Feel-good stories of 2015

As the calendar turns to a new year, The Dispatch looks back on the stories in 2015 that put people in good moods. Remember these?
Underprivileged teenagers in the Eatonville area will be warmer this winter, thanks to a coat drive that brought out example after example of generosity. The community drive coordinated by two businesswomen GÇôDiane Wisley of PostNet and Nancy Mettler of Mountain Fitness resulted in donations of nearly 200 coats, some of them purchased with cash contributions. The were turned over to Eatonville Family Agency, which distributed them in December to families along with food and other holiday treats that are part of a separate program administered annually by the social services organization.
School bus drivers, students, school staffs and families in the Bethel School District teamed to make the holiday season brighter for those in need. The annual Stuff the Bus event, organized by employees in the transportation department, produced donations of toys, clothes and other gifts that were distributed through the Mom and Pop Shop. And the students and staff at Spanaway Middle School held a food drive to benefit the school's struggling families. Students in the leadership program created Thanksgiving baskets that included turkeys, pies and other treats.
Despite blustery weather, holiday moods were bright Dec. 5 for the annual "Christmas in EatonvilleGÇ¥ celebration. The festivities included caroling by church choirs and community members who moved their early-evening songmaking inside the town's cozy Visitor Center. That's also where Santa and Mrs. Claus earlier greeted children with gifts and posed for photographs. Outside, in the strong wind and intermittent rain, about 100 people watched the tree-lighting in front of the center and a parade down Mashell Avenue.
Samaria Roberts, a senior at Eatonville High School, was chosen in November as a princess for the 2016 Daffodil Festival. Roberts has a 3.3 grade point average, is the senior class treasurer and a member of Honor Society, and is active in cheerleading, tennis, drama, Key Club and tutoring of elementary school students. She plans to attend Saint Martins University beginning next fall to study pre-med and become a cardiothoracic surgeon. But first, she will represent her school and community in festival events such as the annual grand floral parade in April, and will be among 24 princesses from Pierce County high schools who will compete for the title of festival queen.
Like proud parents, humans who helped raise them watched more than 250 Oregon spotted frogs reared at Northwest Trek slide quietly into marshy, Pierce County wetlands on an October afternoon. The amphibians are endangered in Washington and considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Rearing the tiny frogs and releasing them into the wild was a cooperative effort of Northwest Trek, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Sustainability in Prisons Project, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium and other zoos and state and federal agencies.
Most people may not know what fluvial geomorphology is (it's the work of predicting changes of rivers in reaction to altered watershed conditions), but they've heard of glaciers and related natural resources at mountains. And seemingly no one knows more about those things than Paul Kennard. Kennard, a National Park Service employee stationed at Mount Rainier National Park, was named by the Park System as 2015's recipient of its Director's Award for Professional Excellence in Natural Resources. He was honored Oct. 2l at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Department of the Interior. The award included a $2,000 prize and a limited-edition bronze sculpture of a bison by artist Chris Schiller.
Spirits were high as a little over 150 people, old and young alike and including veterans and several members of South Pierce Fire and Rescue, gathered for the sixth National Day of Service in Eatonville on Sept. 12. Ronald Scott, a retired Army officer, noted the purpose of the local observance was to draw communities together and "remember and honor those who gave their livesGÇ¥ as a result of the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. The community event also pays tribute to those who serve in the military, police and fire departments who all so often "give what President Lincoln called "the last full measure of devotion,'GÇ¥ said Scott.
The Eatonville Cruisers team had gold, silver and bronze medalists in the regional event in the Special Olympics regional track meet in April at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma, and also sent a delegation to the Special Olympics state Summer Games at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in May for more winning efforts.
A female moose named in honor of one of Northwest Trek "s founders added to the wildlife park's population with a dramatic flair by giving birth on or about Trek's anniversary. Animal keepers spotted the mother and the newborn calf, its long legs still wobbling, the morning of July 18. It's believed the birth happened earlier that morning or the night before in the 435-acre free-roam area. Northwest Trek opened on July 17, 1975, so the calf GÇô the first moose born there in 15 years GÇô may have arrived on the park's 40th birthday. Its mother is named Connie, in honor of Northwest Trek co-founder Connie Hellyer.
An annual Relay for Life fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society drew 14 teams and 88 participants to the track and football field at Eatonville High School July 11-12. The participants combined to raise more than $18,000 in pledges for the laps they walked.
Jade Graddy, a University of Washington student who says she takes a little bit of Eatonville with her wherever she goes, left in August for Jordan on a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant to teach English. Graddy is among about 1,900 Americans who will travel and live abroad for the 2015-16 academic year, the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board announced. Fulbright grants are awarded based on academic and professional achievement and demonstrated leadership potential. The program is intended to increase mutual understanding between citizens of the United States and the people of 160 other countries that participate.
The final resting place for veterans of five wars was looking better in time for a Memorial Day after volunteers convened twice at the Washington Soldiers Home Cemetery near Orting in April and May to scrub headstones and give the grounds a general cleanup worthy of the fallen heroes.
The memory of Dolar LaPlant, the only Eatonville Police officer to die in the line of duty, was brighter than ever on a Saturday in May, 89 years after he was gunned down in a struggle with a shooting suspect. LaPlant became a posthumous recipient of the Washington Law Enforcement Medal of Honor. And a new headstone, donated by Crimestoppers of Tacoma-Pierce County, was placed at his gravesite in Puyallup to call further attention to his heroism. The recognition resulted from efforts by Rhonda Snowden, LaPlant's great-great granddaughter. She lobbied to have him nominated for the Medal of Honor, which is awarded through the Washington attorney general's office to officers of the peace who are killed, seriously injured or exhibit particularly meritorious conduct while on duty. Snowden, who lives in Spanaway, was joined at the cemetery ceremony by other relatives of LaPlant, including his great-granddaughter, Marya Severson, who lives in Eatonville. Also in attendance were law enforcement representatives, including Eatonville Police chief Jim Heishman, who with Mayor Mike Schaub presented the medal to La Plant's family.
"In an age of technology and an ever-shrinking society,GÇ¥ Community Day is a constant in Eatonville. That was the message Krestin Bahr, superintendent of the Eatonville School District, conveyed during the 2015 edition of the celebration of community connections and longevity. In what has become a tradition lasting 89 years, a standing-room-only crowd in Eatonville High School's gymnasium watched the pageantry of the royal court's introduction, applauded student entertainment, and listened to speeches and presentations that trumpeted the virtues of community.
Thanks to two of his friends, Nathan Anderson values life more than ever since he had a brush with death. John Joy and Nathan Chandler helped keep Anderson, 15, alive when he experienced heart trouble and lost consciousness in April at Graham-Kapowsin High School, where all three are sophomores. Anderson's heart was beating too rapidly, apparently exacerbated by running during baseball practice the day before, when he collapsed unexpectedly in the band room between classes March 10. Joy and Chandler rushed to their friend's side and immediately began giving him CPR, using the training that Joy learned in the school's medical careers class and Chandler received through Boy Scouts in Troop 677. Adults joined in the effort to revive him, but doctors later said the prompt actions of Chandler and Joy saved Anderson's life, as noted during the presentation to them March 24 of the Bethel School District Superintendent's Life-Saving Award. "I'm happy they were there,GÇ¥ Anderson said.
For the second year in a row, schools in the Bethel and Eatonville school districts ranked among the best-performing schools academically in Washington. State education officials announced in April that 401 schools statewide earned the Washington Achievement Award for 2014, based on their performances over a three-year span. In the Bethel district, the awards and the categories in which they were earned are Bethel High School, Graham-Kapowsin High School and Spanaway Lake High School (High Progress), Spanaway Middle School, Rocky Ridge Elementary School and Evergreen Elementary School (English Language Acquisition), and Centennial Elementary School (Math Growth). Eatonville High School, in High Progress, is the Eatonville School District's award honoree. Bethel, Liberty, Rocky Ridge and Spanaway Lake High also were award recipients in 2013, as was Eatonville High.
The men paddling around Tanwax Lake and reeling in fish April 11 were a long, long way from combat zones, both literally and figuratively. That was the mission for Heroes on the Water, a national organization that promotes growth, rehabilitation and reconnections of veterans by treating them to kayak fishing adventures. A combined 40 active-duty or retired military members, Coast Guard veterans, firefighters and police officers took to the lake along with 20 fishing guides. Family members and shore volunteers swelled the turnout to 100-plus people, and by the end of the day, more than 300 fish had been caught or released. It was "an amazing dayGÇ¥ despite wind, rain and hail, said Tony Isaac, spokesman for Heroes on the Water's Northwest chapter that organized the event. "There were many smiles to go around.GÇ¥
Community members organized support for a Graham-area family whose home was destroyed in a fire March 12 that was apparently caused by an electrical problem. Mikael and Greg Caillier and their adult daughter, Lindsay, were living on their property in a motor home that was donated for temporary housing. No one was injured in the fire, but the family lost virtually all of their belongings. An online account for financial donations was set up, and donations of household items and clothing were being accepted. Sara Lamrouex, who was helping coordinate the donations, and other community members who didn't know the family previously joined with friends of the Cailliers to help replace clothing and other items that were lost in the fire. "These relationships will truly last our lifetime,GÇ¥ Mikael said.
Through decades of discussions, planning and construction of Ashford County Park, Rick Adams was a constant catalyst for the project. And for that dedication, Pierce County named him a recipient of its Special Achievement Award for volunteerism. Adams and dozens of other volunteers in county government-supported programs were honored during the county's 37th annual awards and recognition ceremony March 14 at Clover Park Technical College. Joining Adams as one of the most heralded volunteers was Alan Hughes, who was named Volunteer of the Year. Improving his community was Adams' goal for Ashford when, in the 1980s, he helped get the ball rolling for a park that could be a community gathering place and a source of outdoor recreation.
Montgomery Potter's dream of becoming an Army officer began to materialize when the Graham-Kapowsin High School senior was accepted to the United States Military Academy Preparatory School. It's on the same grounds of the U.S. Mllitary Academy, or West Point, the hallowed institution 50 miles north of New York City that turns out Army officer candidates. "I am so excited to serve my country,GÇ¥ Potter said after learning he'd been accepted through the lengthy application process into one of the country's elite schools. "I always wanted to be an officer in the Army, and I thought if I want to be an officer, I want to go to the best place for leadership development training. That's the Military Academy.GÇ¥ After graduating from the preparatory school and then four more years of studies at West Point, Potter will be an officer, following in the footsteps of his older brother, who is a first lieutenant stationed in South Korea. "He's a very big inspiration of mine,GÇ¥ said Potter, whose father also served in the Army.
The Eatonville knitting group, the Knit "n' Knots, supports local hospitals by donating hand-knitted and crocheted hats (from baby-sized to adult), lap blankets and hand-sewn wheelchair bags to MultiCare Health System, which then disperses it to all of its Pierce County locations. Founding member Carol Block says the group has been meeting for the past 10 years and has donated over 8oo hats in that time.
Kids and dogs are more than photogenic. They make good reading partners, too. Cathy Ivers, a kindergarten teacher at Eatonville Elementary School, got good results when she took Colby, her pet collie, to class in January for some special reading time, first with her students and later with first-graders. Children snuggled with books and the gentle, purebred male collie, who seemed to enjoy the experience as much as his new human friends. Ivers said the animal-enhanced reading program benefits from the presence of 6-year-old Colby, who's about the same age as the children. "What I'm really hoping for is to reach reluctant learners or those quiet, shy kids who might hold back at school,GÇ¥ Ivers said. "Perhaps there is a child who doesn't readily or eagerly participate, but if you set a live dog in front of them, they are excited, happy, involved and learning all at once.GÇ¥


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