Whatever Happened To?: Travis Williams shares updates on stories he reported in 2012
Christiansburg teen finishes first semester at VMI
THEN: In November 2011, former Christiansburg High School student Maggie Straub learned she’d be able to live out a childhood goal when she received her letter of acceptance to the Virginia Military Institute for the fall of 2012.
According to a VMI spokesperson, Straub would be the second female from the New River Valley to attend the school and the first from Montgomery County.
But Maggie wouldn’t be the first Straub to attend VMI.
Her father Charlie is a member of the class of 1963, her uncle Joe, class of 1965 and her grandfather Charles was a member of the class of 1936. Charles Straub was also a hall-of-fame football player for VMI.
NOW: Straub recently completed her first semester at VMI, and while she admitted it was very hard, she said there is no where else she’d rather be.
“I definitely love VMI as much as I did before [attending],” Straub said.
The 2012 Christiansburg High School graduate was one of 46 females to enter VMI this fall. They all made it through “hell week” with no one leaving for the first time in the school’s history, Straub said.
Straub is currently enrolled in the Army ROTC program at the school and plans to pursue a legal career in the Army’s JAG corp.
While her time there hasn’t always been easy, it’s been a family tradition Straub has been happy to take part in.
“It’s hard, but you have these awesome stories that no one in any other place is going to understand,” Straub said. “Luckily my dad went to VMI, so he understands. It’s really cool because I get to share all these things with [him].”
Honduras man adjusts to new prosthetic after time in the NRV
THEN: On Jan. 29, Juan Romero Zavala traveled from his native Honduras to the New River Valley in hopes of one day being able to walk on two legs again.
The 51-year-old mechanic lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident in June 2011 and had to use crutches which greatly hindered his ability to work and provide for his wife and two sons.
Thanks to the combined efforts of a skilled group of volunteers initiated by Christiansburg’s Loy Burch, Romero Zavala was able to spend time in the New River Valley being fitted for and learning to use a prosthetic leg by board-certified prosthetist/orthotist Phillip Johnson of New River Valley Orthotics & Prosthetics.
During his time in the United States, the group began discussing the possibility of opening a small lab for building and adjusting prosthetic limbs in Romero Zavala’s home village of La Libertad. Johnson said Romero Zavala’s experience with the prosthetic process and his mechanical background, made him believe he would be capable of helping others in similar situations.
At the time, the plan was for Romero Zavala to return home, continue his own rehab, and for Johnson and his office manager Kim Wade to later travel to La Libertad in an effort to help continue Romero Zavala’s education of the prosthetic process.
NOW: Romero Zavala returned home in March, able to walk without the aid of crutches.
Since that time, Burch said Romero Zavala’s main focus has been returning to work. He said that Romero Zavala has even modified his own motorcycle to allow him to shift gears with his prosthetic leg.
The plans for a small prosthetics lab are still in the works, Burch said, however, it is being debated if it would be more feasible to put the lab in the capitol city of Tegucigalpa for ease of travel.
Burch said Johnson is currently in the process of raising funds to travel to the Dominican Republic and begin setting up the workshop.
Blacksburg family still trying to adopt from Dominican Republic
THEN: In September, three brothers, Noah, Adam and Jake Chittenden, decided to spend the time leading up to each Virginia Tech home football game selling treats and beverages from a stand in front of their Blacksburg home in an effort to help raise enough money for their family to adopt 6-year-old Johanna Polanco from the Dominican Republic.
The Chittenden family met Johanna while working in the Dominican Republic with New Hope Girls Inc., a group focused on the education of adolescent girls in the area. The boys’ mother, Chris Chittenden, said she first met Johanna in April 2011 while taking photos of potential students for the school.
Johanna enrolled in the school in September 2011. The Chittendens later learned that the girl’s father had died of AIDS and that her mother, Lourdes Polanco, was having a very hard time caring for Johanna and her four other children. Over the course of the school year, the family grew very close to Johanna.
Prior to the Chittendens’ return to the United States on June 12, Lourdes Polanco’s health began to drastically decline due to AIDS, and she made it very clear that she wished for Johanna to join the Chittenden family when she died.
Lourdes Polanco died on July 6,and the Chittendens began fundraising efforts to raise the $25,000 needed to adopt Johanna.
NOW: Due to scheduling conflicts, Chris Chittenden said the boys were able to work just three of the six home football games this fall. Their efforts amassed about $400, however, Chris Chittenden said she believed what was even more valuable was her children seeing the generosity of others.
One particular giver stood out — a 5-year-old neighbor who donated $55 worth of change he was saving for a trip to Disney World.
The family has raised more than $11,000 of the $25,000 needed, she said.
The family is currently studying the adoption process. Once complete, Chris Chittenden said they will be able to begin the official paperwork needed to adopt from the Dominican Republic with the goal of bringing Johanna to Blacksburg in time to start school in September.
Until then, Johanna will continue to live in the Dominican Republic with the family of Joy Reyes, a missionary who helped launched New Hope Girls Inc. and stay in regular contact with the Chittendens using a “walkie-talkie” smart phone application called Voxer, Chittenden said.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643
No Comments »
No comments yet.