Schools Improve When Parents Care

I wanted to share this short story that Rob Kirkbride, a Grand Rapids walker and blogger, wrote about my daughter, Kimberly Kelly Waalkes. Yes, it makes me very proud of how Kim prioritizes her time, but it also makes a very good case for where to start if we really want to improve our public schools. – Dick

Day 145 – 8.06 miles (965.17 total)

I am constantly amazed by the number of people who give of themselves, who volunteer and help the community with little or no fanfare. I walked with one of those people today.

I first met Kim Waalkes at City High School, where my son, Liam and her daughter, Erika are entering sophomore year in high school. She seemed to be everywhere — PTSA meetings, helping at school functions like the annual City High auction and other school events and meetings.

Simply put, she is one of those parents that you want volunteering at your kid’s school. This year, Kim will be president of the City High PTSA (a position held by Wayne Glatz for the two years prior, another parent who has given so much time and energy to the school).

Kim and I walked two hours today and talked about our families and upcoming school events and issues. It was a really fun walk and the two hours passed quickly. We walked the length of Riverside Park and made it past Fifth Third Ballpark before we turned around for the return trip.

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The Eradicator & His Sweet Thang

When our La Paloma neighbors and friends, Ken and Maureen Hake, invited us to spend two days with them at their remote cabin in North Central Nebraska, my wife, Helen, and I jumped at the opportunity. It was a part of the world we had never explored. And, Ken and Maureen are game people, our kind of people. But little did we know what a special treat this experience—spending time with Ken and Maureen in this very unique environment—would turn out to be.

The Hake’s three-year-old, well-designed 900 sq ft cabin is the perfect destination point for two couples who want to get lost in nature, play games and to get to know, to really get to know, each other better. The cabin is located in a pristine forest of ancient Ponderosa Pine on the edge of a fertile 260 ft canyon wall. While we couldn’t confirm it, Ken claims that a meandering stream teeming with native brown and rainbow trout awaits anyone who ventures a long slide down the steep canyon walls. The official mailbox is Long Pine, NE, but to access their forest home, one must drive ten miles on a dirt road north off Highway 20.

If you were blindfolded and airlifted into the cabin, it would be easy to believe that you were in the mountains of Colorado. It’s a very special place with a plethora of both whitetail and mule deer, giant turkeys, porcupines, blue birds, pine martins, rattlesnakes, bobcats and more. At night, the stars come to visit and put on a spectacular display of lights. The sunrises from our bedroom are what I would love to see when I wake up in the morning every day for the rest of my life.
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The Gold Award

Hannah says it’s for the Gold Award. I say it’s for the puppy. You decide.

I saw it first on a Facebook post by one of my granddaughters. “Hannah Claire Kelly is going to get a dog!!! :) SO HAPPY, life is good.” Could it be really be? I thought any chance of that was kyboshed many years ago. But as I read the FB comments to her post, I realized it wasn’t a done deal; at least not yet.

Hannah has been an avid girl scout for the last nine years. She also has a very special connection with dogs. If it had been up to her, there would have been a family dog for all of the fifteen years of her life. But after Mandy—a pet golden retriever who died when Hannah was seven—her parents said, “No more dogs.”

Hannah could have lived with that decision. That is until she read the story about a young lady who had trained a guide dog. It was the featured story in The Golden Link, a monthly magazine published by the Girl Scouts. The Texas teenager provided a foster home for a nine-week-old puppy; raising him until he was sixteen months old. During that time, she taught the dog 40+ commands and exposed him to many types of social situations. For this community service, she received The Gold Award—the highest honor you can receive as a Girl Scout.

Hannah had worked hard for her bronze and silver award. Now she knew how to get the gold. But the biggest hurdle to getting a dog (a golden retriever or a lab) would be her dad.
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Erika’s View of Faith

I received a telephone call from my granddaughter on June 4, asking me if I would like to hear a speech that she had written. She planned to present it at church the next day. I am curious if you will have the same response as I did. It reads:

What is Faith?

By Erika Waalkes, Age 15

For me, “Faith” is a very complex word. For many people this is the word they live by, and for others it is not even part of their life.

When I looked up faith in the dictionary, one of the definitions was, “any set of firmly held principles or beliefs.” This can mean so many different things. It can refer to religion, what you believe, or it can simply be how you live your life.

For me personally, I see faith as how I journey through life and my values; being a good person, helping others, and working hard to achieve my dreams. In other words, I try to live by the golden rule. Treating others how I want them to treat me. I think this is a rule everyone should live by.

Ironically, the golden rule is found in all major religions, just in different words. In Buddhism it is, “hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” In Hinduism it is, “this is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.” And what I appreciate about these words is that growing up and going to All Souls Church, I have learned that these are powerful words of wisdom. If everyone lived by them, the world would be at peace.

For many people, their faith is dependent on their belief in a higher power than themselves. They worship and pray to this God or Gods. Living in west Michigan, I have been asked many times about my religion. Depending on who the person is, I’ll explain what I believe and what kind of church I go to. After describing my faith, I am often asked, “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” I’ll say, “No, but I respect what you believe.” Normally, I’m criticized for what I believe, and the person tries to save me. I wonder why? If I respect and honor what they believe, why can’t they afford to do the same for me?
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