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Brandi Rae still defying the odds and living life her way

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Brandi Rae Toney
Brandi with her alert dog, Kylie, who sadly passed away last year (photo courtesy of Toney family).

If you were to ask me if there is anything or anyone on God’s green earth that I would not bet against my answer would be emphatically, Brandi Rae Toney.

Almost 28 years ago, doctors told her parents that she would not live past the age of 2. Brandi suffers from a rare neuromuscular disorder known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy or SMA. In spite of this affliction, she celebrated her 29th birthday this month.

There is no cure at this time for SMA; however, Brandi is now taking a new drug that will hopefully give her some benefit in developing and maintaining muscle mass. 

Brandi’s condition has never slowed her down from her attempts to live as normal a life as possible. She operates her own business creating vinyl decals and custom shirts from her home. Her presence on social media is a constant source of entertainment for those of us who know and adore her, because as she will be the first to tell you, she is a bit of a ’90s fan and a total diva.

Her support system includes her mother, Debra, her father (she refers to him as “Diddy”), Charles Toney, and his wife, Christin, along with her sister, Brittany Thomason, her husband, John, and their family and Brandi’s immense circle of friends.

Some years back while on the staff at River 101 radio, I was privileged to be part of a group that staged a benefit called “Angel’s Wish.” Charles made one caveat when we did the benefit: that it not be a one-time deal. Brandi was the first benefactor. To the best of my knowledge, all of the recipients that followed have since passed on.

Brandi, or Brae as she prefers to be called, continues to defy the odds. Her kindness and perseverance are an inspiration to all who know her.

People

Pastor Reginald Harris Celebrates 17 years at Bright Morning Star Church

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Photo by Thomas Parker

Vicksburg Daily News was on hand to celebrate a special day with Pastor Reginald Harris and his family.

Sunday, the congregation at Bright Morning Star Church honored Pastor Harris for 17 years of leading the church.

Churchgoers decorated their vehicles and took the opportunity to join in the drive-by celebration and show their appreciation to the Pastor and his family.

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People

Those who keep us safe: Sam Winchester

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Photo by David Day

For 30 years and counting, Samuel K. Winchester has been a public servant.

In 1990, prior to a career in law enforcement, Winchester enlisted in the United States Military.

“I’ve always been involved in that line of work,” he said. “I am a veteran. I was in the United States Army, so that work really centered around a career in law enforcement after that.”

After the army, he got his first start in law enforcement by working at Alcorn State University. After a brief stint with the college, he started at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department in 2000.

Winchester grew up in a tiny town in Jefferson County, northeast of Natchez, called Rodney, Miss.

His upbringing resulted in him seeing first hand what it means to be a public servant.

“The person I looked up to was my father,” Winchester said. “Ironically, we both mirrored each other’s occupations. He was in the military and also he worked at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s department.”

Winchester saw that the Warren County Sheriff’s Department was hiring and he was hired in 2004.

With almost two decades with the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, Winchester wears many hats.

Winchester has worked his way up the ranks and in 2006 was named detective for the Criminal Investigation Division. He also is a hostage crisis negotiator for the department. Winchester is also called on to investigate county fires as a county fire investigator. Lastly, one of the most notable positions Winchester serves is as the primary driving instructor at the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officer Training Academy for the State of Mississippi located in Pearl.

With all these responsibilities, Winchester is a mild mannered man who enjoys being there for his community.

“My favorite part of serving on the sheriff’s department is that I get to help people,” Winchester said. “In today’s society, our job is centered around the public, so we always want the public to know we are available to them and it’s very crucial that we help everybody. If you can just help one person and touch one person’s life you can consider that a successful day.”

The people of Warren County are not the only people who recognize Winchester’s hard work. In 2017, he was recognized by Hon. Bennie G. Thompson in the House of Representatives by a Congressional Record for his service.

In the record, Thompson wrote, “I ask my colleagues to join me in recognizing, Det. Sam Winchester for his hard work, dedication and a strong desire to serve his country and community.”

After all of this success in his career, Winchester was asked to define a community hero.

“When you serve the public you dont put alot of thought into it being an individual community hero because it has so many moving parts to it,” he said. “Its a team effort. It’s not an individual effort. I look at everyone who serves the public and in law enforcement as a hero. Everyone who wakes up and puts on the uniform and risk their life to save someone else’s life or touch someone else’s life, that’s a hero.”

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Education

Mississippi native elected as Harvard student body president

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(photo courtesy Noah Harris)

A Mississippi high school graduate has been elected as Harvard University’s student body president.

Noah Harris, a 2018 graduate of Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is the first African American to serve in the role at prestigious Harvard University in Massachusetts.

“I’m really grateful that the student body is entrusting me with such a historic and unprecedented moment,” Harris told WDAM. “To make the right moves and to really bring their voices to the forefront. I just never expected that I would be in a position to run for this.”

Harris is a junior and a political science major at Harvard. He served as treasurer on the finance committee in his first two years. His vice president and running mate is neuroscience major Jenny Gan. Both plan on making a difference at the university.

Harris and Gan will be sworn in Dec. 6.

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