- Published on Monday, 28 September 2015 19:32
- Written by Suzette Cook
- Hits: 1604
Photos by SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today
Kris Hersom and her son Sam pray with runners and volunteers at the Fourth Annual Sam Strong Run 2 End Duchenne 5K held in Newberry on Sept. 19 at Newberry Elementary School.
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NEWBERRY – At 4:30 a.m. on Sept. 19, Newberry father Matt Hersom made a post on his Facebook page.
“God please be with us and make the 4th Annual Sam Strong Run to END Duchenne be a success and lots of fun. Months of work, all for the next 6 hours. We love you Sam!!!!”
By 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 19, 275 runners had registered for the 5K that started and ended at Newberry Elementary School. The Newberry High School drum line and cheer team were rowdy and loud, Emcee Josh Taylor was getting ready to sing the National Anthem, Destiny Community Church Pastor Rocky McKinley was getting ready to bless the event and offer a prayer.
Dan Monteau of Gainesville, who won the first Sam Strong 5K in 2012, was stretching out. “I compete on a national level,” he said. “I just want to be a part of this. When you know you’ve been blessed yourself, it’s fun to come out and show support.”
Getting her playlist queued up was Amy Hogue of Gainesville. “I started off with older ones,” she said about her running music choices that included “Geronimo” by Australian indie pop band Sheppard. Hogue attends church with the Hersom family and she was there training for a 10K and decided to “Do this to support them.”
Sam Hersom is 14 years old and is an eighth-grader at Oak View Middle School in Newberry. He loves superheroes and that’s why the Hulk, Batman, Thor and Superman were all at the race. Sam is the hero behind Sam Strong at the yearly event. He battles Duchenne muscular dystrophy and he and his family raise awareness and money through the Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy organization the pledges to lead “the fight to end Duchenne.”
“On your mark, get set,” and pop the start was in motion.
The drummers created the beat. The kids and strollers were the last to cross the start line.
The antics began as the last runner left the school driveway. Before you knew it, Thor was rocking out with his hair flying. The volunteers were at their stations. Allyson Trimble, a student at the University of Florida, said she volunteered because “Dr. (Matt) Hersom is one of my advisers.”
Twenty volunteer high school students were cheering on runners at the corner of SW 255th Street and SW 15th Ave. According to Sam's mother Kris Hersom, 62 Buchholz students said they showed up because their teacher Mr. Gallagher asked them to.
Twenty six NHS, two Oak View Middle, one Gainesville High and six UF students were helping out waving signs and waving runners onward.
As the athletes approached the finish line, Taylor was escorting them in with words of encouragement.
“Come on, bring it in,” he said over the mic. “Don’t let that girl beat you! First dog to cross the finish line,” Taylor announced as a cocker spaniel arrived.
Harlan Borton, 68, is Sam’s grandpa. He said he has participated in every race for Sam. “I walked every foot of that mile for Sam,” he said.
Couple DJ Pabst and Bri Zayas were sprinting elbow to elbow to the finish line. “We just always sprint across the finish line,” said Zayas. They admit that they are both very competitive, and this was their second year racing. “He did,” Zayas said about who came in first. “I won last year too,” Pabst reminded her.
Leighann Skurupey, 31, said she was surprised that doctors cleared her to run a week after she had ablation surgery on her heart in June. She has run in every Sam Strong race and wasn’t going to miss this one. “I got first in my age group,” she said.
And then, the final contestant rounded the corner and headed up the parking lot. NES student Elijah Essex suddenly had an entourage surrounding him. More than a dozen escorts, in fact, hanging around and towering over the 38-inch tall kindergartner.
And he ran and he ran and the crowd gathered at the finish line. He jumped over it and everyone erupted.
Then Essex, 5, received his medal from Sam. “Well, I’ve got to tell you,” Elijah who was born with Metaphyseal Dysplasia of the Schmidt Type and had surgery on his legs in December 2014 said. “It’s hard to run, but it’s no matter. Only just have fun.”
In the end, $13,000 was raised for further research for a cure for the disease that only affects 1 in every 3,500 males. Top runners according to the results posted at start2finishracemanagement.com were Jeff Armstrong for males with a time of 19:44 minutes and Alex Stanojev clocked in as the first woman at 20:88 minutes.
Sam said his favorite part of the event was judging the costume contest and dancing with the superheroes.
Drew Hill, aka Thor, won for a second year in a row. “It is hard to beat his energy and excitement,” said Kris Hersom. The next day, on Sept. 20 at 11:20 a.m., Sam’s mother posted a photo of superhero costumes in the washer ready to get washed. “Even superheroes have to do laundry!” she wrote.
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- Published on Monday, 28 September 2015 19:26
- Written by Suzette Cook
- Hits: 1927
Photo courtesy TRAVIS MARQUES/Special to Alachua County Today
Left to right, Jhwum Ki-ak, Joe Cruz and Travis Marques go on the hunt for springs tucked away in Florida. They founded a Facebook page called “Spring Hunters” where spring enthusiasts could share information about and post images taken at springs throughout Florida.
By TRAVIS MARQUES
Special to Alachua County Today
FLORIDA – One day, not long ago, two springs enthusiasts started to notice each other’s photographs of Florida’s springs on different Facebook photography and nature pages. One would “like” the other’s photograph, and the other would “comment” on the other’s post.
When the two saw that they both had the “Springs Spirit,” that’s where it all began.
Not long after, the two met up to go and explore. Myself, I was accompanied by my significant other, Angel Hall, and Baby Jackson. Joe Cruz was traveling solo. Our first meeting was to go and explore or “hunt” a beautiful, little spring seep that I knew of in the Ocala National Forest known as Mormon Branch. Joe, Angel, Baby Jackson, and myself, trudged the clear shallow run as far upstream as we could go before the creek became impassable. Once the sun started to set, we parted ways.
Our next meeting was in Enterprise at the Enterprise Heritage Center. Rick Kilby was giving a presentation on “Florida’s Fountains of Youth.”
I knew Rick, like myself, had a love for Old Florida. I thought that since we had been communicating via social media, this would be a good opportunity for us all to meet and while we were at it, to go and see an “old Florida spring.” This time, it was Joe’s turn to show us the way. After Rick’s presentation, Rick, Phil Eschbach, Angel, and myself drove to Green Springs.
We parked and made the trek to the hidden, tucked away Enterprise Spring. Somewhere along the journey, Phil coined the term “Spring Hunters”. So we were born.
Soon after, Joe started this page. At first, we weren’t sure if people would “get it”. It didn’t take long before we found out that we shared a common outlook and love for the springs that so many others felt and could relate to.
Early on, Jhwum Ki-ak blessed us with the holy grail of interactive springs maps. I remember the first time that I saw it! He shared it to my Florida’s Hidden Gems page.
I almost wanted to keep the wonderful tool for myself in fear that it may fall into the wrong hands. However, it has since become my favorite springs exploration tool, right along with my GPS, machete, snorkel and mask, snake boots, and of course, my camera.
It is an automatic reference that I like to provide when people ask about springs locations. The map is updated by Jhwum periodically as new springs or seeps are “discovered”.
As the page started to grow, we decided to take on another administrator. John Starrett was sharing some amazing underwater images of lesser known springs up in the north western part of the state.
He displayed the same spirit of exploration of forgotten Florida that we could relate to. Being from the panhandle, he became our link to the far end of our state. He was the perfect candidate.
The page continues to grow... We want to thank you all for all of your support, contributions, and questions.
I want to give a special thanks to Rick Kilby for designing, donating, and allowing us to use the logo that we have.
- Published on Sunday, 13 September 2015 19:03
- Written by Suzette Cook
- Hits: 2352
Photo by SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today
Seven cows recently escaped and started to cross CR 235 in Alachua, above. ACSO Rural Services Deputies Brandon Jones, left, and Perry Koon, right, take care of livestock emergencies in Alachua County.
ALACHUA COUNTY – The three horses hanging out at the Alachua County Rural Services facility in LaCrosse are afraid of the cow on the other side of the pasture. The black and white heifer has escaped five times now, so Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Rural Services Deputies Brandon Jones and Perry Koon finally picked her up for her own good. Now, since the horses have no experience with cows, they are a little freaked out by their new surroundings and fellow livestock cohabitant.
Two of the horses are there because they got loose and were found wandering around High Springs. The third horse nicknamed “Little Bit” was malnourished and scooped up so the ACSO could save her life.
On a 30-acre parcel in LaCrosse known as the Rural Services Animal Impound Lot, Jones and Perry have built a refuge for livestock ranging from pot bellied pigs to goats to horses. The deputies are on call for any livestock emergencies in Alachua County and equipped to handle just about any situation.
“If you’ve got livestock, they’re going to get out from time to time,” Deputy Koon said. “Even with the best of fences. Our ultimate goal is just to get animals back where they belong. Or in a case when they are being mistreated, get them out of that situation, and find them a permanent home where someone is actually going to take care of them.”
For 8 years, Jones and Koon have been serving local property owners, farmers and Alachua County residents who come across livestock emergencies.
They are dressed and equipped for the job. Koon in his Stetson hat and Jones in his Resistol, both are wearing Wranglers, boots and they have 4-wheel drive trucks with winches, four wheelers and a feed supply.
“That’s what I use to try to catch them with,” Jones said about the food supply. They also have lariat ropes, whips, portable panels to set up to make temporary pens, lead ropes and halters for guiding captured livestock.
Koon, who said he has been with the ACSO for 14 years, grew up in Williston where he took vocational agriculture classes in high school and participated in youth fairs.
Jones said he grew up in between Newberry and Alachua and helped out on his grandfather’s farm.
“We’ve had the opportunity to do area specific training,” Koon said about how he got prepared to be a rural services deputy. But he said he learned more about livestock by “flat out getting out and working with animals. It’s animal behavior that we really specialize in. When we are out by the side of the road, we have no idea what that animal is used to, you don’t know what experiences it’s had leading up to now, it’s on the side of the road.”
Jones and Koon often get called out to check on suspected abuse and they get dispatched when livestock escape and put themselves and drivers or residents in danger.
“It’s just two of us. It’s a big county,” Koon said about why Alachua County residents are encouraged to call in livestock emergencies by dialing (352)-955-1818. “Without people calling in, there might be something tucked away somewhere and we had no idea.”
“Yesterday it was a cow,” Koon said. “We had 12 goats three weeks ago.
“We get a lot of calls to come out and evaluate animals and large birds. We got out with a couple of emus a month or so ago and I didn’t know they made that thumping noise with their neck,” Koon said. “I made a thump on my neck and one of them shook its head and started walking toward me.”
When the deputies arrive on a scene they said they have little time to access animal behavior.
“So we’ve got to pretty quickly read the animal,” said Koon. “Is it in flight mode? Is it calm? Then we do everything we can to keep it calm or get it to that calm point so that we can get it,” Koon said.
Locating the owners
The deputies use software to track registered livestock from a data base, which they said helps them narrow down the list of possible owner of loose livestock. Owners of livestock can call the ACSO and register their livestock by giving their name, address, herd size and contact information.
Jones advises to “call the sheriff’s office give them an address the kind of livestock you have and how many. What they do with that information, he added, is they enter it into our CAD system and mapping system.
With a click on a layer, Jones said he can see icons and when he clicks on the icons they reveal the owners’ names and contact numbers.
When livestock get loose, the deputies can call the information up on a screen that maps out where the registered herds are. If a set of escaped livestock matches the description of the registered herd, they can’t get the animals back home quicker.
“We have the whole county,” Koon said. “We’ve picked goats up in Gainesville, pot bellied pigs. People don’t know what they are getting into with them. Caught an emu near the race track.”
Once an animal is impounded the deputies feed and care for it until the owners are found or until the animal is adopted through an “adoption auction.”
“That’s what a lot of our animals wind up becoming,” Koon said. “Pets for someone.”
The deputies said their main goal is to unite lost livestock with owners and rescue livestock that needs help.
“We try hard not to files charges,” Koon said. “Technically, it’s a county ordinance violation or in some cases if they’re out in the roadway, it’s a State Statute violation for them being at large. We try to work with animal and property owners, because we know there’s nothing that’s 100 percent.” Ill-repair on damaged fences or fallen trees from storms play a key role in livestock escapes, Koon added.
“It’s when it becomes 5 and 6 times, that’s no longer occasionally. Then we have the authority to do what we have to do to try to resolve the problem for the safety of the general public,” Koon said.
The fees that owners of impounded livestock face or a flat impound fee of $50, mileage hauled, a $5 disposition fee, and a $5 per day per head for feed and care.
Koon said if the owners of loose livestock aren’t found right away “We impound them and after about three days, we’ll run an ad that we’re going to auction it and serves as notice to the owner. If they fail to come down, we hold a public auction.”
Livestock on the loose
If you come across loose livestock, the deputies have these recommendations on what to do next.
“Contact us at 352-955-1818 directly to dispatch. If you can sit with your flashers on, get in a safe spot and try to help warn other people, that is important. “
Interact with them only “if you’re familiar with them,” otherwise Koon says to be careful since livestock can be unpredictable.
“Maintain a distance so the animal doesn’t get scared by the vehicle. They may run off before we get there. An animal in the roadway constitutes a serious safety concern to the public. If I’m the first one dispatched, I am going to run lights and sirens to get there as quickly and safely as possible.”
Koon said they have called on private citizens to help out in an emergency and are thankful that local ranchers pitch in when called on.
“When there’s no one else, we can call some private citizens when livestock is in the road,” said Koon.
Two years ago, a trailer load of bulls ran off the freeway,” Jones recalled and remembered thinking “This is bigger than we are.” So they called upon private cowboys from the community for help.”
Jones said they ended up roping all but one of the 32 bulls and they appreciated the help from locals. The last bull was hostile and aggressive attacking officers and was put down on the scene.
“A lot of our contacts become close relationships,” Koon said about how they came to enlist the help of local farmers and livestock handlers. “It’s just part of what we do as a liaison between the farming and ranching community and law enforcement. We try to meet in the middle.”
The Rural Services unit started with $9,000 in seed money, Koon said.
“That built us the barn and the cow pens and let us do a little cross fencing. After the sheriff saw what we had, it didn’t take much for her approve putting electricity and a well in.”
Sheriff Sadie Darnell says the unit plays a crucial role for the citizens of Alachua County.
“The Rural Services Unit plays an important part between the agriculture and law enforcement community. By working together with farmers and ranchers we can address unique needs that many times go unnoticed by deputies working zone assignments. This partnership has been a win-win for everyone involved in agriculture in Alachua County.”
Future plans for the deputies include collaborating with the Florida Agriculture Crime Intelligence Unit [FACIU] “We’re working on getting more involvement from the north counties,” Koon said. “They do the same job in their communities but some work with citrus groves and palmetto berries trespassing.”
In the meantime, the deputies continue to make safety and uniting livestock with responsible owners a priority.
“Everybody’s afraid that we euthanize animals if we don’t find a home for them,” Koon said. “For all of the animals we’ve had, and here lately we’ve been pretty busy with animals, that has never happened.
Since the three horses in the pasture still won’t go drink from their water trough, Jones and Koon grabbed a tub and filled it up with water out of view of that cow. The horses came over to drink immediately.
Jones said they had come up with names of the two horses from High Springs which they received custody of from the former owners.
“They now belong to us, Jones said. “We call them Rocky and Bullwinkle because of the way they act.
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- Published on Wednesday, 09 September 2015 13:08
- Written by Suzette Cook
- Hits: 2140
Photo by SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today
Two semis were involved in an accident on US Hwy 441 in Alachua on Sept.9. Traffic was narrowed down to one lane heading east towards Gainesville during the morning commute.Add a comment Add a comment