Common tragedy makes for special bond between Kyle Petty and the Lairds

BARBARA ANNE GREENE Michael and Andrea Laird pose with Kyle Petty last week.

BY BARBARA ANNE GREENE

Two families who have lived through the horrific tragedy of losing a child met last Tuesday in the cold rain.  Andrea and Mike Laird of Greybull met NASCAR driver Kyle Petty and his wife Morgan Petty in Ten Sleep. Both couples have lost a son in a car accident.

Adam Petty was killed in 2000 on a racetrack at age 19. He was a fourth generation NASCAR driver. His parents are Kyle and Pattie Petty. In October 2000, five months after Petty’s death, his family partnered with Paul Newman and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp to begin the Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, N.C. as a memorial.   

Kyle and second wife Morgan were in Wyoming as part of the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America. The seven-day ride started May 13 in Walla Walla, Wash. and ended May 19 in Milwaukee.

Morgan Petty talked about the ride and the camp during an interview on Tuesday. She said that Kyle started the charity ride in 1995. When he started the ride it was just a fun ride with some friends. “As they went they were picking up different riders along the way. They realized hey we could raise money and help people out and do something for the community. It was also a way for their sponsors in racing to let them out of work for a week.” The ride got bigger and bigger as the years went on. This year there were 125 motorcycles and 225 people. “We’re all about raising money for the Victory Junction in North Carolina.”

She added that they have had kids at camp with chronic illnesses from all over the country as well six countries. “Twenty-eight thousand kids and their families have gone to camp free of charge. Kids that can’t attend normal summer camp can attend camp and feel like normal kids. And experience all the same things that other kids experience at camp. Bowling, horseback riding, zip line, fishing, you name it, they can do it.” The website for the camp is victoryjunction.org.

The Lairds lost son Brendon at 18 in a car accident three years ago. They too took a tragedy and created a memorial that gives back to students in this community. They also donated Brendon’s organs so that six other people could live.

So how did this meeting come to be? Laird Sanitation received a call from the charity ride people who wanted to rent portable toilets for their stop in Ten Sleep. During the call Mike told them about the loss of Brendon. “I thought it was a great opportunity to help out both organizations. The Kyle Petty Fountain’s Victory Junction camp and the Brendon Laird Memorial.” said Laird. Later he received a call from Morgan Petty who said she heard about Brendon and was struck by the similarities of both losing a son in an auto accident.

After a few phone calls and some emails exchanged between Morgan and Mike a bond was created. Laird donated the cost of the toilets. Morgan asked Mike and Andrea to be in Ten Sleep so she and Kyle could meet them in person. She also said she would bring items autographed by Richard
Petty and Kyle for the Brendon Laird Memorial June 3 in Greybull.

Also on the ride were NASCAR racer “Handsome” Harry Gant and football great Herschel Walker.

The moment when the Pettys and Lairds met and talked was poignant.  Drawn together by a common loss that each couple chose to use for good. Later the Lairds shared their feelings about the day and the Pettys. Mike said that he was moved to tears when Morgan and Andrea’s eyes met. “They both had that look of great sadness and understanding. I felt that too when Kyle and I met face to face. He said he was touched by our story and was glad we came to meet them. This is something they didn’t have to do but they did.” said Mike.

Andrea said, “It meant a lot to me. The unfortunate loss that put us together in this ‘club’ that no one wants to be a member of.”

The Pettys said they had a lot of respect for the Lairds and how they too had taken their loss and used it to help others. “When we heard their story we had to meet them.” said Morgan. She hopes to send some additional items for the auction. Kyle thanked the Lairds for taking the time to come to Ten Sleep to meet with them. He also told the school kids how much it meant for the riders and him to come into town and see the flags waving. “God bless you.” Kyle said.

Mike and Andrea are even bigger fans of Kyle than they were before and not just because of the common bond. Before the group left Kyle used the PA system in Washakie County Sheriff Steve Rakness patrol vehicle to address the motorcyclists.

First he explained to them the conditions of the highway. “It is snowing but it isn’t sticking to the road. You’re going to encounter some switchbacks. Take it slow. Safety is always number one.” He continued by telling the group to watch out for each other and he would see them on the other side of the mountain.

Petty then stepped to the front of the line of motorcycles and motioned for them to take off. As each cycle passed he spoke to each of them with words like “God bless”, “Take it slow”, “Be safe”, “Watch out for each other”. He was the last cycle to get on the road.

On Tuesday when Petty came to town the students waving flags lined the streets in Ten Sleep. The original plan was for Petty to set up tables to autograph but with the rain and being told that it was snowing on the mountain the stop was cut short. The group was headed east with plans to stop in Gillette and stay the night in Deadwood, SD.

SCHOLARSHIPS

The scholarships are meant to encourage student to get a higher education and better the community. Brendon wanted to go to college to be a welder. “So we decided that our scholarships would go to those seeking education in agriculture or vocational fields.” said Mike Laird.

This year six seniors from Greybull High School each received a $1,000 educational scholarship from the Brendon Laird Memorial. Typically three seniors from both GHS and Riverside High Schools receive scholarships. Only one student from Riverside High School applied this year and she ended up not qualifying.

The GHS seniors were Gabe Keisel, Dasha Kelso, Stevi Wamhoff, Elias Ewen, Jake Harold and Dawson Forcella.

Jamie Keisel said this about her son getting the scholarship. “When you have children that are your world and then lose one, it has to be devastating. As a parent of a son who is a recipient of the scholarship in that child’s name you hope your child will honor his memory, that your child will use the money to move forward and accomplish their goal. We are so honored and touched.”

Gabe echoed his mom’s thoughts and added. “It felt really good because it is in his honor.  Brendon was one of my better friends when I was a freshman and sophomore,” he said.

Elias Ewen said “When Mr. and Mrs. Laird called my name at our senior scholarship night to receive the Laird Scholarship, I felt so relieved. The scholarship will help me tremendously at Northwest College.”

Stevi Wamoff’s future plans are to study nursing at Sheridan College. She had this to say about the scholarship she received. “I feel it’s an honor that they are supporting me in my future of helping other people”

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Should new Basin schools be renamed?

RHS

BY BARBARA ANNE GREENE

With the new schools coming to Big Horn County School District Four, should the schools be renamed? This question has come up on and off for the last couple of years. When it was discussed at the board meeting on May 9, 2017 the board decided to form a committee to explore the question.

Retiring Para-professional Karen Kinkade told the board that many alumni she has spoken to would like to see the school and the mascot go back to Basin Bob Cats. Other point that was discussed during the board meeting was that the three schools in the district do not have same mascot. The high school and elementary school are Rebels while the middle school mascot is the Cougars. Whether the new schools name changes or not the thought it the mascot for middle school should be changed to be the same as the other two.

A committee was formed that night to explore ideas, thoughts, suggestions, etc., of the public. Send your ideas to Audra Crouse at audra.crouse@bgh4.org.  You may also drop your ideas off at the district administration building located at 416 South Third. Community members on the committee are Kinkade and Carlene Brown. They may also be contacted with ideas. Also board member Deb Craft.

An update on the new buildings was also a portion of the board meeting that night. Business manager Andy DeGraw told the board and audience about the School Facilities Commission meeting May 2-3. He had high praise for Rep. Nathan Winters who attended the meeting as well. Winters, on behalf of district four, addressed the commission about the shortfalls in the construction funding. He said that Winters was very passionate and compelling. “We so appreciate the Basin Area Chamber for contacting our local legislatures and asking them to be a part of the discussion. While Senator Agar and Representative Greear were unable to attend, it was good that we were able to let them know what was going on so they could be advocates for the district at the state level”

The commission recommended moving forward with the project. . The district will now need a notice to proceed from the School Facilities Department. District superintendent Dave Kerby said that there would need to be an additional 4000 square feet cut from the plans. “This cut is based on the current enrollment projections. The original square footage for the buildings is based on enrollment numbers from 2013. The new projections show a slight decline in enrollment.” The square footage cut to meet new square footage requirement were two classrooms in the elementary, small reductions in the size of classrooms in the high/middle school and slight redesign of the hallways.

“The Commission approved us to move forward to bid with a couple of minor changes to the architect’s scope of work,” District business manager Andy DeGraw said. “Once bids come in we will determine if we need to make a request to the Commission for “unanticipated” funding.”

Kerby noted that the commission would not have all the additional $2.1 million needed for the foundation piers. The district will then have to go to the legislature for the rest of the funds.

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Hospital board wants questions from the community to be submitted in writing

hospital

BY KYNLI SMITH

A smaller crowd gathered at the South Big Horn County Hospital District board meeting on Wednesday, April 26. About 10 people attended the meeting compared to the near 200 people the previous month.

Those who had some questions for the board were told they would need to submit their questions to the board and the hospital in writing.

“We are not going to be doing this Q&A and integrating in a meeting, we just aren’t going to do it,” said board chairman Jeff Grant.

“All we are looking for is answers and we haven’t been getting answers,” added Bob Paxton.

“I don’t know how more we could do it,” Grant said. “If you’ve got questions, tell us in writing. We don’t want something to be misconstrued by us. We don’t want it to be misconstrued in the paper. We want to be able to respond to you and answer your question.”

Some asked about the current DEA investigation the hospital is currently cooperating with.

“We don’t know and that is all I can tell you,” said Grant. “We may not know anything from the DEA for months. If you guys are impatient, so are we. We have no idea what is going to happen. They haven’t communicated to us. And they will not communicate anything to use until an end result. It is not a ‘we can’t tell you, we don’ know anything.’”

Some in attendance added that there are other issues outside the DEA investigation that they are concerned about.

“The people that are no longer here, they are not coming back,” said Grant.

Grant added that if the public has questions they could submit questions in writing as long as it doesn’t deal with staffing or other human resource related issues.

“You guys are citizens of the community. You have every right to participate in an open meeting. That doesn’t mean we have Q&A at every meeting,” said Grant. “We weren’t even going to do this. I thought things were going to be OK and we could answer a couple of questions.

“We allowed someone to step up in February and I almost got shot. We allowed it in March because the passions were so heavy we wanted you guys to have the ability to share those passions with us. But we are not going to have meetings where people come and make statements and do that sort of thing. If you have questions, we would like to talk to you about your concerns.”

Hospital CEO John Adlesich said after the meeting that those who would like to request to be on the agenda for board meetings would need to contact the hospital to be placed on the agenda to address the board.

NEW BOARD MEMBER, NEW PROVIDERS, NEW CLINIC

Following the board meeting in March, board member Lisa Reesy resigned, leaving a vacant seat on the board of trustees for the hospital. The board and the hospital have been looking to fill the vacant seat for the past month and have been accepting letters of intent.

The board met with three candidates before the public board meeting on Wednesday and interviewed Mitch Shelhamer, Richard Burton and Connie Werbelow.

“We have made the decision to have Mitch join us,” said Grant.

Shelhamer will fill out the term until the next election, in 2018.

In December the hospital was in talks with their neighbors, the Shelhamer family, on a possible trade or lot line adjustment to put the lagoon in the back corner of the hospital’s grounds instead of the front lot.

According to Adlesich, the hospital has not been in talks with the Shelhamers for the past few months about a land exchange.

“We have enough space for the lagoon on our property,” said Adlesich.

The lagoon project is still moving forward and the hospital is waiting on DEQ approval.

The hospital will be getting new providers this summer. Mary Freund will be joining the hospital staff as a provider in mid-May, and Dr. Deborah Brackett will be joining the hospital in July.

The hospital is still recruiting for a third provider to fill an open spot. Dr. Ricardo Ramos, M.D., who is temporarily filling in at the hospital, will be staying on until July.

The board also voted to open a temporary construction loan at a local bank. The hospital is currently planning the construction of their new clinic and administration in the most recent phase of the hospital update and expansion.

This phase will roughly cost a little more than $2 million. The hospital will receive $1 million from the USDA after completion and will receive $500,000 from the Wyoming SLIB board. The hospital will also be investing their own $500,000 into the project.

The new phase would include adding new administration offices, physical therapy, reception and main entrance.

They are setting up a temporary construction loan because of USDA requirements. The USDA will not give any funds until completion.

After this phase comes partial demolition.

CLINIC CONCERNS

Carrie Lowe, who manages Midway Clinic, addressed the board about the progress in the clinic and making the clinic a BFC Clinic, which would mean the clinic would be a place for patients to get their immunizations.

“We want to see patients from birth on up,” said Lowe.

Lowe added they hope to get approval to be a BFC Clinic in the next few months.

Concerned citizen Randi Noble, who was in attendance at the meeting, asked who would be administering the shots to patients.

“Three weeks ago I brought my son out here and there were no longer nurses; there were medical assistants,” said Noble. A medical assistant checked in my son and he was weighed. His weight was written down as 74 pounds. I said that is not correct, my son weighs 64 pound. And trust me I watch that very closely. That is crucial.”

She added that the medical assistant wrote down the wrong weight for her son anyway and said that the scales were old and the hospital is getting new ones.

“Now I have a little 11-year-old boy that has catastrophic medical issues, and you are prescribing medication based on weight,” said Noble. “A 15-pound difference is huge. I’m interested in who will be administering those immunizations. Will it be a nurse or a medical assistant?”

She added that she is sure the change is a cost saving effort for the hospital and asked if the savings was being extended on bills.

Lowe stated that RNs are onsite along with medical assistants and an RN or LPN administers drugs that need to be administered.

“I have a lot of concern about that and have been vocal about that,” said board member Margie Triplett. “Working at Billings Clinic over in Cody I have talked to all the MAs and RNs. There are certain protocols a facility has to adopt in order to give the MAs certain responsibilities and they have to be trained and certified to do those things. They also have to go through continuing education every year in order stay current.”

She added that providers, nurses and administration would have to come up with a protocol for MAs.

Noble said she isn’t certain she is comfortable with MAs giving her son an injection because the MA she encountered could not weigh her son correctly.

“That is a huge red flag to me,” said Noble. “And I’m sorry. I’m going to be vocal about that in the community and you all know word of mouth in a small community is either going to kill you or it’s going to help you.”

“We are trying to do what we can. As a board we can’t be here and watch every move. We are keeping our hand on the pulse of what they are doing by asking questions,” said Triplett.

“I feel very strongly that you all were elected and are legally bound to represent the very best interest in this community,” said Noble.

“That is what we are trying to do,” said board member Sue Antley.

Noble questioned whether by doing away with proper nurses and putting in medical assistants that the board is doing the best thing for the community.

Antley added that they are adding nurses as they can.

“I can tell you, of all the people that have left this facility in the past year, you know how many we would rehire? Two. They all needed to go. I’m sorry,” said Antley.

“You keep saying that, but there is no proof of that,” said Noble.

Grant and Antley said they needed to move on.

“Let me say something, I didn’t intend to have this questions answer because it’s not appropriate at a meeting like this,” Grant said. “And I sympathize. You should be as passionate as you need to be about your son. I believe that from the bottom of my heart. I’m uncomfortable talking about individual patients.”

He added that the way the clinic operated in the past was not how most clinics operate.

“The fact that changes have been made does not mean that the changes have led us into something bad. It has led us into something different,” said Grant.

He added that some clinics run just off of physician’s assistants, but the board has made the decision to bring in more medical doctors to the facility, which is more of a cost.

He also stated that concerned members of the public should submit their questions in writing and the hospital will respond back to them.

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