Orcas make a memorable visit

The big guy got close. Photo taken from video shot by Emilee Wright Fyffe.
The big guy got close. Photo taken from video shot by Emilee Wright Fyffe.

It was May 2002 I drove up from Camas, Wash. to interview here. Another reporter had already been picked for the job I was after, but the editors told me I’d likely be luckier in the summer. I didn’t know if I would want a job here, but I knew I wanted to want the job.

The drive in was beautiful until I hit Gorst and coming into 2002 Bremerton didn’t make me feel any better. The whole time, though, I knew there had to be something cool about this place for Money Magazine to have given it the label as the best place to live in America in the early 1990s.  During lunch on the deck at the Boat Shed we watched three eagles circling our side of the Manette Bridge, which for me was a positive development. What sealed it happened after I left the office. It was the ferry ride. Within about 2 minutes I told myself, “We have to live here.”

The other notion that fascinated me was the idea that on any given day I might be near water in which I could see orcas. I had been to Sea World in San Diego as a kid, back when most of us bought into the idea that zoos and ocean parks were good because it gave us a chance to see something we otherwise wouldn’t. It took about 30 years and one viewing of Free Willy to call that idea into question. I wanted to see orcas in the wild. This was the place.

My luck there has been spotty, but within three years I saw them twice, once in Silverdale and once on the ferry to Seattle when I was headed there for work to greet a veteran coming home on Christmas Day. Those were both distant and fleeting viewings. It took several more years to spot any more, and that was a good one. One day after work I heard the whales were in Bremerton and I drove to Bachmann Park, knowing that was their likely path out. I scored as I watched them pass all too quickly.

I don’t know that it can get any better than it was on Monday, though. We had family in town from Utah and decided to spend part of Memorial Day at Point No Point Park in Hansville. While I dozed off in a camp chair I heard my sister in law yell that there was a killer whale. It was a great scene out in the water as the whales headed south, then stopped in a spot for a while. We guessed they were feeding on salmon.

And then, like a miracle, one giant orca surfaced probably 50 feet from shore. The entire beach began to follow it then, and the visitor gave us one more view.

This is one of those times we’re not only lucky to live where we do, but when we do. I had left my phone in the car, but I was the only one. There were plenty of cameras pointed at the ocean to capture the action. My thanks to Emilee Wright Fyffe for sharing the video.

If you’re among those whose luck has not been this “amazing,” have faith that your day will come.

Enjoy the video. The first 1 minute 30 seconds was the kind of sighting I had always envisioned at Point No Point. I wasn’t counting on “amazing.” The big guy makes two appearances in the last part of the video to make that happen.

SKHS grad flips out as L.A. stuntwoman

Coming up later tonight at www.kitsapsun.com, we profile a 2011 South Kitsap High School grad who is now a stunt woman in Los Angeles.

Sydney Olson, who started in gymnastics at Mile High Gym in Port Orchard and spent most of her time at Olympic Gymnastics Center in Silverdale, will appear Monday on “American Ninja Warrior.” I had never heard of it, but I learned that contestants have to navigate a strenuous obstacle course.

Olson’s skills in freerunning and parkour — both explained in the article which runs Sunday in the Kitsap Sun — helped her earn a spot on the show out of 10,000 people who auditioned.

You can read Olson’s story in print tomorrow or online tonight/Saturday when it posts at www.kitsapsun.com (I would expect by 8 p.m. or 9 p.m PST). You can see how she did in the competition by tuning in to “American Ninja Warrior” at 8 p.m. PST Monday on NBC.

You can see Olson in action in these YouTube Videos.

Wins, Fails and Grunts … in which Olson shows how much work it takes to master the moves.

BODYPOP, Official Music Video, in which she appears with social media entrepreneur Cassey Ho. That’s her on the right in the first frame.

Red Bull Art of Motion Submission 2014, in which she shows her stuff, like running up trees and flipping over backwards.

This post has been edited. The original version misstated Sydney Olson’s last name on first reference.

Celebration of Shane Zimmardi’s Life Saturday

Check out this picture. See the kid in the top row, second from right, the one with the big smile? That’s Shane Zimmardi.
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Shane played with my son Daniel (bottom right) on the legendary Blue Angels. The team had a reputation in South Kitsap Soccer Club for kicking butt and taking names. They were the team to beat in their age division in the mid-2000s.

Shane was a ball of energy, always with that great big smile. It could be raining sleet sideways, and you’d think Shane was out for a day the beach. And fast! That kid could run.

I was heartsick on May 13 to see that Shane had died at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. The cause of his death, as reported by a close friend, was a drug overdose.

On May 8, Shane attended a rave in Tacoma and consumed a drug he thought was “molly.”

“MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), also known as ecstasy or molly, is an amphetamine derivative that has both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Although MDMA is an illicit substance, it is used recreationally, including at electronic dance-music festivals, and can cause adverse health events. These include hyperthermia (spiking body temperature), seizures and organ failure among other effects. The drug, which is often laced with other substances, has been linked to a number of deaths across the country.

According to a KOMO story on Shane’s death, nine people were transported by the Tacoma Fire Department from the Life in Color event where Shane became ill.

Ashton Soete, a close friend of Shane’s, posted on Facebook about the availability of test kits that can quickly and cheaply screen for contamination. Like prophylactics to prevent STDs and pregnancy for people who are sexually active, the use of these kits should be encouraged among people who do use drugs, Soete said.

I can’t speak to that, although a doctor quoted by KOMO said the tests are unreliable.

The CDC reported on an electronic dance music festival in New York in 2013 where twenty-two people suffered adverse effects from the heat of the event, drugs and alcohol. Nine people became severely ill and two of those people died. The two who died both had MDMA in their system.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene investigated and as a result, the department and festival promoters together “developed multiple interventions including implementing a surveillance system for adverse events and safety measures (e.g. roaming teams of peer volunteers, stricter entrance procedures, procedures to reduce heat exposure, and required viewing of harm reduction messages before entering the festival).”

“These interventions might help prevent adverse health events at future electronic dance-music festivals in New York City and elsewhere,” the CDC states.

Shane’s brother Forrest has an email where you can send memories and pictures of Shane, Inmemoryofshanezimmardi@gmail.com.

A celebration of Shane’s life will be held at 1 p.m. at Olalla Bible Church, followed by a gathering open to all at the Zimmardi home, 11132 Banner Rd SE Olalla, WA 98359.

Golf in South Kitsap goes to the dogs

Kerris, the yellow lab who works at the Kitsap County Courthouse, started the weekend early with a round of golf Friday morning at Trophy Lake Golf & Casting.
Kerris
Perhaps you remember the story I did on Kerris in 2010. The Kitsap County Prosecutor’s office brought her on as a courtroom therapy dog to put witnesses at ease during difficult testimony, and generally to diffuse the tension. Her handler is Keven Kelly, chief of District Municipal Court.

The two were golfing for charity at the Kitsap Humane Society‘s Fore the Animal’s golf tournament. This is the third year of the tournament, which is notable for allowing animals to tag along.

I love imagining dogs in plaid knickers and spiked shoes, wagging their little tails as they get ready to tee off. Alas, it doesn’t work like that. The dogs pretty much just ride in golf carts, slobber and shed.

There were 100 golfers and seven pooches signed up for the tourney, said Rebecca Johnson, the Humane Society’s event coordinator and executive assistant.

Their goal was to raise $15,000 for KHS.

Nigerian firefighter dies after training with local firefighters

Olumide Ogunubi
Olumide Ogunubi

Edward Wright, owner of Targhee Fire in Poulsbo, learned Tuesday that one of the Nigerian firefighters he had helped train recently died in the line of duty.

Olumide Ogunubi, a Lagos State firefighter, died Saturday during a “deep well rescue,” Wright said in an email.

Ogunubi was one of 90 Nigerian firefighters who Wright and several regional firefighters trained through Targhee Fire.

“Nigerian firefighters face risks and challenges that are hard to fathom for those in the West,” Wright said. “We send our thoughts and prayers to the Lagos State Fire Service family and the family of firefighter Olumide.”

Olumide was assigned to the Ikotun station in Lagos State.

Richard Sherman has Cedar Heights covered

Students at Cedar Heights Junior High School (and most staff members) showed up for the school assembly Thursday with no idea what was in store.

When Richard Sherman walked into the room, the gym exploded in applause and excitement, said South Kitsap School District spokeswoman Amy Miller.

Sherman, a pillar of the Legion of Boom for the 2013 NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks, agreed to speak at Cedar Heights’ “It Takes Courage to be Great!” assembly as part of his work with Blanket Coverage, the Richard Sherman Family Foundation.
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Through the foundation, formed in 2013, Sherman provides students in low-income communities with school supplies and clothing so they can more adequately achieve their goals.

Sherman recently launched a new initiative to reach out to schools with large at-risk populations, according to Bryan Slater, Director of Community Outreach for the foundation and a member of its board. Cedar Heights does not fit the at-risk label statistically, said Slater, but Sherman wants to reach out to schools in King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap County. Slater, a teacher in the Sumner School District, knows Ted Macomber, a dean at Cedar and supporter of previous Blanket Coverage events, and so the foundation connected with the school in South Kitsap School District.

Although Sherman did not distribute clothing at the assembly, the Stanford grad did talk to the students about having the courage and perseverance to keep trying even when the odds are stacked against you.
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Sherman fielded questions from the kids, including, “Will you be my best friend?” to “What was your most courageous moment?”

He also invited six students to sign Blanket Coverage contracts to work on improving themselves in the areas of attendance, behavior/attitude or academics. The kids are asked to document where they’ve been falling short in any one of these areas and to list specific actions they will try to take to change their habits. The purpose is to encourage students to take small steps to reach their bigger life goals, Slater said.
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Sherman will personally follow up with the students to see how they are doing with their goals, according to Slater.

“Richard’s role is to kind of be a big cheerleader for the kids,” he said. “Richard doesn’t want this to be kind of a one and done thing. He wants to have authentic, real relationships with the kids.”

On his blog, Sherman on Thursday posted, “Shout out to Cedar Heights Junior High School, I had an amazing time today. These kids truly have a ton of potential; I hope I can help them reach it. We had a few kids sign contracts today to improve in various areas of their studies — it is always encouraging to see a student show their dedication to becoming successful. I hope all the students enjoyed it as much as I did. Keep up the hard work; it will pay off!”
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Sherman has already visited Rainer Beach High School in Seattle, where he had five students sign contracts. With more school visits ahead, how will he keep track of all these kids?

“Richard’s memory is so incredible, when he gets to meet these five or six kids, he’ll remember them forever,” Slater said.

Members of the media were not invited to or notified of the event.

“We’re not really interested in the publicity,” Slater said. “We don’t want it to be construed as a publicity stunt by Mr. Sherman.”

“South Kitsap School District would like to thank Richard Sherman and his family foundation for taking the time to visit Cedar Heights and make a difference for the students in our community,” Miller said.

Go Hawks!

— Photos Courtesy of Blanket Coverage

SKHS dance team sweeps in Anaheim competition

Dance teams from South Kitsap cleaned up at the American Showcase event in Anaheim, Calif., in April.

The Cedar Heights Junior High School’s junior varsity team, coached by Lexi Sperber-Meekins, took first place in the pom event for its division.

The South Kitsap High School varsity dance team, coached by Devin Hanson, won all three of the events in which they were entered in the finals on April 12: Varsity jazz, varsity hip hop and varsity Pom.

“For a high school team to win that many first place awards is quite an accomplishment,” said Sheila Noone, of Varsity.com, which hosts the event and a number of other dance team and cheer competitions. “I would assume that they are a very versatile team, strong in many different genres of dance. Some teams are strong in pom, or hip hip, or jazz, but to be great at all is very impressive.”

This is their jazz number.

The SKHS dance team has been together for a year. They tried out last spring and worked over the summer and fall to perfect their technique and competition routines. According to Hanson, the team puts in roughly seven to 10 hours a week at practice.

The team performs whenever they can, at the back-to-school fair, high school basketball games, and they did the half-time performance for a Kitsap Admirals game in February.

The dance team competes in Washington Interscholastic Activities Association competitions, and this year they took their hip hop, and jazz routines to state.

As you watch these other videos, check out what an athletic endeavor these dance routines are. If you think this looks like fun (and if you’re a student), tryouts are coming up, likely some time in early June.

This is their pom number.

This is their hip hop number.

Port Orchard cleans up

A sure sign of spring is the annual Port Orchard downtown clean-up, hosted by the Port Orchard Bay Street Association.

This year’s cleanup was April 26. About 30 people, including Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes and City Councilwoman Bek Ashby, showed up to lend a hand, said Kathleen Wilson of POBSA. Volunteers swept and tidied, and planted flowers in the stone planters. Rico’s Landscape NW helped by removing small trees from the planters that had overstayed their welcome, becoming large and unkempt.

Hanging baskets, paid for by POBSA, will arrive next week, Wilson said.

Wilson on Tuesday thanked the city of Port Orchard Public Works Department for pressure washing the sidewalks before the cleanup.

It was, as they say, a group effort.

Here’s a gallery of photos from Nick and Elissa Whittleton that were posted on POBSA’s Facebook page. Port Orchard, aren’t we looking spiffy now?
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Nice lawnmower, too bad it’s not a wonder truck

Well, look here.

Bremerton is the proud owner of a new lawnmower, a Toro Groundmaster 4700-D to be precise.

The price tag? Nearly $80,000.

This little beauty combines the muscle of a 60-horsepower turbo diesel engine with seven — yes seven — independent blades, cutting 12 1/2 feet of lawn at a time.
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“Obviously, it’s a state-of-the-art piece of equipment,” said Steve Mutek, parks department supervisor, who along with other staff took the mower for its test run Monday at Blueberry Park.

Too bad it’s not a Wonder Truck.

Port Orchard’s had one of these little dandy’s for three years. It sands. It plows. It de-ices. And in milder months, it serves as a versatile utility vehicle. Different implements can be attached and removed from the truck chassis in minutes by a single worker.
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“We call it the multipurpose truck. It basically morphs into something else. It’s a transformer,” said Wayne Schulz of Valley Freightliner Inc., in 2012, when he delivered it to the city.

The cost of the Wonder Truck: $262,000.

Maybe someday, Bremerton.

Poulsbo osprey return, set up home on their new platform

A osprey takes flight Monday from its new nesting platform at Strawberry Fields in Poulsbo.
A osprey takes flight Monday from its new nesting platform at Strawberry Fields in Poulsbo.

A pair of osprey have returned to Strawberry Fields where a new nesting platform was waiting for them.

The birds had built a nest on one of the lights a few years ago and it was removed for safety reasons after they left this past winter.

You can read about the platform construction and installation in a previous Kitsap Sun article.