October 13, 2015

Liberally Speaking (5/6/10)

F-35 and the cost of safety

May 6, 2010

By Steve Mount

Back in October of 1988, I wrote a story for The Vermont Cynic about the Atlas nuclear missile sites in northern Vermont, including one in Alburgh. This story for the University of Vermont’s newspaper was close to my heart, because for years I’d driven by the Alburgh site, as it was at the end of a back road between my family’s camp in Alburgh Springs and Alburgh Town.

When I went to interview a neighboring property owner in 1988, a time of relative fear of nuclear holocaust, I asked how he felt when the government put the missile in place. Surely they were scared to death about having such a powerful weapon buried just a few feet under the ground.

The owner’s response was, “Well, I guess it’s scary if you think about it now, but back then, all we knew was that missile was there to keep us safe.”

When I was in the National Guard, my home armory was in the middle of a neighborhood in Swanton. We kept our jeeps, trucks and M60A3 tank in the motor pool, separated from the neighbors by just a chain link fence. The armory, like Williston’s today, was used for community purposes as well as for the military — a preschool used our classrooms during the school year.

But come training days, when we had to start up those vehicles, we did so knowing that we were disturbing the peace. The engine of an M60A3 is anything but quiet, and after a few months sitting idle, it could throw off thick, black exhaust that would blanket the neighborhood. Once, so I’m told, someone hit the switch on the tank’s smoke generator. Having experienced the thick, white smoke on training battlefields, I could only imagine what the neighborhood looked like.

I’m certain that on training days, our neighbors watched us warily, so they could be prepared for the billowing exhaust, the roar of the engine and the loud squeak of the tracks as we maneuvered the nearly 50-ton monster around our grounds. Perhaps those neighbors also had the feeling that despite the inconvenience, we were there to help keep them safe.

When my family and I moved to Williston, we lived on North Brownell Road. We quickly found that our home, like the Lamplite Acres neighborhood across the street from us, was on the landing path of some flights flown by the Vermont Air National Guard. The first few flyovers were a surprise to us, as we had quickly learned that civilian planes rarely ever flew overhead.

By the next summer, the loud whine of the jets’ engines were just background noise, and it was actually exciting to see the jets fly so low over our house that you could see the pilots and hear the hydraulics whine as the pilot worked the controls.

When the kids asked what the loud noise was, the sentiment expressed by that Alburgh property owner always came to mind. That plane, that noise, was telling us that someone was up there to keep us safe.

Having experienced living on the landing path of F-16s hardly compares to those who live closer to the airport and will have to deal with increased noise from the proposed F-35. I can only imagine the noise when one of these advanced fighters engages its engines and afterburners to move 15 tons of metal from a standstill to take-off speed.

However, just as we cannot reasonably pull the F-16s out of the airport and maintain the same security in our skies, we cannot fail to innovate. The F-35 is the latest innovation, and the Vermont Air Guard is right to feel honored to be one of only a handful of bases where the F-35 is being considered for deployment over the next half-decade.

That honor is probably little consolation to the airport’s neighbors, just as it is little consolation that some tests done so far show the F-35 is only slightly louder than the F-16. Tell that to a child woken by afterburners roaring for night missions.

Our service men and women, however, need to be using the latest equipment possible in order to help secure our freedom and safety. This is less a liberal or conservative issue than it is a community one.

My suggestion is that we, as a community, work with the Guard to be sure that when Vermont is chosen as a site, we can make the situation the best possible, rather than work against even bringing the new planes here.


Steve Mount has been a Williston resident since 1996. He is a software engineer at GE Healthcare and is devoted to his family, his country and his Constitution. You can reach Steve at [email protected] or read his blog at http://saltyrain.com/ls.


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Right to the Point (5/6/10)

Let’s land the F-35 in South Burlington

May 6, 2010

By Mike Benevento

Over the past few months, Air Force leaders met with government officials and the public throughout the local area to discuss the feasibility of upgrading the Air National Guard’s fighter jets. Currently, Vermont’s Air Guard flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The Air Force is investigating replacing the F-16 with the top-of-the-line F-35 Lightning II jet fighter.

You would think that replacing 30-year-old fighters with brand-new planes would be an easy decision. The proposed switch, however, is not without controversy.

The Green Mountain Boys have flown the F-16 Falcon ever since the fighter replaced the venerable F-4 Phantom back in 1986. Although the Falcon entered production during the 1970s, it still ranks among the world’s best at accomplishing air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. Even still, tremendous aircraft technological and performance improvements have been made during the past 30 years. The F-35 incorporates these developments.

According to its manufacturer, the F-35 is a “stealthy (radar-evading), supersonic, multi-role fighter designed to meet United States’ requirement for an affordable next generation fighter.” Using the most modern military aircraft technologies and employing state-of-the-art electronics and weapons, the Lightning II is expected to be able to penetrate enemy defenses at a high rate of speed, drop its bombs and return home unscathed. Because of its agility and accuracy, the aircraft has very effective airstrike abilities.

Without a doubt, the high-tech F-35 is much more capable than the aging Falcon — out-performing the F-16 in all types of missions. This includes the air defense mission, which involves protecting the United States and our allies from aerial attack. Using its stealth, the F-35 will be able to intercept enemy aircraft and employ missiles before the opposing pilots can even detect it. This is a huge advantage in dogfights.

Critics of stationing F-35s in South Burlington mainly cite the increased noise levels of the new jets compared to F-16s. While it is difficult to be precise, the consensus is that the new fighter will be about 20 percent louder during most phases of flight.

Since nobody likes extra noise, the Guard will do its best to reduce its impacts. To help minimize jet noise, military aviators will continue to adhere to strict noise abatement procedures while flying around Burlington Airport and surrounding areas.

While the list is long, here are a few reasons why all Vermonters should want our pilots flying the F-35 — the best available aircraft around.

First, Vermont Air Guard pilots are our family members, friends and neighbors. It’s only natural that we would want them better protected should they fly into harm’s way. We owe it to them to ensure the highest probability of their safe return from war. As an added bonus, besides being more survivable in combat, improved technology means the F-35 should be safer to fly during peacetime operations.

Second, because the F-35 is superior to the F-16 in the air-to-surface role, it will better protect American troops fighting overseas. Delivering accurate bombs on target will save American lives as well as reduce accidental civilian casualties.

Additionally, because of the Lightning II’s stealth, less electronic warfare and escort fighter support will be needed to assist the F-35 in its missions — reducing the overall number of aircrews at risk.

Increased pilot survivability and better support of our soldiers should be enough to convince F-35 doubters. But if not, perhaps economic repercussions from failing to upgrade airplanes will.

No matter what, eventually the F-16 will be retired. When that day comes — without a replacement aircraft — the Air Guard unit at the Burlington International Airport could end up on the base realignment and closure list. If that happens, the long-term economic ramifications to both Chittenden County and Vermont will be quite unpleasant.

Since the base employs almost 1,000 personnel, the loss of their good-paying and high-tech jobs will have a severely negative impact on the local economy — as well as the state’s tax revenue. With an uncertain economic future, Vermont cannot afford to lose so many important jobs.

The Air Force expects to decide whether to base F-35s at the Burlington Airport late next year, with the proposed arrival of the new planes no earlier than 2018.

We owe it to our troops and pilots to provide them with the world’s best equipment. The better equipped they are, the greater their chance of returning home safely. The multi-role F-35 Lightning II significantly skews the odds in their favor.

Please support bringing F-35s to Vermont. A little extra noise is a minor detraction compared to the benefits our country’s military will receive.


Michael Benevento is a former Air Force fighter jet weapon systems officer. Mike and his wife Kristine reside in Williston with their two sons, Matthew and Calvin. Please send comments to [email protected]


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Letters to the Editor (5/6/10)

May 6, 2010


Buying insurance won’t lower health care costs

I don’t know who Rob Ezerman (“Guest column: To answer your questions …,” April 29) is and how qualified he is to reply to the questions Mike Benevento posed in his column (“Right to the Point,” April 22), but the answers don’t make any sense. Having car insurance and health insurance are two different things.

“Forcing” health insurance isn’t going to make any difference in the overall health of the community, as he stated. Communicable diseases aren’t going to disappear, heart disease isn’t going to disappear and influenza will still makes its rounds during flu season, all because going to the doctor is still going to be optional. Having the flu shot will still be optional. The public won’t be any more protected than it is now.

The only way the general public is going to be any better off is for the health industry to lower its costs. Health care would be more accessible. Forcing health insurance is only going to insure health care costs will rise. It won’t do a thing for the overall health of the population as a whole.

Kimberly Townsend, Williston


Another point on health care

I appreciate Rob Ezerman’s guest column (“To answer your questions,” April 29) responding to Mike Benevento’s questions regarding the new health care legislation (“Right to the Point,” April 22).

I would like to add the following information, which became available just after the original column was published: the number of Americans who will be required to purchase health insurance or be penalized is estimated to be about 4 million, which is a rather small percentage. The legislation provides a “loophole,” which allows you to be exempt from penalty if the cost of available insurance is over 8 percent of your taxable income.

For reference, Vermont’s Catamount plan provides assistance for a family of four with up to about $65,000 annual income; the federal plan will provide assistance for the same family up to $88,000 annual. The cost of Catamount unassisted for this family is about $13,000 per year, so currently in Vermont, if this family buys the plan, it will cost them about 20 percent of their annual income! The federal plan provides more assistance and recognizes the immense burden of insurance. This family would not be required to pay a penalty unless they were earning over $162,000 per year. Realistically speaking, a family earning that much would probably have no problems buying insurance; thus the penalty is almost a moot point.

The problem is still making insurance affordable for the folks earning, say, $70,000 to $100,000 per year, and hopefully the increase in pool size will help, although more needs to be done to bring down the cost of insurance.

Stewart Cohen, Williston


Government financing

To understand government financing it is necessary to understand that they don’t play by the same rules as you do. It is good clean fun and helpful for education for the state to run a gambling operation. It is a criminal activity for private citizens to engage in the same business. If you are a private financial institution and you wish to make money providing student loans, you are now a criminal according to new federal laws. Bernie Madoff was sent to prison for running a trust where he invested people’s money. The trouble was like Social Security he didn’t invest any money, he just rolled cash he took from new investors to pay old investors. Madoff was doing exactly what Social Security has been doing for the last 60 years. The Fed does not buy swanky houses or boats from the 12 percent of my income that is confiscated as Social Security tax (6 percent payroll tax plus 6 percent paid by my employer); it is rolled into general spending and vote buying.

The Vermont Legislature says they have balanced the budget. They borrowed $75 million of this from the Feds for unemployment compensation and look to have another $100 million deficit over next year. The trouble is my employer and I will be responsible for paying off the debt caused by the failed Ponzi scheme known as “unemployment insurance.”

Bernie is behind bars, I’m not getting a raise this year and worry about remaining employed. Politicians in Montpelier are betting a shrinking economy and new taxes will reverse the red ink spill. Oh yeah, Washington hopes that imposing their financial morality over the entire financial sector will really perk things up.

Shelley Palmer, Williston

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Guest Column (5/6/10)

Oil disaster should accelerate switch to cleaner energy

May 6, 2010

By Sen. Bernie Sanders

The BP oil-spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is a devastating reminder of the perils of relying on offshore drilling, and on fossil fuels in general.

Our entire nation’s thoughts are with the families of the 11 oil rig workers who lost their lives, and the many thousands of other workers whose livelihoods have been disrupted. Further, all of us remain deeply concerned about the incalculable environmental damage that has been caused that threatens the well-being of hundreds of species of fish and wildlife, millions of acres of critical wetlands and an important source of food for America and the world.

While official estimates are that 5,000 barrels of oil per day are continuously leaking into the gulf, some experts have put that figure much higher. What that means is that this BP oil rig disaster could eclipse the Exxon-Valdez oil spill within weeks or even days as the largest oil spill in our nation’s history.

While we must, of course, hold BP accountable for this horrendous spill, and make certain that taxpayers will not pay a dime for the cleanup costs and damages associated with this disaster, this tragedy must teach us an important lesson. What we must learn is that with any risky technology, whether it is offshore oil drilling or nuclear power, it is not good enough to be 99 percent safe. Just one event can have calamitous and irreversible impact.

This crisis in the gulf comes at a time when our country has been considering opening new areas to offshore oil drilling. If there is a silver lining, it is that Congress must put an end to that policy. No more new offshore drilling. Not now! Not ever!

Offshore drilling simply does not achieve the goals that its advocates claim, and it is just not worth the risk. If we are serious about wanting to break our dependence on foreign oil and move to energy independence; if we want to lower the cost of energy; if we want to combat climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions; if we want to create millions of new jobs — then more offshore drilling is not the way to go.

The simple truth is that we cannot drill our way to energy independence or lower gas prices. The United States uses roughly 25 percent of the world’s oil, 7.5 billion barrels per year, but we have only 2 percent to 3 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. Offshore drilling today provides roughly 10 percent of the oil we use in the United States. While we are all familiar with such political rhetoric, supported by the enormously profitable oil industry, as “drill here, drill now, pay less,” it’s just not accurate. The non-partisan Energy Information Administration has stated that opening new areas for offshore drilling would not save consumers a single penny per gallon until 2020, and would only save about 3 cents per gallon in 2030.

The alternative to continuing to risk catastrophe from offshore drilling is a bold and aggressive move to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Instead of saving a few pennies on the gallon by 2030 through more drilling, we can save far more with stronger fuel economy standards. Just by raising our fuel efficiency standards to 35.5 miles per gallon for cars and trucks, as President Obama is doing, we will save consumers a dollar per gallon of gas in 2030, and save so much oil that we will no longer need to import any from Saudi Arabia. We know we can do this because new cars sold in China today average more than 36 miles per gallon, and General Motors already sells nearly as many cars in China as in the United States.

If, as a nation, we are prepared to take bold action in energy efficiency, public transportation, advanced vehicle technologies, solar, wind, biomass and geothermal, we can transform our energy system, clean up our environment and create millions of new jobs in the process. This direction, and not more offshore drilling, is where we have got to go.


Bernie Sanders represents Vermont in the U.S. Senate.


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Virus fells town Web site (5/6/10)

May 6, 2010

By Greg Duggan

Observer staff

A computer virus infected Williston’s Web site last week, incapacitating the page until Monday afternoon.

A hacker installed the virus on the town’s Web server early Thursday morning, said Town Manager Rick McGuire. Town employees who have the Web site, www.town.williston.vt.us, as their homepage discovered the virus, McGuire said.

The program was a scanner virus that told visitors their computers had a virus and then began to scan their computers, which could create further problems.

McGuire serves as the Web master for the site, but he was out of town on a training trip. Kim Peine, who handles IT at Dorothy Alling Memorial Library, came in and located the virus on the town computer system, McGuire said. An outside company helps Williston with tech issues, but the person who works with the town was also on vacation, McGuire said. That person returned on Monday and was able to fully resolve the problem.

That left the site offline from Thursday through Monday afternoon. Visiting the Web address showed a Web page with a note saying, “This site is down for maintenance. Please check back again soon.”

McGuire did not expect to track down the hacker. He was also unaware of any other municipalities in the area having similar problems.

The town uses Joomla as its content management system. McGuire wants to upgrade or update the software, which he said could prevent future problems with viruses.

McGuire said it may be possible that the virus infected the computers of anyone who visited the town of Williston Web site. He recommended that anyone who fears having an infected computer use virus removal software or contact a tech person for help.

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Campaign to stop underage drinking targets parents (5/6/10)

May 6, 2010

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Parents of teens are taking center stage in a statewide campaign against underage drinking, launched last month.

“Studies have shown that parents have the biggest influence on their kids’ decision on whether to use alcohol or not,” said Kate Wheeler, interim program coordinator for Connecting Youth, or CY. “It’s kind of empowering parents.”

The Vermont Department of Health has partnered with CY, along with nearly 30 other community coalitions, to help parents learn how and when to talk to teens about drinking.

CY, a local organization that works to create a safe environment for young people, is coordinating the efforts in the Chittenden South Supervisory Union.

The group’s goal is to raise awareness about the breadth of the problem, and educate parents about how to deal with it.

“We’re helping parents learn how to prevent underage drinking,” said Barbara Cimaglio, deputy commissioner for state alcohol and drug abuse programs. “We want to encourage parents to get information from the Web site that’s been developed, parentupvt.org, and use that as a tool to talk to their children about the issues of underage drinking.”

According to a 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a statewide survey conducted every two years, 50 percent of Champlain Valley Union High School seniors said they had an alcoholic beverage in the past 30 days. Survey results showed that 34 percent said they binge drank, or consumed five or more drinks, in the past 30 days.

“We want to give parents some instruction, saying, ‘OK, this is an issue, and this is how you can deal with it,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said parent education and empowerment will help the group’s long-term goal, which is to reduce underage drinking.

The Web site includes tips on how parents can prevent their kids from drinking, how to recognize warning signs of drinking, and what they can do if they know their teens are drinking. It also outlines several steps parents can take, including setting clear rules, limiting access to alcohol, and not hosting underage parties.

Cimaglio said the state has received “very positive feedback so far” from everyone involved.

This is the second stage of the campaign; the first focused on parents of middle school children.

CY will also sponsor a mock trial at CVU on May 6, illustrating the possible effects of drunk driving. The trial follows a mock car crash that took place in the fall, which simulated a local student causing a crash while driving under the influence of alcohol.

A local judge and medical examiner have volunteered to help out with the performances, set for 8:15 a.m. and 10 a.m. in the CVU auditorium.

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Walking against ovarian cancer (5/6/10)

Chisholm’s fund-raiser will continue through May

By Marianne Apfelbaum

Observer staff

Deb Chisholm met Suzi Zetkus in eighth grade. The girls became best friends, and their relationship has endured for 45 years. They’ve weathered all the ups and downs of their teenage and young adult years, supporting each other along the way. But the most recent obstacle facing the now middle-aged Zetkus has become literally the challenge of her life. She has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.


    Observer photo by Marianne Apfelbaum
The second annual 5K Walk for Ovarian Cancer was held last Saturday in Williston. The event was organized by Williston resident Deb Chisholm (far left), who was joined by (from left) her husband Andrew Beecher and friends Darlene Worth and Kitty Martin in an effort to raise funds and awareness about ovarian cancer research. The group walked in honor of Chisholm’s friend Suzi Zetkus, who has the disease.


    Observer photo by Marianne Apfelbaum
Chisholm calls her friend to tell her the walk is about to start.

Chisholm, who lives in Williston with her husband Andrew Becher, said her friend was diagnosed two-and-a-half years ago. So for the second year in a row, Chisholm has chosen to support her friend not just personally, but also publicly — with a 5-kilometer fund-raising walk in Williston. The walk was held May 1 to coincide with the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Revlon Run/Walk For Women in New York City, where Zetkus lives.

According to the EIF Web site, the event was created in 1993 by cancer activist Lilly Tartikoff, Revlon Chairman Ronald Perelman and EIF. It has since grown into one of the nation’s largest 5K fund-raising events for women challenged with breast and ovarian cancer.

“Ovarian cancer doesn’t get as much attention or funding for research as other types of cancer,” Chisholm said.

She hopes the walk will not only raise money, but also awareness about the disease.

A small group of walkers joined Chisholm on Saturday morning for the walk from Williston Central School. The group followed the bike path as it looped through Old Stage, Mountain View and North Williston roads and circled back to the school.

Before they set out, Chisholm, sporting a bright teal Ovarian National Cancer Alliance T-shirt, pulled out her cell phone to call Zetkus and let her know she and the group were about to set out and were thinking of her.

Chisholm hopes to raise at least $500, to be used specifically for ovarian cancer research. She will continue raising funds throughout May, and all money raised will be funneled through EIF to the nonprofit Ovarian National Cancer Alliance.

The ONCA Web site says the alliance is the foremost advocate for women with ovarian cancer in the United States. The organization advocates at a national level for increases in research funding for the development of an early detection test, improved health care practices and life-saving treatments.

“Suzi has been the ultimate volunteer and giver to others all her life. To have the opportunity to give back to her doing this in her honor means a lot,” Chisholm said.

To make a tax-deductible donation to Chisholm’s fund-raiser, call her at 878-0462.



• Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths among American women.

• The lifetime risk of developing invasive ovarian cancer is 1 in 71.

• Ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose because symptoms are often subtle and easily confused with other conditions.

• The majority of women who develop ovarian cancer have symptoms including bloating, pelvic and abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency).

• When the cancer is detected before it has spread from the ovaries, 90 percent of women will survive for more than five years. Only 19 percent of women in the United States are diagnosed at this early stage.

• Factors that increase risk include increasing age, personal or family history of ovarian, breast or colon cancer, and never having been pregnant or given birth to a child.


Source: www.ovariancancer.org


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Sewer shuffle leads to business expansion (5/6/10)

E.J.’s Kid’s Klub and Green Mountain Coffee plan to grow

May 6, 2010

By Greg Duggan

Observer staff

The property owner of a Green Mountain Coffee Roasters warehouse has cleared a major hurdle in allowing the company to expand in Williston.

Bob Miller of Miller Realty Group owns a 22,500-square-foot building on Marshall Avenue. Waterbury-based Green Mountain Coffee leases the majority of the space for warehouse, distribution and service operations, and wants to expand into the remaining 7,500 square feet. E.J.’s Kids Klub, a daycare that occupies the 7,500-square-foot portion of the building, was willing to relocate. But to do so, the daycare needed to obtain excess sewer capacity from the town.

Miller appeared with Laurel Morin, the owner of E.J.’s, before the Selectboard on Monday night to request more than 1,000 gallons from the town’s excess sewer capacity for the daycare’s new site. Town bylaws allow the Selectboard to grant sewer capacity from the so-called Specific Development reserve fund to businesses. To sweeten the deal, Miller offered to give the town approximately 1,000 unused gallons that he holds. Ordinances do not allow Miller to transfer his sewer capacity directly to Morin’s business.

Miller said he wanted to accommodate Green Mountain Coffee’s desires to expand rather than risk having the company leave Williston. Though he said the coffee roaster had not threatened to leave town, he added, “If we can’t satisfy their needs, they’re going to go where they can be satisfied.”

Sandy Yusen, director of public relations for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, said the company has plans to continue expanding in Williston, Waterbury and other locations in the country, and prefers to grow in existing facilities when possible.

“We’re continually thinking ahead to make sure we have the right facilities to support our staff and growth,” Yusen said.

Green Mountain Coffee expects to use the additional space for offices, Yusen said.

More than just accommodating Green Mountain Coffee, Miller also wanted to help Morin find a new space for her daycare. He offered to let her lease space in another of his properties, but Morin found a building to purchase at 45 Ave. D. With the sewer allocation, the new property will allow her to expand from a capacity of 112 to 140 children.

After some debate over the proper procedures for doling out sewer capacity under the Specific Development category, the Selectboard approved the allocation and opened the doors for the business expansions.

Selectboard member Chris Roy noted that the approval should keep jobs in Williston and benefit working families in need of daycare.

Morin agreed, and on Tuesday said, “Everyone is working together to keep everybody whole and successful.”

Morin hopes to close on the property at Avenue D within 30 days, then renovate and open her new facility by Sept. 1.

“(Monday) night was a big hurdle for us,” she said. “We just have a few bits and pieces now. The purchase looks quite promising.”

The sewer capacity transfers leave the town with approximately 4,500 gallons of excess capacity for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.


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Green and clean

    Observer photo by Marianne Apfelbaum
Annelies McVoy of Williston is amused by strange things she found by the side of the road while helping with the annual Green Up Day on Saturday in Williston. McVoy and her family — even dog Stella — fanned out over U.S. 2 to help with the clean up efforts. According to Town Planner Jessica Andreoletti, volunteers collected more than a ton of trash and about 50 tires. The most unusual item was a fiberglass pool slide, she said.

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Community rallies around child with cancer (5/6/10)

May 6, 2010

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

For the past six weeks, Williston resident Jamie Vaughan has spent nearly every night, and most of her waking hours, at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.


    Courtesy photo
Maria Luise Vaughan, 2, wears a paper hat she made. Maria was diagnosed with cancer in March, but seems to be responding well to treatment.

Her daughter, Maria Luise Vaughan, 2, is going through her second round of chemotherapy.

“She did really good this round,” Vaughan said, sitting on the end of Maria’s hospital bed Monday morning.

Maria, dressed in a flowery pink t-shirt, was focused on a Tinkerbell DVD.

“The first round she was really sick,” she said. “She didn’t handle it as well as this round, but she’s been pretty tired.”

Maria was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer in March. Doctors at Fletcher Allen were able to remove the tumor from her brain, but the cancer had already spread to her spine.

Vaughan and her husband Kevin chose a type of chemotherapy called Head Start, which began with an intensive week of daily treatment. The initial treatment is followed by three three-week sessions where she gets chemotherapy on Mondays. She stays in the hospital for the full three weeks so doctors can monitor her vitals.

Maria seems to be responding well to the treatment, Vaughan said. A recent scan shows that the largest tumor in Maria’s spine, which the doctors described as the size of two chickpeas, has disappeared.

“We framed this, and put it in our house,” Vaughan said of the scan.

Vaughan is hoping to take Maria home this weekend for a break before the third round of chemo begins.

“She’s a tough little kid and I’ve got my fingers crossed and we’re praying that she gets through this,” said Maria’s grandfather, Paul Greco. “It’s been pretty tough on her and pretty tough on the rest of the family.”

Vaughan said she and her husband, as well as Maria’s brother, Dominic Greco, 9, are doing better than they were, though things are still hard on them.

Greco said the response from the community, however, has been “heartwarming.”

Several of Vaughan’s relatives and friends have held fund-raisers, and someone Vaughan has never met arranged a softball tournament and dance, set for this weekend. A Facebook page for Maria, called Helping Maria Luise, already has more than 1,600 fans.

“You never expect to be in this situation, and then when you are, you find out you’re not alone,” Greco said.

Vaughan said the community support has been “crazy.”

While Vaughan said Maria has good medical coverage and many of her expenses are covered, some things are not. Vaughan quit her job in a medical billing office several months ago, and the family relies on her husband’s income. She said the money raised has helped with medical bills, as well as family expenses, such as rent, bills and food.

“You obviously never think that something like this is going to happen to you,” Vaughan said. “It just makes you want to be a better person knowing that people who don’t even know you are giving you money and emailing you and sending your their stories.”

Vaughan said the family is working on setting up a fund for other families going through the same thing, and all the money left over when the family finishes their ordeal will go to that.

The fund is “for people who, if this happens to them, can’t pay their rent or can’t make their car payment,” Vaughan said. “This is our little way of giving it back.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/pages/Helping-Maria-Luise/386773776096?ref=ts.

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