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Another Scorching Friends and Family Day

By Eddy Ball
January 2009

Jeannie Bell-Nichols
NIEHS staffer Jeannie "J.J." Bell-Nichols watched over the prizes for the cake walk competition, as a fan in the background struggled to cool the karaoke stage and sound control area. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Host Birnbaum
"It's really fun to see people and their families here," Birnbaum said as she told the audience that her husband and mother were also visiting NIEHS that day. Birnbaum turned out to be a gracious host, but a victim of wishful thinking and fond illusion when it came to softball. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

No one actually plans it that way, but NIEHS Friends and Family Day, which moved outdoors in 2007, always seems to coincide with some of the hottest days of summer. The 2009 celebration was no exception, as NIEHS staff and contractors, families and children, and friends gathered under a sweltering sun June 19 on the patio outside the Rall building for fellowship, music, snacks, games and fishing. There were lunch specials at the NIEHS cafeteria inside, and those who wanted to escape the oppressive heat could enjoy Wii dancing and bingo in air-conditioned comfort in Rodbell Auditorium.

NIEHS and National Toxicology Program (NTP) Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., kicked off the event. "I'm a little sorry for the weather," she said and warned attendees to avoid getting overheated as they enjoyed the event. Speaking optimistically, she warned the other teams in the annual softball game to watch out for her Office of Director (OD) and NTP team, which she promised would pummel posteriors when the competition got underway later in the afternoon.

As the thermometer topped 90 degrees, the action shifted to the NIEHS ball field where the Institute's softball warriors battled for the honor of besting their colleagues from other divisions. Elimination games left members of the Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT) Devils and the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) Discoverers sitting on the sidelines for the final competition.

Not even a new name and Birnbaum's enthusiastic boosterism could tip the scales for OD/NTP in the playoff game. In a 23 to 2 rout, the Office of Management's (OM) Blazin' Bullets hitting machine trounced the OD/NTP Riptides and came away with the winner's cup for the second time in the three-year series. The outcome showed that enough new talent and fresh faces can revitalize a losing team.

Fortunately, as organizer Steve McCaw said afterwards, the annual battle of the bats "is indeed a Family Day event with just enough competition to make things 'edgy'" - so if there were any hurt feelings and injured pride, they shouldn't linger for long.

Madeline Rooney.
Summers of Discovery intern Madeline Rooney looked right at home throwing a Frisbee on the patio. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
inflatable slide
The inflatable slide and mechanical bull set up on the lawn beside the lake were really intended for kids, but the grownups also found them irresistible. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Still, once the grownups gave an inch, the kids were back where they deserved to be - at the center of the playground action. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Jennie Foushee
Jennie Foushee joked with Birnbaum as the fourth annual Friends and Family Day officially began. Debuting in Rodbell Auditorium in 2006, the next year the event moved outdoors in a big way. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Jeffrey Sunman
For younger employees, such as Postdoctoral Fellow Jeffrey Sunman, center, the event was also "Bring Your Toddler to Work" day. In the background, Mitch Williams also watched the games. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
VeeVee Shropshire
VeeVee Shropshire showed off her vocal talent as she got into the karaoke spirit. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Resting on their laurels at least for the time being, the OM Blazin' Bullets relaxed after their decisive win. Standing, from left, were Chuck Watkins, Lakesia Register, Marc Hollander, William Johnson, Scott Capouch, Wesley Averette, Craig Everett, Chad Emory, April Parker, William Ragland and Stephanie Bullock-Allen. Kneeling, from left, were VeeVee Shropshire, Rick Weaver, Kyle Hawkins. Seated on the grass, from left, were Charletta Fowler, Terry Wills and Derrick Vest. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

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