Category Archives: View of the City

Paying Tribute to an Umpire, a Volunteer — a Dad

The community of Gig Harbor lost one of the good ones on April 5.

Alec Douglas left us far too soon at the young age of 34, leaving behind many family members, including his two children, daughter, Callie, and son, Dane.

I had the good fortune to first meet Alec by chance three years ago, while serving as manager for a AA Gig Harbor Little League team. One of the tasks at the younger-age teams is having to draft the team fresh each year, and with that comes the often mind-boggling task of rating hundreds of kids during a daylong turnout.

You get a few minutes to watch a child catch, throw, hit and run and the only sane way to maintain some sense of judgment is to ignore the names and faces and reduce it to a game of numbers. During that time in 2008, I saw one particular 9-year-old that I had not taken notice of in previous years. Unlike many of the other kids running around the field, his demeanor was all about work and his face showed a focus and determination I didn’t see elsewhere on the field. That was Dane.

It was an easy choice to place him at the top of my list and when I was fortunate enough to draw the first pick in the draft, Dane became the top draft choice. At that time I had no idea I was also drafting an experienced umpire in his dad, to our team. How fortunate that turned out to be.

As another manager noted recently, Alec was never one to say no, so when I asked if he would help out with the team, he jumped right in.

At the end of a very fun season of baseball, Alec and I agreed to team up together to coach a AAA team the following year. But those plans fell through when I was passed over to be a manager the next season. Our two sons drifted to different teams and we crossed paths only occasionally when Alec would ump a game we were playing.

We were reunited again this year when our sons joined the same select team. It was good to catch up with the two of them, and to see how Alec was still deeply involved as a volunteer with umpiring (as well as coaching in youth football).

As both a coach and a parent, it was good to have Alec be a part of the team as he helped fulfill team requirements to umpire games as well as being able to explain to the boys specific calls. But it was also sometimes a bane when he would umpire one of our games, as he always seemed to call his son’s pitches a little tighter than he would other pitchers.

No doubt he did this as part of the routine of most other father/volunteers in giving that little extra effort to assure that he was not favoring his son over others.

Three days before Alec died, we had a scrimmage for our select team with another team in our organization and Alec — of course — volunteered to umpire. I’m no umpire and I don’t know what compelled me to do so, but that day I asked Alec if he wanted some help with me umpiring the bases.

He accepted and gave me the two-minute crash course of umpiring that he took weeks to develop each spring.

He told me I had the tags and bags on 1 and 2 and tags on 3. I nodded affirmatively, not wanting to let on that he’d already lost me as he ran down a quick list of regulations.

He finished by saying there were three rules to abide by, above all else.

“Don’t overrule me and I won’t overrule you,” he started. “And don’t rush to make the call. See it through to the end of the play and then make a call.

“And always remember, once you make a call, stand by it,” he said.

Three days later when word of his passing first reached me, his gameday advice came back to me, his baritone voice still giving those words weight in my head.

This child’s game has often been used as a metaphor for life. And I’ve come to realize in the days since, how Alec’s words reach far beyond the game of baseball.

And so I tell you, from the limited perspective I have from the few short years I’ve known Alec, he will truly be missed by all those involved in Gig Harbor youth sports. I feel privileged and honored to have had the chance to get to know Alec and Dane. And I look forward to watching Dane’s progress as he continues to grow and develop in the Gig Harbor youth sports world.

That’s my call and I stand by it.

Ric Hallock is managing editor of Gig Harbor Life and has coached youth baseball, football and soccer since moving to Gig Harbor in 2004.

Volunteerism Leads to Maritime Gig Fest Microphone

In a town the size of Gig Harbor, it helps if your head can fit a lot of hats. This weekend, I’ll be donning a new one — as a result of wearing one of my old ones.

Through my years of hosting a radio show on KGHP, I’ll be taking one of three microphone stations along Harborview Drive to help announce the parade entries in the annual Maritime Gig Festival in this year’s “Yo Ho Harbor!” parade on Saturday.

Some may say it’s not necessarily a good idea to hand me a microphone amid the throngs that will be lining both sides of the street — but then again, the good folks at KGHP let me in to the broadcast booth back in 2005 and I haven’t yet brought the full weight of the FCC down on the small, but rugged radio station — despite being on the air nearly every week since.

I’m looking forward to the parade and giving shout outs to the many local and regional parade entrants as they go by. I’m sure I’ll see plenty of familiar faces both in the parade and watching. And I look forward to making some new acquaintances along the way. There are more than 100 parade entries so that means no yelling at the kids on Friday night — gotta keep the pipes rested.

For me, this is one of the perks of living in a small community. I certainly wouldn’t have the same opportunity with the Seafair parade in Seattle, for example. But then again, the opportunities are there to be a part of the community, large or small.

From putting in some elbow grease at FISH food bank to keeping ivy from taking over the Wollochet estuary, anyone in the community is just a phone call away from lending a hand and helping to make the community a warm and inviting region.

The opportunity to announce the parade this weekend came about through volunteering at KGHP. You never know how one opportunity may open the door to another.

The city even makes it easy to volunteer, with the Gig Harbor Volunteer and Visitor Information Center, located at 3125 Judson St. Call them at (253) 857-4842 or go online at www.gigharborguide.com and click on the “Learn More” button and select “volunteer opportunities.”

I heartily encourage others who haven’t yet done so to step up — volunteer today in some way, big or small, for an ongoing project, one day or even for just one hour. Pitch in and see what kind of difference you can make in the community — and maybe opening that one door may lead to another and next year, you might be helping announce the parade at the Maritime Gig Festival.

Your head always has room for another new hat.

Anyone See the Same UFO as This Guy Did?

Despite sitting in our backyard a few weeks ago at night roasting marshmallows and dogs over a campfire, no one in our immediate family saw anything unusual in the sky. But one Gig Harbor resident saw something on May 1 — enough to write a report of the sighting and send it in to the Mutual Unidentified Flying Object Network (MUFON).

Anyone else from Gig Harbor to Port Orchard see anything that night? below is an excerpt of the filed report, which — according to MUFON — has not yet investigated by the organization:

My name is –. I live in Gig Harbor Washington on the water facing SW towards an area we locally refer to as the Purdy (Wa) spit. The Olympic Mountain range is in the back ground.

Three-Four weeks ago while driving down our road at around dusk I saw something. At first I thought it was a very bright star and then realized it was moving. I pulled my truck into the driveway and grabbed my scope, fixed it directly onto the object and viewed something far beyond my knowledge of technology.

I could see it very clearly through my Orion 90 refractor scope. It was the shape of a diamond. The top half was amber red and the bottom half was as bright as a star. It hovered a while at around my guess 20-25 thousand feet and then dropped to around 8-6? in a matter of a minute or two as it approached then just cruised right over the top of us towards Mount Rainier. It made no sound though I felt like I could hear something like being close to a power line or similar almost like maybe all sound went away, hard to explain. As it passed over I then grabbed my scope and went to the driveway to view it as it moved away. From behind it was no longer the shape of a diamond, it looked liked an elongated circle eight figure of light, all amber red. And no, I am not an alcoholic nor drug addled so I know what I saw.

Two nights ago,coming from the same direction, this time it was around midnight, a round orb like thing with a half circular arc just as bright coming out of the orb from top to bottom. It came from the same elevation and traveled the same direction as the first. Then one hour later another one. These objects were without a doubt not planes nor helicopters. We have had quite a bit of F-16 type jets and apache/military looking helicopters buzzing over I think as a result these past few nights. We do not normally see these military type craft directly over us.
Other than the usual black helicopters that rattle our windows every other night from 10 p.m. to midnight, we don’t see (or hear) much going on in the skies above us.

My boys have become quite adept at spotting satellites as they silently pass overhead and we’ve been able to confirm sightings of the International Space Station on different nights. So it seems unlikely we would have missed this particular sighting — unless we just weren’t outside at the exact same time.

Years ago, I was one of several witnesses watching a bonafide UFO cross the sky, but not being one to quickly assign the unusual site of lights crossing overhead to alien technology, I assumed it to be some space debris breaking up as it entered the atmosphere.

But as this posting was recent, I’ll once more be watching the skies and I can guarantee this: If I ever spot anything unexplainable and odd, I won’t settle with getting some grainy, blurry, shaky images that look like a blob of light.

K-9 Units at Peninsula Area High Schools Pass the Sniff Test

Peninsula School District is going to the dogs … to sniff out illicit narcotics.

The area’s three high schools — Gig Harbor, Peninsula and Henderson Bay — will begin getting random visits by a drug-detecting K-9 unit from either the Gig Harbor Police Department or the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, looking for the identifiable odor of drugs. According to a school district official, the dogs won’t be checking students, but will roam halls, lockers and parking lots. When the dog alerts to an area, the school principal will be notified.

A first-time offense will result in a 15-day suspension (and hopefully some counseling and follow-up, although that wasn’t made clear) and a second offense would warrant a more harsh response.

A story like this quickly separates people into one of two camps:

It’s a Good Thing: Drugs may be prevalent in our society, but they have no place in public schools. Although this kind of proactive measure won’t eliminate drugs entirely from school campuses or even change the nature of the drug culture, it does send the message to users and dealers that school grounds should be like the signs say at the school entrances: A drug-free zone. And if a kid doesn’t have drugs at school, they have nothing to fear.

It’s a Bad Thing: Bringing drug dogs in is one more step in eroding our basic human rights. This isn’t a case of investigating a specific report of someone carrying drugs; it’s more a dragnet attempt that will only serve to nab the small-time recreational drug user. The dogs aren’t trained to alert to many drugs out there so the result will be minimally effective at best. It just moves the drug problem to another location.

As a parent of two students who will soon be roaming the halls of high school, I must say I tend to agree more with the former, with just a smidgeon of the latter.

I don’t kid myself: This one gesture won’t halt the drug use that is common in our kids’ culture. But it does show that the district isn’t just paying lip service when they say they have a zero tolerance of drugs. It is, indeed, a proactive stance to establish the schools as a safe zone designed for learning — not dealing or using.

Critics charge that the lessons of drug use fall upon the parents. Most assuredly it does. But it shouldn’t stop there. Schools see our children for more waking hours than the parents during the week, so any influence the schools can add to support the message of the parents is only going to help. And for some students who don’t get or have the parental support, the message the school imparts may be the only positive message to stay away from drugs that they hear.

But this isn’t just a message that drugs are bad. It’s a life lesson that there can be consequences for the actions you take. Want to carry your stash to class in your backpack? Then you risk a suspension, a possible arrest and more.

The hardest lesson to teach your child is to allow them to make a wrong decision and then face the consequences that result. But it often results in the best lasting effect. Now before you write in, I’m not advocating you let your child try drugs. I’m saying that we can’t always coddle/protect our children from the big, bad world out there. If we want them to be functioning, capable humans, then as some point we must equip them with the tools to make choices on their own, as well as teach them to accept the results that follow those choices.

As parents, we’ve been teaching the lesson about drugs  to our kids since they were tiny — using each opportunity as a teaching moment to point out the dangers/follies/idiocy of drug use. But we also teach our children to be true to their own self — to learn to make decisions on their own. And with self-reliance comes ownership of your choices and the consequences.

Will my children choose to try drugs? Maybe, maybe not. But even if one of them does, I hope that at that moment my words come echoing through their brain and they make the right choice.

In the meantime, I applaud the school district and the law enforcement agencies for taking a proactive stance in helping parents to send home the message in a clear and visible way: Drugs and their use have no place in our schools.

I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes — But This Guy Does

House spider

As the cool air begins to chill the nights, the annual ritual of my wife’s blood-curdling screams fill the rooms and shatter the otherwise mostly peaceful ambiance that hangs about our rural county home.

Is she susceptible to the grisly nature of horror films that profilgate the airwaves and Netflix at this time of year? (Well, yes, but that’s not what causes her to scream.) Nor is she preparing for an upcoming appearance in one of the local theaters’ annual haunted house extravaganzas — although her howls would most assuredly add an air of sinister authenticity to the fright fests.

No, what sends her into an apoplectic shrilly nonsense is our diminutive and oft-misunderstood friend: a spider.

Like many “arachnophobes,” she firmly believes our little houseguests come in from the cold as the weather takes a turn for the worse. And up until a couple of days ago, I believed the very same myth. That is, until doing research for this blog post, I came across the Web site of a one certain Rod Crawford, curator of Arachnids at Burke Museum, on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle.

I had the pleasure of talking with Mr. Crawford on the telephone about a dozen years ago, when as a reporter, I was preparing background information on a story of a local claiming to have found a brown recluse in their home. Mr. Crawford assured me that if indeed a person had found a brown recluse, that I had a much bigger story than I intended, as no such confirmation of this particular spider being found in western Washington had yet been made.

We talked at some length of some other spider myths before ending our conversation. Now I doubt very seriously that my one phone call so many years ago led him to publish his Web site (but I’ll gladly take some of the credit, regardless), but he has, since that fateful phone call, put upon the Web — pun most definitely intended — a site about the many spider myths. And there are quite a few.

Just some of the myths he debunks are: You are never more than three feet from a spider; spiders found in bathtubs and sinks came up through the drain pipes; the Daddy-longlegs has the world’s most dangerous venom but it’s fangs are too soft to penetrate human skin; when black widow spiders mate, the female always kills and eats the male; some bubble gum has spider eggs in it; people are bitten by spiders at night while they sleep; you can identify a spider by a photo or by its markings — and a particularly disturbing myth, that we swallow an average of four live spiders per year while we sleep.

I could go on in some detail to some of the myths vs. reality, but why when Mr. Crawford has done such an excellent job already and you can read his handiwork for yourself by clicking here?

I will admit that I have heard and believed a number of the spider myths he squashes on his Web site. In particular: that spiders come into a house to escape the cold. Think about it. They are not warm-blooded so they do not react to the vagaries of outdoor temperature changes other than to die when it gets too cold. It was fascinating to read how there are in the Pacific Northwest roughly 30 outdoor arachnid species, 25 indoor species and eight that can live indoors and outside. Most of the house spiders we see have lived their entire life inside and putting them outside is most certainly a death sentence for the spider (another myth busted).

A big myth that I still have a hard time adjusting to is that spiders rarely bite and on average a person is bitten once or twice in their life. Of the thousands of spiders he has handled, Crawford claims to have been bitten only twice.

So as Halloween approaches and the visible sight of orb weaver webs can be seen on virtually ever bush and tree, take time to read how misunderstood our little multi-eyed friends are. Like sharks and wolves, they have garnered an undeserved reputation amid their human counterparts. It’s time they earned a little respect for all the good they provide by keeping a pest-filled insect world in line.

But that respect will stop short with my arachnid-fearing wife. She won’t even discuss a spider’s attributes and the photo I’ve attached to this post will guarantee to keep her from ever reading this blog.

And my apologies to Jim Stafford’s 1970s classic, “Spiders and Snakes,” about winning love through intimidation. I loved that song as a teenager.

Forget Hawks vs. Tides, What About Gig Harbor’s Real Football Rivalry?

For more than three decades now, the crosstown football rivalry has pitted the Peninsula Seahawks against the Gig Harbor Tides in a contest so big that it garners its own name: The Fish Bowl. (The name comes from the benefit side, an annual salmon dinner served before the game that benefits the local fishermen and fleet.) Even though Gig Harbor is 4A and Peninsula is 3A, the non-league game remains big with bragging rights between the blue and green that run deep in the region’s veins. The latest incarnation of the gridiron contest is set to take place tomorrow night (Friday, Oct. 2) at the event’s only home, Roy Anderson Field at PHS, a stadium that is shared by both schools as their home field each football season.

But in my humble opinion, this contest pales in comparison to a matchup that isn’t even part of football reality — yet.

Anyone who is even remotely involved in youth football in Gig Harbor knows there are two leagues to choose from when signing up junior to be the next Peyton Manning. Part of the harbor’s rich history in youth sports is Peninsula Youth Football, well into its third decade in developing football stars of tomorrow. A relative upstart by comparison, the still young Bulldogs Football is in its fourth year of operation. Both leagues field teams from ages 8 to 14 — and both include cheerleader squads so whole families can stay involved.

Both leagues play an eight-game season with extra games included as part of a post-season tournament. Both leagues develop young minds and bodies for the rigors of football that will eventually feed their players into one of the two area high schools. Both leagues bristle with volunteers at all levels willing to help from coaching to cheerleading to recruitment. And just like their high school counterparts, both leagues do not share common opponents beyond each other.

All these similarities end at one very important point: Unlike the Hawks and Tides, PYF and Bulldogs do not play each other for bragging rights to Gig Harbor football.

Having been involved with both programs, I think I’ve gained an insight as to why this might be. As a matter of full disclosure, my son has played three years in PYF and this year is a Bulldog. I’ve been actively involved as well, having coached those same three years in PYF and now coaching as a Bulldog.

As you can well imagine, many of the “adults” involved with PYF don’t want to see this kind of matchup because they don’t want to legitimize the Bulldogs program in any way by acknowledging it (I use the term “adults” loosely because some revert to childlike behavior when it comes to youth sports). There are no doubt detractors for such a match-up in the Bulldogs camp as well, although I must confess, I have not met any of them yet. As you can imagine, those involved in a new league are eager to prove they belong, so many in the Bulldogs organization would welcome such a once-a-year contest.

At the youth level, you better believe the players are well aware of the “other” league. My son has taken his share of ribbing from his former Seahawks teammates for going Bulldog red. I just tell him to point out the difference in the won-loss records of his former and current team.

I joke, but seriously, both programs are filled with players that will one day join together as teammates on the sidelines for either Gig Harbor or Peninsula. Having now been a part of both programs, I have a better view of the youth football world than I did a year ago. Both programs are by-and-large well-run and are filled with adult volunteers who give countless hours to helping players learn and love the game of football. To be sure, both have individuals who detract from the core essence that it is and always should be by and about the youth. But I think you’d be hard pressed to look at any youth sports program anywhere and not find that element.

An annual contest between the leagues could be a good thing for the Gig Harbor community. Like it’s high school counterpart — the Fish Bowl — the games could be built around an annual fundraiser. A nominal admission could be charged and throughout the day, each grade could square off at Roy Anderson Field for bragging rights. A traveling trophy could be created, given that there are five team levels, so each league that wins three or more for a given year would earn the trophy. Non-profits could even earn needed money running concessions for the day-long event.

Granted, there are logistics to be figured out. While the Bulldogs field one team per grade, PYF fields 2-3 per grade. Creating an “all-star” team from PYF would be unfair because those kids wouldn’t have played together through the year. Maybe the PYF teams could alternate years — a Tides team one year and a Seahawks team the next.

Despite the obvious problems (where do you fit this into the calendar) and the sublime ones (those adults who don’t want to see this happen), it is an event that could be put to good use in the community to drive youth sports awareness and community spirit. I can tell you, the players on both sides would love the opportunity to play their school mates.

So how about it, adults? Can we truly act our age long enough to create a Fish Bowl in miniature? Having experienced what each program offers, I can tell you flatly that both leagues teach good values, sportsmanship and determination while also developing a respect and love for the sport of football. I no longer listen to the rumors spread about either as I’ve found it all to be just that — rumors. Let’s get past the pettiness that may have spurred the development of two youth football programs in Gig Harbor, acknowledge that there are and always will be two solid programs for players and parents to choose from, and use this opportunity to create something special and unique for Gig Harbor that involves both programs in a fun and positive fashion.

Lets embrace the competitiveness that is part of having two healthy, growing programs and develop a higher sense of community oneness by using the playing field to bring this all together. We can all feel good about creating more youth participation while raising funds that can be turned back into the community to further help make Gig Harbor a great place to live, work and play football.

I’ve snapped the ball. The question is: Will anyone run with it?

Could School District Save Parents’ $$$ with Bulk Buying?

Like swallows to Capistrano, students and educators have flocked back to area schools to start anew the educational cycle for 2009-10. Preceding the annual return to the hallowed halls is the parents’ annual trek to area stores and malls to meet the demands of the back-to-school supplies necessary to keep the classrooms running efficiently.

Not to sound like the proverbial old coot, but “when I was a kid,” we seldom had to bring more than a notebook of lined paper and a sunny disposition to start a new school year. I remember my teacher even handing me a shiny and unsharpened bright yellow No. 2 on the first day. But tightening budgets and burgeoning classrooms have conspired to create the system we have today, wherein parents must supply the class with many of the necessities that schools routinely supplied in the past.

Today’s student is lacking if she doesn’t bring a box of tissues, crayons, erasers, markers, notebooks, reams of paper, tape, rulers, glue sticks, highlighters, Ziploc bags, hand sanitizers, scissors, calculators, pocket dictionaries and enough pencils to build a bridge that would put the Tacoma Narrows to shame.

What got me to thinking was the demand for reams of paper. I got to wondering just how big the stack of paper would be if you totaled all the students in all the classrooms in all the schools in the Peninsula School District who were asked to bring a ream of paper to start the year. This rather simple query turned into a laborious task of Sisyphian proportions as I took to amassing the school supply lists of the 15 schools in the PSD realm.

The results of my query resulted in four rather cumbersome charts, which can be accessed as PDFs labeled in the following:

psd-09-supplies-per-student (SPS): Shows the supplies needed by each student in each grade, with a total dollar amount per student factored in with the pricing guide.

school Supplies by Grade/School (SGS): Shows totals of each item requested for each grade, based on projected enrollment numbers for 2009-10 posted on the PSD Web site.

psd-09-total-supplies-by-school (TSS): Shows total number of each item requested by each school, with a total for all of the districts eight elementary and four middle schools.

psd-09-supplies-prices (SP): Shows estimated cost of each item, total requested for the school district and the cost to parents based on these amounts.

As a matter of full disclosure, please note there are a number of discrepancies that make this list necessarily incomplete. For one, the high schools are not represented as class supply lists are not posted online. The per-student total is not completely accurate as a number of the supplies can be purchased at different stores for different prices — sometimes for big discounts at some stores. Also, the per-student total can be skewed by unlisted items, i.e. middle school students are required to provide gym clothes and some, locks for a locker, and none of this is incorporated into the cost totals.

Likewise, many parents refuse to purchase the total amount of some items requested, i.e. a student may be asked to bring 10 glue sticks, but a parent supplies three or they opt to not send some of the requested supplies to school at all.

And naturally enough, there is the matter of recycling. Many parents save items from one school year to the next — such as watercolor paints, or reusable items like calculators and rulers — eliminating the need to purchase the item anew each year. The costs per student shown on SPS assume that a parent is buying every item on the list as requested for the new school year.

Now I’m no statistical engineer, so my math and logic is in no way meant to be comprehensive or complete. Rather, this little project  led me to pose the bigger question: Given the distressed economy, could the school district pool the teacher wish lists, purchase the major accoutrement at a discounted bulk rate and save parents a lump sum of cash?

And like any statistical study, interesting facts and heretofore unasked questions come up when the data is laid out side by side.

For example: While most schools require at least one box of Kleenex per student, kids in Goodman Middle School must have particularly runny noses as they are expected to supply 2,196 boxes of tissues for the 549 students — a total of four boxes per student. And kids at Artondale and Purdy elementary schools plan to glue a lot of paper, with both schools expecting more than 3,500 glue sticks, while Evergreen Elementary and Goodman Middle School students will glue nary a dozen pieces of paper together with Evergreen asking for little more than two glue sticks per student and Goodman less than one per student.

And my original question on reams of paper? Students at Harbor Ridge and Voyager didn’t need to weigh their backpacks down on opening day as they were not asked for any reams, while Kopachuck tipped the other end of the scale, requesting 1,112 reams from the 656 students. Districtwide, a whopping 4,355 reams of paper were expected to be collected. With a ream of 20 lb. bond measuring 2 inches deep, that’s a stack of reams topping out at just over 725 feet high. If you were to stack the reams 10 feet high, you would need a closet measuring at least 6.5 feet by 7.5 feet and 10 feet high.

Anyone who has manipulated statistics knows you can create a number or set of numbers to represent just about anything you want. Looking at the numbers, a parent could wonder why a fifth grader at Artondale requires more than $80 in supplies while his counterpart at Minter Creek can meet her needs with less than $20. And do Artondale third-grade and Harbor Heights fourth-grade teachers really expect to go through 60 pencils per student in one school year? (That’s a new pencil for every three school days.)

But that’s not the point here. I’ll leave that kind of number crunching to those of you who feel compelled to look into this further. My point is to the school district. Couldn’t the district, with its buying power, purchase the non-reusable items on the lists each year — say  like the 23,432 glue sticks (parent price of 3 for .99 cents, costs parents $7,732.56), 7,714 Kleenex boxes (.99 each for a total of $7,636.86), and 4,355 reams of paper ($2.99 per ream, $13,021.45)?

The district could recoup the funds by then charging the parents what it paid for each item, so the parents are still footing the supplies bill, but getting the district’s buying clout.

It just seems to me a good starting off point to talk about the district looking to be innovative in ways to help parents meet the needs of the classroom by using its buying power to reduce the overall costs of going back to school. Anyone agree?

Courage Defined in the Face of a Child

How do you define courage?

Some define it by one’s ability to stand up to insurmountable odds like an American Patriot facing a charge of the British Army. Others may define it by the quiet determination of a toddler as she stands at the edge of the diving board for the very first time. Courage can be personified in standing up to a superior for what’s right, and is aptly illustrated by a stranger rushing into a burning house to rescue someone inside.

Courage comes in large Costco-sized crates and can also fit neatly into a pocket. It is both colorful and colorless, tasty and bitter, blunt and sharp.

And it is represented anew in the sweet face of a child.

The story of 9-year-old Isabelle Smith of Gig Harbor in the current issue of Gig Harbor Life personifies courage in every sense of the word.

Most everyone faces issues at some time in their lives that leave scars either real or emotional, but few of us receive them at such a young age and for most of us, we can hide or mask life’s “wounds” from the people around us. But Isabelle has been given a route through life few could endure — and yet she does so with a grace and style — and with the innocent smile of a child.

Her parents, M.K. and Ted Smith, have long ago learned to endure and survive the questions, stares and often rude and ignorant comments that come their child’s way, and they have taught Isabelle to do the same.

Even beyond the scale of impropriety from the public at large, Isabelle has had to endure numerous surgical procedures to battle the rare affliction she was born with, sebaceous nevus — bringing into sharp focus just how courageous this small child truly is.

I am in awe of people like Isabelle and the courage they routinely display every day of their lives. She demonstrates a strength of character I find seriously lacking in many people, and I find it both humbling and uplifting to read of her life and the courage she displays.

Gig Harbor Life Going Weekly in September

It’s heady times for the dedicated staff of Gig Harbor Life. What started out as a bi-weekly publication in June 2008 has grown steadily over the past year in both audience and size. With this growth comes the next step in the ever-evolving world of community news publishing: Beginning Sept. 18, residents of Gig Harbor peninsula will begin receiving their free copy of Gig Harbor Life each and every week.

Before making the decision to go weekly, we looked long and hard at the idea of Gig Harbor having two weekly newspapers. The residents of Gig Harbor have been served for years by a very dependable and quality weekly publication. But in looking at the differences we offer our readers and advertisers to the choices given them in the past, we realized we were comparing apples to oranges.

Gig Harbor Life has been and will remain a free publication, direct-mailed to households on the peninsula — including Fox Island — and we remain committed to bring our readers content they won’t find anywhere else: stories about their friends and neighbors, businesses and activities that make Gig Harbor a unique and special place we all call home.

Gig Harbor Life remains committed to giving businesses both large, but especially small, an opportunity to reach customers old and new with reasonable rates that won’t strain a tight budget. Given the current economic climate, we understand that businesses can ill afford to spend their hard-earned dollars on advertising that will only reach a small percentage of their target audience. With our 18,000-plus circulation, business owners can rest assured they are reaching the widest possible audience across the peninsula and know their advertising dollars are being used wisely.

Though our news staff is small, we feel we know Gig Harbor and its residents intimately and are uniquely suited to bring you quality news and information about your community each week. With editor Scott Turner, advertising transition lead Tim Lengel, paginator September Hyde and myself (managing editor) we bring a combined 65 years of journalism experience to the pages of Gig Harbor Life, with 20 of those years being served right here in Gig Harbor.

And nine contributing freelance writers and columnists bring an additional 25 years of experience writing about the people and happenings in and around Gig Harbor.

But we don’t stop there. We welcome and encourage reader participation. The fully interactive companion Web site at gigharbor-life.com allows readers to post comments on stories, as well as photos and even write blogs unique to Gig Harbor that are hosted on the Web site. We seek out story and photo ideas and welcome any and all suggestions on how we can better serve our readership both in print and online.

Speaking of the Web, readers can often find stories online well before the print publication, along with Web-only items designed to heighten the reader’s experience that print simply cannot deliver.

Going to a weekly publication will open new avenues to serve you, including the addition of an editorial page where we welcome a healthy and ongoing community discourse of the events and activities that have an impact on our daily lives in Gig Harbor.

As I said: heady times. But we know the staff of Gig Harbor Life is not only up to the task, they all are looking forward to having twice the opportunity to serve you that they had before. As always, we welcome, encourage and look forward to your comments and suggestions. You can reach editor Scott Turner at (253) 514-3107 or by e-mail at editor@gigharbor-life.com and Tim Lengel at (360) 731-7373 or by e-mail at tim-lengel@kitsapsun.com. Reach September at shyde@gigharbor-life.com and me at rhallock@gigharbor-life.com.

We remain thankful for your warm and inviting welcome to be a part of your lives and we look forward to serving you now and well into the future.

Ric Hallock is managing editor of Gig Harbor Life and lives with his wife, two sons, one cat and countless wild rabbits just outside the north end city limits of Gig Harbor.

Gig Harbor Scouts Safe After a River Scare

Some Gig Harbor Boy Scouts got more than they bargained for over the weekend while rafting in the Wenatchee area, as reported in the Wenatchee World.

Four members of a rafting party were thrown into the water as a rafting group crossed some turbulent water in the Wenatchee River last Saturday. Two members were able to make it to shore, but two others — one scout and a river guide — scrambled onto some rocks and had to await a rescue from the local sheriff’s deputies.

Let this serve as a reminder to parents whose children are now out of school and looking for activities to fill their time. Tubing and rafting on local area rivers and streams may seen a laconic and relaxing activity, but seemingly still waters can quickly turn treacherous. Always use caution — as no doubt these scouts did — so that even unexpected events can still have a happy ending — and those involved can bring home an extra story or two they call tell at the dinner table.

Have you had a close call with nature? Share your story with a post to this story so others can learn from your “mistakes” and help your friends and neighbors have a safer summer.