Many runners dream of competing in the Boston Marathon, but for Lt. Col. Jason Hearn, the race is also an opportunity to give back to an organization that has supported the country’s military personnel for more than 75 years.
Hearn, who is stationed at Carlisle Barracks, is one of four runners on a fundraising team representing the United Service Organization in the 26.2-mile marathon on Monday. The group’s goal is to raise $13,000 each for a total of $52,000.
Hearn said this is the first year the USO has received four starting positions at the race, which will raise awareness as well as funds for the organization.
“I was truly honored to be selected by the USO to run in this, their inaugural running of the Boston Marathon. They asked if I was interested, and of course I said yes,” Hearn said. “It’s an excellent opportunity to help the USO, who has always helped service members around the globe, and of course it gave me the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon, which is a dream for many runners.”
Hearn, who has served in the U.S. Army for 24 years, was recommended for the fourth and final spot on the team by a friend. He will join three other U.S. Army representatives from Boston, Hawaii and Washington on the team.
“I was recruited by a friend of mine who knew I was in training for the Washington, D.C., marathon,” said Hearn, who has completed more than 40 full and half marathons, as well as numerous other races and triathlons, since he started running competitively in 2008.
But when Hearn takes his place among some 35,000 runners at the starting line in Boston, it will be a dream come true.
“The Boston Marathon is the granddaddy of marathons in America,” he said.
Hearn said he began running while stationed in Hawaii when a friend encouraged him to participate in a “little trail run” through locations used for the filming of such movies as “Jurassic Park.”
He said he later learned that the “little trail run” was actually the XTERRA World Championship Trail Half Marathon, and — after his friend broke his ankle shortly before the start of the race — he recalled feeling “intimidated, outclassed, undertrained, inexperienced and frankly scared.”
But the experience opened the door to the sport of running, and Hearn said he was hooked.
Today, he and his wife, Kelly Steele, who also serves in the U.S. Army, are avid runners. In fact, he said they celebrated her 40th birthday in 2014 by running in the Las Vegas Marathon, where they finished “slightly above the middle of the pack” in a field of 33,000 runners.
Their three children, a 13-year-old daughter and 11- and 8-year-old sons, also enjoy running as well as soccer.
His goal at the Boston Marathon is four hours, an average time for amateur runners, he said.
He finished his last marathon, in Las Vegas, in 3 hours 55 minutes.
“Like running is to me, the USO is the sanctuary for the U.S. military ... always there, always warm, always welcoming,” he said. “So for me to have the ability to combine these two sanctuaries of mine and be able to give back to the USO and help shed some light on a wonderful organization to folks that may not be already aware of the great things they do for our military, is truly, truly an absolute honor.”
Hearn is more than halfway to his goal of $13,000.
The moment of discovery for future scientists may be dipping their feet in the ooze.
Xuwen (Amy) Lou remembers the Science Night in January when the older teens guided the younger students through a dozen learning stations of experiments in biology, chemistry and physics.
A senior at the Harrisburg Academy, she held the hands of each second-grader as they took off their shoes and socks and stepped into the semisolid puddle of corn starch mixed with water.
“They could lift up their feet to see how it works,” Lou said. “They just looked so amazed. It was something they had never experienced before.”
The reaction she saw on each face was worth the long hours of preparation that went into the annual Science Night event. For Lou, an exchange student from China, it was mission accomplished.
“When I started doing it, I was thinking we could provide opportunities for kids to see that science can be fun,” Lou said. “I wanted to provide something that I didn’t have to the kids.”
Growing up in Hangzhou, a city southwest of Shanghai, she was taught only to memorize the facts and figures of science in preparation for tests. Her school in China offered no opportunity to learn science through hands-on lab experiments.
“I remember when I was in middle school I was told by my science teacher that girls are not supposed to be good at science,” Lou said. “He didn’t say it in a mean way.” Instead the teacher claimed the male brain was more logical and had greater reasoning ability.
“Hearing someone I respect say that made me upset,” Lou said. “I was really upset because I wanted to be good at science and I liked all the subjects.”
Her perspective changed after she arrived in the U.S. and was enrolled at the Harrisburg Academy in September 2015. She liked how students in Pennsylvania schools learned science through experimentation.
In June 2016, Lou returned to China to participate in a monthlong internship program at a hospital that treated patients with autism and hyperactivity. The staff used auditory integration training where autistic children listened to music that was modified to help their brains develop language and social skills.
“I was really suspicious of the treatment because it simply didn’t make sense to me,” Lou said. “I asked the doctor if I could try it. I listened to the music and got really bad headaches for three days.”
Though a painful lesson, the experience sparked a curiosity within her to look beyond the moment and find solutions through science. The Harrisburg Academy opened other doors for Lou.
In September 2016, middle school science teacher Lakshmi Shrikantia came across an article online about a school that offered a Science Night for younger students. She shared that idea with Lou and together they set in motion planning for a Harrisburg Academy event in January 2017. The first event was so successful the school held another Science Night this January.
Aside from showing kids that science is fun, Lou wanted to encourage girls to pursue their dreams. “It’s not about science itself,” she said. “It’s about little girls realizing that they do not have to give in to that stereotype … that they have the ability to do whatever they want.”
Lou proved it to herself by participating in two internships last summer. In June 2017, she returned to China to take a course on genetic engineering at the Cold Spring Harbor Lab in Suzhou. A month later, she was off to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, for a six-week program on the exploration of biological research and public health.
The work suited her and she has ambitions to become a researcher. “When I am in the lab, I can experience a 100 percent focus without any distractions,” Lou said. “I enjoy staying focused. It gives me satisfaction.”
Upon graduating from Harrisburg Academy, Lou plans to attend college in the U.S. to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology with an emphasis in genetics. Her goal is to return to China and organize Science Night-type events there to influence future generations. Meanwhile, she plans to initiate Science Night events wherever her career takes her.
Lou would like to see Science Night continue at the Harrisburg Academy after she leaves in June. An effort is already underway to continue the event by way of a student committee representing grades 9-12. Some middle school students are also interested.
“I want to thank all the volunteers, teachers, students and administrators that helped to make this possible,” Lou said. “It means a lot to me. I feel honored to have people like that I can work with.”
Aside from science, Lou is a budding artist with a love for drawing. She became interested in art after she enrolled at the Harrisburg Academy and uses drawing on the weekends as a release valve from her studies.
“It’s my way of relaxing,” she said. “It would be nice for me to use my ability to draw to illustrate science procedures. We all need the pictures in the textbooks to help us know what is going on. That kind of job requires an understanding of science which I think would be interesting for me to try.”
Since September 2015, Lou has been a co-editor and the head of design for The Insider, the student newspaper. Her talent shows up in the layout of each edition.
Like many of her generation in China, Lou is an only child in a country that had for many years a one-child policy for families. She is getting used to the idea of living with a host family of parents and four children in the Harrisburg area.
“I get along with my host siblings pretty well,” Lou said. “I’m really happy that I get to know them and spend time together, but I also get to know the part where we annoy each other with weird habits and pet peeves.”
A Saturday afternoon ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the culmination of almost five years of planning and fundraising for downtown Carlisle’s first pocket park.
Located adjacent to the Cumberland County Historical Society’s building on North Pitt Street, Vale-Himes Park includes gardens, walkways and benches.
“Already, Vale-Himes Park is being enjoyed and utilized by our community,” said Jason Illari, executive director of the Cumberland County Historical Society.
Arrows built into the walkways point to prominent county landmarks such as the mansion at King’s Gap and the Two-Mile house, and list the distance to each place to situate the visitor among the county’s historic places, Illari said. A display panel near the park’s entrance explains the historical significance of the places featured on the arrows.
“The landmark lines ... serve to remind us that we are the Cumberland County Historical Society and that we must orient ourselves literally and figuratively in countywide directions,” he said.
The historical society’s building was also incorporated into the park’s design, which Illari said offers a new and modern feel while fitting in with the surrounding spaces and buildings.
“It’s harmonious with the society’s building on Pitt Street,” he said.
Bill Rush gave an endowment to the historical society for the park, which is named after two historic family lines of which he is a descendent. Sarah E. Vale was the granddaughter of Dr. Charles F. Himes, professor of physics at Dickinson College from 1865-1896. Himes served for a time as president of the Hamilton Library Association and Cumberland County Historical Society.
Ruby Vale, a legal scholar is best known for his contributions to Pennsylvania law through the publication of Vale’s Pennsylvania Digest.
“I’m glad to do this in honor of all the Vales and Dr. Himes,” Rush said, before cutting a ribbon to officially open the park.
Illari said the historical society is excited about the park because it offers not only a green space downtown, but also an outdoor exhibit, classroom and event space.
“It also serves as a prominent advertisement, or billboard if you will, of CCHS and was designed purposefully to intrigue casual passers-by to enter the society and engage with our mission,” Illari said.
The park’s land dates back to the earliest history of Carlisle, said David Smith, president of the historical society. It went through several owners in the early decades before it was purchased by James Hamilton Jr. around 1801.
A graduate of Dickinson College, member of the bar and supporter of public education, he built his home there and deeded the back end of the lot for the construction of a town library upon his death.
During the 19th century, a variety of structures occupied the space after the Hamilton home was demolished. The buildings changed over the years with different renovations, and the historical society was built in 1881.
Sometime around the turn of the century, a three-story building was built on the site. The building initially held commercial businesses and a lodge hall, but eventually commercial space was used only on the first floor with apartments on the floors above.
In 1993, the historical society bought the building in order to get the parking lot that came with it. By 2005, the building was closed and remained empty until plans were made for a pocket park.
Ideas to use the space for an education space or for archival storage were floated, but none of those ever proved to be viable, Smith said.
The borough’s Historic and Architectural Review Board approved a proposal to remove the deteriorating building in 2013, acknowledging that no historical elements remained.
That’s when the plans for a pocket park started to take shape.
Vale-Himes Park will be available to rent for private events with gates on either side that can be closed.
“You can rent your own outside park for an evening,” he said.
Saturday’s event was the first of two opening celebrations for the historical society this month. From 5-7 p.m. on April 26, the society will hold a ribbon cutting for its updated and refreshed permanent galleries in the museum. The society raised more than $10,000 to help fund the project.
HARRISBURG — Changes are coming to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, due in large part to the pending departure of one of the most powerful elected officials in Harrisburg.
The decision by House Republican Leader Dave Reed to not seek re-election after a brief flirtation with running for Congress sets the stage for a fight over leadership later this year.
“The day that a leader announces that they’re not going to be the leader anymore, a certain amount of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins,” said rank-and-file Rep. Jesse Topper, R-Bedford.
Reed narrowly won the top job four years ago. Not among the House Republicans’ more conservative members, Reed presided over the caucus as it continued a yearslong rightward drift. Now the question is: who comes next?
“Might we get a little more conservative?” said Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin. “Dave’s certainly been a moderating force. Yes, it’s likely with Dave’s departing that the majority may get more conservative.”
The chamber’s presiding officer, Speaker Mike Turzai, generally has aligned with the conservatives, and he is expected to seek another term in the top job. Neither Reed nor Turzai would comment for this story.
“I can’t say they’ve agreed 100 percent on everything, but my wife doesn’t agree with me on 100 percent of everything,” Topper said.
Rep. Tina Pickett, R-Bradford, who chairs the House Insurance Committee, said her caucus’ electoral success — Republicans hold a 121-82 edge over the Democrats — makes some division inevitable.
“We have a pretty heavy majority right now, and what that does, seemingly, to me, is it gives a little more energy to factions that want to push their own agenda within the caucus,” Pickett said, making it a challenge for Reed to keep people together.
Internal divisions among House Republicans did not generally spill over onto the floor, said Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster.
“We would hear about turmoil over there, but it was pretty clear, I believe, to their members that once a majority of their members decided what direction they wanted to go — and sometimes Dave Reed was trying to go in one direction and Mike Turzai was trying to lead in another — but once those tallies were taken in their own caucus, majority ruled,” Sturla said.
Even though leadership battles don’t happen until after the November election, the jockeying has begun.
“I am certainly interested” in Reed’s position, said Majority Whip Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster. “But ultimately, that’s up to the caucus.”
Another high-ranking leader, Appropriations Chairman Stan Saylor, R-York, said he has “made no moves toward that job” and has told interested parties he is determined to focus on the state budget that’s due June 30. The voting is in secret, but Saylor said Reed beat him by a single vote four years ago.
Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, currently head of the House Republicans’ policy development group, also deflected questions, preferring to talk about the spring agenda and budget season ahead.
“My own elevation is not my priority right now,” Benninghoff said.
Reed is hardly the only high-ranking member to be departing Harrisburg at the end of the year. The House Democrats’ second-ranking member, Minority Whip Mike Hanna, is also retiring, along with several long-serving Republican committee chairmen and the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Joe Markosek.
There are also an unusual number of chairmanships opening in the House, as presiding Republicans are retiring after heading up the Judiciary, Transportation, Liquor, Children and Youth, Consumer Affairs, Environmental Resources and Energy and Licensure committees.
In the Senate, where Republicans also hold a comfortable majority, retirements are opening up at the head of the Judiciary, Education, Law and Justice and Local Government committees.