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MEDFORD, Ore., — Do you have gently-used coats hanging in the closet that are never worn? Kids in Southern Oregon need those coats to keep them warm during the coming cold and wet weather.

The cooler temperatures are on their way and NewsWatch12 wants to make sure local children are ready for them.  NewsWatch 12, Windemere and a variety of other businesses are teaming up for the annual Coats For Kids campaign.

This year’s Coats for Kids drive runs  through October 24th.  Click here for a full list of drop off locations.

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MEDFORD, Ore.– As North Medford High School kicks off a new year, they are also met with heartbreaking news. Oregon Director of Sparrow Clubs, Matt Sampson, said the sparrow the school fought for twice, Jared Rameriz-Ponce, passed away.

Matt said, “You became part of his legacy and I know Jared made an impact on all of your lives.”

This year, Sparrow Clubs in Oregon is expanding by adding another director to launch clubs year-round in Central Oregon. The new hire made his way to Southern Oregon for training, but he has already taken flight.

The new director, Michael Leeland, told the students at North Medford, “I am here to empower you, to encourage you to make a difference in someone else’s life.

This is exactly how Sparrow Clubs was initially started. In 1992, there was an infant in desperate need. Nine month old Michael Leeland would have died without a $200,000 surgery. A 7th grader, Dameon Sharkey was willing to help.

Michael Leeland said, “He was the most picked on kid in that school. Even so, Dameon gave his whole life savings, $60 to his teacher, Jeff Leeland; Michael’s dad.

Leeland said Dameon was just a kid, doing what he thought was right. He said, “It sparked a level of compassion that he couldn’t have dreamed of.”

Dameon’s classmates, and Jeff’s students at the Seattle-Area junior high, all stepped up to help. Jeff’s $60 donation, quickly turned into $40,000. It was enough to help save Michael’s life, and launch Sparrow Clubs; which in turn saved hundreds more.

Today, the lesson Dameon taught, lives on.

Michael Leeland said, “One person, one person; it only takes one person to make a change in someone’s life.”

A lesson that Sparrow Clubs’ newest employee, Michael Leeland, the baby who inspired Sparrow Clubs, can now credit for his life a healthy adult.

He said, “If it wasn’t for one person who decided to stand up and make a difference, and decided to step in to make a difference, then I wouldn’t be here right now.”

Now just hired by Sparrow Clubs, to make that difference himself, Michael Leeland said, “I felt like it was a chance for me to pay it forward in a way, and continue to carry on Dameon’s legacy.”


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A weak cold front is pushing through Monday evening, and that means a good bit of cloud cover and a few spotty showers Monday night.  By Tuesday afternoon, temperatures will be a couple of degrees cooler than Monday, but temperatures take a nose dive Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

In portions of northern California and east of the Cascades, we will be seeing lows anywhere from 25 to 35 degrees…those are some of the coldest temperatures of the season.  This is cause for a freeze watch that goes into effect for the aforementioned locations at 11 PM Tuesday until 8 AM Wednesday.  Temperatures will be coldest near valley floors, as a temperature inversion will set up and keep things a bit warmer slightly aloft.

Dare I say, “enjoy the cold?”  That’s because temperatures will be on a quick trip to the middle 80′s by the end of the week in both the Rogue Valley and northern California.  High pressure builds in behind Monday’s cold front, which means lots of sunshine to help daytime highs climb.  Offshore flow is in the cards for the coast, so we will be expecting 70′s for highs through Thursday.

For more information, or to send me you weather pictures, head over to Facebook or Twitter.

Chief Meteorologist Kate McKenna

mt ashland dryASHLAND, Ore. — Mount Ashland is revealing the results of their recent ski survey. The survey had 1,200 responses telling mountain management what they want to see over the next 50 years.

Some want to see longer runs and faster lifts, others focused inside the lodge, calling for better food, a bigger bar, and more lodging.

“Rome wasn’t rebuilt in a day, there is still a lot of work to be done, you know, having clear results in the survey will help us put a better path forward on what we are going to do to make the experience better for all of our users,” said Jamie Schectman, the Interim Marketing Director of Mt. Ashland.

Mount Ashland management is also implementing new programs this year like $99 Carload Mondays, to boost revenue. Tuesday is the last day to buy discounted season passes. People can purchase those online or at the Mt. Ashland office.

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WHITE CITY, Ore. — The VA Domiciliary’s director in White City finally responded to NewsWatch 12′s request for an interview Tuesday. Veterans are getting a chance to say what they want about the care they are receiving at the White City Dom.

NewsWatch 12 was at the town hall meeting last Friday where veterans say they were blocked from speaking to the media. Veterans living at the White City Rehabilitation Center are required to sign a form before talking to the media. Director of the White City VA Dom Don Burman said these forms were available at the meeting that took place last Friday.

“We’ll continue to look at that policy and see if it makes sense we want to protect the veteran and the veterans rights we want to protect their privacy we don’t want to restrict our press,” Burman said.

However, while NewsWatch 12 was at the VA on Friday, the VA said those forms were not available at the meeting.

Since the story first aired on Friday, frustrated veterans and their family members have been contacting us and sharing their stories.

Allen Ehr is one of many veterans who is dealing with frustrations right now. He went to five VA meetings last week and says he doesn’t agree with veterans having to sign a form to speak to the media.

“If you do not sign the waiver you do not get to speak,” Ehr said.

Burman said the reason it uses these forms is to release the VA of liability when veterans speak about their experiences.

“If a veteran was going to be on camera and discuss personal health information, we called it PHI, then we would ask that they would fill out a waiver if you will indicating that they’re going to talk about it and we do that from a legal perspective,” Burman said.

The Portland and Roseburg VA facilities say their town halls are meant to be open forums. They offered a seating section for people who did not want to be on camera and knew the media would respect those wishes.

Veteran’s affairs leaders across the state and even at the regional level say they were shocked to hear that it was handled differently in White City. Many veterans were also surprised to have been told by the VA that they only had three minutes each to tell a life time of experiences with the VA.

Veterans who did not make it to last week’s town hall meeting or for the many who felt they were not heard, you can share your story online here. VA officials on the national level said they really do want to hear from everyone.

SOU Retrenchment Final

ASHLAND, Ore. — Despite a tough last year, Southern Oregon University is seeing some of the highest enrollment numbers in the school’s history.

Students returned to campus today for events, and the first day of classes.

SOU’s welcome week is underway and began with a meet Ashland event in front of the union. The university will also have an outdoor activity fair, and a welcome back bash this week. Students and staff also welcome new university president, Dr. Roy Saigo. While official enrollment numbers have not been released, staff is optimistic about student growth.

“Enrollment is actually looking pretty good. We were forecasted to be down a little bit and the preliminary numbers show that we might be up a little bit more than we expected,” said Lisa Garcia-Hanson.

Enrollment administrators also say the university had the most freshman applications in the school’s history this fall.

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Police are on the search for the person responsible for two burglaries on Table Rock Road. The burglaries happened just hours apart and are just blocks away from each other.

Medford Police said it already heavily patrols the area, but officers are on even higher alert looking for anything suspicious.

Neighbors in the area say this isn’t the first time burglaries have happened. They are making sure their doors are locked, and are also on guard. The first of the two burglaries happened in the Southernaire Apartments.

The burglar broke in the back door and stole several electronics including an iPad and an Xbox. The second burglary happened just down the road in a mobile home park.

This time the burglar broke into a storage shed, stealing some more electronics and tools.

“Typically what we see is these thieves using this property to turn quickly so they can exchange it for drugs or cash,” said Lt. Mike Budreau with Medford Police.

Police believe the suspect lives in the area, and think it is likely that he could strike again. They are asking everyone to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.  They also said it’s a good idea to write down the serial number of your electronics. This way there is a higher chance of recovery if they’re stolen.


ASHLAND, Ore. — Since the 1950′s Ashland High School has crowned a homecoming kind and queen, but in last weeks homecoming royalty ceremony, those titles were scrapped in favor of gender equality.

Sydney Norvell was chosen alongside Joseph Yanconelli and Jackson Richmond to hold the royal title.

“It’s pretty amazing. it’s always a good positive experience knowing that the student was body who you surround yourself with thinks highly and hopefully good of you,” said Norvell.

This year, instead of a king and queen, the three students were elected and could have been any combination of gender.

“The students decided that they wanted to crate a more inclusive homecoming and so they let go of the kind and the queen. they really questioned what the tradition was and why that made sense in 2014,” said Ashland High School Principal Michelle Zundel.

The change was made to be more accepting of gender equality throughout the school… something Norvell says is important to her personally.

“I think it’s really important that we have gender equality throughout the school, especially being a wrestler myself on the boys wresting team,” said Norvell.

While the school says the feedback was mostly positive not everyone was happy with the decision.

“We have hear from some of our alumni who really miss the king and queen, and were concerned about that change because change can be difficult,” said Zundel.

At this point, Ashland High School administrators and students do not know if this royalty selection process will continue in future years, but for next year, that decision will be made by the new student leadership class.

Flu Vaccine(CONSUMER REPORTS) –  With flu season around the corner, health experts say it’s best to get vaccinated as early as possible. The standard vaccine is now free, without a co-pay or deductible. but there are other types to consider, and one vaccine doesn’t require a shot at all.

Dr. Orly Avitzur with Consumer Reports says  “the vaccine prevents illness about 80 percent of the time for those under 60 and about half the time for those over 65. But even if you do get sick after the vaccine, your symptoms are usually milder.”

For the broadest protection, Consumer Reports says consider the new quadrivalent vaccine over the standard trivalent type.

Dr. Avitzur  says “The trivalent vaccine protects against three strains of the flu virus, and the
quadrivalent vaccine protects against four. But if that one isn’t covered under your insurance policy, you’ll have to pay about 38 dollars out of pocket.”

For children ages 2 to 8, the FluMist spray is better protection than a shot. They may need a second dose a month later. There are also some limitations.  “The nasal spray is made of a weakened but still active live virus. So it  shouldn’t be given to people with a poor immune system or their caregivers, pregnant women, or anyone over 50″ says Dr. Avitzur.

If you do feel the flu coming on, ask your doctor within the first day or two about prescribing anti-viral drugs. Consumer Reports says if taken early, drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza can ease flu symptoms and reduce complications like pneumonia.

You can get a list of places offering flu vaccines by going to the website Click on the tab “getting vaccinated” and type in your zip code. To make sure they have  the vaccine you want, you may want to call ahead.


Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Drug Take Back

JACKSON COUNTY, Ore. — Hundreds of pounds of prescription drugs are now out of Southern Oregon medicine cabinets.

It was all part of a nationwide “Drug Take Back” effort that happened on Saturday.

As part of the event, Medford Police, Grants Pass Department of Public Safety and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office collected unwanted or expired prescription pills. They said the goal is to prevent them from getting into the wrong hands.

In all, Medford Police said it collected nearly 210 pounds of drugs, Grants Pass Department of Public Safety collected almost 384 pounds of drugs, and the Sheriff’s Office collected 50 pounds.

You can drop off unwanted or expired prescriptions throughout the year. There is a bin set up inside the Medford Police Department and the in the lobby of the Sheriff’s Office.

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