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Learning through play: Grand Rapids Children’s Museum program gets preschoolers ready for kindergarten

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and Grand Rapids Public Schools are teaming up to get more preschoolers ready for kindergarten through the growing ‘Purposefully Playing Toward Kindergarten’ program.

On one side of the classroom, a few children gathered around a sewing machine and put buttons on clothes. Three kids worked on puzzles at a table nearby. A lone boy cut out paper dolls with scissors. A girl painted at an easel.

On a play mat with pictures of roads and buildings, four boys driving matchbox cars led a teacher around town to the school and then to the supermarket.

“Where are we going to go now?” the teacher asked.

Hmm, maybe to the bin of blocks in the corner, or the play kitchen against the wall, or to a sensory table with pieces of colored macaroni.

Welcome to “Purposefully Playing Toward Kindergarten” (PPTK), a growing summer program that emphasizes open-ended play to get preschoolers ready for kindergarten.

“It looks different for each child,” said Onalee Melton, a site coordinator at Buchanan Elementary School, one of four campuses where PPTK is taking place this summer. “We have the blessing with this program to guide kids into whatever they’re excited about.”

About half of incoming kindergarteners these days are not prepared to succeed in school. In some cases, the children are lagging behind in their understanding of basic math concepts or their use of language. In other cases, they’re not quite ready socially or emotionally.

PPTK aims to build all of those kindergarten-readiness skills through a unique partnership involving the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) and donors including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Delta Dental. In the program, GRPS teachers and paraprofessionals are teaming with “play facilitators” from the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum to immerse students in four hours of open-ended play time Mondays through Thursdays for five weeks.

It’s the same kind of open-ended play the children would experience if they were to visit the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum downtown. Only the PPTK program is right at their local neighborhood school.

‘There are so many barriers for our kids in these neighborhoods to get to the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum that we’re not going to just stay inside our four walls anymore,” said Maggie Lancaster, the museum’s CEO. ‘We’re going to come to you and provide this wonderful open-ended play where you are.’

‘There are so many barriers for our kids in these neighborhoods to get to the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum that we’re not going to just stay inside our four walls anymore,” said Maggie Lancaster, the museum’s CEO. ‘We’re going to come to you and provide this wonderful open-ended play where you are.’

The children at each of the four sites eat breakfast and brush their teeth each morning and get lunch before they go home. In between, they enjoy about an hour-and-a-half of indoor exploration – building things out of magnetic tiles, for example, or making bead necklaces or figuring out how the sewing machine works. They also get about an hour of outdoor exploration.

In other words, they learn through play – even if they don’t realize that they’re learning.

“When they play with bubbles, when they play with Legos, when they play with slime, that open-ended play is a critical part of brain development,” said Maggie Lancaster, CEO of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. “That’s where we come in. If you go into our museum you’ll never see signs. There’s no way that we’re ever going to tell anybody how to play with something or where to go or what to do. It has to be child-led. GRPS has provided that opportunity in this summer program as well.”

PPTK is a free program that began two summers ago with 25 children and now involves 205 children at four GRPS schools – Buchanan, Kent Hills, Martin Luther King and Sibley. Partners plan to expand the program even more in 2020.

Grand Rapids Children's Museum PPTKMany families can’t afford preschool, so PPTK fills the gap by exposing them to play-based learning in a structured environment with a high adult-to-child ratio. Having a safe space with the opportunity for open-ended play helps the children build confidence and a sense of autonomy, said Lauren Greer, director of education for the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.

“The best parts are the tiny stories that come out of each day, where maybe one child who isn’t very verbal one day had a lot to stay about something, or some child has a breakthrough and discovers that they love painting and they paint all day,” Greer said.

“That’s how you know this is really valuable. The space that we’re providing these children for their social and emotional growth is most important.”

The growth of the program alone is evidence that parents find value in PPTK. But the program also is proving to be successful at preparing kids for kindergarten. By the end of the summer, 90 percent of parents feel that their children are ready for school, said Yazeed Moore, program officer with the Kellogg Foundation.

Plus, each child in PPTK gets a free Grand Rapids Children’s Museum membership for a year so they can experience even more open-ended play.

The bottom line is that through play, more children are having fun and getting ready to hit the ground running on their first day of kindergarten – which is critical to their chances of long-term academic success.

“Kindergarten readiness is so critical,” said Kate Lara, GRPS director of early childhood. “To be able to learn the academic skills of kindergarten, you need to have those social skills as your basis first. Right now (through PPTK), they’re learning how school works. GRCM PPTKThey’re learning that it’s a safe space. They’re learning that there’s expectations and that they can follow those expectations. They’re learning what a classroom is, how to function in school and how to function with their peers.

“We’re going to have 205 kids who are much more ready for kindergarten than they sure would have been without this program.”

Hockeytown moves north in September as Michigan hosts world’s best young players

Lake Trust CU

Two months ago, Alex Pietrangelo captained the St. Louis Blues to their first-ever Stanley Cup title and scored the series-clinching goal in a winner-take-all Game 7. Nine years before reaching the pinnacle of professional hockey, he was skating at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City.


Prospect Tournament Logo

Long one of the top defensemen in the National Hockey League, Pietrangelo is one of many players who competed in the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City and then went on to All-Star careers. The annual event returns to Centre Ice Arena in September with another batch of the world’s best hockey prospects. The 16-game tournament Sept. 6-10 offers a glimpse of the future for the Detroit Red Wings and seven other NHL teams.


Who knows which prospects might follow in Pietrangelo’s steps and soon hoist the Stanley Cup?


“The NHL Prospect Tournament is some of the best hockey played for a minor cost of $10 a day,” said Tom Rodes, tournament director. “Top-end talent and future stars headline rosters every year.


“Additionally, many former NHL stars are now managing, scouting or coaching some of the teams, so you could bump into (Red Wings’ brass including new General Manager) Steve Yzerman, (assistant general manager) Pat Verbeek, (director of scouting) Kris Draper or (director of player evaluation) Jiri Fischer.”


In fact, ticket sales for this year’s tournament are going faster then ever, and “we’re thinking it

Stanley Cup champion Alex Pietrangelo (left) has tussled with the Detroit Red Wings for years, going all the way back to the 2010 NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City.

Stanley Cup champion Alex Pietrangelo (left) has tussled with the Detroit Red Wings for years, going all the way back to the 2010 NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City.

has something to do with returning Red Wings ‘Captain’ and now General Manager Steve Yzerman,” Rodes said.


The Red Wings started the NHL Prospect Tournament in 1998, the year after the team started holding its pre-season training camp at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City. The tournament gives team management and scouts the chance to evaluate prospects before the season, and it’s a great opportunity for fans to find new favorite players for the future.


The NHL Prospect Tournament was the first of its kind and remains the largest with eight NHL teams participating including the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and the Red Wings.


As host of the NHL’s largest prospect tournament, Traverse City has become the gateway to the NHL for many of the game’s best players. In fact, more than 600 NHL Prospect Tournament alumni have played or are currently playing in the NHL including current Red Wings Dylan Larkin and Jimmy Howard.


Detroit Red Wings goalkeeper Jimmy Howard is one of more than 600 current and former NHL players who participated in the NHL Prospect Tournament at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City.

Detroit Red Wings goalkeeper Jimmy Howard is one of more than 600 current and former NHL players who participated in the NHL Prospect Tournament at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City.

The eight teams in the NHL Prospect Tournament consist of drafted players from the Canadian junior leagues, European players and players with up to a year of minor-league experience such as Filip Larsson, who is slated to play goalkeeper this year for the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American Hockey League. Three of the top six players picked in this summer’s NHL Draft are expected to participate including Kaapo Kakko, Kirby Dach and the Red Wings’ own Moritz Seider. Top Red Wings’ draft picks in 2018, Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno, as well as current Red Wings Ryan Kuffner and Taro Hirose also are likely to suit up.


The eight teams each play four games in a round-robin format that concludes with a championship game at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 10. Red Wings games are scheduled at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, and at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9. The Red Wings also will play on Tuesday, Sept. 10, at a time to be determined.


“The hometown Red Wings draw a full house every time they play and the championship game at the end of the tournament is also typically jam packed,” Rodes said.


Tickets are available for $10 per day and include all four games scheduled that day. Evening and weekend games tend to attract the largest crowds.  Undated general admission, not game Traverse City Training Camp logospecific.


After the NHL Prospect Tournament, the full Red Wings team will gather at Centre Ice Arena for the annual Red Wings Training Camp with practices and games Sept. 13-16. Ticket prices range from $10 to $35 with games scheduled at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, and noon Sunday, Sept. 15.


While in town for the NHL Prospect Tournament or the Red Wings Training Camp, you’ll have a great opportunity to enjoy a last blast of summer or a first taste of fall in beautiful Traverse City. Starting in September, you can get Fab Fall Packages in Traverse City with deals on places to stay as well as discounts on dining, shopping, wineries, spas and more.


RELATED: 11 Awesome Michigan Things to Put on Your Fall To-Do List

‘Everybody is family’ at longtime Traverse City retailer

Long before Lauren Golden began working with customers at Golden Shoes three summers ago, her grandfather and great-grandfather were the community’s go-to experts for footwear. And long before that, going all the way back to the 19th century, the building where she helps customers find the right fit for their feet has been a shoe store.

For generations, 122 E. Front St. in Traverse City has been the place people come for quality shoes and excellent customer service.

It’s in the DNA of the place – and the people.

“Locals love to come back because they know the employees,” said Lauren, 17. “We treat them like the family community that we have here. It’s one big community.”

Welcome to Golden Shoes, as pure an example of local, Michigan retailing as there is. Golden Shoes operates in the same building as the business did in 1883 and it plans to be there far into the future, too.

Although you can find shoes in less personal ways in this day and age, Golden Shoes continues to thrive with a family atmosphere that provides the ultimate customer service and expertise.

For example, the store recently welcomed back a customer who moved to New Orleans. Since the family had outfitted each of their first five daughters with a first pair of shoes from Golden Shoes, they wanted to do the same for their new baby girl. So, they came all the way back to Golden Shoes this summer!

“That’s a tradition,” said Bill Golden, Lauren’s dad, who runs the business with his older brother, Craig. “Golden Shoes is a tradition.

“You can go anywhere and buy anything nowadays, but it’s still the experience of walking into the store and somebody recognizing you that brings people back here.”

Like a lot of family-owned local retailers, Golden Shoes has a long history. The store’s heritage goes back to the 1883 founding of Friedrich Shoes at 122 E. Front St. in one of the original buildings in downtown Traverse City.

Lauren’s grandfather, also named Bill, and her great-grandfather, Nathaniel, bought the store in 1954, long before her father was even born. It has been in the Golden family ever since, with Lauren’s dad, Bill, and her uncle, Craig, now running the business.

Through the years, many employees have become part of the family business. Members of the Golden family, for sure, but also many other people who now are part of the Golden Shoes family.

For some, working at Golden Shoes has literally become a family affair. When Tiffany Edge sought a job after 15 years as a stay-at-home mom, she looked to Golden Shoes where her mother, Shelly Edge, has worked since 2004. Even Tiffany’s daughter worked at Golden Shoes until recently moving out of state.

“I’ve stayed at Golden Shoes because of the family and the owners,” Tiffany Edge said. “They’re a good family to work for. They treat us with respect.”

Beyond the employees, the customers, too, are part of the Golden Shoes family. Employees greet customers by name and try to make sure everybody gets welcomed as they come in the door. It’s a more personal experience than shopping at a mall, or online.

“We can measure, and they don’t get that online where they play the shipping game back and forth,” Shelly Edge said. “We’re here to help people find what they need and fit them, and we take the time to do so. It’s not just ‘Here’s your shoes. Help yourself.’ We would never do that.

“We’re here to the do the No. 1 job for you, take care of you step by step. It’s nice to make people happy.”

As a result, Golden Shoes has customers in northern Michigan, New Orleans and all over the country, even from around the world. And they come back, again and again. “We see the same faces over and over,” Shelly Edge said.

“We’re very honest and tell them what they need,” Tiffany Edge said. “They appreciate that. Not only do they love that the business is very family oriented, they’re very appreciative of the service we give.”

Likewise, after nearly 140 years, Golden Shoes is appreciative of the Traverse City community. That’s why the business gives back to the community. Bill Golden, for example, has been a part of the Downtown Development Authority for the past eight years, helping to ensure that downtown Traverse City remains vibrant.

Golden Shoes also sponsors the annual Traverse City Cherry Festival and participates in Boots for Kids, a charitable program that provides winter boots to children. The children get measured to make sure they get a good-fitting pair of boots so they can go outside and play during the winter.

Whether it’s fitting kids from families in need with winter boots or store customers with the latest in footwear fashions, what makes Golden Shoes special is that employees take time to fit their customers and make sure they get the right shoe – whatever the customer’s unique needs may be.

“I love meeting people from all over, and it’s great when they fall in love with a shoe,” Lauren Golden said. “As they put on a really good shoe that is good for their foot, they instantly fall in love.”

Lauren Golden has one more year of high school, then plans to go to college. But whether she ends up in the shoe business long term or not, Golden Shoes is guaranteed to stay in the family.

As Bill Golden likes to say, “everybody that’s here is my family.”

Project 1 by ArtPrize: A complete guide on what to know before the public art exhibit debuts

Project 1 logo

As the artistic director for ArtPrize, Kevin Buist didn’t know what to expect 10 years ago when the public art exhibition with the world’s largest financial prize debuted in Grand Rapids.

Buist is in similar unknown territory this fall with the launch of Project 1 by ArtPrize.

The organization’s new vision of an interactive art exhibition is carefully curated with five intentionally selected artists who will launch the concept with their work at three sites in and near the city’s downtown.

“Project 1 flips ArtPrize on its head,” Buist said recently. “We’re taking our resources and investing them in a smaller number of commissioned pieces with no competition. ArtPrize was very experimental, and it became, and will continue to be, a great success.

“For Project 1, we had to be willing to make a shift to breathe new life into the community and ask new questions. The artists are crafting massive public and interactive pieces that couldn’t exist in a competition format. It’s an exciting step in continuing to make Grand Rapids the pre-eminent location for remarkable art in the fall.”

And Buist has no doubt that will be the case. The experience will be different, but it will be just as memorable for visitors, he believes.

“These are going to be big, beautiful projects that people will want to explore. They’ll want to photograph them,” Buist said. “This is serious art that has a ‘Gee, Whiz,’ factor. There’s still going to be a huge art exhibit, and I think people will understand and appreciate the change after they witness it.”

The evolution to a biennial structure, ArtPrize will return in 2020, also allowed the ArtPrize team to deepen the significance of art by creating a theme that serves as an inspiration for the pieces while also examining critical issues. Project 1 selected “Crossed Lines” to look at how boundaries, both visible and invisible, affect a sense of belonging that can unite or divide the city.

“Art can deal with difficult topics and reveal histories that are uncomfortable or contemporary practices that may not be widely known,” Buist said. “This is not prescriptive or didactic. We’re not looking for a particular outcome. Art is open to interpretation, and ultimately, we hope to expand people’s views about life and empower them to think critically.”

When is Project 1 being held?

The first Project 1 will run from Sept. 7 to Oct. 27, a much longer event than ArtPrize, which typically lasts about two weeks. Project 1 will still be a self-guided exploration, but there will be more event-based performances and programming around artists’ installations. The plan is to kickoff the opening weekend with a burst of activity at each site and then highlight one particular location per weekend in a rotation.

Where will the art be located?

There are three primary sites:

  • Downtown Grand Rapids, which will feature a walkable experience with installations by four of the five commissioned artists. Exact locations of the art will be revealed shortly before the opening of Project 1.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Southeast Grand Rapids, where one artist will locate a piece that visitors can walk and climb on, as well as venture inside. The piece will also be a stage for local music, dance and spoken word. Another artist will use the park’s community lodge as a centerpiece.
  • Tanglefoot is a former flypaper manufacturing campus that is now home to urban artist studios, on the city’s near Southwest side. Here artists will build spaces for use by other artists and encourage audiences and performers to occupy a courtyard space at 314 Straight St. SW.


The artists and their Project 1 plans:

Amanda BrowderAmanda Browder: Browder creates large-scale, vibrant fabric installations and transforms building exteriors into multi-colored sculptures. The largest and most ambitious section of Kaleidoscopic will be draped over the exterior of a community center building in Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Southeast Grand Rapids. Browder will also wrap four skywalks which link buildings in the heart of downtown. The final section will cover the facade of a building at the Tanglefoot site on the southwest side of the city.

Heather Hart

Heather Hart: Hart creates submerged rooftops, complete with shingles and dormer windows, that look like they were dropped from the sky. The rooftops refer to home, stability or shelter. Hart speaks about the rooftops as thresholds between public and private space. Combined with family and oral histories, and activated by performance, her work explores the power these thresholds have in our lives. Hart will create The Oracle of the Soulmates — twin rooftop sculptures, one in the center of Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids, the other on the lawn in MLK Park. Climb on the rooftops and venture inside the attics.


O Jeyifous

Olalekan Jeyifous: Jeyifous’ work in public art and installation explores the past and potential futures of urban environments. He will create The Boom and the Bust — a sculpture referencing the historic and contemporary challenges of housing discrimination and the inequities of urban life. This abstracted multi-story building form will rise 25-feet from the ground at the corner of Louis Street and Monroe Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids. The sculpture arises from the artist’s research into the recent history of housing in Grand Rapids. By combining references to skyscrapers and single-family houses, it juxtaposes massive downtown development alongside foreclosure and displacement.

Amenta Lott

Paul Amenta and Ted Lott: Amenta and Lott, known for their history of wide-ranging collaborative artistic productions with SiTE:LAB, will present Critical Infrastructure — a site-specific architectural intervention at the landmarkTanglefoot Building. In collaboration with DisArt, an arts and culture organization that focuses on creating public art events that cultivate and communicate a disabled culture, the intervention will create an environment that addresses issues of accessibility in both form and function. The project will reimagine the site by temporarily transforming a private space into a fully accessible public space, through a series of ramps and landings which welcome visitors and a wide variety of performances and interventions by other artists.

Lozano Hemmer

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Lozano-Hemmer develops interactive installations that live at the intersection of architecture and performance art. He will create a new site-specific installation called Voice Bridge. Along the handrails of Grand Rapids’ iconic Blue Bridge — a pedestrian bridge which connects the East and West sides ofdowntown over the Grand River — you’ll find speakers and 400 lights that shine on the footpath of the bridge. You’ll control the intensity of each light by speaking into the intercoms at each end of the bridge and recording a message. Once recorded, your message will play back as a loop — jumping from speaker to speaker across the bridge as more messages are recorded.


What is the expectation?

Project 1 leaders believe the installation sites will have contrasting experiences, ephemeral but enduring. Visiting while the location is activated with planned performances will be different than when guests return and challenge themselves to see the art in another light.

“There will be moments that if you miss them, you’ll miss them and the interactivity can’t be recreated,” Buist said. “We think that will draw audiences and excite and inspire the visitors to gather together. And then people will want to go and get another unique look at the installations.

“People will be surprised and challenged and engaged, but, yeah, it’s a bit of an unknown right now. That’s a fine place for us to be in because we want to see the reaction to something that, again, is totally new.”

Learn more about Project 1 by visiting the art exhibition’s website.

The HAP Crim Festival of Races: ‘It’s a celebration’ that will change the way you look at Flint

As the race director for the Crim Festival of Races, Andy Younger witnesses the excitement of runners crossing the finish line and the incredible spirit of the community supporters, but every year there are moments that provide waves of satisfaction that have little to do with running.

“Without fail, every year, I hear people say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that Flint was this nice,’” Younger said. “And that’s what the Crim is really about. It’s not just a race, it’s a celebration that shows off the best of Flint and changes the way people look at our city.

“Flint is roaring back and people may not realize all of the positive things that are happening downtown. Restaurants are thriving and new ones are opening all the time. Businesses are succeeding, and we’re growing by leaps and bounds. It’s completely different from what people picture.”

The 43rd annual Crim races and surrounding community events are set to highlight Flint on Aug. 23-24. In addition to the 10-mile, 5-mile and 5K races on Saturday, Aug. 24, the city will host the Michigan Mile and a free “Rock the Block Crimstock,” concert on the evening of Aug. 23. The post-race celebration will feature more live music and a festive atmosphere.

Each year the Crim welcomes up to 15,000 runners and as many as 50,000 spectators. It is among the five largest 10-mile races in the U.S. and attracts many of the country’s top runners, including an appearance by Parker Stinson this year. Stinson holds the American record in the 25K, and it’s possible he’ll challenge the 1983 U.S. 10-mile record held by Michigan native Greg Meyer.

The 10-mile race began in August 1977 by Michigan House Speaker Bobby Crim, and the ensuing years have seen it develop into an institution in Michigan running circles. The Crim Fitness Foundation, which organizes race day, focuses its year-round efforts on improving the community’s health and quality of life.

“The entire weekend totally transforms downtown,” Younger said. “There are just people everywhere and you can feel the energy of the city and the shared experience that people are feeding off.”

The race courses wind through Flint’s downtown, with the signature 10-mile event taking runners through the scenic University of Michigan-Flint campus and toward Kettering University, one of the best engineering schools in the country. Each university is involved in the race and in a deep commitment to the community, Younger said.

Participants will then head through the Mott Park neighborhood, a region of the city marked by green space and public parks, before hitting the storied “Bradley Hills,” Flint’s version of the Boston Marathon’s Heartbreak Hill.

“The Bradley Hills are a nice feature that make the Crim challenging for runners of all abilities,” Younger said. “It’s kind of that midway point, and once you’re done, you know you’re on your way in to the finish.”

Next comes the city’s southwest side and a visit to the Woodcroft Estates subdivision, where historic homes feature a look at Flint’s past in the structures that date to the 1920s. The neighborhood, Younger said, generally hosts the greatest concentration of race support outside of downtown.

“It’s legendary what they do out there for the runners and there’s never a dull moment,” Younger said. “There are crowds of people and bands and ‘unofficial aid stations’ handing out all sorts of refreshments to keep people going. There are a lot of good distractions in Woodcroft, and the residents really get into it.”

The final mile of the Crim leads runners through the American Mile, where veterans, active military and their supporters cheer and distribute hand-held flags to participants. It’s a show of national pride and spirit, and a way for people to give back to each other, Younger said.

“It’s that final extra burst of energy, and it’s cool,” he said. “It gives runners a chance to show their appreciation to the armed forces, and it’s a fun thing for them to do for the community.”

Visit the Crim website to learn more and register for your next race.


Michigan Post-Acute Rehab Centers Transform Perception with Resort-Like Amenities

Wellbridge Rehab Center_dessert

After undergoing a back surgery, Kris Tangeman needed post-acute care for several weeks, leading to the Howell woman’s discovery that once she experienced rehabilitation at a WellBridge center, there’s no going back.

“Let me tell you, they were just superb,” said Tangeman, who praised the staff and the therapy department. “I’m in this industry, I’m an LPN (licensed practical nurse) and, I mean, they’re just excellent. I would absolutely recommend WellBridge.”

WellBridge has been setting the standard of care between hospital and home in Michigan since 2013. The centers are transforming the perception of what short-term rehabilitation and nursing care can be with resort-like amenities and a focus on a hospitality model of service.

“We are geared towards people,” said Julie Ryan, who is WellBridge’s Vice President of Business Development and Director of Managed Care. “Unlike institutional-style nursing homes, WellBridge guests receive more than just exceptional nursing care and rehabilitation.  With chef-prepared meals, Tempur-Pedic mattresses, and massage therapy, some guests don’t want to leave.  WellBridge is the future of post-hospital  care.”

“As soon as you enter, you know it’s different. There is WB’s Bistro serving Starbucks, there’s a salon, and mostly private suites – so it’s more like a hotel experience and much more than what you’d expect to experience at a rehabilitation center.”

With eight centers in Southeast Michigan and 840 beds for those in need, WellBridge is outpacing the competition. The care centers offer short-term skilled nursing and rehabilitation services, including physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. WellBridge care centers are located in:

While WellBridge touts its one-of-a-kind guest experience, Ryan and others say the focus remains on care and recovery. WellBridge’s facilities are preferred providers of many hospital systems, earning referrals based on positive patient outcomes. The centers have around the clock care from registered nurses and nursing assistants.

The government’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recognize the care WellBridge offers by issuing high ratings for each of the centers on a 5-star scale. WellBridge has an average score of 4.5 stars, which Ryan says is well above the rating for other post-acute care providers in Michigan.

A former guest who stayed at WellBridge after a knee replacement said she could not have chosen a better center for her recovery.

“They are fabulous, fantastic,” she said. “Wellbridge is a rehabilitation center, we know that, but it feels like a million-star hotel. I cannot praise it enough!”

WellBridge centers, all of which have been built since 2013, have state-of-the-art equipment including a NASA-inspired anti-gravity treadmill and other cutting-edge therapies that speed a return home, Ryan said. Each WellBridge location also offers several suites for people in need of long-term nursing care.

David Sires said he moved his mother, who is battling Parkinson’s disease, into WellBridge of Brighton after the condition progressed to the point that she needed more than assisted living. The full-time care at WellBridge was exceptional, he said.

“The people that work there, I call them God’s little angels because they have patience and understanding I’ve never even seen,” he said. “If your mother or father have a chronic illness and need care, I highly recommend WellBridge.”

Visit WellBridge’s website today to learn more about Michigan’s best rehabilitation centers.

Don’t be a wedding procrastinator: What men should wear for every dress code

Libins MI Best Wedding

As the summer and fall wedding seasons come in to full swing, it is time for guys to begin planning their clothing choices to match the nuptial’s dress attire.

A wedding, as a reminder to all procrastinators, is not the time to wing it and toss together an outfit with what’s hanging in the closet at the last second. Social norms are to follow the event’s dress code and sport a look to impress. You don’t want to be the person in the wedding photos that sticks out like a sore thumb and incites immediate frustration from the wedding party.

There’s a standard formula and correlation of what guests should be wearing once you know the couple’s expectation, the wedding venue and the time of the ceremony.

Here’s how it breaks down and what wedding guests should look for when shopping:

Black-tie weddings

While it’s not every guy’s garment game, black-tie weddings are the easiest to dress for and offer no leeway with your fashion choices. These are the most elegant affairs and generally take place in late afternoon or evenings. The formal look demands a black tuxedo, a sharp white shirt and a black bow tie paired with a black vest and black leather shoes. Dress your best, and keep it simple yet sophisticated

Formal or black-tie optional weddings

These wedding dress codes can be a bit concerning as it is somewhat ambiguous on what to wear, but the best rule to follow is you don’t want to be underdressed. It’s better to go high-style and carry a crisp, modern look. Tuxedos or suits should be dark-hued and matched with a white, neutral or soft-colored dress shirt. Feel free to express some flair with a vest, tie or bow tie. There is a general guideline to go darker with your colors as the later the celebration starts. Shoes are wide open to individual preference as long they match the outfit.

Semi-formal weddings

Many summer weddings fall into this category as the seasonal vibe leans toward a more relaxed and comfortable clothing expectation. There tends to be a middle ground here where it’s safe to dress down a touch, while it remains a bad idea to go completely casual. Plan to look as good or better than those around you. A conservative or dark suit and a solid tie is a classic, safe style that will work if the wedding you’re attending is in a church or you’re enjoying an outdoor venue. Black or tan shoes are the best option to accessorize the suit of your choice.

Casual wedding

Casual weddings are the most laid-back and open to interpretation, leaving the challenge of what’s casual and what’s smart to wear. Here are a couple of things not to do: Jeans or shorts. Those go too far toward casual. However, guests should feel free to dress down with khakis and a button-up dress shirt. You can opt for a polo-style short-sleeve and add a blazer if you’d like. Your shoe selection can vary from standard dress shoes to loafers. Skip the urge to go in sandals or flip-flops.

The final word

Three bottom line moves when it comes to wedding wear:

  • Don’t wait to find the right clothes.
  • Dress better than you think is necessary.
  • Seek help if you need it.


For more advice and ideas, visit Libins website or take a moment to talk to one of the store’s fitting professional to create your best look.

A great day at Silver Lake begins on the dunes

Renting a Jeep Wrangler from Parrot’s Landing is the easiest way to explore the largest sand dunes east of the Mississippi River.

Like so many people around Michigan, Travis Parrott spent quality time with his family in the Silver Lake Sand Dunes Area when he was a kid. Some of his favorite memories are from driving around the state park’s ORV area, the gigantic 450-acre sandbox between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan.

Everybody should be able to experience the largest sand dunes east of the Mississippi River, but not everybody has a dune buggy or a jeep that can power up the hills and tool around. So, Parrott started a business that offers vehicles for visitors to rent and have a great, safe time on the dunes the way he always did with his family.

Parrot’s Landing has been helping families have fun on the dunes for 18 years now.

“You reach the top of the hill and see the dunes, and you’re going to say ‘Where did all this come from?’ It’s like the Sahara Desert out there,” said Rob Obbink, Parrot’s Landing manager. “It’s fun. It’s exhilarating. It’s breathtaking. The views out there are beautiful.”

More than 850,000 people visit Silver Lake State Park each year, and many of them find their way onto the dunes thanks to Parrot’s Landing. The business located right in the heart of town offers user-friendly Jeep Wranglers that are perfect for families, with two seats in front and room for up to three people in the back seat.

You can also try the Polaris RZR 1000 4-seat utility vehicle or a Yamaha Kodiak 450 quad that’s perfect for one person.

Of course, not everybody is comfortable grabbing the keys to a Jeep and driving up a sand dune. That’s why Parrot’s Landing runs guided tours so visitors can get a feel for what it’s like before they go off on their own.

One of the most popular ways to experience the dunes is to pay for an hourlong tour, then get a discounted hour on your own.

“The tour guide gives you a description of the history of the dunes, how they were created, and then gives you a lot of insight into how to drive safely out there,” Obbink said. “Safety is our first concern.

“You’re going to have a really fun time because you’re in control. You’re not being driven by anybody else. You have your own vehicle. It’s a safe vehicle, and it also has plenty of power to get over any of the hills out there.”

The ORV area is a 450-acre section of Silver Lake State Park, which includes about 2,000 acres of sand dunes between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan. One section of the sand dunes is limited to pedestrian use, while the ORV area is for off-road vehicles only.

To access the ORV area with your own vehicle, the state park requires you to have a Michigan ORV registration, state trail permit, parking lot voucher and vehicle-mounted safety flag. But when you rent from Parrot’s Landing, all of that is taken care of for you. And if you run into any trouble up there, the Parrot’s Landing dune patrol is right there to help.



After you’ve experienced the dunes, you can cool off on the all-sports Silver Lake right at the foot of the dunes. Parrot’s Landing rents 3-seat wave runners and 19-foot, open-bow Yamaha Jet Boats by the half-day or full day. You can even add tubes or skis for some seriously fun water sports action.

The dunes, the water, the thrill of adventure…it all makes the Silver Lake Sand Dunes Area a destination spot for Michigan. To have a Michigan’s Best Day in Silver Lake, make Parrot’s Landing your first stop.

Great Lake-To-Lake Trail Inaugural Ride

Eric Hultgren talks to Bob Wilson and Andrea LaFontaine from Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance, about the Great Lake-to-Lake Trail’s inaugural ride, September 13-18. From fresh coast to fresh coast, South Haven to Port Huron, over 17 trails and 275 miles – watch the video below to learn more about the Great Lake-to-Lake Trail.

Military veterans get $100 off the registration for this inaugural ride.

The Great Lake-to-Lake inaugural ride takes place September 13-18, sign up at Michigander.bike


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