Tabatha Mills

Tabatha Mills

Tabatha Mills, Anchor/Reporter

Tabatha Mills is a Bakersfield, California native. She spent most of her childhood on a farm, in a ballet studio or on the basketball court. All three still hold a very special place in her heart. Given her basketball background she's very excited to now live in Lawrence, the home of the University of Kansas Jayhawks.

Tabatha attended college at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California. She majored in agribusiness and minored in agricultural communications, journalism, marketing, and theatre. After graduating she worked in the California rodeo system as a marketing and public relations manager. She then interned with the Tampa Bay Rays in Florida as an on-field in-game coordinator. After that, she found herself in front of the camera working as an anchor and reporter in east Tennessee. That was until that fateful day that she applied at 6News and knew from the first email she received from News Director Lindsey Slater that she wanted to join the 6News team!

Outside of work, Tabatha enjoys volunteering for various organizations whenever she can. She loves working with children and given her chipper attitude, they love working with her. She also enjoys the arts and all they encompass. From music, to movies, to art exhibits. There's a good chance you can find her enjoying something arts related.

Tabatha said it is her goal every day to bring a smile to someone's face. If you've ever spent 20 minutes with her, you'll probably leave with one.

In ending her bio, she had a few things to say. The first, something her father says to her nearly every day: "Gabba Gabba Hey."

The second, her favorite: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. You're playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." - Marianne Williamson

You can find Tabatha on Facebook here and follow her on Twitter here.
Following the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash last Thursday, many questions still remain. One professor at the University of Kansas hopes that people across the world will continue to seek answers to the questions and more.

On Thursday, Malaysian Flight 17 was allegedly shot out of the air while traveling over Eastern Ukraine. All 298 passengers were killed. Instantly what's now being called an "informational war" began.

According to CNN, currently the Ukrainian government is accusing Moscow saying a Russian officer shot down the flight. Moscow denies the claims and says a Ukrainian jet fighter is to blame. Pro-Russian rebels have repeatedly denied responsibility for the attack. However, nearly everyone has expressed one thing.

"If violence can be avoided it should be avoided at any cost. And whoever engages in violence that could have been avoided should be held responsible," said KU professor Mariya Omelicheva.

Omelicheva is a Political Science professor at the University of Kansas and Director of the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies. She hopes Americans will dig deeper into what is going on.

"Somehow the facts that the civil war in Ukraine has already taken the lives of almost 400 citizens of Ukraine including dozens of children, these facts are escaping the news," said Omelicheva. "As citizens of a democratic society we should exercise our responsibility and ability to have access to information and practice our critical thinking skills."

Omelicheva said the battle between the Ukraine and Russia is not new and has roots throughout history, but she believes the human aspect of that history is often forgotten.

"We should pay attention to much more and be much more concerned with lives of people on the ground because often times their life stories, the tragedies they experienced gets overlooked," said Omelicheva.

The bodies from the crash along with the black boxes from the airplane were transported to a city in eastern Ukraine this week for further investigation and to hopefully answer some questions.

"Your body doesn't tolerate temperatures above 104. At 107.6 all of your body systems shut down and within 45 minutes you can die," said Dr. Charles Yockey, a Pulmonary and Critical Care Specialist at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

According to, a non-profit group in Kansas City, Missouri, an average of 38 children die every year from heat related deaths after being left in a motor vehicle. In 2013, 44 children died. The total so far in 2014: 17.

"It's really a serious problem and very few people who end up with heat injury ever return to completely normal," said Dr. Yockey.

Dr. Yockey put it this way:

"A long time ago there used to be an ad with a fried egg that said 'this is your brain on drugs,' that's actually incorrect. That's your body with heat," said Dr. Yockey.

But it's not just a dangerous situation for children.

"Heat injury to both children and adults is very serious," said Dr. Yockey.

Dr. Yockey said as adults, our bodies are built to cool down in warm situations. Normally, it would take more than an hour before sitting in a hot car could potentially be fatal. However, that is not always the case.

"It can happen less than that if you're taking medications, or you have some kind of medical problem," he said.

That time is much shorter for children.

"Children, of course, are more susceptible because they have smaller body areas, they have less fluid on board, and they can get in trouble faster than adults," said Dr. Yockey.

From Dr. Yockey's point of view, any amount of time at any temperature is a dangerous situation for children in vehicles.

"It's like giving a teenager whiskey and car keys, it doesn't make any sense. It's never a good idea to leave a child unattended, summer or winter, because you just don't know what's going to happen during that ten minutes," said Dr. Yockey.

Dr. Yockey said do not attempt to sit inside a warm car for even the slightest amount of time for any reason. Again, everyone will have a different reaction to the heat and it could be very dangerous.

"You know you can't always help people as much as you want to. Sometimes you just want to fix everything and try to wave a magic wand and make it all better, but you can't always do that, but when you can do something just to just give them a little more hope, a little more confidence in themselves, that's really what I do it for," said Emily Smalter.

Emily Smalter is fairly new to town. She moved to Lawrence in the spring from Connecticut. As soon as she stepped foot on Kansas soil she knew exactly what she wanted to do.

"I wanted to get to know Lawrence, sort of on a deeper level and also see what I could do to help," said Smalter.

She began volunteering at the Penn House and Ballard Community Services. Agencies that serve the lower income community in Lawrence through case management, food support, clothing help, and rent and utility assistance.

"It's been incredible. I love all of our clients. I love everyone who walks through the door. Everybody really sincerely wants to do better and sometimes they just need a little bit of help, and it's really brave of them to ask for help," said Smalter.

Those at Ballard said Smalter does something more than help.

"Emily is great. She has a great sense of humor and she's also super intelligent. So beyond just being a staff member at Penn House she's a friend," said Kyle Roggenkamp, Director Human Services at Ballard Community Services

If you sit and talk to her, you can see why that is exactly the case.

"I know it's kind of scary to think about coming and asking for help. A lot of people they're sort of embarrassed but we don't judge anybody and that's the first thing I tell everybody, any kind of problem you have we're just here to listen," said Smalter

Smalter said she is excited to head back to school in August. She hopes to earn her master's in Social work at the University of Kansas and plans on continuing her volunteer work.

For more information about the Penn House or Ballard, click here.

For a list of all volunteer opportunities in the community, click here.

It's called Bike and Build. Here's the basic break down: 31 young adults, ages 18 to 25, from all areas of the United States, biking across the country, building homes, and spreading awareness about affordable housing. The group stopped in Lawrence to help with a Habitat for Humanity build.

"Ten weeks total time. The mileage I believe is about 4,500 miles although we've had a couple detours that have added some miles so I think it will actually be closer to 4,600," said Marah Holland, a student at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, Rhode Island.

The group started their journey five weeks ago in Providence, Rhode Island and they're headed all the way to Half Moon Bay, California.

"Going through Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, over to Ohio, back to West Virginia, then over to Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas to where we are now, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California," said Dylan Watson, a graduate of Miramonte High School in Orinda, California.

Translation, a very long trip

"It's been tougher than I thought, biking wise. I didn't expect to bike up so many hills and hurt so many days," laughed Sascha Steinberg, a student at the University of Pittsburgh in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Just how does one prepare for such a trip?

"I did a lot of track and field and a lot of running, but I mean there's not really any great preparation for biking eight hours a day. Like one day in Kentucky I was biking for about 14 hours in about 93 degree weather," said Watson.

Plus, don't forget they're building homes along the way.

"We have three days off throughout the whole summer," said Holland.

Even though Holland said the miles, the flat tires, and the pain are somewhat unbelievable at times.

"Last week we had three 120 mile days in a row. Yesterday was especially tough because we went through a couple roads that had a lot of glass and as a team total we had 48 flat tires," said Holland.

Holland also said the end result is well worth it.

"Housing is one of the core problems in our country in terms of basic health, education, economy, everything and I feel really strongly that getting someone into a house is a stepping stone for a much better life," said Holland.

When asked if they'd do it again, all of the riders hesitated just a bit but laughed and said yes. Next, the group will head to Nebraska, then Loveland, Colorado to build another home. Before beginning their journey, each rider also raised $5,000 to donate to various non-profits.

Every week you can find Sharon Gan-Yang at the Independence, Inc. computer lab sharing her computer skills and knowledge with any and all who stop by.

"I've been living in Lawrence for about seven years. I love it. It's a very wonderful place, a very warm place, and I thought what is better than to give back in a way that I know how and that's useful," said Sharon Gan-Yang.

Gan-Yang received her PhD at the University of Kansas with an emphasis on educational study. Given her background, it seemed like there couldn't be a more qualified person to lend a helping hand in the computer lab, and those she has helped agree.

"I have low vision and I have special software on my computer. I can't use a mouse, so when it comes to the fact that you have to use a mouse, you have to do everything verbally. So she'll come in and she'll help me find things and keep me away from the viruses and all of the fun things in the computer age, so yes very very helpful," said Athena Johnson, a client.

But to Gan-Yang, it's a two way street when it comes to helping and teaching at Independence, Inc.

"They're all lovely people, they're very friendly. A few of them have taught me things that I would have never imagined," she said.

For that reason, her time at Independence, Inc. is something much more than volunteering.

"It's a great way to give back to the community. It's a great way to make friends. Everyone should volunteer at some point or another," Gan-Yang said. "If you find what you really like, what you believe in, and I think Independence, Inc. does that. They really give back to the community."

Local officials are interested in making it safer for students and parents to walk to school and there are doing something to make that happen.

Right now, the City of Lawrence, the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department and Lawrence Schools are preparing to apply for phase 1 of the safe route to schools program.

German citizen Max Steig loves agriculture.

"I may be the 14th or 15th generation of farmers in my family," said Steig.

Which is why Steig signed up for the International Foreign Youth Program, a type of foreign exchange program through Kansas 4-H.

"It's very good for me now because I want to start studying agriculture and economics," said Steig.

Steig is currently staying with John and Karen Pendelton and is working on their family farm in Douglas County.

"He comes from a much larger produce farm than what we are and they're selling all wholesale. So he's learned a lot of the retail end from us. Our farm is much smaller so we handle things more hands-on rather than machinery like he would normally do," said Karen Pendelton, Max's host mom.

"The people here use a lot more handwork. I learned more techniques and it may help ours get better and maybe a little bit faster," said Steig.

As for the crops themselves, he's had the chance to grow something he didn't really even know existed.

"The only vegetable that I don't know about is kale. I never eaten it. Well, today, I ate it in a salad and it was very good, but I don't know about it and it's very interesting," said Steig.

However, Steig wasn't the only one who learned a thing or two during his trip to Lawrence.

"Actually, he and John are building a piece of equipment that will help us in planting in the next months to come so he's teaching us just as much," said Pendelton.

Steig said he will now head to St. Francis and a few other western Kansas farming cities before going back to Germany. As for that big soccer game against Brazil, he said he's pretty happy about the outcome.

On Tuesday, Lawrence City Manager Dave Corliss recommend a 2015 City Budget to city commissioners. In the budget is a suggested 1.850 mill levy increase that Corliss said is necessary to fund the city's baseline costs.

"One of our challenges in building the 2015 budget is the fact that our pension costs with the KPERS program are going up significantly, almost nine percent. Our healthcare costs are growing. We've had some salary growth. So we are asking for a mill levy increase to balance the budget in 2015," said Corliss.

That mill levy increase would also help fund a number, of what Corliss calls, city priorities in 2015.

"We're going to continue to focus on street infrastructure. We're following through on the water and wastewater master plan. I am recommending that we hire one additional sergeant in the police department. We're following through with our commitment to hire a director of arts and culture as part of our arts initiative. I could go on, there's a number of initiatives in this year's budget," said Corliss.

For a few more hot ticket items, such as a new Police Facility for the Lawrence Police Department, Corliss said discussions on funding possibilities continue.

"That's one of our highest priorities in regards to capital items. The city commission will be making some decisions in regards to that and it looks like the city will be asking the voters in November to approve some type of financing for a new police facility," said Corliss.

Recent talks about the new facility have included the possibility of sales tax increase, a property tax increase, or a combination of the two.

Lawrence Commissioners are expected to adopt a final budget in early August after public comment.

With a $500,000 grant, the City of Lawrence and the Lawrence Arts Center are about to begin a journey to reconstruct Ninth Street in Lawrence.

"The City of Lawrence and the Lawrence Arts Center have just won the largest creative place-making arts grant in the country," said Susan Tate, CEO at the Lawrence Arts Center.

With a $500,000 grant from ArtPlace, the Lawrence Arts Center is doing what it does best, letting its artistic vision run wild. Only this time the art won't be inside the center, it will be outside.

"We are going to work with city engineers and artists and urban designers to redesign Ninth Street from downtown Lawrence to the Warehouse Arts (District) area," said Tate.

Nearly 1,500 cities around the nation applied for an ArtPlace grant. The Lawrence Arts Center is one of 55 finalists. Tate said she believes it is all due to the unique nature of the project.

"Of how are we going to use arts and culture to illuminate what makes Lawrence distinctive. Our project is called the Free State Boulevard project," said Tate.

One way to illuminate, as Tate said, is to bring together artists in different professions for the project such as engineers and muralist.

"There's such a fulfilling experience because the artist sees inside a world that they know very little about, and the engineer is exposed to a way of looking and experiencing something that they have little or unfamiliar territory. It's that component that really speaks to the broad nature of really what being a human being in our environment is, looking at it from all different aspects," said Tristan Surtees, a collaborating artist with the company Sansfacon, who is working on the Ninth Street project.

Surtees said with the unique nature of those partnerships, the Ninth Street project is bound to meet all expectations and more.

"Because they're so different in kind of left brain, right brain thinking. The way that they approach things is so different. It makes such a complimentary situation," said Surtees.

The final price tag on the project is expected to exceed the grant amount. Tuesday night Lawrence commissioners will decide whether or not to place the remainder of the cost on the City's Capital Improvement Program for 2016, which is when construction on the project is expected to begin.

For the last four years, the Sandefur family has dedicated their time to helping homeless families in Lawrence.

"We just wanted a way that we could all serve together as a family. I started looking into things and found Family Promise and just we have fell in love with the organization," said Ashley Sandefur.

Family Promise is a community organization that provides safe shelter, food, counseling, and training to homeless children and their families. The organization partners with local communities of faith. According to their website, Family Promise is “designed to address the needs of families and equip them to move into permanent housing as quickly as possible."

Together the Sandefur family prepares meals, plays, and just spends time with families in Family Promise.

"I like to know that we're helping other people and that we're making them feel good," said Harper Sandefur.

"Just every time you're there it could change people's lives with just love and stuff," said Colin Sandefur.

For this family, volunteering in their community is something they hold dear.

"It's just important to serve," said Ashley Sandefur.

It's a time to have fun and make memories.

"Like once we were playing basketball with the kids and it just made me really happy," said Colin Sandefur.

And it's also a time to love and care.

"It's not only helping other people, it's really fun to go and hangout and meet new kids and play with them. There are a lot of babies there so if you like to babysit or hangout or play with little ones, I just think it's really fun and at the same time you're making a difference," said Harper Sandefur.


Page 1 of 22