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Our View: Thumbs up for youth giving back, ‘The Walking Fool,’ Opening Day; thumbs down for pandemic’s effect on music education | COMMENTARY

THUMBS UP: It’s nice to see people giving back to the community, and those who have done so during the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year have been commended in these pages. Kira Ridinger, all of 10 years old, decided she’d like to do something in time for Easter holiday at Lorien Taneytown, just as she has done for every holiday since last March. With the help of some family members, she delivered Easter baskets and other items to the folks who call Lorien their home. With younger sister Kloe’s help, Kira filled 61 Easter baskets and stuffed 120 Easter eggs to be hidden around the nursing home for residents to find. Kira started by making cards and bought balloons, puzzle books, and other knick-knacks from Dollar Tree to be distributed to the residents. “Making people smile makes me so happy,” Kira told us. “People should be happy so when COVID hit and we couldn’t bring our dogs, I thought, ‘Why not bring other things to them so they could be happy? ... It makes me feel so warm inside that they can smile on the holidays.”

THUMBS UP: Elizabeth Crutchley told us she’d have bittersweet feelings this weekend as she fulfills a promise she made last year to her niece during a battle with breast cancer. Lindsey Cohen didn’t get to see her aunt finish her walking routine along Md. 32, which she started last June, because she lost her cancer fight in February. But Crutchley, an Eldersburg resident, surpassed 500 miles during her weekly walks and was set to wrap things up Saturday morning at the border of Baltimore and Carroll counties. Crutchley said she planned to be joined by fellow cancer survivors and some going through their fight right now, on her final journey. Drivers honk and wave at Crutchley as she walks along the road, and she’s always visible with her decorative clothing and signage. Crutchley, who took to calling herself “The Walking Fool,” said she didn’t mind poking fun at herself for a good cause. The community’s reaction is what took her aback, she said.

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THUMBS UP: Baseball is back, and it was nice to see some Carroll County fans make their pilgrimage to Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first Orioles home game of the season. Like friends and co-workers Guy Smith and Matt Pisula, who scored tickets from their boss at Maggie’s restaurant and were able to enjoy the Opening Day festivities as they have been for several years. The Orioles allowed fans to fill the ballpark at 25% capacity, and spectators ― back for the first time since September of 2019 ― were met with several pandemic restrictions. But prior to Baltimore’s 7-3 loss to Boston, the atmosphere was reminiscent of past Opening Days. “I love this thing,” Smith said, referring to Opening Day, as he sat alongside Pisula at a high-top table outside of Pickles Pub, across the street from Oriole Park, three hours ahead of the 3:05 p.m. scheduled first pitch. “It’s the best day of the year.”

THUMBS DOWN: The pandemic has affected many students and teachers throughout Carroll County Public Schools, and we’re concerned along with this county’s music educators who are “fearful” their students will not continue in a post-COVID-19 learning environment. It’s tough enough for music students to play and practice their instruments while at home with siblings and parents, North Carroll Middle School teacher Stan Jones told us. The struggles to learn an instrument through a computer screen, or practicing playing notes while wearing a mask, has made for a difficult teaching and learning experience. “I am very fearful of having students not continue at some point,” Jones said. “And I don’t blame them.” Karl Stewart, the assistant supervisor of fine arts for CCPS, said some of the changes in music classes include the special masks worn when playing and singing and bell coverings on wind instruments. The most dramatic change was music class schedules on the middle school level, he said. Jones said he’s hopeful his classes will be more normal now that students can attend in person four days a week.

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