Body in Park Was Del Oro Grad, 21

Originally published August 27, 2009 in print and online at The Auburn Journal and The Loomis News

Cause of death yet to be determined

Friends and family of 21-year-old Alyse Rachelle Conk, whose body was found on Wednesday morning in Loomis Basin Community Park, remember her happiness as infectious.

“When she was happy she was amazing,” said Terra Dawson, a close friend of Conk’s since the two were 14. “She loved to be goofy, and I loved that about her. She was just so fun to be around.”

Conk’s body was found by a 16-year-old boy in the Loomis Basin Community Park at 10:40 a.m. Wednesday. According to a Sheriff’s Department news release she appeared to have been camping by the creek.

No foul play is suspected in her death, according to Dena Erwin, spokeswoman for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. Friends say she had been out of contact with them for several months, and were unaware that she had been camping in the park.

Acquaintances and friends contacted by the Journal were unwilling to speculate as to why Conk appeared to be camping in the park. It is as yet unknown whether drugs or alcohol played a role in her death. An autopsy was scheduled as of press time…

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One Athletics Gives an Extra Boost to Special Needs Athletes

Published in print and online at The Loomis News September 16, 2010

One Athletics Gives an Extra Boost to Special Needs Athletes

A special needs cheerleading team is taking athletics in Loomis to a new level this year at One Athletics, a new training facility.

The program is the only one of its kind in Loomis, and draws athletes from as far away as Folsom, said One Athletics owner Gail Herring. Herring said she and the coaches at the facility were inspired to start a special needs team after witnessing such teams perform at previous competitions.

“We see the special needs teams perform and it is unbelievable,” Herring said. “The whole competition stops, and it unites everybody.”

When One Athletics moved from Roseville to their current Loomis location this year, Herring said, the time seemed right to begin the new program. The facility fully sponsors the team; the athletes train and compete without charge.

The team, which is comprised of individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities from ages 9 to 23, will participate in their first competition in December. Coach Misty Wade said the team is working very hard to prepare for the upcoming competition, put on by the United Spirit Association at the University of California, Davis on Dec. 5.

Wade said that her team’s progress can be attributed to their work ethic.

“They are so eager to learn,” she said. “They pick it up really fast, and then go home and practice it. They’re super committed, and they all really want to be here.”

The team’s routines consist mostly of basic cheerleading skills, including somersaults and very small pyramids. The team focuses on impressing the judges with spirit and enthusiasm.

Cheer and tumbling coach Christina Gutierrez, whose brother-in-law is a member of the special needs team, said the athletes embody the true spirit of cheerleading.

“Sometimes in competitive cheerleading we lose the focus of just wanting to have fun,” she said. “It’s humbling to be with a team who just wants to be here.”

For many of the athletes, cheering is about more than just the sport. Joining the team allows the cheerleaders to form relationships within their community.

Nancy Muir said she enrolled her daughter Mackenzie in the program in part to help her socialize with others. “We wanted to connect her with other kids who have similar needs,” Muir said.

Mackenzie has formed friendships with her teammates and is proud of her new team, Muir said.

When asked what their favorite part of cheerleading is, Mackenzie and several of her teammates shouted “the trampoline!” Cheerleader Alyssa Spillane said she most enjoys “making friends.”

Herring said the special needs cheerleaders have become an important part of the facility’s family and bring an upbeat spirit to practices. “I love watching them walk in the door,” she said. “I love what it does for them.”

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Loomis Has a Night Out With Neighbors

Published in print and online at The Loomis News August 12, 2010

Loomis Has a Night Out With Neighbors

National Night Out highlights crime prevention and safety

Loomis residents celebrated crime prevention and neighborhood camaraderie at the 27th annual National Night Out on Aug. 3.

The event was hosted by the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, which was joined by the Loomis Fire Protection District and paramedics from American Medical Response in a parade of emergency vehicles through parts of town. Neighborhood Watch groups on Mareta Lane and Myrtle Drive in Loomis held potlucks while awaiting the flashing lights and sirens of the parade.

Robin Gray, whose family has hosted the Mareta Lane event for the past 17 years, said the evening is a great opportunity for members of the community to socialize while educating themselves about neighborhood safety procedures. Participants were supplied with phone lists and street maps in case of emergencies.

Tammy Stark was glad to catch up with her neighbors and to receive a list of contact information for her fellow residents.

“We do it every year,” she said. “We get to see our neighbors, and it’s a fun time to catch up and get our contact info updated.”

The National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit, crime prevention organization, first introduced the National Night Out, “America’s Night Out Against Crime,” in 1984. This year the group expected over 15,000 communities nationwide to participate in the event, which aims to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness and generate support for the Neighborhood Watch program.

“I grew up this way, with neighbors taking care of each other,” Gray said of the program. “That’s what this is all about.”

On Myrtle Drive, Jim and Wanda Gilbert hosted their 14th National Night Out event.

“We’ve got a great neighborhood,” Jim Gilbert said. “Everybody likes getting together once a year, and we take care of each other all year long.”

As neighborhood children explored police cruisers and met members of the Sheriff’s K-9 team, Wanda Gilbert discussed the impact the Neighborhood Watch program has had on their community.

“It’s been very successful,” she said. “We’ve helped the police with a lot of things.”

In addition to posting signs on the street advertising the program’s presence, the group has designated safe houses for neighborhood children in the event of an emergency, and has informed local police of drug activity in the area, Gilbert said.

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Fall Turns Secret Ravine into Salmon Hot Spot

Published in print and online at The Loomis News September 9, 2010

Fall Turns Secret Ravine into Salmon Hot Spot

Even with low numbers, Chinook salmon, steelhead trout spawn at local creek

Every year, Loomis residents host a sought-after guest that puts the town on the map.

When California salmon make their journey upstream from the ocean, and through the Sacramento River, at the end of the year, many make their way to the Secret Ravine Salmon Habitat in Loomis Basin Regional Park to spawn.

Secret Ravine Creek is one of the few streams where fish like Chinook salmon and steelhead trout continue to make spawning migrations. It is also one of Dry Creek’s largest tributaries.

According to Dry Creek Conservancy Director Gregg Bates, about 80 percent of Dry Creek’s fish spawn in Secret Ravine — though they come in increasingly dwindling numbers. While in the past the creek has seen thousands of fish spawn in its waters, Bates says last year there was only “a handful.”

“One of the reasons to be so happy and careful about the fish that we have is because this is one of the only places left where they can (spawn),” he said…

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