Friday, October 2, 2009

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

Another kind of Mover & Shaker

Almost as soon as Sherilee Valenta’s son Carson was born, he was a “mover and shaker” who loved to run and play in his Salmon Creek backyard and later, on the soccer field.

So it seemed an especially cruel turn of fate when Valenta stood over a son hobbled and confined to a hospital bed after Carson lost his heel and Achilles tendon in a freak lawn-mower accident two years ago.

Though his prospects for future mobility were grim, Carson, now 6, can skip and run with the rest of peers – amazingly, without a noticeable limp – thanks largely to the work of Laura McGuckin, an occupational therapist at Innovative Services NW, a Vancouver-based nonprofit helping adults and children with developmental and other disabilities.

Last weekend, dozens of local business owners from throughout Clark County came together to raise funds for Innovative Services NW’s 16 programs helping hundreds of kids and adults like Carson to be productive and independent members of the community.

Co-sponsored by Windemere Real Estate Group, West Coast Bank, Nutrition Now, Anctil Heating & Cooling and the VBJ, the Care Affair Auction at the Heathman Lodge raised a net-total of $63,000 from 93 invited guests.

Though the total was $4,000 short of last year’s take, Development Director Dawn Johnson was pleased with her team’s efforts during a tough fundraising climate.

Johnston wasn’t alone last week in her determination to succeed despite tough odds.

At the event, one of the recipients of the 46-year-old organization’s services displayed a sense of grit and courage that might be a model for any American struggling to find stable ground in a rapidly changing economy.

Born developmentally disabled, Ben Carroll, 21, told the crowd last weekend that he declined the state assistance to which he is entitled.

“I don’t believe in it, I don’t want it,” he said. “I can do it on my own.”

For those looking to make a contribution to help make Innovative Services NW programs available for everyone who needs them, visit or call Johnston at 360.992.2301.

Deadline for VBJ’s Accomplished & Under 40 today

Just a quick reminder: our nomination deadline is 6 p.m. today for VBJ’s Accomplished & Under 40. Applicants must be between the ages of 19 and 39 as of Nov. 12, 2009 to be eligible.

To submit your nomination before the deadline, visit