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Alaska Dispatch News
When Angelica Haakenson woke up in the hospital and learned both her legs had been amputated, a family member says the 11-year-old's first thoughts weren't for herself -- they were for her mother, also seriously hurt in the Christmas Day accident on the Sterling Highway.
Tara Young

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Aaron Dollison, 49, grew up in Anchorage and learned to cook from his mother. He went on to cook at Susitna Foods & Spirits and Denny’s, but he learned how to cook in bulk in prison.Dollison said he would never get involved in drugs, but it surrounded him when he was growing up. He got into marijuana, and then cocaine, and then eventually started dealing cocaine, for which Dollison was busted and sentenced to more than 11 years in federal prison. His first stint was at Taft Federal Correction Institution in California, where he eventually became lead cook for 1,800 inmates. Then he cooked as lead cook for 1,600 in Sandstone, Minn. The last leg of his time was in Lompoc federal prison in California, where he was lead cook for 500.After he served his time, Dollison tried to find a job, but no one wanted to give him a second chance -- until he met Michael Bailey, food and facility director of Anchorage nonprofit Bean’s Café.Dollison has now been a chef at Bean’s Cafe for the past year and a half and says he’s happy to wake up at 5 a.m. to get to work: “I love my job.” He recalls a Bean’s fundraiser, The Pour in 2013, as the transformative moment when he knew he was welcome in society again. After much coaxing from colleagues he left the kitchen and walked around the event, talking to heads of banks and lawyers, all of whom made him feel welcome.“Right then, that changed my life,” Dollison said.Now Dollison hopes to be a model for the clients at Bean’s. Some are homeless; others are just down on their luck, he says. Dollison wants to show them that with hard work, determination, and a little encouragement from others, anything is possible.“The majority of these clients, they’re wonderful. We all make mistakes; they’re human just like we are,” Dollison said.“We’re like a big family here because we know each other. It’s great.”Watch this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Marc Lester
The Anchorage Curling Club on Government Hill is closed indefinitely because of a the coolant system used to create its two ice sheets is broken.
Mike Dunham
As the curtain comes down on the 2014 theater season, two monologues are among the works that have stuck with me. 
Kim Sunée
By the time New Year’s Eve comes rolling in, if you’re like me, you might be over the meatiness of the holidays. Just in time for New Year’s, some friends shared some of their beautiful fish from this summer’s catch.
Nathaniel Herz
In Anchorage, residents worked, played, relaxed and celebrated on Christmas Day after a morning snow squall gave way to afternoon sun and warmth. 
Alaska Dispatch News
Humpback whales feed in a truly unique way called bubble net feeding. These baleen whales swim in a circle around a school of fish, blowing bubbles to confine the fish. The ring of bubbles encircles the school and eventually the whales break the circle and gulp thousands of fish in one swallow. In this video shot by AkXPro Productions, a pod of humpback whales feeds in Prince William Sound while a drone hovers overhead. 
Alaska Dispatch News

Winter Solstice Sunrise to Sunset in Nome, Alaska

Winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, is particularly dark in the Arctic Circle. Nome, Alaska, situated on the coast of the Bering sea, gets less then four hours of sunlight during winter solstice.Read more: The science of winter solstice
The UAA Cheerleaders performed during the Seawolves' 80-58 home victory over Portland Bible at the Alaska Airlines Center on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014.
Suzanna Caldwell
Iditarod veteran Karin Hendrickson broke three vertebrae in an accident last month but is moving forward, thanks to an outpouring of support. Although she won't be on the sled, her dogs will run the Iditarod in March. 
Tara Young

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The Nutcracker first premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia at the Mariinsky Theater on Dec. 18, 1892. More than 120 years later, The Nutcracker has become a long-held Christmas tradition in America, enjoyed by families across the country. On Nov. 28-30, the Alaska Dance Theatre partnered with the Eugene Ballet Company to bring Anchorage audiences a bit of holiday magic at the Atwood Concert Hall.“Nutcracker is a great holiday tradition for most families, it’s relatable, there’s something in it for everyone.” said Erika Sandre, director of the Alaska Dance Theatre. “There’s a little bit of wonder, some mystery, some magic, also some little funny moments as well.”For the children and young adults of the Alaska Dance Theatre company, this performance may have been their first time working in a professional theater and -- working with the Eugene Ballet Company -- their first time performing alongside the pros. According to Sandre, “they’re sharing a stage with professional dancers, many of whom these young girls and our young boy will likely grow up idolizing. So to be able to work with them side by side is pretty remarkable.”Dancer Hannah Stieren, 10, said that her favorite part of performing in The Nutcracker is working with the dancers from Eugene company.“I love mostly the experience of it, that we get to perform with the company," she said. "I like performing with the company because it makes me feel like a ballerina. It makes me feel like I’m a part of them.”Watch this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.Read more: For many young ballet dancers, the annual 'Nutcracker' is a rite of passage
Alaska Dispatch News

Nature's Fury: The Next Alaska Quake - Rehearsing a Response

Ever since the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, Alaskans have speculated when the next big earthquake will occur. To test the preparedness of responders, the Federal Emergency Management Agency designed an earthquake-response simulation called Alaska Shield, which replayed the 1964 event in Anchorage and the surrounding region.FEMA is responsible for prepping for and responding to disasters, so they wanted to assess what areas would see the most impact and experience the most intense shaking during an earthquake. Their risk analysis used to create Alaska Shield was based on existing data from the U.S. Geological Survey.Read more: 50 years after huge earthquake, building moratorium expiring

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