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Lagueux has time of his life at Special Olympics Wold Winter Games

LACONIA — Speaking before a crowd of athletes and supporters a few weeks ago at the opening ceremonies of the New Hampshire Special Olympics games in Waterville Valley, Mark Lagueux spoke of the importance of taking the opportunities that life presents. Lagueux, a senior at Laconia High School, has good reason to say that: a few years ago, he took advantage of an opportunity to learn how to ski, and as a result wound up with a ticket to South Korea.
A relative latecomer to the sport, Lagueux made up for lost time by rapidly progressing. He soon was winning medals at New Hampshire Special Olympics events, putting himself in the running to be selected to represent his home state at the Special Olympics Winter World Games, held January 29 to February 5 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Lagueux, whose rocketing ascension in the sport earned him the nickname "The Legend" among his coaches and peers, said he was proud to have had the chance to represent his state and his country in the event – and that he had the time of his life during his trip.
Lagueux, a multi-sport athlete who played on the high school's integrated soccer and basketball teams this year, has developmental disabilities resulting from an automobile accident he was involved in when he was 18 months old. In PyeongChang, he proved that he deserved to ski with the elite of Special Olympians from around the world, placing just out of medal contention in the giant slalom, super G and freestyle events. "I did pretty good, I got some ribbons," he said.
He fell shy of his goal of bringing home some hardware – his starting position was less than ideal, as the course was icy and challenging after the first several skiers scraped away most of the snow. However, Lagueux still flashes his 120-watt smile when talking about his recent adventure.
The 18-hour flight was Lagueux's first international trip, his first time interacting with a foreign culture. "It was confusing – Korean people speak English and part Korean." Lagueux relished the chance to see what life is like on the other side of the world, though. He employed his much-rehearsed Korean phrases, figured out the currency exchange rate and learned how to eat with chopsticks.
Referring to the local food, he said, "Actually, it's pretty good," though he added, "They have rice for breakfast, that's kind of weird."
"Seoul is the best," said Lagueux, adding that if anyone has the chance to go to South Korea, "they should go and have a good time." He said he would love to make a return trip, if anyone is looking for a tour guide.
Robin O'Dougherty has been a ski coach for Special Olympics of New Hampshire for nearly 20 years. He first met Lagueux about a year ago, after hearing that he would be one of two athletes from New Hampshire to go to the games in PyeongChang.
Over that time period, O'Dougherty said he saw Lagueux grow "immensely," both as a skier and as a maturing young man. For example, Lagueux's speech at the opening day ceremonies came with only 30 minutes of notice to Lagueux, who was asked to extemporaneously address the crowd. For a younger Lagueux, being asked to speak, unprepared, in front of a large group would have been cause for anxiety. The more worldly Lagueux, though, seized the opportunity. "He probably gave one of the best speeches ever," said O'Dougherty. "It was all from his heart."
Lagueux's growth underlines the answer O'Dougherty gave when asked why the Special Olympics World Games are worth the effort and investment needed to put them on. "For the athletes, it's the ability to go, to show that you are good at what you do, you get a chance to represent your country." Meanwhile, he added, athletes like Lagueux get to see others like them, from all over the world, who excel despite disadvantages. "They're not the only one – it was a great bonding experience."
O'Dougherty said, "Mark, I felt, did everybody proud."

Last Updated on Monday, 25 March 2013 10:14

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Mite 1 Lakers are runners-up in championship tournament

The Lakes Region Youth Hockey Association Fay's Boat Yard Mite 1 Team started their quest to be the Squirt Tier 4 GSL champs on Friday at Everett Arena as the second seed. First up in the round-robin round was the Rochester Blackhawks Squirt team. Scorers for this game were Matthew Hale with two goals and one assist, Peyton Vachon with two goals and Logan Stroud with one goal. The Lakers were able to edge out the Blackhawks with a score of 5-4.
Saturday morning the Lakers' next opponent was the tough Henniker Squirt 1 team. Scorers in this game were Hale with three goals with one assisted by Logan Stroud, Peyton Vachon and Zachary Spicuzza with one goal apiece with assists from Breanna Ricker and Griffin Tondreau. The Lakers beat the Henniker team with a score of 5-2.
The Lakers' two wins put them in the semi-finals against the NH Avalanche. Hale scored three goals with two assisted from Kameron Young, Vachon scored two unassisted goals and Spicuzza scored one goal unassisted. Despite a last ditch effort from the Avalanche, the Lakers were headed to the championship game with a score of 6-4.
On Sunday the Mites played their final game of the season in the GSL Championship Squirt Tier 4 game against the undefeated Jr. Monarchs Mite Major team. The Monarchs were able to squeak a goal by Lakers goalie Patrick Goodwin six minutes into the game but the Mites fought back to tie up the game with an unassisted goal by Hale. Goodwin had 61 saves through four games in the championship weekend. The Monarchs netted another goal to lead the game with a score of 2-1 after the first period. The Monarchs added five goals in the second period. In the third period the Lakers worked to get the fire going with a quick goal from Hale and another goal a couple minutes later from Vachon, both goals unassisted. The Monarchs added a couple more goals in the third period and won the championship game with a final score of 9-3.
The Lakers ended their season as the runner-up in the GSL Tier 4 Squirt Division and 2nd place in the regular season. A huge thank-you to Merrill Fay and Fay's Boat Yard for their sponsorship and support this season and to the dedicated Mite 1 coaching staff of John Guerin, Craig Hale, Rich Ricker, Matt Tondreau and Joe Spicuzza.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 March 2013 12:08

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1,500 runners expected to participate in 26.4.26 Marathon

GILFORD — In an expression of solidarity with the victims of last year's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., local educators are organizing a relay marathon on April 14. The event, titled 26.4.26, will see as many as 1,500 participants come to the region for the event. Each of the 340 registered teams will run a mile for each of the victims of the Newtown shooting.
The run will begin and end at the gazebo on Belknap Mountain Road, with event headquarters at the nearby Gilford Elementary School. Participants will run along Morrill Street into Laconia, follow a route that visits each of Laconia's three elementary schools, and run back to Gilford Elementary via Gilford Avenue/Route 11A.
Silent auctions will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 13 at Patrick's Pub and Eatery, where participants will register, and all day at Gilford Elementary School.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 March 2013 12:03

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Diners & restaurant staff at Gunstock support adaptive ski program

GILFORD — Gunstock Mountain Resort has had an adaptive sports program for a decade, yet it's not a well-known part of the mountain community. Mary MacDonald first learned of the program about five years ago, when she was riding a chairlift and observed a ski instructor she knew, Charlie Bedirian, using a couple of tethers to help a girl make her way down the slope.
Even from the chairlift, MacDonald could hear the laughter and shrieks of joy coming from the girl. The young skier was blind, MacDonald later learned, and thanks to the adaptive snow sports program, Bedirian was helping her to experience downhill skiing for her first time.
"My hear just swelled at the thought of it," said MacDonald. "I was completely overwhelmed. It's just an amazing thing to see." MacDonald is the operations manager for Centerplate, the company that operates the Powder Keg restaurant and Pistol Pub at Gunstock. So, when she heard that the adaptive sports program was breaking out from Gunstock's umbrella and re-organizing itself as the non-profit Lakes Region Disabled Sports, she brought the idea of helping fund raise to her staff. Not only did they accept the idea, MacDonald said, the food service employees at Gunstock took ownership of concept, coming up with new and better ways of collecting funds for the program.
MacDonald's initial goal of $2,000 was quickly passed. Just as quick was $3,000, then $4,000. Over the course of the winter, her staff and patrons chipped in $5,800, which was recently presented to the organization.
Paige Davis, program manager for Lakes Region Disabled Sports, said the money "helps us tremendously," and will likely be used to help upgrade equipment, especially those used to assist her students who use a wheelchair when they're not skiing. What's even more significant to the program is the food service staff's intention to form a long-term fundraising relationship with Lakes Region Disabled Sports, a partnership which will help raise the organization's profile in the community as well as directly fund its operation. 
Centerplate raised the funds by inviting diners to contribute $2 to the program. Many chose to go well beyond that figure, giving as much as $100 in several instances. Similarly generous were the winners of all four of the 50-50 raffles held at the Powder Keg on Saturday nights in February, a month the resort dedicated to "Adaptive Awareness": each of the four raffle winners elected to donate the winnings back to the program.
Davis, and the roughly 45 volunteer instructors that participate in the program, teach students with a wide range of disabilities how to ski. Some have learning disabilities, others have physical challenges. All of them, though, are treated to a two-hour lesson on Gunstock's slopes. For many, the lesson is a gateway into a new sport, and they'll move on to racing through the Special Olympics. The program has been steadily growing since it was started ten years ago, this year adaptive instructors have taught 300 lessons.
Even if they'll never medal, Davis said the program provides a thrill for her students. Often, the student is a member of a skiing family, and might otherwise be left in the lodge while the rest of the family hits the slopes. Thanks to the adaptive program, every member of the family gets to share in the experience.
The cost for students to participate in the program is $66, an inclusive price which includes two hours of instruction, lift ticket and equipment rental. It's a bargain, to be sure, but Davis would like to partner with a corporate sponsor to allow free adaptive lessons to disabled military veterans. "I really want to open up our lessons to that group of people. It really needs to be provided to the veterans at no cost," said Davis. "In all honesty, I think they're entitled to that because of their service."
Now a president of the board of directors for Lakes Region Disabled Sports, Chuck Hildreth said adaptive skiing changed his life. An avid skier in his younger days, he lost both arms in an accident and was intimidated by skiing afterward. However, due in part to the cajoling of his ski buddies, he participated in a disabled racing event in 1986. His success eventually led to being part of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team, which required Hildreth to go back to school.
Hildreth is now a husband and father of two, business owner and one of the Powder Keg's more popular patrons. He said he wouldn't be where he is now if not for his wife, and adaptive skiing.
"One of the most important things it does is teach goal-setting," Hildreth said. After his accident, he said he "was scared to death" to point his skis down hill. Yet, he learned how much he could accomplish, even without arms.
"It literally turned my life around," Hildreth said. "The disabled ski program turns people lives around."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 March 2013 12:00

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