About a decade ago, a veteran Phoenix sports medicine doc named Paul Steingard started this laudable volunteer program hoping to save the lives of young athletes who, unknowingly, are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest and other potentially dangerous medical conditions. This year, more than 2,000 students — eighth grade through community college — went through the free TOPS screenings, held on a Saturday at a Phoenix high school. The screenings include comprehensive cardiac and other testing, conducted by a cool group of docs, nurses and other healthcare types — physical therapists, physician and nursing assistants, and a slew of osteopathic medical students. The TOPS program quietly has become a must-do for young athletes of all stripes. For this, we thank them.

Fresh Start Women's Resource Center

Found yourself thinking, "I need help"? Thought so. That's why we love Fresh Start Women's Foundation. Located in downtown Phoenix, the Jewell McFarland Lewis Fresh Start Women's Resource Center was the first comprehensive self-help center for women in the country. The center is designed for women 18 and older, and with $5 workshops on everything from crisis budgeting, family law support services, career services, getting in touch with loss and grief, blended families, and inner-beauty boot camps, there is something for everyone — no matter where you are in life. Start by attending Fresh Start 101 (no charge), which offers an overview of how to access and utilize services to meet your needs.

Escape from Cubicle Nation. It's a great name and a great sentiment. And it's just what Pamela Slim helps her clients do everyday — and she does it all from her living room in Mesa.

A certified life coach who trained with Martha Beck (of Oprah fame) and a specialist in business and community development, Pam Slim is a bona fide entrepreneur. She has traveled the world, worked with some of the biggest companies around, started her own business, and helped countless others to start theirs. Six years ago, she indeed in Mesa, got married (to a Navajo man who owns a construction business), and had two children. Settle down she did not.

Instead, this self-made wonder woman transitioned her consulting business, Ganas (that's Spanish for "drive"), to the Web with a blog that has gained an international following, www.escapefromcubiclenation.com, and she wrote a book by the same name. Now, she is, once again, traveling the globe, teaching workshops and giving speeches to anyone who wants to figure out how to escape from their cubicle and start their own business. For hundred of clients, Slim has made the phrase "don't quit your day job" sound like a joke.

Usually the word "ambassador" conjures up images of overpaid, overindulged, three-piece-suit-wearing foreign dignitaries who don't have to pay their parking tickets. In downtown Phoenix, it means friendly folks who will answer questions, show you around, and even walk you to your car. Dressed in orange shirts brighter than a hunting vest, they're like urban Boy Scouts who are always prepared and looking to do a good deed. Need to find parking? No problem. They'll help you find an available lot. Can't find a restaurant open after a game? No worries, they'll show you where to go. Can't figure out where to find a cocktail? That's an easy one. On bikes loaded down with maps, fliers, directories, and even bottled water, Copper Square Ambassadors make getting lost an adventure. Who knows what they'll help you find?

While big chunks of downtown Phoenix are developing spaces for mega-corporations and ultra-spendy lofts, it seems there's nary a hope left for the entrepreneur who wants to get a business off the ground. That's why we love .anti_space. Located on the corner of Fourth Street and McKinley, this L-shaped conclave is helping the little guy grow his vision and climb the counterculture corporate ladder. With rents that are manageable and just enough space to get an aspiring tycoon started, .anti_space is the spot that's launched a load of indie businesses — all packed with hipster cred — including Pravus Gallery, Mint Vintage Clothing, Conspire, and Butter Toast. It's called progress, baby. .anti_space is proof positive that there's still a place for small-business owners to get established and then make room for the next generation.

Now that Melrose on Seventh has emerged as the 'Who's Who' of CenPho shopping districts, what better way to solidify your status as a killer 'hood than a street festival? And when it comes to neighborhood street festivals, no one does it better than Melrose on Seventh. Recently celebrating its eighth year, this annual festival keeps getting bigger and better. Nowadays, the entire swath of Seventh Avenue between Indian School and Camelback is closed off to make room for the 10,000 or so people who pack the street to join the party. Quirky vendors, food, and, of course, cotton candy are all present and accounted for in the area known as "the curve." Car fans line up to peep the sleek, metal machines in a classic car show, a nod to the street's old-school flair and venerable neighborhood business, Chester's Garage. Kiddies, too, are in the mix as crafts and events were added just for them. We can't forget the bands, either, as the main stage rocks into the night. We can't think of a better way for a neighborhood to signal that it's arrived.

Historic Heritage Square

Nothing says spring like a couple of nikku-filled onigiri and a little taiko. Can't understand us? Don't turn on the subtitles, just head to Matsuri for a couple of meat-filled rice balls and a little Japanese drumming. This downtown Phoenix festival celebrates other aspects of Japan, like the humble bento (lunch box) and karaoke (singing like a drunken cow in public). There are also regular tea ceremonies and plenty of Nippon swag to snatch, from kimonos to manga comic books. So cast aside your Godzilla-inspired notions of Japan and gain some culture, gaijin (foreigner).

Perfect spring and fall weather make Arizona an ideal location for music festivals. There's none better than McDowell Mountain Music Festival. Like any other festival, this smallish hippie gathering at WestWorld in Scottsdale draws acts we love (The Flaming Lips) and acts we're not so crazy about (Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu). But no matter who's playing, it's always a great environment. The staff is friendly, the grass on WestWorld's polo grounds (the same sort of setting used for Coachella in California) is soft enough to warrant slipping off your sandals, and the food and drinks are reasonably priced. The New Age-y vendor area is actually an enjoyable diversion, filled with hippie artisans instead of over-tanned girls promoting liquor. Oh, and unlike most other "festivals" in town, there's actually on-site camping available! Music lovers should pencil this festival in for the last weekend of April, even before they know who's playing.

We're not sure why anyone in their right mind would try to go up against Queen Creek's most glamorous farmer's wife, Carrie Schnepf, but some politicians and neighbors did just that earlier this year. Schnepf and her husband, Mark, said they needed to host more concerts in their old cotton fields to keep their family-owned plot, Schnepf Farms, afloat in tough times for agri-tourism. The farm, which is also a peach orchard and pumpkin patch, has been hosting such events since 1994: first, Country Thunder; then, Edgefest. Neighbors — claiming to be upset about the traffic, the noise, and the profane lyrics of rock 'n' roll — decided to oppose the plan, setting up a showdown with Carrie and Mark (who, ironically, is a former mayor of Queen Creek). Attempting to keep the peace, the Schnepfs offered a compromise of only 12 days of concerts a year, earlier end times, and more fencing to keep concertgoers from trespassing, which some of their neighbors still refused. Nevertheless, in a victory we'd like to think Kevin Bacon would approve of, Queen Creek's Town Council unanimously approved the plan.

Not only did former Phoenix Suns star Charles Barkley blow through a stop sign on his way to a blowjob, he actually bragged about the jobber's skills to the cop who pulled him over. Then Barkley supposedly told an employee at the police station that he would tattoo the employee's name on his ass if he could get out of the DUI. Classic. After failing a field sobriety test and pleading guilty to drunk driving, Barkley served a breezy 36 hours in jail and was dubbed a "model inmate" by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. It seems Barkley can't get properly "served" no matter how hard he tries.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of