children

Library crowns first Royal Reader

The Wood County District Public Library has crowned its first royal reader. Anneliese Lawrie, the 4-year-old daughter of Josh and Kelly Lawrie, of Haskins, has had 1,000 books read to her since early June. The feat was part of the library’s initiative to get kids to read or have read to them 1,000 books before they enter kindergarten. Shea Cunningham-Darabie, who operates the daycare Engaging Young Minds where Annaliese was cared for, said it took “a community effort” to achieve the goal. Cunningham-Darabie said that she reads picture books an hour a day to the children, and then she’ll read a chapter book during their quiet time. Anneliese also read to at home, she said. Her parents told Cunningham-Darabie that at night Anneliese would tell them how many books she wanted to read and set them out. “She was very self-motivated. She loves books.” The books she heard read at story times at the library’s Children’s Place also counter toward the 1,000. Cunningham-Darabie said about a month into the program, she realized that Anneliese’s totals were adding up. Cunningham-Darabie was interested in having her achieve the goal before she relocates to Michigan. Cunningham-Darabie is moving to Pinckney, Michigan this weekend….


Here’s the scoop – cops meet with kids over ice cream

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For more than a year now, Bowling Green Police Division has been meeting citizens over cups of hot coffee. On Friday, they tried something different – meeting them over bowls of ice cream, with chocolate sauce and sprinkles on top. “This is bigger than the Coffee with the Cops,” said Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick as he looked out over the room at the Wood County District Public Library, full of children eating ice cream and wearing police badge stickers. “We’re making you all honorary policemen today,” the chief told them. Police officers posed for photos with kids holding their bowls of ice cream. They answered questions about their jobs. Deputy Chief Justin White said he did not get the usual, “Have you shot somebody” question today. In fact, most of the questions were not about the two-legged officers, but about their four-legged canine officer named Arci. “He’s going to make an appearance,” assured Hetrick. The goal was to make the kids more comfortable around police officers in their community. “We’re here to help,” said Lt. Brad Biller. “The police officers in the community are here to serve them, not to…


Levy renewal to protect against child, elder abuse

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the numbers of child and elder abuse grow in Wood County, so does the need for county residents to support the levy renewal that provides funding to protect those vulnerable populations. On Tuesday, the Wood County Commissioners signed a resolution putting the 1.3-mill child and adult protective services levy renewal on the November ballot. The millage, to be collected for 10 years, will raise an estimated $3.7 million annually. The levy renewal effort comes at a time when the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services is seeing record numbers of child abuse investigations. It’s expected the county will investigate at least as many cases as last year – when the numbers jumped 25 percent to 894. “We anticipate having about as many as 2016, which set the all time record. Maybe a little higher,” said Dave Wigent, director of the county Job and Family Services. In addition to the increasing number, the county is also seeing an increase in the severity of the abuse cases – requiring that more children be placed in foster care. The overall increased cost of Children’s Services last year was about $500,000, Wigent said….


Girls sink their teeth into STEM … and sharks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The slimy, smelly spiny dogfish sharks were placed on the lab tables in front of the young girls. “Ewwwww,” one girl said squeamishly. “I can never eat gummy sharks again,” another girl said. This was the moment they had been waiting for at Tech Trek week – shark dissection. They were armed with gloves, scalpels and scissors to open up the gray sharks native to Australia. Some were a little timid about slicing into the sharks. “Oh my goodness,” one girl said with apprehension. Others were ready to explore. “I call dibs on making the first cut,” another said with glee. The shark dissection class Wednesday at Bowling Green State University’s Tech Trek week was just one of several sessions to help the participants realize that their female gender should not keep them from careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The fifth annual Tech Trek, supported by the American Association of University Women, is intended to make STEM educations and careers more accessible to girls. The program is only open to girls, so they are encouraged to pursue their STEM interests in an environment free from stereotypes, and given the…


Paws down … pet show was the place to be in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Godzilla the guinea pig managed to upstage the dogs performing tricks at the annual Bowling Green Pet Show Wednesday evening in City Park. The guinea pig, with an alias of the “fuzzmeister,” perched on the hand of his owner, Fran Flores, 15. Fran took aim with her finger, said “bang,” and Godzilla dramatically fell backwards and played dead. The judges seemed stunned by the performance, and one said “bang” to test the guinea pig – and once again Godzilla collapsed upon command. The guinea pig stole the show from the dog who waved with his paw, and the other who weaved in between her owner’s legs as she walked, spun in circles and then played dead. The dogs were no match for the furry rodent. More than 60 pets were walked, carried or dragged to City Park for the annual pet show sponsored by the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. There were 22 categories for the pets to be judged in, like shaggiest pet, biggest rodent, best dressed pet, and best behaved. No entries competed in the categories of most interesting farm pet, slimiest reptile, or loudest bird. A couple kids…


Ta-dah moment: Library & circus are compatible

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Ta-Dah was the word of the day Friday morning at the Wood County Library. As part of the summer reading program, the Cirque Amongus from Michigan visited the library to give an introduction to basic circus skills – stilt walking tight rope walking, a ladder pyramid, riding a unicycle, balancing, and juggling. A successful, or even unsuccessful, attempt was concluded with a loud ta-dah! Accompanied by the hands flying out to the side. Children’s Librarian Maria Simon started off the morning with a cautionary note by reading the picture book by Elise Parsley, “If You Ever Want To Bring a Circus To the Library, DON’T!” But Simon clearly didn’t heed the book’s message. She welcomed Myrthia Hornshaw and Johan Yamine into the building with open arms. At first they demonstrated each skill, using drawing volunteers from the dozens of children in attendance.  After each skill was shown, the kids were instructed to scream ta-dah! They were itching to go. With the help of the library’s volunteens, the kids – for some walking a recently acquired stunt — then got to try for themselves. That meant riding bikes through the atrium. Tottering on a “high-wire”…


Skateboard, scooter sports teach more than stunts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Cautious adults cringed as the carefree youth demonstrated their skate park skills – flipping and twisting in the air – seeming to defy gravity. The kids show up almost every day to use the skate park in Bowling Green’s City Park, riding their skateboards, scooters, BMX and mountain bikes. Last week, the youth demonstrated their skills for the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club. Many of them have been inspired and instructed by Don DiBartolomeo and Matt Bowley, of The Right Direction, a non-profit organization that uses action sports to teach life skills. “He took a childhood activity, riding a bike, and parlayed it into a career,” Kiwanis member Scott Seeliger said of DiBartolomeo. “They’ve affected the lives of young people.” The Right Direction teaches kids far more than stunts on their skateboards and scooters. The organization teaches time management, organization and communication, DiBartolomeo said. The youth learn practical skills, like how to work on their bikes, and community skills like how to create a fundraiser to aid local organizations. Last year, the kids performed 3,500 hours of community service and collected 2,000 pounds of food to donate to local food pantries. “It gives…


BG Girl Scouts get real life government lesson in D.C.

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the nation prepares for another birthday, a group of Bowling Green girls will celebrate this Fourth of July with new knowledge about their government. Members of Girl Scout Troop 10799 recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., where they crammed in as many tours and sightseeing stops as possible in four days. They learned that George Washington didn’t smile for portraits because his artificial teeth would fall out. “He was a great leader, but his teeth … not so great,” said Girl Scout Natalie Hollands. They learned that while the Senate chambers is a serious and somber place, the House of Representatives is raucous and chaotic. “You could hear a pin drop in the Senate,” said Allie Parish. But not the House. “It was really crazy,” Paige Suelzer said. The leader kept banging the gavel for quiet. “They were like little kids.” And they learned that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is no place for giggling – even if one of their little sisters drops a water bottle that rolls close to the feet of the soldier on guard. Thirteen Bowling Green Girl Scouts, who will be entering sixth…


Earth Camp gives kids peek at the wild side

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   By the end of the day, nearly 250 kids left William Harrison Park – some wearing paper butterflies with pipe cleaner antennae in their hair, some with dirt on their hands, and some with new ideas in their heads. Elementary age children from throughout Wood County gathered at the park in Pemberville for the annual Earth Camp Tuesday organized by the Wood County Solid Waste Management District for kids in the Community Learning Centers STARS program. “We get every single one of the Community Learning kids outside for the entire day,” said Amanda Gamby, who coordinated the event. A parent herself, Gamby said sometimes after a long day at work, parents just don’t have the energy to take kids outside to play. So for the 18th year, the Earth Camp gave them a full day to explore nature. This year’s theme was wildlife. “It’s pretty great,” said Jamie Sands, with the Wood County Park District, which partnered on the camp. “This is for kids to be active in nature while learning about wildlife.” Children went from station to station, learning about the declining Monarch butterfly population, “habitracks” using a map to explore…


BG’s Scruci tries to dispel rumors about bond issue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci tried to stop the rumor mill from churning Monday evening. For 90 minutes, he presented details and answered questions from a packed meeting room at the public library about the school district’s building plans and the bond levy to support them. Scruci has heard “all kinds of stories” about the district’s plans. “We wanted to get this information out now,” he said. “We want to get out in front of those” rumors about costs, cuts, kids and more. So he started by explaining the building plans and the $72 million cost to taxpayers. “I’m going to be the first to tell you that’s a lot of money, and we know that,” Scruci said. The 6-mill bond issue will appear on the November ballot for the projects. “Schools are always going to be the investment in the future in every city,” he said. “If we kick the can down the road, the cost is going to grow.” For the owner of a house valued at $100,000, that means an extra $210 a year. But since the average house value in Bowling Green is $170,000, Scruci said that would…


Energetic kids learn about renewable energy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the young girl pedaled the bicycle, her efforts first turned on the radio. As she pedaled harder, she created enough energy to turn on LED light bulbs. And if she pedaled really hard, she turned on the old-fashioned light bulbs. Pretty sneaky way to teach kids about energy. “You’re pretty strong,” Daryl Stockburger, assistant director of Bowling Green Public Utilities, told the young girl. “When you use these light bulbs, you’re making the electric company work really hard,” Stockburger said of the older bulbs. “Tell your parents to use LED bulbs.” Stockburger was talking about Bowling Green’s energy efforts recently to a group of kids gatherered at Wood County District Public Library. He talked about the new solar field, the wind turbines and hydropower. Stockburger, who is more accustomed to talking energy with adults, did his best to bring the discussion down to the level of the children. He was helped out by Maria Simon, head of youth services at the library, who is more accustomed to taking technical topics and making them understandable to young minds. Simon was the Gracie Allen to Stockburger’s George Burns. “She’s generating 5 amps,” Stockburger…


‘Coffee with CASAs’ event to inspire volunteers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The opiate epidemic has reached down into the youngest and most helpless members of Wood County. Just as Wood County Children’s Services is seeing more child abuse and neglect cases, the Wood County CASA program is seeing those growing numbers stretch their volunteers. The numbers have increased so much that some families are being turned away, according to Kathy Hicks, a volunteer member of the Friends of CASA Board. Court Appointed Special Advocates are volunteers who advocate for the needs of children, and act as the voices of children in court, Hicks said. “So the court knows how the child feels,” she explained. “Kids don’t want to tattle on mom or dad.” The CASAs make home visits, speak in court on behalf of the children, and contact doctors, schools or other agencies to try to determine what is in the best interest of the children. The Wood County CASA program, with director Carol Fox, currently has 32 volunteer CASAs who are serving 45 families with a total of 90 children. The growing number of cases has led to about 10 families being turned away so far this year. Much of the increase…


Playground gives foster kids place to play with parents

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A patch of grass outside Wood County Children’s Services has been turned into a wonderland for foster children. With the help of local service organizations and the county commissioners, a playground has been constructed on the grounds of Wood County Job and Family Services on East Gypsy Lane Road. The playground is to be used by foster children visiting with their birth families. “It’s for family visitation, so kids and their parents can play together in a natural environment,” explained Sandi Carsey, administrator of Wood County Children’s Services. During the average week, the Children’s Services office sees about 10 families come to the agency for supervised visitation with children who have been placed in foster care. “It’s critical that kids have contact with their families,” especially if the goal is reunification in the future, Carsey said. “The kids are attached to their families. They need to see them. They need to maintain those relationships,” she said. And the playground gives children an opportunity to do what kids do with their families – go down slides, climb equipment, be pushed on swings. In the past, Wood County Children’s Services used the Wood Lane…


Painful loss turned into pleasure at pool for children

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Part of Leah Pekarik was dreading Wednesday. That was the day a new splash pad creature was being dedicated in honor of her daughter, Clara, who died last year at just 10 weeks old. But the other part of Pekarik was overwhelmed by the generosity of the community to turn her family’s pain into pleasure for other children in Bowling Green. With the help of community members who love Leah, her husband, Scott, and their son, Bobby, the day of dread turned into a day of joy surrounding Clara’s short life. “Everyone in this community knows Leah and loves her,” said Kristin Otley, director of the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. “So many community members contacted us and said, ‘We want to do something.’” So the park and recreation program came up with a plan. “We asked people to help us remember Clara and give other children in the community something to smile about,” Otley said. When the new aquatic center was built in City Park, there were not enough funds to furnish the “splash pad” area with “creatures” that spray water on children. The idea was to add a frog…


Dunn hits home run with Hometown Hero award

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Playing ball at Carter Park is a rite of passage for many Bowling Green children. It’s where they learn to run for first base, not third after hitting the ball. It’s where their families fill the bleachers to root them on. It’s where they grab a handful of gummy worms and a slush after hot nights on the field. So Modern Woodmen recently honored the man who has devoted 41 years to the BG Youth Baseball program as a “Hometown Hero.” Tim Dunn was recognized at the Carter Park diamonds last month, and the fans seemed to appreciate the honor, since Modern Woodmen paid for hot dogs and drinks for anyone interested. “About 400 people took them up on it,” Dunn said. Many of the young ball players may be unfamiliar with Dunn and this enduring role with the youth baseball program. He started in 1976 by taking care of the grounds as a kid. He went on to umpire in high school, became Pee Wee League commissioner, then president of the BG Youth Baseball and BG Pee Wee League. Dunn has held that position since 1982. He coached teams for years,…