LeBron James is not the only one representing the city of Akron at this weekend’s NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

There are 23 Akron teens — no coincidence in the number — who also made the trip.

The 330 Ambassadors serve as mentors and role models working with Akron youngsters who are part of James’ I Promise program with a goal to keep the select group of kids in school and on a path to not only a high school diploma, but also a college degree from the University of Akron.

This is not the first time James has brought ambassadors from his foundation to an All-Star Game.

Jackson Tankersley, a senior at Akron’s National Inventors Hall of Fame Stem School who made the trip to L.A., said he also had the honor of traveling to New Orleans thanks to James when the All-Star Game was held there last year.

A highlight of last year’s trip was working with an organization that is helping to rebuild homes there devastated by natural disasters.

He was so moved by the experience that he came home and helped organize a trip back with his church youth group.

“I think it is hard to do something like this and not leave a changed person,” Tankersley said.

The trip to the West Coast this weekend included a career day visit to WME, a powerhouse in Hollywood representing talent including Emma Stone and Denzel Washington, and a chance to talk to workers on the Warner Bros. lot.

The teens spent Friday working in the Lower Topanga State Park with the group the TreePeople, planting trees and plants in an area devastated by wildfires.

Tankersley said it was great to make an immediate difference on such a stark landscape.

“You can really see the fruits of your labor instantly,” he said.

The final day of the trip was Saturday, when they were James’ guests as Team LeBron practiced for Sunday’s game.

They also took a campus tour at the University of Southern California and met with college counselors. The day ended with a dinner on the beach in Malibu.

For D’Onjai White, a senior at Akron’s Early College High School, this was his first All-Star trip as a 330 Ambassador.

White said he and the others each planted 12 trees and 16 plants that will hopefully make a permanent difference for that community in California to not only reforest the area but also help prevent erosion and fire dangers.

He said the trip was great but he thanks James for the opportunity to work with Akron kids year-round “to do positive work and help the students make good choices.”

“This is something I will keep forever,” White said. “I will hold these memories forever.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

LeBron James’ charitable works in Akron are now $224,023 richer thanks to a recent donation.

The DAP Championship — Cleveland’s Web.com Tour Finals event that showcases future PGA talent — donated $224,023 to the LeBron James Family Foundation raised at its Labor Day tournament held at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood.

This is not the first time the foundation has benefited from the annual tournament, with some $447,000 donated over the last two years.

There is a local connection to the Maryland-based DAP sponsor that manufactures caulk and other related products. Its parent company is the Medina County-based RPM International.

“After partnering with the LeBron James Family Foundation in anticipation of the DAP Championship, I was humbled by the foundation’s mission and goals,” said Ron Rice, president and chief operating officer of RPM, in a statement. “We are honored to support the foundation and the Fall 2018 opening of the I Promise School for the public school students in Akron.”

The foundation helps select school kids and their families in James’ hometown of Akron through initiatives and programs to keep the students in school and working toward good grades, with a goal of a high school diploma and free tuition at the University of Akron.

There are more than 1,100 Akron Public School students now enrolled in the I Promise program.

“The support of the DAP Championship and their incredible team has been a game changer for our foundation,” Michele Campbell, executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, said in a statement. “Not only do their contributions help us provide the support our kids desperately need, but their partnership and passion for our mission has created opportunities for our students that we couldn’t offer on our own.”

The tournament will return to Canterbury Golf Club over the Labor Day weekend. Golfers will play for prize money and a chance to earn an invitation to future PGA tournaments.

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

She will always be remembered for the day she died — May 4, 1970.

But Sandy Scheuer lived a life before she became immortalized as one of four students shot and killed by Ohio National Guardsmen who were on the Kent State campus to quell protests of the Vietnam War.

A new exhibit, Sandy’s Scrapbook, at the May 4 Visitors Center at Kent State recalls the life of the junior honors student who got caught in the gunfire while walking to class.

Her sister Audrey Scheuer said many of the items that are part of the exhibit now on display inside Taylor Hall on the campus belonged to her late parents and were donated to the Ohio Historical Society, and she kept some of the things to remember Sandy.

Even though it’s been nearly 50 years that her sister has been gone, Audrey said as she looked over a page from one of Sandy’s scrapbooks on a wall, it is still painful to talk about it.

“It’s just too much to talk about,” she said apologetically.

One of the scrapbook pages that is part of the display includes a poem a young Audrey penned to her sister while she was still alive. It is dedicated to the “best sister I have.”

The poem goes:

“There are silver ships.

“There are gold ships.

“But there are no ships like friendships.”

Unlike the polarizing political “lens” that has been cast on the victims and the shooting in the past, Kent State President Beverly Warren said, this particular exhibit focuses on the young woman Sandy was and her personal story.

“This was a real person with real dreams,” Warren said.

Visitors can see Sandy’s first crayon drawing of an apple from kindergarten and a pretend marriage license from a young suitor.

Her prom photos are on display along with her membership card from the Carousel Teen Club — she was member No. 794.

There’s even her favorite stuffed animal, a poodle, and an artsy brown pottery ashtray made at summer camp.

Her life progresses from a shy little girl growing up in Boardman to a spirited college student who earned her ceremonial paddle from the Alpha Xi Delta sorority at Kent State.

There’s a particularly poignant letter from Audrey to Sandy talking about, among other things, how much she misses her sister, a wish to visit her in Kent and the fact their parents’ wedding anniversary was coming up on May 4.

Mindy Farmer, director of the May 4 Visitors Center at Kent State, said the goal is to tell the life stories of all the other victims of the May 4 shootings.

Future exhibits will look at Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller and William Schroeder.

There’s no set timetable yet, but Farmer said the ultimate goal is to have all four of the exhibits up and ready to be shown collectively on May 4, 2020, the 50th anniversary of the shooting.

“In researching the exhibit, we found several of Sandy’s personal scrapbooks,” Farmer said. “They were full of candid photos, letters from friends, concert tickets and mementos from major life events. We soon realized that the best way to honor Sandy was to let her curate her own life.

“The colors, flowers and many of the images come directly from the scrapbook she kept while here at Kent State.”

The task of putting it all together — fittingly enough — was left to the hands and creativity of fellow Kent State students

The exhibit is designed by Glyphix Studio, a student-staffed design studio within Kent State’s School of Visual Communication Design, and IdeaBase, a student-powered design agency within Kent State’s College of Communication and Information.

Instructor Larrie King said students pored over the many scrapbook pages, countless personal photos and mementos to pick just the right ones to help tell Sandy’s life story.

The display includes her childhood Webster’s Dictionary where she wrote in the names of illustrations on the inside covers from a zebra to an eagle.

There’s a page included from an old autograph book where she proclaimed her favorite singer was Dinah Shore and a concert flyer for an appearance at Kent State by the Temptations.

King said Sandy was an avid scrapbooker, so that left a lot of material to work with.

“We wanted to bring [these scrapbooks] to life,” he said.

For those working on the project, it all became a little personal.

Alexander Griffin, a senior visual communication design major from Toledo, said his knowledge of the shooting was mostly from history books.

But looking over the scrapbooks and family photos helped personalize Sandy’s story so that she was a student just like himself with a full life ahead of her.

“These are real people with actual lives that need to be celebrated.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

Looking for an offbeat Valentine’s Day outing and the chance to be a part of history?

For the first time since the coffin lid first opened in 1974 at Akron’s Haunted Schoolhouse, the frightening place will be open for tours and screams outside the Halloween season.

Billed as “Love Bites: A Valentine’s Haunted House,” the local landmark to all things scary at 1300 Triplett Blvd. will be open on Friday and Saturday nights.

This is part of a trend among haunted houses.

Its sister haunt in Canton, the Factory of Terror — they both share the same owner — hosted a Christmas Krampus haunt last year and has opened for other limited-run events including St. Patrick’s Day and Friday the 13th.

Owner John Eslich said there’s certainly been interest in these unusual offseason openings in Canton, so he decided to give it a try in Akron.

“This is a big step forward to bring an offseason event there,” he said.

Since it is February in Northeast Ohio and it might be a tad bit chilly outside, Eslich said, just the schoolhouse will be open since there are scattered heated areas in that attraction unlike the stone-cold Haunted Laboratory next door.

But he advises guests to still dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes.

Bloody hearts

Some special effects are being added to help set the romantic mood.

The entrance queue at the schoolhouse will have the look of a creepy high school dance with some zombies and vampires wandering around to help get the blood flowing among the unsuspecting visitors.

“We want to make this a special event and unique and fun for the guests,” Eslich said. “It will be a fun night out. People in Ohio love Halloween.”

There will also be some bloody hearts scattered about the schoolhouse’s many scary attractions and even a special Valentine’s Day photo-op.

The three-floor schoolhouse is known for its elaborate sets, which guests wander past, and Eslich and his crew have been adding high-tech gadgets since taking over to scare up even more screams.

“The previous owners had such a powerful brand,” said Doug Hampton, who works with Eslich on the Canton and Akron haunts. “We want to build on it and work to make it something amazing for the next generation.”

The special Valentine’s admission to the Haunted Schoolhouse is $24.95 and a limited number of black roses and commemorative wrist bands will be handed out each night. They are also selling limited-edition hats and shirts.

The tours will run from 7 to 11 p.m. each night. (http://www.hauntedschoolhouse.com.)

Early ticket sales online, Eslich said, have shown there is certainly interest among the public for opening outside of Halloween.

Eslich said the response from the actors at the schoolhouse and laboratory has been overwhelmingly positive and a number of actors from other area haunted houses have asked to be a part of the event, too.

The grind of the Halloween season can take its toll, but after a few weeks, most actors are itching to get back into the scare game, Eslich said.

“They really enjoy performing,” he said. “They are all excited.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

By a show of arms: Who leaves windshield wipers high in the air?

It turns out that a fair number of Northeast Ohioans subscribe to the theory that raised wiper blades are a good idea, particularly this week as winter storms marched across Akron.

Proponents argue that raised blades reduce the risk of damaging the wiper motor should ice freeze the blade onto the windshield or it is buried in heavy snow.

There’s also less risk of ripping the rubber blade, and raised wiper arms make the task of clearing the windshield easier.

Others argue that leaving them down prevents the risk of damaging the arm — or windshield, for that matter — should a gust of wind abruptly blow them back down. Unraised wipers, some say, also discourage vandals from grabbing them and yanking them off.

So every time there’s a pretty active winter weather week, the debate over who is right (or wrong) rages on social media, in offices and around the kitchen table.

From a purely mechanical standpoint, Mike Spitale, manager at Parrish-McIntyre service center in Fairlawn, said there’s really “no downside” to putting them up while a vehicle is parked outside.

There’s a myth, he said, that it wears out the spring inside the arm as a raised wiper arm does not create that pressure on the spring that is designed to be stretched.

The biggest risk of leaving them down, he said, is when you turn on your windshield wipers only to discover they are encased in ice and at best you end up blowing a fuse or at worst burn up the wiper motor.

“You can definitely do some damage,” he said.

Whether the wipers are up or kept down doesn’t really matter, said Jim Garrity, spokesman for the American Automobile Association, because the important thing is properly clearing off the entire vehicle before motoring off down the road.

With such fickle and wintry weather as of late, Garrity said, motorists need to prepare ahead of time.

He suggests filling your vehicle’s windshield washer reservoir with a special winter blend that is designed for cold weather and helps melt ice build up from the windshield. The vehicle’s defrost can help, too.

Winter blades that are specifically designed for chilly weather, he said, are a good investment.

“With these blades, there’s less room for ice to slip in,” Garrity said.

As for whether it is best to have the wiper arms raised, he said, that’s a matter of personal preference with pretty strong opinions on either side.

“I’ve even heard of people raising them and putting long socks over the wiper blades to keep them from freezing,” he said.

There will be more time to debate the merits of wiper arms up or down this week as more wintry weather is expected.

After a brief lull Thursday, snow showers are predicted to return Friday morning before switching to a mix of rain and snow showers in the afternoon.

It is expected to be all snow by Friday evening.

The National Weather Service says rain showers will return Saturday afternoon before turning back to snow in the evening and into Sunday.

Craig Webb, who dodges the debate by keeping his head low along with his windshield wiper arms in parking lots, can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

Kennywood amusement park outside of Pittsburgh plans to mark its 120-year anniversary with one of its most ambitious and expensive additions ever.

Kennywood announced Tuesday that it is adding a Thomas the Tank Engine themed area to the park that is already on the list of National Historic Landmarks.

Thomas Town will include five new rides including a Thomas train ride, a stage show and special themed play and entertainment areas and a store.

Once completed, it will be the second-largest Thomas-themed attraction in the country.

“We’re so excited to welcome Thomas & Friends to Kennywood,” said Kennywood General Manager Jerome Gibas in a statement. “Thomas Town presents a huge addition that expands our family offerings while introducing the park to Thomas & Friends fans from around the globe.

“We couldn’t ask for a better gift for Kennywood and our guests to help celebrate our 120th anniversary season in 2018.”

The themed area will be in a section of the West Mifflin park that sits atop a bluff and overlooks the Monongahela River and the Edgar Thompson Steel Works.

Park spokesman Nick Paradise said the setting is not unlike that of Thomas’ Island of Sodor.

The rides will be in an around the Olde Kennywood Rail Road that will bve rethemed to tell the Thomas & Friends story. The train attraction dates back to 1945.

The rides and attractions will include characters from Thomas to Diesel to Cranky the Crane to Harold the Helicopter.

Sir Topham Hatt, the Controller of the Railway on the Island of Sodor, will make daily appearances.

The park says the themed area will open this summer but has not yet set a specific date.

Kennywood will open for the season May 5.

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

There’s a bit of Northeast Ohio represented in Minneapolis this Super Bowl Sunday. And it is not brown and orange.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton has shipped off some of its artifacts and memorabilia for thousands of Patriots and Eagles fans to gawk at before Sunday night’s kickoff.

The museum also sent the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy, awarded to the winner of football’s biggest game.

Pete Fierle, chief of staff and vice president of communications at the hall, said the winner of the Super Bowl gets to keep the trophy. So each spring, he said, a new trophy arrives in Canton, remaining on display through the summer and the hall’s induction ceremony, and in January it is packed up for the next Super Bowl.

The big move comes just after the AFC and NFC champs are decided. The items of football lore, including busts of hall of famers, are carefully packed and transported to the Super Bowl by movers who specialize in handling museum pieces.

The trophy, on the other hand, is shipped via NFL sponsor FedEx. This is the 18th year the courier has delivered the trophy made by Tiffany & Co.

Patrick Fitzgerald, senior vice president, integrated marketing and communications at FedEx, said great care was taken in delivering the sterling silver trophy that depicts a football in kicking position.

The company says it traveled from Canton to Indianapolis to Minneapolis using the company’s SenseAware system, which tracks particularly sensitive packages from a company facility in New York, where workers constantly monitor things like a package’s temperature and humidity. There’s even a light detection sensor that sets off an alarm if it is opened before its intended destination.

The other items are part of a Pro Football Hall of Fame exhibit inside the NFL Experience set up in the Super Bowl host city. Fierle said it is a chance for fans to experience what the hall has to offer.

“Dallas owner Jerry Jones once called our exhibit one of the best at the Super Bowl,” he said.

So just what makes the cut to be Super Bowl-worthy?

Saleem Choudhry, the hall’s director of exhibits and museum services, said the staff spends months pondering which of the thousands of items in the collection to send to the big game.

Although the truck doesn’t move out until the day after the conference champions are crowned, Choudhry said, it is too late to pluck items specific for each team playing in the game.

And since less than 1 percent of the items in the hall’s vast collection are actually on display, he said, they try to pick from things in storage, with the exception of the busts of hall of famers that are always on public view.

This year’s busts — now conspicuously absent from Canton while they make a Super Bowl appearance — include wide receiver Cris Carter, quarterback Brett Favre and legendary coaches Bud Grant and Vince Lombardi.

The hall has sent part of its collection to be displayed at the Super Bowl since 1991. This year, it sent about 100 items, ranging from a football from Super Bowl II to a Barry Sanders game jersey.

They also have last year’s Super Bowl ring on display, along with a trademark gold sports coat that is awarded to new members of the hall.

The selection of the next class is another role the hall plays each year during Super Bowl weekend in the host city. The 46-person committee gathers the day before the game to debate the worthiness of the 18 finalists and selects who will be enshrined in Canton in July.

Also part of the weekend, Choudhry said, is bending the ears of Eagles and Patriots team officials to keep the hall in mind for game-day items to add to the museum’s collection.

The hope and goal of the display, Choudhry said, is to spur more interest in the history of the sport and the hall itself: “We want to bring more fans to Canton.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

Cleveland: Northeast Ohio’s newest museum is truly a kid at heart.

Tucked inside one of the few remaining old mansions that once graced Millionaires’ Row on Euclid Avenue, the Children’s Museum of Cleveland is a treasure for young kids.

The museum opened its doors in November after taking three years off when it lost its space near University Circle to one of those hip, new, urban housing developments. The ensuing years were spent raising money, finding a new place to call home and dreaming up fun, educational exhibits.

They found a new home in an old house that was in foreclosure and looking for a lot of TLC — some $10 million in necessary repairs and improvements, and new stuff for kids to play with.

The mansion was built in 1866 by Anson Stager, who was general superintendent of the Western Union Telegraph Co., and served as chief of the U.S. military’s Telegraph Department after the Civil War.

It was sold to Thomas Beckwith, one of the city’s top dry goods and interiors merchant, in 1874. He died two years later, but his wife and kids called the mansion home for another 25 years.

The University Club purchased the place and moved there in 1913. The private club added large dining rooms, sleeping areas, squash courts and three tennis courts. When the club closed in 2002, the former Myers University offered classes in the mansion and its additions.

It was this spaciousness that caught the eye of the museum’s officials.

Maria Campanelli, the museum’s executive director, said the club’s old ballroom has high ceilings and lots of windows, making a perfect spot for a children’s climbing area.

Before they had to close the old location, she said, the staff did extensive surveys to see what parents and kids wanted in a new museum, and a climbing area and place to splash and play with water topped the wish list.

And so Adventure City was born.

This particularly popular area of the museum features a two-story climbing area over a series of make-believe businesses that compose the city below. There’s a market where kids can buy groceries and a garage where they can construct a vehicle from the wheels up.

The big theme here is “unstructured play,” letting the kids solve problems and decide how and where they want to explore.

“This is the one museum where the kids really curate the experience,” Campanelli said.

A good example of this is the Arts and Parts exhibit where kids can make a craft.

Campanelli pointed out that there is a suggested simple project and examples are on the wall and at each table. But there are no step-by-step instructions on how to make it — just the supplies and materials are provided.

The goal, she said, is for the children to use creativity and ingenuity to complete the task, or even go off script from the snowman design and create a nifty robot.

“You can almost see the gears in their brains moving as they figure things out,” she said.

An area of the museum with a lot of moving parts is the Wonder Lab, where kids explore an industrial-looking science lab. There are two water tables with whirlpools, jets, rivers and gadgets to play with.

While raincoats are provided, Campanelli suggests parents bring along a spare set of dry clothes for the kids.

They can also build ball tracks on a magnetic wall, and make scarves fly through a series of clear tubes high above their heads. There’s a light table and large tubes to create cascades of bubbles.

Campanelli said this exhibit — at the suggestion of parents and kids alike — is much larger and more intricate than the one at the old museum.

“We find the parents are just as engaged in the exhibits as the kids,” she said.

The goal was to open up as soon as possible there are just four main exhibit areas for now. The museum is occupying just a fraction of the available space, so Campanelli said the staff is already dreaming up new ways to fill it.

In just three months, 35,000 visitors have checked out the museum.

“That’s way over our projections,” she said.

It has been so popular that the museum had to turn away visitors a couple of times because it reached capacity and the 150-space parking lot was full.

Another pleasant surprise is the museum’s fourth exhibit: Making Miniatures.

The collection of doll houses and miniatures is part of the Lincoln Collection. It is not named for the former president, but the family that controls Lincoln Electric.

The dollhouses, including one depicting the Stager-Beckwith mansion that the museum now calls home, has taken up residence in the second floor rooms of the old place.

The dollhouses that range from a medieval castle to a beach house are completely furnished. Each contains the museum’s logo, and kids are challenged to find it.

One particularly cool house — and one of the few in the collection not created by the Lincoln family — dates back to the 1920s and was part of the famed Christmas display at General Electric’s Nela Park in Cleveland.

The Lincoln family was looking for a place to share its collection with the public and Campanelli said there was plenty of space on the museum’s second floor, so it was a perfect match.

There’s even an area for children to create their own dollhouse display using sturdy miniatures.

“To see this museum through a child’s eye is almost magical,” Campanelli said.

Craig Webb, who may have gotten his socks wet playing in the museum’s water area, can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

While many plan to be glued to the TV after the Super Bowl on Sunday to find out what happens to Jack Pearson, the father on NBC’s This Is Us, one Akron native just can’t bear to watch.

The show’s tear-jerking storyline is too familiar.

For one, it centers on a fire on what many consider an unofficial national holiday.

Then there’s an image of a father racing into the flames.

And the family is left with emotional scars long after the flames are extinguished.

Jeanine Seib Albert now calls Carlsbad, Calif., home, where she lives with her husband and practices reiki.

But in 1989, she and her four young siblings and parents Greg and Kathy Seib called West Akron home. They lived on the corner of Mineola Avenue and Sunset View Drive, not far from St. Sebastian Church.

It was Super Bowl Sunday morning and the house was already bustling with anticipation of the food and friends who would come later in the day when the San Francisco 49ers played the Cincinnati Bengals.

Jeanine remembers every second of that day down to the smallest details, including the boxer shorts and half-shirt she was wearing that morning.

These are memories she wishes she could erase, as they haunt her to this day.

She was sitting in the kitchen talking on the phone with a girlfriend, Shelley Barnhardt, dissecting an awkward encounter with a boy the day before, when she got the first inkling that something was terribly wrong.

The high pitch of a smoke alarm started blaring somewhere in the house.

Instinctively, Jeanine, then 12, told her friend to hold on while she grabbed a kitchen towel to fan air on the pesky detector. False alarms were common in the house; her parents both smoked and it seemed like the slightest scent of even burnt toast would set the detectors off.

As she followed the sound up the stairs leading to the bedrooms on the second floor, she stopped in her tracks.

“I just remember seeing this orange glow as I went up the stairs,” she recalls. “I remember thinking, what are those things flying in the air — it was embers and ash.”

Standing in the hallway outside her younger sister’s room, where flames were climbing the walls, Jeanine’s nostrils started to close from the heat and smoke.

“My mother jumped from her bed, naked, and started running at me, pushing my second-to-youngest sister in front of her,” she recalls. “She was screaming, but I couldn’t hear her, the rage of flames was deafening, I could feel my hair on my arms starting to burn, and the smell, it still haunts me.”

In the confusion, Jeanine said, her mother reached out in an attempt to grab her and push her back down the stairs.

Instead, Jeanine ended up being shoved into the burning room toward the flames.

“I just remember thinking, what am I looking at?” she said. “How is this possible? I was fascinated and frightened at the same time.”

As the carpet started to melt beneath Jeanine’s feet, her mother returned to yank her out of the room as flames consumed a pink canopy bed and a Barbie doll that had been a Christmas gift just a month before.

Once back on the first floor, Jeanine tried to call 911 and started grabbing her younger siblings as her mother rushed to rescue a pet rabbit in the basement.

Her father was a big man — pushing 300 pounds — but Jeanine said he ran as fast as she had ever seen him run up the stairs toward the flames.

“The last thing I saw was him looking back at me with the flames coming out at him,” she said. “I remember thinking I may never see him.”

Eerie similarities

The scene is eerily similar to the one on This Is Us, where Jack rushes into the flames as the Pearson family home burns on Super Bowl Sunday 1998, when the Green Bay Packers played the Denver Broncos.

Like Jeanine’s memory of the tiniest details, followers of the TV show have spent the better part of two seasons following the bread crumbs to the fateful day when it seems Jack dies.

The cause of the fictional fire is an electrical short in an old Crock-Pot used to make chili for the game. (The manufacturer of the Crock-Pot has had to go on the offensive to assure lovers of slow-cooked meals that the product is safe.)

The show’s last episode even touched on an item forgotten on a grocery run — a new battery for the smoke detector.

Jeanine said she is a faithful viewer of This Is Us and even hosts another couple at her house weekly to watch the show together.

She had no idea until last week’s episode how similar the storyline would be to the fire at her home in Akron, right down to it being on a Super Bowl Sunday and the image of a father running into flames.

Jeanine’s father survived the fire, but suffered smoke inhalation and was burned trying to put down the flames sparked by a child playing with a lighter.

Viewers don’t know yet the fate of the Pearson dog Louie, but it looks like he also dies in the fire. The Akron family’s dog ran off, frightened by the fire and the sound of sirens rushing toward the house, and never returned.

The fire in the Seib home was contained to the bedroom, but there was smoke and water damage throughout the house and much of their belongings had to be tossed out.

Firefighters returned to the boarded-up home a second time that day.

Jeanine said she was in her dark bedroom trying to find clothes that didn’t smell like smoke when she heard a series of loud pops and saw flames crawl up the walls from the outlets.

Like before, she stood paralyzed in fear. “I just remember thinking will I ever be the same or whether I will ever be all right,” she said.

Never the same

The house was repaired, and they moved back in around Easter.

But in the end, she said, things were never the same for the family. The fire haunted them.

One of her siblings was diagnosed with cancer, and they always believed it was from inhaling the toxic smoke.

Her father died 10 years later, and her mother four years after that.

Jeanine said she and her siblings are not very close anymore, but the memories of that day are.

Her childhood friend, Shelley Barnhardt Zimmerman, who was on the phone with Jeanine at the time, said she remembers listening to the panic inside the house.

“She started screaming,” Shelley said. “I could tell something was seriously wrong.”

Shelley, who now lives in Wadsworth, said she hung up when she heard her friend frantically trying to call 911. Although she lived about 10 blocks away, Shelley could hear the sirens of the firetrucks.

Cellphones were not common back then and there was no such thing as social media, Shelley said; it was hours before she knew that her friend and her family had emerged relatively unscathed.

“I remember that day like it was yesterday,” she said.

Although the physical wounds were minor, Shelley said, the emotional scars for the family ran deep.

“It was a hard time for them after that,” she said.

Living in California, Jeanine said, she has had to grab what she can and flee wildfires several times over the years, including just a few weeks ago.

Nearly 30 years have passed since the house fire, she said, and watching This Is Us has reignited those raw emotions as if the Akron fire had happened just yesterday.

“It [the storyline] is so eerily similar,” she said. “There has to be a reason. Maybe it is to heal us and confront these emotions as adults.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

“I just remember thinking, what am I looking at? How is this possible? I was fascinated and frightened at the same time.”

Jeanine Seib Albert

“The last thing I saw was him looking back at me with the flames coming out at him. I remember thinking I may never see him.”

Jeanine Seib Albert

Akron’s immigrant community has found its voice.

And it took poetry to help find the words that bind cultures and ethnicities together.

With some help from the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University and funds from the Knight Foundation, Kent State students and alumni spent months and countless sessions meeting with some of Akron’s newest citizens to create a community dialogue through poetry.

The result is the Traveling Stanzas: Writing Across Borders exhibit, on display through Feb. 17 at Summit Artspace on East Market Street in downtown Akron.

Through some technical wizardry thanks to Kent State Visual Communication Design students and alumni along with Kent-based design studio Each + Every, many of the poems come to life to spur further discussion about the common threads that bind us all together, particularly in these troubled times when immigration is a hot button in Washington.

The exhibit includes an area where visitors can see and hear some of the participants talking about their personal journeys and what inspired their words.

From an older man talking about his inspirational mother, to a young child describing in rhyme his love of exploring the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, visitors can tap a computer screen to select which poem and story they would like to hear.

One particularly poignant episode tells the inspiring, yet heart-tugging story of a young patient in expressive therapy at Akron Children’s Hospital.

Dorian Utt wrote a poem about his therapy stuffed animal — a superhero named D-Dude. Dorian tells how D-Dude has superpowers of positive reinforcement that help him walk strong against villains who try to break his spirit or create slippery floors.

As Dorian reads his poem, the video fades to another scene of the child struggling to walk as his family helps support his arms.

Another area of the exhibit features posters created by Kent State students from the words and thoughts expressed by the new poets.

David Hassler, director of the Wick Center, said many of the participants were not comfortable talking about their personal lives at first, and some of the more recent immigrants struggled to piece together words in English.

But as the sessions progressed — eventually numbering more than 200 — in various settings from schools to social agencies to hospitals, Hassler said, these language barriers were broken through poetry.

An unexpected surprise, he said, was a noted growth in the proficiency among English-as-a-second-language students. “The universal language of poetry has been a way to connect people,” Hassler said.

At the heart of the free exhibit on the first floor of the Summit Artspace is an area to engage others in the dialogue.

Visitors are encouraged to sit at a table and contribute to an evolving community poem about Akron. They are asked to write a sentence or two to add to the piece, simply titled “Akron is,” and the poem evolves as more and more guests add to it.

Another station helps those with writer’s block to gather their thoughts and words to create a new, unique poem.

A series of iPads allow visitors to select from four Akron-centric works, from a piece about LeBron James to an essay about Rita Dove.

Using a technique called black-out poetry, the visitor reads a page from the selected work, then clicks on words that jump out. They can then slowly fade the other words on the page to reveal the work of poetry composed of the words they selected.

“There’s no anxiety over a blank page,” Hassler said.

Two postcard copies of the new work can be printed out. An area with colorful pens and crayons and paper allows visitors to embellish one of the printed copies and attach it to a large board for others to read.

The other copy is a souvenir to take home or mail to someone.

“We hope visitors come and learn and feel inspired to share their own voice,” Hassler said. “You enter in here and engage in a conversation through poetry.”

The next stop for the exhibit will be in Tampa, Fla. for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference. It will then spend nine weeks this summer at the Chautauqua Institute in New York. Other stops are being lined up after that.

What’s unique about the exhibit, Hassler said, is the interactive components like the community poem and the black-out poetry can easily be changed to reflect the city or region where it is being displayed.

In the end, Hassler said, the exhibit is about finding common ground and creating a dialogue and understanding.

“We hope this will be a trigger for a larger national conversation of how we welcome people.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3574.

While some of us grumble and freeze our way through winter, others rejoice at the sub-freezing temperatures and the sight of white stuff falling from the sky.

Those Arctic air lovers living among us have good reason to rejoice when winter is at its worst.

There are five public ski resorts in Ohio and Summit County is home to two of them.

So each day, a string of cars, SUVs and bus after bus of school kids snakes along narrow roads in the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to kick up some powder at Boston Mills and Brandywine.

The resorts have been around since the 1960s, and had combined ownership in the ’90s. The Peak Resorts chain purchased the two ski havens in 2002. The company operates some 14 ski resorts scattered primarily in the Northeast and Midwest and owns 13 of them.

In Ohio, the company also owns Mad River Mountain in Zanesville, between Columbus and Dayton, and Alpine Valley in the heart of the snowbelt in Geauga County.

Mother Nature has been kind to Boston Mills and Brandywine so far this winter with pretty much continuous operations ever since the first Christmas tree went up. There’s been an ample amount of snow so far, and chilly enough temperatures overnight so they can make snow to ensure a nice surface for skiers.

And the brief breaks from the deep freeze so far have not been long enough to make a dent in the snow pack that at both resorts measures in the feet and not mere inches.

Being just a few miles apart, this means skiers and snowboarders who purchase a lift pass at one resort can hop in the car and head over to the other and use the same pass there.

If you purchase a day pass, you might even have enough time to head north and check out Alpine Valley, as long as your knees and perseverance hold out.

Lift passes for adults with no equipment rental range from as low as $38 for late night skiing to as high as $43 for an all-day pass.

So what makes the two Summit County resorts different?

Well that’s kind of like what makes Coke different than Pepsi.

Let’s face it: Snow is snow.

Boston Mills is tucked in the valley below the Interstate 271 and Ohio Turnpike bridges in Boston Township (at 7100 Riverview Road), and it is the older of the two sister resorts, having opened in 1963.

It features a chalet-style lodge and is open — conditions permitting — in the mornings during weekdays, with Brandywine opening later in the afternoon. Both resorts offer extended hours on the weekends.

Some consider Boston Mills a more challenging ski resort with steeper hills and two so-called mogul fields.

While both resorts welcome snowboarders, Brandywine is considered the preferred place to shred down the slope, and its shallower slopes are a bit more friendly for younger skiers.

Polar Blast

Brandywine, located off Vaughn Road in Boston Township (at 1146 W. Highland Road), also has a larger and more modern chalet with a large second-floor cafeteria and separate bar with ample windows for parents to watch the action on the slopes.

It is also home to the popular Polar Blast tube park that requires a separate lift ticket.

Combined, the two resorts offer 18 different trails ranging from super hard to easy with two beginner areas. There are four terrain parks featuring hills and obstacles that are not for faint of heart or brittle bones.

There are 16 total lifts, of which four are surface lifts, a conveyor surface lift, two double chair lifts, seven triple chair lifts, and two fixed quad lifts.

Austin Ricci is the chair whisperer at Boston Mills.

He’s the guy who makes sure everything is running and sounding like it should so everyone makes it to the top hill safely.

After that, well, it is up to the skier.

One day last week, he paused and ran over to help upright a young skier who failed to brake in time and ended up in a heap on the bottom of the hill at the edge of a small creek.

He’s been skiing since he was 3 years old and pretty much grew up spending the winters at both resorts.

As a teen growing up in Hudson, he abandoned his skis for a snowboard. Now that he’s older, he’s back to two separate skinny boards beneath his feet.

He’s spent the last 12 years working for the resorts.

He thinks each resort has its own personality — just like the various runs with names ranging from Grizzly to Pete’s Pride.

But once the bus loads of kids arrive, and they can number anywhere from 300 to 1,200 depending on the day of the week, and you throw in some of the more than 18,000 season pass-holders, Ricci said, each resort becomes a blur of skiers tackling the trails.

“I don’t have a favorite,” he said. “I just love to ski. Any hill I am on is my favorite.

“As long as I can slap the skis on, I am good.”

Craig Webb, who has not slapped on a pair of skis since his teen years, can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

Temperatures are on the rise.

And the National Weather Service warns that rivers could be on the rise, too.

The weather service said rising temperatures coupled with the rain expected Wednesday could cause problems for flood-prone areas in Northeast Ohio.

With temperatures in the mid 40s expected Wednesday and high 50s by Thursday, the weather service said the rain coupled with “extensive snowmelt” could cause rivers and streams to rise over their banks.

“Due to the recent freeze, most rivers and creeks remain ice covered,” the weather service said. “Conditions will favor ice break-up and increased risk for ice jams, especially Thursday into Friday.”

This will give way to the “potential” for a strong winter storm Friday night into Saturday.

The weather service said low pressure will move north out of the Gulf Coast into Ohio to start the weekend.

Rain on Friday is expected to mix with freezing rain and sleet by Friday night before switching to all snow Friday night and early Saturday in Akron.

“The amount of freezing rain, sleet and snow will depend on the exact track of the low,” the weather service said.

As it stands now, the weather service said the expected track would bring “significant” freezing rain east of Millersburg to Ashtabula with potentially heavy snow falling to the west toward the Interstate 71 corridor.

But with the storm still several days out, the weather service said the exact track of the heart of the storm could shift, lessening its impact on Akron.

Either way, a new round of Arctic air will arrive by Sunday with highs struggling into the teens and lows in the single digits.

Snow is expected on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, according to the National Weather Service.

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

We took a trip to the Kalahari Resorts and Conventions water park in Sandusky last week to check out the new Storm Chaser waterslides and were quite surprised by just how long the lines were.

The line of brave souls waiting to ride the new video game-inspired attraction was actually surprisingly short.

The real terrifying long wait was for the new bag check to get into the water park.

Anyone with a bag — trust me, everyone has a bag at a water park — had to wait for a TSA-like security guard to inspect each and every bag for any elicit contraband.

And we are not talking about the nefarious stuff like a fake dorsal fin from a shark or a pair of nunchucks.

This guard was digging through bag after bag for real illegal things, like a box of superhero-shaped fruit snacks or grandma’s molasses cookies, or grandpa’s homemade hooch.

Thank God, the security guard did not do a full-cavity search of my youngest pint-size criminal Luke, or he may have uncovered a can of Shasta Tiki Punch soda, a bag of snowflake-shaped pretzels and way too many individually wrapped Twizzlers to count.

I’m not about to reveal what contraband I had strapped to my body. Let’s just say that with five kids, I have honed the art of snack deception after years of encounters with Regal Cinema’s crack team of security goons.

I thought Kalahari’s security guy was going to have to use the cuffs he had on his belt during heated arguments, like one with a mom over whether the tuna sandwiches made at home passed the sniff test.

The new strict enforcement of the long-standing no outside food and drink policy — it should be noted they were letting plastic water bottles slide — reminded me of the shock longtime Geauga Lake fans encountered when Six Flags took over the former amusement park that had long welcomed picnickers.

I remember a neighbor of mine standing at the security line and comically consuming an entire unopened can of Pringles right there in line before entering the park.

Let’s just say he let the chips fly that day, and they mostly landed on the sleeves of the poor Six Flags security guy.

So a word of warning: Leave the snacks in the room or car or risk a long walk back to either, or an unpleasant start to your day having to chuck your yummy double chocolate fudge brownies in a garbage can.

My son Luke is available on holidays and weekends to “help arrange safe passage” of such goods if needed.

Slide as video game

Once past security, the Storm Chaser slides are a lot of fun.

You have to wait in a line for what looks like a snow sled. You then walk up to a computer station where you put the sled into a holder and create a profile.

You pick your difficulty level and even select the soundtrack of music you want to listen to while you fly down the slide. I picked the ’80s, but you have a wide range to pick from including hip hop and rock.

You then lug the sled, which is actually a bit heavy, up several flights of stairs to the top of the water slide tower.

The Storm Chaser is actually a pair of older slides that have gotten a high-tech upgrade next to the park’s water roller coaster.

After a countdown and some coaxing to get your sled over the side, you then whisk down through a random series of lights from red to blue to green to yellow.

You score points by pushing the corresponding colored buttons on the hand grips, where you hold on for dear life. Your scores and what targets you hit or missed are then displayed on huge video boards below.

Let’s just say I should have spent the time waiting for my turn studying and memorizing the colors and placement of the buttons or practiced ahead of time on the online app Kalahari offers.

I also should have practiced my splashdown and dismount to avoid an inevitable snout full of water.

I may have scored the lowest among the Webbheads, but thanks to intrepid Luke, I had a can of Shasta Tiki Punch to drown my sorrows.

The water park is located at 7000 Kalahari Drive, Sandusky. For more info: http://www.kalahariresorts.com/ohio.

Craig Webb can be reached at 330-996-3547 or [email protected].

The final chapter to a perfectly awful Browns season will be written Saturday when the 0-16 Perfect Season 2.0 Parade kicks off at high noon outside FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.

There was a glimmer of hope on New Year’s Eve when the Browns threatened to rally for a win in Pittsburgh, but that ended when Corey Coleman let a fourth-down pass from DeShone Kizer slip through his hands late in the fourth quarter. The Browns lost 28-24.

So there was no holiday miracle this year to dash the chances of an 0-16 parade, unlike last year when the Browns pulled off a late-season win over the San Diego Chargers to finish 1-15.

As the final seconds ticked away in Sunday’s game, Browns fan Chris McNeil, who lives in Granville outside Columbus, sat in a Buffalo Wild Wings in Canton and realized the real work was about to begin.

The whole Perfect Season Parade started out as a joke last year as the Browns fumbled their way through a forgettable season.

He tweeted that the city should throw a parade — a la the Cavaliers victory parade after winning the 2016 NBA championship — should the Browns do the unthinkable and not win a single game in the regular season.

The joke gained momentum, and soon fellow Browns fans were chipping in donations to cover the cost for everything from security to portable toilets to insurance.

When the Browns then won on Christmas Eve, money raised was donated to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank instead.

Thanks to donations from the Browns and their coaching staff, along with some local radio personalities, McNeil said, the food bank netted some $50,000.

But this time around, there was no comeback, and the Browns joined the dubious ranks of NFL teams that have completed winless seasons.

McNeil is still hoping to make a donation to the food bank this year, but first he has to spend $6,000 on security, another $1,000 on portable toilets and $1,500 on insurance.

To help ease the pain, Excedrin headache relief has donated $7,683 to help cover the costs of the parade.

McNeil admitted he was hoping for a win — just as he has every game this season.

“This game was brutal,” he said. “It was such a microcosm of the whole season — watching Corey Coleman drop a ball most receivers catch.

“I take no joy in [organizing] this parade.”

The reaction from players after the game was mixed when asked about the parade.

Browns running back Isaiah Crowell said “it doesn’t bother me” and the thought of fans gathering to mockingly celebrate a winless season “is what it is.”

“I know we’ve got real loyal fans, and I got a lot of respect for them just because they stick with us when we’re not doing so great,” he said. “So I feel for them, and I feel like it’ll get better.”

Cornerback Jason McCourty said he understands fans are simply frustrated.

“I feel for the fans,” he said. “They’ve had to go through some pretty bad seasons — 1-15 last year, the team was 3-13 the year before — it’s frustrating for them as well.”

Linebacker Christian Kirksey said the city has a pretty loyal fan base.

“We have our Cleveland fans who love us regardless,” he said. “Wins or losses, they’re going to have our back. But I’m not [dwelling on] the parade. I’m not thinking about that. They do what they choose to do.

“But I know my mind is fixed on just getting better and winning.”

The Twitterverse has not been kind to McNeil, who once lived in Bath Township and attended Revere schools before his family moved to southern Ohio when he was a teen, as he has had his fair share of detractors.

But there are several thousand fans who say they plan to attend the parade, including some who claim they plan to fly into Cleveland to spend the weekend commiserating with like-minded followers of the Brown and Orange.

Now it is a matter of organizing the 40 or so units that have said they want to march in the parade.

McNeil said the parade will include some notoriously decked-out Browns tailgate vehicles and a band or two.

There is one guy, McNeil said, who creates new tombstones for his annual Halloween display for every starting Browns quarterback dating back to the team’s return to Cleveland.

It seems he has lined up 28 people to march with him in the parade to help carry the tombstones.

McNeil said he is hopeful this is the first and last Perfect 0-16 parade he ever has to organize.

“The Football Gods are out there,” he said. “I don’t want to even think about next season. God willing, we will never talk about another 0-16 parade ever again after Jan. 6.”

Browns beat writer Nate Ulrich contributed to this article. Craig Webb, who may have slept through the entire third quarter, can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

For years, Akron author David Giffels joked with his wife, Gina, about his wishes for a cheap and no-fuss funeral.

A simple cardboard box would do.

It was during a trip to a funeral home to help pick out a casket for Gina’s dad that he discovered his wish for a cardboard coffin could be a possibility. And for just $75.

His father, Thomas, overheard one of these subsequent playful banters between the husband and wife and offered to help David build his own casket and avoid the wrath of Gina over the thought of burying her husband in a cardboard box.

This began a father-son, build-it-yourself journey that became something much more than a simple woodworking project for the former Akron Beacon Journal writer and now associate professor of English at the University of Akron.

As they toiled over the task in his father’s woodshop/barn in Bath Township, David grieved the loss of his mother, Donna Mae, in 2012 and then his best friend, John Puglia — both within a year.

This grief coupled with Giffels turning 50 and his now-widowed father being in his 80s took a whimsical woodworking project in a whole new direction.

The project became a labor of love, bonding with his father and a way for David to confront his own grief and mortality.

It also became the fodder for his third book, Furnishing Eternity, set to be released Tuesday by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Like his previous two books — The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches From the Rust Belt and All the Way Home that chronicled his family’s restoration of an old mansion in Akron’s Highland Square neighborhood — Giffels’ latest labor of love is being met with some critical acclaim.

Just last week, the book landed a coveted favorable review from the New York Times.

“Tender, witty and, like the woodworking it describes, painstakingly and subtly wrought,” wrote Samuel G. Freedman of the New York Times Book Review. “Furnishing Eternity continues Giffels’s unlikely literary career as the bard of Akron, Ohio.”

To mark the book’s release, Giffels will be the featured speaker Thursday at Akron-Summit County Public Library’s Main Event Speaker Series. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the program will begin at 7.

He will read excerpts from the book and talk about writing it. He will also field questions from the audience and sign copies afterward. The book will be available for purchase.

Like writing a book, Giffels admits now that building your own wooden casket is not a simple task, particularly when your partner is a retired engineer and a master woodworker.

“My dad is the true spine of the book,” Giffels said. “He starts the book as the oldest person I know and ends as the most alive person I know.”

In the five years or so it took to write the book and build the casket, Giffels said, his dad’s health has declined some.

Although the book has a heavy undertone of grief and mortality, there’s a lot of humor mixed in, too.

One of life’s questions that is answered is what does one do with a very, very, heavy, full-size casket once it is finished and waiting for its still very-much-alive future occupant? Let’s just say you’ll have to read the book to find that one out.

He humorously recounts the uncomfortable visit he made to Akron funeral expert Paul Hummel — of the funeral home with the same moniker — to discuss the rules, if any, involved in making one’s own final resting box.

There was debate between Giffels and his dad over whether it had to be waterproof: “The ongoing joke was me saying ‘I’m not resistant to rot. Why should it be?’ ”

The short answer is not for the squeamish. It does not have to be waterproof.

After cobbling together pieces of pine and oak purchased at Home Depot to create his casket and countless words to fill a 243-page book, Giffels is still at a loss to explain the mysteries of death — other than it is inevitable and often unexpected.

He said, “It is fruitless to spend too much time worrying about this.”

Craig Webb, whose own final wish (contrary to his wife) is for a simple Mass with no calling hours, can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

It was pretty clear from the start that Thursday’s gathering of the Akron Roundtable was not going to be your typical civic affairs gabfest.

The DJ spinning tunes in the far corner was the first clue.

There was also the sheer size of the gathering pushing some 600, filling much of the banquet space at the Quaker Station to its limit.

And the speaker showed up in a hooded sweatshirt.

The gathering was to celebrate Akron’s favorite son LeBron James and his charitable works in the community.

The Cavs star sent Michele Campbell, executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation and chief operating officer of LRMR Ventures, to talk about the organization’s work with Akron school kids to steer them toward a college degree.

Campbell took the opportunity to give the audience a sense of the group’s “We are Family” motto by inviting participating students, parents, teen ambassadors and community and corporate partners wearing matching sweatshirts onto the stage to demonstrate the depth of James’ commitment to create real change.

Joining them by sitting in a large chair in the middle, Campbell pulled out a large storybook to share the foundation’s tale.

In keeping with the season, Campbell said, it “Twas the night before the NBA Draft” when James’ philanthropic journey began.

After his selection by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Campbell talked about how this “Just a Kid from Akron” wanted to give back to the community that helped him reach his dream of playing in the NBA.

Campbell herself is a “Kid from Akron” and earned her bachelor’s degree in business management from Ashland University, master’s from Kent State in higher education administration and doctorate from the University of Akron.

Before joining the foundation, she served several posts at UA, including coordinator of Greek affairs, associate director of the Student Union, interim director of the Student Union and assistant dean for student life.

Campbell said James soon realized that Akron kids needed more than just a new bicycle, so the I Promise program was launched to focus on at-risk Akron public school children to keep them on the path to a high school diploma.

The program started about seven years ago has grown to include roughly 1,200 students with a new class added each year and — thanks to corporate help — a guaranteed scholarship to the University of Akron as long as they stay in school and get high grades.

Campbell said the effort will take on a whole new level next year when third- and fourth-graders picked to be part of the program attend a special I Promise School in partnership with Akron Public Schools.

With an extended school day and year, Campbell said, the school will have its own teachers and curriculum designed to help the program’s students reach their full potential.

Each year a new class will be added to the school.

The challenge that lies ahead, Campbell said, will be to continue to mentor and offer encouragement and support to those I Promise students scattered throughout the district and also prepare the new school for its opening in the fall.

“This school will be transformational for these students and the entire community,” she said.

The work of the foundation extends beyond the classroom.

Campbell said the foundation holds townhall meetings to hear concerns and praises while feeding the families dinner.

“It is a family affair at every turn,” she said.

There is even an effort to offer help to parents to earn their own high school diplomas.

“The [charitable] work [James] does has many layers and runs deep.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

The Oscar-winning director of a planned documentary tracing the creation of LeBron James’ planned I Promise School in Akron has been fired.

James’ and Maverick Carter’s production company SpringHill Entertainment announced Thursday that it “will be canceling its production agreement with Morgan Spurlock and Warrior Poets.”

“We will continue moving forward to tell the important story of the I Promise School,” SpringHill said in a statement.

The move came after Spurlock admitted late Wednesday that he may have raped a date in college and settled a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a female assistant.

The filmmaker, best known for Supersize Me, sent out a tweet saying he is “Part of the Problem” and directed followers to a nearly 1,000-word confession. Read it at http://tl.gd/n_1sqc244.

In the essay, Spurlock, who along with the LeBron James Family Foundation announced last month that filming on the documentary would begin “shortly” in Akron, chronicled in detail the two instances and other episodes of infidelity.

“As I sit around watching hero after hero, man after man, fall at the realization of their past indiscretions, I don’t sit by and wonder ‘who will be next?’ I wonder, ‘when will they come for me?’ ” he wrote in the opening lines of the essay. “You see, I’ve come to understand after months of these revelations, that I am not some innocent bystander, I am also a part of the problem.”

Akron Public Schools spokesman Mark Williamson said the district was made aware of the issue with the director.

“We’re pleased with the foundation’s quick response to the matter,” Williamson said.James did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the status of the planned “docu-series” that was to follow students and teachers as they work to open a new school for at-risk kids next year.

This is part of James’ “We Are Family” initiative to keep select Akron kids in the classroom and on the path to a college education. The school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018 with third- and fourth-grade classes, with first through eighth grades offered by 2022.

Spurlock talked in his essay about the first instance of inappropriate behavior in college when he had a one-night stand with a woman who later accused him of rape.

“There were no charges or investigations, but she wrote about the instance in a short story writing class and called me by name,” he writes. “A female friend who was in the class told me about it afterwards.

“I was floored.”

He said he was drinking with the woman who went back to his room.

“We began fooling around, she pushed me off, then we laid in the bed and talked and laughed some more, and then began fooling around again,” he writes. “We took off our clothes. She said she didn’t want to have sex, so we laid together, and talked, and kissed, and laughed, and then we started having sex.”

The woman, he said, then said “Light Bright.”

“ ‘Light bright. That kids toy, that’s all I can see and think about,’ she said,” recalled in the essay the woman told him. “… and then she started to cry. I didn’t know what to do. We stopped having sex and I rolled beside her. I tried to comfort her. To make her feel better. I thought I was doing ok, I believed she was feeling better.

“She believed she was raped.”

The second instance happened eight years ago and involved a female assistant who he admitted he would call “hot pants” or “sex pants.”

“Something I thought was funny at the time, but then realized I had completely demeaned and belittled her to a place of non-existence,” Spurlock writes.

When she decided to quit, Spurlock said, she asked for a settlement for her silence.

“Being who I was, it was the last thing I wanted, so of course, I paid,” Spurlock writes. “I paid for peace of mind. I paid for her silence and cooperation. Most of all, I paid so I could remain who I was.

“I am part of the problem.”

He also admitted to a series of infidelities.

“I have been unfaithful to every wife and girlfriend I have ever had,” he writes. “Over the years, I would look each of them in the eye and proclaim my love and then have sex with other people behind their backs.”

Spurlock said he’s not sure what led to this path but says he was the subject of sexual abuse as a teen and came from a broken home.

He said he has been drinking since the age of 13 and hasn’t been sober for more than a week in 30 years.

He pledged in the essay to change his life around.

“By recognizing and openly admitting what I’ve done to further this terrible situation, I hope to empower the change within myself,” he writes. “We should all find the courage to admit we’re at fault.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

The train rumbled down the track as the snow-covered countryside of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park passed by.

Noses pressed against the cold windows, the kids spied an occasional deer posing as reindeer as this special Polar Express run made its way to the North Pole.

The 118 Akron third-graders clutching their special gold train tickets in their hands were hoping for a glimpse of St. Nick, but for the LeBron James Family Foundation this train ride was the start of a far more important journey.

This is the latest class in the foundation’s effort to help navigate select Akron school kids toward a high school diploma and eventually a college degree.

And these kids will be in the first group to attend the new I Promise School when it opens next year in partnership with Akron Schools to assist at-risk students.

Michele Campbell, executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, said the real present for the kids is the nurturing family they are becoming a part of that will help them reach their dreams.

“We are getting them accustomed to this big family,” she said.

Field trips are part of the foundation’s effort to let students experience hands-on learning and career exploration.

Trips by other classes in the foundation include the factory floor at Little Tikes in Hudson and the hangar where they park the Goodyear blimp and even a trip to get a behind-the-scenes tour of Quicken Loans Arena where James plays for the Cavs.

But on Tuesday the highlight of the day was hot chocolate, a cookie and having the Polar Express read to them on the train by one of Santa’s elves.

Thanks to a donation by FirstEnergy Foundation, each child got a copy of the book to take home along with a real bell from Santa’s sleigh.

It was all smiles and cheers as the train rumbled to a stop at the snowy North Pole where elves and even the Grinch were there waiting to greet them.

The children squealed with delight at the sight of two large white dogs, an elf carrying the “good” list and even Santa himself.

And as the train left the Pole for the trip back to Akron, a surprise stowaway walked onto the train wearing a red suit.

Ryam Gurung, a third-grader at Findley Elementary School, told Santa he wanted a video game.

Germani Jones, a kindergartner at Case Elementary, had a pretty big wish.

She told a perplexed Santa that she wanted to ride on his sleigh.

Santa said he’s pretty busy on Christmas Eve and asked what she wanted if she’s already tucked into bed by the time he reaches her home in Akron.

The 6-year-old said she’d like a Barbie camper to park outside of her Barbie Dreamhouse.

“But I really want to ride the sleigh,” she said.

Maleeya Love-Haslam, a third-grader at Schumacher Elementary School, said her Christmas wish is for a Lalaloopsy doll, a pair of boots and a My Little Pony under the Christmas tree.

“That’s my Christmas list,” she said as Santa made his way to other kids on the train car. “Do you think he will give it to me?”

She wanted to make sure Santa was taken care of too.

“I told him ‘Merry Christmas and have a good life.’ ”

Craig Webb, who asked Santa for warm socks and a Browns win, can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

Christmas tree up. Check.

Presents wrapped. Sort of.

Cookies baked. Checked and already eaten.

Running for your life through a Christmas-themed haunted house. Nope.

The Factory of Terror in Canton is open Saturday night so you can check that last elusive item off your Christmas to-do list.

The home to all things haunted and three-time holder of the Guinness World Record for the largest haunted attraction in the world has rolled out the tinsel and decorations to get into the spirit of the holidays.

The Factory is situated inside an old, 160,000-square-foot, aluminum foundry and boasts five full-length attractions from the 1300 Lost Souls to the Industrial Nightmare to the Backwoods Hollow to the Massacre on Mahoning to the House of Nightmares.

In all, organizers say, they have “Christmassed” up the attractions that if extended end to end would stretch a mile long.

The one-weekend affair is billed as Krampus: A Haunted Christmas.

Krampus is a folklore figure in Europe where a horned “half-goat, half-demon” would roam the countryside at Christmastime seeking out and punishing misbehaving children. They have even added a new photo opportunity with the creature just in time for the family Christmas card.

Owner John Eslich said the response has been great for the first-ever Christmas season opening.

By Friday afternoon, he said, some 2,000 or so presale tickets had been sold and a YouTube video promoting the event had 5,000 views.

He said a large number of actors — some from the Haunted Schoolhouse and Laboratory he also owns in Akron — are dressed as elves and the like wandering the attractions.

Santa shows up, too.

“People in Ohio love Halloween and they love the holidays,” he said.

No decision has been made yet whether to make this an annual thing, but judging from the number of tickets sold already, this could be a new holiday tradition.

The Factory of Terror has opened in the past during the off season on Friday the 13ths. It will open for St. Patrick’s Day next year and the Akron haunted houses will open the weekend before Valentine’s Day for some romantic terrors.

“Our staff is super excited,” he said of the special Christmas tours. “This should be a fun event.”

The tours run from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday with tickets starting at $24.95 to $34.95 to cut to the front of the line.

The attraction is located at 4125 Mahoning Road NE in Canton and Eslich said there will be heaters set up, but Jack Frost will likely be gnawing at your nose.

“Sometimes people forget it is cold outside,” he said.

For more information, visit fotohio.com.

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

Santa’s getting a reboot.

The home to all things Christmas just off the square in Medina has transformed itself into a new winter wonderland.

Owner Mark Klaus jokes that it’s Castle Noel 2.0.

Since its opening in 2014, Klaus has transformed the former Methodist church into the world’s largest museum dedicated to Christmas movie memorabilia and props and window displays from New York’s famed department stores.

With a warehouse full of stuff to pick from, Klaus, whose fame and fortune is traced to creating hand-sculpted ornaments that were once sold on home shopping channels, is always shaking up the snow globe to create something new.

This Christmas season is no different, and folks are lining up by the busloads to take a gander inside.

By the time Santa makes his rounds on Christmas Eve, some 50 buses full of holiday fans — and countless others arriving in cars and SUVs — will have made their way through the museum that snakes through a couple of downtown buildings past displays of everything from vintage toys to a hallway of tens of thousands of Christmas ornaments to the original costumes from the movie Elf.

The cool new stuff offered this year starts right in the beginning of the tour.

Standing guard outside, next to Cousin Eddie’s famed RV from the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, are the 16-feet-tall Mouse King and the Nutcracker that once stood proudly in Tower City in Cleveland during the 1990s.

And once back inside, visitors are greeted by a giant, animated cuckoo clock that comes to life as grand music fills the room.

The clock was part of a Lord & Taylor window display in 2010.

“It is so cool,” Klaus said as an owl peeks its head out from the clock’s ornate door. “It is just amazing.”

Adding to his Hollywood collection, Klaus has acquired the complete sets from the Christmas special Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas that originally aired on NBC in 2014.

The stop-animation special was made using the same technique as the beloved holiday classics Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Year Without a Santa Claus.

The studio that created the special has agreed to also put the actual Buddy puppet used in the filming on display at the museum during the Christmas season. They even sent some of their technicians to Medina to make sure it arrived intact and was set up just right.

The TV special plays in the room so visitors can spot which of the elaborate sets were used in each scene.

Eventually, Klaus said, he plans to add lights and other special effects to make the movie sets come magically to life.

Acquiring the sets to save them from fading to memory or sold off piecemeal took a lot of effort and persistence.

“I called them every day,” he said. “Some days, I sang my request. This is something I am really in love with.”

Like Santa, Klaus has a pretty big heart.

This is evidenced by his love of everything in the place.

Another new attraction are the six storefront windows from last year’s Saks Fifth Avenue “The land of a 1000 delights” display.

As impressive as the artistic take on the classic Nutcracker story is, visitors are treated to a video that shows its debut with fireworks and fanfare along the streets of New York City that ends with Klaus and his crew of elves frantically dismantling it all and packing it up for the trip back to Medina after the holidays.

A curtain then opens to reveal the display.

“It is still hard to believe that we have the opportunity to show these,” he said. “People who never get the chance to go to New York can enjoy them here in Medina, Ohio.”

And the tour that lasts about two hours ends in a grand new fashion as Santa Klaus Mountain, complete with Santa on top and a slide reminiscent of that in A Christmas Story, is now the Enchanted Forest.

Window displays of the same name from last season’s offering at Lord & Taylor from animated raccoons to foxes to owls to mice to marching geese and even a whimsical giant bear now call the mountain home.

Klaus says he’s not done just yet.

He will still be tinkering with the displays right up to Christmas.

And he still has to find room for more — like the giant dirigibles he has acquired that once flew over the huge rotunda at Tower City.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “The work continues. We have some big ideas coming.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.