Fit Family Challenge, Part 3


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The Gomez and Ojala families entered the second half of the Fit Family Challenge armed with motivational support and a new way of thinking about meals and fitness. We checked in with them one last time to see how their participation in our Fit Family Challenge has motivated them to lead healthier and more positive lives.

GOMEZ FAMILY

Simple Steps Toward Better Health

Katherine Gomez began the 2015 Fit Family Challenge with lofty expectations.

She found a tasty-sounding recipe — shredded pork carnitas in the Crock-Pot — and headed out to the grocery store, determined to deliver a home-cooked meal that would put her family’s fast-food regimen to shame.

Then she remembered why so many of us often take the easy way out. It was already 9 p.m. and the grocery store didn’t have the pork shoulder she needed. They didn’t have the seasonings the recipe called for either.

“By then it was 10 o’clock,” Katherine says. “I got really frustrated and overwhelmed and I thought, ‘Forget it — I’m just going home.’ I was really discouraged.”

But her outlook improved the next day when she called Fit Family Challenge dietitian Tracy Owens, who suggested that Katherine think about five meals she is already comfortable preparing. A couple of tweaks to the Gomez’s Italian beef sandwiches (hint: leave out the bun) and the family was eating healthier.

Other simple adjustments followed. Katherine’s spaghetti got an easy makeover after she mixed in whole-wheat pasta and added veggies to her jarred sauce.

“Spaghetti at home is better than chicken nuggets and french fries,” Katherine says. “She reminded me that it’s all about progress. For some reason, I needed permission to have these regular home-cooked meals. I had this intention of it being Pinterest-worthy.”

By easing her standards, Katherine has taken a step toward cutting down the number of nights her family goes out for dinner. Prior to the Fit Family Challenge, they ate dinner out 80 percent of the time. Now it’s down to less than 50 percent.

But the biggest change has come in the mornings. Katherine now backs away from the McDonald’s drive-thru in favor of an easier alternative at home that 7-year-old Anthony and 2-year-old Andrew enjoy.

“Now we’re eating oatmeal with diced apples or scrambled eggs with ham and cheese,” she says, noting that her husband, David, is no longer drinking just coffee for breakfast. “That feels really good. Both of my boys will eat oatmeal, so I know they’re getting something that’s not a sugary cereal.”

A New Way of Thinking

As for the fitness portion of the challenge, Katherine’s progress has been slow, partly because she is dealing with plantar fasciitis. But that injury has had an unintended positive side effect. After working around the discomfort in her foot, she is now addressing it with physical therapy. And David, who was overdue for a physical exam, finally went to see a doctor.

“We say that our health is important, but we don’t really take care of our health,” she says. “This challenge has really helped us focus on our well being in general.”

All four Gomezes took part in the Big Muddy Challenge last month, an adventure race in Youngsville during which participants climb, run and crawl — and wind up wet and muddy along the way.

“The fun part is that we’re trying new things and enjoying that,” she says. “I’ve tried group exercises. I love to find a new park to take Andrew to in the morning, something new we can do. We’re keeping an open mind about activities.”

But getting into the swing of an exercise routine has been more difficult for Katherine’s husband.

“David is feeling overwhelmed. It’s a struggle for him,” Katherine admits. “This is a really busy time at work. He hasn’t joined the gym, but he is walking with us in the evenings.”

Katherine can’t claim any weight loss yet, but she can feel some changes.

“I don’t think the scale has budged, but my clothes are fitting a lot better and I’m moving around easier, so that’s a plus,” she says.

Baseball season is underway, which means Anthony is back on the field and David is coaching. Katherine and Andrew are enjoying a Stroller Strides exercise program for moms and little ones. The Gomezes haven’t just changed their ways. They’re changing the way they think.

“It’s been great,” Katherine says. “We’re taking inventory of what we value.”


OJALA FAMILY

Time — and Meal — Management

When it comes to maintaining a nutrition regimen, Stacy Ojala seems to have a grasp on one characteristic that trumps them all.

“Willpower,” she says. “We always made a menu for the week. When we would go out during the week, it was because we didn’t feel like eating what we were making. Now we’re sticking to the plan.”

And the plan seems to be working. Stacy looked at their habits and realized busy weekends were affecting their meal choices. The family was often outdoors or away from home on Saturday and Sunday, leaving no one motivated to cook at the end of the day.

The solution? Grilling out or preparing a meal at midday, leaving the evening open for simpler solutions.

“Now, if we’ve been out all day with the neighbors, we just come home and give the kids something small, and Ben and I eat something small, too,” Stacy says. “Sometimes it’s just cereal or cheese and crackers. That way, we’re not going out to a restaurant.”

This change in meal planning also helps the Ojalas manage their time better.

“If we went out to eat on a Sunday night at 6 p.m., we wouldn’t get home until 8:30 or 9 p.m.,” she says. “We would be rushing around getting ready for the week.”

The Ojalas have been trying new recipes, and organization has been a key. Ben works from home, so he often uses part of his lunch break to help prepare food. Interestingly, there has been no pushback from Julia, 8, Andy, 6, and Ian, 5, over the home-cooked meals.

“They don’t really care about going out,” Stacy says. “They’re fine being at home because it gives them more time to be with the neighbors and friends. They’re not the ones who push it as much as we are.”

Positive Perspectives

Now that they have a little more cash in the budget, the Ojalas want to double down on staying fit.

“We want to take the money we’ve saved by not eating out and use it for something like a trampoline park, or something that will be more active,” she says.

She admits there is still work to do. “But since we’ve started, every single night we have taken the kids on a walk,” she says. “We always take them to a playground. They’re all gated in so Ben and I walk the outside and continue to move while they play on the playground.”

Stacy would like to see the kids take the initiative for choosing ways to stay active, and Ian may have taken a step in that direction. He recently mastered riding his scooter, so now he tries to keep up with Andy.

For Julia, Stacy carefully presents the message of eating nutritiously and staying active. She knows girls in Julia’s age group are already aware of body image, so she has figured out how to make the point tactfully.

“It’s about feeling good and being healthy,” Stacy says. “I don’t tell my daughter, ‘I feel fat.’ I’ve been saying, ‘I feel better if I’m at a healthier weight.’ I try to talk to her about it that way, and I talk about how I’m feeling inside, rather than how I look outside.”

Like the Gomez family, the Ojalas participated in the Big Muddy Challenge last month. Fit Family Challenge fitness expert Evie Houtz attended the event to support both families.

“We would never have done a Big Muddy Challenge,” Stacy says. “(The Fit Family Challenge is) giving us an opportunity to try new things and share experiences with other people who seem to be going through the same thing.”

The Ojalas also credit Fit Family Challenge balance expert Gaye Esser with helping them steer clear of setbacks. Ben and Stacy tend to make big goals, only to get discouraged when they can’t implement several changes at once.

“Gaye has been really good about keeping us on track and celebrating small wins,” Stacy says. “It’s about accepting who you are and focusing on positive things, rather than getting discouraged and falling back into old habits.”

Kurt Dusterberg is a freelance writer who lives in Apex. He is the Carolina Hurricanes correspondent for NHL.com and author of the book, “Journeymen: 24 Bittersweet Tales of Short Major League Sports Careers.”


Register for our Fit Family Challenge through June 15 at myfitfamilychallenge.com and sign up for our Healthy Families e-newsletter at carolinaparent.com/newsletter/index.php.

 

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Calendar

December 2019

Wear your favorite holiday attire and dine with Santa Claus. Enjoy a delicious brunch, stories and crafts, and take pictures with the jolly man from the North Pole. 

Cost: $10/child. Free for ages 2 and younger

Where:
Joyner Park Community Center
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Girls ages 5-12 take their favorite doll and have a creative time together preparing for the holidays. Register by emailing llpolkhouse2@gmail.com.

Cost: $22/attendee, $20/sister

Where:
Historic Polk House
537 N. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Telephone: 919-676-6368
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See dancers and a guitarist from Flamenco Carolina perform a Spanish style of music and dance.

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Ebeneezer Scrooge was visited by three spirits, but what about the next Christmas? With heartwarming excitement, discover how the Cratchit family has fared in the year that has passed since old...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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The Durham Medical Orchestra performs with special guest Joseph Alessi, principal trombone, New York Philharmonic.

Cost: Free

Where:
Baldwin Auditorium, Duke University
1336 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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As a Christmas gift to our community and surrounding area, Wake Forest Presbyterian Church delivers the true Christmas story in a stirring virtual “walk” through Bethlehem to the stable...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
12605 Capital Blvd
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Sponsor: Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
Telephone: 919-556-7777
Contact Name: Meghan Reynolds
Website »

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Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

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The choir presents its 49th performance on Handel's "Messiah."

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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The first day of winter is right around the corner! Help us welcome the season by making a snow globe to take home. We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all ages (adult...

Cost: For all ages (adult accompaniment required for all children); FREE. Registration

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
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Telephone: 919-662-2850

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Children will enjoy this wonderful book written by John Denver reminding us not to forget about the wildlife this holiday season. We will make a craft then take a walk to look for our wildlife...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Join RTOOT as it performs the music of great Italian composers as well as beloved Christmas classics. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $9/adult, $3 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

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Dan the Animal Man brings some of his animals from his vast collection to entertain all ages. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Website »

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Help find candy canes hidden in Bond Park before the Grinch turns them green. Ages 6-12. Registration required online. Choose course #127871. 

Cost: $10/child

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC
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Website »

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Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

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Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Get into the holiday spirit by decorating cooking, making a craft and enjoying a holiday children's show.

Cost: Free

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Website »

More information

The Wake Forest Abilities Choir will present an evening of holiday music under the direction of director.

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Website »

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Celebrate pecans at the State Farmers Market.

Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Join us to learn about how Habitat for Humanity helps build houses, hear a Christmas tale and then build a graham cracker house of your own. Call to, 919-245-2532. Best for ages 4 and up with a...

Cost: free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

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Is there a man in the moon, and is the moon made of cheese? Sip on some hot cocoa and listen to some of the stories people have told about the moon and find out if there is truth to them. Then...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for everyone, and adult accompanime

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Discover family traditions from North Carolina and around the globe. Create art, enjoy free access to Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism, and have a special visit with Santa.

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Art East Building and Museum Plaza
Raleigh, NC


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Bundle up and enjoy an evening around the campfire learning about creatures of the night and listen to Native American tales about some of our favorite nocturnal animals. Roast marshmallows and go...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Kids ages 5-12 enjoy indoor activities while parents enjoy a night out. Register online. 

Cost: $30/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Wear white clothing and play games, tumble and dance. Enjoy pizza, drinks and more. Ages 5-10. Registration required online. Choose course #127487.

Cost: $18/child; $28 for two children per family

Where:
Middle Creek Community Center
125 Middle Creek Ave.
Apex, NC  27539
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Friday, December 13, 6:00pm, at both the Millbrook and Wake Forest Campuses. Put on your Christmas jammies, grab a blanket and come out for a  festive night to watch the classic animated...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crossroads Fellowship
2721 E Millbrook Road
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Sponsor: Crossroads Fellowship
Telephone: 919-981-0222
Contact Name: Lorraine Entwisle
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Have some fun and make something great at the Clay studio (and parents can sneak away and grab a bite or do some shopping at Northgate Mall). Each kid will complete and paint a piece of pottery...

Cost: $18 per child per workshop

Where:
1058 West Club Blvd
Durham, NC  27701
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Telephone: 919-560-2726
Contact Name: Lauren Tannenbaum
Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Sing along with the band as they perform holiday favorites of Christmas, Hanukkah, the winter solstice and more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
, NC  27513
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Celebrate the love and joy that this season brings by creating art inspired by a Christmas tree. Register online. Choose course #126761.

Cost: $32/resident, $42/nonresident

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

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Give rugby a try. Take part in tag rugby pick-up games every Saturday morning at Baileywick Road Park, near the Second Shelter.  No experience necessary. All ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
Website »

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Our Reindeer Romp is open to the entire community and our Girls on the Run families. So join us! Celebrate as nearly 1,000 girls reach their end-of-season goals – the finish line is only the...

Cost: $30 - $35

Where:
Koka Booth Amphitheater
8003 Regency Pkwy
Cary, NC  27518
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Sponsor: Girls on the Run of the Triangle
Telephone: 919-401-6307
Contact Name: Jamie Botta
Website »

More information

Ages 5-12 make a picture frame for the holidays. Snack provided. Register online. 

Cost: $30/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Travel with us to Puerto Rico with books, games and arts and crafts!  Join the staff of ISLA (Immersion for Spanish Language Acquisition) for a fun filled hour! Best for ages 3 and up with a...

Cost: Free Gratis

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

One ticket admits the entire family to decorate a special gingerbread house. Supplies provided. Workshops available at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Allergy-free workshop available at 11 a.m....

Cost: $40

Where:
Family Preschool
4907 Garrett Rd
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: Family Preschool
Telephone: 919-402-1500
Contact Name: Sue Henson
Website »

More information

Family Wildlife Series: Holiday Habitat Helpers Saturday, December 14, 2-3 Attract winter wildlife to your backyard by providing or improving their habitat.  Create simple outdoor decorations...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us as we watch for meteors during the Gemenids Meteor Shower. Local astronomers will help us observe these shooting stars and other phenomena in the night sky. As a bonus we may see or hear...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Favorite Christmas songs are presented in authentic Nashville country style with dazzling guitars and fiddles along with soaring harmonies. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $25/person

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

See the choir perform beloved Christmas songs with guest vocal group AVANTE. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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