Musician finds persistence to be the key to recovery


October 22, 2001|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

PHIL SIMS of Ellicott City is known for contributing music to Columbia's annual Symphony of Lights holiday event and the Special Olympics of Maryland. These days, however, he's working on trying to get his business back off the ground while living with a rare form of cancer.

Sims, who plays guitar and keyboard, was found to have cancer in his neck in the spring of last year. During treatment, he suffered extensive damage to his spinal cord. For a while, he said, he was a quadriplegic. Now he has more mobility and is determined to walk again.

"They don't know how much of your ability will return and some of that is determined by how much you work," Sims said. "My intent is to walk again, but right now I can't."

These days, Sims, who describes his musical style as eclectic, New Age, jazz and world beat, can play the keyboard with his left hand but can't play the guitar well at all. Luckily, computer programs are available that act something like player pianos, making it possible for him to play the music he composes.

He rents a computer from the state Department of Rehabilitative Services, which has an office in Ellicott City. Sims is working to get grant money for his recording and composing business. He's also developing a Web site on which to sell his compact discs.

Sims' 1998 compact disc Quaker Hill was inspired by the area in Baltimore County where he used to hike and run. "While I was running or hiking, I would work on a lot of ideas," he said.

In the late 1980s, Sims wrote a jingle for Special Olympics Maryland called "Special Olympics Dreamers." Little did he know at the time how much he would identify with the dedicated athletes who compete in the Special Olympics.

Student writer honored

Howard High School senior Elizabeth Femiano has been recognized for her writing abilities by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). According to Joan Kozora, the school's English department instructional leader, Elizabeth had to cross quite a few hurdles before winning the honor.

Last year, Elizabeth was one of 10 students invited by Howard High English teachers to submit writing samples. The teachers took the names off the manuscripts and chose two of them to enter in the NCTE competition.

The authors of the manuscripts were asked to submit a piece of writing of their own choosing, and complete a timed written response to a question from the NCTE.

The work was sent to state evaluators, and Elizabeth was one of 600 students nationwide to win the honor. More than 2,000 students submitted their writing, Kozora said.

"To be one of those 600 winners is quite an extraordinary thing," Kozora said.

As a winner, Elizabeth's name will be printed in a book that will be sent to the nation's leading colleges and universities, Kozora said.

Church bazaars

St. Paul's Church, 3755 St. Paul St. in Ellicott City, is holding its second annual fund-raiser country auction and bazaar from 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 4. The event will be held indoors at the church.

Food, a silent auction, a Christmas room, a book nook, bake table and antiques will be featured. Information: Sharon Seiler, 410- 465-4483.

Emory United Methodist Women at Emory United Methodist Church, 3810 Church Road in Ellicott City, will hold a luncheon and bazaar from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 6.

Lunch will be chicken salad or ham, side dishes, drinks and desserts. The cost is $6.50, and $3.50 for children ages 6 to 12. There will be no charge for children younger than age 6. Carryouts are $7.

Information: Roberta Davis, 410-465-2894.

Halloween parade

Mount Hebron/Orchards Community Association will hold its annual Halloween parade at 7 p.m. Oct. 30. The parade will start at Furrow Court and end at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church.

The Mount Hebron High School marching band and marching units will perform, and children are welcome to parade in their costumes. A haunted house will be featured.

Bull roast

Centennial High School in Ellicott City is holdings its annual bull roast fund-raiser from 8 p.m. to midnight Nov. 17 at Turf Valley Country Club.

Tickets are $45, with $5 of the price going to the student organization or extracurricular activity of the buyer's choice. A silent auction, raffle, putting green and door prizes will be featured.

Tickets: Matt Bechta, 410-750- 1330, or Jim Foran, 410-465-3244.

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