Thursday, September 22, 2016

Grandview Alderman Resigns

by Mary Wilson,

The City of Grandview has seen tremendous strides toward progress over the last several months, including groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings, announcements and more. Week after week, the City’s elected officials have been welcoming new businesses and been present at numerous community activities promoting the great things happening. One alderman has been noticeably absent.

Ward 1 Alderman Debbie Bibbs last attended a work session on June 21, while her last regular meeting was on August 9. On Monday, September 12, Bibbs submitted a resignation letter to Mayor Leonard Jones effective immediately, stating recent health issues require her immediate attention.

According to Bibbs, resignation wasn’t something she envisioned, but because of her health issues she felt she didn’t have any other option. She added that there is nothing in place for medical leave of elected officials.

“I have appreciated and enjoyed the relationships that I have developed while in this position,” said Bibbs. “I hope our relationships will go far beyond having worked together as elected persons and staff representing our great city, but relationships that have developed into friendships.”

Elected in April 2015, Bibbs became the first African-American woman elected to the Grandview Board of Aldermen. It also became the first time in Grandview’s history that three female aldermen were seated at one time. In 2014, the City of Grandview was seeking a candidate to fill a Ward I vacancy. With encouragement from friends, Bibbs, a resident for over 35 years, applied. Although she did not get the appointment, Bibbs decided to run for the position when it appeared on the April 2015 ballot.

“I’m so thankful and I appreciate the opportunity I was given to be on the Board and to sit in and be a part of helping move Grandview forward,” said Bibbs. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”

Going forward, according to policy on vacancy, the City Clerk will accept letters of interest from and send applications for appointment to qualified individuals to fill the position within a period of time specified by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen. That timeframe will be determined soon, according to Jones.

The applications will be reviewed, and after the Mayor and Board of Aldermen have selected an individual to fill the vacancy, a special meeting will be convened; the individual will be appointed and will serve until the next regular municipal election in April 2017. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Former KCMO Councilman Targeted in Drive-by Shooting

by Mary Wilson

Tucked back on a dead-end street in a quiet neighborhood in South Kansas City, John Sharp was home working on a few things before heading to bed in the early morning hours of Thursday, September 1. The former Kansas City, Missouri city councilman lives on a street where children are often playing outside, with bicycles left in driveways and basketballs finding home in nearby yards.

The peace and quiet of the overnight hours was disturbed on September 1. Sharp said he had just returned inside the house after retrieving some items from his garage when he heard at least eight rounds of gunfire from just outside his home.

“I thought they were right outside my window, it was so loud,” said Sharp. “Police recovered five shell casings that night and neighbors found two more after that. It’s just a wonder that somebody wasn’t killed.”

A neighbor had surveillance cameras on the night of the shooting, but Sharp said the quality of the video is poor. The footage shows the suspect’s car heading west down the street, slow in front of Sharp’s house with a suspect hanging out of the passenger’s window shooting at the house over the roof of the car and then drive away. Another neighbor saw the car, but didn’t make out enough details to provide police with make or model.

“They were shooting a 40-caliber, which is a pretty big gun,” said Sharp. At the time of the shooting, a vehicle in Sharp’s driveway had a hole in the back window with the bullet lodged in the roof of the car. Since then, the window has shattered. Another bullet hole can be seen in Sharp’s garage door that eventually hit the back wall of the garage.

Sharp’s neighbor’s house was also hit with bullets, including one that went through a sleeping child’s bedroom. A car in that driveway also has a bullet hole in it, along with the roof of the house.

“I hadn’t even realized they were hit that night,” said Sharp. “I found out the next day. She (the homeowner) just moved in from out of state. She hasn’t been here long enough to make any enemies. I’m not sure she’ll be here very long after this.”

He believes he was a target of retaliation stemming from a recent election and political activities he’s been involved with.

“I don’t go to clubs anymore and I’m not messing around with somebody’s wife, you know?” said Sharp. “About all I do anymore is charitable work.”

A reward of up to $2000 is being offered for any information regarding the drive-by shooting. Witnesses are asked to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Local Restaurant Owners Make Giving a Business Priority

by Mary Wilson

A popular restaurant in Grandview has been serving up more than chicken wings since opening last April. Wingz and More owners Chris Ray and Katie Benner have been busy making a name for themselves in the community, thanks to the power of social media.

Having known each other for a few years, Ray and Benner, who grew up in Kansas City and Grandview respectively, were looking at business opportunities to pursue in the area. They did some planning and research based on the needs of the community, and ultimately settled on opening a restaurant.

“We knew a chicken wing place was here before and was a fan favorite,” said Benner. “So, we started to look around and see what venues were available that might work for us.”

The duo began negotiations to find a home in the new Truman’s Marketplace shopping center redevelopment when they found the current location just across Blue Ridge.

“This location works out really well for us and the business and is much better suited for us,” said Benner. “Chris began working on recipes for the menu, while I worked on the back office side of things.”

Benner and Ray have worked various charity events together in the past, and knew that giving back to the community would remain a priority in their business endeavors.
“It’s something simple that we could do, especially with food,” said Benner. “Everyone has to eat.”
Ray suggested a lasagna dinner, where community members were invited via social media to come and have a meal, no charge, no questions asked. A tip jar that sits on the counter at Wingz and More is labeled “for the needy.”
“For our first shot at something like that, we had a fair number of people here,” said Benner. “With the tips, whether someone drops the change given back to them or larger bills, our customers are always contributing to those funds that we can then turn around and use for those meals that we provide.”
The lasagna dinner, only being advertised through social media and word of mouth, provided a warm, full meal for those in need in the community. On Facebook, the post for the dinner was shared 62 times, and talked about in various groups. That morning of the dinner, Ray also visited some areas in the community where he knew homeless and hungry people live and invited them to the restaurant.

“I thought about putting a sign out to advertise it as well,” said Ray. “I figure, if people are going to come in and take advantage of it, that’s not really my cross to bear. I won’t turn anybody away.”

While he’s more inclined to provide the meals outside of the major holiday seasons, he does understand there is a need during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and he has plans in the works to help fill that need. Ray has also begun working with the Grandview High School football program, helping provide food for the athletes to help alleviate the burden to the parents.

“You can’t expect kids to perform on a football field if they haven’t eaten,” said Benner. “A few from the team have even interviewed for jobs with us.”

Two young men from Grandview were recently hired part-time at the restaurant. Ray said he was pleasantly surprised by the mannerisms and overall maturity of the teammates from Grandview he has met.

Passionate about education and providing for the community, Ray ran for the Hickman Mills School Board a few years ago, losing the election by only 30 votes. Benner’s mother is a former teacher at Santa Fe.

Wingz and More has received rave reviews on social media, and has only advertised themselves through different media outlets, but Brenner said they’ve found the most luck through Facebook. On a local rant/rave page, Wingz and More is possibly one of the top-reviewed businesses within the last several months since they opened.

“We are so far ahead of where we thought we’d be at this point,” said Ray. “We had decent projections which we’re surpassing majorly. It is a good problem to have.”

Wingz and More is located at 11902 S Blue Ridge, Suite C, in Grandview. They are open daily on Monday for dinner from 4-9, Tuesday through Thursday for lunch and dinner from 11-9, Friday and Saturday for lunch and dinner from 11-10, and Sunday for lunch and dinner from 12-7. They also have meeting space available and catering options. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Ranch-style Home Cookin’ Opens in Grandview

Michelle’s Ranch Café moves to new location from Raymore

by Mary Wilson

Having been at the Benjamin Ranch Café for 21 years, Michelle Reynolds opened the first Michelle’s Ranch Café 10 years ago in Raymore when Cerner announced their plans to purchase the properties and redevelop the former Bannister site.

“Of course, it took another 10 years after we moved out of there for anything to start happening,” said Reynolds. “We were told they were coming right in and so we did what we thought was best.”
More recently, the 10-year lease on the café in Raymore was up and Reynolds made the choice to move her restaurant to a new location.

“The people in Raymore were really good to me,” said Reynolds. “My restaurant there was off the beaten path a bit, so it’s nice to open up again and see all these familiar faces.”

Reynolds closed her restaurant in Raymore on Monday, July 25. On Tuesday, July 26, all of her furniture and supplies were moved to her new location in Grandview. With a team of help and assistance from local company JC Love, Reynolds was ready to serve breakfast in Grandview’s Ranch Café on Friday, July 29.

“We got in a lot faster and it went a lot smoother than I thought it would,” said Reynolds. “Everybody here is so awesome. The city, my staff and our vendors have really bent over backwards to help get us up and going again. They all worked their butts off.”

Visible from the highway, Reynolds pointed out that the new location is close enough for her former Raymore customers to visit, as well as for those who remember her from Benjamin Ranch.

“When I drove by and saw it was empty, I knew that was where I wanted to be. I couldn’t have picked a better location,” said Reynolds.

Her success at Benjamin Ranch was due a lot to current construction at the time, including the Walmart and Montgomery Ward stores going in. The entire operation was strictly word-of-mouth; no advertising was done in the 21 years the restaurant was open.

“It was mostly the construction guys who would eat there and then go back and tell their families and friends about us,” said Reynolds.

The restaurant business runs in the family. Reynolds’ daughter, Katie, owns and operates a restaurant in Peculiar, and she considers her son her left-hand-man.

“If I’m not here, my son will be,” said Reynolds. “We’re truly a family business. My other half, Mike, does all of my errand running for me.”

Visible from I-49, Michelle’s Ranch Café is located at 12704 E Frontage Road, in the former Livingston’s and Shirley’s restaurants. Open daily from 6-2 for breakfast and lunch, the Ranch serves home-style, comfort foods, ranging from biscuits and gravy to meatloaf and tenderloins.

“We’re excited and really happy to be here in Grandview,” said Reynolds. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

KC man, GV grad alleged in Baton Rouge shooting

 Suspect in Baton Rouge police murders Gavin Long, 
pictured above in 2005 Grandview yearbook photo, and below in 
a YouTube video posted  on July 10, 2016.

by Mary Wilson

The man who fatally shot three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge, La., and wounded three others before being killed by the police on Sunday morning “was targeting officers,” Louisiana state police officials said Monday.

The three officers killed Sunday were: Montrell L. Jackson, 32, a 10-year veteran of the Baton Rouge Police Department, who was married with a new baby at home; Matthew Gerald, 41, who had served with the Baton Rouge Police Department for less than a year; and Brad Garafola, 45, an East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputy and a father of four. Of the officers who were wounded, one was “fighting for his life” in the hospital on Monday.

Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, Colonel Michael D. Edmonson, said in a news conference that his department is confident that the suspect, 29-year-old Gavin Long of Kansas City, was the only shooter in the incidents that took place in Baton Rouge, LA.

“When he engaged those police officers, he was deliberate and extremely accurate,” said Edmonson.

According to Baton Rouge police, three guns were taken from Long, and they recovered a rented Chevy Malibu with Missouri plates from the scene. Edmonson added that one of the more challenging things in this case will be the examination of Long’s social media, including posts and activity on his accounts after the crime took place.

“Three officers are dead, one is fighting for his life, we owe it to them to do it right and get it right,” said. Edmondson.

According to Long’s YouTube videos, under the pseudonym Cosmo Setepenra, he believed the world is run by devils and that “it takes one revolutionary to stand up against oppression and sacrifice.” He also believed that 100% of revolutions have been “successful through fighting back, through bloodshed. Zero have been successful by simply protesting.” It is believed that while he was in Baton Rouge, Long was specifically and intentionally looking to engage with police officers.

Long attended Grandview Schools beginning at Conn-West in 1996, for fourth and fifth grades. He then attended Grandview Middle School, and ultimately graduated from Grandview High School in 2005. According to Grandview High School’s yearbooks from his high school career, Long was not involved in clubs or organizations outside of normal curriculum.

Long joined the Marines in 2005 and served until 2010, according to military records obtained by the Associated Press. He rose to the rank of sergeant and served in Iraq from June 2008 to January 2009. Records show he received several medals, including one for good conduct. Long received an honorable discharge and was listed as a “data network specialist.”

Since then, Long claimed to be a world traveler, spending the last two years in Africa before recently returning to his home in Kansas City, at 1166 E 77th Ter., where records show he has lived since 2012.

“With our partners from local, state and national agencies, we will leave no stone unturned. This is a unified team,” said a federal investigator during Monday’s news conference. “This will only make us stronger. We will work tirelessly to ensure safety in this community and throughout the nation.”

Anyone with information related to the suspect or the Baton Rouge investigation is encouraged to call 800-CALL-FBI.

Friday, July 15, 2016

County leadership faces violence head-on

by Mary Wilson

The entire country is feeling the heat this summer, and not just because of the rising temperatures. Violence has impacted every community, including Kansas City.

“In July of 2016, it is a hard time to talk about violence reduction,” Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said to a crowded room of community members.

The South Kansas City Alliance on Monday evening hosted Peters Baker, along with County Executive Frank White, Sheriff Mike Sharp and Legislator Dan Tarwater, to provide county-wide updates that may have an effect on South KC.

“There are some prosecutors and some police officers that think that violence is just something we have to accept and that there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Peters Baker. “That’s just wrong.”

Since becoming prosecutor, Peters Baker has made an effort to expand the partnership between her office, the police and into the community with pastors, neighborhood associations and citizens. They have called upon the help of the metro as a whole to engage in the effort of violence reduction, creating the No Violence Alliance, or NoVA.

“It can feel like a tough time right now,” said Peters Baker. “We are all feeling the weight and the burden of violence in our city and in our country. I don’t believe that there is nothing we can do about violence.”

She added that because violence has been looked at through a particular scope for so long, other options have been neglected for reducing violence. Prosecutors and law enforcement continue to look for ways to engage the community.

“We have to own, as law enforcement officers, that we have lost some of the public’s trust,” said Peters Baker. “We want to build it back through real programs that really help, that are credible and that are designed to help neighborhoods help themselves.”

In 2014, at the infant stages of the NoVA, Jackson County’s homicide level was reduced to a 40-year low. Some ground was lost, according to Peters Baker, when the Ferguson case happened, which shifted some focus and some credibility that was being established.

“I know that there is far more that unites us than divides us, even on our worst day,” said Peters Baker. “We are Americans and we have faced tough times before. We have looked in the face of strife, faced it and moved through it a stronger country. We are in the middle of a heated debate, but sometimes that can take us to a better place if we listen.”

White added that now is the time to make some positive changes in the community, and the County has made efforts to promote positive quality of life experiences for everyone, including parks, trails and other county assets.

“If we make it important to us, it becomes important to those around us,” said White. “I’m not a big status quo guy, and as an elected official, I don’t have the time to make big changes. You have to go in and make your points clear, be able to delegate and get out of the way and let your people do their jobs.”

Tarwater suggested that community members reach out to the county legislators to voice concerns and share interests. It is the legislature’s job to then find ways to implement programs and other suggestions in the county.

“Your needs are the needs of Jackson County,” said Tarwater. “We look at ways, probably for the past ten years or more, to do more with less.”

He added that the money tied into the drug prevention programming all ties into violence reduction. While some may argue that the county doesn’t have the best solutions in place to combat drugs and violence, Tarwater suggested coming up with alternatives and looking at different options.

“I want to hear about it; we all do,” said Tarwater. “That’s how we find out what works.”

Sharp, who formerly worked for the Kansas City Police Department, said that since he became Sheriff, he has worked to unite the law enforcement departments. He added that there was a “turf” war between departments.

“I don’t step on your turf, you don’t step on mine. Criminals don’t live by that rule; they travel,” said Sharp. “We now work very closely with the Kansas City Police Department, Lee’s Summit, all of the local agencies.”

The Sheriff’s department has become a support unit for the other agencies when they are low on manpower, such as during the World Series. Sharp also sits on the Governor-appointed board that oversees statewide drug task force dollars.

“The Jackson County Drug Task Force, funded by COMBAT, and the drug task force through the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, are the two top-rated drug task force units in the state,” said Sharp. “We recover more narcotics and more money than all other drug task forces combined.”

Sharp added that without tax support and support from local police departments, that would not have been possible.

The panel was united in the county’s efforts to reduce violence, and all spoke of garnering feedback from the community. More information on NoVA, COMBAT and the legislature’s priorities can be found on

Friday, July 8, 2016


by Brent Kalwei

The Hickman Mills football program no longer exists, but for those who witnessed Cougar running back Mike Harper play, the memories have stood the test of time. He arrived at Hickman Mills High School in the fall of 1976, shortly after  the school’s inaugural year in 1972. By the time Harper graduated in the spring of 1979, he had left a legacy that is perhaps unmatched by any other Cougar in the 38-year existence of athletic programs at the school.

The greatness of Harper’s high school athletic career may have been best exemplified on the soggy, rain-soaked field during the evening of September 29, 1978, when he scampered for 358 yards and four touchdowns in a dominating 35-0 Homecoming victory against Raytown.

“I was blessed with the gift of speed. I knew I had a deep desire to beat people in  running,” he said.

It has been 37 years since Harper graduated from Hickman Mills, but some of the memories are still fresh in his mind.

“Probably the most long-lasting memories have been the friendships and fellowships that I’ve maintained to this very day,” he said.

Harper played alongside teammate Jeff Leiding, fullback/linebacker, who later made the Division I All-American team in 1983 as a linebacker with the Texas Longhorns.

“He was a phenomenal blocker, and an ever better tackler,” Harper said. “I benefited greatly because of his capabilities and his ability to move guys out of the way. He was probably one of the best fullbacks in the country at that time.”

Leiding died of a heart attack on July 13, 2014, at the age of 52.

As a student-athlete, Harper developed a number of relationships at Hickman Mills.

“I enjoy the fond memories of coaches, teachers, teammates, students and competitions between other rivals, for example Ruskin and Grandview – where we came out on the better end of most of those,” he said.

In the third week of Harper’s 1978 senior season, the Cougars defeated Grandview 14-7, which turned out to be the Bulldogs’ lone loss of the season. He recalled a crowd of about 4,000 attending the game. Harper said the Hickman Mills football team had a strong determination to win. Before and after wins, the Cougars would, as a team, listen to the 1977 hit song “We Are the Champions” by Queen. The 1978 squad proved to play like champions, as they finished the regular season with a perfect 10-0 record, while also becoming Big Six Conference champions.

The team ate like champions as well. He recalls eating pre-game meals with teammates at Ponderosa Steakhouse at Truman Corners.

In the 1978 Class 4A state quarterfinals, Hickman Mills fell to Jefferson City, who went on to claim its third straight state championship. The Cougars also fell to Jefferson City in the state quarterfinals the previous season.

Harper marvels at how good the Cougar defense was during his tenure at Hickman Mills. He said the unit that featured All-Conference players such as linebackers Leiding and David Mehrer; defensive
lineman Clint Loy; and safety Darren Blair, may have been the best in the state. All four went on to play college football.

“When I watched old films of our defense, it was amazing. We were dominant. It was hard to score against us,” he said.

Harper became popular among his peers in high school. The Hickman Mills art class created a mural of him playing football and when finished, they posted the art on the school’s wall. He said they cut the photo into 48 small squares.

“Each student took a square home and made it their project to blow that up to a full 1-foot by 1-foot square, and they all brought it back and put it back together,” Harper said. “I thought that was special.”

In a high school career filled with many individual and team achievements, perhaps the most impressive for Harper was breaking the 2,000-yard barrier during his senior season. He finished the regular season with 2,228 rushing yards, 9.6 yards per carry, while scoring 32 touchdowns.

“I did not realize at the time how much that would turn out to mean to me personally. Not only did it mean a lot to me, but it seems like it meant a lot to the school, to the community and to the city,” Harper said. “I did not realize that was a milestone that wasn’t reached that often.”

His accomplishment helped him make the high school Parade All-America Football Team in 1978. Eventual National Football League Hall of Famers John Elway, Dan Marino and Eric Dickerson also made the list of 1978 All-Americans. A September 28, 1978, Jackson County Advocate football article said, “Mike Harper is his name and running is his game.” The same could be said about Harper on the track surface. While in high school, he developed rivalries with three sprinters – Ruskin’s David Gaylord, Grandview’s David Haynes and Columbia Hickman’s Gary Anderson. The three also happened to be top running backs at their respective schools during Harper’s high school tenure. Anderson went on to play in the NFL.

“I had to run against them in the 100-yard dash and they were a challenge. If I didn’t have the perfect start and if I wasn’t on top of my game, any one of those guys could beat me,” he said. “David Gaylord was a stocky, strong runner. He was always a threat in the sprints.”

Harper helped the Cougars track and field team win the 1979 Class 4A state championship.

“It was a total team effort. Everybody had to be at their best,” he said. Harper claimed the state crown in the 330-yard intermediate hurdles. Harper appreciates the support and guidance he received as a student-athlete during his three years at Hickman Mills. He said his greatest mentors and supporters included his parents Linzy and Marva; grandmother Candis Shelby; teacher Ms. Snodgrass; Sunday school teacher Ms. Hickman; and Ray Beeson, assistant track and field coach and assistant football coach. He also mentions his neighbors Jeannie Martin and Shirley Johnson, who helped him out in so many ways – each being like another parent.

“I certainly had a group of people who all supported what I was doing, in many ways. Not just in football, but in life. They made me work for what I had to do because I had to work hard and wasn’t just given things,” Harper said. “I enjoyed all of the time that I had at Hickman Mills. It was a gift and blessing. I can’t tell you how many times I had the opportunity to say thank you to parents, coaches and fans. For a high school kid – looking back, that was a bigger deal than I realized. I was on television probably every week.”

Despite all his high school athletic accomplishments, playing professional football is not a level Harper saw himself reaching.

“I recall people making what I thought were outlandish statements about me playing pro football,” he said. “I was 178 pounds in high school. I had speed, but hadn’t yet envisioned myself playing pro football, but the opportunities to play in college were certainly available. I was recruited by many schools across the nation.”

Harper decided to take his talents to the University of Southern California, where in the fall of 1979 he joined the backfield of eventual Heisman Trophy winners Marcus Allen and Charles White.

“My dream was to be the fastest man in the world; my opportunity was to play college football,” he said. Harper made a good first impression as a freshman for the No. 1 ranked USC Trojans in a game against Oregon State.

“I gained 48 yards on my first carry and 126 yards in the game, and that was the second half of the game,” he said. “For a brief moment, I thought it was going to be easy.”

The Trojans completed the season with an 11-0-1 record, while claiming the Pac-10 title and defeating No. 1 Ohio State, 17-16, in the Rose Bowl. The College Football Researchers Association selected USC as National Champions. The Trojans also received a No. 2 ranking in the final Associated Press poll.

Injuries during Harper’s sophomore season did not allow him to compete the full season with Allen for the premier running back spot. He also had to red shirt the following season due to injury. He finished his USC career strong, by leading a committee of Trojan tailbacks with 685 rushing yards during his senior season.

Harper graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the Marshall School of Business at USC in the spring of 1984. The Los Angeles Rams selected Harper in the 11th round of the 1984 NFL Draft, but he did not make the roster. Harper then played a short stint in the Canadian Football League before returning to the NFL. After being cut a second time by the Rams, the New York Jets signed him as a free agent. Harper would go on to play four more years (1986-90) as a wide receiver and kick return specialist for the Jets.

After his NFL career, he spent nearly 18 years working for Fortune 500 companies such as Amdahl Corporation, Sun Microsystems, Hitachi Data Systems and NetApp. Harper eventually went on to work as a Development Director for Acres of Hope, a nonprofit program that helps provide for homeless women with children. During Harper’s time with the organization, they acquired a new property that he said was more conducive to the needs of the women and children. With community support, the program raised more than $2 million.

“That helped me appreciate how much community means,” he said. “Working at Acres of Hope and engaging with the community … taught me something as a man, as a person, as a dad and as a husband about how special that relationship with your wife can and should be.”

Harper also worked as the Director of Community Outreach for the Sacramento Mountain Lions, a member of the United Football League. He engaged with community organizations such as youth sports teams, churches and faith-based organizations. Harper now works as the Associate Athletic
Director for William Jessup University, Rocklin California. He began working at the university in January 2015 and his primary role is in development and fundraising for athletics.

“It’s a culmination of my athletic background, my interest in young people and athletics, and my skills from sales and marketing for the last 18 years,” Harper said. “I go out among different constituents, donors, alumni and administration, to build, identify and steward relationships with boosters, teams and community.”

He is now 55 years of age and lives in Roseville, California with Cheryl, his wife of 29 years. They have four children - Jazmin, Joslyn, Jarad and Jada.

Jazmin graduated from Stanford University and is working on a master’s degree at Duke University. She competed in track and field from age 6 to college, winning national championships in three different age groups on relay teams. Joslyn graduated high school this year and plans to attend Santa Clara University. Jarad enters his junior year of high school this fall. He runs track and plays football.
Jada will be a high school freshman this fall.

“I’ve been blessed to have a beautiful  wife and family. Being a father means a lot to me,” he said.

As a Christian, Harper said he attributes his successes and relationships to his faith.

“I learned to be a loving person because of my faith,” he said. “I try to live every day, knowing and understanding that it’s because of my faith in Christ that I do have the opportunities that I have had and that I can overcome the challenges and obstacles that I face.”

Although Harper now lives many miles away from his original stomping grounds, the many moments he experienced in Kansas City are still close to his heart. He recalls his greatest childhood memories as running up and down streets, chasing people on the playground, sledding in the winter, going trick-or-treating, playing pool and table tennis, and hanging out with friends.

“I’m glad I was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. It’s a great mid-America, wholesome environment,” he said. “The times then were more innocent. You could choose to be innocent and you didn’t fall too far out of the margin of society. That time I spent at Hickman Mills was very special.”