Letters to the Editor

May 18, 2014

Letters to the editor on boys ranch, special education students, Wichita Children’s Home, Dole, ‘new’ Democrats, Scouting, Trees for Life

As a resident at Judge Riddel Boys Ranch, I would like Sedgwick County commissioners to think about the ranch from a personal perspective. It is personal to me in the sense that the boys ranch dramatically changed my life. It opened my eyes to many things that I have not had the audacity to look at before.

The boys ranch changed my life

As a resident at Judge Riddel Boys Ranch, I would like Sedgwick County commissioners to think about the ranch from a personal perspective. It is personal to me in the sense that the boys ranch dramatically changed my life. It opened my eyes to many things that I have not had the audacity to look at before.

The attitude I have toward two essential things has changed: my respect toward authority and the meaning of going to school and getting a great education so I can actually look forward to becoming somebody in life. I wouldn’t have this type of mentality if it weren’t for the people I have met at the boys ranch.

Why take this away from so many?

Knowing that the boys ranch has changed my life makes me realize it could also change many more lives – with the help of this facility, its staff, counselors and especially the greatest teachers a student could have. Yes, the ranch has funding problems, but maybe a fundraiser could help.

As a resident, I don’t have the power to cause county commissioners to reconsider the decision to close down this life-changing facility. But I hope my faith in God, and this letter, will change minds. Please think about the lives that could be changed over the next 53 years if the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch could remain open.



Work wasted?

Eight very special young adults graduated from Levy Special Education Center last week. These young people and their families have spent 21 years overcoming obstacles that you and I could never imagine or would attempt. On a daily basis, these families and their children battle medical, physical, emotional and social obstacles. The barriers in our own community, though they may be coming down slowly, are still there.

Now these families face the biggest obstacle in their lives. After spending as many as 21 years working with early interventionists, early childhood special educators, special education teachers and transition specialists, most of these students will go home and sit for years.

Four of the eight students who graduated have no funding for any kind of a day program. The professionals in their lives have spent years teaching them behavioral, communication, community and vocational skills to use as adults – and our time and our resources and the work of the parents will be wasted because of a lack of funding for the most vulnerable members of our community.

This saddens those of us who are special education teachers at Levy. I pray that God will open the hearts of those with the ability to assist these very special graduates.



A big ‘thank you’

The Legislature recently provided financial and administrative assistance to the Wichita Children’s Home by passing legislation to allow for a sales-tax exemption for the materials and equipment used during construction of our new facility.

We’re so proud – and so grateful – that our community has seen the need for a new facility and has generously helped us raise, through private funds, a significant amount of the $9 million needed to complete this construction. This legislation will provide us additional accounting flexibility by extending our tax-exempt status to our contractor for this single project.

The facility serves children who are in immediate danger from abuse or suffering from neglect. Our doors have been open since 1888, and today we help children and youths from more than 46 counties across Kansas. The need is greater than it has ever been.

As president of the board of trustees, and on behalf of the children and youths whom we serve, I would especially like to send a big “thank you” to Wichita lawmakers Rep. Tom Sawyer, Senate President Susan Wagle, and Sens. Les Donovan, Michael O’Donnell and Oletha Faust-Goudeau for their extraordinary persistence and dedication to the mission of the Wichita Children’s Home.



Dole genuine

I recently had the privilege of attending one of former Sen. Bob Dole’s stops on his tour of Kansas. Dole still possesses the wry sense of humor that was his trademark, and it was an honor to hear this legendary Kansan.

Dole, who was wounded by machine-gun fire in Italy during World War II, is among a dwindling number of veterans of the war, often referred to as the “Greatest Generation.” Dole is also among a dwindling number of traditional conservative Republican statesmen capable of reaching across party lines and accomplishing something positive in Congress without sacrificing the party’s core values.

That’s a stark contrast to the “Just say ‘no’” tea party and radical “Republicans” who have stymied Congress and offer little substantive as policy options.

It’s ironic that the tea party and social conservatives often malign traditional old-school conservatives such as Dole yet look to President Reagan as their inspiration. Reagan often reached across party lines and compromised. Were it not for their revisionist perspective of history, Reagan would fail their “conservative” test and be unelectable by them today.



Need both pedals

Our government is like a bicycle, and voters are like the rider. The bicycle and the rider are able to propel, slow down, or stop and change directions using both the left and right pedals and by pushing or pulling the left or right handlebar in a coordinated fashion to arrive safely at a designated destination.

This worked amazingly well for America until the assassination of the “old” Democratic Party’s President Kennedy.

Until then, elected officials coordinated and compromised, regardless of political party affiliation, in creating solutions for complex problems that would best serve the most citizens equitably, directly or indirectly.

But now “new” Democrats are stating things such as “for the middle class” or “pay their fair share.” They are really saying that our bicycle will function better with only a left pedal and handlebar. Wrong.



Get into Scouting

I was pleased to read that Boy Scout Troop 368 came to the rescue of TV journalist Ann Curry recently, when she broke her leg during a hike on Bear Mountain in New York’s Harriman State Park (May 13 WichiTalk).

The Scouts from Berkeley Heights, N.J., came across Curry sitting in pain. Though she encouraged them to move on, they could see she needed medical attention. They quickly fashioned a splint for her ankle and devised a stretcher from logs and a tarp. Then those boys, ages 14 to 16, carefully carried her down the mountain.

The Scout leader said they were simply using their training and were pleased to offer assistance. I would suggest to all parents that they get their boys into Scouting. They will be better men for it.



Seed still grows

Thanks for “Trees for Life will carry on founder’s international legacy” (May 10 Eagle). Trees for Life began inthe fall of 1984 when Balbir Mathur came to the Mayor’s Office and asked me to accompany him to what was then Wilbur Junior High School and speak to students about service to the community.

Since then, Trees for Life has planted millions of fruit trees to feed hungry people. But more than that, it has planted seeds of hope and possibility. A vision born of love for humanity has power beyond what we can understand. A small group of people committed to an idea can bring great change.

What began as a seed in Wichita grew beyond what we ever imagined. As hungry people were fed, so were we. What was abstract became real. What had seemed like an unsolvable problem became solvable.

Those students long ago definitely got it: We are all more connected than we know, and each of us can make a difference. It’s a seed that continues to grow in unimaginable ways.



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