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Student Spellers Show Off Skills at 2020 Pali Bee

Photos by Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

By LILY TINOCO | Reporter

Dozens of studious students in first through fifth grade gathered at Palisades Charter High School on Sunday, February 23, for the annual Pacific Palisades Spelling Bee.

This year’s event was made possible with the support of Pali High—including the Pali Ambassadors—Café Vida, Untitled No. 1 School and Groza Learning Center, who worked as busy as bees to prepare the wordlist for the event.

Guests were welcomed with treats from Hello Honey, CinqueTerre WEST and K Bakery, as well as coffee from Starbucks.

Principal Suzanne Duffy

As the day progressed, it became clear that these young scholars meant strict business.

The first half of the event called for Palisades’ first and second graders, who were asked to spell a series of 30 words for the written portion before moving on to round two.

Students made their way to Gilbert Hall to hear which 10 students from each grade would be called to the stage as finalists for the oral portion of the competition.

Principal Suzanne Duffy of Corpus Christi School introduced the first set of judges, Alison Rockwell and Nancy Bollinger of St. Matthew’s School, and Tim Schneider of Schneider Publishing as the word pronouncer.

After a brief overview of the rules, the competition began, with words you wouldn’t bee-lieve.

Each student was given a total of five words and had 45 seconds to spell each word they were provided, with words like “venomous” and “contribute.”

In first grade, Darcy Adair from Palisades Charter Elementary School took third place, Ram Chopra from Pali Elementary took second place and Olivia Lam from Marquez Charter Elementary School finished in first.

For the second-grade competition, Julian Meyers from Pali Elementary took third place, Eli Buonocore from Canyon Charter Elementary School came in second and Jordan Miller from Kenter Canyon Elementary School took home first.

Later that afternoon, the school buzzed with a new set of competitors. This time, students from third, fourth and fifth grade gathered for the event.

Again, students went through a written exam before moving onto the oral competition.

This time, Katie Easton from Corpus Christi School was a judge, while Alan Smolinisky took on the role of word pronouncer.

Tatyana Yukhtman from Groza Learning Center kicked off the competition with a few words of encouragement.

“It’s not easy to be here, it’s not easy to get through all of these words … to have the strength and to have the willingness to do well and to be here, I am so, so proud of you,” Yukhtman said. “Please know you are all winners.”

Third grade competitors were challenged to difficult words like “irrevocable” and “phenomenon,” while fourth and fifth graders were stumped with “kinesiology” and “brouhaha.”

Those who placed in third grade were Tate Gilman from Corpus Christi School in third, John Thomas Dye School’s Lucas Merrill in second and Axel Van Leeuwen from Canyon in first.

The final three in fourth grade were Jack Dorfman from Pali Elementary in third place, Jaya Srinivasan from Pali Elementary in second and Yun Kim from Calvary Christian School in first.

After a re-tallying of points in fifth grade, Hanna Shin from Calvary Christian School and Ella Rich from Pali Elementary tied for first place.

Closely behind came Ella Temple in second and Hal Craig in third—both students at Village School.

After retrieving their trophies, taking a few photos with the adored Pali Bee and closing remarks from the Post, all the Palisades’ scholars headed home to prepare for next year’s competition.

Ombra Ristorante & Bar Joins Palisades Village

Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

Palisades Village has placed signs boasting Ombra Ristorante & Bar, the latest tenant to join the development, will be opening soon.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Ombra Ristorante & Bar, a new concept from local restaurateur Tancredi Deluca of Amici Brentwood, to Palisades Village,” Julie Jauregui, senior vice president, retail operations and leasing for Caruso, shared with the Palisadian-Post.

Ombra will open in the vacant corner space situated between Bonjour Fête and what originally opened with the development as Rachel Zoe’s residency and is now Frame—across Swarthmore Avenue from the Bay Theatre by Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas and Hank’s.

Deluca’s Amici Brentwood offers an “authentic menu” with “freshly prepared Italian with something unique for everyone,” according to the restaurant’s website. “Our pasta lab prepares fresh pasta daily using traditional recipes with modern flair.”

Ombra is not the first partnership between Caruso and Deluca: Deluca’s Italian Deli opened at Americana at Brand in 2010. The deli offers chef-driven panini sandwiches, which are made to order and pressed in an Italian panini maker machine.

Deluca also operates Trattoria Amici at the Americana at Brand, similar to the Brentwood space, and Ombra—a walk-in-only wine bar and craft cocktails spot that offers lunch, dinner and small bite menus.

“Ombra Wine Bar at The Americana offers cocktails and small bites in the evenings,” a representative from Caruso explained. “Ombra Ristorante & Bar at Palisades Village will be a full-service dining experience with a large menu for lunch and dinner alongside many of the same hand-crafted cocktails found at Ombra Wine Bar and more.”

Caruso and Deluca teamed up again to open Emilia at the corner of Burton Way and San Vicente in July 2019, taking over The Larder space, which closed in April of that year. The menu at Emilia covers classic Italian staples—similar to what will be offered at Ombra.

“Our neighbors can expect to enjoy the bold flavors of Italy, including classic pizzas with hand-rolled dough and homemade pasta made fresh daily, served in a lively, family-friendly atmosphere,” Jauregui said.

Ombra is slated to open in Palisades Village this summer.

“With an expansive terrace overlooking Swarthmore,” Jauregui said, “we’re certain that Ombra will quickly become a go-to for all-day dining and hand-crafted cocktails in a stunning al fresco setting.”

Sweet Rose Creamery to Serve Final Scoop

Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

After four-and-a-half years, Sweet Rose Creamery will serve the final scoop at its Palisades shop on Monument Street on Saturday, February 29.

The Sweet Rose Creamery brand, born out of partners Josh Loeb, Zoe Nathan, Colby Goff and Shiho Yoshikawa’s “desire to create delicious ice cream in a nostalgic setting for friends and family to enjoy it in,” opened its first store in 2010 at the Brentwood Country Mart.

“Years ago, we thought we wanted to turn Sweet Rose Creamery into a multi-unit business, so we could support the development of our key people there,” Elise Freimuth explained on behalf of the brand in a statement. “We had a few shops spread across Los Angeles and have gradually closed them to dedicate ourselves to the Santa Monica locations.”

Sweet Rose Creamery falls under the Rustic Canyon Family, which includes Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry Bakery & Café, Milo + Olive, Tallula’s and others.

Loeb, who has roots in Santa Monica Canyon, shared that the team has soul-searched and come to the realization that they are better off as a smaller enterprise.

“This is more in line with the ethos of the rest of our Rustic Canyon Family, which only does one-off restaurants,” Loeb continued in the statement. “It’s been a learning experience for us, but that’s what we’ve learned. We personally loved the Palisades shop and are sad to see it go, but it makes more sense for Sweet Rose Creamery overall to be smaller.”

Those looking for their Sweet Rose fix do not have to go far: Brentwood Country Mart and Santa Monica Main Street locations will remain open. The brand will continue to make everything from scratch, including dairy base, cones and marshmallows, with a focus on the “best, organic ingredients from local farmers.”

“We’re incredibly excited about Sweet Rose’s future,” Freimuth said. “In fact, our first location at the Brentwood Country Mart turns 10 years old this May, so we look forward to having all of our Palisadian friends and neighbors come out and celebrate with us.”

Freimuth added that Sweet Rose would “love for everyone to swing by, say goodbye, get an ice cream cone and stock up on some treats” ahead of the store’s last day.

Community Rallies to Support Vons Manager Celeste McVey

McVey and her three sons
Photo courtesy of Celeste McVey

By LILY TINOCO | Reporter

Celeste McVey plays a huge role in Pacific Palisades—as manager at Vons on Sunset Boulevard and in the heart of plenty Palisadians.

“I love all my customers, the customers are the best part of the job,” McVey said to the Palisadian-Post. “Any time parents come in with their little kids, I always give them balloons. It makes the kids happy, it makes the parents happy, but most of all, it makes me happy to see them both happy.”

McVey, a Florida native, has worked for Vons for over 24 years. She has worked at different locations, but seems to have left a deep impression on the community—especially since they began to notice that she wasn’t at the store recently.

McVey was diagnosed with breast cancer after her first mammogram on December 16, 2019. Through the suggestion of her oncologist, she will do five months of chemotherapy, followed by six to eight weeks of radiation.

She began treatment on Tuesday, February 18, and has five more sessions to go.

For this reason, she is unable to work for at least six months, causing a financial burden to herself and her three sons that she supports herself.

Her sister, Mitzi Macias, helped set up a fundraiser for McVey and the community took notice.

“We are rooting for you Celeste,” posted Heather Haggenmiller to Nextdoor after seeing the GoFundMe Macias shared on Facebook.

Since then, the community has rallied to help and share their fondness of McVey.

“I met Celeste whenever she began working at Vons and from the beginning, was always drawn to her kindness,” Alice Lynn said to the Post. “Always, she brightened my shopping experience as I now know she did for so many others … Celeste has a very special way of connecting with people and it is shown by the outpouring of support from our community, truly inspiring as she embarks on this difficult medical journey.”

“I’ve known Celeste for about six years now and she is an absolute gem,” Palisadian Christine Hale said. “For the past few weeks, my son has been walking into Vons with his homemade Valentine for her hoping she’d be back from her leave of absence … I’m so grateful for how much this community has contributed to her fight.”

McVey is grateful for all the support the community has given her and is on her way to beating this fight positively.

“I’m so incredibly thankful for all the support from everyone, it’s been really, really touching,” McVey said. “Even though I’m going through this and it is hard, I feel like I’m the lucky one.

“I will beat this no doubt.”

To donate, visit gofundme.com/f/celeste-fight-against-cancer.


Stolen Vehicle

100 Ocean Way, between February 16 at 8 p.m. and February 17 at 10:30 a.m. The suspect took victim’s vehicle from a driveway.

Burglary/Theft from Vehicle

1000 Will Rogers State Park Rd, February 6 between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. The suspect disabled the electronic lock on victim’s vehicle and took credit cards.

Provided by LAPD Senior Lead Officer Michael Moore. In case of emergency, call 911.
To report a non-emergency, call 877-275-5273.

Palisadian Honors Late Husband with Art Exhibit

Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

Palisadian Foumiko Kometani is organizing a celebration of life for her husband Joshua Greenfeld—which will include an art exhibit “Trash to Treasure”—on Saturday, February 29, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Palisades Branch Library.

Greenfeld, an Academy Award-nominated writer published in The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Life and Time, as well as the author of “A Child Called Noah” about his son, died in May 2018 at the age of 90.

Trash to Treasure is an exhibition of collaged boxes by Kometani to honor her late husband.

“Born in Osaka, Japan, in 1930, I became a visual artist at a young age,” Kometani shared in a statement that was sent to the Palisadian-Post. “In my 20s, [I] had a considerable amount of success.”

Kometani’s oil paintings were selected for the Nika Group Exhibitions for three consecutive years, beginning in 1956, leading to the Kansai Region (Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto) Women’s Artist Prize in 1959.

“All this led to my winning a fellowship to the prestigious McDowell Artist’s Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, in 1960,” Kometani continued.

During her year at the colony, Kometani met Greenfeld, a playwright. The two married in 1960 in New York City and had two sons.

Left unable to paint after having her sons, Kometani tried her hand at writing—to date, penning 20 books over the course of her career.

“After my husband, Josh, passed away two years ago, I found myself moving back towards visual art,” Kometani said. “This time I began to undertake collage, something new for me.”

Kometani explained that collage could be traced back to World War II and the deprivation she suffered in Japan.

“During the war, there was no new material for art or anything else,” she said. “We never threw away paper, or clothing, or metal, or else, and it became my habit to accumulate things which I might be able to use someday in the future.”

Kometani explained that as a lifelong habit, she has always clipped articles and images from newspaper and magazines.

“With a lot of empty cardboard boxes around the house and Josh gone, I began to paste the clippings on the boxes,” she shared. “This made them beautiful, and I found myself enjoying the process of producing this form of art, which helped me during my mourning period.

“These works may be trash from other people’s point of view, but to me they have become treasures.”

Kometani’s works will be on display at the library through March 6.

Marquez Knolls Resident Launches Fiction Book Series for Children 

Photos courtesy of Teresa Power


First there was “The ABCs of Yoga for Kids,” then there was “The ABCs of Law School.”

And now, Marquez Knolls resident and best-selling author Teresa Anne Power is launching a new book series: Little Mouse Adventures.

The first book in her fiction series, “Yoga at the Zoo,” will be out on March 1.

“I’m really excited about the whole series,” Power shared with the Palisadian-Post.

The series is targeted for children 3 to 8 years old.

“The stories follow curious Little Mouse and how he is best friends with Mr. Opus, the wise tabby cat, as they stowaway on adventures with Tammy McDoodle,” Power explained.

Children have told Power they find it very unusual to have a cat and mouse be friends.

Although Power has sold over 400,000 books over the course of her career, the Little Mouse Adventures series and “Yoga at the Zoo” marks her first dive into fiction.

She has two more books in the series on their way: The next book will be “Mindfulness at the Park” and the third one, “Yoga at the Museum,” is slated to release in 2021.

“It will be so much fun,” Power told the Post about her new book. “There’s nothing else like it on the market. And I wanted it to be a fun story that kids could enjoy, whether they were interested in yoga or not.”

Power is an internationally recognized expert on children’s yoga, with 37 years of yoga experience, and the author of the bestselling series, The ABCs of Yoga for Kids, and the founder of International Kids’ Yoga Day.

More than 30,000 kids around the world participated in yoga on the same day for International Kids’ Yoga Day in 2019. The fifth annual International Kids’ Yoga Day will take place on April 3.

Power taught yoga to kindergarten and first grade at St. Matthew’s Parish School for 10 years, and she currently teaches children at St. Raphael Catholic School.

Power is a graduate of the University of Southern California. She graduated with a J.D. from Pepperdine University School of Law, which prompted her penning the “ABCs of Law School: Diary of the First Year Student,” among her many accomplishments.

Power will host a special reading and book signing for children at Palisades Branch Library at 3:30 p.m. on March 11.

After the reading, Power will teach kids simple yoga poses “to help them not only stretch and strengthen their bodies, but also to keep them calm and focused,” according to a press release from the library.

Power will also host additional readings and signings for “Yoga at the Zoo” at BookMonster in Santa Monica on March 1 at 11 a.m. and Children’s Book World on April 11 at 10 a.m.

For more information, go to littlemouseyogaadventures.com, staffordbooks.com and kidsyogaday.com.

Bowling for a Cause

Photo courtesy of Michele Hunter

Palisadian Hosts Fundraiser for Brain Cancer Research in Honor of Late Son


Palisadian Michele Hunter is turning to her community to encourage youth and families to join a bowling fundraising in honor of her son, Sean, who passed away from an inoperable brain tumor in 2017 at age 22.

“I picked bowling because everyone loves it and it’s multigenerational,” Michele shared with the Palisadian-Post.

The Sean Hunter Research in Action Bowl will take place on Sunday, March 1, from 4 to 7 p.m in Santa Monica. The event, which will raise funds and awareness for brain cancer research, will include bowling, food, drinks, music, arcade games, entertainment and a silent auction.

Bowlers may join as individuals, as well as starting or joining a team.

Michele has partnered with the Uncle Kory Foundation to help host the event, allowing her to continue her mission to help others and fund Dr. Santosh Kesari’s research.

After having great success with neurologist and neuro-oncologist, Kesari, who accepted Sean as a patient when no other doctors would, she remains supportive of his work and has made it her life’s mission to help continue his research. Proceeds from the event will benefit the John Wayne Cancer Institute, under the direction of Kesari.

To date, The Sean Hunter Research in Action programs have raised over $450,000 for brain cancer research and clinical trials. So far they have raised more than $32,000, with a fundraising goal of $100,000, for the Action Bowl.

“Doctors told my son to go home to hospice,” Michele wrote on the flyer. “I couldn’t accept that for my child, so I found someone who wouldn’t either. Together, Dr. Kesari and Dr. Kelly were there to fight with us, to give Sean hope when there was none.”

Michele added that Kesari understands the urgency of improved response to therapy and is working to accelerate the development of novel therapies for brain cancer through drug innovations, immunotherapies and efficient trials.

“Let’s keep moving in Sean’s honor, and in honor of everyone affected by brain cancer,” the event website reads. “We hope you’ll support our efforts by participating, donating and helping to spread the word about this important cause. We look forward to bowling with you.”

The event will take place at Bowlmor, located at 234 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica.

To register, fundraise or donate, visit support.unclekory.org/seanhunter.

An Educational Adventure: Palisadian-Founded KidUnity Brings Students to Iowa Caucuses

Photos courtesy of Peter Sheehy

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

For the second election year in a row, Palisadian Peter Sheehy trekked halfway across the country with students from nine different schools to witness the Iowa Presidential Caucuses firsthand.

This year, the trip included 20 high school students as well as six students in sixth grade. Most were Los Angeles-based students, with some from Detroit and two from New England: one from Connecticut and one from Massachusetts.

“We prepared the kids through a series of workshops and we use the Iowa Caucuses as the place to do experiential learning of politics and student journalism,” Sheehy explained.

Sheehy co-founded the program responsible for the trip, KidUnity, with fellow parent David Snow five years ago with the mission to “provide children with a stronger connection to their community,” which will “inspire children to solve the most demanding social problems that their generation faces.”

The program started as a conversation between two dads about a lack of fun, high-quality and readily available service learning programs. Today, programs include ULEAD – Nex Gen Women’s Leadership Program and Kindness and Community Clubs geared to students in kindergarten through third grade.

“In teaching high school in New York,” Sheehy explained, “I had a student who had attended the Iowa Caucuses and he presented to our class after returning. I thought this was a phenomenal opportunity, so in 2016 … we organized a group.”

This year, the group arrived at the Caucuses Saturday morning and left on Tuesday—and Sheehy explained that required 14- to 16-hour days.

So far, students who participated in the trip have been published in New York Magazine, Teen Vogue and Seventeen.

“The stories that the kids are publishing are really just what it’s like to be an active teenager thinking

about the future of the country and looking at the process and the candidates that appeal to them,” Sheehy explained. “It was kind of both personal reflections on that and also what was happening on the ground with the candidates.”

Sheehy shared that the group stayed at the same hotel as the Sanders’ campaign, which granted them behind-the-scenes access to the action.

“The night of the Caucuses, I was hanging out in the lobby eating pizza with his son and members of the senior campaign staff,” Sheehy said. “The next morning, he was in the elevator with some of the kids, he was in a conference room in the lobby—we could see the mood and overhear conversations.”

Other trip highlights include an off-the-record meeting with Biden’s chief of staff and his national press secretary.

Up next for Sheehy and KidUnity will be Washington, D.C., with 38 sixth-graders for a policy-based trip.

“They’re going to be researching and advocating on behalf of the environment, LGBT rights and immigration rights,” Sheehy explained. “We’re doing a civil rights history tour for Windward School and then we do after school clubs as well, all geared toward getting kids involved in service and civics.”

Sheehy shared that he hopes this type of experience motivates more kids to get involved in both national and local politics.

“Of course national politics like this are a spectacle and exciting,” Sheehy said, “but there’s so much to be done in between these every four year circuses.”

For more information, visit kidunity.us.

The Doctor is In

By Damon Raskin, M.D. | Special to the Palisadian-Post

Q:On a scale of 1 to 10, how worried do Palisadians need to be about coronavirus? Is it still safe to travel? Visit populated places like Disneyland? One day it seems that things have calmed down and the next, it’s headlining the news again.

Let us not panic! On a scale from 1 to 10, Palisadians should only be at a 1 on the “worry scale”—especially if you have not recently traveled to China.

In fact, the odds are much higher that you will be exposed to the influenza virus or run over by a speeding car down Palisades Drive than come down with the coronavirus.

As of last count, there have been 15 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in California, all of which were in persons who have either recently traveled to China or have been evacuated from a cruise ship in Japan. In total, there have only been 35 documented cases in the whole United States.

So far worldwide, there have been less than 600 deaths related to this new virus, compared to 60,000 American fatalities from the flu between 2017 and 2018.

A new viral outbreak is scary, don’t get me wrong. But we can’t let the things that are posted on Facebook or Twitter cause mass hysteria.

Infectious disease experts emphasize that this novel virus is less deadly than the SARS epidemic that raged back in 2002. The CDC is currently reporting that the immediate risk to the American public is low at this time. Isolation and quarantines have been effective measures so far for those travelers who have been in areas with high exposure risk.

The media has made many of us too apprehensive to even go to a movie theater or a restaurant. In fact, there have been many recent cases of profound xenophobia, especially against anyone who appears Asian and has a mild cough or a sneeze. This is profoundly disturbing.

The virus is spread through respiratory droplets when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes and you breathe it in. Rarely, it can be spread by touching a surface or object where the virus has been left, and then touching your mouth or eyes.

So, what can you do to protect yourself? Frequent hand washing is probably the best protective measure, and being cautious of touching your mouth or eyes unless you know your hands are clean.

Travel is still safe, but clearly avoid China at this time and listen to the travel warnings that the CDC has listed on its website for further recommendations.

Disneyland is fun for many of us and a nightmare for others … but do not let the coronavirus be the thing that stops you from going. That is like saying not to go to New York for fear of a terrorist attack. We still have to live our lives and just use common sense when it comes to protecting ourselves and our loved ones.

Although things may change on a daily or weekly basis, we are still well prepared for this type of infection. Don’t listen to everything that you see on the internet. Worry will do nothing but contribute to hair loss and insomnia.

As Frank Herbert, an American science fiction writer, once wrote: “Fear is the mind-killer.” So, relax and enjoy our beautiful town.

Have a question for Dr. Raskin? Send it in to mypost@palipost.com.