“I was born at St. Mary’s Hospital so my Huntington connection started literally at birth. My mother loved the clean hospital and the caring nurses. Growing up in Putnam County, my parents brought us to Huntington about once a week to eat at Jim’s. We didn’t have a lot of money so eating there was a tasty treat. Still to this day, my favorites are the ½ Ravoli & ½ Spaghetti, the Thousand Island Dressing and the Cole Slaw.  As we drove in and out of the city, I remember loving the brick streets and Ritter Park, dreaming about how I was going to live in this beautiful city one day.

Huntington always had a special place in my heart as I grew from a small child to a young adult. Some special memories include, traveling with my elementary class to the beautiful Keith Albee to see Mr. Slim Goodbody; continuing our family’s weekly pilgrimages to Jim’s; leading the effort to bring my High School Senior Prom to Huntington; and, shopping with by brother at Now Hear This, the MU Bookstore and other downtown stores the summer before college started.

It wasn’t a big surprise to my parents when I choose Marshall University for college. I was awe-struck with the stunning campus. I landed in the all-girl Buskirk Dorm and started upon my amazing journey. I quickly developed other city favorites like Marshall football games, Chili Willis, Calamity Café and the Huntington Museum of Art. Then on October 9, 1999, I met my husband. We were starry-eyed 19 years old who wanted to change the world and improve our state. Our mutual love of Huntington, Marshall University and West Virginia quickly bonded us.

I learned about the world in Huntington.  My first internship was at the Huntington Museum of Art, where I worked on the member magazine, learned the importance of the Arts and promoted various kid-friendly events. I loved my college clubs, like PRSSA, which focuses on advancing the public relations profession. I wrote for Marshall’s Parthenon, covering student clubs and activities. I worked with civic groups to encourage voter registration and civic engagement. I loved my experience at Marshall and in Huntington. I knew then that both had bright futures and this is where I wanted to live my life.

After college, I worked in Charleston while I also planned my wedding. On November 20, 2004, I had a Broadway-themed wedding at the Huntington Museum of Art and then a reception at the library at the Renaissance Center (formally the Huntington High School). It was all that I ever dreamed it would be. We quickly bought our first home in the Southside, near Cammack. We worked day and night fixing up that house and we loved our neighbors. We enjoyed walks and bike rides to downtown and to Ritter Park. While our professional paths took us to Charleston after four short years, our hearts clearly remained in Huntington.

Professionally, we had the amazing opportunity to travel across West Virginia and our nation, but we would always make time to visit Huntington.

Then in 2015, my husband and I were blessed with our sweet daughter Willa. We quickly started a college fund with hopes that she too will start her life at Marshall. Being first-time parents, you start to put things in perspective and consider your future as a family. It became very clear that we wanted to raise Willa in Huntington. We wanted her to grow up in the city that we fell in love with so many years ago. We were well aware of the America’s Best Community contest and we were thrilled when Huntington won. It was quite obvious that Huntington’s residents were truly building something very special. We saw the excitement when we visited, how there was a community effort underway to transform a city and through the new businesses opening and homes renovated, we could see what Huntington’s tomorrow looked like and we just had to be a part of it.

In #MyHuntington, I am showing my daughter the world and what it means to be a part of something bigger than yourself. My husband and I want to give her the experience of community, the sense of hope and the expectation that one person can make a positive difference if you believe, work well with others and aspire to greatness. I truly believe that Willa has her chance to shine in #MyHuntington and I am so excited to continue to write my life story here.”