Friday, August 30, 2013

Connor Lajoie smashes American bench press record - By Michelle Libby

Connor Lajoie is entering his sophomore year at Windham High School, and already has earned himself an American record in bench press. On August 3 in his first contest, he broke the record for his age group and weight class in the bench press, lifting 280 pounds as a 165-pound teenager. The old record was 255 pounds. Connor still has another year in this age division. 

“My goal is to keep breaking my record over and over again.” 

Connor and his father both workout at the Dyna Maxx gym in Westbrook.
“It’s the most popular sport that people don’t know about,” said Chris Lajoie, Connor’s father, who also powerlifts. “Everybody trains those three lifts. Connor just takes it to the next level,” he said. 

“I’m not normal,” Connor joked. 

“You’ve got to be a little different to strive to keep getting stronger and stronger,” said Chris.

The three lifts Connor competes in are the bench press, squat and dead lift. Most athletes like football players all train using those lifts, but very few are like Connor and compete those, Chris said. 

Chris has been lifting since age 15 and he’s 49 now. “It’s just something about the sport,” he said. 

“I saw my brother and him going to the gym every single day. I went to check it out,” Connor said. 

Training is a full-time after school activity. Connor and his father hit the gym four days a week, three hours a day. “When he leaves the gym, he’s pretty worn out,” said Chris. 

Connor said he pushes himself and sometimes his family has to tell him to slow down. 

“I see that I have possibilities to lift this much. That’s what motivates me,” he said. 

“If I stop lifting for a week, I start to feel ill and sick because my body needs it,” Connor said. 

Competing in power lifting isn’t just going to the gym and lifting weights. There are three judges watching everything from feet positioning to making sure the athlete doesn’t lift his butt off the bench. For competition he is required to wear a singlet so the judges can watch his form. He also wears a belt and wrist straps to protect his body. A bench shirt, which is a tight shirt, protects his chest muscles. 

“The biggest pride I have in weightlifting is doing it drug-free,” said Connor.
Chris, who is also a 100 percent drug-free lifter, benched 675 pounds, breaking a record at that time. 

The people who do the performance enhancing drugs, “don’ stop to think about the young people. They don’t think they’re influencing the teenage kids. It’s sickening,” said Connor. 

When asked what Connor does for fun outside of school, his reply was, “This is it.” He wrestled for a few years, but “I thought, I want to powerlift. I kept thinking, how will this affect my lifting?” he said.   

At the gym his main goal for every workout is “to have nothing left in the tank,” Connor said. 

Training for three hours means that he has to train smart with good coaches and experienced powerlifters, said Chris. 

“They don’t treat me any different as anyone else. I’m a powerlifter just as they are,” he said. 

In October, Connor hopes to break the American record for the squat lift and dead lift. At his age, records don’t get broken very often, Chris said. 

Connor has no plans to stop powerlifting and looks to his father to know he can do this for a long time to come. 

“It can be a dangerous spot, pushing yourself to the limit without crossing that line,” said Chris who has had many surgeries and injuries. 

The final part of Connor’s workouts include eating right. Connor drinks Creatine to build muscle mass and eats a lot of protein, he said. 

“I acquired the love and the passion and I developed it. It gets in your blood,” said Connor.  

His next competition will be in Westbrook in October.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

School is back in session!

Wednesday was back to business for the students of RSU14 in grades 1 through 9. Students boarded the buses and arrived at school to see the smiling faces of their teachers and administrators. Thursday was the first day for the rest of the students. 

There are a number of changes to the physical look of the schools and to the staff in each school. New security features have been added to Windham Middle School and Windham High School. 

Windham Primary School has increased the number of teachers it has by six. Fundraising for the new playground is still underway. 

Windham Middle School has six new teachers and has relocated the sixth grade class to Field Allen where the seventh-graders have been for years. They also are introducing iPads instead of the MacBooks. 

Windham High School has five new staff members. Another change this year was that school pictures were taken on Thursday so that students will have their identification cards early to be able to use with the new security system.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Social media leads family to adoption - By Elizabeth Richards

What began as a desire to help some women she’d been following on Twitter get to Ethiopia for a humanitarian trip ended in adoption for the Hatch family of Windham. Originally, Megin Hatch hadn’t even intended to go on the 2010 trip. Yet she did go, and two years later, she and husband Rob adopted Sitota, a young girl whom Megin met while there.

 “The purpose of the trip had nothing to do with adoption. We knew adoption might someday be part of our story, but I was not looking for a child,” said Megin. During the trip, she said, she fell in love with many children, but Sitota stuck with her. “When I started unpacking that trip emotionally, and what had happened, she was still there. That’s when we started inquiring to find out if she was even available for adoption,” Megin said.

When Megin returned from Africa, Rob said, she brought with her a passion for continuing to help orphans there. The Hatches three children, Aidan, Clay and Lucy, also wanted to be involved with the efforts. Clay, in particular, found a unique and interesting way to raise money. He had a great interest in origami, and he learned to make paper crane ornaments out of origami paper. With his mother’s help, he said, he launched a website to sell the cranes in order to raise money for orphans. When it became clear that his family would be adopting Sitota, his effort shifted from supporting all orphans to wanting to bring his sister home, said Rob. He ended up raising approximately $1,500, more than enough to buy the ticket to bring her home.

When word got out about Clay’s efforts to raise money, people responded immediately. Two people, including his oldest cousin, hired Clay to make favors for their weddings. At his cousins wedding, the cranes were displayed on a table with pictures of Sitota and Clay. “They had just a lovely tribute to Clay and to our story, and then they made a generous donation to buy the cranes from Clay,” said Megin.

Other people began to show interest in the cranes, hearing the story through Facebook and in the community. “I think they wanted one of Clay’s beautiful creations as well as they wanted kind of a piece of the story,” said Megin.

Megin said Clay’s efforts weren’t always easy. Origami dragons, which he learned to make at a camp, take about half an hour, he said, while the cranes take 10 minutes apiece to make. A large order was a serious investment of his time. “He was a normal 10-year-old boy with a lot of varied interests, but he buckled down and got it all done,” said Megin. “He met every time commitment, he met every promise that he made to people and fulfilled those. I think people really loved to get them. They’re all so different.”

Clay said a neighbor had given him charms and materials for the cranes, and he tried to tailor the origami to each person who ordered. “They’d tell me what they liked, and I would make it,” he said.

Sitota has been home with the Hatch family since November 2, 2012. While there have been adjustments and challenges typical of any expanding family, one of the hardest parts was the wait between the first court visit, where Sitota was declared by the Ethiopian government to be the Hatches daughter, and the US Embassy date, when they could bring her home. “We left not knowing when we would come back,” said Megin. “It probably was the longest almost three months that I’ve lived through in my entire life,” she added.

Maintaining balance was also tricky. Both Megin and Rob had to go on both trips, and needed a lot of support from family and friends to make sure life stayed as close to the same as possible for their other three children. “We never wanted to ask. Clay’s was the most deliberate ask that was made because when you decide, you feel like it’s your responsibility to do this,” Rob said. There came a point, however, when they realized that when people learned more about the story, they wanted to be a part of it. “They wanted to help out, and so we really had to find different ways to accept that help and say yes to that. Saying yes was amazing. It was a real blessing and a great process,” he said.

Sitota is a vibrant, energetic addition to the Hatch family. The connections the family has built with a community in Southern Maine and New Hampshire built around Ethiopian adoption have helped make the transition smoother. “I don’t know how I would have made it through the process without being able to connect with other people who knew exactly what I was going through,” said Megin.

Another connection they have made is with a mother in Texas who adopted a little boy who had grown up in the same orphanage as Sitota. Megin connected with the mother before their court date via email. They ended up in Ethiopia for court at the same time, and connected there. Incredibly, they also were back for their Embassy date at the same time, and once they got home, kept in contact via Skype, sharing pictures, videos and stories. Recently, the boy and his mother came to stay with the Hatches for a week. The Hatches are committed to visiting annually with the other family, said Megin, to keep the kids connected.

Maintaining a connection to Sitota’s country is also important to them, said Rob. “We’re dreaming about the day when we can visit again and take our whole family. We want our other children to be able to see where their sister was born and experience that, because it’s an amazing place,” he said.

The Hatches continue to tell their story after the fact, through blogging and social media, because people still want to hear it, said Rob. “What’s remarkable to me is that the whole story started with her [Megin] following some moms on twitter, and it continues with her sharing the story and garnering support and connection with people,” he said.

Summer job fulfills dream for Windham resident By Michelle Libby

Lexis Elston is entering her senior year at Windham High School with a new job and future career plans. While reading Seventeen Magazine, she saw an ad for a contest that Guess, the jean company, was having for models.

“I entered the Guess Girl Contest online. I thought it would be fun. Out of 30,000 people I made it to the top 25,” Elston said. The public voted on the top five and although she didn’t make it into the finals, she did catch the eye of Guess CEO Paul Marciano.

“He wanted me to win the prize because I was from a small town and he wanted someone from a small town to win, someone with no modeling experience,” she said.

Guess invited Elston to come to Los Angeles for a four day test shoot to be used for ecommerce, billboards and Facebook, but once she was there, Marciano wanted to meet her, so they extended her stay for another week.

“I guess now I’m a professional model. I just got very lucky. I live in Windham, Maine,” she said. She is not yet represented by a modeling agency, though she has been approached by Ford Modeling Agency, her dream agency, but she turned it down because to her it didn’t make sense to have to fly across the country once a month for casting calls, she said.

“It was amazing. The best experience I’ve ever had. It was the top everything for me. I changed my outlook for everything. I showed me what you can do when you go for your dreams,” Elston said.

When she worked with Marciano he gave her pointers and lessons on modeling. She was also escorted into the main Guess store on Rodeo Drive and told to pick out anything she wanted. She chose 20 pairs of heels, dresses and her favorite is a pair of white skinny jeans with a white inked sunflower because those are what she wore when she met Marciano.

For now she plans to continue to work with Guess, but she also has booked jobs in Atlanta with Ashley Lauren, a pageant designer.

Elston got her start in pageants last year when she won the Miss Teen Maine 2013 title. “That’s how everything really started.”

In two weeks she is heading back to LA to Guess and then she has another fashion shoot in Atlanta. She plans to collect her work ahead of time and do it on the plane rides.

“It’s so amazing out there. It definitely impacted me a lot,” she said. “I know it’s what I want to do.”

Second annual Community Coin Challenge By Jon Bolduc

2nd annual Coin Challenge
By Jon Bolduc

Last Wednesday, the second annual Community Coin Challenge held a kick-off party in the Windham Weaponry parking lot, beginning this year’s festivities to help food pantries in the area.
The kick-off party included live music from deBreeze N Keys, a cash bar, free food, and a chance to help fill mason jars to the brim with coins which will be donated to food pantries of ten local towns which are covered by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.
Organized by chamber member Sheri Huff, this year’s coin challenge should be better than ever. The Challenge raised over $21,000 in donations last year, blowing the original goal of $5,000 out of the water. Due last year’s success, Huff aims to raise $40,000 this year.
The communities’ support has been overwhelming both this year and last year. “It’s been fabulous. Better than ever,” said Huff.
Thomas Bartell, the Windham Economic Development Director, agreed. “This idea is entirely out of Sheri’s mind,” he said. “It’s an incredible success,” he continued. Both Huff and Bartell have high hopes for the challenge this year.
“This year, it’s better than ever. It’s a great connection between local businesses,” he said. Last year more than 32 local businesses were involved in Octoberfest, and Windham Weaponry, the signature sponsor of the coin challenge, lent its building to the kick-off party on Wednesday.
According to Huff, the inspiration for the coin challenge dawned on her as she was on her elliptical one morning last year.
“The chamber wanted an event that included every town,” she said. “Every town had a food pantry.”
Next up for the challenge is the second annual Octoberfest, which will be held Saturday, October 12, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Buck’s Naked BBQ parking lot. Last year’s Octoberfest drew in over 3,000 people, and this year’s lineup has enough entertainment to occupy the entire family from start to finish. Activities include face painting, bouncy houses, a beer garden and helicopter rides. Everything offered at Octoberfest is free of charge. For more information, visit

Friday, August 16, 2013

KP Gagnon churns up Panther Pond and beyond - By Michelle Libby

Toosie roll, air raley, 540, off-axis 540 and double flips, they’re all in a day’s fun for KP Gagnon, a 20-year-old from Raymond.

Gagnon grew up on the water at Panther Pond, swimming, waterskiing and tubing. Three years ago, he picked up a wakeboard and two years ago he got serious, he said.

“It’s pretty complicated,” he said of the sport that requires its riders to flip through the air, spin and jump all while being dragged behind a boat. “You have to be very dedicated and understand the risks. Extreme sports can be very dangerous. The odds of getting into an accident or serious injuries are very good,” Gagnon said.

To combat injuries, Gagnon has a coach when he is in Florida attending college in Lakeland. His coach is in Orlando where he travels to five days a week. He also works out twice a day building muscle and core strength.

In his first competition, Gagnon took second place. “In Florida you can always find (a competition) around there,” he said. He still has some skills to work on, he added. “I need to work on staying calm. I got really nervous. Tricks I usually land, I crashed,” he said.

The air raley, where he flips his board up above his head, stretched out over the water, holding on to the rope, is the closest thing to flying (without a plane) he’s ever experienced, he said.

“I’ve had some pretty bad falls,” Gagnon said. In Maine, falls could get him injured, but in Florida falls can be complicated by alligators, water moccasins and amoebas that can kill once they enter the body, he said. 

He doesn’t consider wakeboarding his job and he doesn’t expect to make a lot of money doing it, however the best at the sport make over a million dollars a year. “Yes, you can make a living, but it’ll just be a hobby for me,” Gagnon said. He does make some money by giving lessons on Panther Pond to locals and out-of-staters. 

Gagnon rides behind a Malibu Wakesetter and uses a Ronix One Time Bomb 2013 wakeboard. He upgrades every year, he said. He uses a no stretch wakeboard Ronix rope and wears a pullover life vest that is light weight and sucks to his body.

His advice to his students and to new wakeboarders is “never give up. Keep trying and be persistent with it. You can do anything you want, just keep practicing.”

Gagnon plans to work with his father in commercial real estate after getting his degree in communications with a minor in business.

Gagnon has a Facebook page, KPGGNN and can be found on Instagram at KPGGNN.

Taking a party appetizer national - By Michelle Libby

Fate handed Shelly Afthim a boatload of troubles starting in 2006, but she didn’t make lemonade as the saying goes, she made meatballs in flavors like chicken cordon bleu, chicken parmesan and buffalo chicken gorgonzola. Each meatball was homemade white meat chicken, neither breaded nor fried. She decided that just sharing with her friends wasn’t enough. She sent a letter to QVC to have her meatballs featured there.

Once a year, the Afthim’s throw a party for their friends. The featured item and the food that went first every year were the meatballs. Creating from a modified recipe from her mother, she used chicken, cheese and spices. Each year she added a new flavor.

“Last year I made 1,500 meatballs for 120 people. They were the first things to go,” she said. Her children, going into fifth and seventh grades, are picky eaters, she said. “They gobble them up.” She said it’s the way they are presented that’s different. A few meatballs make a healthy snack.

In 2006, Shelly and her husband moved their family back to Maine, but within a few weeks, she was not feeling well. She drove herself to Mercy Hospital when she couldn’t catch her breath. The doctors told her she was in congestive heart failure at 35 years old. She had Lyme disease and it had affected her heart and her brain.

“I was borderline needing a heart transplant,” Afthim said. She had a defibrillator implanted and then when things were looking up, it was recalled. In 2008 she went on permanent disability.

For the last year, she has been working, with the encouragement of her husband, Phil, to bring her meatballs to market under her new business name Gourmet Passionista. 

A year ago, Afthim contacted QVC about becoming a vendor. She had no company and yet they asked for samples.

She sent them the week before Christmas and within two weeks she was on a conference call…they wanted her meatballs.

“That’s my personality. I’m not afraid of the word ‘no’. I went to the top and it worked out,” she said. Tenacity is the word she uses to describe herself. “I want to inspire people. They don’t have to be labeled disabled. They just need to find a way to figure out a different path in life,” Afthim said.

She will be in the Sprouts program for new businesses and her first order for QVC is $10,000. They plan to sell the product for $40 for a bag of 24 – 1 ounce balls.

Her biggest challenge was getting her labels past the USDA. It took one year to get the label approved. She also hired a manufacturer in Bangor so she will no longer have to make them at home, unless she wants to. She is continuing to sample new flavors and hopes her next meatball will be southern barbeque, bacon and cheddar.

Finding the meatballs right now might pose a challenge, but Afthim hopes to have a website up and running soon. She is also on to raise money to produce her first order.

“When someone tries them for the first time, they pause to look down at their plate to see what they are eating. That’s fun,” Afthim said.

Volunteer keeps Lowell Farm Field pristine - By Elizabeth Richards

Windham Little League’s Lowell Farm Field is a real life “field of dreams,” due in large part to retiree Bill Ciccarone, who volunteers countless hours every week making sure the field measures up to his high standards.

From April until mid-August when the season ends, Ciccarone is at the field seven days a week doing regular maintenance tasks as well as larger projects. On game days he arrives around 2 p.m, and gets home around 8 p.m. On Saturdays, when there are four games, he is at the field from about 6:30 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Ciccarone began working on the field when his grandson played Little League. That grandson is now 21. “He left, I stayed,” said Ciccarone. “This gives me something to do. It keeps the mind going, it keeps the body going, and I take pride in it.”

That pride is evident in the appearance of the field and all the special touches he adds. Ciccarone greets teams as they arrive at the field, and goes the extra mile to make everyone feel welcome. Umpires are treated well. Coaches are not expected to do anything to the field so they can spend the time with the kids. He has a sign made up not only for the Windham teams, but for every team that plays on the field, which is placed above their dugout.   At the beginning of each game he plays the national anthem, and then announces the names of each kid in the batting order.

Every year, Ciccarone finds some kind of improvement to make at the field, which was nothing but a simple grass field when he began. Over the years, improvements have included putting in a batting cage with electric pitching machine, gates that lead right into the dugouts, drainage ditches in the outfield and infield, a warning track in the back, and a snack shack with real bathroom. And that’s just a few.

In the winter, said Ciccarone, he plans what he’s going to do at the field in the spring. “The reason this field stays looking so nice is the fact that it gets attention from April through November,” he said. Though the season just ended, he’s already beginning to think about what he’s going to do next year to make things better, he said. Maintaining the field is his hobby, and he said he dreads the day when he won’t be able to do it anymore.

“When [the field] is set up for a game, it rivals anything,” said Ciccarone. Parents tell him their children get very excited when they know they will be playing at Lowell Farm Field. “It’s making them feel like it is special to come here,” he said. He said they like to bring the Minors, who don’t normally play there, to the field for a couple of games a year so they know what they have to look forward to. “They feel like they’re going to Fenway compared to what they’re used to playing on,” he said.

Ciccarone’s dedication is appreciated by those who attend games at Lowell Field. A few years ago, he was presented with a sign that reads “Home of Bill Ciccarone,” which now hangs on the score booth. “What means the most to me is after a game, when I have a whole team walk over and say thank you. What more can you ask than that?” he said.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Teen Arts program produces Shakespeare with style - By Elizabeth Richards

What inspires a group of young people, ages 12-19, to spend a good portion of precious summer moments preparing for a one weekend production of a Shakespeare play?  According to many of the cast members, who have come back year after year, the answer is Eileen Avery. 

Avery has been keeping Shakespeare alive as the director of the Teen Shakespeare Workshop at The Schoolhouse Arts Center for the past ten years.  This intensive workshop introduces students to Shakespeare and culminates in a production that, this year, includes leisure suits and a disco ball.  Avery had a high school theater teacher who opened up the world of Shakespeare for her, and she strives to do that for the students she works with.  “I was so passionate about it after my introduction to it.  I want other high school students to have that same passion for it, and hopefully they’ll have that for the rest of their lives,” she says.  “That makes it all worthwhile for me.”

“Eileen loves Shakespeare, and she really brings that to all of us,” said stage manager Sue Voinche.  “A lot of these kids started when they were 12 and they’re still at it, until they’re too old,” she said. “It’s really cool to come back every year and see some of the same faces.”  In addition to the seasoned veterans, new faces come along each year to keep the workshop going.  “They start doing it and then there’s a whole new group that just stays,” says Voinche. 

The workshop does something quite difficult in engaging teenagers in Shakespeare’s work.  “I think that what Eileen does is incredible,” says Kyah Morrissette.  “We read Shakespeare in English class and it can be the most boring thing ever.  But Shakespeare is incredible and Eileen shows us how amazing it is,” she said. 
Angelica Phipps added, “The thing with Shakespeare is, it’s boring if you just read it out loud.  You’re not going to just read the script of a comedy show.  You’re going to watch your favorite comedy series.  That’s the same thing with Shakespeare.  You can’t get the jokes if you just read it, you have to literally see it,” she said.

The humor they have found in his works attracts many of the teens to Shakespeare.  “I realized when I got into the show how truly witty Shakespeare is and how many jokes he hides that people don’t pick up.  When you do a good job with it, it’s really funny,” said Morrisette. 

Esther Eaton agreed.  “He’s wickedly clever.  He’s so funny.  As an audience it’s harder to catch all of that, so as an actor you really get to get into all of that.  I think it’s really fun to bring out the jokes,” she said. 

The first couple of weeks of the workshop include improvisational work, and an introduction to Shakespeare, particularly his language, says Avery.  “The language can be difficult for a lot of them in the beginning, but what I always tell them is that at the end of the summer you’re going to understand every word you’re acting, and they do. It’s amazing to me how well they do with that, because it is overwhelming at first, but once you dig into it, it’s really kind of fun,” she said. 

Ben Plummer said that part of the actor’s job is to translate the language.  “Most of the time the people in the audience have no idea what you are saying and what you’re doing – through your actions and emotions you have to translate what you’re saying,” he said.  

Stefanie Farrington was drawn to the summer arts program because of the workshop format, which allows the students to explore Shakespeare in more depth. “It’s really getting to understand the language of Shakespeare and the theater, what theatre was like during Shakespeare’s time when he was writing these plays.  For me that really helped personally to understand the language and to get a lot out of it, not just for the audience but for myself as an actor and as a scholar. It really helped me to grow a lot that way,” she said. 

This year, the group is performing The Comedy of Errors, but rather than being in the traditional setting, the show will be set in the 1970s disco era.  When asked why she chose this unique setting, a student piped up “She wanted to do the costumes.”  Avery agreed that costuming is her second passion in theater, and she does enjoy that aspect.  But she also quoted a contemporary of Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, who said about Shakespeare, “He was not of an age, but for all time.”  To her, that is the reason Shakespeare works even in modern productions.  “He can be done any time, any place and it works.  I think setting it in the 70s disco era is going to work.”  The show will be very colorful, she said, with costumes straight out of the 70s, a mirror ball, and a big disco dance number at the end.

The show runs for just one weekend, due to scheduling at the theater.  “Every year we say we should do two weekends, but it never works,” said Avery.  “It is a lot of work for one weekend, but I think the process is part of the whole thing,” she added.  This year, the show will open on Friday, August 16th and run the 16th and 17th at 7:30 and Sunday, August 18 at 2 pm.  Tickets can be reserved by calling Schoolhouse Arts at 642-3743 or visiting the website at

Brandon Ladd rocks and infomercial product - By Michelle Libby

Seven years after graduating from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, Brandon Ladd found himself out of shape and tired all the time, not a good choice for a police officer.

“I had P90X. I’d seen the YouTube videos of people losing crazy weight and I wanted to see if it was for real. I gave it 110 percent and got in the best shape of my life,” Ladd said. He submitted his results and won a daily prize of $500.

The program, one of many sold by Beachbody, is sold online and through infomercials, which is where Ladd got his copy. It uses a technique called muscle confusion to strengthen muscles. 

“In my profession it’s easy to develop bad eating habits. You put yourself last most times,” he said.

He did one round of the P90X program for 90 days and lost 34 pounds. After the second 90 days, he had lost a total of 45 pounds and had defined his results. “It wasn’t about looking better, it was about feeling better,” Ladd said.

As the father of a six-month-old, Ladd has a need for extra energy and motivation to be a good role model for his son.

“I’ve developed a huge passion for the programs,” he said. “I did the gym thing for a while, but I didn’t push myself and I didn’t know what needed to be done.” With this program, all he does is press play and follow along, he said.

“There is a convenience factor of getting in shape in your own home,” Ladd said. “I want to share my passion with others. I’ve changed my focus.” Ladd now works as a coach for Beachbody in his spare time promoting programs like P90X, Insanity, Body Beast and T25.

“They reward me for helping other people through the programs,” Ladd said.

He plans to show people how they can finally achieve the results they want. As a coach he shares what helped him the most and he can motivate and encourage people.

“Their programs are hard. There’s no denying that, but it works.” When Ladd started the program he couldn’t do more than two pull ups, but now he does 20 or more.

Recently he traveled to Las Vegas to a convention for coaches. He was able to view new product releases, participate in exercise classes and get updated trainings, he said.

“I’ve helped several people lose over 50 pounds. My goal now is to help someone lose over 100. It’s very rewarding.”

The key to his success this time was nutrition, he said. Seventy to 80 percent of most success comes from what a body is fueled with, he said. “Nutrition is a game changer,” he said.

Motivation is another key. “It all comes down to what motivates you and what your initial thought was for being interested in the program. You have to understand why you started in the first place; that should keep you going,” Ladd said.

Ladd is interested in helping local people with their programs and can be contacted at

“You don’t know until you do it yourself…it’s all for real,” he concluded. 

Legion State Championship in Windham's hands - By David Field (Photos on sports blog)

AUGUSTA-Windham used five pitchers, strong bats and a solid defense to take the State Legion Baseball Title from Westbrook 9-1 on Monday.

Gardiner native Dennis Meehan who relocated to Windham in the winter took the hill in the first for Windham. Meehan worked two outs on fly balls and walked the third batter. Catcher Jack Herzig was called for catcher’s interference to put runners on first and second. Meehan delivered to Robbie Hamilton and had him ground out to end the first. For Windham, Calvin Field led off with a single and Spencer Hodge dropped a nice bunt to advance Field to second. Joey Francoeur then hit a long single to drive Field in to give Windham the early lead.

Meehan retired the side in order in the second against the Westbrook bottom order. Westbrook pitcher Keenan Lowe did the same against the bottom order for Windham. In the third, Tanner Laberge took the hill. He struggle a bit to start. Leadoff batter Brett Goodnow led off with a single. He was sacrificed to second. Laberge got Zach Bean to fly out to Nate Boyle in Center. Laberge then walked two batters to load the bases. Laberge then got Windham’s own Robbie Hamilton to fly out to end the inning. Windham went down in order in the bottom of the third.

In the fourth, Laberge again took the hill. Keenan Lowe flew out to center. Derek Bouchard drew a walk and stole second. Blake Austin hit a single. With runners at the corners, Austin attempted a steal and Jack Herzig threw him out. Bouchard stumbled at third and didn’t advance on the throw. A pitch later, Bouchard attempted to steal home on the throw back to the mound. Catcher, Jack Herzig, kept the ball and a rundown ensued. Bouchard got tagged out to end the inning.

In the bottom of the fourth, Windham had runners on, but couldn’t convert. Shawn Francoeur was thrown out at the plate to end the inning after Nate Boyle hit a long single to the outfield.

In the fifth, Laberge started on the hill again. Laberge walked two, but managed to get out of the inning with no damage. In the bottom of the fifth, Windham broke the game open. With one out, Jack Herzig reached base on an error. Calvin Field drew a walk. Spencer Hodge dropped another sacrifice bunt to advance the runners into scoring position. Joey Francoeur stepped to the plate and ripped a double to score Herzig and Field to give Windham a 3-0 lead. Cody Dube then drew a walk. Shawn Francoeur, not wanting to be outdone by his brother, ripped a double to score his brother and Dube to give Windham the 5-0 lead. Although confident, Windham knew this game was far from over.

Laberge came out in the sixth and faced three batters. He struck out the first and allowed a hit and then walked on. With the potential of runners in scoring position, Windham went to Joey Francoeur. Francoeur threw a fly ball out and struck out the next batter to get Windham out of the jam.

In the seventh, Francoeur retired the side in order. Keep in mind here that the Windham defense was spectacular behind these pitchers. There were diving catches in the outfield by Boyle and Field and the infield stopped everything batted at them. In the bottom of the seventh, Westbrook was still pitching Keenan Lowe. Calvin Field drew a walk. Spencer Hodge, grounded out to the third baseman to advance Field. Joey Francoeur drove a ball deep to center field that was dropped. Cody Dube hit a single to drive Field in. 

Shawn Francoeur flew out to left field and Tanner Laberge drew a walk. Nate Boyle hit a single to drive in Dube to give Windham an 8-0 lead. With the mercy rule within inches, Windham was foaming at the mouth to end the game. Dennis Meehan drove a single to get Laberge to the plate for the 9-0 lead. Jack Herzig flew out to center to end the inning. However, the smell of victory was six outs away.

In the eighth, Shawn Francoeur took the hill. Sam Stauble led off with a single. Robbie Hamilton hit into a fielder’s choice to reach base. Keenan Lowe hit a single to advance Hamilton. With two runners on, Derek Bouchard hit a tall fly ball that was called in infield fly out. With two outs, Blake Hamilton hit a long single that Hamilton scored on to erase the shutout. Windham was ineffective in the bottom frame of the eighth.

In the top of the ninth, Windham went to their fifth pitcher and ace Cody Dube. Dube struck out the first batter. Zach Bean hit a single to show some threat. Kyle Heath hit a fielder’s choice to gain first. 

Westbrook’s number four batter came to the plate. Dube delivered and Stauble hit a tall fly ball to right field. Calvin Field caught the final out to end the game.

Tournament award winners included tournament MVP Robbie Hamilton, who played for Westbrook, but lives in Windham. Code Dube was named tournament State team outfielder. Joey Francoeur named State team first baseman. Nate Boyle named State team pitcher.

Windham advances to the regional tournament in Middletown, CT. They faced the Connecticut champion at 8 p.m. on Thursday night.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Letter to the editor - Stop vandalizing the skatepark By Josh Warren

The picture the front page of The Windham Eagle shocked and upset me. It was a picture of the Windham skatepark covered in garbage, vandalized and sadly disrespected. The picture and the message it portrayed sadden me, as if I had just seen an old childhood friend bullied and beaten to shame. The article describes vandalism that occurred when the Windham Council decided to stop funding the payroll to have the skatepark supervised during the day. I am sure that when budget cuts were going around, I am not surprised that the skatepark would be one of the first to get the chop. I am also not surprised that this sort of vandalism and disrespect could come from young people, who like to live fast, take chances, and push themselves to extremes. However, this sort of act is like biting the hand that feeds you. I have more faith in young people these days that the fact that someone skates does not make them a bad, violent or destructive person; at least that was the message I, and many others, were trying to convey when we fought hard to open and keep the skatepark.

I remember when I was in middle school and a skateboarder, the only places I and my friends were able to skate was loading docks, curbs, stair sets, handrails and any other entertaining slab of concrete or asphalt from North Windham to Westbrook to the streets of Portland. At a young age I began making a name for myself with the local police of these areas as a trespasser, vandal, punk, lowlife, troublemaker, burden to society, and received numerous tickets, citations, and arrests for simply doing what I loved: Skateboarding. My defense when a police officer rolled up to the spot? “Well, if we had a skatepark we wouldn’t be out here on the streets getting in trouble! We aren’t hurting anyone!” or my favorite, “Well where the hell are we supposed to go?”

This is exactly the reason why the Windham skatepark was built. One day after school, Keegan Smith came up to me with something that resembled building plans of a skatepark on the back a piece of homework paper. Mostly spearheaded by Officer Matt Cyr, for once in my life I was working together with the police to create a positive space for young people like me to develop and do what I loved without ending up in jail.
Over the next few years it was a struggling battle to get that skatepark approved by the town, funded, built, opened, maintained, litter and drug free, as well as free of charge, with concessions, and available for as many hours in the day as we could. Some friends and I became the Skatepark Committee with the guidance of Cyr and his connections. So to me, this sort of vandalism seems personal.

I feel like all that time so many people had spent, trying so hard to convince others that this project is a good positive place for generations to come, has been slowly going to waste. The very ramps that sit there are the starting points for many people my age that used that space as a launch pad to an amazing life. People for the first time rolled their wobbly legs across that pavement, have grown into professional snowboarders, professional skaters, ramp builders, and the skills they learned there have brought them around the world and famous. People, who get paid to skate, started out here. People who live all over the country skating and doing what they love, visited and used the park daily for years. Life-long friendships were made within that square of tar. Challenges were overcome. Confidence was learned there. Dreams that were sparked here, resonated and began here, against all odds, were able to come true. This skatepark gave direction to a generation that was always being told to “move along” before its existence.

I just hope that if I speak the importance and love I have for the skatepark and the people who helped make it happen, the ones that use it today can have a respect for what it actually represents. It represents hope, action, direction, confidence, positivity, faith and future. That is why the skatepark needs to be kept as a treasure to pass along to future generations, respected and cherished, if not for us, than for others in the future to have the same opportunity of being a member of society, rather than casted to the sidewalks. Don’t let the skatepark be taken away and stop the Windham skatepark destruction!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A dream job and an opportunity to race By Elizabeth Richards

Windham native Derek Kneeland has been racing cars since he was eight. “I grew up racing,” he said. Last weekend, he got the chance to take a break from his spotting career for NASCAR and to race again in the TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway, where he placed 15th.

Kneeland graduated from Windham High School in 2004. He was a regular driver at Beech Ridge, and drove sometimes at Oxford when he got older, but when racing got too expensive for the family-owned team he drove for, he decided to do something different. He moved to North Carolina, where he first got a job in the decal business. Then he worked his way into spotting for NASCAR. The spotter is the person communicating with the driver and making sure the driver knows what’s happening on the track while racing. 

Kneeland spots for Juan Pablo Montoya in the Sprint Cup Series, the most well known of the NASCAR series. He also spots for drivers in other series as well. Spotting for Montoya fulfilled his goal of spotting in the Cup Series by the time he was 30. That happened for him last year at age 26. Now, at 27, his goals include continuing to do what he loves as long as he can. “The next thing, I guess, is getting cup wins and getting championships,” he said. 

Kneeland said his first love is driving, but he’s not trying to make it as a professional driver anymore. “I just love to go and have fun doing it at least once or twice a year, whenever I get the chance to.” His Cup schedule is very busy, as they race almost every weekend. This year, his off weekend coincided with the race at Oxford Plains. In February, he put together a deal to run a late model at Oxford. 

This isn’t the first year Kneeland has attempted to get into the TD Bank 250, but it is the first time he has qualified for the race, doing so in his second chance race. 

The big race, he said, went very well. The field was built up with provisionals, from 36 cars to 42. Kneeland started 28th, got as high as the fourth place position, and finished 15th. While disappointed to drop back after making it to the fourth place position, Kneeland said he was very pleased with the results. “I’ve never raced the 250. I’ve just seen it a lot as a kid. I’ve tried to make it twice back when it was the ACT Series race, and this was my best opportunity at it. I just wanted to make the race and then anything else after that was a bonus,” he said. He said that as long as the race falls on his off weekend, he will continue to try to race in the 250 each year.
Kneeland had a lot of support for the race, which can be a very expensive endeavor, especially when coming from North Carolina rather than already owning a car and already being in Maine. He said he has a lot of racing friends who helped him out. Brian Scott, who Kneeland spots for in the Nationwide Series, supported him with a sponsorship from the Shore Lodge, his family company. Montoya also contributed, along with other friends who came together to enable Kneeland to run the race without having to come up with a lot of his own money. 

Beyond the financial aspects, a lot of work went into getting ready for the race, he said, including getting the right pit stop team together and getting the right guy with knowledge of the cars for a crew chief. “It was kind of stressful until we finally got to the track. You’ve got your regular weekly job, and then you’re trying to plan this race, and you want it to go so well because so many people have helped out and it cost so much money,” said Kneeland. “Once I got to the track, it was a little less stressful and finally once I made it into the race it was like all the weight was lifted off and it was a dream come true.” His family was there to cheer him on, and they all camped together at the track, he said.

So what’s next for Kneeland? He just signed an extension for his contract on the Cup deal, and is happy to continue doing what he loves. “I want to continue spotting until my eyes give out or my voice goes on me. I’ll continue spotting for as long as I can. It’s a good living, something I really enjoy doing. I can actually wake up and look forward to doing what I do.”

Legally Blonde, the musical Review By Michelle Libby

Windham Center Stage Theater (WCST) has a hit on their hands with Legally Blonde, the musical, directed by Rob Juergens and staring many of Windham’s local talent.

“It’s not a princess show,” said Juergens, who hoped that parents realized that the show is rated PG for a little language and some themes that might be inappropriate for young children.

That being said, the audience of close to 100 on Sunday afternoon was impressed with the show, which had something for everyone. One woman from Livermore Falls brought her daughter and granddaughters from Tennessee to see the play.

Catchy tunes and witty dialogue rolled off the tongues of the actors. The story opens with sorority president Elle Woods, played by Janelle LoSciuto, expecting to get engaged to her boyfriend, Warner, played by Dillon Bates, who in turn dumps her because she’s not serious enough. He’s heading off to Harvard Law to make something of himself.

Elle follows him there, getting in with her creative application. She is befriended by Emmett, played by Tony Ennis, who helps her with her studies and stands by while Elle pines for Warner. Warner has a new girl friend, Vivienne, played by Shelbi Wassick, who is as vindictive as they come.

The cast was filled in with other stand out performances by Beth Gaudet, who was one of my favorite actors in the show, playing Paulette the hairdresser. Her singing was spot on and her acting and accent created many laughs over the course of the two hour, 40 minute show.

My favorite part, as well as for the woman sitting next to me, was the UPS man, played by Peter Perzel. Though he wasn’t on stage for much of the show, when he was there he had the crowd laughing and impressed with his comedic timing. One older woman called him “walking porn.” 

The live band did a great job with the tremendous amount of musical accompaniment. They were able to set the mood and help with the energy of the show. Although, the band was a bit loud at times, covering some of the singing and making it hard to understand some of the lyrics.

LoSciuto (Elle) and Ennis (Emmett) did most of the hard lifting of the show and did it with style and abilities that made the audience root for them to succeed.

Other actors switched between parts, but did so in a way that I wasn’t sure if they were the same person on not – A sign of good actors.

Another highlight was the court scene with Nikos, the pool boy, played by Andrew Shepard. Latin-accented, fashion forward, gay Nikos with his boyfriend played by Brad Meader, had everyone laughing out loud with their song, Gay or European.

It was an enjoyable show with good acting and lots of laughs. The catchy songs stay with you long after the musical is over. Kudos to the behind the scenes crew from props to lighting and costumes, it all helped to sell the show.

Tickets are still available for this weekend, August 2, 3 and 4, which is also the closing weekend for Legally Blonde.   Tickets are on sale at the door or online at For more information, email The show takes place at the Windham Town Hall at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for seniors and students and $12 for adults.

Legally Blonde is what community theater is all about. Go see neighbors and friends perform in this fun show.

High school students learn survival skills throught science By Elizabeth Richards

Twenty-one high school juniors and seniors from New England and New York are learning the science of survival this week at Saint Joseph’s College. They are participants in the first Science Island Extreme summer program, which culminates in a mock shipwreck and rescue simulation on Little Chebeague Island in Casco Bay.

    The program was developed after Lynn Brown, dean of enrollment at St. Joseph’s, heard about a course, Science Island, that high school teacher Russel Taylor was teaching. Taylor was inspired by Dr. Jonathan Hare, a British physicist and television presenter, after watching Hare shoot his voice across an island on a light beam on an episode of the BBC’s Rough Science. When he couldn’t replicate the experiment, Taylor emailed Hare to ask how he had done it. Hare responded, and a friendship began. Together, they developed the curriculum for Science Island.  When Taylor teaches the course, Dr. Hare visits his classroom from England via Skype. This summer, Hare has joined the staff of Science Island Extreme.

    After Brown approached Taylor, a committee was formed, and after a year and a half of organizing and planning, Science Island Extreme was launched. Brown said that the program was developed for several purposes. “We wanted to develop another recruiting strategy, as well as generate some summer revenue, and utilize the wonderful campus we have here,” she said.

    Taylor, who is the co-director of the camp, said there was originally some pressure to have the program last summer, but it was quickly determined that that wouldn’t be possible. “We wanted a quality product, we wanted something that was really good, and to do that takes a lot of time,” he said.

     Taylor said the committee didn’t want this to be just another survival camp. “We wanted to focus on science and STEM (Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology) and put a real twist in the survival,” he said. In order to do that well, they had to find a faculty which included experts in their fields, who could also teach. Taylor brought together a team of highly skilled instructors who fit that bill.

    Maureen LaSalle, director of Alfond Center, events & wellness for Saint Joseph’s College, is the camp’s co-director, and the organizational guru for the program. Her role was to work out scheduling and all the details essential to planning this kind of program, including making sure parents felt comfortable dropping off their kids for a week, and making sure campers knew the expectations, as well as where to be and when. 

    Putting the camp together was a true team effort according to Taylor and LaSalle. “Without the really strong teamwork that took place, it would not have come together so well,” said LaSalle. “We all sort of ran with our own expertise in putting the camp together. It really was a partnership,” she said. 

    Students had to go through an application process similar to what applying to college would be like, said LaSalle, because along with the hands-on learning experiences, they are earning three college credits for their participation. Additionally, there is some SAT prep work built into their schedule for the week.

     Taylor said that he knew they would need to “ramp up” the Science Island course to make it a successful camp experience.  “Kids don’t want just a science camp, they want to do something cool,” he said. “We wanted them to use all their knowledge at the end on something really big. A lot of camps you learn it and then you go home, but you never apply it.”

    That is not the case with this program. On Friday, the participants will be taken by barge to Little Chebeague Island, split into two teams for a friendly competition, and put through a series of challenges which will force them to use the skills they have learned. They will attempt to get a message to the Coast Guard, who along with the Portland Fire Department, have agreed to conduct a rescue training exercise that day. “It will be a thrilling ending because you get to use all this stuff, you have a competition, you have all these challenges, plus you get the real rescue, what the feeling would be. It’s the closest you could come to actually being shipwrecked and learning those skills with the most competent professional people you could find,” said Taylor.

    In preparation for their big adventure, participants will rotate through four one-hour classes daily that will teach them the skills they will need to get through the challenges presented to them on the island. They are working in labs and classrooms, as well as outdoors on the campus.

    On Tuesday morning, the second day of camp, students were dispersed throughout the campus. One group was gathered on the campus green. Dr. Hare was leading the group through the light beam experiment that had first inspired Taylor to seek him out. He will also work with students on skills such as Morse code and radio communications, among other things, throughout the week.

The second group was working with Nancy Cripe and Steve Engstrom, who are teaching skills in water purification, botany and foraging for food. The first day was spent learning what the students already knew about different plants, and then getting out and collecting edible plants, said Cripe. On Tuesday, they were working with “critters from the sea,” such as periwinkles, mussels and clams, learning how these creatures live, as well as how to safely prepare them to eat. Thursday, said Cripe, they will learn how to make water potable, and Thursday will be spent preparing them for their island adventure.

A third group gathered at the edge of the woods, where a rope strung between two trees served as an outdoor classroom. Instructor Wade Ward led the students through information essential to rope rescues.  In addition to rope rescue skills, Ward will teach orienteering and navigation as well.

A steady squeaking sound came from the final group, located in the woods behind the campus, as students tried to start a fire with friction using a bow. The group was focused and engaged, adjusting the length of their bows or their technique after suggestions and encouragement from instructor Mike Mutchie. In this session, students were going to learn other methods of fire starting as well. On Monday, Mutchie had taught shelter building, and the evidence of this class was scattered throughout the wooded area.  Mutchie will also teach wilderness first aid skills to the students throughout the week.

LaSalle said that camp is going very well. During the camp session, she is on hand to make sure students are safe, where they need to be, and entertained with some evening presentations, though they don’t want to add too much into the already full schedule. “We’re not trying to fill the camp with a lot of extra things because the academic piece is challenging. It’s exhausting, because these instructors have them all day long,” she said. “The curriculum is pretty intense. They’re learning a lot in a short period of time,” she added.

Participant Brianna Russell from Falmouth, said she found out about the program from a pamphlet at school, and was drawn to the hands-on experience it offered. She’s looking forward to the island experience on Friday, but said “I think it’s really important that we learn the skills too. I’m glad we’re learning the skills.” On this second morning of camp, she said she was having a lot of fun. Adam Josselyn, a student from Oxford, agreed. “It’s the most fun I’ve had in a while,” he said.

The goal for the program is to have it grow, and continue to take place at Saint Joseph’s year after year. “We want it to be something that Saint Joseph’s can look at and say this is something very unique, very high quality that will attract a student that’s really interested in survival and science. I think that we’ve succeeded on a small scale the first time through,” said Taylor.