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Editorial: Thumbs up to club expansion, an award-winner, five top athletes and a better birthing center

THUMBS UP: On Wednesday, in the back parking lot of the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster, Executive Director Bonnae Meshulam and a number of children along with invited guests participated in the ceremonial groundbreaking for a gymnasium that will represent much more than just a place to shoot some hoops. Meshulam said she is optimistic the gym could be ready in September. “It will be great for when we kick off our after-school program and then we can accept so many more kids,” she told us, noting that they will be able to more than triple their capacity and be able to host some 600 kids per day once the gym is ready. The Westminster club is the only Boys & Girls Club in Maryland without a gym, according to Erin Bishop, marketing director for the club, who said the new gym will provide all-new opportunities. “In the new gym we are going to have a sound system, we will be able to have dances, we will be able to do movie nights,” she told us. “We really feel like this gym will be a game-changer.” For a number of Carroll’s 6- to 18-year-olds — and their parents — we’re certain it will be.

THUMBS UP: Three years ago, Frank Illiano started the Illiano Project to help combat the scourge of addiction. Last Friday in Mount Airy, he was honored with the William Donald Schaefer award by Comptroller Peter Franchot. The Illiano Project offers support for those in recovery, including meetings, Narcan training and helping them find a job, no questions asked. Illiano, who owns New York J&P Pizza and The Mt. Airy Inn, said he had known Schaefer and was shocked to learn he won the award. Franchot said the Illiano Project was in the spirit of Schaefer, who had a “do it now” attitude and believed in lending a helping hand. Friends and family gave Illiano a standing ovation when he received the award. “Three years ago, we lost three people in one weekend,” Illiano said, referring to overdoses. “I’ve been here 30 years. It’s a nice town. So nobody in Mount Airy thought we had this problem. Unfortunately, we have this problem all over, not just Mount Airy. It’s almost everywhere.” Indeed. Thankfully, people like Illiano are fighting it.

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THUMBS UP: The Times unveiled its high school Player of the Year picks for the winter season over the past week. Century senior Jalen Stanton repeated as Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year after winning four gold medals at the Class 2A state meet. Liberty senior Tristan Kent earned his second straight Boys Basketball Player of the Year honors by averaging a double-double and helping the Lions net their second straight Carroll County Athletic League title (shared with Century). The Times’ other three winners were first-timers. South Carroll’s Grace Fipps, a senior, received Girls Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. Fipps excelled in the 55 dash, pole vault, and 4x200 relay. Ryan Athey, a freshman at South Carroll, is the Wrestler of the Year after going 42-2 and winning county and regional championships. And Francis Scott Key senior Karla Stonesifer earned Girls Basketball Player of the Year for averaging a double-double and helping the Eagles win their first county title in 32 years.

THUMBS UP: One of the major features of the renovation of the Family Birthing Center at Carroll Hospital are five neonatal couplet care rooms that allow babies requiring a higher level of care — perhaps from being born prematurely or with respiratory complications or other illnesses — to better bond with their mothers. Carroll is the first hospital in the state to offer the couplet care for sick or preterm babies requiring more specialized care. Previously, babies had been taken away to a special neonatal nursery. Hospital staff hopes keeping them close to their families will improve the experience and even shorten the length of hospital stay for some babies.

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