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Archive for ‘May, 2006’

THE light blue rubber wristband Endesa chief executive Rafael Miranda was sporting for the London leg of last week’s roadshow looked slightly out of place – more the kind of adornment you would expect to see on an earnest, politically correct musician (Coldplay’s Chris Martin say), than on a man oozing the refinement of Spain’s business class.
But the wristband, made by employees of the Spanish power giant last October after local rival Gas Natural’s E21.3-a-share hostile bid, is a reminder of just how political the bid is in Spain. It pits Gas Natural, a creature of the powerful Barcelona region, backed by the Socialist government, against the once all-­powerful Madrid establishment.

After the Gas Natural offer was launched, employees had adopted the slogan of Endesa’s publicity campaign, “Pon Endesa en tu corazon”, or, “Put Endesa in your heart”, and made the bracelets.

Miranda told The Business last week: “It was at the beginning when the Gas Natural bid was really heavy. Everyone thought, ‘it will happen, it will happen’. Now the situation is different.”

He laughs at the understatement. In the nine months since Gas Natural launched its bid, Endesa, helped by a counter offer of E29.1bn ($37bn; £19.9bn) made by German utility Eon, has turned the tables on its rival. Gas Natural’s bid enjoyed such strong support from the Spanish government that ministers overruled Spain’s competition tribunal when it said the bid was uncompetitive.

When Germany’s Eon waded in with a E27.5-a-share cash counter offer, the government retroactively changed the law so Eon’s bid had to be approved by the National Energy Commission, a body almost completely under the thumb of the government.

Miranda has every reason to be pleased with himself.

He says: “We have demonstrated that, first of all, the offer from Gas Natural was very poor, it was very low. If we hadn’t done what we’ve done during this past nine months – the legal battle, promoting a competing offer – probably our shareholders would have been obliged to sell at E21.3 a share. We have clearly demonstrated this company is worth more than E30 a share and shareholders now have an offer of E27.5.”….

One was a longtime music teacher at Montville High School who directed numerous plays and musicals before succumbing to brain cancer at the age of 55 in April.The other was a 17-year old high school senior, stricken four years before with leukemia, a disease that slowly ebbed out his young life. He died in December.

Both were remembered this week at the high school, when the junior class sponsored a two-day walkathon on Tuesday and Wednesday in their honor.

The teacher, Jan Kucher-Patenaude, inspired two decades of students with her infectious smile, passion for music and exuberance for life.

The student, Antonio Colabelli, was known as a fighter to his classmates and teachers, who never complained when his cancer returned after a year in remission, and he had to be home-schooled at the start of his senior year.

Students have been collecting donations in homeroom all week and will continue to accept them until June 2, said Derek Sica, who is the junior class co-advisor and K-12 supervisor of world languages and ESL.

In addition, all proceeds from the walkathon will go towards medical expenses incurred by both the Patenaude and Colabelli families.

The total amount raised had not been determined as of Wednesday.

Junior class officers decided to hold a walkathon similar to one held for victim’s families at Robert R. Lazar Middle School after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, said Donna DeMarco, junior class co-adviser.

“It’s one way we can come together again to help and show the families that we support them and their memories will live on,” said Sica.

On Wednesday afternoon, students hit the high school track for the second day of the walkathon. Money was raised through pledges for distance walked.

Six gym classes comprising nearly 150 students walked in unison, with many completing four or more laps in the 25-minute time period.

Cindy Beradino and Pat Vytell, two of the six gym teachers supervising the walk, said they were close to Kucher-Patenaude, or K-P, as she was affectionately called by both faculty and students.

“She was a dynamic teacher,”added gym teacher John Schulien. “The kids just loved her.”

Seva Kuznetsov, a 17-year old junior, said Kucher-Patenaude was instrumental in aiding his jazz band.

“She really helped us out,”said Kuznetsov. “She had so much spirit.”

Junior Jamie Grummer said the walkathon originally began as a fundraiser for the Colabelli family. When Kucher-Patenaude passed away last month, the students decided they would walk for both families.

“I think it’s important because their families really need a lot of money,” said Grummer, 17.

Fellow junior Chelsea Kramer, 17, said she sold orange rubber bracelets representing leukemia to raise money for the Colabelli family after Antonio died.

“I had some classes with him,” said Kramer. “It was hard to be close to him because he wasn’t in class a lot but he was the sweetest kid.”

Karen Potucek, who was Colabelli’s teacher for four years, said he was “such a fighter.”

“He just wanted to be in school, and have a normal life,”said Potucek. “He didn’t want anybody to know there was anything wrong with him.”

The district held fundraisers for Colabelli last year and a cabaret and silent auction was recently held for Kucher-Patenaude at Drew University, where her husband is chair of the theater arts department.

But the medical expenses for both families have been staggering, and events like the walkathon are worthwhile, said Beradino.

“It’s amazing what these kids have done to help these two families,” added Potucek. “It’s just a really wonderful thing.”

Staff and students from Port Charlotte High School have united to form a sort of human cocoon around Stefanie Flowers, an English teacher.The teacher found out she has advanced breast cancer in April. The bubbly petite woman was not shocked about the diagnosis — she dreamed she had the disease on March 17.

Dreams and premonitions aside, Flowers, 46, never imagined she would be facing such a medical monster.

“It’s a very surreal experience,” she said.

For the past month, Flowers has been struggling to face the harsh reality of having cancer.

She endures a schedule of nauseating chemotherapy sessions and bouts of fatigue and pain in her bones. She said it has been depressing watching her once abundant hair shed off her head and down the shower drain. She limited her hair loss by snipping off her nearly foot-long braid and donating it to Locks of Love. The organization provides hair for children with long-term medical hair loss.

What rattles the feisty, good-natured teacher most is her young children’s fear. Her daughters, 4 and 11, are very frightened about Flowers’ health.

Still, a sense of optimism helps keep Flowers going.

“I feel certain that I am going to get better,” she said. “I don’t have any options — I have children.”

Flowers biggest source of strength lies within her family, PCHS staff and her students.

Since Flowers announced her condition at school, help and support have been flooding in. Teachers offered to make dinners for Flowers and her family and staff have pooled their resources to compensate for lost wages.

As a show of love and solidarity from her students and staff, graduating seniors, colleagues and administrative staff wore pink rubber bracelets symbolizing the fight against breast cancer on their wrists at the graduation ceremony Wednesday evening.

Principal Steve Dionisio told the packed Lee County Civic Arena about the school’s support for Flowers and her fight.

“There’s definitely something to being a Pirate,” Flowers said. “I am so uplifted by the support.”

The school’s mascot is the Pirates.

Flowers has used her condition to inspire her students to not give up. During the last month of school, she joked with her students that if she could come to class with cancer they could do their work.

“She’s stronger than a lot of people I see,” said graduate Fitz Knights. “A lot of people would call it quits.”

Fellow classmate and recent graduate Valdeah Vincent agreed.

“You got to keep pushing it,” he said. “That’s my teacher.”

But some of Flowers’ greatest support in school comes from recent graduate Travis Ehrnsberger. The 18-year-old knows all too well what it’s like to have cancer. Diagnosed with malignant tumors in his chest and stomach cavity, Ehrnsberger faced months of aggressive chemotherapy last year.

Though he is not yet in remission, he is doing well and ready to go on to the next leg of his life, which includes heading to Hillsborough Community College. He raises his shirt and points to a raised scar that looks like a long T on his chest. The surgery mark reminds him of the battle he still faces. Ehrnsberger is expecting more surgery in his back in the future.

In the meantime, the soft-spoken young man is lending his support to his beloved teacher. During a recent conversation between the two, Ehrnsberger told Flowers she will be fine. After a half-hour of chatting and laughing, Flowers, sporting a sky blue bandana on her hairless head, seemed more relaxed.

“It just feels comical that I am going through this,” she said with a nervous chuckle.

Jim Buley, a colleague in the English department, has been another rock for Flowers. Buley’s wife went through breast cancer too. Not only does he understand Flowers, but he can empathize with her husband’s fears.

Buley gets choked up when he thinks about his friend and colleague dealing with cancer.

“This really hurts me a lot,” he said in a gentle voice.

But the camaraderie and concern he has witnessed inside the school have touched Buley.

“It amazes me how good people can be,” he said.

 

 
When the Oilers were down two games in the series against San Jose, a nine-year-old cancer survivor sent the team an inspirational message.On the morning before Game 3, Elexis Ortlieb, a Grade 4 student at Rio Terrace elementary school, delivered 52 blue rubber bracelets, imprinted with the words “Keep Believing,” to the Oilers.”They were a bit down in the dumps,” said Elexis, who designed the bracelets two years ago while battling leukemia.She was watching an interview after the second loss when an Oilers player said the team just needed to keep believing. She thought it was a sign.

“We just thought that was perfect,” said her mother, Ellen Ortlieb. Elexis didn’t know if the bracelets would get to the players in time for the game, but she wasn’t worried.

“We walked out of there thinking ‘They’re fine, they’re going to win,’ ” said Ellen.

That night the Oilers triumphed over the Sharks in triple overtime and went on to win the next three games, taking the series.

“I felt really, really good,” Elexis said with a big smile.

Today the four-foot-four student, with freckles on her cheeks and curly brown hair tucked under an Oilers cap, is healthy enough to run around the family’s Leduc County property with her Jack Russell terrier, Taz.

But just over a year ago she was too sick to go to school or play with friends.

Elexis was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was three.

After years of treatment she was declared cancer-free in March 2003. But by Christmas Eve of the same year she relapsed. The following February she contracted a fungal infection, beginning another long struggle in the hospital.

“Sometimes it’s hard to stay focused and to have hope,” Ellen said. “She never gave up hope. She kept believing that she was going to get through that.”

And a year later, Elexis beat her disease. Medical staff at the Stollery Children’s Hospital found an experimental drug which cured the infection, and in December 2004 she received a bone marrow stem-cell transplant. “What a gift for someone to give to a person,” Ellen said.

From her experience with cancer, Elexis was inspired to help others.

While she was fighting her second bout of leukemia she had the idea for the bracelet. She decided on blue because it was a colour close to God and angels, and chose the message “believe.”

That day she received a letter from a hospital playroom worker who signed off with “Keep believing.” Again, to Elexis, it was a sign.

Since then Elexis has raised more than $2,500 through sales of her bracelet, with proceeds going to the Kids with Cancer Society in Edmonton.

She also inspired her school to collect donations by holding a walkathon. And her family hosts a horse show, Jump With Hope, for Kids with Cancer at their equestrian centre, Amberlea Meadows.

“She’s just a wonderful example of spirit and the never-give-up philosophy,” said Michael Kasserra, Elexis’s teacher.

Elexis hopes some of that spirit will help the Oilers beat the Anaheim Ducks and reach the Stanley Cup finals.

When Ali Donahue was diagnosed at birth with cystic fibrosis, the average life expectancy for someone with the disease was 18 years. Now 18, Donahue is heading off to college at Boston University and expects to live a long and healthy life, complete with marriage, children and someday grandchildren.

“I don’t want people to think that I’m sick, that it’s over…I’m not dying…I’m planning on growing up and having a family and being a grandma and doing everything everybody else is doing,” said Donahue.

This is why she and a network of friends are on a mission to raise $5,000 in three weeks for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease affecting about 30,000 adults and children in the United States, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. A defective gene in sufferers of the disease causes the lungs to produce abnormally thick mucus, which can clog the lungs and lead to life threatening infections. The average life expectancy for a cystic fibrosis patient is in the early to mid 30s.

Donahue said she hasn’t experienced serious complications from the disease since she was about 13 and credits her good health to advancements in drug and technology research along with family and community support.

The money raised for cystic fibrosis research has improved her quality of life and increased her life expectancy, she said. “Fundraising is so important,” she said. “It’s because I have all of my medications that I can live a normal life.”

To stay healthy Donahue takes medication called pancrease with every meal and snacks. This medication helps break down her food, because the digestive enzymes produced by her pancreas are blocked by mucus. Donahue also uses a mist nebulizer and wears a vibrating vest for 20 minutes every day. Both these mechanisms help loosen the mucus preventing it from sticking in and blocking her lungs.

It’s important for friend and project partner Caroline Etnier to help Donahue battle this disease. “I’ve seen her take all the meds and watched the life expectancy go up,” she said.

Etnier has watched Donahue grow up with the disease. The girls first met on the bus in the second grade. Donahue showed Etnier her club fingers, which she said about 75 percent of Cystic Fibrosis patients have, though doctors can’t explain why. The two have been friends ever since.

Donahue, Etnier and seven other seniors will wash cars, host ice cream socials, sell bracelets, and host a band competition all as a part of their final senior project for Cape Elizabeth High School.

Etnier with friends and project partners Whitney Legge and Hillary Nelson first started raising money for Cystic Fibrosis last year at school.

Outgoing Assistant High School Principal Mark Tinkham who is overseeing the senior transition projects described this group of girls as “tight knit.” Most of them, he said, have supported Donahue through years of coping with the disease.

“For them, it’s not simply a three-week project, it’s become more of a vocation,” he said.

Nelson, Etnier, Legge and others began selling rubber “Live Strong” wristbands last year and raised more than $500 for Great Strides, a cystic fibrosis fundraising walk around Payson Park in Portland.

“I didn’t even know they were doing it. I just came into school and they said, ‘we got $500 today,’” said Donahue.

Knowing somebody with the disease, said Legge, “makes you want to work harder to raise money.”

Nelson agreed, “It just hits so close to home.”

It’s exactly this energy and engagment Tinkham hopes the project will uncover in students. “They can go out and touch a life and make a difference,” said Tinkham. It is this real world connection that yields the most worthwhile learning experiences, he said.

Less than a decade ago, no one could have imagined a small, local business could be a lucrative contender in the world market. But just a few years ago, no one had heard of companies like Reminderband, Pre-Auto, BatsBatsBats.com or AlarmingProducts.com either.

With the advent of the Internet, a few Cache Valley residents are taking part in business opportunities previously unheard of. From a go-to guy for technical support to a one-man business and a company that sells millions of products worldwide, local community members are jumping into a flourishing industry: online business.

“There comes a time in life when you realize you just have to take a chance and see where it goes – that’s what we did,” said Clay Broadbent, vice president of Reminderband, a Logan company that makes rubber wristbands. “A combination of fortunate timing, good decisions and forward thinking got us ahead.”

Broadbent said Reminderband’s three and one-half year lifespan has been a “wild ride.”

“We had no idea what we were getting into,” he said. What started out as a plan to capitalize on the fad of Lance Armstrong-inspired wristbands in smaller, personalized quantities exploded in a matter of weeks.

While working other jobs, Broadbent and co-founders Scott Huskinson and Aaron Bishop put together a “bare bones” Web site with an available e-mail address if Internet surfers were interested in ordering wristbands. The next morning, 60 e-mails were waiting in their inbox.

Propelled almost solely by Internet advertising, Reminderband sold seven million bands in 2005 alone. The company is currently working to add several new products to their lineup, including the recent addition of iFrogz iPod cases, iPod covers in a variety of styles and colors.

“Most of us at Reminderband don’t want to live in big cities,” Broadbent said. “The Internet allows us to live in the valley, where we have roots and we love it here, and be a part of world markets.”….


Hats off to Major League Baseball for its Mother’s Day Pink Bat promotion to raise awareness of breast cancer.

There was a time, not so long ago, when you might not have associated macho professional athletes with social awareness. Those days obviously are gone.

The Louisville Slugger factory turned out 400 pink bats for 50 players who agreed to participate in the weeklong campaign that culminated Sunday.

On the Reds those players included Jason LaRue, Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. LaRue used one of his on a fifth inning home run against the Phillies Sunday. That bat was a gift to his mother, Melanie. The others from around the league will be auctioned off at the end of the week to benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

The campaign encourages women to get regular examinations and stresses that early detection is a key to surviving the disease. Breast cancer, while primarily afflicting women, is not just a “women’s” disease. Breast cancer is an issue that touches everyone who knows someone who has been diagnosed. Frank discussion and broad knowledge of the disease and how to deal with it is the best way to increase the survival rate.

In addition to the bats, players and other on-field personnel are wearing pink breast cancer bracelet wristbands, and pink home plates and scorecards are being used around the league. All of those items will go into the fundraising auctions.

Major league bats are custom made for each player and Louisville Slugger was taking orders for the pink sticks through last Friday. For those players who didn’t order one, try bidding on one used by a teammate who did. It won’t hurt to take a few extra swings in this worthwhile campaign.

As they do at each Law Enforcement Training Center graduation, those gathered to see their loved ones join law enforcement’s ranks observed a moment of silence to honor fallen officers.
On Thursday, that moment was driven home when Michael and Rita Pratt presented one of the graduates with the first scholarship established in honor of their late son, Jason Tye Pratt.

Pratt was an eight-year veteran of the Omaha Police Department when he was shot during a foot pursuit in north Omaha on Sept. 11, 2003. He died eight days later.

“Tye was not great because of the way he left this world but because of the way he lived,” Michael Pratt said. “Tye loved what he did — probably for the same reason you’ve chosen your noble professions — because he wanted to help people.”

After Tye Pratt died, his family began selling custom-made wristbands in his honor and donated the proceeds to the Boys and Girls Club of Omaha. The first bands, which sell for $29.95 each, featured a diamond-etched photo of Tye and a written memorial on aircraft aluminum. Now a variety of photos, etched images and sayings are available.

The proceeds go to the Officer Tye Pratt Law Enforcement Fund at the training center. A $500 grant will be given to one student each session to help them purchase body armor or other necessary equipment.

The recipient from the 164th basic class was Travis King, a 43-year-old father of five who is restarting his law enforcement career in Fremont after serving with the Rollins, Wyo., Police Department. King’s wife also suffers from medical problems, Pratt said as he presented the scholarship.

Pratt said the scholarship was offered through an application process and knew it was going to be tough to decide who should get the money. He said after reading all the applications, he was shocked by the graduates’ nominations of King.

“It was kinda overwhelming,” Pratt said.

He hadn’t expected the men and women applying to do so for someone else but said he shouldn’t have been surprised due to the unselfish nature of those who go into law enforcement.

In addition to the grant, the Pratts presented King with a personalized Tye band featuring the Fremont Police Department’s badge and the words “Thank you for your courage.”

After the ceremony, King said he didn’t know he would be receiving the grant and hadn’t yet decided how he would spend the money.

The Pratts also presented the training center staff with a plaque that features a photo of Tye Pratt and the slogan “These are the bands that tie us all together.”

The plaque is to symbolize the first Tye bands, which were made of solid brass. On Thursday graduate Christifer Folkerts, who received a non-law certification, received one of the brass bands.

The idea that their new professions could cost them their lives wasn’t lost on the graduates. During his address to his fellow students, Jerry Esch of the Hastings Police Department, gave the instructors a plaque as a thank you for all their hard work.

“You’ve saved all our lives,” he said. “It just hasn’t happened yet.”

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