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An update on some inspiring Washington area people in 2009

By John Kelly
Wednesday, December 30, 2009; B02

As 2009 comes to a close, I thought I'd update you on a few of the people we met in my column this year. To read the original columns, visit my blog: voices.washingtonpost.com/commons.

Not just horsing around

Jamal Brown lives in Northeast Washington, not exactly a hotbed of equestrianism. But ever since he was a toddler, this city kid has been obsessed with horses. After my April column about Jamal, he was approached by the Washington International Horse Show, which made Jamal its official youth ambassador. He was at the show all week and met some of the country's top riders.

Jamal competes on the varsity riding team at the Barrie School in Silver Spring, where he's a junior. Soon he'll be looking at colleges. He's hoping to earn a scholarship to ride at a school that has an equestrian team.

"This is his passion," said Jamal's mother, Dannielle Brown. "I can't imagine him doing anything other than something connected with a career in horses."

Leaving no stone unturned

Each spring Arlington County's Stephen Powers embarks on a marathon eight-hour trip to visit all 40 of the weathered, 200-year-old stones that mark Washington's original borders.

After my May column, Stephen earned a meritorious service award from the local chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. When the weather warms up, some volunteers from that group will restore the rusty metal fence around the eastern cornerstone.

Best of all, a local collector contacted Stephen and allowed him to examine an original manuscript by Fred Woodward, who in 1906 started photographing all the stones. "That was like looking at the Holy Grail of the boundary stone preservation effort," Stephen said.

Stephen will embark on his fifth annual boundary stones trip this May. "I think my mother wants to go," he said. "There's a couple stones that are tough to get a 73-year-old woman down into, but she's a trooper."

Honoring the troops

Scott Kreger of Germantown vowed to provide every returning veteran with a token of his gratitude: a sticker reading "AFG" or "IRQ" and "I served." After my July column, donations to his effort poured in. So did requests for stickers.

"We've sent off 240,000 stickers now," Scott said. "I have only seen one, and it drives me crazy that I haven't seen any more. I heard that if you drive through Walter Reed they're everywhere."

The program has been such a hit that he wants to expand it to honor vets from another war. Said Scott: "If anybody out there has a really good contact with Vietnam veterans, I'd love it." You may soon see bumpers emblazoned with "VNM: I served." (E-mail Scott through his Web site at http://www.iservedsticker.org.)

A winning hand

Jon Urban is the 29-year-old industrial designer who quit his job and moved to Las Vegas in the summer to be a professional poker player. When I checked back two months ago, he was just squeaking by. Then early this month Jon came in tops at a poker tournament at the Bellagio. His prize: $27,642 -- plus a Rolex.

Are you keeping the watch, Jon? "Good question," he e-mailed me. "I don't see myself or my Dad wearing it so it'll probably end up sold."

Cookie monster

Alexandria's David Kowlessar invested tens of thousands of his own dollars in the Sip & Dip, a device he invented for dipping cookies in milk. His first shipment of 10,000 units arrived from China a few weeks after my November column.

"It's gone," David said of that sold-out order. "I have a new shipment that's coming in on Jan. 14."

Also arriving soon: a Sip & Dip character costume. Expect to see a costumed cookie-dipper plying area streets, drumming up business. "A little bit of guerrilla marketing," he said.

As for the big picture, David said he's in negotiations with several heavy hitters, including a cookie manufacturer and a Florida theme park.

What about people who say his idea is a few cookies short of a full box? "I'm very resilient and driven," David said. "I put a lot of time into this, and I believe in it. I've heard more noes than yeses, but I'm starting to convince people."

Children's Hospital

Here's the latest update on our Children's Hospital campaign: I need your help now more than ever. We've raised $160,242.04 toward our goal of $500,000 by Jan. 8. Please take a few minutes to send a check or money order payable to "Children's Hospital" to Washington Post Campaign, P.O. Box 17390, Baltimore, Md. 21297-1390. To donate online using a credit card, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/childrenshospital.

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