Very special athletes ended this year’s Special Olympics program in Rockford with a day of competition and celebration recently. For the first time, students held their annual event at the Wolverine World Wide YMCA in Belmont. Any student with an educational disability in grades kindergarten through eighth grade can participate. Athletes work to develop their skills and compete in walking or running events (50m / 100m / 200m dash), throwing events (softball and Frisbee toss), and jumping events (standing and running long jump). They have opportunities to build athletic, as well as social skills with other RAM’er (Rockford Athletes in Motion) athletes and coaches. Practices were held every Monday in March and April at the YMCA. On April 27, the YMCA hosted the “Rockford Tournament of Champions,” where the athletes competed in front of family and friends for medals, trophies, and prizes. Volunteer parents and teachers, as well as middle and high school students, help facilitate the practices. On May 2, they competed with other schools from the area in the Special Olympic Regional Games at Calvin College. There is no cost for participation. All financial support is provided through donations including PTO’s and local businesses. The 2009 sponsors included the PTO’s at Parkside, Roguewood, Crestwood, Meadowridge, Valley View and Lakes Elementary schools. Local businesses who contributed included: D & W Food Market, Damn Dogs, Advanced Aquarium, Rockford Lanes, Marinades, the Corner Bar, Right up Your Alley, Aunt Candy’s Toy Co., Herman’s Boy, Rudy Kazoody’s, and many private sponsors. Tim and Jen Vandelen were proud to see their son Drew, an eight-year-old student who was at Roguewood this last school year, compete. “It has been a great outlet for him. It’s wonderful for him to be in a place where he is successful.”
The Rockford Area Arts Commission offered their third annual t-shirt design contest again this year. Third and fourth-graders from Belmont, Meadowridge and Parkside elementary schools entered the contest. The best all around designs were chosen. There were four winners. Fourth place went to Bailey Abbey of Belmont Elementary, third place to Paige Anderson of Meadowridge Elementary, second place to Anna Kurtz of Belmont Elementary and first place to Brandon Schwandt of Parkside Elementary. Brandon’s design will be used on the t-shirts for “Freedom To Express” the sixth Annual Summer Arts Camp being held July 20 to July 24 here in Rockford. For more information about the Summer Camp phone (616) 874-5264.
A Rockford man is making a big difference for our soldiers in Iraq. And he doesn’t even carry a weapon. Leslie Wayne Sims, a Master Electrician employed by Stanley Consultants, is serving as a member of Task Force S.A.F.E. The 47-year-old’s daily job is the safety of service members and civilians in Iraq. Task Force S.A.F.E. (Safety Actions for Fire and Electricity) was formed by a Congressional mandate in August 2008 to inspect, assess and correct any electrical, fire or safety issues at more than 94,000 Coalition facilities across Iraq. Made up of highly-skilled electricians, fire protection experts and a variety of other civilian and military specialists, TF S.A.F.E. has completed inspection on more than 47,000 facilities in the past ten months. This has also led to a 50% reduction in electrical and fire incidents within the Coalition. Sims, a graduate of Rockford High School and ITT Technical Institute, spends long days inspecting facilities and supervising repairs at facilities across Iraq, but says providing a safe living and working environment for our troops is worth the sacrifices he and his teammates make. His wife, Connie and children Lena and Ian all live in Rockford. His parents, James and Vivian Sims reside in Grattan. Sims has been working in Iraq since last October.
by Tom Lindquist The Start of Summer celebration is in its 41st year this year and is undeniably one of the most popular downtown annual events. It was not always the power-packed event we will see this weekend. In the 1950s Rockford’s had a row of booths and about four rides on Squire Street and in the parking lot behind what was then the Rockford Hotel, Blakeslee heating and Grover garage. My favorite was the fish stream with the plastic fish with numbers on the bottom. My dad Lester (Jiggs) took me for my first Ferris wheel ride there. We got stuck up on top for a few minutes I always remember how amazing Rockford looked from up there and you could see all of downtown and the top of the Tannery. I remember it was the late 1950s and I was only six or seven years old. It was a small celebration, but a lot of fun. When I was in High School we heard there was going to be a sesquicentennial celebration (this was late 60s). There was to be a carnival, food and a battle of the bands in the old Fire Station (where the west end of the bowling alley is now). That was the most exciting part to people in my age group. The carnival was up and down Courtland Street and once again behind the hotel in that parking lot. Homer Burch wrote the book about Rockford called From Sawmill to City and the Rockford Register ran excerpts from it. You could buy a copy at either Langridges or Patricks drugstore (now it is available at the Historical Society museum). This created a lot of interest in the town and its history-it was nice timing for celebrating the town’s birthday. I give credit to people like then Police Chiefs James West and Bruce Finch, Mayor Clarence Blakeslee, City Manager John Van Prooyan-they all did great in those early days of Start of Summer Celebration. Our almost all-volunteer fire deptment, the Rockford police and Jaycees all worked hard to make it special. It was so successful they had a sesquicentennial plus one the next year. Then they had just a celebration for next few years. The rides were up and […]