Editor’s note: The weekly “Thumbs Up-Thumbs Down” editorial offers opinions on highs and lows in the news during the past week.
Thumbs up: Law enforcement officers must see footprints in the snow most every day during a Wisconsin winter. Rusk County Deputy Matthew Wojcik just thought something was different when he noticed tracks one morning last February. He ended up saving a life.
Wojcik following the tracks near a swamp and found a 71-year-old man with frostbite and hypothermia, and in need of mental health services, according to Leader-Telegram reporter Julian Emerson’s story. The man was a Vietnam War veteran with a Purple Heart, someone who had served his country and now needed help.
Wojcik was in the right place at the right time, but more importantly, he acted when he felt something wasn’t right. The county veterans organization rightfully thought the officer should be recognized for his life-saving act and state Rep. James Edming, R-Glen Flora, nominated Wojcik for a Hometown Hero designation. He will be honored this week by the state Assembly.
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Thumbs down: Former NFL tight end Ben Utecht told a chilling story to an Eau Claire audience last week that should make football players and their parents do a double-take.
Utecht, who was a Super Bowl champion with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007, didn’t remember being a groomsman in his college friend’s wedding until he saw photos, according to a report by the Leader-Telegram’s Eric Lindquist. Five confirmed concussions and countless other times having his “bell rung” have Utecht, now 36, speaking to groups about the lasting effects of football-related head trauma. He said football needs to continue efforts to eliminate blows to the head and take precautions with players who have suffered concussions.
Utecht is right that entry into contact sports should be delayed until young people are in their teens. Some of the most successful high school football programs in the region — including perennial power Menomonie — don’t allow players to play tackle football until eighth grade.
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Thumbs up: Hand it to The Community Table for finding a unique fundraiser to raise awareness about hungry people in the region — bring in chefs to make a locally sourced meal for people concerned about helping the soup kitchen.
Thursday’s snow didn’t stop about 200 people from enjoying the fixings of chefs Luke Zahm of Viroqua and Amy Huo of Eau Claire. The event served as a reminder that there are many among us who don’t have enough to eat every day. In a community with a rejuvenated downtown and a lively music scene, we also have a portion of the population that goes without food.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better turnout,” Michelle Koehn, The Community Table executive director, told the Leader-Telegram’s Lauren French. “It’s an incredible testament to our community. I was floored.”