The Tri-Cities Water Follies was, as usual, a big success last weekend.
With 70,000-plus people lining both sides of the Columbia River over the weekend, there is always the potential for trouble, accidents or even a commotion that gets out of hand. But the event typically goes off without a hitch, and this year was no different.
Police said spectators were cooperative and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves, and not a thing happened to ruin the weekend. To have a such a well-run, monstrous event every year is amazing.
There are a lot of reasons why it works so well, but chief among those are the people involved -- especially the volunteers. They've got to be one of the most passionate, dedicated groups around.
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With only one paid full-time staff member, there's no way the Water Follies would work without so many talented people willing to donate their time to make it happen.
It's estimated that 500 to 800 people volunteered in some way for the Water Follies this year. That's an impressive statistic. But what is even more impressive is that many of the volunteers don't live in the community anymore. Several grew up in the Mid-Columbia and also grew to love the hydroplane races. Come the last weekend in July, they can't stay away. They travel back home to the Tri-Cities and arrive willing to work.
Sure, it's also fun. But that's beside the point. We're thankful so many people volunteer their time to make this signature Tri-City event so great year after year. Without them, Water Follies just wouldn't happen.
Richland cyclist doesn't quit
On another note about dedication, athletes know it takes commitment and perseverance to excel in any sport. A Richland cyclist embodies those ideals and makes the Tri-Cities proud.
Mark O'Brien recently returned home with a bronze medal in the 15K race from this summer's World Special Olympics in Athens, Greece. It was not an easy journey, even for an athlete who's competed at that level before.
First, there was the 17-hour ferry ride the team took from the island of Rhodes to Athens. It wouldn't have been as bad if there had been enough beds for everyone, but there wasn't. People slept on chairs or the floor and took turns for the beds at one-hour intervals. Needless to say, he wasn't well-rested the next day for his first race. He placed sixth in the 5K. Then, the 10K race didn't work out either as the chain on his bike needed fixing. Finally, by the 15K race, O'Brien was ready to go and ended up winning the bronze.
This was his third bronze medal in the World Special Olympics. His first was in 1989 when he won a bronze for downhill skiing and his second came in 1999 for cycling.
We're thankful O'Brien and his family made it home safely, especially because there was a lot of political unrest in Athens while they were there. Now he can get going on his training for the next goal -- the winter Special Olympics in 2013.
Prison dogs make a difference
A prison inmate can be pretty sad and lonely. So can a dog nobody wants to adopt. Put the two together and they both feel better.
It's a great idea that is working well at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell. The dog training program began at the prison in October with two dogs and six inmates approved to be handlers. Now the program has grown to at least 22 dogs being trained by 34 handlers in the prison's medium security complex.
The goal is to take dogs from the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter in Pasco that are considered unadoptable and give them a chance to be companion dogs to the inmates.
The inmates who get to work with the dogs learn responsibility and patience, and the experience generally improves their behavior.
Having a dog around also lifts the inmates' spirits. Prison officials said studies have shown there are physical, mental and psychosocial benefits to having dogs as companions in institutional settings.
Sounds like it's working. This is a terrific program and we're thankful for the people and animals who have made it a success.