‘This was certainly a magical experience," Walla Wallan Nina Conn recalled of her trip to Alaska for the Iditarod. While there, she and Patty Courson "met wonderful, warm people and were treated so very well. "
They ended up with VIP passes, which allowed them to go anywhere, including in the dog yard at the official start as mushers put booties on the dogs and got them into harnesses. "Those dogs were ready to go."
They saw the ceremonial and official starts from the chute at the starting lines and the end of the ceremonial run. They attended the Musher's Banquet at the convention center and have autographed books from three mushers.
They got fired up about the Iditarod after hearing a presentation to Kiwanis Club by Walla Wallan Julie Sanders Keymer.
When Julie concluded her talk, "Patty and I looked at each other and said, ‘we can do this,' and a couple of weeks later we were at World Wide Travel setting up the itinerary to go.
"My late husband (Truman) and I had spent time in Alaska just weeks before he died of pancreatic cancer and he was totally enthralled with the wonder of the Alaskan huskies and the work ethic of the dogs and mushers," Nina recalled.
On that trip she and Truman spent time at Husky Homestead in Denali, where he visited with musher Jeff King.
Truman wanted to go back and see the race, Nina said, but since he couldn't, this opportunity with Patty seemed a perfect time to do so.
What better companion than friend Patty, also a widow, Nina thought. They have traveled together a lot and Patty took the EMS directorship position after Nina retired.
Julie, her husband and father attended the Iditarod for several years and made many friends and contacts through the Sons of Norway, Nina said. Since they didn't go this year, Julie made certain those people were available to Patty and Nina.
"We left Walla Walla on March 3 and were lodged at the Millennium Hotel, Iditarod Headquarters, where all the action took place. The dogs were there in trailers and trucks in the parking lot at the hotel and we were among the mushers, their families, the dog handlers and all the officials," Nina said.
The pair boarded a bus to the frozen lake in Willow for the official start on Sunday "and what a perfect day it was - other than very cold porta-potties.
It was a bit chilly standing on the frozen lake but they watched until their mushers were gone - 71 departed, but the last one didn't leave for quite some time with a 2-minute time lapse between each sled, Nina said.
On March 11, Nina's favorite musher Jeff ran in ninth position, "right where he wanted to be at this point in the race," Nina e-mailed that day.
Temperatures were cold, she said, with a high of 35 during the day. Jeff, a four-time Iditarod champion over the past 20 years, came in third in his last race. Eleven women finished the race.
"What a wonderful experience this has been and it was emotional to see it all end the (final) night as the last one came to the finish carrying the red lantern that signifies the trail is clear behind them."
Part of the Iditarod Trail became a lifesaving highway for epidemic-stricken Nome, back in 1925. Diphtheria threatened and serum had to be brought in by dog mushers and their dogs. The Iditarod commemorates this hardy past.
Dubbed The Last Great Race on Earth, the 1,112-mile Iditarod race traverses an old mail and supply route from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, through mountain ranges, dense forest, tundra and miles of coast and over frozen rivers. Mushers vie for a $560,000 purse.
Nina and Patty watched some of the race on the Internet to know exactly where King was as mushers used GPS for the race.
"It was certainly a trip of a lifetime. I can see where it could become addicting as we talked to many who were there for seven to 20 years as volunteers," Nina said.
"Would we go again? Definitely. The next time would be to Nome for the end of the race."
The Walla Walla High School Latino Club received a President's Volunteer Service Gold Award for sustained community service during the 2008-2009 school year.
The honor recognizes the club's 1,600-plus hours of service to the Walla Walla community.
The President of the United States makes these awards to groups and individuals who have demonstrated a sustained commitment of volunteer service over a 12-month period, the Walla Walla Public Schools Week in Review reported on March 19.
In addition, 10 Latino Club members were cited as Bronze Award recipients of the President's Volunteer Service Award for providing more than 100 hours of individual service during that same time period.
Bronze Awards went to: Olivia Arevalo, Jos Beleche, Arn Castro, Sergio Galvn, Luis Jaimez, Bahiyyih Parish, Yvonne Segovia, Cristina Torres, Jos Torres and Karina Torres.
Latino Club members who provided 25 to 75 hours of service were recognized as part of the Club's Service Team, including: Ana Andrade, Krystal Bautista, Marlene Fernandez, Tony Esculante, Jasmin Llanes, Alex Ramos, Aldeir Soleto, Oscar Tapia, Jessica Lozano, Grasiela Ocampo, Vanessa Alvarado-Rivas, Virginia Surez and Mariela Bahena. The Latino Club advisor is Refugio Reyes.
Key service projects for the Latino Club during the 2008-2009 school year included the club's work prior to the Walla Walla County Fair and Rodeo and providing a pre-school literacy program supported by Walla Walla United Way during the Garrison Night School program.
The President's Volunteer Service Awards are sponsored by Exploring Post 311 and the direct support from the Learning For Life Program, a subsidiary program of the Boy Scouts of America.
Four of Walla Walla High School's AFS exchange students visited Olympia, Tacoma, Seattle and Everett between March 4-7, said Linnea Keatts, who is involved in the program.
Three on the trip were Youth, Exchange and Study students, Salma Charoenchit from Thailand, Isna Masyithoh, Indonesia, and Hazem Zater, Egypt, and student Espen Myrstad from Norway.
They wanted to visit and observe the Washington Legislature in action in Olympia, tour the Capitol, and meet local legislators.
Rep. Maureen Walsh gave them information about the legislative process at the state level and the opportunity to visit the House Chambers. She also posed for a photo with the group. The following day, they caught up with Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, and visited the Senate chambers during votes on bills. To learn about Washington's early history, they visited the Washington State Historical Museum in Tacoma.
They took in a gallery tour at the Glass Museum in Tacoma and observed the glass blowing workers in the hot shop, and went on The Future of Flight and Aviation Center tour at the Boeing plant in Everett.
The students went sightseeing and shopping in downtown Seattle and Seattle Center, Linnea added.
The YES students, who are studying this year on U.S. Department of State scholarships, participate in enrichment activities to learn about American culture, government, diversity/native culture and community service.
The trip provided the opportunity to accomplish some of the objectives. All these students will be in Walla Walla until the end of June.
Linnea, husband Robert accompanied the students on the trip. They are host parents to Espen and Linnea is coordinator of activities for YES students during their stay in Walla Walla.
Melissa Huskey is slated to attend the American Legion Auxiliary Oregon Girls State session. About 200 Outstanding high school junior girls in Oregon are expected to attend from June 20-26 at Willamette University.
The nationwide program simulates city, county and state levels of government. It helps delegates increase their knowledge of the duties, privileges, rights and responsibilities of American citizenship.
The Weston-McEwen High School junior is the daughter of James and Cynthia Huskey of Weston.
Melissa is eager to attend Girls State to help her become a better leader.
Thomas Moore plans to attend the American Legion Boys State session from June 20-26 at the University of Oregon.
The nationwide program focuses on participation and personal experience in a model state, complete with governing bodies and elected public officials. It mirrors the structure and operation of its respective state government. The son of Robert and Marva Moore of Athena and Deena Moore of Milton-Freewater , Thomas is a junior at Weston-McEwen High School in Athena.
Thomas feels Boys State is "a good opportunity to learn more ab out how our government works and to learn new leadership skills."
Students who tackled the topic of heroism in an essay contest were rewarded recently by a local veterans group.
The youths were honored at a March 21 luncheon hosted by
College Place Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 446 Ladies Auxiliary, said Barbara Ellwine, auxiliary youth chairwoman.
The group included 14 first-graders and about 17 fourth-grade students from Waitsburg Elementary School and a home-schooled seventh-grader from College Place.
The first-grade students wrote on the topic of "Who is my hero and why?" while the older students wrote on "How do we honor today's veterans?," Barbara said.
The essay written by seventh-grader Tyler Hays, son of Dee and Chad Hays, placed first at the local level and won second place in the VFW's district-level essay competition.
At the luncheon, Tyler received a certificate and cash award for his work, Barbara said. The top four essay writers in the fourth-grade class were presented with first- through fourth-place certificates for their efforts along with cash awards, including: Cade Branson, first place; Tom House, second; Taylar Christian, third; Karlie Pettichord-Mathews, fourth.
The first-grade students received certificates for their participation, a toy and a dollar each, Barbara said. They include: Otto Alexander, Zachary Bly, Zachary Damm, Ashley Eilertson, Jillian Foxe, Corbin Johnson, Teagen Larsen, Caidon Leamy, Suzy Moser, Grant Teal and Sam Brown. Mike Hays is post commander and Kathy Hays is ladies auxiliary president.
A band of children, women and men from Walla Walla's Amazing Grace Church Growth Group rolled up their sleeves and pitched in on the morning of March 20 at the Pioneer Park Aviary.
They spread sand in the pheasant pens, an annual springtime chore that enriches the soil in the birds' enclosures, makes for better drainage and healthier conditions, said Joanna Lanning, aviary caretaker with the Walla Walla Parks Department.
They "worked very hard, shoveling sand and hauling it in buckets and wheelbarrows, then spreading it with rakes. Their efforts were very much appreciated and they were a delightful group to work with," Joanna said.
For more details, call Joanna at 527-4403 or email@example.com .
Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or afternoons at 526-8313.