by Regan Chemski, Laurel Mountain Post Columnist
“Do all the good you can and make as little fuss about it as possible.“
– Charles Dickens
In today’s world, we sometimes have to make a concerted effort to look a little longer and a little deeper – beyond the negativity we are so often bombarded with – to recognize that good things are indeed happening all around us. What makes accentuating the positive even more difficult is that many of those doing good abide by the quote listed above and don’t seek out accolades or any recognition at all. Each month, we will bring you stories of people and/or organizations making positive change specifically here in the Laurel Highlands that frequently go unnoticed and un-heralded. We hope these stories will not only bring a smile to your face and hope to your heart, but also encourage you to pay that positivity forward in your own life.
DAYAA Derry Soccer
Contenders League – Derry
In fall 2012, Derry Soccer created a league especially designed for kids and adults with special needs in Derry and surrounding communities. The mission of the league is two-fold: first, to offer a sports and fitness activity in an adaptive environment for these young adults with special needs – players’ ages have ranged from 4 years-old through early 20s – but then also to give their families a chance to network in a different setting than a classroom or medical office. Because the league is truly a grassroots effort and comprised of a buddy system, volunteers are always needed as well as sponsors (like the Laurel Mountain Post) to keep the registration cost low for participants. The league has provided significant moments large and small to its members and organizers both.
As Head Coach Jodie Edmiston stated, “It is priceless to get that high five from a very happy player who got a goal or was just able to kick the ball for the first time.”
For more information or to learn how you can get involved in the DAYAA Derry Soccer Contenders League please visit www.derrysoccer-pa.com.
Thinking of Nikki Foundation Greensburg
The Thinking of Nikki Foundation was created by the Deniker Family in memory of their daughter, Nikki, who passed away at the age of 7 from complications sustained from her battle with cancer.In Nikki’s honor, her family has remembered the things that Nikki wanted to change in the world and in doing so has done their best to provide help to numerous families and children dealing with pediatric cancer. During Nikki’s battle the family was able to put money into the Nikki Fund from support they received, and now they use those funds and their partnership with Children’s Hospital of Pitts-burgh to get other families in similar situations what they need and give the kids special gifts and experiences.
“Our goal is to make Nikki proud and never forget what these children go through,” Nikki’s mother, Karen, continues, “We are proud of the kids’ last wishes we have done – a dog for one little girl and even a fixed truck for a teenage boy.”
The foundation continues to raise funds through various activities and events, including an annual gun bash taking place on Saturday, September 7 in Latrobe. For more information, please visit www.thinkingofnikki.com and follow the Thinking of Nikki Foundation on Facebook.
The Deceased Veterans
Cemetery Flag Fund – Blairsville
In 1990, veteran Harold A. Thomas approached the Blairsville Cemetery Board with an idea . . . he wanted to publicly display deceased veterans’ burial flags at the cemetery on Memorial Day with no charge to their families. The Board accepted his idea and a total of 37 flags were flown on Memorial Day 1990. The number of flags flown has steadily increased over the years as veterans’ families continue to donate their deceased loved ones’ flags. Today this beautifully breathtaking display is believed to be the largest of its kind in our area with, to date, the total number of flags flown having grown to nearly 850, with 450 flags flown during each special display. Flags are flown during Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day, and can include any deceased veteran’s flag regardless of burial location. In addition to his/her flag, each veteran is recognized in a permanent record and by a metal name marker at the base of the individual flag pole; a list and legend of the deceased veterans’ flags flown that day is also available in the cemetery office. Blairsville and the surrounding communities have truly embraced this project, and, with the dedicated efforts of volunteers from the local American Legion, VFW, Boy Scouts, and deceased veterans’ families, the poles, markers, and flags are put in place for each display.
Alfred T. Hogue, Jr., project caretaker, says, “Although the flag display has grown from a handful to nearly 800 flags, the mission of the Deceased Veterans Cemetery Flag Fund has not changed through the years. As Americans we honor our military veterans on our watch. As a protected free people we will strive to carry on this honorable duty and trust our heritage of freedom as a grateful nation will be carried on into future generations.”
The next display will be held during Veterans Day 2013. To learn more or to volunteer, please contact Mr. Hogue at 724-459-6878. Donations for flag maintenance can be made payable to “The Blairsville Deceased Veterans Cemetery Flag Fund” and mailed to Indiana First Bank 915 Route 22 West PO Box 66 Blairsville, PA 15717.
Regan is the Director of Community Initiatives at Building Bodeez Fitness and Wellness Center (BBFC) in Derry, PA, where she spearheads the company’s community and volunteer programs including Relay for Life, for which BBFC has raised nearly $50,000 since 2010. She is also currently putting her event planning background to good use as she prepares for her upcoming wedding this October. If you know an individual and/or organization doing good in the Laurel Highlands, contact Regan at email@example.com.