Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Antioch natives and Texas residents need help following Hurricane Harvey

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

Jesika Anderson’s home in Dickinson, Texas during flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

By Angelia Tant

Jesika Anderson was born in Antioch in 1991 and was raised by her mother Kelly Anderson in a little three-bedroom home on Parker Lane located off of Cavallo.  Her mother Kelly owned the home for over thirty-five years and sold it in 2016 to move to Arnold California.  Jesika grew up in this home with her mother and two sisters Jennifer Riley and Karissa Anderson.  Jesika loved their home and their small local town.  Jesika went to elementary, middle school and high school in Antioch.  As a child, Jesika loved to visit the Antioch skating rink.  She loved Antioch and always imagined she would raise her children here just as her mother did.  Jesika has two small children, a daughter named Adelynn age six and a son named Jaxon age nine months whom she raises with her significant other, Kevin Kennedy.

They experienced several strands of bad luck and moved from place to place including Arnold, California where her mother and sister resided.  Finding that stable work was scarce in such a small secluded town, Jesika moved back to Antioch where she secured a job at the Antioch Post Office.  They found a small home to rent but had to move due to the owners wanting to sell the house. They could not find affordable housing in Antioch, be able to pay for daycare for two small children and other living expenses.

This last stroke of bad luck forced them to move from Antioch to Dickinson, Texas where they moved in with Kevin’s brother. Jesika secured a job with the U.S. Postal Service and Kevin was working part-time and caring for the children.

They purchased a car and their luck seemed to be changing when Jesika received the heart-wrenching notice that Hurricane Harvey was on its way.  Eager to evacuate, Jesika was notified by the Post Office that they needed her to stay and work. She was asked to do a 13-mile route of deliveries the day prior to the hurricane hitting. Jesika was notified by her employer that it would only be a hard rain and not a hurricane.  Desperate to retain her employment, she stayed.

The very next day, Jessika and Kevin began seeing the floor in their home slowly fill with water which eventually rose past Kevin’s knees and he’s over six-feet tall.  As they looked outside, the car they had purchased was under water.  Scared with their two small children and other family members in the home they became desperate reaching out for help.  When the emergency crews came to rescue them, they went to the wrong house.  Still seeking help, they reached out to all their family members including the ones located throughout California and used social media to reach out for a rescue.  Frightened, they tried every resource.  Finally, Kevin decided to go and see if his brother’s car would start and it did. The water rose another three feet right after they left.

They fled to Webster, Texas and found a hotel room.  They had found shelter but they weren’t out of deep water yet.  They learned that the hotel was renting rooms out from under people to book other people who were willing to pay higher rates.

Jesika reached out to FEMA.  They stepped in and spoke with the hotel guest services and ensured a secure room for them until the September 26.  Jesika, Kevin, Kevin’s father, brother, sister-in-law and the two small children all shared a room up until FEMA stepped in.  They left with literally the clothes on their back and have only been able to purchase the smallest of life’s necessities, such as warm clothes and items for the children with small gifts of love from their friends and family.  Although every little bit of help is greatly appreciated, it isn’t enough to get them back on their feet.  They have a long road ahead of them.

For those who would like to help Jesika, Kevin and their family financially, a PayPal account has been set up in her name at

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Antioch singer, songwriter heads to Nashville for career in country music

Monday, July 10th, 2017

Allie Sealey performs the National Anthem at the KAT Country Listener Appreciation Concert in June, 2017.

By Allen Payton

This week, Antioch resident Allie Sealey is leaving for Nashville, to perform and record her own songs, and pursue a career in country music. The 2008 Deer Valley High graduate plays guitar and sings, and her following has been growing on social media over the past few years, as people enjoy her songs. Now she’s ready for the big time.

“Just a solo, one-man band going to Nashville, taking it on the road,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve been singing my whole life, and writing songs. But I started pursuing it professionally three years ago.”

“I was sent by Tiki Tom’s in Walnut Creek to an audition for American Idol,” Allie shared.

She also won some contests like the West Coast songwriting show.

Allie has also been mentioned in an article on the Country Rebel music website.

“It’s been one heck of a journey and I’ve really tried to go anywhere the music would take me,” she stated.

That journey has included playing in L.A. a few times this year, at the Santa Monica Pier, and causing her to sleep in her car at times, which she also mentioned with a laugh.

Allie Sealey sings, plays guitar and writes her own music.

As for what inspired her, Allie said it was her grandfather, for whom she was a primary caregiver for several years up until his last moments when “he passed peacefully in my arms, at our home,” she shared. “After my grandpa passed away it kind of catapulted me into this place where I saw how short life was, and I just wanted to do what I like.”

“I’ve written a lot of songs about him, since then,” she added.

Allie successfully used crowdfunding to pay her way to Nashville and record her first album, “in loving memory of my grandfather,” she said.

As for the most recent growth in Allie’s career, it’s thanks to social media.

“I got on Periscope recently, which is an online livestreaming application,” she explained. “I’ve been Instagramming (another online app) all I could. But someone suggested Periscope. I started out with no viewers, then I had 100 viewers, then 500 viewers. It was just growing.”

“I would play for 12 hours. My fingers would bleed and scab over,” said Allie. “My longest session was eight hours. People would give me requests and I would play them, plus some of my original songs.”

Twitter then featured her as an artist who was trending.

“It was my grandpa’s birthday. I had 70,000 people watch my broadcast live,” she exclaimed. “My following started to increase. Now, I have something like 13,900 followers on Periscope.”

Allie shared a story of an interesting coincidence.

“It was weird that my grandfather shared the same birthday as Ronnie Van Zant, the lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd,” she said. “Because they shared their song that I covered, Write It In A Song, on their Facebook page.”

At the time she chose that particular song to sing, Allie wasn’t aware of the connection between the two birthdays.

She’s 27 and has probably written hundreds of songs during her budding career.

“I’m finally doing what I’ve really dreamed of doing which is going to Nashville,” Allie stated. “This has been dedication and really persevering.”

“Anything is possible,” she added.

Allie will be driving to Nashville, performing along the way, sending postcards to her fans as she goes. She will be taking some tambourines and a harmonica with her on the trip.

But the most important instrument she’ll have is a Gibson guitar given to Allie by local rancher and rodeo star John Holman, the best friend of country singer Chris Ledoux – who Garth Brooks mentions in one of his songs. Gibson is a top of the line brand of guitars.

Holman told her, “When I’m in a rodeo I take my best horse. If you’re going to Nashville I think you should take that guitar.” And she is.

Allie has had other help along the way. Her mother, Tina Cianfichi has “been a big support,” Allie shared. Cousins Dominic Cianfichi and Gianna Cianfichi have also helped.

“It’s been a family affair,” she said.

Allie mentioned having “a couple connections out there, thanks to KAT Country radio.” They had her sing at their listener appreciation concert in June.

There’s also a studio lined up that Allie will be using, where she will be performing a song she wrote featuring the guitar, John and his ranch.

“It’s about perseverance,” Allie explained. “John told me three things in life necessary for success are ‘try, heart and guts.’”

So that’s the name of her song, Try, Heart and Guts, one of six to be included on an EP she will be recording.

Her goal once she arrives is to get management and possibly a record label, and of course reach more people with her music.

“More importantly, some of my short-term goals are to record, but also to play some iconic venues – the Bluebird Cafe, the Listening Room,” Allie shared. “To play at and meet with people who are doing the same.”

She’ll be living nearby the Bluebird.

“Like one minute away. I’m super excited,” she offered.

As for her future plans Allie said, “I don’t know if I’ll be coming back to California any time soon.”

“Mom thinks I’ll be back in two months,” she added with a laugh.

She’s a local girl, having grown up in Antioch and attended local schools including Jack London Elementary, Black Diamond Middle, as well as Deer Valley High

“I’m always going to remember where I graduated from,” Allie said.

To listen to her music, enjoy her videos and follow her journey, watch Allie on her website at or on social media by visiting, Periscope, or



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This year’s Relay for Life means something different for one Antioch woman

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

Members of the Cruising for a Cure Team at this year’s Relay for Life: Melissa’s daughter Malea, mother Brenda, Aunt Vicky, Melissa and her friend Crystal at this year’s event on Sat., June 24, 2017.

By Allen Payton

The annual Relay for Life fundraiser in Antioch for the American Cancer Society was dedicated to a six-year-old boy, whose nickname is Squishy and was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer when he was just three. During the Opening Ceremonies on Saturday morning it was announced that the Antioch effort had already raised $30,000.

This is Melissa Warren’s third time at the annual 24-hour event. But this year is different, because one year ago today she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, which has spread to her bones. So she’s designated as a fighter, as well as a survivor.

Melissa’s husband Dave, Melissa and daughter Malea “cruising” around the Deer Valley High School track on Saturday, June 24th.

Her aunt Vicky Galloway has been participating in the Relay for years and started the Cruise for a Cure team. Not only do the “cruise” around the track, the effort raises money for her team by organizing an actual sea cruise every year and a half on Carnival Cruise Lines, with the help of Tammy Larsen of Almost There Travel.

Carnival pays a per cabin donation to the Antioch Relay for Life. The last cruise was a Halloween themed cruise on Oct. 30, 2016 and raised $2,430 for Vicky’s team, for this year’s relay.

“The money that’s raised here goes toward helping people in Antioch,” Vicky explained.

Her team’s effort isn’t benefiting Melissa’s battle, directly. But Melissa said “when I first found out I have breast cancer I received a check to help with rent from the American Cancer Society. So, it’s all connected.”

Melissa’s treatment for her cancer has included targeted radiation to her right femur, and just last month a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, at the same time. Melissa said she spent a week in the hospital and is still recovering. She is to have bimonthly scans to check and see if the cancer appears in any other area.

Joining Vicky and Melissa on Saturday were Melissa’s mom, Brenda Adams, and her daughter Malea and friend Crystal and other friends and family. They along with the other teams will be walking on the track until 10 am Sunday morning at the Deer Valley High School football stadium.

If you would like to attend Vicky and Melissa’s cruise to benefit next year’s Relay for Life, the next one is planned for May, 2018. The cruise will be in the Mexican Riviera for seven nights for as little as $677.25 per person. Call Almost There Travel at 925-238-0001 or stop by their office at 506 W. 2nd Street in Antioch’s historic, downtown Rivertown.

Let’s pray for the complete healing for Melissa and other cancer fighters in Antioch.

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Antioch fitness trainer competes on American Ninja Warrior “by accident”

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

Anthony Trucks competes on American Ninja Warrior on Sunday, June 12, 2017. Photo from Christina Trucks’ Facebook page.

Anthony Trucks. Photo from his Facebook page.

Qualifies for next round to air July 24

By Luke Johnson

If you aren’t into basketball and were watching TV on Monday night, June 12, you might have seen a familiar face. Without telling him, Anthony Trucks’ wife signed him up for NBC’s hit competition show American Ninja Warrior.

“This was accidental,” Trucks said. “My wife started filling out the application without me knowing.”

Trucks finished in 10th place out of 135 competitors in the regional qualifier that aired the same night the Golden State Warriors clinched the NBA Championship, but still reached over five million viewers. Trucks was one of 30 to move onto the next round which will broadcast July 24.

“My wife pushes me into doing a bunch of things because she knows I’m capable of doing them,” Trucks said. “Not that I don’t think I’m capable, but she always has the desire to see me do well – which is awesome.”

Trucks is a locally renowned owner of Trucks Training gym, as well as an author, speaker and former football player.

He recorded 99 tackles and 11 sacks his senior year at the University of Oregon. His 15 sacks in a single season at Antioch High School (Class of 2002) is the third most in school history despite missing three games. He then played on the practice squads in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

To prepare for the show, Trucks trained at APEX NorCal in Concord – which is self-labeled the “Parkour and Ninja Warrior Gym.” It is owned by Alan Connealy who has appeared on American Ninja Warrior several times.

“I went there because it’s not your typical kind of training,” Trucks said. “Overall, I worked on grip strength stuff, and hanging from obstacles and tried to cut some weight.”

Trucks was the heaviest contestant to advance in the regional qualifier at 225 pounds. “This truck has no breaks,” he said during his preview on the show.

To watch his performance on the June 12th episode, click here. To watch the complete episode of the Los Angeles regional final, click  here. Then be sure to watch and see how he does and cheer for him on Moday, July 24.

To learn more about Trucks and his compelling life story visit

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Hundreds honor Police Chief Cantando at retirement ceremony, Thursday

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

Chief Allan Cantando is presented with a clock by Argentina Luevano, former Councilwoman & Mayor Mary Rocha, and Angel Luevano, for his service to the Latino community of Antioch. Photo courtesy of Argentina Luevano

By John Crowder

Over 200 people, including community members, current and former political dignitaries, and police officers from around the Bay Area attended the retirement ceremony of Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando, on Thursday, March 30th.

Beginning at 3:00 p.m. at Antioch’s Lone Tree Golf and Event Center, Cantando, surrounded by family members, and with his father listening in though Skype, heard how much he had meant to the Antioch community.

Captain Tammany Brooks, now serving as Acting Chief after the man he described as his best friend leaves that post, was the Master of Ceremonies for the event.

Brooks welcomed the crowd, then introduced the Antioch Police Color Guard, who presented the American and California flags for the pledge of allegiance.  Brooks then called on Reverend Robert Rien, of Antioch’s St. Ignatius Church, to give the invocation.

Rien, in an emotional talk that served as a prelude to many other acknowledgements of the impact that Cantando had during his almost 30 years of service to the City of Antioch, described how he had come to know Cantando over the last several years, and how close they had become.

Following Rien’s remarks, Retired Chief Mark Moczulski introduced Chief Cantando, who in turn introduced his family to those gathered for the event.

Representatives from California and State legislators, along with members of the community, then took turns honoring Cantando, and presenting him with letters of appreciation and gifts, thanking him for his service to the community. They included former Chief of Police Mark Moczulski, former City Manager Steve Duran, former Mayor Wade Harper, former Mayor and Councilwoman Mary Rocha, as well as former Police Crime Prevention Commission Chair Hans Ho, among others.

Chief Cantando, who will now begin a second career with Bank of America as Vice President and Regional Manager of Protective Services for the organization, closed the event with a final message.  In it, he thanked his family, friends, and his fellow police officers, emphasizing the dangers they face in their daily efforts to keep the public safe.

Cantando was the Chief of Police in Antioch for five-and-a-half years.

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Antioch Speedway to remember local legend Larry Damitz during season opener, Saturday night

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Larry Damitz #15 after one of his Limited Late Model wins last season. Photo by Paul Gould

By Don Martin, II

When Antioch Speedway opens for its 57th season of All Star Series racing this Saturday night, they will do so without Larry Damitz. During the offseason, we learned that he passed away.  On March 11th, many of his friends and family came to remember him at a special memorial service.  His three race cars were on display.

Larry started his racing career back in 1953 and competed or helped others at the race track every year since.

“I’m really not sure what got me started in racing,” Larry shared in an older interview. “I’ve always liked cars and I started working on cars when I was nine.  I’ve always been interested in automobiles.  Another guy and I knew of a Hardtop that was halfway completed, so we went over and finished it off and started racing.”

He was hooked.  He continued to race his Hardtop at the old Vallejo Speedway and Contra Costa Speedway in Pacheco.  The competition was much tougher than it is today.

“They had one class, and they had enough cars that they had a C Race,” Larry recalled. “Every car in the Main Event could win.  There were always some Main Event cars in the B Main.”

Winning seemed to come easy for Larry in Limited Late Models at Antioch.  At 87-years-old, he was still winning and was track champion for the fifth time in six seasons.  However, he paid his dues to get that first win.

“I didn’t win a Main Event until 1963,” said Larry. “Everybody that comes out here and they think in their first year they’re supposed to clean house and win a Main Event.  They race all year, two years, don’t win a main and they quit.”

By the time Larry was done with Hardtops In the mid 1970’s, his resume included three track championships and a win in the Chet Thomson Memorial 100 lap race.  He was second to Gene Dudley by just 8 points at Vallejo in the 1960’s.  The highly competitive Super Stock division awaited.  He was Vallejo champion in 1978 and Petaluma champion in 1980 and 1981.  For good measure, he raced on Friday nights in Chico when he could make the tow and won 11 times in 1977.

It was 30 years into his career when he started racing at Antioch Speedway.  He won his first Late Model feature there in 1984.  He broke a shoulder blade in a crash there in 1985.  After recovery time, he returned and won 10 Main Events in 1986, finishing second to Ed Sans Jr. in points.

“Back then, the configuration of this track was altogether different than any other track,” Damitz recalled.  “It was fun to drive.  It was a lot of fun.  They had it banked right up to the wall, and you had to run right around the wall.  I just wanted to come back and run on that track some more.”

Larry ushered in Late Models at Petaluma in 1987 by winning the first championship.  He then took on the role of crew chief for his nephew, Milt McGinnis, who won the next two championships.  He started racing and winning again after that, but he again took on a helper role with Jim Pettit II.  He let Jim drive his car at times in 1991 as Pettit won that Antioch championship.

“Winning the championship definitely wouldn’t have been possible without Larry Damitz and everybody’s involvement in the the whole Sundrop Racing Team,” Pettit recalled.  “I mean, there were no balks or anything about me driving their car.”

After that, Larry won another three Late Model championships at Petaluma.  Track statistician Harlan Osborne counted 58 wins just in a 20-year span at Petaluma from 1987 to 2007, and there were more than that.  As the current decade came around, Larry entered his 80’s with no signs of slowing down.  Why was he doing it?  He loved cars, he loved the sport and he loved people.  Winning was just the icing on the cake.

After finishing second to Mitch Machado in 2010, Damitz won five of the next six championships and two more at Merced.  Jim Freethy bears the distinction of being the only driver during that run to beat him for a championship.  He wasn’t planning to quit.  He would have turned 88 in May and had every intention of competing in his familiar blue and orange Limited Late Model once again.  He had over 60 wins just at Antioch, and estimates are that he won over 150 Main Events in his career along with 17 track championships.

The loss of Damitz hit the people at Antioch Speedway pretty hard.  Promoter John M. Soares raced with Larry for many years.  As Soares enters his 20th season as Speedway Promoter, he had a crew put a special monument to Larry where he used to park.  He was an inspiration to many.  It wasn’t just that he could still win races at that age, but because he was a genuinely nice and down to earth guy.

On My 13th, Antioch Speedway will hold the Larry Damitz Memorial Race in Limited Late Models.  This Saturday night, there will be a special Memorial Lap as Antioch Speedway opens with DIRTcar Late Models, Limited Late Models, Wingless Spec Sprints, B Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars.  For further information, go to

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Sal Sbranti honored as Antioch’s 2016 Citizen of the Year for Most Impact

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

Sal Sbranti, center with Antioch Councilwoman Monica Wilson, Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe, Mayor Sean Wright and Antioch Chamber of Commerce CEO Richard Pagano. Photo by Michael Pohl

At the annual Gala of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce, last Friday night, March 10th, Antioch resident Sal Sbranti was honored as the 2016 Citizen of the Year for Most Impact.

After thanking his “wife, mother, daughter, sister-in-law, brother and nephew” for being there, at the Gala, Sbranti said “Thank you, everyone for bestowing this great honor on me.”

“I’m up here, tonight because of Gordon Gravelle who sponsored me in the Rotary Club,” he added.

Upon retirement, Sal Sbranti joined the Rotary Club of Antioch and quickly became a leader of the largest fundraiser of the year, the annual golf tournament. As team captain with the challenge of enlisting sponsors and players due to his leadership, “Sal’s Super Stars” raised the most in donations and money.

After viewing a documentary, The Empowerment Project: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things, which documents the travels through America of a crew of women filmmakers on a mission of inspiring and empowering young women to identify and then pursue their ambitions, Sal presented the opportunity for Rotary to incorporate the documentary into a project at Antioch High School called Girl Power, which was an exercise designed to empower high school girls to aspire to realize their potential in choosing a career.

In 2014, the first two sessions were held at Deer Valley and one at Antioch High with a total attendance of more than 2,000 young women from grades nine through twelve viewing the documentary, listening to local successful panellists and answering the question, “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid to fail?”  The following year, the program was expanded to the middle schools.

In 2016, the Empowerment project work continues and is expanding to the middle schools and creating a male. In addition, Sal will be presenting the program at the Rotary Conference in Berkeley this year to help other Rotary Clubs to launch the program.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Antioch Chamber to present Citizens, Businesses of the Year, other annual awards at annual Gala Friday night

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

The Antioch Chamber of Commerce has announced the winners for the 2016 community awards:

•Citizen of the Year – Most Impact – Sal Sbranti

•Citizen of the Year – Lifetime Achievement – Leo Fontana

•Small Business of the Year – Rich McDaniel, McDaniel Financial Services

•Large Business of the Year – PG&E

•Non-Profit of the Year – Delta  Veterans Group

•Youth of the Year – Jocelyn Villalobos and Jacqueline Villalobos

The awards will be presented at the Chamber’s annual Gala on Friday, March 10, 2017.

Special recognition will be given to Antioch Unified School District for their continued efforts and successes. Posthumous recognition will be given to Karl Dietzel, and Ed Antrim in recognition of their commitment and betterment of the Antioch community.

Please see photos and details about the winners in the April issue of the Herald and on our website.

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