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Johnson City leaders gathered at King Commons Park on Thursday afternoon to dedicate the city's Sesquicentennial Legacy Project, which celebra…

Gray teenager receives gaming computer from Make-a-Wish East Tennessee

It’s game on for a teenager from Gray who received a custom-built gaming computer from Make-a-Wish East Tennessee on Thursday.

For Caleb DePriest, a 19-year-old with scleroderma, the COVID-19 pandemic has made socializing with friends in person difficult. So DePriest turned to gaming as a way to keep up with his friends.

“I’m able to play games with all my friends and even meet new people online that share the same interests as me,” said DePriest.

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease which causes connective tissues to harden. DePriest said he was first diagnosed with the rare disease in 2016.

“At first we thought we had it under control, but it was progressing really rapidly, and it was affecting my lungs,” said DePriest. “My lungs got down to under 30% functioning, which is not good — super scary. I really don’t know how long I would’ve had left but a great team in Pittsburgh got me involved in a stem cell transplant, and since then I am not free from that disease, but for now, in remission.”

Make-a-Wish East Tennessee teamed up with Make-a-Wish Greater Bay Area to allow DePriest to design his own liquid-cooled gaming computer built by Origin PC. DePriest was able to watch Origin PC build his computer over Zoom, and he was finally able to pick it up on Thursday at the Gray Fossil Site.

“For the last 18 months, his connections to the community have really been through the computer, through games, competition, things like that, and being able to sort of play sports and play games with friends locally and around the world,” said Christina Sayer, the director of wish granting for Make-a-Wish East Tennessee. “This computer and its extra accessories will be able to help him do that even more and even better and become a really world-class gamer.”

DePriest’s mother said it was difficult to put into words how it made her feel watching her son receive his wish.

“This is something that he loves, and I’m sure that he’ll get years of enjoyment out of it,” said Heather DePriest, Caleb’s mother. “But just that he’s healthy enough to be here and get it. I mean, that’s the miracle to me.”


Animal shelter bricks provide memories

The Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter has a new way to remember beloved pets — or people — who left your life too soon, and it’s all for a good cause.

Shelter Director Tammy Davis made an official announcement Thursday about a project that’s been in the works since the facility opened on North Roan Street in June 2015.

She was able to put more focus on this project, a memorial garden walkway, after the big announcement earlier this month about a new spay and neuter clinic being built onsite.

The brick walk in the memorial garden, beside the shelter’s front entrance, is one of several ways to memorialize pets or people, or even honor those still living, Davis said.

Each brick costs $120, and any name can be inscribed onto it, and it’s something that will last forever.

Each brick can have two lines of text and 15 characters per line.

Paw prints take up five character spots, Davis said.

Other “in memory” or “in honor” options at the shelter include sponsoring a kennel, and while those are important to the shelter’s budget, those have to be renewed annually. Another sponsorship donation for the facility is a memorial wall where people can purchase a ceramic tile with their pet’s photo, name and other information.

Those tiles cost more — $250 —but it’s a way to always be able to see a photo of that special pet whenever you visit the shelter.

Funding for the shelter comes from three sources: Johnson City, Washington County and the public. Public donations account for more than half the shelter’s $1.2 million annual budget.

“We rely on this and other fundraisers to have the money to provide the best possible care for animals while they are in our care,” Davis said.

ETSU to host Bands of America Regional Championship

East Tennessee State University will host one of 22 Bands of America Regional Championships on Saturday in the ETSU Mini Dome.

The box office opens at 10:15 a.m., and gates will open at 10:45 a.m. Sixteen of the top bands in Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida will compete throughout the day, and the top 12 bands will advance to finals in the evening.

ETSU’s Marching Bucs will perform their 2021 halftime show in exhibition at 4:15 p.m. just prior to preliminary awards. Finals will start at 7 p.m. with gates opening 30 minutes prior.

“Hosting a Bands of America regional championship is a huge win for our university and the Appalachian Highlands,” said ETSU President Brian Noland. “Bands of America events are the pinnacle of competitive marching band, and it is inspiring to see the results of hard work and dedication as high school students perform on our campus. We are proud to host these talented musicians, and we hope they will see our commitment to music education and find a home at ETSU during their visit.”

The ETSU Marching Bucs will assist throughout the day’s events.

“We are excited to host and meet the talented students participating in the regional championship this year,” said Joe Moore, athletic bands director. “This is an excellent opportunity to show high school students thinking about college why our Marching Bucs program is outstanding. On competition day, they’ll be able to visit our campus, get to know the Marching Bucs and learn more about what ETSU and the region offers to students interested in music.”

ETSU last hosted the Bands of America Regional Championship in 2019, when local high school Dobyns-Bennett, finished second overall in finals competition. Dobyns-Bennett went on to place in the top 12 at the Bands of America Grand Nationals Championship.

The band will be competing this year at the regional championship along with another Grand National Finalist, Tarpon Springs High School, of Tarpon Springs, Florida.

“The Bands of America Regional Championship has a major impact on our region by promoting music education and the university in addition to supporting the local economy,” said David Golden, ETSU Research Corporation chief executive officer. “This year’s competition will bring thousands of people to the Appalachian Highlands and is a great opportunity for the campus and our region to showcase the many things that make this a world-class place to work, live and play.”

Golden is on the board of directors for Music for All, which is the non-profit, parent organization for Bands of America with a mission to support positive experiences through music.

Created in 1976 and with more than one million alumni, Bands of America is the governing body for U.S. high school marching band competitions with annual regional, super-regional and grand national competitions.

This year’s regional championships are presented by Yamaha, and Ballad Health is the title sponsor of the Johnson City regional.

For more information and to buy tickets to the Bands of America Regional Championship, visit