PAWSING FOR VETERANS

Ken Hoffman highlights a special group that unites four-legged friends with American heroes

Patriot Paws/Facebook

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

It's that time of year: Houston Ballet's packed and popular Nutcracker Market will be held Thursday, November 14, through Sunday, November 17, at NRG Center with more than 100,000 shoppers expected to scoop up everything "Christmasy" that can fit under a tree, down a chimney, on a dinner table or you can put a bow on it.

About 260 merchants, including 23 rookie booths, will kick back 11 percent of their sales toward the Houston Ballet Foundation. When you add in all the admission money, thousands of Houston area students will get a valuable lesson in the arts.

As always, all roads will lead to booth 920, to the back and to the right in NRG Center, where the Donne Di Domani ladies will be selling their legendary marinara sauce for the 28th year. Donne Di Domani means "Women of Tomorrow" in Italian, or "Spaghetti Sauce Ladies" in plain English.

The sauce is still $10 a bottle, credit cards accepted. If you buy a 12-bottle case for $120, they'll throw in a dozen recipe cards guaranteed to please the family, including your uncle who comes to your house each Christmas and does nothing but complain about your cooking.

Here's why I love writing about these ladies. Sure their sauce is amazing. Consider this a warning: If you wait till Sunday to buy the sauce, you'll be the little piggy who had none. But the real story is what Donne Di Domani does with their profits — we're talking millions here. Yeah, they sell a lot of sauce.

Each year, after the market closes and they total up the profits, the ladies decide which charities they'll support. It's a long list of organizations such as Shelter for Cancer Families, Casa Juan Diego, Triumph Over Kid Cancer, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the Carmelite Nuns of New Caney, and many more.

One year, when I was in the hospital getting my X-rays touched up, I heard that Sister Angel and the Carmelite Nuns said a prayer for me. Wrong church, wrong pew, but I'll take it.

Pawsing for our heroes
The charities may change, but the ladies will always support an organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families. Last year the charity was Folded Flag, which lends a hand to widows and children of soldiers killed in the line of duty.

In recent years, Donne Di Domani sponsored service dogs trained by Patriot Paws in Rockwell, Texas. I've been to Rockwell and seen how these remarkable dogs help wounded veterans get through their day. It costs $30,000 to train a dog, and the dogs are given free to vets who need them. Donne Di Domani so far has sponsored four Patriot Paws dogs:

"Hoffy," who was named after me (best honor I ever received), didn't make the grade. His mind wandered and he didn't concentrate on his studies. (The acorn sure didn't fall far from the tree.)

Continue on CultureMap to find out what happened to "Hoffy."

FIFA World Cup Winner Kylian Mbappé and PSG will be expected to advance past Dortmund. Photo: Nike, Inc.

International club football returns to our TV sets in February with the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg matches kicking off on Tuesday. In Concacaf, their version of the Champions League kicks off with the marquee match of the opening stage pitting Liga MX's Club Leon vs. MLS' LAFC.

A recap of the week that was followed by the upcoming TV schedule:

English Premier League

Top six: 1. Liverpool (76), 2. Man City (51), 3. Leicester City (50), 4. Chelsea (41), 5. Tottenham (40), 6. Sheffield (39)

Bottom three (relegation): 18. West Ham (24), 19. Watford (24), 20. Norwich City (18)

Scoring leader: 17 - Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

Assists leader: 15 - Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)

Spanish La Liga

Top six: 1. Real Madrid (53), 2. FC Barcelona (52), 3. Getafe (42), 4. Atletico Madrid (40), 5. Sevilla (40), 6. Villarreal (38)

Bottom three: 18. Mallorca (21), 19. Leganes (19), 20. Espanyol (19)

Scoring leader: 14 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 12 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

Top six: 1. Bayern Munich (46), 2. RB Leipzig (45), 3. Dortmund (42), 4. Monchengladbach (42), 5. Bayer Leverkusen (40), 6. Schalke 04 (36)

Bottom three: 16. Fortuna (17), 17. Werder Bremen (17), 18. Paderborn (16)

Scoring leader: 23 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Assists leader: 14 - Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)

Italian Serie A

Top six: 1. Juventus (57), 2. Lazio (56), 3. Inter Milan (54), 4. Atalanta (45), 5. Roma (39), 6. Hellas Verona (35)

Bottom three: 18. Genoa (22), 19. Brescia (16), 20. SPAL (15)

Scoring leader: 26 - Ciro Immobile (Lazio)

Assists leader: 11 - Luis Alberto (Lazio)

French Ligue 1

Top four: 1. PSG (62), 2. Marseille (52), 3. Rennes (41), 4. Lille (40)

Bottom three: 18. Dijon (26), 19. Amiens (21), 20. Toulouse (13)

Scoring leader: 16 - Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco)

Assists leader: 12 - Angel Di Maria (PSG)

MLS preseason

The influx of Mexican stars to Major League Soccer continues. Rodolfo Pizarro is the latest name to cross the border as the former Chivas and Monterrey star will now feature for David Beckham's Inter Miami CF. The move, which has been its own transfer saga, finally became official on Monday.

Of local interest, the Houston Dynamo played New York Red Bulls to a 1-1 draw in Tucson, Arizona as part of their "spring training" before the season kicks off on February 29th at BBVA Stadium. The Dynamo have two friendlies this week to wrap up preseason.

Liga MX

Clausura 2020

Top eight: 1. Pumas (14), 2. Club America (13), 3. Leon (12), 4. Queretaro (12), 5. Juarez (11), 6. Cruz Azul (10), 7. Atletico San Luis (9), 8. Necaxa (8)

Scoring leader: 5 - Angel Mena (Leon) / Ariel Nahuelpan (Queretaro) / Jonathan Rodriguez (Cruz Azul)

Assists leader: 4 - Roberto Alvarado (Cruz Azul) / Pablo Barrera (Pumas)

TV listings (All Times CT):

For full info on soccer TV listings and streaming services in the United States, visit worldsoccertalk.com

Tuesday, February 18

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Atletico Madrid vs. Liverpool (TNT, UniMas, TUDN)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Dortmund vs. PSG (Galavision, B/R Live)

9:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Club Leon vs. LAFC (FS2)

9:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Motagua vs. Atlanta United (FOX Soccer Plus)

Wednesday, February 19

1:30 p.m. - [Premier League] Man City vs. West Ham (NBC Sports)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Tottenham vs. RB Leipzig (TNT, UniMas, TUDN)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Atalanta vs. Valencia (Galavision, B/R Live)

5:00 p.m. - [MLS preseason] Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake (HoustonDynamo.com/Live)

7:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Saprissa vs. Montreal Impact (FS2)

Thursday, February 20

12:00 p.m. / 2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Round of 32 first leg matches (B/R Live)

7:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] San Carlos vs. New York City FC (FS2)

9:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Olimpia vs. Seattle Sounders FC (FS2)

Friday, February 21

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Bayern Munich vs. Paderborn (FOX Soccer Plus)

1:45 p.m. - [Serie A] Brescia vs. Napoli (ESPN+)

7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Atlas vs. Pachuca (TUDN)

9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Club Tijuana vs. Chivas (FOX Deportes)

Saturday, February 22

6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Chelsea vs. Tottenham (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Werder Bremen vs. Dortmund (FS1)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Hoffenheim (FS2, TUDN)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Sheffield United vs. Brighton (NBC Sports)

9:00 a.m. - [La Liga] FC Barcelona vs. Eibar (beIN Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Leicester City vs. Man City (NBC)

11:00 a.m. - [Serie A] SPAL vs. Juventus (ESPN+)

11:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Schalke 04 vs. RB Leipzig (FS2, TUDN)

2:00 p.m. - [La Liga] Levante vs. Real Madrid (beIN Sports)

5:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Club Leon vs. Necaxa (TUDN, ESPN Deportes)

6:00 p.m. - [MLS preseason] Houston Dynamo vs. Columbus Crew SC (HoustonDynamo.com/Live)

7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Cruz Azul vs. Tigres (Univision, TUDN, ESPN Deportes)

9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Monterrey vs. America (FOX Deportes)

Sunday, February 23

8:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Man United vs. Watford (NBC Sports)

8:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Wolves vs. Norwich (CNBC)

10:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Arsenal vs. Everton (NBC Sports)

Monday, February 24

3:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Liverpool vs. West Ham (NBC Sports)

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