Fairy tales, war stories and baby Alivia

June 15, 2005|by BOB MAGINNIS

Odds and ends from a columnist's notebook:


Fairy tales do come true, at least sometimes, with help from the generous readers of The Herald-Mail.

On June 1, the paper's readers learned the story of Authentic Community Theatre Inc., a local group that planned to put on an original play at Hagerstown's annual Augustoberfest celebration.

Experts in drama would come from New York University to help young people perform a work of art based on the fairy tales written by the Brothers Grimm.

The thing that's exciting - and a little bit scary, to me, at least - is that the script hasn't been written yet. Part of the learning process will involve the young actors and actresses in doing research and suggesting ways in which the action could proceed.


The only big roadblock to the idea was that, as of two weeks ago, only three students had signed up and the company needed at least 30 paid pupils to qualify for a $10,000 grant from the Washington County Public School System.

But as of Friday, the crisis had been averted, according to Niki Perini, the company's artistic director.

"As of now, we have 45 participants. It was touch-and-go for a very long time," she said.

That's probably because the $200 fee for the two-week camp was a little steep for some. But Perini said some who called said they'd read about the camp in the paper and offered to help some students with tuition.

That would still be welcome, she said, because the camp staff can handle up to 60 children. Perini said she'd like to provide scholarships to some of the young women who are members of Girls Inc., where she once worked.

If you can help, please contact Perini at, or by phone at 301-790-7903.


On May 29, I wrote a column about my father's service in World War II and how I'm recording some of his letters so that my mother, whose eyesight is failing, can hear them again.

I got calls from many people about that column, most saying it brought back memories of their own fathers and how much they didn't share about WW II. But one came from a veteran of that era who wanted to know how to preserve his own letters.

I did what I did with the help of Ted Bodnar, a recording engineer who until recently lived in Hagerstown. He recorded them on cassette tapes, then transferred the tapes to CDs.

His advice: Use a decent microphone and record on a tape machine which has meters to show sound levels. Do some tests so that the recording is loud enough so that you don't have to turn the volume all the way up during playback. Finding that proper level is a trial-and-error process, so do some tests.

Getting the tape onto CD is another question. My son says I can record direct to CD on his computer, but with tapes I can edit first.

If there is a reader out there who can tell me how to do the tape-to-CD transfer without spending a fortune on equipment, I'll be glad to share it with readers.


Alivia Koontz, the 1-year-old Hagerstown girl who has already undergone two operations for a rare heart defect, has become a lover of the outdoors.

So says her mother, Angela Koontz. Alivia loves the sandbox and playing with the family's small herd of dairy goats, she said.

"My husband will put her in the pen and she'll go up to each one and hug it and say, 'Ah, goats.'" Koontz said.

Alivia has about seven teeth now and is starting to try to walk.

"She'll walk if you hold on to her hands," she said, adding that she's now up to 18 pounds.

Alivia works with an early-intervention teacher, Koontz said, doing physical training and word identification.

"She knows a good many of her body parts, and she's actually saying 'Mama' now," Koontz said.

The child has been having trouble with her ears and doctors are concerned because there is fluid in them, Koontz said, adding that, thankfully, there's no sign of infection.

One cause for concern now, her mother said, is that during her physical training, Alivia's skin will turn a bluish color. That means doctors may have to cut out or decrease her physical activities.

Doctors hope to put off the third of the surgeries she needs until she is 2, but Koontz said the family will know more in September or October, when they go back for more tests at Nemours Cardiac Center of the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Delaware.

This Saturday, June 18, the 4-H Fashion Club and the Chewsville 4-H Club will hold a yard sale at the Shiloh United Methodist Church on Shiloh Church Road from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. to raise money for projects to help the cardiac center.

Koontz said any cash raised will be used to buy material to make baby blankets or any other things the hospital's tiny patients need. I'm sure it's a wonderful place, but here's hoping this child who has been through so much doesn't have to go back there for another year or more.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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