Sunday, December 9, 2012

Celebration Wine

Wine getting ready to ship from Napa Valley.
Magical Moments Celebration wines make the perfect gift or addition to your holiday event!
Produced and bottled by Goosecross Cellars in Yountville CA, my first comment to share with you is…Yum.

Read on for the tasting notes from all four Celebration wines on sale at:

Order right away for your Christmas and New Year's deliveries.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Well Deserved Recognition for Mary Lynn Bennett, Music Therapist at the Madonna School

Mary Lynn Bennett is being honored as an Educator of the Year at the Archbishop's Dinner forEducation on September 20 at the Embassy Suites LaVista Conference Center.

Let me tell you a little bit about why she deserves this award:

Every day she works with the diverse needs of the Madonna School students. This is not the music classroom of every school...

Friday, August 31, 2012

Madonna Magic 2012

Magical Moments song by Jennifer Haase

The magic happens all year at The Madonna School & Workshop.
Thank you for being a part of our Celebration 2012.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Great Late Breaking News!

This week we’ve focused on the live auction items. It’s been fun, hasn’t it? So here we are only 48 hours from the event and I’ve got some great late-breaking news. 

"Is it that the 'Party!' Now includes a case of wine,

54 pints of Stella, a beautiful wooden cooler and more?"

Well, that is good news but not what I’m thinking of.

"Is it that the 'Coast with the Most' trip now also includes two tickets to Ellen?"

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Follow the link to enjoy awesome photos featured from the 2011 National Geographic Photo Contest.

National Geographic Photo Contest 2011

Then imagine #15 on the wall of your home or office.

See you Saturday :)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Any Football Fans out there?


Although we do have a few token items for the Hawkeyes and Fighting Irish in the crowd.

What we really want to know is, are you ready for Husker Football?!?!

August 25th I think we're going to make some people very happy.
Go Big Red!
Sat, Sep 01 Southern Miss Memorial Stadium 2:30 p.m.
Sat, Sep 08 UCLA at Pasadena, Calif. 6:30 p.m.

Sat, Sep 15 Arkansas State Memorial Stadium 11 a.m.

Sat, Sep 22 Idaho State Memorial Stadium TBA
Sat, Sep 29 Wisconsin (HC) * Memorial Stadium 7 p.m.

Sat, Oct 06 Ohio State * at Columbus, Ohio 7 p.m.

Sat, Oct 20 Northwestern * at Evanston, Ill. TBA
Sat, Oct 27 Michigan * Memorial Stadium 7 p.m.

Sat, Nov 03 Michigan State * at East Lansing, Mich. TBA
Sat, Nov 10 Penn State * Memorial Stadium TBA
Sat, Nov 17 Minnesota * Memorial Stadium TBA
Fri Nov 23 Iowa * at Iowa City, Iowa 11:00 AM

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dinners and Parties

and Dinner Parties...

Something to chew on...

  • A lovely dinner prepared by the sensational Italian Chef Patrizia Romansckyi, with the assistance of her charming husband Giorgio, in your home and served on your new Lenox Eternal China



  • How about a five course dinner for 10 people, hosted by Rev. Ryan Lewis and Madonna School Principal Jay Dunlap at Omaha’s famous Amato’s restaurant

Wait...wait... what about

  • Tussey’s casual grill hosts ten guests to enjoy an evening of wine tasting featuring wines of the Ermenegildo Leporati Estate of Monferrato, Italy

OK, maybe you're thinking, I have too many friends!  This isn't enough.
Then what you want to consider is this -

  • 50 guests, catering from Amato’s, a beautiful back-yard bash at a private home in Linden Estates, and Live music by The Finest Hour.

"Warm up your bidding arm honey, we're having a

party and I'm not cooking!"

Friday, August 17, 2012

Need A Break?

Wouldn't it feel good to get away
help the Madonna Students?

Or even a staycation
helping the Madonna School & Workshop?

Everyone needs a break and we have win-win options ready and waiting for you!

August 25th you will have over a dozen fun overnight packages to choose from.

Let's see a few ideas to think about...

All night date nights

Family Fun including Coco Keys and Papio Fun Park

Finn N Feather Resort in Minnesota

Tasting and Tours in Napa Valley California

enjoy the mountains of Deer Valley, UT

a Football weekend to see the KC Chiefs

Overnight Concert package at Stir Cove

Universal Studios in Hollywood

A capitol experience in Washington DC

Hot Air Balloon Ride over Ocala FL

Just something to think about.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Magic Magic Magic!

For those fans of the magic of Harry Potter - enjoy this short interviews/clips video.
We have a trick or two for you August 25th, too.
Wink Wink

JK isn't the only master of magic, Disney's done a neat thing or two :)

This gorgeous Armani Tinkerbell may turn a few heads at our event.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Why we look forward to Celebration

This Guest Blog is from our Celebration Honorary Chairs: Mike & Beth Jareske

We always look forward to attending the Madonna dinner.  Why?  Because we know that those who are there, have hearts of gold. 

We love being surrounded by these good people who appreciate and support the special mission undertaken by Madonna. It is an evening to celebrate a fine school and a wonderful staff. 

It is an evening to count our blessings and to rejoice in the big and little steps that are made everyday at Madonna.  And all who are there, count these students as great blessings from God.  Our favorite part of the evening

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fitness Challenge

 Marcus’ Madonna School

Fitness Challenge

August 11th, 2012


Saturday, August 11th, 2012 11am to 1pm

Where: the Bodysmith

11738 Stonegate Circle

Omaha, NE 68164

Check it Out!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Who is more blessed,
do you suppose,
those who have the life they prayed for or those who are grateful for the life they have?

This video features the song "Generous." Madonna Celebration Facebook "fans" will receive the Omaha Project EP with this song (and others) in their gift bag at the Celebration event. 

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Downs Side Up: The Doctors' Waiting Room, or, The Value of Our Da...

I read this blog from across the pond.  In her notes I relive the years gone by.  I hope you take the time to read this blog and meet her and Natty. They are  joy that I think you may relate to as well...

Downs Side Up: The Doctors' Waiting Room, or, The Value of Our Da...: Today we spent a good 40 minutes in the waiting room of our local Doctors' Surgery.  Nothing unusual in that with our Natty.  ...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Madonna School Rhyme

One two buckle my shoe

Quick Facts to share with you

Three, four, knock at the door

Moved to the new building 2004

Five, six, pick-up sticks

Students of all faiths in the mix

Seven, eight, lay them straight

First private special needs school in the state

Nine, ten, a big fat hen

Learning to work gives students a win

Eleven, twelve, dig and delve

Some work kitchens, some retail shelves

Thirteen, fourteen, maids a-courting

Catholic school with no parish supporting

Fifteen, sixteen, maids in the kitchen

Only 25% of cost is covered by tuition

Seventeen, eighteen, maids in waiting

There’s no way of overstating

Nineteen, twenty, and thanks a plenty

How your support touches lives a-many

Whew!  And here are some notes that don’t rhyme!

One third of all Madonna students come from families that qualify for the federal free or reduced-cost lunch program. Madonna School educates and empowers students of a varied range of abilities and potential from ages 5-21. In the Madonna School Mission is to serve students and adults with cognitive and developmental disabilities to become as independent as possible.  All teachers and the School Principal are certified in special education and the maximum number of students in a classroom is 10.

These last notes do not rhyme, but they are plenty full of reason to join us for Celebration August 25th, 2012! 

Monday, July 2, 2012

My Favorite Audience

For the past 21 years, magic has been my profession, my creative outlet, and my muse. Magic makes it possible for me to go places, meet people, and share experiences that would not otherwise have been possible. Most of those places, people, and experiences are wonderful.

But every now and then it goes beyond wonderful; it becomes phenomenal.  

Such was the case in January when I performed at Madonna School. Sure, I’d heard about Madonna School before. In fact, I have a nephew who just graduated from Madonna. But I’d never really experienced  Madonna.
And what a wonderful experience from the moment I stepped through the door.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fr. Timothy Lannon SJ

I did a little research on Fr. Timothy Lannon SJ starting, of course, with Wikipedia. I won’t lay all of those details out for you – it’s pretty easy to find here.

This information stood out: “As an undergraduate, he received Creighton’s highest student honor, the Spirit of Creighton Award, in 1973.” 

The Spirit of Creighton Award, what is that? I asked Google.
It responded via the Creighton University web site:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Big Awesome Ride...

*Today's blog is from the Madonna Workshop*       

Working with special people is always a reward. To appreciate the importance of this work, we must first understand the unique people we serve, for each individual is a gift from God. I want to tell the story of a young man and why I am thankful every day for the work that I do.

He entered the world as we all do – kicking and screaming – but something was different about this boy.

“Value your time with him,” the doctors told his mother. “He doesn’t have long to live.”

The healthy baby boy she expected was instead small – really small – even for a newborn. His legs and arms contracted 180 degrees, and he had a heart defect.

“So what?” she said, “My son is going to live.”

And guess what? He did. And not just a few years either. Thanks to the fighting spirit of a mother who wouldn’t give up, a mother who saw hope where the doctors could not, this young man fought.

Now at the age of 26, there is no question that his life was worth the struggle.

I was blessed enough to meet him four years ago when he walked into my office hoping to find work and make a little money.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The commencement and graduation evening was a success!
The High School students are proud and ready to move onto the transition program, "Madonna U."
And the graduates are pleased with their accomplishments and stand ready to face the world.
What more could you ask for?
Here are a few moments captured.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sharing: A special mother

Erma Bombeck is one of my favorite authors of all time.  I remember reading this when it was first published. I remember crying over the pages. 
My perspective has changed slightly since then. I don’t agree with her analysis completely – but I still cry every time I read it.  Although Erma didn’t know what is was like to have a special needs child and also didn’t get to talk to God about it until years after she wrote this, she got bits of it right on target. She was a great observer, a great storyteller, and she knew what was most important about being a mom.
The Special Mother
by Erma Bombeck

Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressure and a couple by habit. This year nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children. Did you ever wonder how these mothers are chosen? Somehow I visualize God hovering over Earth selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, he instructs his angels to take notes in a giant ledger.
"Armstrong, Beth, son. Patron Saint, Matthew."

"Forrest, Marjorie, daughter. Patron Saint, Celia."
"Rutledge, Carrie, twins. Patron Saint...give her Gerard. He's used to profanity." Finally he passes a name to an angel and smiles. "Give her a handicapped child."

The angel is curious. "Why this one, God? She's so happy."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Generous Life

“Let me tell you that the world is more generous than bleak;” sings Rebecca
 in The Omaha Project song Generous*, “Love is more tangible than grief.”

“Heaven won’t hand you the life you thought you’d lead.”

"Heaven will do better, if you let her...” 

Have you noticed this too? Isn’t it the truth?

If you want to witness good in the world, hang out with Marcus for a day. For example, as I stepped off the bus in New York City, I nodded at the large man with stubbled face and bright yellow “Transit” vest. Marcus was right behind me and I turned to grab his hand. Then I watched this gruff man bend over and tie Marcus’ shoe. “Oh.” Marcus said as he smiled, “Thanks.” And gave him a thumbs up as we walked away.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hope for the future

This week’s blog is shared by Madonna Parent Jayne Klein

Lane hasn’t always gone to the Madonna School. He had great teachers and experiences in his elementary school. When it became time to transition into middle school I worried because academics become more important and classes get harder. But sixth grade went well, again with a good school with good teachers. There were still “Lane meltdowns” but he learned the ropes pretty quickly.

Seventh grade turned not so good. Lane had a harder time fitting in and disrupted classes more often. My sister-in-law is a special-ed consultant in Omaha so I called her when nearing my wits end, very stressed out and looking for advice, ideas I could bring to the school, new things to try for Lane, etc. She set up a couple appointments for me to observe classrooms to get ideas.

My first appointment was at Madonna School but still a week away. On a very stressful Thursday because Lane had another meltdown at school, I called Madonna and asked if I could visit the next day.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Another brief commercial break: Why we “Like” Who we “like” and How you can help

Thank you for Celebrating with us!

You may wonder why the Madonna School Celebration page “likes” certain businesses and organizations. This is because these are folks who support the Madonna School Celebration and other events.  If you see a “like” on the MSC page this business has donated time, money or items to the Madonna School Celebration.  Yes!  If you are a fan of this business, you can look forward to a sweet deal on August 25th. 

In the Sikora house we often use the phrase “Vote with your dollars.” The Madonna School relies on the support of the community; you can keep the wheels moving in a positive direction by supporting the business that support the Madonna School. Periodically you may want to check this page on the blog for links to the websites of our growing list of donors.  
Also in case you haven’t figured this out yet, this is a great way to have a sneak peek at some of the awesome items and events that will be up for bid on August 25th at our Celebration Event.   I will begin highlighting an item or two on Facebook every week up to Celebration.  That’s right – every week – that’s how much great stuff or activities we are gathering for this year’s event.

All right, one more thing for those of you who have stayed with me.  Please share the news via Facebook pages, private messages, emails, or if you’re old fashioned, phone calls and tell them about our event and the items and/or activities that are being featured.  And, to make your life easier, invite your friends, family, and co-workers to “like” our site.  Then they will get the news directly. Neat, eh?
OK FANS – Let’s Rock this thing!

If you are not yet a Fan – Please “like” us here

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fear of the Unknown. Trust in God

This week’s guest post is by Maria Sauvageau, parent of a pretty special person

Fear of the unknown and trust in God: these two polar opposites became the central theme in my life as a mother. Ashley was born the younger sister to five-year-old Andrew on July 26, 1989. Two weeks before her second birthday, she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor which was one third the size of her brain mass.

This was the first time true fear of the unknown crept silently into my life. Before she was rushed into emergency surgery, our pastor arrived to administer her outstanding sacraments and most importantly, the sacrament of the sick. I was told to say goodbye as she was not expected to survive.

Trust in God…this became my only hope. Not just trusting in Him to save my daughter, but finding the strength to trust in Him that whatever His will, I would be strong enough to handle it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Music Day!

The Madonna School is a rare gem to offer music therapy as part of its program to educate the whole child.  As Mrs. Bennett related to us, it is about connections.  For the analytical types out there who need some hard facts, important research below: For everyone else, a fun video of one music day at the Madonna School follows J

*In the last five years researchers also have begun to explore the benefits of an arts education on a child’s mind. In particular, the field of neuroscience is beginning to unravel the many ways that the arts can influence cognitive development. Their findings include:

Monday, March 26, 2012

We interrupt our previously scheduled programming…

Just over a week ago I wrote A Rightful Life, A letter to Omaha. It began:

Dear Omaha,

Have you ever had one of those days when you realize just how blessed you are? Sometimes that realization comes amidst the strangest of circumstances, like today when I read the article about the Levy family of Portland, Oregon.

Ariel and Deborah Levy won a $2.9 million lawsuit on Friday, March 9th, for what is being coined as “wrongful life.” The problem is, in a nutshell, their daughter was born (with Down Syndrome). Had the prenatal testing done its “job,” Levy’s daughter never would have been born.

The folks at the Omaha World Herald blogsite Momaha showed an interest in my editorial and pursued it further. I was excited and passionate about this subject which focused not on the Levy’s so much, but more on our community and the Madonna School. My article went on to share that:

In two separate articles, reported that “Professionals have told the Levys that she (their daughter) will likely never be able to live independently, or earn a living.” And also that the Levy’s worry she won’t get the attention she needs in school.

It’s a shame for the Levys (and maybe even the insurance company) that they don’t live in Omaha, Nebraska. Because in Omaha we have a variety of resources for families with special needs children, particularly one called the Madonna School and Workshop. The Madonna School’s mission is to help each child become as independent as possible, from the youngest child still learning to communicate to the high-schooler starting in the life skills programs. And the transition program works with students, families, and businesses to develop job skills and facilitate placement of the Madonna students in safe and productive work environments.

The following 250 words or so talked about my son, about the Madonna School’s influence, and about how I feel sorry for the Levys who see their daughter’s birth as “wrong” because I am sure there is nothing wrong about the life of their four year old.

Things went well between the editor and myself, a publication time was set and final edits were made and then I got an email that said:

“I showed the piece to my editor and We worry it doesn't give enough details about your life. Could you tell us the ups-and-downs of having a special needs child? When did you find out? Were you tested? What was your initial reaction? When do you get most happy/frustrated? Insight into your life I think will help the readers understand the struggles and joys of parenting?”

My head spun a few times. Are they serious? Sure! I’ll just sum up these complex issues and emotions and drop them in with a few key phrases into this piece. Sigh. Welcome to publication and editors.

So the next few days involved another re-write by me, further questions about Marcus, and a further writing done by the editor until finally - we have a guest blog! Whew. It is a bit off the path from my original intention, but I do trust the editors that it will serve a greater audience (and thus a greater purpose) with the revisions.

SO - the final work is here:

Thank you to the Omaha World Herald for giving this attention

I hope you check it out and feel free to comment or share on the Momaha site. This is your opportunity to share your Madonna experiences with the city of Omaha.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Music and Madonna Students

Guest Blog by Music Therapist and teacher Mary Lynn Bennett

Music therapy acts as a catalyst, a motivator, or a carrier of information. Sometimes it provides a newly discovered pathway for learning and retrieving information. Music therapy makes a difference for Madonna students. Music Therapy is the use of music by a trained professional to positively effect change in non-musical behavior. Sometimes this change affects a social behavior and sometimes the change is in a skill or ability. Madonna School’s music therapy program is 3 years old and has come a long way in three short years.  

The first time the middle level classes tried a folk dance we looked more like bees swarming around a clover patch than dancers. The goals for the students were to stand in a line, listen and wait for directions, to follow the step-by step directions and to cooperate with a partner appropriately. In preparation for dancing, students clapped to the music, they played sticks to the beat, they walked to the music, they clapped hands with a friend, we made one line and then two, then walked four steps and met in the middle. We walked back 4 steps and we repeated this sequence. All hands were on deck as the teacher associates and I directed traffic like air traffic controllers and I slowly called the steps.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Take a 5 minute Wonder break

                                                                                                           *If you are an email subscriber - click title to go to blogsite and enjoy!
I believe everyone has a bit of Wonder in them.

Thank you to the Madonna School for recognizing the wonder in our children.

Thank you to Natalie Merchant for

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Brotherly Love

A guest post from Jay Dunlap, President of the Madonna School

I remember that, as a kid, I had to figure out why one of my older brothers was different. Being the sixth of twelve kids, I had a lot to figure out about the personalities in the household, but Pat was unique. He was quiet; he went to different schools for something they called “special education”; he had unique habits like swinging his arms and making a kind of groan – the sound of releasing nervous energy, as I look back on it.

I wanted to figure out how to relate to my mysterious brother. As a dumb little kid, I did what I could to get a rise out of him:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

February –

The month of Love…

Use the comments area to tell us why you love the Madonna School, and you may win a gift. This is what bloggers call a “comment contest.”  It’s a fun excuse to join the conversation and share the blog with your friends.  The contest runs the month of February.

You are allowed one comment per post as your entry (so that’s a max of three chances).  Comments must include your first name and last initial.  If you have one, include your URL or google ID, it will make it easier to reach you if you win!

Win what?  Fame, Glory and A $25 gift card. Winner will be randomly chosen and announced in March. So be sure to subscribe to find out if you're a winner and also get news on more news and give-aways.  We look forward to hearing from you!


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mending a Small Shell

His first few days in school revealed his past struggles. 
When his new elementary school classmates ran up to him saying, “Will you be my friend?” he replied, “No!” He turned away, crossed his arms and showed a determined scowl. At lunch time he carefully guarded his food with his arms around his plate and didn’t talk to anyone. 
The staff at the Madonna School have seen this before.  “Give him some time,” they told the other children.  The teachers recognized these signs of a protective shell, a shell built by a small boy to cope with bullies and misunderstanding. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


At the Madonna School magic happens everyday in the classrooms. January 6th it happened in the gymnasium with Jeff Quinn. Less than two minutes, enjoy!

What an exciting way to start the year!  Credits for the video include Jeff Quinn, and Tim Wright. Music: The BlueMan Group - The Complex (c) 2003

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Nobody Can Do Everything

“Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something.”  A person can stumble over a great many quotes on the world -wide- web.  This quote is most commonly attributed to –unknown. Perhaps it is said by unknown because it is what we like to call “common sense.”  Which, to quote another unknown, is not as common as one would hope.
But I digress.  To the point of the matter, “everyone can do something” is our opportunity to say that there is something you can do, too.  The Madonna School Celebration is an entertaining and important event. We hope to raise over 25% of the school’s budget via this platform. 
The celebration committee is already in motion and we are looking for more members of the community to help us reach out to sponsors and donors.  We are in need of organized, positive communicators to be a part of the committee. 
If you are interested in joining our team of Celebration volunteers, please contact Jay Dunlap, at the school or Mardra Sikora, committee chair.  There’s always reason to celebrate!
link to the official
Madonna School Website