia's parents say growing up she was like any other kid -- trying out everything from music to sports. Her father says, "She tried to do softball, and we said we don't think the sports is working for you, because we're getting tired of going to the games and they don't put you in,” followed by family laughter.
So that's why when Elia was 9, she started taking voice lessons. Elia says, "We moved to El Paso when I was like 12 or 13, and I just got really involved in theatre and choir."
After graduating from Americas High School, Elia was selected to study at the New York Conservatory – where only 150 students are selected each year – to pursue her dream of singing pop music in English... and in Spanish.
Elia’s best friend Alex Garcia says, “Elia's very strong. She's very determined, and in a friend, that's amazing to see somebody that doesn't give up."
After her performance on “The Voice.” the name Elia Esparza blew up social media practically overnight. Elia says, "It's a little weird, but awesome, and overwhelming, but amazing.” It’s made people in the boarderland proud to say Elia was part of their El Paso family.
Elia says while on her quick trip home, she’s had some fun encounters with the community, and was so blessed to gain fans, almost instantly overnight. She says, “I went to Walgreens and the makeup artist was like ‘Oh my gosh! You're Elia... No… Selena!"
While competing on “The Voice,” Elia says she's even more proud to represent her city, along with her culture, as she fights to pursue her childhood dream.
Elia has a message for all those in El Paso: "I would just say to El Paso… thank you so much for all the support and the love, I feel it. I wake up every day and I'm like, ‘This is incredible!’ I'm trying so hard to respond [to you all] so if I don't, I'm sorry, but I see it and I feel it and... thank you."
Last Saturday was the first time ever the West Point Black Knights traveled to El Paso to play the UTEP Miners at the Sun Bowl. It was also the first time the team took the field, without their teammate Brandon Jackson.
News Channel 9’s Faran Fronczak sat down with two former West Point football players – stationed here at Fort Bliss – to talk about the tragedy, and learned the West Point football team, from past to present, are a true “Band of Brothers.”
This year’s ARMY Football entrance video says these simple words: "We are a brotherhood. We are committed to excellence. Bonded by duty, honor, and country. We are warriors."
Once West Point Black Knight warriors on the gridiron, 2nd Lieutenants Lamar Johnson-Harris and Mike Ugenyi are now warriors in the U.S. ARMY. “Being at west point is special because you go through experiences and events and you have your brothers basically going through them with you,” says Johnson-Harris.
Back in January, the two lieutenants were assigned to Fort Bliss – a place neither had ever been to. “ Meand mike talked about it a little bit earlier before we put our post in, and we kind of wanted to stick together, stick close,” says Johnson-Harris. Ugenyi says, “Me and LJ, we're close. We're basically like brothers."
It’s been 6-years since Ugenyi and Johnson-Harris met for the first time at West Point, but seeing the two interact, you’d think they’ve known each other a lifetime – finishing each other’s sentences, knowing each other’s corky habits… the things only brothers would know.
At Fort Bliss, West Point Football players are a tight knit group. Johnson-Harris says, "There's more than just us 2 out here. There's about 5 of our teammates out here from the class of 2015… There's probably more than 3 that are deployed."
When asked how often the two see their former teammates, Ugenyi says, “We used to work out together a lot but then our schedules started conflicting. yesterday we all got together, like 5 of us... Watched the game, talked about good times. Because in the last few weeks alone... A few kids... Well one of the kids from our class passed away."
On July 26th, former wide-receiver, #88 Mike Parros died during a training exercise at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was 21-years old.
Sunday, September 11th, defensive back #28 Brandon Jackson was killed in a tragic car accident, just 16-miles away from West Point. Jackson was just 20-years old.
“When times like this happen, you may not speak to them like our teammates since we've graduated, we all come back together just to support each other,’” says Johnson-Harris. Ugenyi says, "Mike was a great guy. real funny. Real smart... Yeah... I miss him."
For their brother Brandon Jackson, Johnson-Harris says, "You know Brandon came in right away and from what I heard, a star out the gate. A great kid... A great cadet... A great athlete. He was my position too. DB's we have an even tighter knit group because a lot times you're off on an island and it's just us."
Heavy hearts went into Saturday’s game. It was the first time the team took the field without Brandon. That’s why these two brothers, now at Fort Bliss, banded together. "We just started reaching out to our old teammates and talking to them, making sure they were alright. I mean we played with them, we sweat with them,” says Ugenyi.
"Basically, the experience that we learn, being teammates and going through all these hardships, they translate to the ARMY because you have those ups and downs as well,” says Johnson-Harris.
It was a bittersweet homecoming for the two Fort Bliss brothers – reuniting with their team, and alumni stationed around the world.
Ugenyi says, “Something bad happens, we all band together. Not only just fight through it, but see the happier side through it. So I think that's the biggest thing for our brotherhood."
Johnson-Harris says for last Saturday’s game, he was, “Just lookin' for the win m'am. This is the first time ARMY has been 2-0 since 1996."
That’s exactly what their brotherhood was given. The Black Knights won the game 66-14. A win these brothers say was the best way to honor their brothers lost… but never forgotten… Mike and Brandon.
Every year, The South Bend Center for the Homeless hosts a big event. All the money raised -- and they raise a lot -- goes right into running the center.
FOX28 has had some of our own talent take the floor at the "Dancing With Our Stars" competition over the years, and this year... is no different!
Last year, my co-anchor Tom Powell WOW'ed the crowed at Center for the Homeless "Dancing With Our Stars 2015," but before that, for 3-months we watched Tom's dancing jouney, with the help of another FOX28 dancing alum... photojournalist Tom Shaw.
Tom Shaw has competed in the competition multiple times, but when he first started, he says, "I was what you would call the classic wedding dancer. No dance experience at all!"
Tom Powell describes going into his first rehearsal with partner Nicole Majewski saying, "It was nerve wracking! I'm not a dancer!" But the night of the competition, you would have never known! The night of the competition, Tom says, "[Nicole's] advice to me was own the floor... and we did that tonight." And his fans... loved it!
This year, Tom will emcee the event, and yours truly... will be dancing! Now I HAVE danced before. I was the Captain of the Purdue Dance Team, I danced for the Chicago Bulls as a Luvabull... I've had my training!"
So at my FIRST rehearsal, I already was having a tough time... if I could've found the right dance shoes in my dance bag I haven't opened for 4-years now.
For this year's competition, my partner is Matt Smith. He says, "I've danced since I was 19. Loved dance since I was a little kid watching 'Singin' in the Rain' with Gene Kelly." Matt is an award winning Ballroom Dancer, Teacher, and Choreographer. Most recently, the last 2 years at the Indiana Challenge, he's won a top teacher award, and 4th in Pro American Rhythm. And not to mention, just earned his Black Belt in Juko-Ryu Toide in July.
Since I've been a solo dancer all my life, the idea of having a partner telling me what to do doesn't really sit well with me. So I asked Matt for advice as far as our FIRST class. He said, "Trust me! Lead and follow is kind of like driving your own car, he's just your GPS."
So lesson one: The first step I learned was the sugar push. A little different because in ballet, your feet stay lifted off the floor. In ballroom, you press into the floor. This who partner-dancing thing... may not be as easy as I once thought!
Two dancers from two different dance worlds, but will it be hard for Matt to train an ALREADY trained dancer?! He says, "Just depends on how stubborn they are... Ask me in about 3-weeks!"
The South Bend Center for the Homeless has served more than 55,000 men, women and children by linking them with the programs, agencies and people who can help them break the cycle of homelessness. Every night more than 275 people call the Center home, and at least 60 of those people are children. To house just one person for one night, it costs $41.00.
The CFH's biggest fundraiser of the year is their annual "Dancing With Our Stars" competition. This year, FOX28's Faran Fronczak is competing, and needs your help! One vote costs $41, the price of one person per night, but that amount isn't mandatory. Whether is $1, $5, or $500, any amount is going to an amazing cause that helps combat the cycle of homelessness in the Michiana community.
For 25 years, Heroes Camp in Mishawaka has had a mission to get as many boys as possible, off the streets and onto a basketball court. Today, it's helped nearly 75,000 do just that. Last year though, severe thunderstorms ripped the roof off their gym, and it looked like the Heroes Camp mission was over. But with the right mindset, they're coming back stronger... than ever.
July 1st, 2014. Nearly 11 twisters touched down in Michiana. Surveillance video from inside the Heroes Camp gym shows an actual vortex went through the building. Co-Founder Pat Magley says, "The door over there was on the second court, and all these bleachers were on the first court. Everything was destroyed. And I'm like... no. When you lose a loved one, or you birth something, and it looks like it's destroyed... you're numb." Magley says they suffered nearly $800,000 in damage, and couldn't continue at the gym with the condition that it was in. Co-Founder BJ Magley says, "I was just heartbroken. I just kept thinking this is a house for the fatherless. This is their home."
Young men like Cam'ron Turner have made the Camp part of their everyday life, with a free meal, haircuts, life lessons, and of course... basketball. Turner says he saw the damages from last year's storm and says, "It shouldn't happen to this place."
For the past year, Heroes Camp was on life support, using other facilities to keep the nearly 100 young men a day who come in, off the streets. Camper Jordan Tolbert, now a senior in high school, whose attended the camp since he was in middle school says, "Everyday I leave here and feel like I can change the world." BJ Magley says on a normal day, nearly 100 campers would come after school. When they had to operate out of other faciliites like The South Bend Career Academy and Apostolic Temple Village, they could only cover about half. She says, "All kinds of things have happened you know, shootings, I don't know, maybe there's been an increase in crime. The numbers that we normally run is so great that I have to wonder where were those kids? Who was caring for them?"
But with the help of the community, on Saturday at 10 AM, Heroes Camp is reopening their renovated facility, and adding to their family.
On the court... he was Number 22. Jaraan Cornell says, "I went to South Bend Clay. We won a State Championship in '94. Graduated in '96. Then went down to Purdue University. Graduated." In fact, Cornell still holds the Boilermaker record for the most 3-point field goals made in a career. He says its all because he's been a part of Heroes Camp... since he was 13 saying, "It gave me something more to think about than just basketball. It got me thinking about what direction I wanted to go in life."
Now, Cornell will be the camps new program director. He says he wants to return the favor and inspire future stars... like Jimmy Beane, who says, "I want to come here and then go to the University of Kentucky for a year, then go to the NBA, and then give back to Heroes Camp."
Heroes Camp is one of the largest ministries for youth in the area. Now in a facility housing three basketball courts, a kitchen, locker rooms, a studio, and yes even a barbershop Heroes Camp helps young men embrace fathering and their Heavenly father through sports. For more information, visit heroescamp.com
That's the number of World War Two veterans that die every single day.
The Northeast Indiana Honor Flight network wants ALL of the one-million who are still living to visit their memorial in Washington D.C. "We're paying some people back for some things that they did,” says Honor Flight Board Member Dennis Covert. But Covert isn't just a board member. He's footing the $60,000 bill for the trip, "And really if you think about it, the donation is fairly small for what they did for us,” he says.
Wednesday morning, 79 World War Veterans took off for the nation's capitol. Waiting in the plane, one by one, I heard their stories. First was Eileen, a nurse that was stationed in Germany. "I sang Silent Night, and then I sang it in German. All the German people were there. And tears started running down their eyes thinking an American would be singing "stille nacht” she says.
My seat mate was Dale Smith, an Air Force pilot who flew a B-17 on 29 bombing missions over Germany. His story... he told me his heart was never set on flying planes. "When I went in, I was going in the NAVY line but I got in wrong line, it was the Air Force line. I said, it's alright, they fly in the air, too, so that's the way I went!" he says.
During the flight, he told me every maneuver the pilot was making before we made our destination. Once we arrived, nearly 300 people welcomed these heroes to Reagan International Airport. Everywhere we went... people stopped to say thank you, especially as they entered their memorial.
Watching these men and women see *their* memorial... was so emotional. Norm Dales, an Army veteran says, "It was something out of the past. Didn't expect it, but it was a dream."
Sharing their stories is tough. For some, opening up was just too much. "He never did. He always used to tell me he had KP,” says Pat Hans, who was her father Norm's guardian for the trip.
The vets went to the other sites in the city, like the Vietnam and Korean War memorials and the Air Force Memorial. "I like the Air Force thing up there as well as anything. You got the whole view of the city, it was nice up there,” says Len Harlan, a Navy veteran.
They also watched the changing of the guards at the tomb of the unknown. They even took part in the ceremony. "I don't feel qualified like I should be doing it, but I did. And, it was just such an honor,” says Eileen who took part in the ceremony.
They call them “The Greatest Generation”. The world wouldn't be what it is today without their sacrifices.
Hans learned on the trip about her father that, "He enlisted right after his 18th Birthday because he said this was going to be the defining moment of his generation and he didn't want to miss it!'"
Back in the day, these servicemen lived for the telegrams they got once a week. To bring back those memories, Honor Flight delivered mail to the veterans on their way home. Fighter Pilot Paul Grossnickel says, "I was very surprised to get these letters. Some of them are from the girls in my office."
Duane Cable now holds the record for being the Northeast Honor Flights oldest veteran. At 99-years old, he says, "There's all kinds of letters in here. From my grand kids... my great grand kids." Letters of appreciation from a new generation to one that sacrificed so much in "The War to End All Wars". But to them, veteran Oscar says, "I was just doing my job..."
When they returned to Indiana, nearly 2,000 people greeted them at the Fort Wayne airport. And as for Duane... the oldest member of the group. This welcome takes him back to the day he returned from war 70 years ago.
For many of these World War II veterans, this was the very first time they've been in Washington D.C. And even after a long 15-hour, they say it was the trip of a lifetime.
On July 10 at 7:00PM (CST), the Grammy Award Winning County Music group "Little Big Town" will take the grand stand stage at the La Porte County Fair.
This year, the grand stand seats 10,000 people, and the concert will go on - rain or shine.
Ticket prices range from $30 to $50. The purchase tickets to see "Little Big Town", click here.
Bristol native Mekayla Diehl may not be the new Miss USA, but plenty of people around the country are singing her praises. During and after the pageant Sunday night fans expressed disappointment she didn't make the top 10.
Many took to Twitter:
@huntinprincess_ "Miss Indiana had the most realistic body last night on Miss USA. Shoutout to her."
@StephsDangerout "Miss Indiana looked like a normal person...and she didn't make the cut. :("
@HermanBonJovi #MissIndiana was gorgeous. #MissUSA2014 Why arent there more girls in the pageant like her? #RealGirlsArentStick
Faran Fronczak spoke to Diehl who says the judges' opinions about her body cost her the top 10. "On a scoring level that's exactly what happened and that's okay because those were those seven judges' opinions, nine judges' opinions," she says. "That's okay. You can't dwell on somebody's opinion and at the end of the day I didn't make the top ten because of their opinions and I'm not going to change my lifestyle and I'm not going to change my spirit because of that."
Diehl says she stays extremely active, and doesn't deprive herself of food. "I can realistically achieve it everyday," she says. "It's not a crash diet. It's not a program. It's a lifestyle."
Dr. Ahmed Elmaadawi, a Child and Adolescent Phychiatrist at Memorial, says Diehl is actually thinner than the average woman. He says when young adults see criticism about body shape, it affects their body image. "Over 90-percent of young teens I work with, they are not satisfied with their body image. That's actually a huge number," he says.
Diehl returned to the South Bend Airport Monday to a warm welcome. She was greeted by family members who were thrilled about her performance in the pageant.
We've all had to layer up to survive this winter's freezing temps, so who in their right mind would walk around in shorts, T-shirts and flip flops? The answer, the guys from Siegfried Hall at Notre Dame...of course.
The tradition started about eight years ago. "A guy was walking around and realized it was really cold out," says Junior Thomas Ridella. "It was pretty miserable. And then realized the homeless are doing it everyday." That's why the men of Siegfried Hall created "Day of Man", a fundraiser for the South Bend Center for the Homeless. So, how do they raise the money? By dressing like it's summer when it's CLEARLY winter.
When asked what people say when they see you in class, Junior Colin O'Shea says, "I get a lot of stares. And at this point, I just say, 'You know what, I don't feel it anymore!'" Freshmen and California native Darren Church was given some advice for his first year involved in the fundraiser. "Walk fast, don't stay outside too long," he says.
This is Church's first Michiana winter this year. Now, he has to brave it in what would be a normal outfit for him in Cali. "It feels terrible to be honest. Wearing sandals is the worst part," he says. "Your feet get cold in probably the first two minutes."
Last year, the Siegfried boys raised nearly 7,000 dollars in these red cups. And already with the weather being a challenge this year, they've challenged themselves to raise $10,000. Freshmen Anthony Laguardia says he was shocked after receiving his red solo cup after passing it around in class. "I got it back and it was full," says Laguardia. "And I was impressed. It was heart warming to see how many people donated to the cause."
College kids are known to do some things without their parents knowing right away. When asked if Laguardia told his mom about walking around in subzero temperatures in shorts and flip-flops. He says, "I actually have no told her yet. I'll probably send her an email. I have no idea. She would never expect me to do something like this."
These guys also knew how to get more cash by playing "the sympathy card" and carrying posters that read, "Pay Me! I'm Cold!" The Men of Siegfried Hall are in the works of counting their money they earned Wednesday. They tell FOX28 they'll have a definite total by Thursday night.