Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Local boxer overcomes crippling injury to win New England Super Welterweight title

By Ed Pierce

All Casey Streeter can do is smile when he thinks about how far he has come in a few short years. He was rising through the ranks as a professional boxer in 2017 and was looking forward to starting a new job as a correctional officer at the Maine Corrections Center in Windham, but on his final day of work as an arborist, he almost lost his life and his right leg in an accident.

Boxer Casey Streeter, left, beat Joe Farina of Massachusetts
to win the New England Super Welterweight title during
a championship fight at the Portland Expo on Nov. 11.
He had to overcome a crippling injury to his right leg
in 2017 from a logging accident to come back and 
continue his professional boxing career.
Originally from Portland, Streeter has been boxing since the age of 9 and turned professional in 2014. He had started in boxing to overcome a challenging and traumatic childhood and was well on his way to achieving his dreams with a record of 9-1 as a professional.

“I became part of Bobby Russo’s Portland Boxing Club in order to have an outlet,” Streeter said. “It literally saved my life.”

But it all came to a screeching halt in August 2017 when a log truck’s grapple suddenly clamped down on his leg.

When the accident happened, Streeter was working dragging logs with a log chain from a ditch in North Yarmouth. He had wrapped one end of the chain around a tree trunk and was walking the other end of the chain up to the log truck’s grapple from a ditch when his co-worker lost sight of him, and the grapple suddenly closed and clamped onto his leg.

His femur and knee were shattered, he sustained a compound fracture, and a chunk of his leg was also torn away by the grapple. Blood erupted from his wound and the grapple’s claw had just missed his femoral artery by a quarter inch. He stumbled down into the ditch and didn’t know if he was going to live. He thought of his wife Abby and his children and wondered if this was the end of his life.

Streeter’s co-worker found him in the ditch, tried calling for help on his cell phone but there was no cell service available. He then ran to a nearby home and used their telephone to summon help.

Rushed to Maine Medical Center, his leg was so mangled that doctors were unsure if they could save it. But his orthopedic trauma surgeon was a military veteran who had worked with soldiers on the battlefield in Iraq. He assured Streeter that he would not lose his leg and reconstructed it carefully using more than 20 metal pins and rods. A severe wound infection and post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the accident also had to be overcome by Streeter.

He then began walking again with the aid of crutches and following months of difficult physical therapy, he felt that he had turned a corner and might be able to box again.

Slowly recovering, Streeter returned to his gym in 2019 at the Portland Boxing Club and started working out for his longtime trainer Russo who had known him for decades. He then vowed if he had made it this far in his recovery, he was bound and determined to win a championship and he adopted a new “Comeback Kid” nickname.

“During a training camp, I work six days a week, up to two to three hours of a workout routine,” Streeter said. “I spar, do mitt work, work on strength and conditioning, and can run multiple miles in a week. This is after I’ve already worked a nine-hour shift.”

On Saturday, Nov. 11 at the Portland Expo in Portland, Streeter, 32, fought Joe Farina of Massachusetts for the New England Super Welterweight title at 154 pounds.

Farina entered the bout with a record of 11-1 and the fight went a full eight rounds. It was a tough fight, but Streeter’s strong combinations came out on top, and judges awarded him a majority decision and the championship belt. His record now stands at 11-2-1 and his professional career is back on track.

“What I like the most about boxing is it’s something that helps keep my mental health in check,” he said. “I like the handwork and dedication and my gym family is what I value most.”

Streeter said that he hopes to fight again early in the New Year but in the meantime, he’s enjoying spending time with his family and reflecting on his title. <

Windham dancers to perform in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City

By Ed Pierce

As millions will be watching on television across America, five girls from Windham will be performing Thursday as part of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Five Windham dancers will be performing in the Macy's
Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on Thursday
as part of a group of 19 dancers from the Drouin Dance
Center in Westbrook. From left are Ellen Woodside,
Autumn Wood, Claire Chartier, Juliana Gagne, and 
The Windham girls will be part of a group of 19 dancers from the Drouin Dance Center in Westbrook who will be joining 680 other dancers from across the country performing a dance routine produced by Spirit of America Productions for the parade.

Ellen Woodside, Autumn Wood, Claire Chartier, Juliana Gagne, and Lily Lundberg are all juniors at Windham High School and say they are excited to travel to New York City to perform with the Drouin Dance Center group.

“We have been rehearsing for the event for the past few weeks, after learning in February that our dancers would be performing in the parade,” said Danielle J. Drouin, the owner and director of Drouin Dance Center. “We are very excited to be part of this monumental event, and our dancers have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and experience.”

She said that performers from Drouin Dance Center were first invited to participate in the 2011 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and have performed in the 2011, 2014, 2017, and 2021 parades prior to this year.

Woodside said that the routine she’s had to learn for this year’s parade performance in New York City has been formidable.

“We have to know every single detail and pinpoint off of it in three different parts,” she said. “It has been so exhausting but so much fun at the same time.”

She is the daughter of Chanda Turner and Ryan Woodside of Windham.

“The thing I like most about dancing is getting to express myself through the movement and the fun of a high energy performance,” Woodside said. “I am most looking forward to seeing Broadway shows with all of my friends as well as getting to meet the 700 dancers we will be working with in the routine.”

Chartier is the daughter of Amanda and Geoff Chartier of Windham.

“I'm most looking forward to seeing the Rockettes at the famous Radio City Music Hall,” she said. “I'm also looking forward to seeing SIX the musical.”

She said the most difficult routine that she’s had to learn so far is the dance she’ll be performing in New York City this week for the parade.

“I had to learn it through a video, and it includes different parts with different choreography,” Chartier said. “What I love about dancing is not only the community surrounding it, but it's also rewarding. I feel accomplished and refreshed after a long day of classes. Ballet is my favorite because the gracefulness and strength it requires is very therapeutic to me.”

Gagne said she’s looking forward to just being in New York City overall, being in all of the busy streets and seeing all of the tall buildings, but also being able to meet 700 other dancers and making friends with people from all over the world.

She is the daughter of Krystal Williams and Thomas Gagne of Windham.

“The thing I like most about dancing is all of the opportunities that come with it like being able to perform in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and having this opportunity to meet choreographers from around the United States and seeing the Rockettes,” Gagne said.

Since she first started dancing, Gagne says the most difficult dance routine she’s had to learn has been the dance used for this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“It has been fun to learn the dance, but it is very stressful because we have to learn it in such a short time,” she said. “We have to have every movement sharp, and we have to learn all of the formations perfectly for when we get to New York so the choreographers can make sure they can make changes if they have to and make sure everyone knows what they are doing.”

Wood is the daughter of Raymond and Irrae Wood of Windham.

She said she loves how dancing has given her such a creative outlet.

“I cannot think back to which routine was the most difficult because with enough practice, one can have the routine as close to perfect as possible,” she said. “I have never been to New York, so I am excited to see everything that I can. The things I am most excited about are the Broadway shows and seeing the balloons in the parade in person.”

Lundberg is the daughter of Gretchen Lundberg of Windham.

She said that she’s most looking forward to seeing the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall during her trip to perform in the parade.

“When I am dancing, I feel like I can express myself in different ways than I could verbally,” Lundberg said. “I also enjoy the friends that I have made from dancing.”

According to Lundberg, one challenging dance routine she’s learned stands out above all the rest.

“The most difficult piece that I have ever had to learn was the 19-minute-long piece choreographed by Barbie Diewald that I learned at the Bates Dance Festival for the Young Dancers Workshop in 2022.”

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the second-oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States and along with towering balloons and colorful floats, it also features live music and other performances and is broadcast live on NBC Television. <

Friday, November 17, 2023

Windham salutes young ‘Patriot’s Pen’ essay winners during annual Veterans Day observance

By Ed Pierce

Veterans Day is an acknowledgement that those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our nation deserve our admiration and respect and several area students have done just that by submitting this year’s winning essays in the Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy contests sponsored by VFW Post 10643.

The winners of this year's local 'Patriot's Pen' essay contest
for students in Grade 6 to 8 were honored during the VFW
Post 10643's Veterans Day observance at the Windham
Veterans Center on Saturday, Nov. 11. From left are  
first-place recipient Shea Carey, an eight-grade student
at Windham Middle School, and second-place recipient
Lance Lake, a homeschooled seventh grader.
Shea Carey, an eighth grader at Windham Middle School, was honored at the VFW’s Veterans Day observance as this year’s first-place recipient in the local Patriot’s Pen competition. Carey’s 400-word essay on the topic "How are you inspired by America?" was singled out by judges to be the best this year and qualifies her for the upcoming district competition.

The essay contest encourages young minds to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society.

District winners compete in the VFW’s annual state competition while trying to secure a berth in the national competition with a chance to win thousands of dollars in college scholarships. The first-place VFW state winner also receives a four-day trip to Washington, D.C. to compete in the national Patriot’s Pen contest.

“I thought it was such an amazing thing to be recognized in this way,” Carey said. “I have always loved writing and because many of my family members served in the Army, I wanted to express my gratitude to them through this essay.”

She said that her best friend Taylor encouraged her to enter the contest and encouraged her as she was writing it.

It took about three days to compose the essay and almost a week to read it over and make revisions before submitting her entry.

“I’m not sure what my chances will be in the state because there are so many amazing writers in Maine,” Carey said. “I am fully committed to doing this and am grateful to have won and to have had a chance to read my essay at this event today.”

Carey said she enjoys writing to express her creativity but thinks she may ultimately pursue a career in teaching and education when she is an adult.

She received a check for $200 for winning the local contest and intends to save the money for when she attends college.

Lance Lake, a seventh grader from Gray who is homeschooled, took home second place in the local Patriot’s Pen competition for the second consecutive year. In 2022, he won second place as a sixth-grade student at Windham Christian Academy.

Lake said it took him about a week to come up with an idea for his essay and he wanted to enter the contest again this year because it has helped him grow as a person.

“It’s important because it proves responsibility and maturity,” Lake said. “I had my grandparents read it before I turned it in though.”

In his essay, Lake mentioned how the sacrifices made by veterans and military members inspire him daily.

“I’d like to serve in the U.S. Air Force someday myself,” he said. “I would like to be a USAF pilot.”

He said that in writing essays for the contest over multiple years, he’s learned that it’s a process that requires effort.

“It takes a lot of patience and a lot of thought put into it,” Lake said.

The VFW Post 10643 winner of this year’s Voice of Democracy contest in Windham is Anna Seavey, a senior attending Windham Christian Academy. Because of a previous commitment, Seavey was unable to attend the event, but her essay was read aloud to the audience attending the VFW Veterans Day festivities and she was awarded a check for $200 from the VFW.

The Voice of Democracy competition is open to all high school students from Windham and Raymond, in Grades 9 to 12, including those who are home-schooled. Students are asked to write and record a 3- to 5-minute essay (on an audio CD) on this year's theme " What are the greatest attributes of our Democracy?"

Like in Carey’s case in the Patriot’s Pen competition, Seavey’s Voice of Democracy audio essay will advance to the district-level and if successful there, she would qualify for the state-level contest hoping to secure a berth in the national Voice of Democracy contest. The first-place VFW state winner earns a four-day trip to Washington, D.C.

Each year, nearly 25,000 students in grades 9 to 12 from across the country enter to win their share of more than $2 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the Voice of Democracy program.

The first-place winner nationally receives $5,000 for the Patriot's Pen winning essay and the first-place winning essay nationally for the Voice of Democracy receives a $35,000 college scholarship.

Prior to the essay awards, retired Air Force Colonel Bob Chapin delivered the keynote address to those attending the Veterans Day observance.

Chapin told the audience that Veterans Day is more than just a day off from work.

“It’s a day of action,” he said. “Former President Barack Obama said that our debt to these heroes can never be repaid but we can honor their sacrifice, and we must. We must honor it in our own lives by holding their memories close to our hearts and heeding the example they set.”

Members of Windham’s delegation to the Maine Legislature attended the Veterans Day observance including State Senator Tim Nangle and State Representatives Jane Pringle and Barbara Bagshaw. Windham Town Councilors David Nadeau and Bill Reiner were also on hand, as was former State Senator and State Representative Gary Plummer of Windham.

The Windham Chamber Singers under the direction of Dr. Richard Nickerson provided patriotic songs during the observance and scouts from Windham Boy Scout Troop 805 served handed out programs and delivered the colors at the event.

Before concluding the event with a luncheon donated by Chick-fil-A of Westbrook and Kentucky Fried Chicken of Windham, the American Legion Post 148 Honor Guard played “Taps” and fired a 21-gun salute. VFW Post 10643 Commander Willie Goodman and Legion Post 148 Commander Tom Theriault placed a wreath in the Windham Veterans Center Memorial Garden to pay tribute to veterans from Windham who have served in the armed forces of the United States through the years. <

JSMS student broadcasters air ‘What’s the News?’ reports

By Lorraine Glowczak

The airwaves are busy over Raymond as a group of sixth-grade students prepare news reports on the latest developments at Jordan-Small Middle School (JSMS). Whether the young reporters and anchors are interviewing teachers, students, or staff, Jennifer Potter’s English Language Arts class is having fun while learning written and verbal communication skills through an innovative curriculum based upon the everyday tasks of broadcast journalists in their new school show, “What’s the News?”

A new English Language Arts hands-on curriculum in
broadcast journalism not only teaches Jordan-Small 
Middle School students written and verbal communication
skills, but is helping students master the art of filming and
editing videos and learning to collaborate with others.
On air, reporting the news are, from left, Jordan Buxton,
Franklin Murray and Araia Peterson.
Potter was inspired to create this curriculum after her son graduated from Windham High School.

“I was reflecting on his valuable experiences in middle school,” she said. “He loved using technology to create iMovies and news shows. I then started brainstorming how to bring broadcast news to the sixth grade at Jordan-Small.”

She mentioned the idea to Richey Vickers, Windham Middle School’s Instructional Technology Leader. He also wanted to create a news show at the middle school level, and they decided to work together.

“At the start of the unit, I posed the question to my students – ‘what is broadcast news, and how do we as viewers stay informed?’” Potter said. “We watched three short local news stories and analyzed their overall structure and how anchors transitioned between stories.”

The students also learned a few tips from two guest speakers, Jessica Conley, a former WCSH 6 meteorologist who is now a math teacher at Windham High School, and former WMTW 8 meteorologist Matt Zidle, who is currently a Windham Middle School math teacher.

After the students gained an understanding of broadcast journalism, the class brainstormed topics they were interested in reporting for JSMS. This activity helped students develop their critical thinking and writing skills and gave them a better understanding of how the news is created.

Each student journalist is assigned work based on their strengths and interests, whether it be as a news reporter or a behind-the-scenes creator.

Sixth grader, Miles Moreau is a news reporter and he interviewed Jed Bloom’s science class students about their rocket launch experiments.

“We reported on why some rockets went farther than others and why some didn’t go very far,” he said. “We learned that the rockets made of card stock and smaller nose cones went farther than the ones with printer paper and bigger nose cones. We had to try a lot of times to make the news story because we kept on messing up and saying the wrong words. We solved it by memorizing the script.”

Poppy Macijauskas, also a student in broadcast journalism, works on the animation part of the news.

“It took some time to finish my storyboard and start animating, but I created my first full-color animation, and I am very proud of that,” she said. “I am very excited about what I am doing next.”

Besides learning verbal and written communication skills, students acknowledge that they are learning much more.

Sixth grader Addy Elwell said that learning about the tasks involved with broadcasting taught her valuable lessons in unexpected ways.

“You must be educated on the topic you are learning about and speaking on,” she said. “I also learned about the five W’s (Who, What, When, Where and Why), and that really helped me while filming my part of the newscasting show.”

Vickers pointed out that students are also learning about time management.

“They are learning that they must prioritize and make choices on how to spend their time,” he said.

Other lessons learned have come from challenges faced and finding ways to overcome them. The use of technology has been one of those obstacles.

“Technology is always challenging when starting something new,” Vickers said. “Students have learned to record and edit their videos. This includes the visual and audio portions of the project. Sometimes speaking loudly or more clearly is what is needed and other times noise cancellation from the software is needed. Students are learning how to balance these to get the product they approve.”

Potter shared a moment when the student anchors of an hour-long news show filmed all their story transitions on a student's computer.

“Unfortunately, the computer was damaged, and they lost all their hard work,” she said. “The students were understandably disappointed, but they took it as an opportunity to learn an important life lesson – to always back up their work. This experience taught them the importance of being prepared and adaptable, and they emerged from it stronger and more resilient than ever before.”

Challenges or not, all lessons are lessons learned for a lifetime.

“From learning how to film and edit videos to collaborating with others, students are gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience that will serve them well in the future,” Potter said. “Not only will they be able to communicate their learning in an additional mode, but they will also have an infinite number of ways to be technologically creative, something that they will use in their personal and professional lives. By mastering these skills, students are setting themselves up for success and are better equipped to navigate the changing world of technology.” <

Friday, November 10, 2023

Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame inducts Windham racer for three decades of excellence

By Ed Pierce

One could say Bobby Babb Jr. of Windham was meant to be an auto racer. His dad, Bobby Babb Sr., won a feature race at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway the very night he was born and passed on his love for racing to his son. That love for racing has led Bobby Babb Jr. to enshrinement in the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Retired auto racer Bobby Babb Jr. of Windham
was enshrined in the Maine Motorsports
Hall of Fame during a ceremony on 
Oct. 22 at the Augusta Civic Center.
Babb's racing career spanned  more than
three decades and included numerous
victories at racetracks in the state.
Babb Jr. was inducted into the Hall of Fame at an event in Augusta on the evening of Oct. 22, capping an illustrious career spanning more than three decades on racetracks in the state. He’s lived his entire life in Windham and graduated from Windham High School in 1981.

“I started racing the night that I turned 16 on July 3, 1979,” Babb Jr. said. “I drove through 2008 and again in 2012. I raced for 31 years, and my son Brad is in my car now.”

With his induction into the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame, Babb Jr. joins his late father who also was inducted for his career accomplishments in 2007. He is the 10th racer from Windham to be inducted into the group of storied racers.

Babb Jr.’s own racing history is the stuff of legends. He raced at the Beech Ridge track in Scarborough from 1979 through 1982, and then competed on the NASCAR North Tour in 1983 and 1984. From 1985 through 1987, he competed at the Oxford Plains Speedway before returning to race at Beech Ridge from 1988 through 2008 and one final time in 2012.

All of Babb Jr.’s races came in the Late Model Sportsman Class, which eventually became what is known today as the Prostock Class. He was no stranger to taking the checkered flag, winning numerous races, and racking up five seasonal championships at Beech Ridge in 1998, 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2006. Babb Jr. was honored with two “Driver of the Year” titles at Beech Ridge and was awarded as the “Driver of the Decade for the 2000s” there. He was previously inducted as the 50th member of the Beech Ridge Hall of Fame and took home five Maine State Championship NASCAR trophies during his long career.

“My biggest win was every one of them,” Babb Jr. said “It wasn’t easy to win any of them because of the competition. I competed against my father, Dick Wolstenhume, Homer Drew, Ralph Cusack, Bob Randall, Mike Maietta, Mike Johnson, and Bub Bilodeau, to name just a handful of them. They were some of the toughest racers anywhere.”

For role models he credits his father, Bobby Babb Sr., and Dick McCabe, as the inspirations whose path he wanted to follow during his racing career. McCabe is a retired NASCAR Busch Series winner, and he also won the Molson Tour twice and the NASCAR Busch North Series championship twice. He also competed in races at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire and in the Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. During a 30-plus year driving career, Bob Babb Sr. won two track championships at Beech Ridge and finished first in more than 80 feature races through the years at Beech Ridge, Oxford Plains, and the Arundel Speedway.

As a young man, Babb Jr. started working for his father’s business, Robert Babb Logging, in 1981 and he still works there today and is part of the crew team for his son, Brad Babb, who is a Super Modified racer competing at the Star Speedway in Epping, New Hampshire. His daughter, Kelsey, also has raced at tracks in Maine.

In reflecting upon his career in racing, Babb Jr. says his most rewarding victories came when watching his children, Kelsey and Brad, and his son-in-law, Mike Ordway Jr., win races.

“I miss trying to outthink and outdrive someone for the win, but I still live it now watching Brad going for wins, trying to figure out his next move,” he said.

According to Babb Jr. his induction to the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame was bittersweet.

“Bruce Elder called me last October and told me I was going into the Hall of Fame. It was just over a month after my dad passed away,” he said. “It was very emotional for me that night but my wife Carla had known about the Hall of Fame induction and had let my dad know about it when he was in the hospital. Before he passed, he knew about it, so I want to thank her for that. I’m very proud of being put into the Hall of Fame with my father who was inducted in 2007 and I’m honored to be in the Hall of Fame with McCabe, Drew, Wolstenhume, Seavey, Maietta, Johnson, Randall, Bilodeau, all of them.”

His advice to young drivers looking to launch a racing career is simple.

“Watch and listen to older more experienced drivers, stay focused, be determined to make it and have fun doing it,” Babb Jr. said. <

Newly elected American Legion national commander pays visit to Windham post

By Ed Pierce

Since the National Commander of the American Legion Daniel J. Seehafer of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin was elected to the position on Aug. 31, he’s only slept in his own bed at home for a total of three days. The remainder of his time has been spent on the road attending meetings and visiting posts like on Saturday, Nov. 4, when Seehafer and an entourage of Legion officials stopped in Windham and had lunch with Field-Allen Post 148 members and the Post 148 auxiliary.

The new National Commander of the
American Legion, Daniel J. Seehafer,
visited Field-Allen Post 148 in Windham
on Nov. 4 and had lunch with post and
auxiliary members. He also met with
World War II veteran Carroll McDonald
and Korean War veteran Walter Braley,
both of Windham, during his visit. 
Seehafer is an ordained minister and served in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve as a military chaplain. He’s a longtime Legion member who has spent time in leadership positions at every level, including as national chaplain and as the commander of the Legion’s Department for Wisconsin.

He succeeded Post 148’s Vicent J. “Jim” Troiola as the National Commander for the American Legion and spent time during his visit speaking with World War II veteran Carroll McDonald, 98, and Korean War veterans Walter Braley, 92, both of Windham.

Post 148 members offered Seehafer traditional Maine favorites for lunch including authentic Italian sandwiches from Amato’s, two different kinds of whoopie pies and Moxie soft drinks. He said he enjoyed the sandwiches and whoopie pies but passed on sampling the Moxie.

According to Seehafer, he’s known for many years what his role would be in life and how happy he is to be leading a national veteran’s organization.

“I stopped saying ‘thank you for your service’ to veterans a few years ago,” Seehafer said. “Now I say to veterans ‘thank you for our freedom’ and I truly mean it. I’m grateful to veterans every single day and it’s never too late to tell them how much you appreciate what they have done for this nation.”

The American Legion’s mission of serving veterans and their families is personal to Seehafer and he’s embraced the Legion’s “Be the One” initiative to thwart veteran suicide in America. The national “Be the One” campaign strives to destigmatize veterans asking for mental health support, create opportunities for those with mental health issues to speak freely and get the support that they need; to provide peer to peer support and resources in local communities; and to identify issues affecting veterans and find resources for supporting veterans who may be struggling.

“We know that outreach saves lives,” he said. “Nothing is more important than our effort to reduce the number of veterans who die by suicide. We can’t stop. Not now, not ever.”

Nationally about 17 veterans or active-duty military members die by suicide every day and Seehafer says that number can be fewer if every Legion member makes a concerted effort to stay in touch and listen to veterans they know through the “Be the One” program.

“The life of one veteran saved makes all the difference in the world,” he said. “That gets to the heart of the ‘Be the One’ mission. While the initiative was only launched two years ago, it is already starting to make a difference. Somebody might be having a rough day, but you can change somebody’s life.”

Seehafer says that by helping to build on the momentum of ‘Be the One’ by raising awareness of the issue of veteran suicide, guiding them to resources to help and eliminating the stigma associated with mental health counseling, the veteran suicide rate nationally can be reduced.

“We are not just an organization, we are a family,” Seehafer said. “We’re a family that changes lives and saves lives.”

He also said he was saddened when he first heard about the mass shooting in Lewiston in October that claimed 18 lives.

“You always think that it couldn’t happen here in Maine, but sadly it did,” he said. “We’re doing all we can to assist the families of the victims and praying for the recovery of those who were injured.” After the lunch, Seehafer presented certificates to McDonald and Braley and had his photo taken with them before departing to visit the American Legion Post in Scarborough. <

Friday, November 3, 2023

Windham shows support for Maine community suffering from tragedy

By Matt Pascarella

After Maine’s deadliest mass shooting rocked the community of Lewiston and the country, all over the nation people have tried to comfort the town. Closer to home, RSU 14 Grounds Coordinator Michael DiDonato wanted to show support from one community to another in the wake of these horrific events. Windham High School’s stadium athletic field, where many sports take place and the Windham community spends much of its time cheering on our various teams, “LEWISTON” is stenciled across the mid-field.

Windham Grounds Coordinator Michael DiDonato
stenciled 'LEWISTON' in the midfield of Windham
High School's stadium athletic field after the mass
shooting that took place on Wednesday, Oct. 25. 
DiDonato finished the stencil on Friday, Oct. 27 in
support of Lewiston from one community to another.
“I was hoping, as I am sure many were, that a tragedy like this would never happen in the state of Maine,” said DiDonato. “Now that it has, it is more important than ever to show support to those affected. We all want to help but may feel helpless in what to do, so I thought this could be a way Windham as a community could show their support for our neighbors.”

The stencil was made with a robot called a Turf Tank, which is a new device that DiDonato has used since August of this year. Using the Turf Tank, it took him about 30 minutes to stencil “LEWISTON” in the middle of the field, it then took another hour for DiDonato to fill it in with blue paint and white trim. The stencil was completed on Friday, Oct. 27.

“Our district’s amazing grounds crew, led by Mike DiDonato, shows how we stand together,” said Windham resident Krista White Gerrity. Their tribute to the Lewiston tragedy, shared by so many people, helped to strengthen our support. Bad things aren’t supposed to happen here. After this week, the world knows Maine, but for all the wrong reasons. The light during this tragedy is the love that flows through our communities. The support we have for each other is stronger than ever.”

In past years, DiDonato has paid tribute by stenciling the varsity letters of Windham’s senior athletes on the field, he also honored beloved former WHS administrator Deb McAfee when she was diagnosed with cancer. DiDonato says he thinks it’s important to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, so he always does the pink ribbons as well as pink paint on some of the fields during October.

After stenciling “LEWISTON” on the WHS athletic field, DiDonato then posted his work to Facebook, with the caption “we are one” and his post received an outpouring of support and positive comments.

According to DiDonato, while Maine is a large state, it’s a small community and he says that when one part of the state is affected, it affects all of us.

“I think it was a nice gesture on Mike’s behalf to do this,” said RSU 14 Athletic Director Rich Drummond. “It’s a very sad and tragic situation and it’s a sign of support for that community during a very tough time. It’s nice that we have helped garner support in our community for the Lewiston/Auburn area.”

The “LEWISTON” lettering will be left up for the remainder of the fall sports season. DiDonato will repaint it and it should hold over until the spring season.

“I was very proud and honored to be a part of such a great community,” said Windham resident Dick Drapeau. “Maine is a very small town. We were all affected by what happened in Lewiston that day. Well done Windham High School … what an exceptional thing to do.”

Upon seeing DiDonato’s work, many surrounding Maine communities including Gorham High School, Gorham Youth Football, and South Portland have reached out to him to show their support for Lewiston on their fields.

“When I first saw “LEWISTON” on our home athletic field it gave me a great sense of pride to be part of this community,” said Windham resident Maureen Flaherty Janvrin. “I have always felt a strong sense of community within Windham but every tragedy we experience we come together and show support in every way; this exemplifies what our community represents. As a community I know we all hold our loved ones a little closer and tighter; we will continue to support the Lewiston community as they begin to process grief and healing.” <

Windham attorney wins crown in 2024 USOA Mrs. Maine Pageant

By Ed Pierce

Competing in the United States of America’s Mrs. Maine 2024 Pageant on Oct. 21 in Augusta was the realization of a dream for Windham attorney Katie Winchenbach. Her confidence and enthusiasm were on full display as she won the state crown and now advances to compete in 2024 USOA Mrs. America Pageant next July in San Antonio, Texas.

Windham attorney Katie Winchenbach was
crowned as the winner of the 2024 USOA
Mrs. Maine Pageant in Augusta on Oct. 22.
She will represent Maine in the 2024 USOA
Mrs. America Pageant in Texas next July.

As a corporate attorney and a champion for women’s rights, Winchenbach was a first-time pageant participant in the USOA Pageant, which was created to encourage women to strive to achieve their hopes, dreams, goals, and aspirations, while making them feel confident and beautiful inside and out.

“I have never done a pageant before,” she said. “When the USOA Pageant Director, Christie Hines, reached out to me to see if I would be interested in competing, I really thought she had the wrong woman. Once I learned how much of the pageant was focused on community involvement and championing causes close to your heart, I knew I had to say yes.”

Winchenbach currently serves as the Program Director for Ms. JD, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the success of aspiring and early career women attorneys. She has also served as the Vice-President of The Maine Women's Conference, where she contributed to the strategic direction and planning of an influential one-day conference to empower and uplift Maine’s women.

Recently Winchenbach joined Women Standing Together, an organization that supports women leaders in various professional fields. Her role with that group will allow her to better advocate for emerging women leaders in Maine's business community. She’s also a published writer with her articles appearing in publications such as Fashion Republic, Gladys Magazine, Marie Claire, Long Island Bride and Groom, and Chicago Style Weddings.

She says that she intends to use her title as USOA Mrs. Maine 2024 to advocate for women’s empowerment, provide critical leadership opportunities, and to break down barriers to women’s success.

"It’s important for me to empower and inspire women to dream bigger and boldly pursue these dreams,” Winchenbach said. “This passion is at the heart of everything I do. I’m honored to be representing Maine as USOA’s Mrs. Maine 2024 and to be able to positively impact Maine’s young women leaders. I believe in empowering and inspiring women to dream bigger and boldly pursue these dreams. As the Program Director for Ms. JD, a national nonprofit dedicated to the success of aspiring and early-career female attorneys, I am able to impact over 800 women per year. More locally, I am partnering with the Compassionate Leadership Project to create a one-day conference for Maine’s emerging female leaders. The conference will provide attendees with access to prominent female leaders from Maine, practical training on key leadership skills, and the opportunity to build their networks. The conference will be live streamed, to provide this critical resource to women from all over the State of Maine, and eventually, across the United States.”

Along with her husband, Jared, Winchenbach moved to Windham two years ago and grew up in Milford, near the University of Maine Orono. She earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Maine, a Juris Doctorate law degree from Quinnipiac University School of Law, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hofstra University. In her free time, she enjoys paddleboarding, and spending time with her husband and their rescue dog.

She hopes her pageant experience will help her to grow both personally and professionally.

“Upon starting this journey, I was surprised by how much it pushed me outside of my comfort zone and how many opportunities there were for me to grow as a person,” Winchenbach said. “Already, I've been able to become more confident in the way I carry myself and in the way I speak publicly. I work as a corporate attorney and a non-profit program director, so these are skills that are going to help me immensely even once the pageant is over.”

Winchenbach said that competing in the USOA Pageant also helped her to honor the memory of her late mother.

“My mom competed in a Mrs. Pageant when she and my dad were just married,” she said. “She passed away from cancer last November, so this is a really nice way for my family to be able to come together again.” <