‘Cereal heroes’

cereal heroes

Niko Condodemetraky, Kyle Wilk and Lex Condodemetraky shovel a driveway on Edgewater Avenue in Laconia, one of more than a dozen driveways they cleared yesterday to raise funds for food donations. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Enterprising boys shovel to help the hungry


LACONIA — A week before Christmas, when they heard that the Salvation Army food pantry was running low on cereal, friends Kyle Wilk and Landen Brothers, and Landen’s mother, Elizabeth Brothers, went to WalMart and bought as much as they could to make sure that other children in their community wouldn’t go hungry during the holidays. But what about afterward?
Chewing on that problem led to the creation of the “Cereal Heroes,” a group of young boys who spent their snow day yesterday shoveling walks and driveways in Laconia, and raising hundreds of dollars in the process.
The Cereal Heroes includes Wilk and Brothers, who are joined by brothers Lex and Niko Condodemetraky. Guided by Lex and Niko’s mother, Andrea Condodemetraky, who also announced their effort on Facebook, they set out at 9 a.m. yesterday morning, shovels in hand, and began going door to door in the Pleasant Street area, asking residents if they would like help shoveling their driveway in exchange for a donation to support a program at Pleasant Street School that sends needy children home with food to eat when they’re not at school.
“It gives kids food on weekends that don’t have much,” said Wilk.
Their pitch was a hit. By mid-afternoon, when they returned to the Condodemetraky home for a doughnut break, Wilk and the Condodemetraky boys – Brothers was unable to join them yesterday – had cleared more than a dozen driveways and had raised more than $200. That money will be added to donations that family and friends already provided, which the boys had used to buy several shopping carts full of cereal, breakfast bars and oatmeal.
When asked how it felt to know that they were doing something to help, all three boys answered in unison: “Very good!”
According to Andrea, all of the people they encountered on Wednesday were friendly and supportive of their effort. Lex noted that one woman said that she hired someone to plow her driveway, but donated to the effort just the same.
“I was really excited and happy about that. We didn’t even have to work for it, and we got the donation. We will be using that for a good cause,” said Lex.
The morning passed quickly for the busy boys, who were grateful that the temperatures weren’t too cold and that the snow was light and easy to move. They spent the whole time debating football, said Andrea. Lex, 10, is a Denver Broncos fan while his brother Niko, 9, supports the Miami Dolphins.
Wilk, 10, a New York Giants fan, said he didn’t tire even after several hours of shoveling.
“When you thought about the cause it’s going toward, it makes it easy,” Wilk said.
The friends, all students at Pleasant Street School, planned to spend any future snow days in the same manner. Andrea created a Facebook page for the group, titled “The Cereal Heroes-Fighting Hunger One Box at a Time.” She is hoping that their success might result in other young people to find ways to better their community.
To request the help of the Cereal Heroes, contact them via Facebook. Or, Andrea said, keep an eye out for a group of cheerful boys walking down the street and talking football.
“If you see these kids walking down the street with their red shovels, feel free to grab them,” said Andrea. “Our hope is to inspire more of their friends to make the world a better place, starting in their own backyard.”


Kyle Wilk, Niko Condodemetraky, Landen Brothers and Lex Condodemetraky filled shopping cart after shopping cart with cereal at Mr. G’s Liquidation Center in Tilton, which gave the boys a discounted rate. (Courtesy photo)

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With donations from family and friends, the Cereal Heroes were able to purchase many shopping carts full of cereal. After their efforts on Wednesday, they will buy at least 200 more. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

Big Island brouhaha

ZBA denies rehearing on summer camp proposal


LACONIA — The Zoning Board of Adjustment refused Tuesday to revisit its decision against Scott Everett’s proposal to build a girls camp and conference center on Paugus Bay's Big Island, prompting him to promise a lawsuit.

Everett, whose NH-Big Island Co. owns the 2.2-acre island, appealed the board’s Nov. 20 denial of a special exception to allow this use in a residential area.

Everett called the board's actions “unbelievable.”

“It's embarrassing for the town,” he said.

Everett believes information included in his request for rehearing shows clearly that zoning law is on his side.  

“Quite honestly, my consulting team, who have done this for 40 years, have never ever seen a board as biased and uninformed in their lives,” Everett said.

He now plans to fight City Hall in court.

“Now, we have to sue,” he said. “That's the only legal course of action.

“I don't think the whims of four clearly biased folks should dictate to the town of Laconia.”

In the rehearing request, Everett's attorneys said the board did not live up to its own rules in turning down the proposal and contended that Suzanne Perley, who was acting as chairman of the panel, had prejudged the matter.


Board denies rehearing

On Tuesday night, the board denied the request at the end of its meeting without taking public testimony. They said they acted appropriately when considering a project that faced major opposition from neighbors.

The rehearing request stated that Perley showed she had prejudged the case because she read for six minutes from a prepared list of reasons to deny the application. It asked that she recuse herself from further deliberations.

It also stated that the board erred in concluding that criteria for a special exception under zoning codes were not met.

The request contended that the denial of the application was an “unconstitutional taking” in which the board failed to pay for a perceived public benefit of preserving the island in its present state.

It also included statements from city officials rejecting notions that a girls camp and conference center on the island would be a strain on police, fire and public works.


Perley’s defense

For her part, Perley said she always takes notes and does her homework on issues that come before the board.

“I tried to do my best to address all the issues,” she said. “Ninety-nine percent of the testimony was against this application. The neighborhood is against a commercial use on this island.”

The board found there was no reason for her to recuse herself.

Board Chairman Steven Bogert denied the contention that the board participated in an unconstitutional taking.

“They still have all the residential uses that are available to them under the zoning code,” he said.

Bogert said the board acted in accordance with criteria for a special exception for the project with all the evidence that was available at the time. The statements from city police, fire and public works officials did not come until after the project was denied.


Denial reasons

In its Nov. 20 denial, board members cited concerns over safety, boat traffic, wetlands impacts, light pollution, among other things. An overflow audience cheered when the proposal was turned down.

Everett, who lives in Dallas and runs a nationwide mortgage company, says he merely wants to give back to the community where he grew up. He has a 10-year-old daughter and wants girls, including the underprivileged, to learn about the outdoors and have a chance to enjoy the lake.

Tim James, Scott Everett’s brother, has said his brother spent $2 million on the proposal so far, including piping utilities underground to the island.

The island, now home to a single residence, is about 400 yards east of the marina at South Down Shores and some 1,500 feet north of Paugus Park Road.

A planner, an acoustics consultant and an attorney, all part of the team hired by Everett, have testified that any effects associated with the camp and conference center, which would be used only part of the year, would be less than if several homes are built there, as residential zoning currently permits.

They point to noise tests showing that the sounds from 40 summer campers would not exceed existing background levels and that there would be no amplified sounds. Conference activities would be indoors.


Lucky to be alive: Young man becomes mental health advocate

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Tyler Paquet is now trying to help others after struggling with depression and anxiety. (Courtesy photo)


LACONIA — Tyler Paquet is lucky to be alive.
The lifelong Laconia resident, who struggles with depression and anxiety, jumped out of a third-floor window at his family's home on Dolloff Street at 6:16 p.m. Dec. 6. He landed on a car and suffered severe back injuries.
Now, he wants to shed light on mental illness and fight the stigma surrounding a condition affecting many people. He also wants to get out the word that help is available for people thinking about harming themselves.
“Not enough people talk about the dangers of depression, and that is one of the biggest problems,” said Paquet, 25. “And there are a lot of misconceptions, like thinking depressed people are sad and cry a lot. I actually smiled a lot.”

Suicide prevention
Elaine de Mello, of the Connect Suicide Prevention Project, said shame and embarrassment can stop people from receiving the treatment they need.
“It's really no different than any other condition,” she said. “When you do receive treatment, you can get well.”
That treatment can include talk therapy, medication and peer support.
She also said many of those who attempt suicide are ambivalent. The attempt is often impulsive. There are anecdotal stories of people who immediately regret the action.
A study from the British Journal of Psychiatry found that 90 percent of those who survive a nearly lethal suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide.
“Many go on to lead very productive lives and are successful,” she said.

State statistics
New Hampshire has a greater prevalence of suicide than many other states.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 17.2 people per 100,000 population, or 244 people, died of suicide in the state in 2016, the last year for which statistics are available. This compares to a national rate of 13.7.
Access to firearms can be a factor.
The presence of a firearm in the home increases the likelihood of suicide in that home by five times, compared to a home without a firearm, regardless of whether the firearm is properly stored, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Males are more likely to die by suicide than females.

Risk factors
Substance abuse and mental illness tend to be factors in those attempting suicide.
In Paquet's case, he was prescribed medication for anxiety and depression, but had stopped taking his anti-depressant and believes he exceeded his prescribed dosage of anti-anxiety medicine.
He doesn't remember events surrounding his jump from the window. He has had suicidal thoughts before, but doesn’t remember having such thoughts that day.
Doctors told him later he had a high level of alcohol in his system, but he doesn’t remember drinking.
He stresses the importance of taking medication as prescribed.
“People who stop taking medication without doctors giving them the OK, they are putting themselves at risk,” Paquet said.
He also encourages friends and family to intervene if they think someone is struggling.
Paquet said he became adept at hiding his feelings, but also noticed that society tends to look the other way when someone is experiencing mental health issues.
“People are shy about asking questions,” he said. “Some people tiptoe around it, others are too aggressive, some joke about it in a way that's not really appropriate. But if people see it, they should speak up and not be shy.”

Laconia boy
Paquet was born and raised in Laconia, and has spent his whole life here with the exception of about five months working in Washington.
He worked in a number of jobs including retail clothing, banking and food service.
Paquet said he was bullied in high school. He has had thoughts of harming himself, and has received in-patient treatment in the past.
“I did have events in my past that never really left my mind,” he said.

Slow recovery
While Paquet makes a slow recovery from severe back fractures, he sees some good coming out of a bad situation.
“I've never felt so much support in my entire life,” he said. “The love from friends and family has felt incredible.
“I realized that I am sick. I do have this problem. It isn't my fault. All I can do is be active, take my medication, go to appointments and try to move past it, but it has definitely opened up my eyes quite a bit.
“I realize there is so much I can do with my life, so much potential. I accept what I have is real, it's manageable and I've got to work on it.”
He finds that it helps to stay active.
“If you don't like going to a gym, go for a walk, go for a hike,” he said.

Where to go for help
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Other local resources
The N.H. Community Behavioral Health Association is an organization composed of 10 community mental health centers throughout New Hampshire. The association serves as an advocate for a strong mental health system across the state. Call 225-6633.
Riverbend Community Mental Health provides specialized behavioral health services for children, adolescents, adults and their families. Call 228-1600.
NAMI N.H. is a grassroots organization of and for people of all ages, their families and friends who are affected by mental illness. Through NAMI N.H., you’ll meet other individuals and family members who have struggled with mental illness. Call 225-5359.

Warning signs
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell warning signs from “normal” behavior, especially in adolescents. Ask yourself, “Is the behavior I am seeing very different for this particular person?” Also, recognize that sometimes those who are depressed can appear angry, irritable or hostile in addition to withdrawn and quiet.
Take action if you see any of the following warning signs:
Talking about or threatening to hurt or kill oneself. Seeking firearms, drugs, or other lethal means for killing oneself. Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide.
Direct statements or less direct statements of suicidal intent: (Examples: “I’m just going to end it all” or “Everything would be easier if I wasn’t around.”)
Feeling hopeless. Feeling rage or uncontrollable anger or seeking revenge. Feeling trapped - like there's no way out.
Dramatic mood changes. Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life. Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities. Increasing alcohol or drug use. Withdrawing from friends, family, and society. Feeling anxious or agitated. Being unable to sleep, or sleeping all the time.
For a more complete list of warning signs and more information on suicide prevention, visit www.theconnectprogram.org.

Best practices
If you see warning signs, or are otherwise worried, connect with your loved one and connect them to help.
Ask directly about their suicidal feelings. Talking about suicide is the first step to preventing suicide. Let them know you care.
Keep them away from anything that may cause harm such as guns, pills, ropes, knives, vehicles. Stay with them (eyes on at all times) and get a professional involved. Offer a message of hope. Let them know you will assist them in getting help.

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