US Sports Academy

Photography by Perri Farlow

Chair of Academy’s Art Committee Helps Through Artwork

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“I am thinking of a favorite day in my life. What were you wearing on your favorite day?” With these simple questions, Nancy Raia, art teacher, chair of the Academy’s Art Committee and Director of Outreach at the Eastern Shore Art Center, draws out stories of childhood, personal accomplishments, and simple pleasures from her class of adults, who have suffered memory loss and disabilities.

Raia uses affirmative memory techniques, such as avoiding the word remember, to stir forgetting minds until once-familiar moments become almost clear again. Paint brushes slowly fill in pieces of the past – a St. Louis Cardinals jersey worn to baseball games with his son, jeans ironed into straight creases again for her children, cut-off pants worm fishing the day after the Army finally set him free. Lives lived before Alzheimer’s. Before the stroke.

“I draw a line, you draw a line, and our conversation begins.”

“Nancy takes our people back to things they can remember, a time when they had clarity,” says Leisa Richards, director of Shepherd’s Place in Fairhope, a daily program that provides care and activities for adults with memory loss or physical needs. “They relax and their personality comes out. They show who they were before, when they weren’t fearful or insecure. Nancy’s art projects give them things to take home and display, and it builds their self-esteem.”

Photography by Perri Farlow

Photography by Perri Farlow

In addition to her work with memory loss, Raia also lends her talents to one of the Academy’s top committees. The group she leads at the Academy selects the American Sport Art Museum and Archives Sport Artists of the Year.

The 2013 honorees are two prolific and world-renowned Olympic artists, American sculptor Edward Eyth and Australian painter Charles Billich. The two were honored at the annual “A Tribute to the Artist and the Athlete” as part of the Academy’s Awards of Sport, held in November 2013 at the Daphne campus.

Raia is a natural artist, but majored in finance at Emory University and worked in banking, television, insurance and acting. While voluntarily teaching art classes at her daughter’s elementary school, Raia rediscovered her own creative roots and found her calling. Twenty years later, Raia was named the 2011 Art Educator of the Year for Special Needs by the Alabama Art Education Association. She is also an award-winning artist specializing in acrylic and watercolors. She designs her own line of uplifting pen and ink greeting cards and motivational products that are sold at the Eastern Shore Art Center and Private Gallery in Fairhope.

Raia’s creativity and contagious energy help her connect with any person, no matter the artistic skill or disability. She is an expressive teacher with a personality as cheerful as the yellow or pink shirts that she often wears. As she gives instructions, encouragement, or shares a story, it is clear that she sincerely cares about each person around her.

“I am a communicator first,” Raia said about herself. “I like to use art and humor to communicate. We all speak the same language through art, no matter the situation, illness, or disability. Art is about connection and showing that everyone has a story. I love to tell these stories and I lobby for people who don’t have as loud a voice.”

Each month, Raia and her volunteers teach over 100 children and adults with disabilities or chronic illnesses in classes at the Regional School in Mobile, The Brennity assisted living in Daphne and Fairhope, and Shepherd’s Place. They also teach art classes and art camps for children and youth groups such as the Fairhope Rotary Club’s youth program and the Snook Boys and Girls Club in Foley.

“Whatever the population is, Nancy is able to pin it down. It is her soul and she loves what she does,” said Susan Wright, Raia’s treasured volunteer assistant. “She reads a room and watches how they interact with each other, then makes adjustments. If there is a problem or hesitation, she immediately shifts to find another way to get their attention.”

Marion Peters, 57, is one of Raia’s students at The Brennity in Daphne. A former nursing instructor at the University of South Alabama, Peters has Huntington’s disease, a neurodegenerative genetic disorder that causes a breakdown of nerve cells in the brain and a decline in physical and mental abilities. “This disease is something that gets worse and it causes depression and high anxiety,” said Peters. “My penmanship is bad, but painting is something that I can still do with my hands. It makes me feel good that I did it.”

It’s that sense of accomplishment, the chance to let go of problems and express thoughts and feelings without the barriers of disabilities, that proves the healing powers of art. Helping people connect with their emotions and express themselves is Raia’s biggest reward.

“All you need for my class is a sense of humor, an open mind and a willingness to paint,” says Raia. “I draw a line, you draw a line and our conversation begins,” says Raia. “We share a lot together and at the end of the class I feel completely fulfilled.”

This story on Nancy Raia can be found in The Southern Rambler magazine. It is published here with permission.

Academy On-campus Alumni Association Reconstituted

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An organizational meeting of the new Alumni Association will take place at 10:30 a.m. Friday, January 17 in the executive boardroom on the campus of the United States Sports Academy. Future meetings will be held at the Eagle’s Nest.

There are 338 Academy alumni who live within 100 miles of campus, so the timing couldn’t be better to start a local chapter. To be considered alumni, a student must’ve taken a class through the Academy.

Future meeting dates will be announced.

AAHPERD Changes Its Name to SHAPE America

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The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) announced it will change its name to the Society of Health and Physical Educators, doing business as SHAPE America.

“We are now poised to move forward in creating a new chapter in our 128-year-old history with our new name, vision and mission,” said President Gale Wiedow, interim dean of the College of Education at Dakota State University in Madison, S.D. “A new logo, tagline and brand for the organization, as well as a new website, will be introduced early in 2014.”

Through the name change, SHAPE America is working to:

  • Shape a future where healthy is the norm,
  • Shape a standard of excellence in physical education and health education,
  • Shape the lifelong habits of young people,
  • Shape and influence policy related to physical education and school health education.

Shape America is the organization’s seventh name change since its founding in 1885, as the Association for the Advancement of Physical Education. It is the largest organization of physical educators in the country with close to 20,000 members.

Shape America created the first national standards for K-12 physical education, developed the “Let’s Move in School” public awareness campaign to increase physical activity before, during and after school and originated the “Shape of the Nation Report,” which reviews the status of physical education across the U.S.

Earlier this year the organization voted unanimously to unify what were five national associations and a research consortium under the AAHPERD umbrella. Among its many partners, SHAPE America works with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, American Heart Association, The Cooper Institute, First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

This is a pencil sketch of the final work by Daniel Moore in honor of the Game of the Year.

Auburn’s Last-second Iron Bowl Victory Named Academy’s College Football Game of the Year

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“THE RUNBACK” by Daniel Moore

The game chosen for the prestigious honor of the United States Sports Academy’s College Football Game of the Year wasn’t only a great game, but will most definitely go down in Iron Bowl lore.

The Auburn Tigers’ last-second defeat of the previously unbeaten and two-time defending National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide beat out a litany of nail-biting gridiron contests at the conclusion of 17 weeks of voting.

The now-famous runback of a missed Alabama field goal by Auburn senior Chris Davis with no time on the clock will be remembered for generations of college football fans to come and will be added as one of many defining moments in what is arguably college football’s greatest rivalry.

Everything leading up to the final play helped to make the game special; from Auburn’s vaunted running attack picking up more than 300 yards on the ground, to previous missed field goals from the Tide. The game was an instant classic and truly deserves this year’s distinction as the College Football Game of the Year.

The Tiger victory sealed a Southeastern Conference Championship berth and vaulted Auburn into the National Championship discussion. The win capped a marvelous comeback season for the Tigers, finishing with one conference loss this past season after a winless league campaign the previous year.

The honored game beat out other classics this year, including: Michigan State’s shake up of the BCS standings with a 10-point win over then second-ranked Ohio State and Clemson’s 38-35 win over Georgia to open the season, among many others.

Each year Daniel Moore, the American Sport Art Museum and Archives’ 2005 Sport Artist of the Year, is commissioned by the Academy to create a painting honoring the selected game and this year is no different. Moore has already begun the process by releasing to the Academy a pencil sketch of a piece fittingly titled “The Runback.” The piece will immortalize the Tigers’ season-saving moment, depicting Davis torching the left sideline of Jordan-Hare Stadium, untouched by Tide defenders.

The Academy, also known as America’s Sports University, donates the painting and $5,000 to the general scholarship fund of the annual winner, which this year will be Auburn.

A national panel of experts selects the weekly winner of the Academy’s College Football Game of the Year contest. Each week’s winner is considered for the award honoring the best college football game of the year at the end of the season. Last season’s winner was Texas A&M’s 29-24 shocking upset of Alabama in the SEC showdown.

The committee is currently chaired by Jack Lengyel, the former athletic director at the United States Naval Academy. Lengyel was also a college football coach.

Previous winners of the College Football Game of the Year contest are as follows: Rutgers University over Louisville, 2006; Appalachian State University over Michigan, 2007; Texas Tech University over Texas, 2008; Alabama over Florida, 2009; Auburn over Oregon, 2010 and Alabama over LSU, 2011.

Florida State Beats Auburn in Final BCS Game to Earn the Academy’s Game of the Week Honor

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Florida State overcame an 18-point deficit to beat Auburn 34-31 in the final Bowl Championship Series National Championship game.

The game that ended the Southeastern Conference’s seven-game winning streak in title game and gave FSU its third championship was named the United States Sports Academy’s Game of the Week for Week 16.

Trailing 31-27 to the Tigers, the Seminoles’ Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston threw a touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left to take the lead and the win. The pass ended an exciting series of plays in the final minutes of the contest.

After a 22-yard Cody Parkey field goal that put the Tigers up by four, FSU’s Levonte Whitfield answered with a 100-yard kickoff return that gave the Seminoles their first lead of the game.

Auburn’s Tre Mason added to the team’s 232 rushing yards with a 37-yard jaunt into the end zone to give Auburn a 31-27 lead late in the game, but Winston led the Seminoles down the field with just a little more than a minute left to score and seal the win.

Winston went 20-for-35 with two touchdowns through the air. The FSU ground attack gained 148 yards on 31 attempts. Auburn’s Nick Marshall went 14-for-27 with two touchdowns.

A national panel of experts selects the weekly winner of the Academy’s College Football Game of the Year Contest. Each week’s winner is considered for the award honoring the best college football game of the year at the end of the season. Last season’s winner was Texas A&M’s 29-24 shocking upset of Alabama in the SEC showdown.

The committee is currently chaired by Jack Lengyel, the former athletic director at the United States Naval Academy. Lengyel was also a college football coach best known for being the head coach who resurrected the Marshall University football program, as depicted in the 2006 film “We Are Marshall.”

Daniel Moore, the American Sports Art Museum and Archives 2005 Sport Artist of the Year, is commissioned by the Academy each year to create a painting honoring the selected College Football Game of the Year. The Academy, also known as America’s Sports University, donates the painting and $5,000 to the general scholarship fund of the annual winner.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal and South Korea’s Yuna Kim Voted Academy’s 2013 Male and Female Athletes of the Year

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The world’s No. 1- ranked men’s tennis player and the women’s world champion figure skater earned the United States Sports Academy’s 2013 Male and Female Athletes of the Year award.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal, who won the French and U.S. Opens, and South Korea’s Yuna Kim, who also won the award three years ago for winning gold at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, earned the awards decisively in online voting conducted worldwide this month.

Rafael Nadal is the Academy's 2013 Male Athlete of the Year.

Rafael Nadal is the Academy’s 2013 Male Athlete of the Year.

Despite returning from a seven-month layoff because of a left knee injury, Nadal won two Grand Slam victories, beating Serbia’s Novak Djokovic both times. The wins catapulted him to No. 1 over Djokovic.

Kim returned to the world stage in figure skating after a two year layoff following the 2010 Winter Olympics. The 22-year-old picked up where she left off earning the gold medal in the women’s 2013 World Figure Skating Championships by earning a total of 218.31 points. She won by a 20-point margin, which is the largest victory at worlds since the current scoring system took effect in 2005.

Nadal and Kim dominated the voting in the 29th year of the Academy’s Awards of Sport program. Online voting took place on the Academy’s website at www.ussa.edu. from Dec. 1-20 and was done in conjunction with NBC Sports.

Yuna Kim is the Academy's 2013 Female Athlete of the Year

Yuna Kim is the Academy’s 2013 Female Athlete of the Year

This year’s ballot included 12 men and 12 women who came from 11 different countries, including two athletes each from Jamaica and South Korea. The nominees represented a wide variety of popular winter and summer sports from fútbol to football and figure skating to skiing. Their performances stood out and provided some of the best highlights and stories in sports in 2013.

The Athlete of the Year ballot is the culmination of the Academy’s yearlong Athlete of the Month program, which recognizes the accomplishments of men and women in sports from around the globe. Each month, the public is invited to participate in the worldwide Athlete of the Month program by nominating athletes and then voting online during the first two weeks of every month. The votes, along with an Academy selection committee, choose the male and female winners monthly who then become eligible for the prestigious Athlete of the Year honor. The monthly winners are announced on the Academy’s website and in the online edition of The Sport Update.

In 2012, the Male Athlete of the Year was Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who successfully repeated as the Olympic gold medalist in the 100 meters and 200 meters at the 2012 London Olympics, and the Female Athlete of the Year was American tennis player Serena Williams, who captured gold in the women’s singles and doubles at the 2012 Games to become the only person to hold a career Golden Grand Slam in Olympic competition.

Finishing second in the Male Athlete of the Year category was Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi. The 26-year-old Barcelona player earned a record third Golden Shoe trophy, after finishing with the most league goals in Europe last season. The Argentine netted 46 goals.

The runner up to Kim in the Female Athlete of the Year voting was No. 1-ranked Williams, who in 2013 added two more majors—the French and U.S. Opens—to become the fourth woman in the Open era after Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Steffi Graf to win each Grand Slam title at least twice. Williams, who has 17 Grand Slam titles in her career, won 11 titles total this year.

The third place winner on the men’s ballot was Bolt. He flashed past American Carl Lewis into the world track and field championship record book by completing a triple gold-medal performance in Moscow. Bolt and the legendary Lewis both have won 10 world championship medals total, including eight gold medals. Bolt took gold in the 100 meters (9.77 seconds), 200 meters (19.66) and anchored Jamaica’s victory in the 400-meter relay (37.36).

Meanwhile, Missy Franklin finished third in the voting for Female Athlete of the Year. She claimed a record six gold medals at the world swimming championships in Barcelona. The 18-year-old’s gold medals came in the 200-meter backstroke, 100 backstroke, 200 freestyle, 4×100 freestyle, 4×200 freestyle and the 400 medley relays. She took fourth in the 100 free. Franklin eclipsed the women’s record of five gold that had had been shared by American Tracy Caulkins (1978) and Australian Libby Trickett (2007).

The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission sports university created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call 251-626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.

Academy’s 2013 Meritorious Service Awards

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Front row (L-R): Shari André (5 years), Secretary for Student Services, Becky Cochran (20), Admissions Assistant, Patty Wilson (20), Library Assistant, Debbie Neumeyer (5), Receptionist, Kristie Sheppard (5), Secretary of Administration, and Ina Kendall (5), Administrative Assistant for Academic Affairs . Back row (L-R): Leigha Bolton (5), Administrative Assistant to the President, Matthew Ellis (5), Coordinator of Student Information Systems, Dr. Timothy Foley (5), Dean of Student Services, Annita Alldredge (15), Director of Finance, and Dr. T.J. Rosandich (35), Vice President and COO.

Front row (L-R): Shari André (5 years), Becky Cochran (20), Patty Wilson (20), Debbie Neumeyer (5), Kristie Sheppard (5), and Ina Kendall (5). Back row (L-R): Leigha Bolton (5), Matthew Ellis (5), Dr. Timothy Foley (5), Annita Alldredge (15), and Dr. T.J. Rosandich (35).

The United States Sports Academy awarded Meritorious Service Awards to several employees at its recent Dec. 13 Christmas celebration. They were honored for their length of employment that ranged from five to 35 years.

They staff members included:
35 Years – Dr. T.J. Rosandich, Vice President and COO
20 Years – Becky Cochran, Admissions Assistant, and Patty Wilson, Library Assistant
15 Years – Annita Alldredge, Director of Finance
5 Years – Kristie Sheppard, Secretary of Administration; Ina Kendall, Administrative Assistant for Academic Affairs; Debbie Neumeyer, Receptionist; Dr. Timothy Foley, Dean of Student Services; Matthew Ellis, Coordinator of Student Information Systems; Shari André, Secretary for Student Services; and Leigha Bolton, Administrative Assistant to the President.

Congratulations!

2013 Toys for Tots Campaign Best Ever for Academy

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The 2013 Toys for Tots campaign resulted in the largest collection that the United States Sports Academy has had in its 18 years of involvement with the program.

The collection of more than 2,000 toys was made possible by the coordinated efforts of Academy staff and the Jesse Andrews Jr. Marine Corps League Detachment in Daphne, Ala.

Toys for Tots Pick-Up Photograph

“Toys for Tots is one of our greatest services to the community that we do among many other things,” said Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich, Academy President and CEO. “I am very grateful for all the gifts donated by the community to the children who need them during these difficult times.”

The Jesse Andrews Jr. detachment donated $1,000 to kick off the Academy’s 2013 Toys for Tots drive. The Academy used the money to purchase more than 200 toys and bicycles for underprivileged children.

The Academy and the detachment collected donations from more than 50 locations spread throughout the Daphne, Ala., area from Nov. 1 through Friday, Dec. 13.

Long considered one of South Alabama’s largest collection centers for the Toys for Tots program, many local residents, organizations, companies and schools dropped off their new, unwrapped toys at the Academy’s Daphne, Ala., campus, as well.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig Earns Honorary Doctorate from the Academy

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Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Bud Selig has earned a 2013 Honorary Doctorate from the United States Sports Academy for guiding America’s pastime to record profits and attendance and through the contentious “steroids era.”

Selig, who has served at the helm of baseball since 1992, received the honor Friday, Dec. 13 at his Milwaukee office from Academy Board of Trustee Jack Scharr, Fine Art Ltd. president.

selig cropped

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig (left) accepts Honorary Doctorate from the Academy on Friday, Dec. 13 at his Milwaukee office from Trustee Jack Scharr.

Early on in his tenure, Selig pledged to eliminate performance enhancing drugs from the game. He is responsible for overseeing and instituting several rule changes and penalties to cleanse the game from PEDs.

In the latest debacle this year involving a Miami anti-aging clinic named Biogenesis, Selig has taken a tough stance. He suspended 14 players for at least 50 games, including New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez for 211 games. The player suspensions are the most to be imposed simultaneously in the history of organized baseball.

“Major League Baseball has worked diligently with the Players Association for more than a decade to make our Joint Drug Program the best in all of professional sports,” said Selig in a statement announcing the suspensions. “I am proud of the comprehensive nature of our efforts.”

As the Commissioner of Baseball, many credit Selig for introducing revenue sharing and leading the financial turnaround of baseball. Baseball revenue overall jumped from $1.2 billion in 1992 to an estimated $8 billion this year.

The 79-year-old Selig is the ninth Commissioner and approved by MLB owners to say on until the end of the 2014 season. During his tenure, he oversaw baseball through the 1994 strike, the introduction of the wild card, interleague play, and the merging of the National and American Leagues under the Office of the Commissioner. He was instrumental in organizing the World Baseball Classic in 2006. Selig also commissioned The Mitchell Report, which concluded that the MLB commissioners, club officials, the Players Association, and the players all shared responsibility for the growing use of performance enhancing drugs.

Selig, a Milwaukee native and resident today, was previously the team owner and team president of the Milwaukee Brewers and is widely heralded for keeping baseball there. He purchased the Seattle Pilots in 1970 and renamed them the Milwaukee Brewers. The team went on to the 1982 World Series and won seven organization of the year awards under his leadership.

Michigan State Knocks Ohio State Out of National Championship Race to Earn the Academy’s Game of the Week Honor

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Michigan State rallied for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to upset Ohio State and knock its biggest rival out of the national championship picture.

No. 10 Michigan State came into the Big Ten title game determined to shake things up and it did. The Spartans rallied from a seven-point third-quarter deficit by scoring the final 17 points to defeat No. 2 Ohio State, 34-24, and earn selection as the Week 15 winner of the United States Sports Academy’s College Football Game of the Year contest.

mich

Michigan State scored the first 17 points of the game and then watched Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde & Co. run over the nation’s stingiest defense for the next 24 points.

But Spartans quarterback Connor Cook responded by leading his team to a field goal near the end of the third quarter followed by a 9-yard TD pass to a wide open Josiah Price with 11:41 left in the game to regain the lead, 27-24. Cook, who won game MVP honors, threw for 304 yards and three TDs.

Michigan State sealed its victory over Ohio State, which had the nation’s longest winning streak at 24 games, when running back Jeremy Langford broke free for a 26-yard TD to put the Spartans up 10 with 2:16 left to play. Langford ran 24 times for 128 yards, becoming the first player this season to top 100 yards against the Buckeyes.

A national panel of experts selects the weekly winner of the Academy’s College Football Game of the Year Contest. Each week’s winner is considered for the award honoring the best College Football Game of the Year at the end of the season. Last season’s winner was Texas A&M’s 29-24 shocking upset of Alabama in a Southeastern Conference showdown.

This committee is currently chaired by Jack Lengyel, the former athletic director at the United States Naval Academy. Lengyel was also a college football coach best known for being the head coach who resurrected the Marshall University football program, as depicted in the 2006 film, “We Are Marshall.”

Daniel Moore, the American Sports Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) 2005 Sport Artist of the Year, is commissioned by the Academy each year to create a painting honoring the selected College Football Game of the Year. The Academy, also known as America’s Sports University, donates the painting and $5,000 to the general scholarship fund of the annual winner.

The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission sports university created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call 251-626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu

Oklahoma State Grounds High-Flying Baylor to Earn the Academy’s Game of the Week Honor

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Oklahoma State senior Clint Chelf, who lost the starting job earlier this season, looked like the Heisman Trophy quarterback on the field against Baylor.

Chelf passed for a career-high 370 yards passing for three TDs and running for another as the No. 10 Cowboys dismantled the No. 4 Bears 49-17 in the Big 12 Conference game. The upset earned Oklahoma State selection as the Week 13 winner of the United States Sports Academy’s College Football Game of the Year contest.
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Worldwide Online Voting Begins Dec. 1 for the Academy’s 2013 Male and Female Athlete of the Year

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For the 29th consecutive year, the United States Sports Academy will name an Athlete of the Year in conjunction with NBC Sports.

Sports fans from across the world will decide who the most outstanding male and female athletes were in 2013 through online voting on the Academy’s website at www.ussa.edu/ballot/athlete-of-the-year. The ballot of 12 males and 12 females goes live at midnight Sunday, Dec. 1 and closes at midnight Friday, Dec. 20.
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