Monday, October 13, 2014

Having a Senior Moment

This past week featured Heather's night in the spotlight, along with three of her fellow seniors at Lowell High School, as they were feted during a nice little tradition that LHS puts forth every year for its sports teams, Senior Night.
In this case, it was the Girls Field Hockey team, capably coached as it has been for many a moon, by Lisa Kattar.
Here's coach Kattar and the Senior girls doing their baddest of the bad poses.
From top left, there's Kiona Ashe, a four-year player, who's on defense.  She's also been a member of the LHS baseketball and softball teams all four years,  Kiona is part of the ROTC program and is a member of the Latin Lyceum.
After Coach Kattar, comes Heather, also a four-year member, and also on defense, she's also on the LHS lacrosse team, and is a member of the International Language Club, the Pep Club, and the National Honor Society. (Obviously, I could say lots more, but I'm sticking to the program bios!)
Bottom right is Taylor Ly, a forward on the team who also ran indoor track and cross-country for LHS.  She, too, is on lacrosse, and is a member of the International Language Club and the National Honor Society.
And bottom left is Katy Coughlin, a four-year member of the team who plays both middle and defense.  She has run indoor track, and is also on the lacrosse team.  Katy is also a member of the LHS Pep Club, the Science Club, and the International Language Club.
Taking the field, with styrofoam cups showcasing the senior's numbers
Besides her biggest cheerleader (her mom!), Heather also had her aunt Annie and bro in attendance to make some noise in the stands
Annie added a touch of color with her sign
Acknowledging her adoring fans and getting ready to deliver an historic, inspirational speech that will be quoted for generations to come
Heather's on-field escorts for the evening
The signs are there, and she's all smiles on the field at half-time
And of course, what kind of an event would it be without an obnoxious brother photo-bombing at every opportunity?
Flowers for Coach Kattar
Also in the stands - Heather's bestie, Chloe Manousos, a powerhouse on the softball diamond, and friends with Heather since they both first skipped off to St. Margaret's pre-K those many years ago 
Members of the LHS Girls Varsity Field Hockey Team, with one male photo-bomber who stole a page from Andrew's book!
Congratulations to all four of the seniors for leading the team during a difficult year, but still shining the smiles and keeping the team moving forward throughout!  Nice job by LHS and Headmaster Brian Martin for putting the seniors in the spotlight for their night at Cawley!
Now get out there and win some games, girls!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sun-Day, Buddy Sun-Day

136 years ago, print shop owners and brothers John and Daniel Harrington created a weekly newspaper for the Mill City, and dubbed it the Lowell Sun, a newspaper that would evolve into the only major daily newspaper to cover the comings and going of Lowell and all of its neighboring communities.  For decades, the paper remained in the hands of John Harrington's descendants, the family Costello.  Throughout most of the 20th century, it would still be owned and operated by the Costello family before it was sold to the MediaNews Group in 1997.

On Sunday afternoon, the members of the Fourth Estate that were part of the enormous Lowell Sun extended family gathered together for a Fall Classic usually reserved for high schools - a reunion, this one for of an army of employees who worked at the Sun when it was under the control of the Costello family.

The historic gathering took place at Lenzi's in Dracut, and was a trip down memory lane for generations of folks who worked in ye days of olde in the editorial newsroom, advertising department, compsitor's room and all of the other business branches of operations at the paper.

For some of us - ye humble blogger included - we've been gone from the halls of print for quite some time,  In my case, 19 years.  There were lots on hand whose departure from the Sun predated even my exodus from 15 Kearney Square to the Lowell PD.

But everyone's individual paths and stories all converged in the function hall yesterday, with proceeds from the event going toward the Lowell Sun Charities.

Throughout the room, with slide shows of employee pics scrolling in the background, folks who haven't seen one another in some cases of 30 years or more, gathered to remember their days together in Kearney Square.

While I still keep in touch with quite a healthy number of folks through various means, including workplace interactions, and especially social media wonderworks such as Facebook and Twitter, it was refreshing to catch up with what folks have been doing for the past few decades.

For me, it was a chance to meet up with a group of people who were all in the newsroom when I started there as a young co-op student from UMass Lowell at the ridiculously naive age of 19 on Valentine's Day, 1984.  All of the people here in this pic, were there when I started, and several made me feel welcome right from the get-go.

From left to right, former Sports Editor Ron Driscoll, current Managing Editor Kris Pisarik, fellow movie-buff and former education reporter Kathi Scrizzi-Driscoll, former higher ed and hospital reporter Patti McCafferty (now a colleague over at UMass Lowell), and to my left, Enterprise Editor Chris Scott, who was my newsroom neighbor for my whole stint at the paper.
Once upon a time, if it can be believed in these days of pared-back resources and dwindling hard-copy readers, the Sun printed seven editions and had satellite offices at the State House, in Washington, D.C., in colonial Bedford, and in downtown Ayer, home of its Nashoba edition.  Here's a reunion of three of the stalwart reporters who passed through the unforgettable Ayer Bureau - Mike O'Connell, Pat Montminy (who worked side-by-side with me on the most horrific case of my career), and Peter Ward. 
Huge props to the team who pulled the event together - Nancy McKenna, Debbie Linnehan, Carmen Bellerose, and Sheila Keough O'Brien
Kendall Wallace, who started at the paper nearly five decades ago, took the opportunity to recall some of its earlier days, when the newspaper business was the premiere delivery of news before everyone required the instant information of the internet. 
He passed the torch to former Editor Jack Costello, who, in an emotional thank you, said how much he regretted ever selling the paper, and would leap at the opportunity to buy it back and immerse himself back into the biz. 
Outside, some of the Costello siblings reunited with Sun management past and present, in the form of current Editor, right, Jim Campanini. 
Patti and I had a chance to thank Kendall, the guy who first hired us into the business, and started us on our professional careers which have followed wandering paths in the ensuing decades, with both of us landing in higher education posts
And while I don't know that I can call it a reunion since I still work with her in the trenches at Middlesex Community College, I got a chance to hang out with one of my favorite peeps, Nancy Roberts - literally the first face I saw when I walked into the newsroom for the first time ever for my interview to land the job.  She welcomed me then with a friendly hello and then watched all of our collective backs for years to follow. 
Love it, hate it, no one can deny the role the Sun has played in the tableau of the Merrimack Valley that has unfolded over the last century.  It was fun seeing old friends.  I only wish more of the folks that Dick Cook buzzed into the newsroom over those years were able to join us for the reunion.   They literally span the globe nowadays.  Maybe next time they pull one of these together, we can see some of the other faces who helped the Sun make history and shaped the news for millions.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Walks and Loves

Another September Sunday, another incredible outing with the Cook Clan and their extended family and friends taking part in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk.
For nearly a decade, we've been walking the miles, in honor of Jackie's sister, Annie, who's beaten back leukemia twice since 2003.  She wasn't able to join us on the course this year, but made sure to check in via telephone frequently to monitor our progress.
This year, though, the walk took on a different look, as Walk Star Jackie took this year off, recovering as she is from thyroid surgery last week.  I was more than honored - in fact I can honestly say it was truly one of the highest honors of my life - to step in and happily take her place, in her honor and to represent out along the course, alongside Wonder Walker Heather.
So this year, I shed the Annie's Army shirt in honor of Jack, and went with a teal shirt, which is one of the colors to recognize the fight against thyroid cancer.
A couple of miles in, and Heather and I stopped at the first watering hole in Wellesley, where we saw the stunning work of the Sandwich Squad.  Hundreds upon hundreds of sandwiches stacked up for the army of walkers.
You'll see a few more of these pics, with banners representing not only the brave souls who fight back the ills of cancer, but the folks like my beautiful daughter who log the miles and raise money to fight the disease by supporting the Jimmy Fund.
Turning onto Commonwealth Avenue by the fire station, we were greeted by the cheer squad at Survivor's Island
Where naturally, Heather had to dance the limbo 
At each mile marker there's a sandwich board highlighting the inspirational stories of cancer survivors.  Heather makes sure to give each of them a congratulatory tap 
Resilience, indeed, especially for holding up so well halfway through the infamous hills in Newton 
A walking legend, along with a running legend, the King of the Boston Marathon, Johnny Kelly.  (You didn't think I was talking about me, did you?) 
Heather is all smiles.  Why?  She just made it to the top of Heartbreak Hill 
Heather is out there giving hope to cancer fighters everywhere 
Heading into the home stretch with temps hitting 81 degrees, the father-daughter team pose before the infamous Citgo sign in Kenmore Square
Huge high-fives for the army of volunteers who make the walk a pleasure

And then suddenly, as we entered Kenmore Square, we saw the orange shirts.  The rest of Annie's Army - the other half of our Cook foursome, as well as Jackie's cousin Cheryl Cook and LPD co-worker Feby Colon - was ready to join the forced march!
Andrew, as you can see, likes to make his point when photo-bombing
Headed for home, the best of buds
As regular readers of this blog know, the finish line of the Boston Marathon holds a special meaning for us.  Whether it be where we wrap up the 26.2 mile run in April or the 13.1 mile trek every September, it's always a welcome sight.
My favorite people in the world
If you've read any of the previous years blogs about this walk, you know the walk-day fashion is all about the socks, and this year was no different.  Sock Stars. 
And because I know so many of you have been concerned for his well-being, and rightfully so, I took a couple of shots just to show that yes, Andrew was indeed fed.  He's not wasting away. 
And finally, the person behind every step I took today - my brave and beautiful wife.  I'd walk across the country for her, and back again if need be.  As if I ever needed reassurance that we're doing good work by pounding the pavement for these conquer cancer benefit walks, I've got one now more than ever.  She'll be back on the trail next year, but until then, I'm just proud as all hell to be able to walk by her side. 
Thanks to everyone who donated already to Heather and Jackie's fund-raising efforts.  You can still make donations to help cure this insidious disease by clicking here: Jimmy Fund Walk and entering either Jackie or Heather's names.  Thanks all!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Students of Running

This morning, my colleague Rebecca Newell from Middlesex Community College gathered a group of about two dozen students together for the first of her Friday Fitness classes, hoping to engage the students in some smart choices about health and wellness.
For her first outing, she opted for a 1.2 mile run, and drafted the services of ye blogger, along with my friends from the Lowell Police Academy PT team to coach the students through their first run.
It was a lot of fun, and hopefully was very rewarding for the students.  Here's hoping they stick with it!  If you see them running the streets of Lowell on Friday mornings, give them a beep or shout out some words of encouragement.
In the meantime, I'm going to turn the blogging airtime over to Rebecca so she can let everyone know in her own words what she's up to and why health and wellness is a good thing!  Here she is leading the charge and commandeering this blog!



It was a wonderful, crisp Fall day for our first class outing!  About two dozen Middlesex Community College students showed up for class in their favorite sneakers to participate in a non-traditional lesson plan on physical wellness.  IDS108 - General Education Seminar:  Wellness meets weekly to discuss the 8 areas of the wellness wheel and rather than sit through a Powerpoint presentation about the benefits of getting active, they put feet to the pavement and it was experiential learning at its best!
These students didn't know what they were in for when they enrolled in a course about their personal health as a college student with me, Professor Rebecca Newell!  Anyone who thought they were going to sit through 15 weeks of lecture learned quickly that wasn't the case.  Many were apprehensive when reviewing the syllabus and it informed them to meet outside with comfortable clothes, but they were motivated by the promise of fresh air, 2 participation points, a Center for Health & Wellness goody bag, and probably most enticing - personal inspiration from MCC fitness enthusiasts.
"Coach" Patrick Cook led the charge with his team of experts -  Lowell Police Officer and MCC Campus Safety Officer Thomas Hickey, Boston Marathoner Donna Corbin, Administrative Assistant in the President's Office, Jonathan Crockett, MCC's Coordinator of Athletics, Health & Wellness, and Lowell Police Officer Erin Byrne, a Staff Instructor at the Lowell Police Academy.
With some words of wisdom and a brief explanation of the course, the students were off on a 1.2 mile walk/jog/run around the historic Merrimack River, over the Bridge Street bridge and up to the Hunts Falls rotary.  The students represented multiple levels of fitness and experience, but all gave 100% and felt invigorated by the activity.
Immediately following the course, students were provided with personal advice from each of the experts.  They soaked up the information and many expressed interest in continuing.  To wrap up the session, students participated in 15 minutes of aerobic conditioning with a few onlookers jumping in. With a few jumping jacks and squats to top off the fun run they were ready to tackle the day.  Seems there might be a correlation between movement and student success!  Stay healthy and well, everyone!