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Editorial: Thumbs up to guest speaker, 30 great years, volunteer engineers, a silver anniversary

THUMBS UP: The sixth- and seventh-grade students of Oklahoma Road Middle School in Eldersburg were privileged to get an education from a guest speaker who was able to talk about her first-hand experiences during one of the darkest times in world history. Edith Cord, who gave an hourlong presentation Thursday, was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1928, fled with her family to Italy after the rise of Nazi Germany and later to southern France after fascist Italy allied with Adolf Hitler. Cord’s father and brother were arrested and sent to Auschwitz, from which they never returned — victims of the Holocaust, which stole the lives of millions. She survived for a while with a fake identity in a French school before being smuggled into Switzerland, where she worked as a nanny until the end of the war. Cord repeatedly pointed to the importance of remembering the lessons of the Holocaust. “It doesn’t start with death camps and machine guns. It starts with ideas,” she said. “I’ve dealt with this past and I would just as soon go do something else. But I think there’s such terrible lessons to be learned and I don’t want us to repeat the same mistakes.” Sixth-grader Zachary Dye told us he was moved by what he heard. “I couldn’t really believe anybody could go through that, to actually come out of this to tell stories so moving and so touching. It’s really just special.”

THUMBS UP: Jim Bullock was recognized during the opening ceremony of the Tournament of Champions at McDaniel College for founding the program 30 years ago. He and all the college students who volunteered at the event deserve a bit more recognition. The Tournament of Champions is open to students with orthopedic, visual and behavioral needs who attend public, private or home schools who do not qualify for Special Olympics. It is organized by students in McDaniel College’s adapted physical education class in conjunction with Carroll County Public Schools. Bullock came up with the idea when one of his adaptive physical education students didn’t qualify for Special Olympics. They got 17 students together that first year. This year, a record number of more than 180 turned out. Bullock said he never imagined how the event would grow and persist over the years. “I had tears in my eyes, because I started something and it’s still going,” he told us. Student intern Olivia Maenner, who started with the event as a freshman and is now a senior, said it’s easy to find volunteers because it’s so much fun. “The McDaniel students enjoy it as much as the (participating) students,” she told us.

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THUMBS UP: The Volunteers for Medical Engineering (VME), during a clinic at Change Inc., in Westminster, presented nine custom-built bicycles to kids and young adults on Saturday as part of its mission to crafts innovative assistive technology solutions and trains people with disabilities, of all ages in order to help them thrive at home, school, in the community and work settings. It was the group’s 10th clinic, the second to be held in Carroll County. The volunteer engineers modified the bikes to assist the riders depending upon their needs. Emily Speierman, attended the event, working with others to ensure the bikes were just right for the kids. A resident of Mount Airy, she is in her freshman year at Howard Community College and majoring in engineering. “It’s been awesome putting the bikes together,” Speierman told us. “But the best part of my month is watching the kids’ faces when they get their bikes.”

THUMBS UP: It’s not easy for restaurants to survive and the ones still in business after a few years are success stories. Memories Charcoal House certainly falls into that category. The Mount Airy restaurant and bar will celebrate 25 years in business today. A hybrid of a sports bar and a family restaurant, it’s tucked into the corner of the Mount Airy Shopping Center. Co-owners Andrea Stup and Jon Speiser began by working at the restaurant in the early 2000s and purchased it 10 years ago. Part of what Memories is known for is hosting benefits. Whether that means the annual fundraiser for the fire company or a benefit for a long-time customer and friend who lives with multiple sclerosis, Speiser said it’s part of their mission statement. “They say, take care of the community and they take care of you,” he said. The restaurant’s 25 culminates today with vendors visiting for promotions — including Mount Airy Mayor Pat Rockinberg, who is coming for a 3 p.m. ribbon-cutting to celebrate the anniversary.

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