A 200-mile bike trek across Haiti begins Jan. 7, led by St. Louisan JOHN KEANE, president of Keane Insurance Group and founder of the HAITI ORPHAN PROJECT. In partnership with the Global Orphan Project, Keane and two dozen other cyclists are completing the five-day tour, in which 100 percent of money raised will go toward the care of more than 1,000 orphans. Just last week, the Tour d’Haiti goal of $25,000—that Keane says would build five houses to shelter 50 orphans—was met and exceeded. For more information, call 966-7733 or visit haitiorphanproject.org.

    Our own BUTLER’S PANTRY is getting some national attention following a full-page feature in Martha Stewart Weddings. The magazine’s latest issue highlights expert advice from company prez RICHARD NIX JR., including tips on hiring a caterer, stretching your wedding day budget and personalizing table settings.

    Count WEBSTER UNIVERSITY among only 123 worldwide to be designated an All-Steinway school, following a $750,000 investment that netted 32 Steinway pianos, including seven grand pianos. They were delivered last month, just in time for the spring 2011 semester. Other All-Steinway schools include The Juilliard School, George Washington Uni versity and Carnegie Mellon University. 

    A $3.3 million grant is helping researchers at WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE identify cells that start brain tumors. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is allowing doctors to hunt for normal cells that help brain tumors form and grow. DR. DAVID GUTMANN is the study’s principal investigator.

    For the second year in a row, MARY ENGELBREIT’s The Night Before Christmas received FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA’s seal of approval. Last month, patients at Children’s National Medical Center in Washing ton were treated to Mrs. Obama’s annual reading of Clement C. Moore’s classic poem, featuring illustrations by the St. Louis native.

    Renowned Saint Louis University hepatologist DR. BRUCE BACON is the recipient of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) Distinguished Service Award, given for his ongoing service to those with liver disease. Bacon, a professor of internal medicine in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology, was honored during AASLD’s 61st annual meeting.

    Nerinx alum AMY SCHENKENBERG MITCHELL will be back in town this month to discuss the future of news in America. Mitchell is deputy director of Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism in Washington. Her mother, MARY SCHENKENBERG, is a former principal at Nerinx Hall. Mitchell’s Jan. 19 appearance at the Hilton Frontenac is open to the public. For ticket information, visit prsastlouis.org.

    In memoriam…Funeral services were held this week for disability rights pioneer MAX STARKLOFF, who passed away Dec. 27 at the age of 73. Starkloff, who was a paraplegic for more than 50 years, was the founder of Paraquad and Starkloff Disability Institute. His efforts made it possible for Bi-State Transit Agency (now Metro) to install lift-equipped buses in the late ’70s. He also was instrumental in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  LN