Anyone with a few years as a Cub Scout under his belt may remember being fascinated by the heroic deeds of ‘Scouts in Action’ in Boys’ Life magazine. A frequently featured feat was pulling others from freezing water after they’d fallen through thin ice. This is a skill firefighters must learn and practice every year when the weather is right. Last month, a group from West County EMS and Fire Protection District took the plunge at a pond in Queeny Park in Ballwin, which was frozen over, but not so much that anyone could walk or skate on it. It’s a sad story we hear all too often: Someone who doesn’t have water lifesaving skills gets pulled under trying to save someone else who fell through the ice. Firefighters already face freezing water every winter day, as evidenced by the thick coating of ice and massive icicles that fire hoses create in the aftermath of a fire.

Anyone who’s driven downtown from the Daniel Boone Bridge, the western end of Chesterfield, knows that it’s, well, far. If you go the speed limit, it takes about 35 minutes. Ben Kinsey decided to walk it. This might not seem like much of a feat for some folks, so many of whom have those annoying (OK, inspiring) ‘26.2’ or ‘13.1’ stickers on their back car windows. It might not be much of a feat for Kinsey, either, who runs and works out every day. But he didn’t used to. Kinsey lost 100 pounds this year to win a wager with his brother, and took the walk to make a point: Anybody who’s out of shape can work their way back, one step at a time. By 2012, he was tipping the scales at more than 300 pounds. Throughout 2013, he dropped down to 190, a good weight for him to go on the promised ski vacation with his brother. He’d already biked 27 miles from the Missouri River to the Gateway Arch, but the long walk proved to him that losing weight by diet only is a pipe dream. Yes, eating sensibly is critical, but simply waiting around for pounds to melt away is pointless. It takes work, emphasizes Kinsey, which means that dreaded, three-syllable word: ex-er-cise.

Just in time for the doldrums that follow the end of the holiday season comes a story that’s anything but feel-good, especially for anyone who has themselves dug deep for a Salvation Army kettle, added a few dollars to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital or supported any number of other charitable efforts for the last month or so. Because We Care, a county-based consulting firm that’s supposed to help charities boost donations, is headed by someone you could call a Scrooge. Prosecutors have charged him with helping himself to more than $30,000 from the business to pay his own bills. He’s also been charged with credit card fraud, to which he’s pleaded not guilty. He told authorities the expenses were justified in part because he “works from home.” Well, OK… but who’s he really working for?

[creve coeur]
Firefighters prepare for the inevitable. But some who had practiced ice-water rescues earlier in the month surely couldn’t have anticipated the real thing, so soon. The day after Christmas, a dog that had started across the ice to chase geese fell in and was struggling to stay afloat when responding Pattonville and Maryland Heights firefighters plunged into the waters of Creve Coeur Lake to fish him out. They took the frigid canine to an ambulance and warmed him up using a blanket especially designed for victims exposed to the cold. Firefighters say it’s not only a humanitarian thing to do, but dog rescues can prevent owners from venturing into icy waters in attempts to retrieve a beloved pet.

Kirkwood has lifted a moratorium on development at the corner of Kirkwood and Manchester roads that the city had put in place last summer. C’mon, CVS! The city had hoped the moratorium would allow a variety of other, shall we say, innovative ideas to come to fruition for the 12-acre site. One, a commercial northern ‘gateway’ into Kirkwood, was nixed because it could have required tax assistance and the exercise of eminent domain. At any rate, on one corner of the intersection will be a CVS pharmacy (regardless of whether the county could possibly need another one of those, or yet another Walgreens location). They’re cropping up like Starbucks stores used to, before that company pulled back during the recession. There will probably be a restaurant next to CVS, although the company has not indicated what it might be. Plans for the other corner sound spicy and fresher, if going on name only: Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market.

[saint charles]
Coco the pit bull is lucky to be alive, and her former owner is lucky that she was sentenced last month only to two days ‘shock time’ in jail. Though this is a sad story with only victims, one can question the judgment of a pet owner who puts her pet inside a cage in the bed of her pickup truck. Last May, cops stopped the woman in St. Charles after she unknowingly dragged the dog along Interstate 70. The kennel was ‘unsecured,’ police say, and Coco apparently got out, his leash somehow snagging on the trailer hitch. The dog was severely injured. The woman was charged with misdemeanor animal abuse; she told police she knew the cage had no screws to hold it together. The sentence includes two years probation and payment of an undetermined amount of veterinary bills.

St. Louis

[saint louis]
Looking for a way to ditch those lame resolutions you just made for 2014 for meaningful ways to guarantee a year full of challenges and possibilities? By soaking in the TEDxGatewayArch Conference, you might really get a jump on the year via a spectrum of speakers with unusual points of view that challenge your status quo. Now a global juggernaut, TED began modestly in 1984 as a California conference bringing together people from three disciplines: Technology, Entertainment and Design. Evolving from that was TEDx, a nonprofit series of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share unique, mind-expanding experiences sure to help in business and life. Speakers are supposed to deliver the talk of their lives… in 18 minutes or less. They don’t get the hook if they flop, but they are expected to share ‘Ideas Worth Spreading.’ The keynoter is Scott Ginsberg, aka The Nametag Guy, who wears one 24/7—a social experiment that has not only landed him in Ripley’s, but has helped him parlay his antics into 27 books touting ‘chutzpah and quirky individualism.’ A native St. Louisan who grew up in Chesterfield, he shares the event with fellow author Bill Donius (Thought Revolution: How to Unlock Your Inner Genius), sustainability expert Mary Ostafi and 14 others in an interactive environment that’s enlightening (and fun) by design. TEDxGatewayArch will be held Jan. 11 at The Sheldon. (Ginsberg even wears a nametag to bed.)

[town & country]
Cooper’s Hawk is the toast of the town in Town and Country. In addition to fine dining, the large space has a gourmet food shop offering everything from condiments to wine accessories. Fruit-of-the-vine fans, especially, have reason to celebrate the mid-December opening of this winery and restaurant showcasing varieties along the West Coast from California, Oregon and Washington. Producing 125,000 gallons annually, ChiTown-based Cooper’s Hawk (named for a hawk indigenous to the West), chose to locate its 13th upscale establishment, its second in Missouri, at 1146 Town and Country Crossing Drive; the company’s only other location west of the Mississippi is in Kansas City. Along with wine-of-the-month offerings, the wine club features special tastings and trips to legendary wine-producing regions. Cooper’s Hawk presently is touting a trip to the Bordeaux region of France, where many wines have an elegant nose that amuses the palate… or something like that.

[university city]
He’s a third of the way across the country from Washington, yet obsessed with goings-on inside The Beltway. Because he thinks everyone could and should be better informed about the political process, he produces Wake Up to Politics, a newsletter emailed daily—did I mention he wears braces? Gabe Fleisher, 12, a sixth-grader at Brittany Woods Middle School in U. City, used to send the newsletter only to his mom, then it went out to a few other family members, and now it’s taken off from there. He says he has more than 500 subscribers today, some of them in D.C.! He tries to work both sides of the aisle: While he hasn’t been fond of John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, he’s also had reason for frustration with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. That is, he wrote about his displeasure with both in a post during the acrimonious budget negotiations last fall when the government had shut down. In that post, he said he didn’t trust Ted Cruz (a Republican) or Barack Obama with the negotiations, either. Gabe’s road map? The U.S. Constitution. The colors of the rubber bands anchoring wire to bracket on his braces? Red, white and blue, natch.