Archive for May, 2009

A worthy cause

Thursday, May 28th, 2009
Patrick Newell

Less than two weeks ago, I learned that Terry Hagenbuch, a physical education teacher at Norwich High School, was competing in the Lake Placid Ironman Triathlon. His motivation was not simply the extreme physical challenge, but to bring awareness and raise money for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis).
If you’re somewhat unfamiliar with ALS, perhaps you have heard the term, “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” Although the disease’s origins date back to 1869, it was 70 years later, in 1939, when the nation learned one of its sports heroes was stricken with the devastating – and ultimately fatal – disease.
Gehrig died two years after his abrupt retirement, and to this day, there is no known cure, and very few treatment options. In the past decade, some new medications have proven to extend the life of those afflicted with ALS. Still, in all but a few cases, contracting the disease is a slow death sentence.
Hagenbuch got his start at Norwich High School 13 years ago when he was hired by then Director of Athletics, Jack Jones, and former principal Jim Walters. A Norwich High School alumni, it meant everything to Hagenbuch to return to his alma mater.
The start of Hagenbuch’s employment at Norwich High School also began his association with Jones, an old-school-plain-talking-say-what-you-mean-mean-what-you-say type of administrator. And that was perfectly fine with Hagenbuch, who, as anyone who knows him, is a no-nonsense type of teacher.
Jones retired from Norwich High School nearly a decade ago, but has subsequently served multiple interim stints as the school’s AD. In 2003, Jones was diagnosed with ALS, and after several years battling the disease, is wheelchair-bound and has lost the use of his arms and legs.
Jones is revered and respected by anyone who had the opportunity to work with him, and his influence runs particularly deep with Hagenbuch.
Next week, we will feature a story on Hagenbuch’s endeavor in which he will compete in the Lake Placid Triathlon on July 26 and raise money for the Blazeman Foundation in honor of Jones. Anyone interested in making a donation can go online to Hagenbuch’s website at www.active.com/donate/teamblazeman/blazemanTHagenb or call Hagenbuch at 336-3707 to make a contributions. All funds collected on Hagenbuch’s website go toward the Blazeman Foundation to fund ALS research.

Spell Check

Thursday, May 28th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

As an Oxford grad, I was extremely proud of Oxford eighth grader Lea Davis for making it all the way to the National Spelling Bee. I followed her progress closely while she was in Washington and I think it’s safe to say that she did better than I would have in those conditions.

As he has seen some of my more glaring errors, my editor will probably be more than a little surprised to know that I too was a spelling champion while a student at the Oxford Middle School.

When I make one of those errors (which I admit happens entirely too often), I try to defend myself. I tell him I wasn’t always a poor speller, but he remains unconvinced. You see, I’ve gone a little down hill since then. A decline I blame largely on spell check, and all those years of studying French.

If I’m honest, I’ll admit that I wasn’t even that great of a speller back then. In fact, there is a distinct possibility I won that long-ago school spelling bee by default.

Mr. Stevens (who was the Middle School guidance counselor before he went on to becoming first the building principal and then Oxford’s superintendent.) moderated the competition, I remember. A couple of rounds in, he managed to stump us all with one word: gaggle (which Webster’s defines as a flock of geese not in flight). He pronounced it with a long “e” and one after one eliminated the lot of us. I think I was the first to go.

With no one left on stage to pronounce the winner, we were all given a second chance and somehow I managed to come out on top. The next stop was the regional competition, which at that time was held in Binghamton.

For the life of me, I can’t remember where the regional event was held. BCC or BU perhaps, or maybe at the Press & Sun building. What I do remember is a grueling written exam which made me doubt my ability to even spell my own name.

Far too many of the words sounded like Greek to me. Perhaps because a few of them actually were, like onomatopoeia, which if you’re not familiar with it (and I wasn’t) is a word for words which sound like the sound they represent. (Like hiss, buzz or, my favorite, tintinnabulation – the sound of bells. Now why couldn’t that have been one of those words? That I can spell.)

Needless to say, I didn’t advance further in the competition.

As I looked at the list of words Lea had to spell in Tuesday’s opening round of the National Spelling be, I had a little bit of a flash back to that experience. Thankfully, onomatopoeia wasn’t one of the words on the list, so I avoided a full on panic attack. (Up until this morning, I still couldn’t spell it.)

While Lea won’t be one of the competitors on tonight’s televised finals, she has still made Oxford proud. To come so close, just two points away from making the semi-finals, is truly an accomplishment when faced with such stiff competition and such a high stress environment. Nice work, Lea!

(For your reading enjoyment, this blog has been spell-checked. Twice.)

Memorial Day in a small town

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009
Jessica Lewis

I live in one of the smaller towns in Chenango County. While Otselic is far from the smallest town, (we’ve got German, McDonough and a few others beat) it’s a far cry from the larger areas like Norwich, Greene or Sherburne and the events that take place there.

Still, there is nothing like life in a small town, especially during Memorial Day weekend. Most people have probably seen their share of Memorial Day parades, but unless you’ve been to a small town like Otselic for one of these events, you haven’t fully experienced the day.

On Monday morning, I drove to South Otselic for the annual parade. As always, I, along with the rest of those in attendance, picked out a prime spot on one of the lawns along the main stretch of road in the middle of town. (No one seems to mind this intrusion onto their properties.)

Parked in a truck along the parade route was the emcee of all Otselic Valley events, James Dutton. It’s a well known fact that any event in the valley requiring an announcer, will be handled by Mr. Dutton, including sporting events, parades and whatever else may come up. None of these events would be the same without him.

The parade may not contain a ton of floats or marchers. In fact, it is usually made up of a few fire trucks, some groups of people marching, the school band and some ATVs. Occassionally we also see some tractors, horses or other animals. It might not seem like a lot, but I doubt there is another town in the world where the emcee can announce that the next truck will be driven by someone named “Oatmeal” and everyone in attendance knows exactly who to expect.

It might not have the glitz and glamor of some of the larger events, but it’s the little things that make me enjoy life in a small town.

Reality Check

Friday, May 22nd, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

As I watched SADD’s Mock Crash demonstration at the Norwich High School today, I had to keep reminding myself that the events unfolding before me weren’t real.

Despite the fact that I’d seen the “victims” of the crash laughing and joking as their hideous wounds (worthy of any movie special effects department) were applied, witnessed the finishing touches to the carefully constructed crash scene and Fire Chief Tracy Chawgo had outlined for me exactly how the demonstration would play out, it still evoked an emotional response from me. The back of my throat tightened as soon as I heard the chief make the 911 call that started the ball rolling. I felt the prickle of tears as soon as I heard the sirens fast approaching.

Responders were on the scene in mere moments, but to me it felt like it took forever to arrive. Sure, I knew that the students were acting and it wasn’t really a life or death situation, but that didn’t stop my heart from beating uncontrollably. I wanted to run around shouting for someone to help these kids. Even though the police officers, firefighters and emergency responders were doing just that right before my eyes.

And this was me, an adult with no real connection to the students participating in this pre-prom wake up call. I can’t imagine what was going through the hearts and heads of the juniors and seniors who watched the demonstration. They were watching people they knew lying bloody on the asphalt, being removed from a car with the jaws of life, lead away in handcuffs, and, yes, even zipped into a body bag. From the looks of rapt attention on their faces, I’d like to think it hit home with them as well.

I assure you that images of this thankfully mock crash will be with me for a very long time. In time, they may fade from my thoughts and the others who witnessed the demonstration today, but not for those EMTs, firefighters and police officers. They are reminded all too often of the fragile nature of human life and how it takes but a moment for things to go horribly, horribly wrong. They are the ones left to pick up the pieces.

It is why they are such willing participants in these types of demonstrations. Every emergency responder I spoke to on the scene told me the same thing: That they’ll do whatever they can in order to help at least one person make the decision not to drive after they’ve been drinking or to refuse to get in the car with someone who has.

They know first hand that the wrong decision, can cost someone their life.

As a community, we have endured too many fatal crashes. I hope that not only the Norwich High School students who watched this demonstration today, but everyone, will take this message to heart.

I ask you, as you celebrate this holiday weekend, or get ready for prom or graduation, or any time really – please, think twice before getting behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking or before getting into a car with anyone who has.

Making the wrong decision could be one you’ll never live to regret.

Day of Remembrance

Thursday, May 21st, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

My fellow reporters and I spent time this week compiling the list of parades, ceremonies and events which will be taking place this coming Monday in honor of Memorial Day.
Speaking to representatives from the local veterans organizations who have organized these many activities, I was reminded of this holiday’s true significance. Sadly, all too often we lose sight of the true meaning of this day.

Many people look at the upcoming three-day weekend as a chance to enjoy time outdoors and cookouts with family and friends as we celebrate the unofficial start of summer. The idea of Memorial Day conjures up visions of days at the beach, memories of family camping trips, the smell of hotdogs on a grill…

But, while you’re racing to pull those white shoes out of the back of your closet, don’t forget that there is more to it than that. The purpose of this holiday isn’t just an excuse for a long weekend; it is to honor those who have given their lives to secure the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.

The tradition of decorating the graves of those who have fallen so that we may live free dates back to the days following the Civil War. This tradition will be carried out on Monday by members of our many local veterans organizations.

While I haven’t decided which of the many local parades I’ll be attending, rest assured you’ll see me along the sidelines of at least one. I’ll be the one with plenty of tissues. Between the patriotic marching bands, veterans groups and fire departments involved, it’s virtually guaranteed that I’ll get emotional.

And now I’m off to the New York State Veterans Home in Oxford to meet some of their residents. We’ll be recognizing them for their service and sacrifice in Monday’s paper.

As the holiday weekend approaches, make sure you pull out your finest red, white and blue apparel, and don’t forget to take the time during your celebrations to thank those who throughout the years have made the ultimate sacrifice so that the rest of us may life free.

Learning the allure of sports

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
Patrick Newell

Friday night, my three kids began their weekend stay at my house a little later than usual. The two oldest had a Norwich Middle School dance – the last one of the year, so attendance was mandatory. (Perhaps to maintain social status?)
It was shortly after 10 p.m. when we crossed the threshold of my front door and into my dining room area. The wind-down toward bed time commenced immediately. In the meantime, I flipped on the New York Yankees’ baseball game against the Minnesota Twins. My son meandered upstairs for the night, and while he was seen one more time later on, he wasn’t heard during the critical late-game stages of an epic Yankees rally.
My daughters lingered downstairs browsing a couple of websites as the tension and excitement mounted in the ninth inning. The Twins had ace closer Joe Nathan on the mound to wrap up a win in the first game of a four-game series. Nathan has seldom shown any chinks in his armor the past few years, and is about as sure a bet to seal a victory as any closer in Major League Baseball.
On this night, Nathan was either off his game or the Yankees solved the Nathan mystery for a night. Down by two runs entering their last at-bat, New York plated one run, and with two outs and two runners on base, Melky Cabrera gapped a long single to left-center field that scored the game-winning runs.
The Yankees celebrated, fans celebrated, and I’m sure I was one of thousands of viewers rejoicing on their couch after a thrilling comeback win. My girls heard my ruckus in the adjoining living room, and saw grown men dancing and celebrating on television. They saw their dad’s intensity and focus on a game morph into ecstatic gaiety as my beloved baseball team pulled out a game it seemed destined to lose.
And then Cabrera was pied in the face with whipped cream by A.J. Burnett just as he was conducting a post-game interview on the field. My girls, their interest now piqued, watched a scenario on television they had never seen before.
I didn’t take the opportunity to tell my kids the significance of the moment. I let it play out, yet the feeling I had accurately defines why I love sports. A fan of sports can run the gamut of emotions throughout any game he watches, and this unscripted fare has suspense, drama, cliffhangers, and Jack-in-the-box surprises that may rear themselves on a whim.
Over the next two nights, I was again tuning in to watch the Yankees finish off walk-off victories that were all similar in nature. My girls were on hand to view the theatrics, and I have to believe – if they didn’t by now – they have a semblance of understanding sports’ allure to me and millions of others across the nation.
Now, if my kids could only understand the enthusiasm and pride I feel when they consistently clean their rooms and pick up after themselves.

Healthy living

Thursday, May 14th, 2009
Jessica Lewis

In the last few months, I’ve attended several health related events. The most recent were the Celebration of Women, Chenango Health Network’s Tobacco Free open house and the Go Red Chenango, healthy heart event this week.

A lot of the same organizations and businesses have been represented repeatedly at these events, and after seeing all of them, time and time again, I think it’s easier to make healthy choices than people really think.

Ok, I’m the first to admit that every now and then I like to indulge in an ice cream cone or sit around with my sisters watching marathons of House and eating junk food, but I think choosing a healthy lifestyle is more about the everyday choices than the occasional slip ups, and guess what, sometimes, it can even be fun.

I know after hearing an explanation about what a Zumba class at Aim Fitness entails, (a mix of Latin dance, cardio and some other fun sounding stuff) I was excited about the idea of trying it out. I’ve also gotten excited about some of the offerings at the Y, like the possibility of trying a spinning class or even the simplicity of spending an hour in the pool swimming laps.

A lot of people hear the word healthy and automatically think it can’t be fun, but it’s what you make it. I left Wednesday’s Heart Health event with a card for one free Latin Dance lesson, some delicious and healthy recipes provided by Sue Carson of the Canasawacta Country Club and some renewed excitement for trying to make some healthy choices.

I also stopped at Ives Cream for a cone before I left, because if you’re going to make those healthy decisions, you can afford to slip up every once in a while.

And it isn’t even my birthday…yet.

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

Sometimes when you do something great, like buy the perfect gift, it’s hard to keep it under wraps. I always want to give it to the intended recipient right away even if their birthday, anniversary or major holiday is weeks away. Or at least tell them about it, so they too will know just how amazingly perceptive I am when it comes to gift giving.

Apparently I’m not the only one in my family who struggles to keep these gifting secrets. A case in point is the birthday present I received from my mother last night.

My birthday, mind you, is still more than 6 weeks away.

I love surprises. And I definitely wasn’t expecting to come home to find a brand new set of golf clubs waiting for me. Unfortunately, my mother, who had purchased them for my birthday (which is in July), wasn’t expecting them either. Not yet anyway. But trust me, I wasn’t complaining.

I was fully prepared to wait the requisite time and open them on my birthday, but my father couldn’t stand the anticipation. (As usual, he was blissfully unaware of the gift he was co-sponsoring.)

We were equally surprised when I pulled out my gorgeous new set of clubs. I love them – they’re pink! He and my mom loved them, too. I had to wrestled the putter away from her and caught him eyeing my new driver. I tried telling him that magenta wasn’t really his color, but I’m not sure if he bought it.

I’m going to go try out my gorgeous fabulous clubs this very afternoon at the driving range and I plan on christening them during my golf league.

Hey, Jeff – I’m taking my lunch!

Getting back into the swing of things

Monday, May 11th, 2009
Melissa Stagnaro

Today is my first day back in the office since I hopped a plane to Florida on the first of May. With the number of articles I left in the news queue, most of you probably didn’t notice I was gone.

I spent most of my vacation sleeping in, spending quality time with my family, walking on the beach, enjoying the tropical sun and, yes, drinking plenty of margaritas. On the rocks, with salt, thank you.

There was a little sight seeing mixed in, lots of great meals, and, of course, a few tears as I watched my niece receive her college diploma.

There was even a bit of adventure, although nothing to trump Jeff’s “I got shot at by a SWAT team on my vacation” story. No heavily armed men on my trip, sorry. But I did get to canoe through the mangroves at Lover’s Key where we saw a manatee and a sea turtle, watch a whole school of sting rays skate through the surf at Ft. Myers beach and explore a cypress “slough” where we observed baby alligators in their natural habitat. (Thankfully, none of their parents were around.)

The most blissful part or the whole trip? I didn’t think about work once the entire time. I honestly had every intention of keeping up to date on local happenings, even posting a blog or two. But all of those thoughts vanished the second my toes came into contact with all of that beautiful white sand.

While it didn’t take me long to adjust to being on vacation, I can’t say the same about returning to my normal routine. I’m glad I had the foresight to fly back on Friday night, rather than waiting until the end of the weekend. But even with a couple of days to unpack, unwind and do what felt like a year’s worth of laundry rather than just a week’s, it was still a chore to get myself in gear this morning.

And it wasn’t just waking up about three hours earlier than I quickly came accustomed to during my time off. It was coming in to work without a pressing need to finish up a story in time for deadline this morning. I guess I did too good of a job cleaning off my plate before I left for vacation.

But never fear, I’m back in the thick of it already. After wading through all of the emails which accumulated in my inbox while I was away and checking the week’s meetings calendar, my plate is quickly filling up again. Part of me relishes getting back to work.
But the rest of me is wishing I was back on that white, sandy beach…

The cost of being a victim

Friday, May 8th, 2009
Jessica Lewis

Being the victim of a rape or sexual assault must be a horrible and painful experience, and in most cases, police and medical professionals do everything they can to minimize that pain. That’s why I was shocked when I read an article today about rape victims in Texas who are  being charged for medical expenses related to the collection of evidence for rape kits.

Statistics show that every two minutes, someone is the victim of an attempted or successful sexual assault. That’s not a number to be proud of, but with the regularity of these incidents, you would think the technicalities of handling things like medical exams would be easy to follow. Apparently that is not the case in Texas, where despite the existence of a fund dedicated to paying for those expenses, many women are receiving bills for medical exams related to their assault. If the bills go unpaid, phone calls from bill collectors and threats of damaging their credit score convince many women to pay the bills, even though they should never have to.

I understand that like everything else, the medical field is a business and businesses need to cover their expenses, but instead of going after a victim in these types of cases, why can’t the hospitals harass the agencies who should be responsible for footing the cost. Reason, logic and humanity should be a factor, because if the victims of sexual assault start to think that they are not only going to have to relive their assault, but also pay unnecessary bills in order to report their ordeal, women will be given another reason not to report these crimes.