Lakers’ Anthony Davis expects to play against Blazers in crucial game Friday

LOS ANGELES — There was a moment when Anthony Davis took a last-second attempt at the shot clock buzzer, and tripped up over the Clippers’ scorers table as he backed into the sideline.

He spent a few tense seconds grabbing his right ankle, then retying his shoe. That one looked worse than it actually was, Davis said later.

What the crowd couldn’t see was his back, tensing up during the first timeout, then the second, as the Lakers’ deficit grew in Thursday’s game against the Clippers at Staples Center. And by the time he checked out around the 3-minute mark, Davis said, he felt tight enough that he couldn’t play on: “It got to the point where it was pretty tough.”

If Davis’ back was a tough obstacle, his absence was an insurmountable one for the short-handed Lakers, who were already skating on thin ice against the Clippers with him, but without him had to discard a good amount of their pre-game plans. Center Marc Gasol subbed in midway through the second quarter and was immediately pressured, as the Clippers forced two steals on their way to building a 20-plus-point lead.

But Davis said he doesn’t foresee the back spasms he suffered Thursday costing him a start on Friday night in Portland, where a critical tiebreaker with the Trail Blazers hangs in the balance. The Lakers already know they will be without LeBron James, Dennis Schröder and Talen Horton-Tucker for what Davis called “probably the biggest game” so far this season.

“I should be good to go tomorrow, based on how it’s feeling now,” said Davis, an eight-time All-Star. “But I’m gonna still wake up and test it out. But my plan is to still go tomorrow.”

Perhaps because of his stiffness, Davis’ game was not shaping up to be a good one: He was just 2 for 9 with four points in his 9-minute shift. That performance comes on the heels of perhaps Davis’ best game since his return from a nine-week injury absence – a 25-point effort against Denver, which included the game-clinching blocked shot.

For a Lakers team without its best playmakers against Portland, the question is even more pressing than usual: Which Davis will they get?

Coach Frank Vogel said he’s following the lead of the medical team in this case.

“We’re already trying to be responsible with his minutes,” he said. “Obviously, we’ll have to see how it feels tomorrow. It’s tough not having him in there, but obviously, you have to make the best decision for health.”

If the Lakers (37-29) – already one game behind fifth-place Dallas, which owns a tiebreaker over them – lose to the Blazers (37-29), it won’t bode well for their hopes to avoid the play-in tournament which begins on May 18, just two days after their final regular-season game. The seventh and eighth seeds must lose twice to be eliminated (playing each other, with the loser of that game facing the winner of the 9-10 game). As banged-up as the Lakers are, they don’t need more games tacked on to the regular season.

But Davis, who has spoken about avoiding the play-in games recently, acknowledged that the Lakers have a level of acceptance if it doesn’t swing their way.

“We don’t look at it as something bad,” he said. “To be honest, we need a lot of games, we need games to get back accustomed to each other, anyway. So, I mean, if it happens that way, it happens that way. Obviously, we don’t want to go that route. But if it happens, it happens.”

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Angels place Chris Rodriguez on IL with shoulder inflammation

ANAHEIM — Chris Rodriguez, who is undoubtedly the brightest spot in a disappointing pitching staff for the Angels, won’t be pitching for at least 10 days.

The Angels placed Rodriguez on the injured list because of right shoulder inflammation on Thursday. Rodriguez reported discomfort after his one-inning outing on Wednesday night.

“The medical side doesn’t feel it’s anything severe, but it’s definitely something we’ve got to get on right now,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “So we have to back off him a little bit.”

Maddon said he didn’t know how long Rodriguez would be out.

“You hope it’s going to be the minimum time, but I don’t know for sure,” he said.

Maddon said he talked to Rodriguez on Thursday and “he was kind of upbeat.”

Rodriguez, 22, has a 2.30 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 15-2/3 innings in his first month in the majors. He was a surprise to make the Opening Day roster because he had only pitched in three minor league games in the past three years, missing most of 2018 and 2019 because of a back injury and losing the entire minor league season because of the pandemic.

The Angels activated right-hander Felix Peña to take Rodriguez’s spot on the roster. Peña was on the injured list because of a hamstring issue from spring training, but he’s been healthy enough to return for at least a couple of weeks.

STASSI OUT

Catcher Max Stassi was placed on the concussion injured list – which is only seven days instead of 10 – after he ran into the railing chasing a foul pop on Tuesday night.

Jack Kruger was recalled, making his first appearance on a major league roster. A product of Oaks Christian High in Westlake Village, Kruger has been in big league camp for the past few springs. He has not played above Double-A.

ALSO

Outfielder Jon Jay was added to the roster, taking the spot vacated when Albert Pujols was designated for assignment. …

Outfielder Justin Upton did some work on the field before Thursday’s game, but he was not in the lineup for the second straight day. Upton fouled a ball off his knee on Tuesday night.

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Jockey Trevor McCarthy headed west for new opportunity

Add another name to the Southern California jockey colony.

East Coast-based Trevor McCarthy, who turns 27 on May 17, is packing up his car and beginning a drive to California with his new wife, Katie, on his birthday.

He’ll start riding at Santa Anita on Memorial Day weekend, according to his new agent, Derek Lawson.

Lawson parted ways with Santa Anita’s leading rider, Flavien Prat, in February and had been searching for a new jockey.

“I like the idea of recruiting,” Lawson said over the telephone this week. “I talked to several different guys. I even talked to Jose Ortiz. Not that he would make a move out here, but hey listen, I took a shot. You never know.”

Lawson decided to cold-call McCarthy, and the son-in-law of former jockey Robbie Davis was all ears.

“Derek, he’s got a great résumé. That’s what really kind of made my mind up,” McCarthy said during a phone interview Thursday between mounts at Belmont Park. “He had Prat over the last five or six years and he’s always been a leading rider there. Derek was interested in me, and with his résumé, I couldn’t say no to him.”

Lawson didn’t want to take the book of a local rider. He was looking to bring someone in from outside the state.

“After I got fired by Prat, I moved on to trying to find another rider who I could bring out here,” he said. “I didn’t really want to put any of the other agents out here in the unemployment line like I was put into. I don’t do that.”

McCarthy, who took the Maryland racing circuit by storm when he broke into the sport in late 2011, was ready for a move after finishing fifth in the jockey standings during Aqueduct’s winter meet. He didn’t want to return to Maryland when Belmont started up April 22 and the Ortiz brothers and other mainstays moved back to New York from Florida.

“New York is a tough place here,” McCarthy said. “I’ve tried it before, and these guys, they come back from Florida and they kind of take back over. We kind of get lost in the shuffle, us guys that do well in the wintertime. We don’t always get to ride the big horses back or ride the big races.”

Said Lawson: “I think he fits right in here, plus he was looking for something new. He needed a new challenge. He was getting a little bit stale, and he didn’t really want to go back to Maryland. He’d done everything in Maryland that he needed to do. He wants to make it out here. He’ll do what it takes, and my work ethic … I don’t sit around and drink coffee at Clockers’ Corner. I’m out there working every day.”

There’s a precedent for Maryland-based riders making it big in Southern California. Chris McCarron made the move in 1977 and Kent Desormeaux followed suit in 1990. Both are in the sport’s Hall of Fame.

“It was a good move for them, and I’m hoping it’s a great move for me as well,” McCarthy said. “I see Kent is still doing well. He’s picked back up. So I’m happy for him and hopefully I can follow in those guys’ footsteps.”

Of course, when McCarron and Desormeaux made the the switch, Santa Anita and Hollywood Park were racing five days per week and Del Mar raced six days a week. Hollywood Park is gone now, Santa Anita is racing three days a week and Del Mar is down to four.

Is it wise for McCarthy to move west at a time when there are less races and fewer horses in California? He’ll be taking on Southern California mainstays like Prat, Umberto Rispoli, Juan Hernandez, Abel Cedillo, Tyler Baze and others.

“The money’s pretty good out there,” McCarthy said. “It’s not anywhere near New York money, but they’re going to get a purse increase come Del Mar. That kind of helped. I don’t really mind the three days. I kind of did it all winter and I didn’t mind it. It was kind of good for me. I was able to work out, really focus on my body and my health and not feel so exhausted.”

Lawson said he tried to sell McCarthy on the many opportunities in Southern California.

“Obviously, the short weeks are a concern, but I told him, ‘You can win major stakes races out here in California. You can win Breeders’ Cup races, (Kentucky) Derbies. You can ride bigger and better horses.’ I told him, ‘You can’t do that back in Maryland,’” he said.

McCarthy brings a strong résumé to California. He topped all jockeys in earnings during several meets at Laurel Park and Pimlico, including the entire Laurel meet in 2019. He won riding titles at both Maryland tracks in 2020, including five graded-stakes victories.

He and his wife were married in December. Katie Davis was also a jockey on the Maryland circuit and rode at Aqueduct this past winter, winning once with 73 mounts. She’s won 252 races in her career from 2,108 mounts (12%) and nearly $7 million in earnings.

McCarthy said his wife plans to give up riding when the couple arrives in California, but they’ll decide later on her future as a jockey.

Follow Art Wilson on Twitter at @Sham73

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Track and field: Orange County leaderboard through May 5

Orange County track and field top marks through May 5

Marks compiled by MileSplit.com.

Email corrections to sfryer@scng.com

BOYS TRACK & FIELD

100 – Max Thomas, Servite, 10.76; Jack De Bos, Edison, 10.77; Jalen Jones, Santa Margarita, 10.93

200 – Max Thomas, Servite, 21.91; Jack De Bos, Edison, 22.18; Charlie Jarvis, Aliso Niguel, 22.46

400 – Jack De Bos, Edison, 49.90; Carson Bauers, Newport Harbor, 50.16; Camden Patterson, El Toro, 50.29

110H – Brandon Chau, Trabuco Hills, 15.61; Jack Fairchild, Crean Lutheran, 15.68; Elijah Sandoval, Servite, 15.89

300H – Carson Kaminski, Trabuco Hills, 39.26; Elijah Sandoval, Servite, 39.72; Brad Riehl, Servite, 39.94

800 – Dylan Manning, Tesoro, 1:56.17; Joshua Schuld, Beckman, 1:56.91; Jai Dawson, Dana Hills, 1:57.1726

1600 – Joshua Schuld, Beckman, 4:11.32; Mateo Bianchi, Laguna Beach, 4:11.82; Jai Dawson, Dana Hills, 4:14.74

3200 – Mateo Bianchi, Laguna Beach, 9:19.93; Adin Dibble, Sonora, 9:24.55; Joshua Schuld, Beckman, 9:26.60

Discus – Zack Morris, Santa Margarita, 139-0; Micah Carreon, Mission Viejo, 138-8; Derek Wilkins, Santa Margarita, 137-5

Shot put – Travis Zavala, Canyon, 51-2.5; Adrian Moreno, Esperanza, 51-1; Derek Wilkins, Santa Margarita, 48-2

HJ – Jake Quinlan, Santa Margarita, 6-3; Matthew Burkhart, Edison, 6-2; Tyler Hampton, Edison, 6-2

LJ – Jason Plumb, Corona del Mar, 21-10.5; Miles Carter, Northwood, 21-6; Josh Jornadal, JSerra, 21-4.5

TJ – Jonathan Yu, Fountain Valley, 45-5; Reuben Lopez, Mission Viejo, 43-9; Logan Mills, Orange Lutheran, 43-0.5

PV – David Brok, Los Alamitos, 15-4; Adam Garrison, Fountain Valley, 14-3; Josh Kato, San Juan Hills, 14-1

4X100 – Servite 42.54; Trabuco Hills, 43.02; Orange Lutheran 43.13

4X400 – Santa Margarita 3:31.34; Trabuco Hills, 3:31.52; El Toro, 3:32.95

GIRLS TRACK & FIELD

100 – Brooklyn Davis, Los Alamitos, 12.61; Lillian Gomez, El Modena, 12.61; Caroline Glessing, Corona del Mar, 12.68

200 – Caroline Hawkes, San Clemente, 25.44; Jocelyn Niemiec, Beckman, 25.56; Lillian Gomez, El Modena, 25.93

400 – Caroline Hawkes, San Clemente, 57.11; Georgia Jeannerett, JSerra, 59.13; Summer Allen, Los Alamitos, 59.25

100H – Phoebe Ladd, Woodbridge, 15.24; Mauri Avery, Beckman, 16.43; Megan Swartz, Edison, 16.50

300H – Emily Waller, Woodbridge, 46.35; Pyper Slattery, Villa Park, 46.59; Lidia Major, Santa Margarita, 47.61

800 – Kaho Cichon, Fountian Valley, 2:14,35; Georgia Jeanneret, JSerra, 2:14.42; Mckenna Bradley, Santa Margarita, 2:14.75

1600 – Georgia Jeanneret, JSerra, 4:57.47; Emily Richards, Aliso Niguel, 5:02.65; Ashlynn Viramontes, Katella, 5:06.73

3200 – Emily Richards, Aliso Niguel, 10:38.12; Kendall Saeger, Santa Margarita, 10:55.16; Allura Markow, Dana Hills, 11:08.55

Discus – Sara Pettinger, Mission Viejo, 155.10; Abigail Klinge, Trabuco Hills, 138-8; Ally Klinge; Ariana Novela, Corona del Mar, 127-8; Devyn Mallon, Corona del Mar, 115-8

Shot put – Sara Pettinger, Mission Viejo, 44-3; Rebel Tuinuknafe, Orange Lutheran, 40-6; Ariana Grum, Newport Harbor, 39-10

HJ – Sidney Saito, Edison, 5-2; Esther Kim, Sunny Hills, 5-2, Mackenzie Kirk, Los Alamitos, 5-2; Mariah Stensby, Aliso Niguel, 5-2; Porta Kipper, San Clemente, 5-2

LJ – Phoebe Ladd, Woodbridge, 17-5; Jada  Gatlin, Mission Viejo, 17-1; Caroline Glessing, Corona del Mar, 16-11.5

TJ – Jada Gatlin, Mission Viejo, 36-8; Nikki Chen, Irvine, 36-0; Ivy Nguyen, Beckman, 35-0

PV – Dylan Beveridge, Aliso Niguel, 11-9; Nathalie Barnes, Santa Margarita, 11-4; Isabelle The, Trabuco Hills, 11-1

4X100 – Los Alamitos 49.27; Trabuco Hills 50.04; El Toro 50.10

4X400 – JSerra 4:03.69; El Toro 4:07.35; Santa Margarita 4:08.33

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OC beaches closed by sewage spills in 2020 among fewest seen in 33 years

There were fewer beach closures because of sewage spills in 2020 than has typically been seen the last three decades, according to a released recently report by the OC Health Care Agency.

The agency’s ocean, harbor and bay report, which comes out every two years, gives an analysis of water quality data and how it impacts public uses, comparing to a 20-year period and also incorporating historical data dating back to 1987.

“I think it’s terrific they do this report. It’s so important to not just monitor our beaches, but to make sure the public is aware,” said Pete Stauffer, environmental director for the Surfrider Foundation.

There were 88 sewage spills reported in 2020. The 33-year average is 191 spills per year and in 2019 there were 123. The peak of spills was in 2003 with 408 and there has been a steady decline since.

In 2020, only 2% of the spills reported required the ocean, harbors or bay waters to be closed – only twice was the ocean declared closed. The majority of sewage spills, about 62%, happened because of a sewer line blockage.

The report ties into what the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation has been advocating for on a federal level across the nation, Stauffer said. “I think it really underscores the importance of beach monitoring programs, to know when it’s safe to recreate at the beach.”

This year, Surfrider has been highlighting with its advocacy the number of sewage spills and the importance of maintaining wastewater infrastructure to collect and treat sewage to protect public health, he said.

“It’s great to see the trend of decrease in sewage spills over time,” he said. “I think the sewage system management plans they’ve been implementing have been effective, it would seem. It also does point to the continual need to invest and update wastewater infrastructure.”

Sewage spills occur when wastewater transported via underground pipes overflows through a manhole, clean-out drain or broken pipe. Blockages in pipelines have been responsible for an average of 62% of all beach closures since 1999, the report notes.

Sewage spills can cause health hazards, damage homes and businesses, and threaten the environment, local waterways and beaches. Untreated sewage has high levels of disease-causing bacteria and viruses.

But the report also analyzes other impacts to water quality at area beaches and harbors.

In 2020, eight rain advisories were issued that totaled 49 days. Rain advisories happen when bacterial levels are elevated and can cause illness to swimmers, surfers and divers.

The coronavirus pandemic also made it way into the 2020 report.

There were three COVID-19 impacts included in the report: access to data, a change in sewage spill sources and more PPE use, Lauren Robinson, supervisor for the OC Health Care Agency’s Water Quality Program, said in an e-mail.

“Although COVID-19 caused a major disruption to everyday life in 2020, it posed only a minimal disruption for beach sampling,” she noted. “We observed several stations that had reduced accessibility when the ‘Stay at Home’ orders were issued.”

The pandemic also affected the ways and locations water was used and wastewater was produced, she said, with an increase in private property sewage spills observed – although both the overall number of sewage spills and closures resulting from sewage spills declined, she said.

“It was of upmost importance to keep both the public and staff safe and informed,” she said. “Staff wore additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the Water Quality Lab employed additional COVID-19 prevention methods when receiving and processing the samples.”

Last year, more than 7,600 ocean, harbor and bay water samples were collected and about 23,000 analyses were performed to determine the results for three indicators: total coliform bacteria, fecal coliform bacteria and enterococcus, used for compliance purposes.

The total number of “beach mile days” (which takes into account the distance of beaches closed and for how many days) posted for Orange County beaches for the reporting period from April 1 to Oct. 31, 2020, because of violations for bacteriological water quality standards, was 60.4. From 2000 to 2012, the average of 205.2.

Excellent bacteriological water quality was recorded at Huntington City Beach, Crystal Cove Beach, Dana Point Beach and Capistrano Bay District Beach monitoring locations.

The beach areas in 2020 that exceeded four beach mile days between April 1 to Oct. 31 were Seal Beach/Surfside/Sunset (5.97), San Clemente City Beach (6.53) and Doheny State Beach (12.4).

The annual report does not set goals, make recommendations or offer advice; rather, its authors say it provides data for use by government officials, public agencies, environmental groups, concerned citizens and other interested parties.

“In addition, this report provides a foundation for future projects aimed at assessing the health of Orange County’s ocean, harbor and bay waters.”

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Menifee couple adopts seven orphaned siblings, proving ‘miracles do happen’

Pam Willis didn’t want to be an empty-nester.

When her five grown children moved out of their home in Menifee, she wasn’t sure what would come next. All she knew was she wanted to keep being a mom.

Willis and husband, Gary, had been fostering children for five years and were pondering retirement, selling their house in southwest Riverside County, moving and continuing to foster. 

Then in January 2019, Pam Willis saw an article on Facebook about seven siblings in San Diego County who survived a horrific car accident the year before in El Centro that killed both of their parents. The children, aged 2 to 13 at the time, were in foster care and needed a permanent home.

“In the video, the kids were saying their Christmas wish was to be adopted. Of course, I saw their story right at this time where we were like, ‘What do we do with our house, with our lives?’” said Pam Willis, 50. “And I just looked at all their faces — they were piercing my heart. I just immediately knew what was supposed to happen.”

  • The Willis siblings, from top, are: Adelino, 15; Ruby, 13; Aleecia, 9; Xander, 4; Anthony, 8; and Aubriella, 7. They are seen in their new home in Menifee on Sunday, April 25, 2021. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pam Willis, 50, and husband Gary, 53, right, play with their seven adopted kids at their Menifee home Sunday, April 25, 2021. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Aubriella Willis, 7, and brother Leo, 5, smile as their father plays with them between stirring spaghetti sauce at their Menifee home on Sunday, April 25, 2021. They are among seven siblings adopted by the Willis family in 2019 after their parents died in a car crash. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pam Willis, fourth from left, and husband Gary, third from right, walk with their seven adopted kids near their Menifee home Sunday, April 25, 2021. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • The Willis family of Menifee takes a walk in Menifee on Sunday, April 25, 2021. They are: Leo, 5, closest to camera; Xander, 4; Aubriella, 7; Anthony, 8; and Aleecia, 9; and two other older siblings. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pam and Gary Willis are seen at their wedding April 30, 1988. The couple grew up in San Diego and has been together since high school. (Courtesy of Pam Willis)

  • Pam and Gary Willis are surrounded by their biological children: Matthew, Andrew, Alexa, Sophia and Sam Willis — in 2009 at Pam’s law school graduation in San Diego. (Courtesy of Pam Willis)

  • Adelino Willis, 15, top, jokes with brother Anthony, 8, before lunch at their Menifee home Sunday, April 25, 2021. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Aleecia Willis, 9, from left, her sister Ruby, 13, and brother Adelino, 15, play patty-cake before lunch at their Menifee home Sunday, April 25, 2021. He describes his adopted parents as “fatherly” and “motherly.” (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • The Willis home of nine, which includes seven adopted siblings, is seen in Menifee on Sunday, April 25, 2021. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Gary Willis, 53, jokes around with his seven adopted children at their Menifee home Sunday, April 25, 2021. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Menifee mother Pam Willis, 50, lays down seven German chocolate cupcakes on seven napkins for her seven adopted children at her Menifee home Sunday, April 25, 2021. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Gary Willis, 53, is seen Sunday, April 25, 2021, with his adopted children in the kitchen of their Menifee home. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Ruby Willis, 13, and father Gary, seen Sunday, April 25, 2021, share interests such as their love for anime. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Anthony Willis, 8, second from right, along with his six siblings, enjoys homemade German chocolate cupcakes at his Menifee home Sunday, April 25, 2021. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pam Willis, 50, right, reacts when her adopted children describe her as determined, smart and kind during lunch at their Menifee home on Sunday, April 25, 2021. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Anthony Willis, 8, right, reacts when he hears there are cupcakes at his Menifee home on Sunday, April 25, 2021. He and his six siblings were adopted by the Willis family after their parents died in a 2019 car accident. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Ruby Willis, 13, and dad Gary Willis react after playing a hand-slapping game while waiting for their spaghetti lunch to cook at their Menifee home Sunday, April 25, 2021. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Gary Willis, 53, and wife Pam, 50, center, adopted, from left, Aubriella, 7; Adelino, 15; Xander, 4; Anthony, 8; Ruby, 13; and two other siblings, not pictured, at their Menifee home Sunday, April 25, 2021. The couple also has five biological adult children. They decided to adopt the seven siblings after their parents died in a car crash. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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Willis showed her husband the story and said he “looked at me for a second, and he said, we should adopt these kids. He was totally on the same page as I was.”

Now the couple that wanted another chance at parenting has seven chances. Two years ago, the kids’ first overnight visit came on Mother’s Day weekend. This year, Pam Willis is eager to spend Mother’s Day with her big family. She’s grateful she and her husband could adopt the seven during the pandemic, and for everything the children have brought to their lives.

Her new children feel the same way.

“The main thing I learned is that miracles do happen,” 15-year-old Adelino Anjos-Willis, the oldest and a sophomore at Paloma Valley High School in Menifee, said while reflecting on his new life.

Pam and Gary Willis — who had been together since high school and married for 33 years — believe this opportunity was meant for them. Already certified foster parents with the California Family Life Center in San Jacinto, their home had six empty bedrooms. And they had raised foster children who grappled with various traumas.

“When I saw the Facebook post, their story and their faces, I just felt that we really needed to be there for them,” said Gary Willis, 53.

The seven siblings are Anjos-Willis; Ruby Willis, 13; Aleecia Willis, 9; Anthony Willis, 8; Aubriella Willis, 7; Leo Willis, 5; and Alexander “Xander” Willis, 4. They were born in Las Vegas and had been living on the streets in San Diego with their biological parents, who had substance abuse and domestic violence issues and had themselves grown up in the foster system, according to Pam Willis. The children often had to fend for themselves, finding the family food and a place to sleep, sometimes in parks.

Several of them suffered major injuries in the 2018 crash, Pam Willis said. Their parents died at the scene, according to news reports, and the kids lived in several foster homes in San Diego County before finding the Willis family, whom they first met at a park with their social workers in March 2019.

“That first day, we were all just smiling from ear to ear. We already had that confirmation in our hearts, (which was) a blessing,” Pam Willis said. “Sometimes foster kids have typically gone through different types of trauma, and you don’t know what to expect — but we were blessed with some pretty great kids.”

After weeks of meetings and outings, the siblings started living in the Willis home as their foster children in June 2019. Pam and Gary Willis remember the eldest, Adelino and Ruby, being more reserved and insecure about their new home. The youngest kids grew attached quickly, clinging to the parents affectionately.

“I was so happy,” 7-year-old Aubriella Willis said. “I never had a mom this kind to me.”

Pam Willis said she and her husband learned about the kids’ full history later, through the years-long fostering and adoption process, but they knew to expect trauma from children coming from the foster system. The siblings’ background wasn’t a consideration in the Willis’ decision — they already loved them and wanted to keep them together, because “all they had was each other.”

Ruby Willis said she was amazed to live in a big house with her own room while also glad to still be with her siblings.

“At first, I didn’t really see Mom and Dad as parent figures, but I did think they were nice people,” said the student at Santa Rosa Academy in Menifee. “But over time, I was getting used to it, and realized that I was looking at them as parents.”

The siblings were officially adopted in a virtual ceremony Aug. 7, 2020. Pam Willis said the adoption was originally set for March 2020, but the pandemic shut down the courts. Wanting to wait no longer, the family did the adoption over Zoom and made the day “a big, happy event.” They took pictures with the extended family outside a San Diego County courthouse and celebrated with a picnic at a park.

It was one of the few times the Willis’ five biological grown children — Matthew Willis, Andrew Willis, Alexa Buffington, Sophia Holmes and Sam Willis — were able to hang with their new siblings during the pandemic.

“At that point, we’d already known them for over a year, and that’s where all the anticipation and excitement came from on adoption day, because we knew what was in store for these kids,” said Matthew Willis, a 32-year-old Rancho Santa Margarita resident. “They were already family — now they’re our family on paper.”

Adelino Anjos-Willis admitted it took him time to warm up to his new home. But he’s since become close to his parents, especially his mother, with whom he has good talks about the future.

“(Our) lives before were really terrible, there were times we were struggling to get food on the table,” he said. “I had to grow up very fast, unfortunately, and I was very independent and closed (off) emotionally because I was afraid of getting hurt. Now everything has turned over.”

Anjos-Willis said he enjoys the “amazing food on the table every night,” and loves having his own room. He also knows what he wants to do when he gets older: become a special victims unit detective that helps others who experience trauma.

“I’ll still be a little more mature than the average teen, but now I can be what I want to be,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about being an adult for my little siblings anymore.”

Gary Willis, now retired from post office and Navy careers, mainly homeschools and cares for the kids, while his wife — an attorney/risk manager for a medical malpractice insurance company — works from home. The couple juggles hybrid and distance learning for the kids, while planning fun activities for a household of different personalities, busy schedules and opposite interests.

“It’s definitely not easy,” Gary Willis said. “But watching (the kids) grow, it’s the best thing. Just seeing them happy — I’m living my dream.”

As a family, they have taken trips to Hawaii, Disneyland and the beach. They attend the Menifee Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most of the kids have their own rooms, except the little ones who have bunk beds. The family routine calls for sitting together at their large, specially built, kitchen table each night for dinner.

“The pandemic has been really hard in many ways, but just looking back at it, and the time that it forced us to sort of cocoon, has actually been really good for growth and stability of the kids in their new environment,” Pam Willis said. “It created this safe haven for them, and let us turn to one another.”

The family of 27 — including Pam and Gary Willis, their 12 biological and adopted children, four in-laws and eight grandkids — hope to have more reunions as the pandemic eases. For Mother’s Day, most of the family plans to spend the weekend exploring the outdoors in Carlsbad. Pam Willis still remembers that first overnight visit with the kids on a Mother’s Day weekend in San Diego — the siblings’ first time in a hotel.

While doing magazine and podcast interviews, the family has entertained the idea of having its own reality TV show. Their story, publicized through an Instagram account with more than 100,000 followers, has caught the attention of celebrities, including Kristen Bell and Kate Hudson — who called Pam Willis an “angel” on her show.

While navigating motherhood again, Willis continues to advocate on social media for fostering and adoption. She doesn’t feel like Supermom, even after raising 12 kids, but is learning to be patient and to parent each child in different ways.

“Seven of them, they all came at once, with all their needs and all their trauma, and it was really sort of overwhelming,” she said. “There were times where I was like, ‘How am I going to be enough for each of them?’”

“I wanted so desperately to help them, heal them and provide everything that they needed. But I learned to relax and have faith, to focus on the important things,” Pam Willis said. “… I think faith definitely plays a part when something aligns so perfectly. This is really like divine intervention.”

Read more about Menifee couple adopts seven orphaned siblings, proving ‘miracles do happen’ This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. Irvine Shredding Service

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California taxpayers may catch a break this year

California taxpayers may catch a break this year as state revenue stages an impressive rebound, while progressive Democrats find their most ambitious proposals running aground on the rocks.

No doubt many progressives thought the Legislature’s Democratic supermajority, along with the party’s control of every statewide office, would enable smooth sailing for liberal policy priorities. Instead, some of the most ambitious bills, and the tax increases that would accompany them, have been stalled.

Assembly Bill 310 is an unprecedented tax on “extreme wealth” that aims to collect an annual percentage of the global assets of the wealthiest Californians. It failed to get out of the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.

AB 65 is a bill that proposed a universal basic income of $12,000 per year for state residents earning less than twice the median income in their county of residence. It narrowly passed its first committee, but lawmakers said it will not move forward this year. A “funding source,” also known as a tax increase, was stripped out of the bill before the committee vote, leaving the bill’s author struggling to explain how all those UBI checks would be paid for.

AB 1400, a wildly expensive proposal to replace all private health insurance policies with single-payer government health insurance, was quietly shelved.

It’s noteworthy that these bills were halted at a time when the state is enjoying a surprising rebound in revenues after last year’s pandemic projections of fiscal doom.

The Department of Finance announced on April 23 that state revenue for the first three quarters of the current fiscal year is $16.7 billion ahead of projections. For the month of March alone, the state collected $2.3 billion more than the $8.9 billion that was predicted in the governor’s January budget.

Property tax collections are up, too. The State Board of Equalization released its 2019-2020 Annual Report showing that property tax revenue to schools rose from $38.1 billion in 2019 to $40.5 billion in 2020. In addition, local governments collected $34.9 billion, up from $32.7 billion.

These numbers should put to rest the perennial charge that Proposition 13 is hurting schools and local governments. Property tax revenue rises steadily under Prop. 13. If it’s never enough to meet the escalating demands of public employee unions, or the wish-list of big-government progressives, that may be a demand-side problem.

It’s good news for taxpayers that state revenues have strongly rebounded, and it’s good news that the Legislature is not rushing headlong into adopting huge new entitlement programs. Talk of tax increases should end, full stop, in a state that already has the highest income tax, sales tax and gasoline tax in the nation.

There’s another factor in play this year that acts as a restraint on the tax-and-spend impulse: the looming recall election. It’s unlikely that Gov. Gavin Newsom will want to sign a bill that raises taxes just weeks or months before voters receive a ballot that asks if they want to remove him from office.

So although things could change, it appears that taxpayers have a good chance of getting out of this legislative session alive and without losing their shirts. It’s a reminder that no matter what happened in the last election, the most important election is always the next one.

Read more about California taxpayers may catch a break this year This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. Irvine Shredding Service

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Disneyland reimagines Snow White ride just as Walt would have wanted

Walt Disney famously wanted Disneyland to continue to grow and Imagineering has made the old boss proud with a fantastic remake of the classic Snow White dark ride that seamlessly combines old and new tech into an update for the ages that will delight generations to come.

The reimagined and renamed Snow White’s Enchanted Wish returned when the Anaheim theme park reopened on April 30 after a yearlong pandemic closure.

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  • Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, the revamped ride that replaced Snow White’s Scary Adventures, at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, April 30, 2021. The resort’s parks have been closed for 412 days due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, the revamped ride that replaced Snow White’s Scary Adventures, at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, April 30, 2021. The resort’s parks have been closed for 412 days due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, the revamped ride that replaced Snow White’s Scary Adventures, at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, April 30, 2021. The resort’s parks have been closed for 412 days due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, the revamped ride that replaced Snow White’s Scary Adventures, at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, April 30, 2021. The resort’s parks have been closed for 412 days due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, the revamped ride that replaced Snow White’s Scary Adventures, at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, April 30, 2021. The resort’s parks have been closed for 412 days due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, the revamped ride that replaced Snow White’s Scary Adventures, at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, April 30, 2021. The resort’s parks have been closed for 412 days due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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SEE ALSO: How Disneyland made Snow White ride less scary and more ‘happily ever after’

The revamped Snow White ride is just what Walt would have wanted. The ultimate change agent was famous for “plussing” his attractions — doing so right up to the opening day of Disneyland in 1955 and until his death in 1966.

Walt Disney Imagineering has added just the right touches to Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, which now feels fresh and current while still retaining the reverence due an opening day Disneyland classic.

The new digital projection scenes and audio-animatronic figures are surprising yet appropriate. The Fantasyland ride seems like the old favorite fans will remember from their childhoods with just enough newness to convince die-hard Mouseheads to get back on the ride again for another spin.

The new Snow White’s Enchanted Wish was a must-ride attraction for visitors on reopening day following the 13-month coronavirus closure. The ride that was typically a walk-on in pre-pandemic times had a 30-minute-plus line most of the day. The socially distanced line for Snow White’s Enchanted Wish snaked through a tunnel next to Sleeping Beauty Castle, took over the unused Fantasy Faire Royal Hall queue and stretched to the Frontierland entrance.

SEE ALSO: Disneyland president says reopening symbolizes hope and optimism after yearlong closure

The former ride — known as Snow White’s Scary Adventure — had a reputation for scaring little kids to death. The makeover has removed the skeletons, torture and death that permeated the old ride. The preponderance of scary has been replaced with a healthy dose of suspense and the happily-ever-after quotient has been doubled.

Imagineering “plussed” 90% of the scenes in the attraction with updated physical sets, practical and audio-animatronic figures and sophisticated projection mapping technology.

The narrative of the Snow White ride has shifted through the years. In the 1950s, riders assumed the point of view of Snow White. In the ’80s, riders shared Snow White’s experiences. Now, we are observers through milestones in Snow White’s journey.

The ride still begins out front with the “Once upon a time” page in the fairy tale book. There’s a subtle hint of the changes to come inside with the cottage window shadow play in the loading area.

Inside the dark ride, the first scene looks familiar. But just around the corner, a spinning Snow White animatronic dancing with Dopey signals this is now Snow White’s ride and her story.

SEE ALSO: Disneyland to reopen Jungle Cruise this summer after removing outdated cultural depictions

Another shadow sequence leads into a familiar animated clip of the seven dwarfs heigh-hoing off to work in the mine. The new projection scene is just the right touch in the right place with the right moment from the 1938 Disney animated film. The ride then pivots back to practical figures with Dopey in a mine cart surrounded by gems with glistening and glowing jewels in his eyes.

There’s a lot to see in the next scene. Up ahead, a practical Doc figure examines a red gem. Off to the right, a projection of Grumpy pick axes in time to the music. What many riders will miss the first time through the revamped ride is the mine tunnel off to the left that stretches deep into the mine. It’s those layers of storytelling that require repeat viewings and make a good ride great.

The classic Evil Queen-Old Hag transformation scene looks familiar from a distance until a flash of projection lighting surrounds around the magic mirror.

Around the corner, a practical collection of colorful potion bottles is followed by a new projection scene with a gurgling and smoking magical concoction. The tandem scenes perfectly juxtapose the mix of old and new tech in the ride — allowing Imagineering and fans leaning one way or another about the changes to have it both ways.

The same goes for the poison apple scene that remains largely unchanged — except for a modern twist at the last moment that sees a magic pulse radiate from the cauldron, across the floor and up the walls. It’s my favorite scene in the revamped attraction because it perfectly melds the old and new in a way that pays tribute to the past and offers a nod to the now.

SEE ALSO: Secret Life of Pets ride finally debuts at Universal Studios Hollywood and it’s worth the wait

Snow White’s bite of the poison apple now includes a shattering digital mirror that sets up the finale. Up ahead, the terrified dwarfs as practical figures scale a mountain toward a projection of the Old Hag — with a delightfully frightened animatronic Dopey holding a shaking candle with a flickering flame. That quivering candle is my favorite moment in the attraction.

The ride comes to a swift end with True Love’s Kiss and Happily Ever After — rather than the fear and death of the former ride.

Walt Disney Imagineering has managed to pull off the ultimate feat with Snow White’s Enchanted Wish: Giving fans a reason to once again climb aboard an attraction everybody loves but nobody used to ride. Walt Disney’s original princess once again has an audience worthy of her place in the Disney animation pantheon.

Read more about Disneyland reimagines Snow White ride just as Walt would have wanted This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. Irvine Shredding Service

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12 indicted in alleged Southern California ‘green’ loan and mortgage fraud scheme

LOS ANGELES — A dozen people have been indicted in connection with an alleged mortgage fraud and “green” loan scheme that operated throughout Southern California and resulted in losses of about $15 million, the California Attorney General’s Office announced Wednesday.

The 133-count grand jury indictment, handed up April 26, alleges that the crimes occurred in Los Angeles, Riverside and Ventura counties.

The indictment charges the defendants with a variety of counts, including conspiracy, mortgage fraud, grand theft, identity theft, forgery, filing a false or forged document and money laundering.

The defendants allegedly exploited the Yrgene Energy Fund and Renew Funding, companies that provide funding to licensed contractors for energy- efficient home improvements for homeowners, and used false identities to get mortgage loans from conventional banks and hard money lenders, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

“The allegations against these defendants charge a pattern of disregard for the law and willingness to go as far as stealing the identities of the deceased just to further their scheme,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement announcing the charges. “Our office will seek to hold these defendants accountable for their alleged actions.”

Those named in the indictment are: Tamara Dadyan, 39, Richard Ayvazyan, 42, Artur Ayvazyan, 41, Grigor Tatoian, 50, Andranik Petrosyan, 46, Arshak Bartoumian, 48, Artashes Martirosyan, 43, Lilit Malyan, 39, Lubia Carrillo, 41, Rosa Zarate, 49, Estephanie Reynoso, 31, and Vanessa Bell, 60.

Eleven of the defendants have pleaded not guilty, with Malyan due back in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom for arraignment May 18.

The case stemmed from a multi-year investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department, with assistance from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General.

The attorney general lauded the two agencies for “their work to put an end to an extensive, six-year fraud scheme that resulted in the theft of an estimated $15 million.”

“If you were a victim or have information please call 213-486-6979,” said a tweet from LAPD Capt. Lillian Carranza.

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Motivated Keyla Romo leads Orangewood Academy girls basketball past rival Fairmont Prep

GARDEN GROVE — Orangewood Academy’s girls basketball team seized the victory it needed Wednesday, May 5 to stay in contention for the San Joaquin League title.

Keyla Romo made sure it counted for her grandmother, too.

On a night in which baskets were hard to come by, the guard sank a career-best four 3-pointers to help the No. 5 Spartans knock off visiting No. 2 Fairmont Prep 44-29 on the same day her grandmother died in Mexico after a fight with COVID-19.

Romo pounded her chest after one of her three first-half 3-pointers and drilled one more with 2:41 left in the fourth quarter en route to 14 points, which matched Hannah Stines for game-high honors.

“I was emotionally broke but then I realized that she wanted me to play hard and play for her,” Romo said of her grandmother Maria, who lived in Chihuahua, Mexico. “That’s what motivated me.”

Orangewood Academy (5-3, 3-1) avenged an earlier loss to Fairmont Prep (8-5, 4-1) in league and now moves on to play Sage Hill (10-2, 1-1) in back-to-back games May 12-13.

Romo said her grandmother was a fixture of her childhood and also a positive influence during the injury struggles as a sophomore and junior. She suffered a torn ACL just prior to her sophomore season and missed most of her junior season after having a second surgery due to scar tissue.

“She said I was her star,” Romo said of her grandmother.

Romo added a team-high four steals to help lead the Spartans’ defense. Orangewood Academy opened in a 2-3 defense before switching to a matchup zone.

“She played the game of her life,” Orangewood Academy coach Leslie Aragon said of Romo, an uncommitted 5-foot-10 senior. “All of those 3s. She came out with energy. She keys a lot of the stuff on defense. .. She was tough as nails. I’m so proud of her.”

Romo shared the spotlight with Stines, who scored 10 points in the second half and added 15 rebounds. The junior highlighted the fourth quarter by diving for a loose ball and then driving in heavy traffic on the ensuing possession for a left-handed layup to give the Spartans a 42-29 lead.

Amaya Lacy added 10 points and nine rebounds for Orangewood Academy. Aixchel Hernandez also helped the defense with two blocks and nine rebounds.

The Spartans made 1 of 13 shots from the floor in the second quarter to lead 19-13 at intermission.

Makaila Glynn led Fairmont Prep with 12 points and three steals. The Huskies made 1 of their first 17 3 pointers.

“We got the shots we wanted but just couldn’t hit tonight,” Fairmont Prep coach Sara Brown said.

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