Friday, May 17, 2019

Riding To The Top Executive Director receives recognition

Sarah Bronson

Sarah Bronson, Executive Director of Riding To The Top Therapeutic Riding Center (RTT) in Windham, Maine is the 2019 Region 1 PATH Intl. Credentialed Professional of the Year. PATH Intl. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) is an international voice of the Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT) industry. The organization advocates for EAAT and provides standards for safe and ethical equine interaction through education, communication, standards and research.

Sarah, a physical therapist and life-long equestrian, co-founded RTT in 1993.  Nominators Lorena Coffin and Kate Jeton noted, “Riding To The Top has grown to be a leading center due to the unwavering dedication and leadership of Executive Director, Sarah Bronson.”  Sarah led RTT’s transformation from serving a handful of riders seasonally at a leased barn to owning and operating a beautiful year round center located on a 52-acre farm. Today, RTT is northern New England’s largest PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center having provided over 50,000 client visits in its 26-year history. 
According to former board member and current advisory member, Dr. Candace Platz, “RTT is a grass roots effort involving many people, a true community mosaic. The person who holds the mosaic together is Sarah Bronson.”

In addition to being RTT’s full-time Executive Director, Sarah is a PATH Intl. Registered Level instructor and PATH Intl Registered Therapist, providing both therapeutic riding instruction and hippotherapy services helping RTT’s clients to improve their health and wellness through equine assisted activities and therapies.

Bronson’s award automatically enters her to be considered for PATH Intl.’s larger international award where all regional and international winners compete. The winner will be announced at PATH Intl.’s annual conference in Denver, CO this November.

Coach Chris McDonald knows the importance of giving back

By Matt Pascarella

Chris McDonald loves sports. He passed this love of sports on to his son, who is a sports fanatic. When his son started playing little league, McDonald had a hard time just sitting on the sidelines and wanted to get involved, and thus began his coaching career.

Chris McDonald
McDonald has been a coach for six years over all the different sports his son has played. McDonald owns Windham Powersports and is head coach of the Windham Powersports team, part of the new AAA little league division this year.

It was his son’s love of sports that got McDonald interested in coaching. He was at every practice and every sporting event in which his son was involved. “I go to everything I can possibly be at, and just me and my personality...I want to be a part of it. I want to offer any help that I can to make all the kids better in what they do.” He started out assistant coaching and just moved into the head coach position.

“At the little league level, coaches have two very important functions,” he explained. “We want to develop the skills and ability to play the sport...being able to do all the different parts of the sport. 

Almost equally important, we want to train the kids to have good sportsmanship.” McDonald and his coaches have a giveaway after every game, win or lose, two players have an opportunity to win a Windham Powersports, custom-made sports shirt. One shirt is awarded to the VIP (Very Important Player); a player who exceeded expectations during that particular game or a player who had a shining point in a game that made them stand out.

The other shirt goes to the best sportsmanship of the game; this includes cheering for your team as well as supporting the other team. Examples include letting an opposing team player know if they’re pitching a hot streak or if a player has had a good at bat. Encouragement is important says McDonald. “Winning is great, but to get all these kids to the same successful point is extremely important in all of my coach’s opinions for our team and every other team.”

Giving the shirts away builds the player and builds the person. McDonald and his coaches sit down at the beginning of the season and discuss where they’d like to go for the year. They go over practices and games and ask, ‘what did we see and learn for the individual boys in various scenarios on the field?’

Their objective is to take the boys to another level. They want to take the players from their starting point at the beginning of the season and by the end of the season, they want those players to be multiple steps above where they were. To be better at the game, and better people inside.

“I love the sport,” he added. “For me to be involved in a coaching position is what I can offer, and it makes me feel young.”

Although McDonald is a guy from ‘away, having been born in Connecticut, but Maine is in his veins. He went to Lake Region High School and is married with two kids and a stepdaughter he considers one of his own. He moved to Windham in 2005 and opened Windham Powersports roughly six years ago where he turned his hobby of fixing four wheelers into a job he enjoys.

Grandparents celebrated by Windham Middle and Primary Schools

By Matt Pascarella

During the school year, students from the Windham Middle School eighth grade classrooms of Pam Mallard, Lisa Hodge, Erika DuPont and Tricia Sabine spend time mentoring students from the Windham Primary School second grade classrooms of Brianna Butts, Casey Dubay and Haley Saurman. The goal is for the eighth-grade students to provide a leadership role for the younger students.

Eighth graders Ted Becker and Elise Schultz
welcome everyone to the celebration
On Friday, May 10 the classrooms had their Grandparents Celebration, held at Windham High School. This celebration allows students to connect with individuals of different generations and celebrate the mentoring program, as well as display the work they’ve done throughout the year.

The mentoring program, or ‘buddy program’ started roughly ten years ago. The educators and teachers wanted to add more of a connection piece with the students. They decided to include grandparents because they tend to get left out as students enter middle school and it allows the students to share a piece of their family with the schools and it makes the grandparents feel special.

Lucas Spencer, an eighth grader in Erika Dupont’s class, said the goal was for eighth graders to teach the second graders, and get together and just hang out.

Caleb Spencer, a second grader in Haley Saurman’s class, liked being paired with his older brother. They both had fun; the activities were fun and Caleb said his brother did a good job.

“During the school year we get together once a month to do a learning adventure and to share some time with our second-grade buddies,” explained eighth graders Ted Becker and Elise Schultz at the opening of the celebration to an audience of students and grandparents.

“One of our coolest adventures is this grandparent celebration. This allows us to bring many generations together to share this special program designed to show how much we care about you,” they added.

“We do a variety of events such as a share your favorite book, learning about bats, exploring the concept of thankfulness, and making Valentines for the nursing home.  This year the eighth graders made a sled for a science unit and went sledding with their buddies,” explained Pam Mallard.

The celebration began with Middle School principal Drew Patton speaking ‘words of wisdom’ about the importance of relationships. He emphasized working to keep those relationships along with making memories and sharing traditions with your grandparents. Relationships are essential because they guide us, not only through the happy times, but also through the difficult ones.

Second graders led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. Students then sang songs and performed skits to honor and show appreciation for their grandparents. There was a video presentation about why grandparents are special to the students. Another video presentation followed about the community service done during the mentoring program; students did a Thanksgiving Day food drive with the Salvation Army, made pinecone bird feeders and started a fundraiser to get animal beds for the Animal Refuge League.

“It was very special to see my grandsons and their activities,” observed grandmother Sylvia Marin, who was very proud of her grandsons, Caleb and Lucas Spencer.

“It was really nice being here and seeing the makes us feel good as grandparents,” replied Paul Marin, grandfather to Caleb and Lucas.

Before the memory fades: The history, mystery and controversy of Windham’s Old Quaker Burial Ground

By Walter Lunt

This is the final in a series of three articles on Old Quaker Burial Ground.

Cemeteries cannot talk. But they do tell stories. This old adage may not apply fully to Quaker, or Friends, burial grounds.

As we learned in parts I and II of this series, the burying ground of Windham’s earliest Quakers had grown over and virtually disappeared by the mid twentieth century. Only when a local builder began clearing the property in the early 1970s did some “old-timers” speak up and save the site. Thus, the Old Quaker Burial Ground, located on the corner of Pope Road and Route 202 – which dated from 1780 – was preserved, cleaned up and rededicated.

Unmarked field stone grave markers
In part II, we asked, “How could a cemetery simply disappear?” The answer lies principally with the unusual customs and beliefs of this religious society, formed in England in the 1650s as a protest to the puritanical Church of England. Some believed the Church to be a false doctrine driven by personal pride. They would become the Society of Friends, and they held a deep belief in human equality, in life and in death. To that end, Quakers felt that grandiose tombstones were meant to elevate a person’s importance or dominance. To counter what they termed this “puffed-up vanity,” members of the Friends persuasion were interred in unbroken expanses of ground marked only by fieldstones.  By the 1800s, simple, unadorned headstones limited in height and width, and marked only with the deceased name and dates of birth and death were allowed. Both types, buried under decades of tree growth and earth, were evident in the Quaker burying ground at Windham Center.

By the early twentieth century, and with the advent of the automobile, many locals were complaining about the layout of the Pope Road/Route 202 intersection. Vehicles traveling through on Pope Road could not proceed directly across 202. Instead, it was necessary to turn on to 202, drive a short distance, and turn again in order to stay on Pope. The reason: one end of the cemetery extended tens of feet farther to the south than it does today.

At the behest of the Town, local resident Nathan Allen moved some of the marked headstones to the newer Friends Cemetery nearer the Friends Meeting House (church) a few hundred feet away on 202. He then proceeded to dig up the south portion of the old cemetery down to below frost level for the road we drive over today.

Interviewed by a reporter for the Portland Evening Express in 1972, Allen’s daughter, Natalie, confirmed the move, and added that her father told her, “…he never would do anything like (that) again.”

In an eerie side-note, the late Windham history buff Phil Kennard once wrote that “a family who lived a short way up the street from (the Old Quaker Burial Ground) said sometimes in the dead of night they heard voices, but upon investigation could find no one in the vicinity.” He was presumably referring to a time following the cemetery dig.

Clipping off portions of burial grounds to build thoroughfares was rare, but not unusual in earlier times.

In his 2017 book “Portland’s Historic Eastern Cemetery – A Field of Ancient Graves”, historian Ron Romano recounts the fate of the southern end of the city’s oldest burial ground near the foot of Munjoy Hill. Following the Great Fire of 1866, “…the city decided to clear the land and extend Federal Street from downtown to Munjoy Hill. In the process, some of the original hillside of the old Burying Ground was carved away….”

Romano says the debate among historians continues regarding the possible removal of human remains, but adds, “I do believe (given the great amount of earth removed) that some decomposed remains of early settlers were taken away…”

Given Nathan Allen’s earnest vow to never repeat such a removal project again, it would seem plausible the same thing might have occurred at the Windham site.

And given that Windham has over two dozen other cemeteries and numerous private burial sites, it also seems reasonable to assume that while they do not talk, many stories still remain.  <

Friday, May 10, 2019

Student of the Week: Mackenzie Gervais

Mackenzie Gervais, a seventh-grade student at Jordan-Small Middle School, is The Windham Eagle’s Student of the Week. Gervais states that she enjoys playing softball, dancing and volleyball.

“Mackenzie Gervais is a young lady with a soft, gentle kindness who shows on a daily basis her appreciation, gratitude, and awareness of others,” stated her teacher. “ She willingly offers help to all of those who are around her.  Her wonderful attributes contribute to her being an outstanding student and an exceptional role model for her peers.”

Gervais believes that special projects where she gets to be creative is what makes learning fun. Her favorite music is country music. In her free time, Gervais loves playing outside with her dog, Nellie.
Gervais has one brother and one sister.

Students participate in Honors Music Festival

Here you will find photos of students who participated in the MMEA (Maine Music Educators’ Association) District II Honors Music Festivals this past winter and spring.  All seventh and eighth graders auditioned for judges and had to have a high enough score to be accepted.  They were competing with students from schools from Portland to Lewiston to Fryeburg. We're SO proud of our Windham Middle School, Manchester, and Jordan-Small Middle School musicians!

5th/6th Grade Elementary District II Festival (not in any particular order) From JSMS, WMS, Windham Christian Academy & Manchester:
Najala Boatman
Emily Talbot
Juliana Gagne
Ethan Fletcher
Nathan Hemond
Erik Dupont
Lillian Bouchard
Riley Yates
Addison Profenno
McKenzie Keeney
Fiona Harmon
Fletcher Vopal
Katelyn Cotter
Ashten Goblieski
Braedyn Elwell
Joshua Plummer
Ellie Duncan
Kaitlyn Dickson
Nicholas Davenport
Olivia Hamilton
Elizabeth Baker
Ellieana Davis-Archibald
Kirsten Mains
Leila Loszok
Lydia Marden
Rowan Cummings
Willow Washburn

7th/8th Grade Orchestra & Band (from WMS)
Kailey Chalmers
Greta Paulding
AnnMarie Andrews
Ellie Szostalo
Adrianna Wood
Sophia Vopal
Rylee Prescott
Gwen Kim
Alex Pooler
Lilian Nguyen
Sydney Brackett
Odessa Files
Noelle Denslow
Roman Thomas
Baxter Engelman

7th/8th Grade Chorus (from WMS)
Olivia Saucier
Noelle Denslow
Madelyn Hancock
Greta Paulding
Rachelle Cloutier
Sasha Funk
AnnMarie Andrews
Lila Schrock
Allona Popov
Morgan Policano
Dallin Duncan

Fourth annual PowerServe widens its reach

By Elizabeth Richards

PowerServe, originally planned as a one-time event to honor the life of Shane Donnelly, is now in its fourth year and has become a much-anticipated annual event. This year, PowerServe, which will be held on Monday, May 27th (Memorial Day), is shaping up to be bigger and better than ever. 

Young Life Sebago organizes the event, which was founded four years ago to bring students, family members and community residents together to serve people in need throughout the community. A wide range of projects is planned, from painting and cleaning to building and maintenance. 

Kristine Delano said this year the committee has expanded its requests for sponsorship to be able to do some more extensive projects. “Sometimes, there’s a limitation to what we can do at a house because of not having the funding to do some of those things,” she said. 

Gorham Savings Bank has been the gold sponsor since the first year of PowerServe.  Other sponsors include Lowe’s in Windham, Sherwin Williams in Windham, Shaw Earthworks, Island Cove Building and Development, Benson Farm, and Windham Rental. “That makes a difference in our ability to provide people with more than just yard clean up,” said Delano.  

The committee is also expanding the number of projects this year. Last year, teams completed 22 projects. This year, Delano said, they’re on track to do thirty. “That’s really a blessing, to be able to do so many things and be so many places,” she said.

Being in their fourth year of PowerServe has helped them build credibility, Delano added. When people see how hard the teams work, she said, they want to be a part of it. Their growth helps them share the message that by serving together, they strengthen the sense of community, she said.
The move to holding PowerServe on Memorial Day also helped the program grow, she said.  

Previously they had struggled with fitting in a day for service amongst family and sports obligations. Having a full committee to share the work has also made a big difference. 

While in the first year, approximately 60% of volunteers were students, this year it seems more evenly divided into thirds, Delano said: one-third students, one-third family members of students, and one-third members of the community that have learned of the project in other ways.

Delano said it’s been nice to see the growth, and to watch cross generational teams work together.  Participants can sign up to work with their family and friends, but Delano said they also try to encourage people to meet new people and develop new friendships as they work.

Anne Daigle, another member of the committee, said one of her favorite moments of the event is at the barbeque, when she sees people choose to eat with the group they worked with instead of who they came with.  “I love to see that they got to know each other a little bit, and they want to sit down and eat with them instead of the people that they already know. I think that’s really cool.”

Morgan Colangelo and Rachel Frost are student members of the committee. They are working at the high school to get sports teams, clubs, and other students involved. 

“For me, it’s important to be involved in it because it brings everyone together in the community in a serving way, and you’re with people that you’re not typically working with. To be able to see people working towards a common goal together just to help one thing is a pretty amazing feeling,” Colangelo said.

“It’s a really impactful day,” said Frost, adding that her family has been participating in PowerServe since the first year. They travel on Memorial Day weekend, she said, but make a point to get back in time to participate.  “It means so much to our family seeing the whole community come together like that. It’s not just every day that you get to see that type of teamwork.”

Young Life Leader Cole Milazzo said that often people are reluctant to open themselves up and try new opportunities. “There are many opportunities to engage in community, but [PowerServe] is the only one I’ve been a witness to, in this area, where you have hundreds of people from Windham willing to take that step out and engage in the community that they live  in, hear stories and have conversations they wouldn’t have with people any other time,” he said.

Alex Thuotte, another Young Life Leader, added that people may be hesitant, wondering what the hidden agenda is. “I love being on this committee, being with PowerServe, because there’s no hidden agenda. The end goal is just to serve.”

There are both repeat projects and new projects each year.  The committee reaches out to the community to help identify those in need.  They strive to serve anyone in need, whether it’s the first time or the fourth they’ve needed help.

Delano said that there’s now a lot of history and recognition of what PowerServe is.  Colangelo said PowerServe is becoming a topic of conversation in the hallways at the high school.  It’s nice, she said, to hear others giving good feedback about the event and encouraging others to participate.
Volunteers are still needed, and anyone interested in participating is welcome.  Registration begins at 1 pm and projects take place from 1:30 to 5 pm.  After the event, all participants are invited to a barbeque put on by the Donnelly family. For more information or to sign up, visit