Tag Archives: Mercy High School

2018 January/February Giving Events

December 27, 2017 by
Photography by Contributed

Featured Event:
Feb. 10 (7-9 p.m.)
Dancing With the Omaha Stars
Ralston Arena
It’s back! Omaha stars Tony Veland, Chinh Doan, Jared Robinson, Miss Omaha, and others will strut their stuff in front of a panel of judges that includes Tom Osbourne, Mayor Jean Stothert, and Todd Schmaderer. While the Mirror Ball goes to the dancer who scores the highest, the other revered trophy in this contest is the Bella Award, given to the star who raises the most money for TeamMates.

Jan. 10 (6-9 p.m.)
Outland Trophy Award Dinner
Benefiting: The Greater Omaha Sports Committee
Location: Downtown DoubleTree

Jan. 12 (6-9 p.m.)
Celebration of Life Dinner Fundraiser
Benefiting: Nebraskans United for Life
Location: DC Centre

Jan. 19 (5-7 p.m.)
Victory Boxing Club Seventh Annual Banquet
Benefiting: Victory Boxing Club
Location: Bellevue Christian Center

Jan. 20 (6-10:30 p.m.)
Midlands Community Foundation Reflection Ball
Benefiting: Midlands Community Foundation
Location: Embassy Suites La Vista

Jan. 25 (5-9 p.m.)
Girls Nite Out
Benefiting: Girls Inc.
Location: Hilton Downtown

Jan. 27 (5:30-10 p.m.)
Rockin’ Rosie
Benefiting: The Rose Theater Guild
Location: Omaha Marriott Downtown

Jan. 28 (5-9 p.m.)
Benefiting: Essential Pregnancy Services
Location: Embassy Suites La Vista

Feb. 2 (5-10 p.m.)
MarianFEST 2018: Life is Sweet at Marian
Benefiting: Marian High School
Location: Omaha Hilton

Feb. 3 (9 a.m.-3 p.m.)
Ultra Chic Boutique and The Dress Flip
Benefiting: The Alzheimer’s Association
Location: A View on State

Heart and Stroke Ball

Feb. 3 (5 p.m.-midnight)
Omaha Heart & Stroke Ball
Benefiting: American Heart Association
Location: Embassy Suites La Vista

Feb. 10 (6-9 p.m.)
Carnival of Love Gala
Benefiting: Heartland Family Service
Location: Embassy Suites La Vista

Curly Tails and Cocktails

Feb. 10 (6-10 p.m.)
Curly Tails and Cocktails
Benefiting: Pug Partners of Nebraska
Location: Arbor Hall

Feb. 10 (10 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Heart Bombing
Benefiting: Restoration Exchange Omaha
Location: TBA

Feb. 10 (6-11 p.m.)
Swing Under the Wings
Benefiting: Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum
Location: Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum

Feb. 10 (6:30-10 p.m.)
Winter at the Beach
Benefiting: Wings of Hope
Location: Mid-America Center

Feb. 10 (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Polar Plunge
Benefiting: Special Olympics Nebraska
Location: Lake Cunningham

Feb. 10-11 (starts 10 a.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. Sunday)
Heartland Winter Games, Floor Hockey
Benefiting: Special Olympics Nebraska
Location: UNO Campus

Feb. 13 (6-9 p.m.)
Ten Outstanding Young Omahans Banquet
Benefiting: Omaha Jaycees
Location: Scoular Ballroom

Trek up the Tower

Feb. 17 (7 a.m.-noon)
Trek Up the Tower
Benefiting: WELLCOM
Location: First National Bank Tower

Feb. 17 (4:30-10 p.m.)
Mercy: The Gold Standard (Fiesta 2018)
Benefiting: Mercy High School
Location: La Vista Conference Center

Feb. 22-24 (6:30-9 p.m.)
A Tasteful Murder
Benefiting: Joslyn Castle Trust
Location: Joslyn Castle

Feb. 17 (noon-4 p.m.)
Barstool Open
Benefiting: United Cerebral Palsy of Nebraska
Location: The Old Market

Feb. 24 (1-4 p.m.)
Benefiting: Angels Among Us
Location: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse

Feb. 24 (6 p.m.-midnight)
Country Side of a Cure
Benefiting: JDRF
Location: CenturyLink Center

Perfect Pour

Feb. 24 (7-11 p.m.)
Perfect Pour
Benefiting: Nebraska Children and Families Association
Location: Slowdown

Feb. 25 (1-5 p.m.)
Art & Soup
Benefiting: Visiting Nurse Association
Location: Embassy Suites La Vista

Times and dates subject to change.  Check organization’s websites for updated details.

This article appears as part of the calendar of events in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Showing Mercy

November 22, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Caroline Hinrichs took her marketing, branding, business development, and sales experience and kicked it up a few notches. She co-founded Omaha’s first experiential marketing firm, where consumers participate directly in a marketing program. She has since positioned herself as a business development leader, finding her niche with architectural and design firms as a go-between—someone who understands the client’s perspective and asks strategic questions that often go unanswered.

Theresa Franco, vice president of Cancer and Radiology Services at Nebraska Medicine, never used her nursing degrees to work in cancer care until the University of Nebraska Medical Center came calling. It hired her to build its stem cell and bone marrow transplant program. That program morphed into the Lied Transplant Center and, more recently, the Buffett Cancer Center, which Franco’s team helped design and develop.

Mary Higgins, president of Marian High School and the first alumna to hold that position, once barged into the office of the director of intramural sports at Creighton University and demanded that he start a women’s sports program. It worked.

In the spring of 1973, the Creighton senior played catcher on the university’s first women’s softball team. After earning a master’s degree in physical education at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Higgins coached softball at her undergraduate alma mater. She later served as a Creighton administrator.

Three highly successful women in three distinct professions, yet all exhibit similar characteristics: they’re dynamic, easy-going, self-assured, intelligent women who possess impeccable people skills and have learned to juggle the demands of a family with the demands of a high-profile career.

They also share an educational background. Hinrichs, Franco, and Higgins went to all-girls high schools. The reasons for attending their respective schools differ, but the results echo each other.

“My parents were interested in the benefits of a single-sex education, especially for girls, and they had me tour a couple,” says Hinrichs, who attended Westside schools through eighth grade. “They sort of let it be my decision, but at the same time encouraged me to make it.”

Once Hinrichs toured Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart at 36th and Burt streets, the idea of an all-girls school didn’t seem so bad, even though she had no friends or connections there.

“I loved the building, the small class sizes, the formality of it, and its tradition. I really loved the high level of academics. I craved that,” she says.

Franco, who grew up in a devout Catholic family near 48th and Grover streets, says she never really had a choice of going anywhere else but Mercy High School.

“My mom and her sisters all went there, and I had three older sisters there,” she says. “My father made it very clear to me that’s where I was going.”

But did she like it?

“I loved Mercy,” says Franco. “I felt at home because I grew up in a home of several women, plus a lot of my classmates from St. Thomas More went there.” From the outset, Franco’s personality began to emerge. “I was determined not to be ‘another Franco girl.’ My sisters were quieter than I was, kind of compliant, but I wanted to carve my own reputation.”

The student known for her spirituality and kindness went on to earn a nursing degree at Creighton in 1978 and a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Texas.

Family ties never entered into Mary Higgins’ decision to choose Marian High School.

“I have no idea why I went there,” she laughs. “We lived fairly close, in St. Bernard’s parish and lots of my classmates from there were going to Marian, so I figured, ‘Well, I’ll just go with the flow.’”

She entered the school at 74th Street and Military Avenue in 1965, a mere 10 years after Marian opened. She “had a spectacular experience as far as involvement and leadership opportunities,” serving as class president three years running.

“The only thing I didn’t like was we had no competitive athletics, as was the case in all other high schools, because it was pre-Title IX,” referring to the federal mandate passed in 1972 that equalized the playing field for girls in sports.

The same self-confidence, chutzpah, and conviction of her beliefs that led Higgins to demand women’s sports at Creighton seeped into all three women during their high school years. Each cites the ability to take risks, to speak up in class without feeling self-conscious, to meet high expectations, to have opportunities to lead, and to participate in all areas of school life as the biggest rewards of their education.

The lack of boys in their classes never registered a blip.

“I didn’t define my experience at Duchesne as ‘not being distracted by boys,’” says Hinrichs, 35, who holds a degree from Colorado College in Spanish and theater. “I was around strong women, and that set me up for not framing anything around, ‘how do men affect this?’”

Taking boys out of the equation doesn’t seem to affect performance. All three schools boast a 100 percent graduation rate. College acceptances also reach 100 percent.

“Scholarship money given to our graduates topped $20 million last year,” says Dr. Laura Hickman, Duchesne principal and an alumna.

So why the continued debate over the benefits of an all-girls education?

“I have no idea,” Hickman laughs. “It probably stems from not experiencing it. They have no idea how absolutely transformative it can be.”

Higgins now sees the transformation she underwent from the perspective of an administrator.

“I look across the student body and they’re wearing the same uniform, they don’t have a dollop of makeup on, they haven’t agonized over their hair,” she observes with a sense of pride. “We’re not free from social pressures. We just remove many layers.”

Mary Higgins

Visit schools.archomaha.org for more information.

This article appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of B2B.


October 9, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Half a century ago, while attending Mercy High School, Anne Marie Kenny cultivated a Francophile passion. At 21, she followed it to realize a dream of being a cabaret artist in France. She went from singing in Paris streets to headlining chic venues.

After that yearlong taste, she returned to Omaha hungry to maintain French ties. Her conduit became Alliance Française d’Omaha, a chapter of an international organization dedicated to promoting French language and culture. She departed again, this time a married woman, to study voice and ply her craft abroad.

Kenny and her husband settled in the south of France—commuting to their beloved Paris. They lived there for more than a decade, during which time she also became a successful entrepreneur in the Czech Republic.

Since returning home permanently, she’s served as an Alliance board member and president.

“It’s been my lifeline to French-going. I so missed the excitement of Paris—the language and all that,” she says, adding that when members of the local organization asked her to serve, “I felt I owed it something because it gave so much to me.”

As the current president, she has overseen preparations for the Omaha chapter’s centennial celebration in 2017. Alliance marked the milestone with the August launch of its illustrated history book, along with an upcoming centennial gala at KANEKO on Sept. 9.

Alliance events often feature French food, wine, and music. But the centennial bash is going to exquisite extremes with an elegant feast of authentic cuisine and entertainment. French dignitaries will be among the special guests. Kenny will emcee and lead the attendees in singing France’s national anthem, La Marseillaise.

The events also honor the legacy of the late Sam Mercer, who divided his time between Paris and Omaha. Mercer opened the French Café and helped reactivate the city’s historic Old Market district (inspired by his exposure to French urban planning). Mark (his son) and Vera Mercer, along with Nicholas (his nephew) and Jane Bonham-Carter are the gala’s honorary chairs.

Kenny emphasizes that the party is “a community event.”

Under her two terms as president, the group has increased membership and French language class offerings.

She appreciates what French fluency gives her.

“Exploring the poetry of a language is an optimal way to not only learn how to speak the language but to understand its nuances,” she says. “It’s a new way of thinking and seeing.”

Learning the French language came naturally to her.

Her fascination changed the course of her life when she followed her muse abroad. “I wanted to use French and apply it to who I was,” Kenny says, adding that she values the “global mindset” gained from the experience.

Alliance members share a vision of having their own cultural center after a century of borrowed spaces.

“We’re not able to offer as many classes as I know the community would like,” Kenny says.

She says the lack of a dedicated home hasn’t prevented the Omaha branch from sponsoring “a very successful scholarship program” for students studying French.

Community service is at the core of the Omaha group, which she described as “one of the older” American Alliance Française chapters.

“We’re very active. After 100 years, we know we’ve got staying power,” she says. “I’m humbled and proud to be part of this lineup of figures in our city who brought French culture to the fore.”

Guiding the organization through its centennial, she says, has “been a wonderful labor of love.”

Visit afomaha.org for more information.

This article appears in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Symone Sanders’ Iowa Odyssey

December 18, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Symone Sanders’ childhood dream never came true.

As a young girl Sanders created an alter ego, that of an intrepid news professional she named Donna Burns. She would grab a spoon as a microphone and report live (from the kitchen of her home) in covering breaking news all across the globe.

“I so wanted to be Donna Burns,” Sanders said. “I so wanted to be that person.”

Donna Burns never really left her, she’s just been just turned inside out. Now Sanders is the one having microphones thrust in her face.

Last August the 25-year-old (she turned 26 in December) was hired as Bernie Sanders’ national press secretary. At a time when many of her classmates from Creighton University’s class of 2013 were still clawing for that first entry-level position somewhere—anywhere—Sanders was taking the national stage in handling an army of “Donna Burns” for the Vermont Senator.

The Mercy High School graduate who had earlier attended Sacred Heart School is the daughter of Terri and Daniel Sanders. Her first taste of politics came as a 10-year-old through her involvement with Girls Inc. At 16 she would be selected by the organization to introduce President Bill Clinton when he spoke at a 2006 Girls Inc. event in Omaha.

Omaha Magazine caught up with her at Bernie Sanders’ state campaign headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, the day before the Nov. 14 National Democratic Debates at Drake University.


“I feel like I was in the right place at the right time,” she demurred in describing her formative years in Omaha. “Things were pretty stagnant in this town at one time. Now Omaha is breeding superstars. This city set me up for everything I’ve done. It’s an amazing place for exposure, opportunity, and access, and there are so many efforts moving the needle in a good direction…Willie Barney at the Empowerment Network [where Sanders was once communications, events, and outreach manager], the folks at the Urban League, the NAACP, Heartland Workforce [Solutions], Inclusive Communities, Women’s Center for Advancement, and tons of others. There are so many great organizations guiding young people and kids in building better lives and a better city. They’re doing it right, and they’re doing it right there in Omaha.”

In 2014, only 11 months after graduating from college, Sanders would become deputy communications director for Nebraska Democrat Chuck Hassebrook’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid.

“Symone is the kind of person that people just love to be around,” said Hassebrook, who spent his career at the Center for Rural Affairs, including 18 years as a University of Nebraska Regent. “She’s very smart, but it is her principles and ethics that I perhaps most admire. I’m a huge Symone fan. She’s a person that I hope will be running things someday.”

The day after votes were tallied in the 2014 election Sanders was on a plane to Washington, D.C. to begin a job with Global Trade Watch, an arm of Public Citizen, the nonprofit advocacy think tank founded by Ralph Nader in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress.

Also passionate about issues surrounding juvenile justice, Sanders has served on the board of the Nebraska Coalition for Juvenile Justice and recently stepped down as the national chair of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice Youth Committee.

“The system isn’t set up well for minority communities,” Sanders explained as staff and volunteers scurried throughout the campaign headquarters in Des Moines in the run-up to the debate. “Young people need to be involved in juvenile justice because this is so often a young person issue. My brother was incarcerated when he was young. I’ve been arrested myself—I told Bernie all about that right upfront—and this is an epidemic. Black and brown kids are being locked up at a disproportionate rate. It’s a school-to-prison pipeline. What so many of them need is help, jobs—not jail.”

Sanders is also aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement, and it was through that relationship that the campaign team first came to know her. She was brought in to advise the candidate shortly after Black Lives Matter protesters had interrupted a campaign rally in Seattle.

She met with Bernie Sanders to help him better understand and connect with a voting bloc that skews toward Hillary Clinton. Two hours later she was his national press secretary.

“The original Civil Rights Movement,” Sanders said, “is a phrase that was coined so that everyday Americans could understand the issues…so they could wrap their heads around it. That’s what Black Lives Matter is. It’s the same movement, the same ideals, but now for a new generation. There’s nothing new about the movement. It’s the same struggle. It’s the same people shaking things up for social justice. Malcolm X, John Lewis, and Martin Luther King didn’t call themselves Civil Rights leaders. They were just…leaders.”

Sanders has a magnetic personality and speaks in a rapid-fire, staccato fashion. Trying to keep up with her words in transcribing the interview from a micro-recorder was a nightmare of stops and starts, pauses and rewinds. But just as she is known for her mile-a-minute delivery, Sanders also knows when to take it down a notch or three.

During the pre-debate walkthrough of the auditorium, spin room, and media center on the Drake campus later that day, she became a deliberate, finely modulated machine that spoke in an even, deliberate tone in asking questions and soaking up every detail of where, when, and how the candidate and campaign team would navigate the crucial debates in the state where America first goes to the polls in the process of nominating and electing the next occupant of the Oval Office.


And a chance encounter in the spin room had her taking her foot completely off the gas in coasting into a warm, engaging exchange with Donna Brazile, the political strategist and analyst who ran Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign and now acts as vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Sanders demonstrates a razor-sharp grasp of issues, policy, facts, and figures, and only hesitates when the ever-focused media pro is tossed questions about her personal life that take her at least temporarily out of campaign mode.

It took her seemingly forever, for example, to be able to conjure up her Burlington, Vermont, mailing address when that information was requested so that she could be sent a copy of this magazine. And a query about how many nights she’s slept in her own bed since taking the press secretary gig drew—if only for a nanosecond—a blank stare.

And then she was instantly “on” again in flashing her broad, trademark, light-up-the-room smile in replying, “Bed? You mean my air mattress? I don’t have time to furnish a place. The only beds I sleep in these days are in hotels.”

Over the course of the campaign Sanders has spent a lot of time crisscrossing the nation with Dr. Cornel West. The activist, author, and philosopher is a major Bernie supporter and was again stumping with the candidate in Des Moines.

“Symone Sanders is a visionary,” West told Omaha Magazine the next evening moments before he was to take the microphone as the headliner at a pre-debate tailgate rally where, true to its name, he and other speakers addressed the crowd from the tailgate of a well-worn farm truck in the state where agriculture rules and corn is king. “She has the power to be the voice of her generation. She has the intellect, the moral compassion, and the energy to become a great leader.”

Also “Feeling the Bern” at the rally that night was Creighton senior Dawaune Hayes.

“Symone was always involved in everything on campus,” Hayes said. “She was involved in everything all over town. Everyone at Creighton knew she could change the world someday. Now she’s actually doing it.”

Sanders may already be well on her way to becoming a world-changer, but one thing she hopes remains the same is the secret recipe at Time Out Chicken on North 30th Street.

“The first job I ever had was at Time Out,” she said, “and I worked there all through high school and college when I could—even after college. I miss Omaha. I miss my family. I would kill for some Time Out Chicken right now. And I miss the girls at Girls Inc.”

“Symone was the epitome of a Girls Inc. girl,” said Roberta Wilhelm, the organization’s executive director. “She was heavily involved in our media literacy program called Girls Make the Message. That’s where the girls made their own public service announcements and created their own messages to the world. Not surprisingly, Symone took to that like a fish to water. Ironically, the theme was Girls for President, and now she’s working on a real presidential campaign. Symone is doing big things. She’s going to matter.”

And what message will Sanders deliver the next time she has a chance to visit her hometown Girls Inc.?

“Be smart. Be strong. Be bold,” she said in echoing the nonprofit’s tagline. “You can do anything you set your mind to. Anything. Omaha needs you. The world needs you.”

Donna Burns covered a lot of stories from that kitchen in north Omaha, but it looks like she missed the most important one. Now her creator would be the interview of a lifetime for the ace reporter.


Morton Meadows

August 30, 2013 by
Photography by Keith Binder

The buttery smell of popcorn hits the same time a wave of warm air does. Coaches, players, and spectators shuffle down tiled stairs to the semi-subterranean gym. It’s the same oversized subway tile that lines the wall and floors of most schools built earlier in the last century. A few worn bills are exchanged for entrance into the gym. Pony-tailed girls in (often ill-fitted) basketball uniforms shout and shoot hoops, laughing and screeching to their teammates. Volunteers troll the bleachers selling raffle tickets for the “Shoot for the Loot” halftime free throw contest. Younger siblings hover around the makeshift snack bar, like bees to honey, while Aretha Franklin’s “RESPECT” blares over the P.A. system. It’s the annual Holy Cross Girls Basketball Tournament in all its glory—an ongoing tradition steeped in history. Just like its neighborhood.


Holy Cross Catholic Church and school, along with Mercy High School, Beals Elementary, and Bethel Lutheran Church, are anchors of the Morton Meadows neighborhood. These strong neighborhood institutions, along with its housing stock, are what drew Amy Haase, her husband, Dan, and their two children to the area. Haase, who serves as the neighborhood association’s president, says that Morton Meadows’ tree-lined streets, wide boulevards, and varied architectural styles imbue the area with old-time charm.

The neighborhood was founded in the 1920s as a “western suburb” by Robert Messersmith with development beginning in 1922 and ending in 1945. Thoroughfares 42nd Street and 48th Street serve as its eastern and western borders, respectively, and it extends to Leavenworth Street to the north and Center Street to the south.


Morton Meadows was fashioned according to the garden city movement of urban development. Originating in Great Britain in 1898, garden city developments were communities incorporating “greenbelts,” or tracks of land designated as wilderness areas. These tended to be linear in nature and essentially served as mini-wildlife sanctuaries in otherwise urban areas. Following the heels of the Industrial Revolution, disciples of the garden city movement sought to infuse a little bucolic bliss into the lives of city dwellers, improving air quality in urban areas and affording residents access to nature.

That was Messersmith’s intent nearly 100 years ago. Flash-forward to today, and the greenbelts are still one of Morton Meadows’ most attractive features. Three separate gardens areas add color and charm along Twinridge Boulevard. Barb Wilson, a Morton Meadows resident since 1982, volunteers with the neighborhood association’s beautification committee. The committee maintains these Twinridge gardens. Volunteers plant annuals every spring at the Identity Garden at 44th and Woolworth Avenue. Several years ago, grant monies funded the planter containing perennials situated at Twinridge and Pine. Neighbors wishing to spruce up the island at 45th and Center donated several bushes, perennials, and grasses.


This level of involvement is typical of Morton Meadows residents, says Wilson. “We know our neighbors and watch out for each other. Whenever there is a storm that leaves tree debris in our streets and yards, everyone comes out to help with the cleanup. The same with large snowstorms. Neighbors help neighbors get the driveways and sidewalks cleared,” Wilson attests.

Morton Meadows is “small-town” living in the city, or as Haase puts it, Morton Meadows has “a Norman Rockwell sense to it.” New neighbors are greeted with plates of chocolate chip cookies and loaves of pumpkin bread. Buckets of tomatoes and zucchini from kitchen gardens are shared during the summer months. Retired neighbors are surrogate grandparents to children across the street, offering baskets of goodies at Easter and specially reserved treats at Halloween.


“I think a good descriptor of our neighborhood is its friendliness,” and sense of community, says Haase. Individually, blocks host their own parties, closing off streets and stoking up grills for a night of barbeque. Residents along Morton Avenue host a small 4th of July parade. But Morton Meadows’ big blowout is its annual picnic. Originally held in the summer, last year the Boulevard Bash was moved to the more temperate September to accommodate older neighbors who remained at home because of the heat. It featured live music along with picnic fare and family-friendly fun.

Morton Meadows’ prime midtown location is attractive to home buyers, says Suzan Downing, an agent with Keller Williams Real Estate. And so are the homes’ architectural styles, which range from Tudor Revival, bungalow, and Colonial Revival. Home values have remained strong in the recently depreciated market. The average square footage of Morton Meadows homes is 1,850 square feet. Twenty-nine homes have sold in the neighborhood since January of this year, with the average price at $152,010 (as of mid-July).


“In Morton Meadows, you can really appreciate the scenery, especially from the half-story window as you look out over the multitude of age-old trees rustling in the wind,” adds Downing.

Morton Meadows’ beauty caught Patrick and Megan Falke’s attention when they were looking for a home in Midtown a year ago. “We weren’t terribly familiar with the neighborhood but immediately appreciated the personal feel of the area, punctuated by green space, active neighbors, and lots of small touches like the classic-style street lights,” states Patrick Falke. This “personal feel” stems from committed neighbors. “They are actively involved in making the neighborhood glow,” Falke has observed. “When you have actively engaged members of a community neighborhood, it becomes contagious.”