Friday, May 6, 2016

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Future of Windham skatepark up for debate and discussion - By Anne Libby

On Monday, May 2nd, there was a town meeting to discuss the state of the Windham skatepark, and whether to fix the old one, or create a new one. The meeting was open to the public, and nothing official has been decided. There were a few teens who use the park that came to help develop an idea of what they wanted in their skate park. 

“[The skate park] is an afterschool program for the kids,” one mother said. The people who were at the meeting all agree that something needs to be done as soon as possible to give the kids somewhere to skateboard, scooter and bike. To do that, the hope is to be able to save some of the original course and take out what is completely unusable. After reopening the skate park temporarily, the idea is to give more time for a development team to design a new course. Right now the debate is whether to create a concrete park, a wooden park or a mixture of the two. 

At this meeting it seemed the best option would be both concrete and wood. An idea that was also presented was the new park be created where the bike course section was supposed to be (directly behind the present one). This is not only to cut down on the noise for the neighbors, but also may create more space for parking.  
One option for the new and improved skatepark.
There has not been an estimate of a budget yet, nor a timeline for the creation of a new park. It is a priority for the committee to reopen what they can of the old park, to offer a place for the kids to skate again. 

The next meeting is projected for Monday, May 9. Watch for details. Everyone from the community is welcome to come and participate, especially students who use it and want to suggest ways to make it better.

Opening night for RSU14 art show exhibits talent from students of all ages - By Michelle Libby

Katie Skvorak
Monday night, the community and art lovers from Windham and Raymond gathered at Windham High School to celebrate arts and music throughout the district. Showing off art that yearly attendees have come to know and love, and demonstrating and displaying new projects and work from painting to sculpture to performances by the Windham Chamber Singers and the third grade chorus from Windham Primary School. 

“This is amazing the work the staff members put in for this,” said Christine Hessler, the director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for RSU14. 

This year’s art show featured new art projects from classes at every grade level.

The new wood sculpture class run by teacher Kim Chasse has been “real successful,” he said. “It offers something to these teenage boys who need to get their hands on stuff. Power tools, chisels. It really filled a void here.” The projects like sculptures, identity walking sticks and totem poles were a nice addition to the show. 
“There are some amazing pieces at each grade level and the variety is astonishing,” said Superintendent Sandy Prince. “I like the clay pieces. It’s great for the parents and kids to see the work. We do so much for other areas, it’s great to showcase the arts.” 

Another artist, Brad Randall, turned his passion for mixed martial arts into artwork about balance. “The work that goes into sculpting a piece is simplistic yet arduous. The pieces that come out are so interestingly different from what goes in that I feel they need to be different from the original even in terms of how the piece stands,” Randall said in his essay “Inside the Mind”. 

“A rainy day makes a great turn out,” said high school principal Chris Howell as he welcomed the attendees. “It’s great to see the faces that go with the artwork,” he added. 
Manchester School art teacher Angelika Blanchard felt the whole show came together really well and said that they were able to fit in what they had for art, but this year had more projects and next year they will need to find more tables. 

The art show was open every evening until Friday.

The boys of summer are back in town - By Walter Lunt

Ciccarone Field in East Windham bustled with activity as over 200 residents gathered for the opening day games of Windham Little League. Four games were played, but the day’s highlight was the visit of 26 special guests, members of the six 1967 inaugural teams: Bears, Lakers, Tigers, Seals, Hawks and Cubs. The veteran players returned to celebrate, rekindle memories and cheer on this season’s young players.
Perhaps it wasn’t surprising that the Bears outnumbered visitors from the five other teams. The Bears were the league champions of that inaugural year. Sporting a record of 14-1 with three undefeated pitchers under coach Art Stevenson, the memories had not faded as several of the Bears engaged in good-natured ribbing with members of other teams.

“If those (baseball) experiences weren’t special, you wouldn’t see (all these guys) come back for a reunion,” said Gary Smart, who pitched 5-0 in 1967 including a no-hitter, and remembers a different time.

“Back then we found a field and played. We played just because it was fun – no trainers, no clinics or seminars – it was simple. Coaches wanted kids involved. Winning was not a priority. It was competitive but not too serious,” he said.

During the ceremony Little League Board member Shaun Morrison acknowledged the 50-year history of the league and introduced each veteran player, which was followed by enthusiastic applause from Little League players, parents and visitors. 

Singled out for outstanding dedication to the league was Bill Ciccerone, field caretaker of the Lowell Farm field that now bears his name. Perfectly manicured base lines and a pitcher’s mound framed healthy, thick grass. “It’s our own Fenway Park,” observed league vice-president Jason Farley.
After the call to “Play Ball,” shouted out by the 26 guests of honor, the first season game began: Dairy Queen vs. State Farm. The ceremonial first pitch was delivered by Dick Southard, a founding member and coach of Windham Little League.

“This is a nice set-up” he said later, referring to league work on behalf of the kids. “It’s (youth baseball) not going to die,” and then lamented the shorter season of modern times. “We used play all summer,” he said.

Seals player John Worrey remembers Southard as a “…good guy! He gave everyone a chance to play. No pressure – just go out and have a good time.”

In addition to handshakes and endless reminiscing, Bears utility player Alan Hodgton handed out photographs he had reproduced from their winning season. “(Baseball) played a key role in our lives,” Hodgton said.

Former Seals player Barry Jordan, who declared the games had forged “…a lifetime of friends,” has since served with Babe Ruth League baseball for 35 years, and is now a New England regional commissioner.

Lakers teammates Mike Bridges and Bob Smith said they enjoyed reconnecting with old friends. “We haven’t seen some of these guys in 50 years,” they said, “That was a fun time and (it developed) a love of baseball forever.”

Oddly, the most memorable game of that ’67 season did not involve official Little League play. It occurred after the season had ended. Because it was Windham’s first year of league play, charter regulations prevented the league from participating in All-Star play. South Portland had qualified to participate in the state championship game and needed a challenging team for a practice scrimmage. Windham’s Bears stepped up, and won 5-3.

In the category of most unusual memories, Bear player Hodgton remembers a game at Field Allen School. Play had to be stopped with the arrival of an unusual visitor. A goat, named Nanny, had wandered over from a nearby farm. Players chased Nanny around the field until it was finally corralled and escorted home.

Looking ahead to the 2016 season, league board member Morrison said, “It’s going to an exciting year, competitive for the Majors and field improvements for the Minors.”

While the veteran players were exchanging memories, the 2016 teams were making them. Winning teams for the day included State Farm, MPM Sealcoating and Camp Care. Ice Cream Dugout and C.R. Tanberg played to a 7-7 tie.

Drew Mathieu, age 12, playing for C.R. Tanberg said, “On the 50th anniversary of Windham Little League I hit my very first home run…I hope to be back for the 100th anniversary.”

On his first day in Windham Little League, Kyle McCleese, age 11 (MPM Sealcoating), hit an inside the park home run, a triple and pitched three shut-out innings. “It was amazing. Coach said he didn’t care if we won or lost, just give it our all. I gave 100 percent,” said Kyle.
Sam Foley, with C.R. Tanberg, was impressed with the officiating: “Hey,” he said, “did you see the ump – he was in the Little League World Series.”

The day’s games and festivities were summed up by a Windham Little League Facebook visitor posting: “So proud to be part of this community. Amazing job everyone. Success!”

Friday, April 29, 2016

Flip to a Different Eagle Section

Being a host family is a labor of love with a lifetime of memories - By Michelle Libby

For 35 years, Kathy Hansen has been matching high school students up with families in southern Maine as a part of CCI Greenheart which has offered cultural exchange programs in the United States that connects Americans with international students since 1985. She has had many of the students in her own home for a semester or for a school year, and she recommends that everyone try hosting.

“The biggest obstacles, time, no one has time. Money, no one has extra money and space. They don’t need their own room, just their own bed. These are easily resolved,” Hansen said. “It’s like a gift. You get more back than what you’re giving.” 

Hansen recommends that the exchange students get thrown into the mix of a family. The fit in and become one of the family. “Kids in your home become global thinkers,” she said. She also added that they usually become international travelers, learn about world peace and public diplomacy. “The cultural experience is so worth it.”

The students move into the host homes, attend school, play sports or participate in the school play. They have their own lives and are typical teenagers living under the rules of the family. 

When Hansen had her first exchange student stay with her, the girl became like a daughter to her and this past summer, that girl’s children came to stay with Hansen. 

When she places a student, she looks for things the family might have in common with the student, like musical skills or playing soccer. Sometimes she can match up a family with someone from their country of lineage. 

CCI Greenheart receives 68,000 applications every year and 2,000 are accepted. Twenty-two of those will arrive in Maine. The program is sponsored by the United States Government. A program like this gets students from all over the world together to learn to work together, do presentations together and realize that working together can change the world. 

Each year the students in Maine hold an international evening to show off the style and food from their country. 

They also do a leadership project which is putting on a fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House. It is a requirement that they volunteer and since Hansen has a connection with the Ronald McDonald house, she has them work there to raise money for their programs. It is this volunteer component that sets CCI Greenheart apart from other exchange programs. Some called F1 are academic programs where a host family will hopefully have a relationship with the student, but often times are just a place to live while the student attends school. 

The host families for CCI Greenheart are vetted and approved before the students come here. They can not have a felony charge and not be on general assistance like food stamps or housing assistance. They do not get paid, which is another difference between CCI and the F1. Hosts for CCI are given bios of the students with their interests and goals. After a match is made, pictures can be exchanged and the family and student can talk through social media or email. 

Families who have hosted in the past have been senior citizens in their seventies, single mom who worked fulltime and worked with a neighbor to help and even families with little children. The exchange students are very attentive to their host siblings, Hansen said. 

“Something special changes the dynamics in the families. They hear about it and say ‘that would be so good for our family and how can we make it happen,” she added. The local coordinator must be within 120 miles, but most in this area a closer in case there is an issue, which is rare. Sometimes it’s just not a good fit, to the student can be moved. 
There are many opportunities to try hosting before committing to an entire school year. This summer from July 9 to 29, students from France will be coming to American to learn about culture and share their culture with community members. The students speak some English and will require meals, but will arrive with his/her own medical insurance and spending money. 

There are other opportunities to have a student for two weeks. With the shorter stays, the students usually have activities planned by the coordinator. 

With the longer stays, family vacations might come into play. The students are asked if they want to go and they pay their own way or half of a room for the other children in the family. If there is an issue with an exchange student, Hansen will come in to make sure bills are paid to the host family, if necessary, or to sort out awkward issues. She calls herself “the enforcer.” 

“Eighty-seven percent of families are happy they hosted because it’s such a wonderful experience,” said Hansen. 

“It’s so wonderful that when they leave they take a part of your family with them,” Hansen said. “We love all these kids and we want to find homes for them.” For more about CCI Greenheart, visit, email or call 6653-1007.

Raymond woman named Miss Maine - By Michelle Libby

Last Saturday, Marybeth Noonan, 20, of Raymond, was selected as Miss Maine to represent her home state at the Miss American Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey on Sunday, September 11. The pageant was held at McAuley High School in Portland. 

Noonan was a 2013 graduate from Windham High School, where she was a Windham Chamber Singer and involved in theater. For her talent she did a Broadway style performance.

“I’m super excited and ready. This was my time. Last year was the first time I competed. I knew I wasn’t quite ready. It wasn’t my time. This year was,” Noonan said. 

Noonan has been competing in pageants since age 13 and has won titles in four previous events including Miss Maine’s Outstanding Teen, also run by the Miss America Organization. She is currently enrolled at Lyndon State College in the electronic journalism arts department and would like to be an on air news reporter or anchor when she is finished with school. She did an internship at Channel 6 this past semester.  

Within 48 hours of winning the Maine title she had sent information off to the national Miss America pageant and had been called by the reigning Miss America. Noonan is the first state winner for the 2017 class. For one week, she is the only person registered for the national title. New Hampshire names their representative on Saturday. 

“It’s exciting,” said her father Tom Noonan. “She has the opportunity to represent Maine at the Miss America pageant.”

Noonan has three goals for her reign as Miss Maine. One is to “really stand out at Miss America.” Two is to recruit more girls to the program, which is the largest scholarship program for women awarding millions of dollars annually in cash awards and in-kind tuition waivers each year. Her third goal is to “Be the voice”, which will fundraise for childhood cancer research and providing assistance to families affected by the disease. When in high school, Noonan went to school with a boy, Josh Perry-Hall who is a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. “Seeing how tough it is to have cancer is one thing, but to be a kid, trying to figure out fitting in and homework…add to that a life threatening disease is one of the most malicious things that can happen,” she said. 

At age 14, Noonan opened a “Rent-a-Princess” business, where she would show up to birthday parties dressed as a princess. She added a charitable component to that often visiting Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital and Camp Sunshine raising money to help her platform. 

“Even though I can make their day, I can’t make them better,” she said. She hopes to help fund research for pediatric cancers, which is where only four percent of funding goes now. She wants to “be the voice” for the families of children with cancer. She said she’s raised thousands of dollars already through her business. Noonan would like to be able to cover funeral costs for children who pass away from cancer to help parents eliminate that added stress.  

“She’s not only beautiful, she’s smart. She conquered a 20 minute interview in front of judges. They ask some tough questions,” Tom said. “She’s poised and has a good heart.” 

Noonan wants to be a role model for young girls all over Maine. “I never want to look too skinny. I never want a young girl to want to say ‘I have to starve myself to look like Marybeth.’ I want to be strong, healthy and fit.” She said her best feature is “confidence. Confidence in knowing I can weightlift more than the boy standing next to me at the gym.”