DIVISION 1 Best News Coverage Under Deadline Pressure/Category 1 Dean Bolin, Spencer County Leader (Ferdinand) Bringing Erica Home Last week all major national news outlets reported on the death of a young American woman in Temuco, Chile. Her name was Erica Faith Hagan, 22, and she originally hailed from Murray, Kentucky. The crime occurred on Saturday, September 6. Oftentimes, reports of this nature seem remote; in this case, it occurred in the southern hemisphere. But this case is intimately connected to Spencer County. Erica’s father, Chris Hagan, lives in the rural Grandview area with family ties in Rockport. Here is what is currently known. Hagan was discovered unresponsive with head wounds that morning in her apartment, a dormitory located on the campus of Colegio Bautista, the private Baptist College in Chile. Only a few details of the crime have been revealed, as the case is still under investigation by Chilean authorities. Three persons in connection with the incident are under investigation for the crime, which is being treated as a homicide. Hagan was an intern working as a teaching assistant at Colegio Bautista to help students of all grade levels improve their grasp of English. The former Calloway County High School valedictorian received this opportunity from Georgetown College in Kentucky, from which she graduated with a degree in psychology and a Spanish minor. Her internship was part of an agreement between her alma mater and the Colegio, an arrangement now in its 14th year. It was not Erica’s first visit to the South American country. She traveled to Chile three years earlier to perform missionary work. According to a travel blog Erica kept online, during that trip she visited Colegio Bautista and met an instructor she only refers to as Marta, who inquired if she would like to work at the school for a semester. Hagan waited until after graduation from Georgetown to accept the offer. Her service in Chile was to conclude in December, when she planned to return to the United States and her family. Erica provided insights of herself in her travel blog, which is currently online and called “Donde en el Mundo?” (translation: Where in the World?). There she recorded her impressions of her temporary South American home: “Chileans in general are great. Remind me of the southern comforts of being from Kentucky. Always making sure you are happy and completely obsessed with making sure you’ve eaten enough. It’s endearing really.” Hagan was struggling (and learning) more about her chosen foreign language “in the field,” which could be frustrating. “Having a chance to spend time with a Chilean family and attempting my best Spanish while trying to refrain from being frustrated by my own lack thereof is heartwarming.” It is wintertime in Chile. The lack of central heat and the cold, frigid rains which tend to continually fall in Temuco gave Erica chills, causing her to describe Chile in her posts as “the land of coffee and rain.” Her time in Temuco also gave her a more refined appreciation for home: “I love being from Kentucky. I love being able to come back from wherever I’ve been and call that sweet bluegrass state my own.” Still, she knew herself and her wanderlust tendencies: “Though in reality, staying put has never been in my blood. There is something so fascinating about meeting new people and going to new places.” As Erica’s father and stepmother flew to Temuco to arrange for her body to be returned to the United States, her memory was being honored in two hemispheres. Colegio Bautista suspended classes due to the incident and later in the week held a memorial service attended by 600 people. Up in the northern hemisphere, Hagan’s alma mater, Georgetown College, also held a memorial service. At least two fundraising accounts have been established. The first is online at www.gofundme.com/eacmr4, was created by Haley Edwards on behalf of Hagan’s sister, Kimberly Hagan Underhill, and her father, Chris Hagan. The goal is to reach $100,000, which would be used for funeral expenses and then to establish a scholarship honoring Erica at Georgetown College. The second fund, at www.gofundme.com/e7v0d4, was created by Hagan’s brother, Matthew O’Neal, to raise money to bring Hagan’s body back to America. A third fund, created by Hagan’s maternal grandmother, Barbara McCormick and maternal aunt, Charlene Ray Martin, is said to be in the works, but no further details were available as of press time. It is important that those wishing to donate use the above addresses because, unfortunately, there have been reports of scams being perpetrated in the Murray, Kentucky, area according to the Murray Ledger and Times. It feels appropriate that Erica be given the last word. It was written on September 8, 2012, two years prior to the events of September 6. At that time, she was touring Europe. “All of this reflection has led me to concentrate the thoughts that maybe I was placed here, aside from the obvious to learn a language that I hope to use for greater purposes, to focus on the One who has always promised an eternal home for me . . . Even upon my return to my state I will miss things from Europe and even things from other states. But missing things isn’t always a bad thing. I believe it means you appreciate what you had when you had it . . .” Best News Coverage With No Deadline Pressure/Category 2 Debbie Blank, The Herald-Tribune (Batesville) Center supports child abuse victims About 2,000 children in Ripley, Decatur, Dearborn, Jefferson, Jennings, Ohio and Switzerland counties have needed the services of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southeastern Indiana during its first five years of operation. The three employees collaborate with a team of professionals to investigate, prosecute and treat child abuse, both sexual and physical. They also offer mental health counseling referrals for the child victims and non-offending family members. Current CAC President Aaron Negangard, the prosecutor for Dearborn and Ohio counties, recalls that before the center was established, children suspected of being abused were taken to the Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Cincinnati Children’s to be evaluated. Highly regarded professionals there treat 2,000 children annually from 22 Ohio counties, as well as kids from Kentucky and Indiana. “Sometimes you couldn’t get in for a few days – and those few days are critical.” Quick action before and after a child’s testimony “can result in critical evidence that may otherwise not have been there.” He explains if the case is drawn out, a perpetrator could change his or her story or threaten a child about speaking out. A number of years ago, Negangard and Indiana State Police Detective Tom Baxter attended Finding Words training, now called Child First. At the time, many children were interviewed in police stations and Indiana Department of Child Services offices, both intimidating spaces. The training suggested using a less threatening homelike setting and a private room with comfy chairs. When Negangard and Baxter learned of the strategy, “We both thought, ‘We desperately need something like this in our area.’” Negangard got prosecutors in surrounding counties on board with the concept and together they founded CAC. A Dillsboro location at 12211 Rullman Drive was chosen for two reasons – it’s close to the ISP post in Versailles and central to the seven counties. “This is an awesome place,” raves Negangard. A lobby, playroom, offices and two interview rooms are upstairs. Have there ever been two children from separate locations interviewed at the same time? Brichto says with 412 interviews so far in 2014, it has happened. The downstairs area contains one interview observation room, a future medical exam room and separate offices for the two forensic interviewers, IDCS employees, law enforcement and prosecutors. Parents, but not alleged perpetrators, may come to the center. Parents are not allowed in the interviewing room. Executive director Sarah Brichto notes one unique feature of the former law office is its soundproof walls, “just perfect for us.” According to the Web site http://region15cac.org/, “Now when a child has a terrible truth to tell, there’s a safe and supportive place to talk one on one with a trained individual in a single interview.” Negangard says the presence of the center has alleviated past problems. “It’s very frustrating in child molesting cases – some of the most heinous crimes we deal with – to not get the evidence.” It is simple to report suspected child abuse. The director points out, “Now in Indiana, you call one number, 800-800-5556,” a hotline staffed by experts. The ask “a bunch of questions. They’re concerned with safety.” A report about the phone call is sent to the proper IDCS county office, where an assessor is assigned to evaluate the case. “They will call us if they feel the child needs to be interviewed. This is a neutral place. We make it clear we’re unbiased,” Brichto emphasizes. If there has been recent physical or sexual abuse, a child must be examined within 72 hours, before evidence disappears. Medical exams only occur at the Mayerson Center, Cincinnati, where physicians have highly specialized training. “Those hospital doctors are world class,” according to the prosecutor. Negangard admits, “It’s rare to need the medical exam. Most times, the discovery of the event” happens a long time afterwards. In addition to Negangard, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southeastern Indiana Board of Directors consists of Vice President Tom Baxter; Treasurer Chad Lewis, Jefferson County prosecutor; Secretary Monica Hensley, Switzerland County prosecutor; Richard Hertel, Ripley County prosecutor and CAC’s first president; Barbara Bowling, IDCS regional manager; and Cindi Wagner, IDCS relative care specialist. The president is well pleased with results during the center’s first five years. “It’s standardized and increased the quality of investigations.” Speaking for prosecutors in the other counties, he believes, “It’s a critical component in our search for the truth .... Cases get resolved that otherwise may not have.” Best Ongoing News Coverage/Category 3 Clayton Doty, The Benton Review (Fowler) Police search for missing woman Police are searching for a missing Florida woman, who was staying in Fowler with her daughter at 500 E. Fifth Street. After a week of investigating, Fowler Police Chief Dennis Rice said they are still following leads, but at this time have not been able to locate Nena Metoyer. According to a press release from Rice, around 5:30 p.m. Sept. 24the Fowler Police Department was requested to check the wellbeing of a 49-year-old female and her 68-year-old mother at 500 E. 5th Street. Officers went to the residence and were unable to contact anyone. At about 11:30 p.m. officers were requested to meet with concerned family members who had driven down from Chicago. When they arrived they determined that someone was inside the house and appeared to be in medical distress. Rice said authorities forced entry into the residence and found the 49 year-old female inside. She was in obvious medical distress and was transported to the hospital by the Benton County Emergency Medical Service “It was suspicious and unusual because there was a hand gun lying beside her, “said Rice. “When they got there it appeared that someone had either shot her, or she shot herself, but that just wasn’t the case,” said Rice. Officers spent the night investigating the circumstances surrounding the cause of the 49-yearold’s condition. Officers obtained a search warrant for the residence and were assisted by the Indiana State Police crime scene technicians and detectives in searching the residence throughout the day last Thursday. The 49-year-old female passed away from medical related issues Thursday evening, none of which included any type of gunshot injury. Officers are now concentrating their efforts on locating 68-year-old Nena Metoyer of Dunedin, Florida, who was not in the residence. Metoyer’s vehicle and identification were at the residence. Family members have not had contact with Metoyer for about two weeks. Metoyer is 5’2” and approximately 150 lbs. She has blue eyes and brown hair and sometimes wears glasses. “Our main concentration right now is to find Nena Metoyer,” said Rice. Anyone who has information regarding Metoyer is asked to contact the Fowler Police Department at 765-884-0080. Best General Commentary/Category 4 Christopher Aune, The Herald-Tribune (Batesville) Solve world problems with locally grown flavors There are many reasons to see the movie “Ingredients” at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, at Liberty Park, and at the top of my list is that it promotes great tasting food. Thirty years ago chefs began demanding ever better flavor, so they started exploring local farms. That inspired consumers to seek relationships with nearby farmers, which started a movement to put healthy, tasty food back on the table, according to the “Ingredients” Web site. But that’s only part of the story. Purdue University’s Rebuilding Your Local Food System Program is sponsoring the movie to engage the community in a discussion to better understand their local food system, to get people involved in rebuilding it and to help them plan how to get locally grown foods into the hands of buyers. That means fresher flavors for you and me. So, why is none other than Purdue University jumping on the bandwagon? There’s something huge going on, and local communities are an important part of the solution. In a study published last week, one of dozens in the last decade, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers point out that regional changes in the world climate will lead to a food shortage by 2050. That’s 36 years away. Dr. Fred Davies of the conservative Texas A&M University says it’s coming in 40 years. Davies is the senior science adviser for the U.S. Agency for International Development Bureau of Food Security and Texas A&M AgriLife Regents Professor of Horticultural Sciences. When he addressed the North American Agricultural Journalists meeting in Washington, D.C., in April, he pointed out the “monumental challenge of feeding the world … For the first time in human history, food production will be limited on a global scale by the availability of land, water and energy. Food issues could become as politically destabilizing by 2050 as energy issues are today.” (More of his words at are bit.ly/1x- ECBSP.) The world is expected to need about 50 percent more food by 2050, according to the official MIT news release, bit.ly/1m0PGQO. Yet, rates of malnourishment might increase by 18 to 27 percent by 2050 – about a 50 percent jump, under the most pessimistic projections. Under the most optimistic scenario, malnourishment would still increase, but only half of the worst-case scenario. In either case, what is bad news for the world is bad news for us here in America’s breadbasket. The researchers are saying that reduced supply and increased demand of food is going to impact us. For instance, it will make our prices skyrocket and the competition for freshness will result in less flavor at our local supermarket. Big deal? It’s at least 40 years away and “over there,” so don’t panic yet. However, we still have a problem: Barring a major technological breakthrough and huge new tracts of land becoming farmable, corporate megafarmers and family farms won’t be able to continue increasing food productivity as they have in the past century. Big corporate supermarkets are trying to access locally grown foods, but they have to keep their attention on the major producers so they can keep the population fed. They haven’t been successful in creating a system for integrating locally sourced foods from hundreds of tiny producers into their huge multistore operations. It’s a systemic problem at the source and the outlet. So, what’s the fix? We are. Purdue leaders are taking the barest first step toward a solution by promoting Rebuilding Your Local Food System. But they’re not alone. Agribusiness executives, agricultural and ecological scientists and economists believe that a large-scale shift to local, organic farming would increase the world’s food supply, and might be the only way to eradicate hunger. A timely solution to the pending crisis requires local people to act now to make the multitude of smaller tracts of land productive. Local growers will never be the sole source of food for their communities because megafarmers and supermarkets are established and will always be essential providers of fresh food. However, it is now clear: In some not-too-distant future, local growers are going to be just as essential. It’s going to take time to get so many tiny farms started and supplying the local food market system that is only just beginning to get re-established. The Purdue project Web site states that the number of farmers’ markets doubled in a recent three-year period (Indiana Agricultural Statistics 2011-12). So, it’s catching on, but more community-level people need to join in the discussion to learn how this is supposed to work. That’s what the movie in the park is all about. A beneficial effect of the movement is also the solution to the old chef’s problem – a solution that makes my mouth water – better flavors. I also appreciate two other benefits of the local food system. Homegrown foods sprout up and ripen in healthy Indiana dirt and sun. And I like it that I know where the producer lives, and they know they can keep me happy with the freshest, tastiest, healthiest Indiana-grown food. We all have an interest in the discussion of the movie, “Ingredients.” See you there. Best Editorial Writer/Category 5 Debbie Blank, The Herald-Tribune (Batesville) Freudenfest is admirable Oldenburg has been picturesque ever since the village acquired its church steeples so many years ago. But a great town is not born, it’s made. The reputation the burg enjoys today – a striking German heritage community with extremely friendly people – began in 1976 when leaders wanted to look at its past for America’s bicentennial. The one-time celebration has endured. Freudenfest has grown from one day to two. It has spread from one side of Pearl Street to both. Fest-goers have multiplied because once they attend, they want to come back – and bring their friends to the quirky, always-reinventing-itself “biggest little German festival in Indiana.” The organizers make it look easy. What visitors don’t see are the monthly planning meetings, sauerkraut ball-making sessions, phone calls to volunteers and entertainers, late night decorating and Sunday morning cleanup. It’s a fun weekend for everyone involved, but also an immense amount of work. The results are both personal and economic. The festival draws far-flung relatives back to Oldenburg, so family ties are strengthened. It creates wonderful memories among friends and loved ones. The leaders have realized that in addition to the warm, fuzzy reasons to host the fest each summer, it also pumps money back into Oldenburg so it boasts amenities few other small towns can match. Oldenburg residents have decided to control the destiny of their hometown. In doing so, they have formed lifelong friendships and have kept up a tradition of which they can be very proud. Best Business/Economic News Coverage/Category 6 Steven Penn, Hendricks County Flyer (Avon) Final cut This is the first Saturday in a very long time that cars haven’t been parked in front of Norm’s Main Street Hair Co. Last Saturday, the business, which served generations of customers after opening in 1968, closed up shop. Norman Ooley, who died in February at the age of 74, was a barber/stylist in the Brownsburg area since 1964. Carolyn Ooley said she met her husband in high school. “We went to school together at Brazil High School, we graduated together, and we worked at the same ice cream store,” she said. “We started dating when I was 15 and he was 16. He went into the Air Force five weeks after graduating in 1957 and he got out in 1961. He was stationed in Lincoln, Neb., and then we moved back to Indiana in February 1962 for him to start barber school (in Indianapolis) in April 1962. Then we bought our lot and built our house in 1964 in Brownsburg and have been there 50 years.” His first barber job, Carolyn said, was in 1964 at Dave’s Barbershop, which was where D & E Printing is now. Then in 1968, he opened his first shop at 713 E. Main St., Brownsburg. “He remodeled it into a three-chair barbershop and he started with himself and his brother,” Carolyn said. In 1984, the Ooleys bought the building, which would house the present operations. After remodeling the building and increasing the size, Carolyn said they opened the new shop in 1985. Being in the Brownsburg community for so long, Carolyn said, offered Norm the opportunity to serve many generations. “Some of them came and got their first haircut as a child from him and then they brought in their children and then their grandchildren,” she said. “He served three generations or so through the years. He had clients that came from all over, (from places like) Kokomo, Anderson and Bloomington. Some would move away and when they came back to town to visit they’d always stop in to get their hair cut from Norm once again.” At Norm’s, Carolyn said, he insisted that his employees be able to do it all, which meant both men’s and women’s cuts. “He liked to get stylists out of school because he said then he could train them himself,” she said. “When you worked for Norm, you had to learn to do everything. The high and tight military cuts, the flat tops, of course beauticians out of cosmetology school didn’t know how to do that.” He also kept up with current trends. “He was an old-style barber, but through the years learned the trade and did perms and colors and everything,” Carolyn said. “I don’t think anybody that ever left his employment left without knowing more when they left than what they did when they first started working for him. He had the patience and the expertise to work with them.” After Norm’s death, Carolyn and the rest of the employees tried to keep the shop going. “I was just the bookkeeper and the wife,” she said. “It’s just hard trying to keep it going without him. I’m not a stylist. He was my repairman, my plumber, the electrician, the carpenter, and the painter – and everything else. He could do it all besides just cut hair. With him being gone, anything that breaks or breaks down, then I have to get somebody to take care of that, where he just did it. If a barber chair broke down or a sink quit working, he could fix it. He’s not here to do that now.” Plus, she said, the place wasn’t the same without Norm there to brighten the client’s days with a story or a joke. “Norm’s was Norman. Without Norman being there, it’s just a name only and a building,” Carolyn said. “He loved what he did; otherwise I don’t think he could have done it for 50 years. He loved cutting hair and he loved talking to people. Even if they weren’t his clients, if they were one of the other stylist’s clients he would always have some joke or something and always had a smile on his face for the clients. That’s why it’s just not the same without him.” Norm would also pride himself on being part of the town, she said. “A new restaurant or a new business would open up and he would always try to talk it up to his clients,” Carolyn said. “He used to sponsor Little League baseball teams and he always donated to the school functions and just all the things like that.” Carolyn said on behalf of the entire family she wanted to say “thanks” to the Brownsburg community for the support through the years and since his death. “Thanks to the town, the community, the patrons, the stylists – both past and present – that have made Norm’s what it was through all the years,” she said. Best Short Feature Story/Category 8 Amanda Matlock, Times-Post (Pendleton) Prison break It’s an image that probably doesn’t immediately comes to mind when one thinks of life within prison walls – more than a dozen criminals quietly being walked through guided meditation in a dimly lit room. The image is one that’s realized at the Pendleton Correctional Facility on a weekly basis now, as members of the Pendleton Artists Society have recently started an art program for inmates housed behind bars on the outskirts of town. In a recent gathering, the inmates sat with their eyes closed; the group of men breathed softly. Some had their hands folded in front of their chests, and others sat on the floor. The meditation provides a time for self-reflection and possible inspiration for the art portion of the class. Scattered around the room were various religious items, and beside those treasured possessions were blank sheets of paper and donated art supplies. PCF Recreation Coordinator Lisa Ash said the art classes offered by PAS are the only one of their kind in the state, and that inmates are actively seeking programs like these. “I’ve had to turn people down for these classes,” Ash said. “The population has been so enthusiastic about them that I’ve had to create waiting lists. As far as I know, we’re the only facility in the state that’s had a unique collaboration like with this an outside art group.” The classes – which are staffed by PAS members – have been in operation at the prison since May. To be considered for the program, inmates must have gone at least one year without a violent conduct writeup and have at least six months of perfect behavior. “Programs like this are absolutely invaluable,” Ash said. “We are a maximum security prison, but 90 percent of these men will see the outside world again. These classes help them manage their life outside the walls, and it helps them manage the stress and pressure of living inside these walls.” She added the class was donated completely by PAS members, and that because of their donation, the class is offered for free to inmates. “Some of the classes will have a small fee ($5 or less) to offenders for materials, but this class was free,” Ash said. “We would love to keep offering classes like this for as long as possible.” She said offering a class or two was her idea after seeing an advertisement in The Times- Post about PAS offering a gourd-painting workshop. After reaching out to the artist group, she said the members came up with great ideas. “It’s their imaginations that really ran with the ball,” Ash said. “They are 100 percent the reason we’re offering these classes.” She said her time as a recreation director showed her there was programing missing for the creative inmates. “We have baseball, soccer, chess, card games and weight lifting, but we had neglected to find something that works for our artistic offenders,” Ash said. “Things really have worked out well.” Around the room walked Connie Rector, a PAS board member and downtown business owner, who said she was looking forward to volunteering her time during the six class sessions. “This is a great skill to be teaching a community like this,” Rector said of the meditation and mandala class. “Meditation is a great way to avoid confrontation.” She said she was never really nervous about teaching the class, even with the knowledge that the prisoners had committed violent offenses. “It’s a rewarding challenge,” Rector said. “You learn to take nothing personal. I don’t care how many are in the class, if I’m helping just one person, that’s enough for me. Making a difference in that one person’s life makes this all worthwhile.” Rector, who also teaches yoga at her business, said she was more concerned how the inmates would take to the process. “I wasn’t sure how relaxed they would be, but I think it’s going really well,” Rector said “It must be hard to focus on inner thoughts when they might not be the nicest ones.” The inmates themselves seemed excited for the possibility to learn something new. “ Art is a healthy outlet,” Paul Veal, 36, said. “It can be rehabilitative.” Veal, who has spent 14 years at the facility for murder, said he would like to continue to take classes like this, and the others, offered by PAS. Classmate Ronald Williams, 39, said he signed up for the class to help ease his mind. “I hope to pick up a new skill,” Williams said. “I want something to do with my hands.” Williams, who has been housed at PCF since 2005 for murder, said his earliest release date is 2036; he said if he finds what he learns in the class to be calming, he will use the activities in his cell. Some of the artwork produced within the prison was so impressive that PAS brought a selection to the public at its last gallery show. “I thought it was amazing,” Ash said. “It was a unique and beneficial way to merge the facility and the community it inhabits. The possibilities for change are exponential for our offender population, and we are quite excited about the future of this collaboration.” On April 4, 25 pieces of art created by PCF offenders were placed on display at the group’s gallery at 126 W. Water St. The participants said they value what they get to take away from the program. “I want to learn whatever they got to show me,” Raymond Easley, 36, said. “I’m excited about life, period. And any new experience is good.” Easley said he has been at PFC since 2008 for drug dealing, and that his first time ever holding a colored pencil happened that day. “If it helps me pass the time in a positive way, I’ll try it,” Easley said. Aaron McDonald, 26, said this was the second PAS class he had taken and that he hoped the meditation component would “open his mind. “As a Buddhist I practice meditation,” McDonald said. “I plan to continue to use these skills in my room every day.” He said his earliest release date for his murder conviction was 2036. Thinh Lam, 32, was also being held at the facility for murder, said he took the class specifically for the meditation portion. “I want to embrace life and learn more about life itself,” Lam said. “This class could help me get closer to that new experience.” Rector said the art show idea came after PAS decided to host a series of classes behind the prison walls. “Oh, my gosh,” Rector said. “It (the artwork) is overwhelming. It fills such a need for the offenders. They’re really hungry for something like this.” She said while some of the offenders the group works with will never leave the facility, she’s heard nothing but good things about their behavior and work. “We know that the prisoners can’t get out,” Rector said. “So we’re trying to do these classes as an outreach program.” Rector said she’s amazed sometimes at the quality of work created by offenders. “It’s amazing how well received we are; the talent there is amazing,” Rector said. “Sometimes they just paint on the back of a cardboard box. Sometimes they’ll make their own frames. It’s crafty and clever. Like I said, they’re so hungry for something like this, and they want to show their art; they’re a captive audience, they listen to everything we’ve got, and they produce some great stuff, even in a couple hours.” Rector said the group, including members Prudy Dillon and Sherry Boram, plan to continue their work with offenders. “We’re hoping to really elaborate on these classes,” Rector said. “This is a great promotion for the whole town. I’m pretty sure we’re one of the only groups doing something like this in the state.” She added that the “unique endeavor” is also a good experience for her. “Personally, this is an awesome way for me to give back,” Rector said. “It’s something great to do that doesn’t cost me anything but my time.” Best Profile Feature/Category 9 Jeff Jones, The Butler Bulletin Popular postmaster retiring It’s business as usual on this sleepy summer morning at the St. Joe Post Office. A handful of customers come through the door, offering greetings to Postmaster Janice Lockwood. “You can’t retire,” one tells Lockwood as she purchases a money order. Lockwood smiles and hands back change and a freshly stamped money order. Retirement is looming July 2 for Lockwood, however. The next day, mail will arrive and mail will go out. There will be someone new to greet customers at the window. It just won’t be the same. Lockwood is retiring after 35 years and seven months of service with the U.S. Postal Service, and 25 years as postmaster in St. Joe. A big factor in Lockwood’s decision – as well as many other veteran postmasters – to retire is the possibility of a reduction in hours. The St. Joe Post Office is currently open 6 1/2 hours, but window hours could be cut to four per day, one of several options being considered by the USPS. The USPS has mailed surveys to residents in the 46785 ZIP code and is planning a community meeting for July 29 as to the future of postal service in St. Joe. “I love working with her,” motor carrier Jamie Stark said. “I think everybody thinks the world of Janice. “She’s always gone out of her way to do the extra special things, such as delivering parcels after hours,” he said. “You don’t think about the guts or glory, you just do it because it’s the right thing to do.” These last few days, several customers have dropped off gifts – mostly food items – for Lockwood. “Everybody’s saddened because she’s going to leave,” Stark continued. “She’s going to leave a really big hole.” “I just enjoy my job,” Lockwood says simply. “I’ll miss the people. I love my job. I love my work. “Whatever I’ve done at the post office, I’ve enjoyed what I do,” she said. “I’ll really miss the community. They’re wonderful people to serve.” Best In-Depth Feature or Feature Package/Category 10 Debbie Blank, The Herald-Tribune (Batesville) Blindness doesn’t dim painter’s genius There aren’t too many people more inspiring than John Bramblitt. That’s why it’s so splendid Batesville students had the chance to interact with him over eight days Nov. 3-12. “My name is John. I’m a painter and a writer,” the visitor tells a gym full of St. Louis School students Nov. 10. He’s also been blind for the past 13 years. The painter followed an insane schedule, also speaking before four grade levels of students and conducting 35 classroom art workshops not just at SLS, but also Batesville primary, intermediate and high schools. His visit was organized by the Rural Alliance for the Arts as a part of its Arts in Education Program. He introduces Echo, his seeing eye dog. “She is brilliant,” he announces in his soft voice with the slight Southern accent and then shows why. The black lab, who has been Bramblitt’s constant companion for six years, after being trained for two, has just been inducted into the Animal Hall of Fame. He asks Echo to find the gym door on the left and she leads him right to it. She also can find water fountains, curbs and men’s restrooms in airports. “The same techniques that I use to travel with her I use to paint. It’s all with touch.” “Art has always been incredibly important to me,” Bramblitt tells the youngsters. He reflects on his childhood, when he was sicker than most. One of his kidneys was removed and Bramblitt had epilepsy. Yet illnesses didn’t stop him. He reports, “I had the best childhood. It was a blast. I always had art. I drew every day. I used the drawings to help me over the bad times, to celebrate the good times.” Bramblitt was legally blind for four years before he lost the last bit of vision in 2001 due to complications with epilepsy while studying at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. “One of the last images I saw clearly was Saturn through a telescope. … that was a pretty good one.” Light still enters his eyes, which look normal, but the part of the brain that makes the images no longer functions. Bramblitt has light perception, but can’t see shadows or forms. “It’s almost like TV with the cable turned off,” he explains. After the young man couldn’t read or write anymore, he still kept going to classes. “I would get incompletes. I was afraid if I left school, I wouldn’t go back.” The one great result of that period was Bramblitt had no homework, he points out with a laugh. Although eventually he graduated with honors, “his hopes of becoming a creative writing teacher were shattered and he sunk into a deep depression,” according to the Web site www.bramblitt. net (please see box). “I was really sad,” he confides to the kids. The Texan had plans, and thought all of his plans were over. During the first seven years of blindness, Bramblitt used a big white cane until Echo came into his life. Even without homework, his mind was working in overdrive. “I was learning how to use all of my senses in new ways.” He had orientation and mobility training in Dallas, using his sense of touch to get around. His female instructor announced, “We’re going to learn how to cross the road,” then drove around until she found the perfect intersection. She challenged him to cross six lanes to the other curb. Although terrified at first, Bramblitt learned how to hear engine sounds from semis made and feel sidewalks shake to know when it was safe to cross. He also learned such skills as how to eat and sew on a button. When the artist was sighted, he created pieces with charcoal, pencil and crayons. That didn’t work anymore, because he couldn’t feel the materials on the paper. The breakthrough came when Bramblitt used thick paint and could feel its raised lines. Then he altered each color to change the way it felt. “Now color is very different. It’s emotion … music.” He emphasizes, “I started painting because I wanted to let people know I’m still me.” “Painting has helped me so much. The great thing about art, it makes you focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.” As Bramblitt speaks, his striking pieces play on the screen behind him, but the light in the gym diminishes their vivid colors. It’s time for questions. “What if you run into walls?” asks a boy. That happened a lot at first, the speaker admits. There were lots of bruises and cuts. “I broke my foot. You start learning to do things in a new way.” The man doesn’t rush, but is a master at shuffling. “I learned so much after I lost my eyesight,” he says, especially what life is like with a disability. Bramblitt concludes, “Life’s been pretty good. “We’ve traveled all over. My artwork has been sold in almost 30 countries.” After tracing their faces with his hands, Bramblitt has created portraits for professional skateboarder Tony Hawk, country musician Lyle Lovett and many other famous folks. If they have died, he gets familiar with their likenesses using a 3-D printer. Of course, the artist has also completed portraits of other people he’s never seen who are more precious to him – his wife and 6-yearold son. After his speech to the student body, seventh-graders file into the old gym, where two rows of tables are set up. The students stare at Echo, loving having a dog at school. Bramblitt engages the whole crowd, constantly turning to face everyone as he speaks. He notes some paintings are almost like sculptures because of their textures. Describing his technique, the guest wonders, “Do you want to try it? Do you want to see what it’s like?” “Yeah!” came the response. The students put old T-shirts over their uniforms and tie blindfolds around their heads. Bramblitt has the seventh graders feel raised lines on drawings they created ahead of time that will be used as guides for paint. He coaches them to remember where colors are on a palette by touch or orientation. Art teacher Hilary Carvitti explains how to tell the colors apart. Red tempera paint has added flaxseed for texture. White paint has extra flour, yellow has additional sand and blue is plain. Bramblitt presses the students to notice, “Every color feels different.” Another way to differentiate hues is to recall “white’s at 12 o’clock. Blue’s at 6 o’clock” on the palette. The painter recommends, “Go slow. It makes it easier. Here’s the biggest tip: ... use both hands, one hand to apply the paint and the other to touch the surface.” Using a cane, Bramblitt chats with students in his gentle voice. Some students keep the blindfolds on, but others push them onto their foreheads. After the workshop, it was clear the artist had made an impact. Seventh-grader Adam Moster observes, “I thought Mr. Bramblitt’s presentation was really neat. It was cool how he could draw so well even though he is blind. It inspired me to not give up just because there are barriers.” According to Erin Batta, “I was amazed by Echo’s skills. She was able to do incredible things to help Mr. Bramblitt, and she seemed very intelligent.” Sarah Price reports, “I learned that I can do anything. To have a companion like Echo would definitely help me to pursue my dreams.” Adam Scott says, “I was amazed to learn that John hadn’t painted until after he went blind. I learned that John thinks he uses his other senses better after he went blind.” Molly Wachsmann learned perhaps the biggest lesson: “When John Bramblitt was talking to us about his struggles, I learned that sometimes you shouldn’t think you’re crazy for doing something against all odds. I was amazed that John did that and succeeded.” Now Bramblitt mostly works with museums, including the Metropolitan and Guggenheim in New York City, as a consultant in developing programs that are designed to include everyone – no matter their ability or disability. When he began to mentor others with special needs, the painter realized, “All the people were going through the same sort of things I was going through … I felt at home.” “Here’s the thing about life: Sometimes the things that seem terrible turn out to be a huge blessing.” Best Sports Event Coverage/Category 11 Jake Thompson, Hendricks County Flyer (Avon) Hudkins Overcomes Adversity, Wins Title Most high school wrestlers would have been pleased with a fifth-place finish at the state finals during their freshman seasons. Danville’s Brock Hudkins isn’t most wrestlers. Distraught after failing to win a state title that season, he was determined to never let that feeling envelope him again. Disaster struck during his sophomore season at the worst possible moment. After a medical issue directly following the weight-in for state tournament, he was unable to wrestle and forced to forfeit. He listened intently to Friday night’s matches from a hospital bed. This season, Hudkins wouldn’t let anything stand in his pursuit of a state title, not even a broken finger suffered midway through this season. The finger required surgery and a pin was put into place. The junior grappler wrestled mostly one handed through the Sagamore Conference tournament and in sectionals until he felt comfortable using is again. Hudkins arrived at the state finals on a mission. His 120-pound weight class held the most ranked wrestlers of any in the state finals. At the end of the two-day tournament, Hudkins was atop of the podium at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse with a blue ribbon and gold State of Indiana medial around his neck. “Last year I knew I could’ve been in the finals and that’s what I wanted to push myself to achieve,” Hudkins said. “It’s unbelievable and definitely not what I expected. I like it out here and would love to go under the lights again.” Hudkins shares one very distinguishable trait with other successful wrestlers. It’s a mentality Danville coach Steve Pugliese said is evident in Hudkins’ wrestling each time he steps on the mat. “(Brock) goes out there knowing he’s going to win,” Pugliese said. “A lot of times guys go out hoping they’re going to win or not knowing what’s going to happen. “Brock goes out in control of the match, knowing that he’s going to do what he does, and 99 percent of the time he’s going to be victorious.” Hudkins spent last summer traveling the country, wrestling at various tournaments, getting better, learning, and fine-tuning his technique. He learned and worked from a variety of coaches throughout last year. That led to increased wrestling knowledge and to improved self-confidence. Pugliese’s coaching style seems to mix well with Hudkins’ other influences. The junior called his coach a “smart alec” and said he keeps him “in check,” but the respect between the two is evident. “Pugliese, he loves me and I love him … he’s smart, so smart,” Hudkins said. “He says there’s always somebody out there better, so don’t train like you’re the best, training like you want to be the best.” Despite having an undefeated record this season and a career mark of 98-3, Pugliese said Hudkins probably didn’t have any idea what his record was coming into the state finals. No matter what tournament or match Danville wrestled this season, every Monday it was back to work for Hudkins as he grinded away and chased his ultimate goal. “I always tell them, if you’re good enough, people will tell you.” Pugliese said. “You don’t need to draw the attention to yourself. Trust me. People will take notice.” With everything Hudkins has accomplished this season, people will certainly take notice anytime he now steps on the mat. Best Sports News or Feature Coverage/Category 12 Stuart Cassidy, The Spencer County Journal-Democrat (Rockport) On a rim and a prayer South Spencer High School has been blessed with several championship sports teams over the years. Now there is a national-championship basketball star gracing the halls of the school. Madison “Mattie” Melton, 15, holds that distinction, earning acclaims as a shooting guard for the RHI Racers, which won the junior-division National Wheelchair Association Basketball Championship April 18 in Louisville, Ky. “It’s like the most amazing feeling ever,” she said of the accomplishment. “It still doesn’t seem real.” The Racers mounted an improbable comeback; down 15 at the half against the Sportable Spokes, and only getting much closer than that in the waning minutes of the game. Mattie explained that with about five minutes to go, the Spokes had several players foul out. That paved the way for the Racers to roll on to a 46-40 victory. The win was about as much in the preparation as it was in faith, not only in the team, but also in a higher power. “Although the team was losing by so much, from the beginning, my mom sat calmly in the game the whole time and said not to worry about the game. She had been praying about it, and it was in God’s hands,” Mattie explained. “She just kept saying ‘it’ll be alright, God’s got this.’ As it turns out, he did.” The Racers’ coach Jacob Patrick raved about the young but “great all-around player,” which he said was the “glue that drew the team together.” He said Mattie was often called upon during the second half of the season to give the team a boost. Patrick commended her tenacious ball-handling skills and marksman-accurate shooting which helped secure victories. He added that at Mattie’s age, she has a lot of room for growth and will only get better. An aspiring medical student, her inspiring journey to the pinnacle is one of typical youth exuberance fueled by a never-quit attitude and ever-strong commitment. An honors student, Mattie is ingrained with a fierce competitive edge that has made her a rising marvel on the court since grade school. “I’m aggressive,” she said when asked what makes her a standout, adding, “my defense is pretty good.” She has to be tough too, because there is a smell associated in winning-wheelchair basketball – and that’s an aroma of burning rubber left from tires as players scramble to defend, steal and score. As Mattie told of her experiences, it is apparent the intensity of the game can only truly be understood by someone who has been thrust from their chair while rolling in a dead sprint and colliding with another player. The feuds in the paint can get quite heated. Mattie has endured several hard fouls, including one when an opponent grabbed her hair and flung her backwards to the ground. In fact, Mattie almost didn’t play in the championship game because of a shoulder injury incurred in an earlier match-up when she went down hard onto the court. But there was no way she was going to sit out. Born with spina bifida, a congenital disorder that prevented her vertebrae from properly forming, she joined the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana team this January after a five seasons with the Music City Thunder in Nashville, Tenn. Prior to that, she took part in Upward basketball in Rockport during her third- and fourth-grade years. Mattie said she enjoyed competing in Upward, but playing against the much taller kids always seemed to be a daunting task. “They were running and I was wheeling; it was kind of weird” the youth recalled. She added that there were also minor injuries administered to shins and legs because of her chair. But it was all in the fun of the game; no one ever really got hurt, nor did anyone seem to mind the occasional grazing. As the only local wheelchair participant for miles around, in the fifth grade Mattie began traveling to basketball camps across the Midwest where she was able to better hone her natural talents. It was while at a clinic outside of Bowling Green, Ky. that the Melton family was directed to the Nashville team. Mom, Stephanie Melton, explained they contacted the coach and were soon on their way to Tennessee, but making the team was a long shot – and a long drive each week for the family posed another obstacle. But it was a chance for a dream come true, no matter the miles that had to into it. The efforts were rewarded. Once on the court, coaches were pleased with what they saw, and the phenom was invited to join the Thunder. “Her skills were probably more advanced than others on the team at that time,” Stephanie continued. “She’s been playing ever since.” A prolific shooter for the team, Mattie’s basketball dreams were dashed last fall when it was announced the Thunder wouldn’t be hosting a team for the 2015-16 season. Invited to USA Paralympics training camp, an event she had to back out of because of an injury, Mattie continued to play in Nashville, but in an adult men’s league. That was fun for a while, and the men were very supportive, but the high schooler wanted to be around people her own age. That’s when she made her way to RHI. According to Stephanie, “this team had been wanting her for a while.” An account that Patrick confirmed, telling how his RHI team played the Thunder several times over the years and it was through those encounters that he learned of Mattie’s advanced skills. The transition to the Racers has been a learning experience for Mattie. As a member of the Thunder, she was depended on to be a scoring force. But with the Racers, she is more of a role player, and as such has had to focus on other aspects of the game. In developing her off-the-ball offense, Mattie said transitioning into the new schema has been difficult as she learns when to set picks for other ball-handlers “axle-to-caster” drives. Her successes are a tribute to the adage, “anything’s possible if you try,” she said. That mindset has allowed her to also become a major contributor on her high-school basketball team. Dubbed the Lady Rebels’ “Sixth Man,” Mattie has been instrumental in preparing the team, not only practicing with them, but on the sideline during contests. According to Rebel’s Coach Jason Mayse, Mattie possesses a “great knowledge for the game,” which he said “show’s she’s been around the game for a long time.” Often working her in on shooting drills, Mayse added that the player’s work ethic is second-tonone and as such she is an inspiration to the team. “ Mattie’s efforts just go to show there is no limit on what you can do if you put your mind to it.” Best Sports Columnist/Category 13 Jake Thompson, Hendricks County Flyer (Avon) Time to get back to the track Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles recently said in an interview with the Indianapolis Business Journal that he expected the Speedway’s ticket sales to improve for a third straight year. That’s great news for IMS, Indianapolis, Speedway and its surrounding counties. The money the race brings in each year helps boost the state and local economies. While not a huge racing aficionado, I’m happy to hear attendance is rising. Some of my earliest memories are of the track with my parents, my father in particular, and the times we shared. While we certainly didn’t attend each race, we hit quite a few. Not to mention the countless weekends spent at practices, Pole Day and, of course, Bump Day. My mom would pack the coolers with fried chicken, sandwiches, chips, cookies and other snacks to satiate our eventual appetites. My dad would pack a cooler of soft drinks, frozen bottles of water, and beer. We’d pile into my dad’s truck – stocked with blankets, lawn chairs and plenty of sun block – and head out in the wee hours of the morning to get a good spot against the fence in whatever infield turn looked best. Occasionally, we’d bring others along, or make new friends when we arrived. Whatever the case, it was always an adventure – a family adventure – that I associated with the end of school and the upcoming summer vacation. When we didn’t attend the race, we’d listen all day in the house and garage as Jim McKay and later, Paul Page announced the play-by- play, their voices crackling through the speakers. Oh, how I miss that. Once the open-wheel cars split into two leagues, I had grown a bit older and moved out my parent’s house. I still found my way back to the track, but it was a different atmosphere. But now, with two children under the age of 3, I hope to take them to the “Greatest Spectacle In Racing” so we can make our own memories. IMS is now more family friendly than I can ever remember. A dedicated Kids Zone complete with bouncy play areas, car displays, garage tours, a midway, bus tours, track laps, vintage car exhibition, and autograph sessions are just some of numerous family activities. And let’s not forget the racing. With five winners in each of the five IndyCar races this year, the competition is as healthy and exciting as it’s ever been. Pole Day and qualifications will bring plenty of excitement and lots of racing activity this weekend, but there is practice nearly every day of the week leading up to the big event. IMS is building toward its 100th running of the Indy 500 next year and it’s something I want my family to be a part. That history, that nostalgia, it’s something not found anywhere else and it’s in our city. How great is that? So pack the coolers, pack the kids, don’t forget the sun block, get back to the track sometime this month and make some memories. I know my family will, and we hope to see you there.