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Editorial: Thumbs up to significant sentences, Special athletes and valuable assistants

THUMBS UP: We don’t often weigh in on verdicts or sentencing, accepting the premise that our legal system must — and generally does — get it right. Still, it can be frustrating to see some of the light sentences convicted criminals receive. Thus, we were heartened to see three convicted of heinous crimes against children sent away for significant prison time this week. Ryan Allen Will, 32, of Westminster was sentenced to 60 years in prison after he was convicted of several charges related to sex abuse of a child. Judge Barry Hughes imposed the sentence during a sentencing hearing in the Circuit Court for Carroll County on Tuesday. According to testimony during trial, the victim was 3 years old when Will began abusing her. It continued until she was 5. In another case, Westminster couple Paul and Melissa Trapani had already been sentenced to 30 years each for child neglect — Judge Thomas Stansfield handed down five years for each of the six children in the case on Aug. 1 — but each went before three-judge panels to request a reduction in the sentences assigned to them. After reviewing the cases — including the fact that the two youngest children were locked in a room with wooden bars nailed to the top half of the doorway and that two kids, 5 and 7, were living in squalor and non-verbal when taken from the home — the judges chose to uphold the original sentences, returning their written decision Thursday.

THUMBS UP: One of the most uplifting sporting events of the year occurred Wednesday morning as more than 200 athletes competed at Westminster High School in the Spring Games for Special Olympics of Carroll County. The athletes went up against each other in running, standing long jump, softball throw and other track and field events. “All of our students have ability, in our classrooms, in our schools and our communities. And our student-athletes here today at Special Olympics: we came to see you in competition today and celebrate you,” said Superintendent of Carroll County Public Schools Steve Lockard. Added Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5: “Run hard, throw far, but most importantly, have fun.” They did. Mitchell Smolinski, a ninth-grader at Westminster High School, led the Pledge of Allegiance for the gathered crowd, called the Special Olympics “beautiful.” Laurie Brewer, the area director for the Carroll County program of Special Olympics Maryland who has been with the organization for 10 years, told us: “I’ve been in sports my whole life. There are no athletes like these guys. They’re competitive, they work hard, they want to win. But if they don’t, they’re happy because their friend won. It’s completely different.” Yes it is. And kudos to Special Olympics Carroll County and all the volunteers for making it happen.

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THUMBS UP: The naming by Carroll Hospital of Kevin Walsh as its Advanced Practice Provider of the Year was a nice honor for the Carroll County native, and it also brought some attention to the role of physician assistant, which is continuing to grow in importance as health care evolves in the United States. Walsh, who taught high school science before returning to school to earn his physician assistant certificate and a master’s in physician assistant studies, came to Carroll Hospital in 2014. Walsh explained that physician assistants are licensed healthcare professionals who diagnose and treat illnesses, injuries and disease. “They can prescribe medications for patients and perform many common procedures,” he told us, noting that most PA programs are approximately 26 months and require the same prerequisite courses as medical schools and are licensed like physicians after passing a challenging national certification exam. “Here at Carroll Hospital, I play an important role on a healthcare team to ensure safe, effective and appropriate care of patients on a daily basis,” he told us, adding that there are more than 131,000 certified PAs practicing medicine across the nation in every specialty and clinical setting. “As a resident of the community, I enjoy being able to care for my family, friends and neighbors. I treat each patient encounter as an opportunity to connect with a fellow member of the community and provide them with a positive ER experience.”

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