16-year-old Bend runner headed to the Youth Skyrunning World Championships in Italy

16-year-old Bend runner headed to the Youth Skyrunning World Championships in Italy

Dan Simoneau uses multiple activities to increase the fitness of his Nordic skiers during the summer and fall.

Simoneau, the Nordic director for the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation, said that running uphill is the purest measure of fitness.

One of his athletes, 16-year-old Jeffrey Bert, is taking things to a higher level. Later this summer, Bert, who is a Summit High junior-to-be, will go to Italy to participate in the Youth Skyrunning World Championships.

Skyrunning is defined by the International Skyrunning Federation as mountain running at an elevation higher than 2,000 meters (about 6,562 feet) with an incline of more than 30%. It was founded in 1992 by a collection of mountaineers in the Italian Alps. Currently, according to the ISF it has more than 50,000 racers across 65 countries.

Bert became interested in this type of trail running when he was running during the previous couple of summers. He had been trying to stay in shape for the Nordic ski season.

“Every camp we do, we do an uphill run as a test,” Simoneau said of his Nordic teams. “And Jeffrey’s been helping me to find the hardest climbs. Going uphill is just a pure measure of fitness. What’s your aerobic capacity? Jeffrey and I will sit there with a map, ‘OK, where do we have big hills and where are the trails?’ He knows them all. He’s run them all.”

Bert has been a part of the MBSEF Nordic team for five years, and he has participated in the Junior Olympics in cross-country skiing the past two winters. He began going out on extended training runs that were 13 to 15 miles long during the summertime. He also attended the Max King Trail Running Camp the past two summers. The camps were held near Mount Hood in 2017 and near Lake Tahoe, California, in 2018. They were organized by King, the renowned pro runner from Bend.

“That was an amazing opportunity that I got to be a part of,” Bert said. “I just had an incredible experience. It was a really enjoyable camp to just start my interest in trail running.”

Bert has completed three ultramarathons – Races that are longer than the normal distance of 26.2 miles. Recently, he placed 16th out of 171 finishers in the 13.3-mile Mt. Ashland Hill Climb in Southern Oregon. He was 16th out of 311 finishers in the Smith Rock Ascent 15-mile run on May 19.

Though he was a cross country athlete as a freshman at Summit, Bert said he did not continue as a sophomore because he wanted to focus on longer-distance trail running.

He applied to participate in the Youth Skyrunning World Championships. Competitors must pay their own way. He added to his application the outcomes of his various races in addition to a few essays and a recommendation from King.

The site of the world championships is situated in the Apennine Mountains, L’Aquila, just a 90-minute drive from Rome. Bert would participate in two races at the world event. The first one, on Aug. 2, is a vertical kilometer that contains 1,000 meters of elevation gain that spans less than 5 kilometers. The second race, to be held on Aug. 4, is a 15-kilometer race through comparable terrain. The trails in this event are extremely technical.

Bert said he found out about skyrunning through a friend of a friend on his Nordic team.

“And then just looking it up online, I realized it took my strengths and it was something that I could go with,” he says. “It’ll be some brutal competition, but I’m really excited for it because it’s what I’ve been training for.”

Bert said he has spent a lot of time training at Smith Rock State Park near Terrebonne, where typically he can find lots of elevation gain without any snow. As the summer progresses and the snow melts in the Central Oregon Cascades, he plans for additional training runs up South Sister, Mount Bachelor and Tumalo Mountain.

Bert’s father is a commercial pilot. Jeffrey, his parents, and his sister Heidi, who is 14, have enjoyed hiking and backpacking trips in various places worldwide. While on those trips, Bert has gone on long trail runs in countries such as France, Switzerland, Chile, New Zealand and Tasmania.

“It’s amazing for training, and you see such a variety of trails,” Bert said of traveling.

Bert’s family intends to make the trip to Italy to watch him race and then to travel around Europe after the races.

“We just love traveling and love seeing the world,” Bert said.

Bert’s long-term career goal is to go into sports medicine. He said he hopes to attend college in a mountain town where he can continue to pursue Nordic skiing, and of course, trail running.

“He’s just an aspirational kid when it comes to doing stuff,” Simoneau said. “He just wants to be better at whatever he does. It’s pretty cool. Whatever he chooses to do, he’s going to be really good at.”

Read the full story here.


Baby with spinal bifida born healthy after experimental surgery in the womb

Baby with spinal bifida born healthy after experimental surgery in the womb

To address his spina bifida, surgery was performed on Baby Royer while he was still in the womb. His story gives hope to the families of babies in the womb that suffer from that birth defect.

Royer was born in January after a surgery was completed in the womb in September. His future looks good.

The New York Times reported that Royer was born with a “feisty spirit,” kicking and screaming. His parents, Lexi and Joshuwa Royer, were told by doctors that these were great signs for a child with spina bifida.

“It was so worth it,” Lexi Royer told the newspaper. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat. That’s for sure.”

The report also said:

He arrived pink and screaming on Friday at 5:35 a.m., two days before his official due date, weighing 8 pounds 8 ounces, and almost 20 inches long.

Within moments of his birth at Texas Children’s Hospital, he did what his parents and doctors had eagerly hoped to see: He moved his legs and feet, a sign that the operation may have prevented damage to the spinal nerves needed for walking.

Indeed, placed on his belly, he managed to pull a knee underneath himself and push off, as if he intended to crawl away from the nurses who were trying to swaddle him.

The surgeon in chief at the hospital, Dr. Larry Hollier, said he was very pleased with how baby Royer looked at birth.

“I’ve never seen such a big defect successfully repaired, with the child moving his feet at birth,” Hollier said. “It’s unbelievable. If this is the cost of getting that closed — just having to do a little skin operation — it’s fantastic.”

In 2018, Lexi Royer told The New York Times that doctors tried to pressure her to have an abortion when her unborn son was diagnosed with spina bifida. Lexi Royer refused, and instead she and her husband started researching and found doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital that were willing to try to remedy baby Royer’s situation.

That September, the unborn boy and his mother had experimental fetal surgery while the child was still in the womb. The doctors made small cuts in his mother’s uterus, using a camera and surgical tools to fix the gap in his spine.

According to Dr. Michael Belfort, a surgeon at Baylor in Houston, Texas, fetal surgery helps decrease the damage to the spine while the baby is still in the womb. He said that the amniotic fluid eats away at the nerve tissue in the gap of the spine, which makes it important to close the gap before birth.

Belfort said they typically perform the surgery 24 weeks into the pregnancy, because if something goes wrong, there is a better chance the baby will survive outside the womb.

The technique has only recently been implemented, but doctors have been performing in-utero surgery for spina bifida and other ailments for years in the United States, according to Life News. The National Institute of Health’s Management of Myelomeningocele Study (MOMS) discovered that closing the spinal defect in utero limited the need for shunts after birth and increased the child’s chances of walking by themselves. Doctors also speculate that the procedure might reduce the odds of learning disabilities as well.   

In 2014, LifeNews reported British doctors performed the first in-utero surgery on an unborn baby girl who also had spina bifida. The surgery went well, and in December 2016, 14-month-old Frankie was overcoming her disability and learning to walk, The Express reports. 

Recently, at least 13 hospitals in the U.S. have conducted fetal surgery on unborn babies that have spina bifida.

Researchers estimate that 64 percent of unborn children who are diagnosed with spina bifida are eliminated by abortion. Now there is reason to have hope for unborn babies with the ailment.

(The LifeNews article has the incorrect statistic. 64% of unborn children who are diagnosed with spina bifida are aborted, not 68.)

Read the full story here.



Young man mentored by police officer who arrested him

Young man mentored by police officer who arrested him

Over six years ago, Rameil Pitamber was a 17-year old honor student who was dealing with the death of his father.

“I was lost. I had a lot to prove. And I felt like to prove it, I had to be tough,” Pitamber said, as reported by CBS News. “I was a follower, and one poor decision led to the next.”

Pitamber robbed a Little Caesars restaurant at gunpoint, with the assistance of a friend who worked there. He was detained and convicted of a felony armed robbery and criminal confinement. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

“I didn’t believe it. I just started crying immediately,” said Pitamber’s mother, Daphne Harris. “My son, robbin’ someone […] that just wasn’t his character.”

The officer who arrested Pitamber, Brian Nugent, remembers the arrest well, and said that Pitamber was “memorable.” Nugent is a deputy police chief in Avon, Indiana.

During her son’s imprisonment, Harris made sure to stay in contact with Nugent.

“I needed him to know that he wasn’t just another kid in trouble,” Harris said. “I needed him to know that, you know, he has a home, he has a family, he has a support system. This is who my son is.”

Pitamber was released prematurely because of good behavior, and he desired to get into home improvement and real estate. But he wanted a mentor to help him. While he was working at Goodwill one day, Pitamber recognized Nugent when he dropped off a donation.

“I just asked him. Like, ‘Hey, are you Detective Brian?’ Pitamber recalled. “I was just like, ‘Hey, it’s me. How you doing?’”

The fact that Nugent was a police officer meant a lot to Pitamber. “My goal was to not go back to prison. But I didn’t 100% know what to do to not go back to prison,” he said. “And I knew that he knew that.”

Nugent said he told Pitamber that he’d be “happy to do it.” But there were guidelines: “we’re gonna touch base every month. We’re gonna go out for lunch. We’re gonna have conversations.”

Nugent and Pitamber talked about finding a job and answering questions skillfully about his past. After having conversations with Nugent, Pitamber said that he saw things this way: “If I view myself as less then Rameil, than I’m less than Rameil…. I can’t be mad at you [if you] treat me how I treat myself.”

“I’m not ex-convict. I’m not just black. I’m not just Pakistani. I’m Rameil,” he added.

The guidance from Nugent changed Pitamber’s mind about cops. Growing up, he said, he was taught “Never to talk to ‘em, never to trust ‘em,” and that “They lie, they arrest you.” But now he’s had firsthand experience, and “that’s not the case.”

“I hope that people can see, with everything that is going on, is all it takes is respect on both sides,” Harris said. “It’s more good kids out there than bad. It’s more good police out there than bad.”

Rameil currently has a consistent job doing heating and air. He’s also refurbishing his own home and attending school. “I want something outta life,” he said. “I wanna be successful, and I wanna be truly free.”

“I think the change that I see the most in him is his confidence,” Nugent said. “There’s no better reward in this job than helping somebody succeed and achieve those goals in their life.”

Pitamber is very thankful for his unlikely mentor. “He treated me with compassion and understanding, and he never treated me less than, not once. To this day, he still builds my worth and self-esteem,” he said. “With him in my corner, I can do anything.”

To read the more of about this story and watch a video, click here.







103-year-old Julia Hawkins competes in 100-meter dash, says to appreciate sunsets and music

103-year-old Julia Hawkins competes in 100-meter dash, says to appreciate sunsets and music

103-year-old Julia Hawkins likes to have a flower in her hair—even while she is running a 100- meter dash.

Two years ago, when Hawkins was 101, she ran the 100-meter dash in 39.62 seconds. They dubbed her the “Hurricane.”

Hawkins made another appearance this week in Albuquerque, running the 50- and 100-meter dash races in the National Senior Games. It has been said that she is the oldest woman to formally compete on an American track, according to the organization. The National Senior Games hosts events in Olympic-style for athletes 50 and older.

There is not much competition in the centenarian age group, so Hawkins was mostly competing against herself. Although she finished her 100-meter dash about six seconds slower than her record time, Hawkins did not let that dampen her spirits. “I’m two years older, remember?” she said, as reported by The New York Times.

Hawkins started running late in life, but she has added it to her list of passions. She resides in Baton Rouge, La., where she goes on daily walks and looks after the trees on her property. She has four children, three grandchildren and one great-grand child. She married her late husband, Murray, over the telephone during World War II. They were married for 70 years.

Hawkins loves flowers. When The New York Times contacted her for an interview on June 19, she was taking it easy in a botanical garden.

“I would rather be the ‘Flower Lady’ than the ‘Hurricane Lady,’” she said.

When Hawkins looks back on her life, she is grateful for her family.

“I’m most proud of my children and my husband,” she said. “They were the wonderful things in my life — and the grandchildren, and the great-grandson. Those are things, you just can’t beat that. This other (the running) is just a little icing on the cake.”

Hawkins bestowed her life advice.

“Have many passions,” Hawkins said. “And look for magic moments. That is something that I have done in my life — think of the things that are magic moments that happen to you, like sunsets and sunrises, rainbows, beautiful birds, music and people’s lovely comments to you. All of those are magic moments and they are free for all. Be sure to keep your eye open for them.”

To read the full interview by The New York Times, click here. 


Pampers and Koala Kare to install 5,000 changing tables in men’s restrooms

Pampers and Koala Kare to install 5,000 changing tables in men’s restrooms

Pampers has decided to aide dads all over the U.S. who have found themselves unable to find a baby changing station in men’s restrooms.

Multiple dads have posted photos depicting their babies on the floor of men’s restrooms because there was no changing table. Several of the pictures have gone viral.

Pampers wants to create change. They have jump started the “Love the Change” campaign in collaboration with Koala Kare to provide 5,000 changing tables in public restrooms across the U.S. and Canada by 2021.

The changing tables will be placed in the restrooms where they are most needed, such as parks, recreation centers, community centers and libraries. Pampers said in a release that the tables will appear in cities such as Cincinnati, Dallas, Philadelphia and more.

Musician and singer John Legend has played a part in supporting this change. He has joined the combined efforts of many dads in sharing the unique ways they’ve had to find somewhere to change their child.

“I call this the piano solo,” Legend said as his baby was on a piano, as reported by ABC 7. Other dad’s created makeshift changing stations using the driver’s seat or the trunk.

The campaign was brought to light in part because of a Florida dad, Donte Palmer, who was at the center of the countless stories in 2018. One of his children took a photo of him squatting in a restaurant restroom in Jacksonville to change his child. The photo gathered support from folks from coast-to-coast, including celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher.

Kutcher initiated a Change.org petition a couple years ago to rally for changing tables in men’s bathrooms in retail stores.

“Fathers, we aren’t highlighted like we should be,” Palmer told WJXT at the time. “And I just want to bring that view and that light to us fathers, because we do matter and we do exist, and we are willing to do more than just provide and protect.”

Palmer and fathers in his same situation have begun a movement called Squat For Change.

Nine out of 10 dads have gone into a public restroom that had no changing table, according to Pampers.

Read the full story and watch videos on the subject here.

For more background and to see more photos related to this story, click here.

Donte Palmer

Donte Palmer changing his child.