Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : June 3, 2016

By Erik Walsh
Monitor Staff Writer
HENDERSON COUNTY-There’s a new sheriff in town.
Botie Hillhouse made it official June 1 when he took the oath of office at the Henderson County Courthouse Annex. Hillhouse took the oath before a packed room of witnesses, cementing his climb to the top office in the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department after becoming chief deputy in 2014.
It’s been a long road for the Athens High School graduate, who has been with the department for 18 years. His career in law enforcement began in 1998 when he worked as a detention officer, then moving to patrol deputy. After a brief time as a criminal investigator, Hillhouse spent five years, from 2003-2008, as a narcotics investigator.
Narcotics investigation remain a priority for Hillhouse. According to his campaign website ‘Botie Hillhouse for Henderson County Sheriff,’ Hillhouse will “focus on narcotics investigations in order to reduce crimes against person and property.”
After moving on from narcotics he worked as patrol lieutenant, major and patrol Sgt., before being assigned chief deputy.
After taking the oath, former sheriff Ray Nutt got a warm send off with appreciation for his years of service as the top law man. Nutt held the Sheriff position in Henderson county since 2009. His career in law enforcement spanned over six decades.
“He’s been a great leader for the sheriff’s department,” Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders said. “It’s been great working with him and Hillhouse.”
Hillhouse announced in June of 2015 that he was seeking the office of sheriff and claimed Nutt’s endorsement. In the Republican Primary last March Hilhouse won a closely contested vote over Investigator Billy Jack Valentine. Hillhouse was the winner by 6,862 votes to 6,801.
Hillhouse and his wife, Stacy, have four daughters. Stacy is the chief of police at Malakoff Independent School District.



Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : June 1, 2016

By David Webb
Monitor Correspondent
TERRELL–PrideRock Wildlife Refuge media relations representative Robyn Wheeler loves going to work in the morning. She is greeted by the most spectacular group of workday companions you can imagine – lions, tigers, cougars, black bears, wolf hybrids and even a hyena.
PrideRock is a 10-acre, nonprofit big cat sanctuary founded in 1992 to rescue abandoned, abused, neglected or displaced animals for any reason. Its mission is to provide permanent homes for animals for the rest of their lives, which includes a final resting place in an onsite cemetery where several are already buried. The animals come from private homes, carnivals and circuses. They cannot be released into the wild after being raised in captivity because they would lack the skills to survive. The only other choice would be euthanasia.
“I enjoy working at PrideRock because I feel a sense of being a part of something bigger than myself,” said former The Monitor staff writer Wheeler, who started work at the animal sanctuary last month. “I drive up to work every day, and I see the cats and bears and I think, ‘Do I really work here every day?’”
Wheeler described the experience of being around the exotic inhabitants, which number about 33 exotic animals and another 10 domestic dogs that just needed a home, as “unique and awesome.” The animals’ roars, beauty and playful nature are thrilling, she said.
“These big cats do not live naturally in the U.S. so to go to work and to be around large cats from Africa and other parts of the world is such a great opportunity. It fills me with a sense of joy and pride.”
That sentiment can only be echoed by anyone fortunate enough to visit the 10-acre facility in the East Texas woods on the way to Lake Tawakoni. Wheeler provided a tour of the refuge, showing how friendly the animals could be. The black bears loved eating animal crackers, carefully taking them from her fingers. Several of the huge cats rubbed their bodies up against the cage wires to allow her to scratch behind their ears, and one of the tigers licked her hand.
“They all have different personalities, and they have good days and bad days,” Wheeler said during the tour.
That became obvious during the tour when one of the male lions made it clear he felt unsociable. Jumping on the cage, roaring and delivering a massive spray of spit, the lion sent his visitors away. He rose above six feet stretched out on his hind feet.
Wheeler said that is why none of the refuge’s employees are allowed to enter the cages with the animals. They are unpredictable. Even if they meant a human no harm, they might injure someone playing. The big cats are massive. Their paws often are the size of soup bowls. Their strength is unmeasurable.
When it is time for feeding and cleaning cages, the animals are directed into enclosures that ensure the safety of the workers. No one is allowed near the cages during morning hours until after the animals are fed because they are most unpredictable when they are hungry.
The facility’s accommodations include a kitchen for food preparation and a large walk-in freezer storing meat. The freezer is refilled weekly for the animals’ voracious appetites. Wheeler’s small office is entered through the kitchen. An office cat sits on top of her desk, standing up and purring when she enters the door.
“He makes himself comfortable on my files and papers,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler’s position at the sanctuary is a new one that was founded by Gary and Carol Holliman. There is a staff of four, including Wheeler, a general manager and two grounds maintenance workers. Interns visit the sanctuary, living in onsite housing, to help with the care of the animals.
An animal lover herself also known as “The Creature Teacher” for her lectures in the Cedar Creek Lake area on animals, Wheeler said she joined the staff of PrideRock to assist in the next phase of development that will include fundraising. The expansion will include making outdoor bear pens on dirt ground because they have lived their entire life on cement, building large secure pastures for the cats, giving educational presentations to schools and civic organizations to teach the next generation about preserving wildlife and putting webcams in some enclosures so website visitors can watch the animals.
Wheeler said that she hopes the public will help the organization in its expansion because large cats are becoming extinct. Exotic animals in captivity are often living in small cages and mistreated, she added.
“Currently, more tigers are kept in captivity in Texas than are out in the wild around the globe,” Wheeler said. “If these cats are not helped and treasured as a valuable resource, they may become extinct.”
Wheeler said the goal of the sanctuary is to allow the animals to live out the rest of their lives in a peaceful environment where they can exhibit natural behavior and not become stressed by being on exhibit as they do in zoos and roadside circuses.
“We are dedicated to keeping the cats and other animals as happy as possible in a natural habitat despite losing funds on entry fees by not opening the sanctuary to the public,” Wheeler said.
For information about donating to or volunteering at PrideRock, visit www.priderock.org, call (972) 345-8544 or email rwheeler@prickrock.org.



Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : May 27, 2016

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
CEDAR CREEK LAKE—Those suffering with Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis or even recent surgeries like knee or hip replacements have reported improved quality of life from participating in a new exercise program developed by a fellow sufferer. Gary Sobol, founder of GZSobol’s Parkinson’s Network, brought his program for the first time to Texas with about a dozen Cedar Creek Lake residents to certify them as teachers of his approach to living with these progressive conditions.
Employees of the Cedar Lake Home Health and Hospice met in Malakoff recently to train under Sobol for a daylong certification program. The first class for the public will be offered at Family Fitness in Gun Barrel City on June 6. What makes his program unique is it builds on the basics to build balance, strength and agility with cognition and voice exercises in an atmosphere of camaraderie and fun.
“I was most impressed about Mr. Sobol not just stopping and letting the disease take over; he was doing as much as he could to control it and he’s teaching others,” Mark Sulak, PTA, said. “It is so different to learn from someone who actually lives with the disease every day.”
“Being the first group in all of Texas to be able to offer these classes has us all so excited at the opportunities and doors this opens for patients with Parkinson’s, MS, TBI and CVA, as well as giving physicians other options for their patients,” RN Cindi Calloway told The News.
Testimonials from those introduced to this program out of Boulder, Colo. which began in 2012 are remarkable. Bob Shellenberger writes: “The class provides the motivation for getting out of bed and getting off the floor to getting out and doing stuff.”
Brenda Hutchinson said her friends have seen improvements in both her gross and fine motor skills, since she’s been taking the classes. “These programs gave me the strength and ability to bounce back from my recent knee replacement,” Gary Flebbe said. Joseph McDuff remarks that taking the classes helps him to feel better and taught him ways to deal with his condition better. “It has helped me a great deal,” he said.
As news of this approach to Parkinson’s, spread, Sobol said many class participants first started on the recommendation of their neurologist. Currently the program is available in eight states, counting Texas, of which Cedar Creek Lake is the first to offer it in Texas. Nearly 100 instructors have been trained and certified to lead the classes.
The program includes four different classes to meet the needs of people at various points in their strength development.
The Foundations class is where everyone begins. This class focuses on strength building, balance and flexibility, which normally decline with age, but in PWP’s they decline at an accelerated rate. In addition, the exercises are enhanced by including cognition, voice and fun. The 75-minute class includes a head-to-toe 20-minute warm up (seated). The remaining time is spent performing a variety of unique standing exercises and routines. Participants are encouraged to do as much as possible and rest when necessary. PWP’s who come to class in a wheelchair or using a walker are required to have their caregiver or driver stay with them during the class. In order to receive the most benefit, participating 2-3 times weekly is recommended. Those who improve function and maintain improved function are committed to attending class regularly. Participants who come only sporadically report a decline in function.
“We can’t stress enough the importance of specific regular exercises to help fight the devastating effects of Parkinson’s disease. This class may help you feel that you have some control over the disease,” Sobol said.
“My husband (who has Parkinson’s disease) had lost a lot of movement before he started taking Gary’s class two years ago and was discouraged. Attending the Foundations (formerly Boot Camp) class made him realize the importance of regular exercise, and it motivated him to keep moving and trying. Now two years later he is fairly flexible and mobile,” reports Sandra Honomich. “This year, I started going to the classes with him and I enjoy them myself. The ‘sense of community’ among the Parkinson’s group is something I haven’t seen elsewhere. It’s inspiring to see the way attendees laugh, share experiences and help one another. They’ve helped my husband remain optimistic. I am grateful–Thank you Gary!”
Those that complete at least six weeks in the Foundations class, may then advance to the Circuit class which introduces a series of stations that participants rotate through. Each station has specific activities to perform that will help the participant add power, strength and greater agility instead of succumbing to greater weakness and clumsiness. It also adds variety and challenge to the workout. The program recommends adding this class at the right time, instead of replacing the Foundations class.
The full class offerings also include dance class, yoga and tai chi, and a seated class to meet the needs of the widest number of people exhibiting the different stages of the debilitating disease.
“Our vision is that every person in this country with Parkinson’s should have a place that they can go to, to take these classes and improve their quality of life and restore lost functions,” Sobol said. “If you are currently living in a location where classes are not yet offered please contact us at info@parkinsonsnetwork.org. We will contact you and figure out a way we can bring this program to your city. The results of these classes, in term of what it has done for me, have been dramatic which is why I want to bring these classes to multiple cities. I want everyone with Parkinson’s to have the same opportunity I had to restore these functions.”
The first class in the area is free and will begin at 12:30 p.m. Monday, June 6 and last for 75 minutes. The continuance of this offering will greatly depend on interest in and enrollment for these classes. It will be held at Family Fitness, located 121 E. Main St. Wear light clothing, come early to register. For more information, call (903) 802-7376, or Cedar Lake Home Health at (903) 489-2043.