On Monday, September 14, a ship of dreams set sail on the most recent leg of its journey in memory of one human spirit that set an example for us all. That ship is affectionately known as the Glenn Ship <glennship.com> or as christened by its skipper Glenn Mikulak, the K’nector of the Seas.
With the assistance of some Front Royals finest encountered at Skyline Middle School, the K’nector of the Seas most recent port of call, the ship estimated to be assembled from 10,000-odd K’NEX pieces was moved in its massive glass case to the C&C Frozen Treats complex at 413/409 East Main Street, in Front Royal’s Historic Downtown Business District.
“Overseeing” the operation was Glenn’s mother, Glenda Mikulak Roberts, husband William “Billy” Roberts, and C&C proprietor William “Willie” Huck. We asked, first mom Glenda, and then Huck about the relocation to a downtown place of prominence. Ironically, or perhaps magically, the Glennship’s new port lies in the shadow of the Town Gazebo where the K’nector of the Seas laid anchor with several hundred mourners, including Class of 2010 Warren County High School classmates of Glenn’s at his October 24, 2010, Memorial Service.
“It was October 19 when Glenn sailed to his distant shore. And my daughter, Robin Mikulak Dodson, got together with Willy (Huck) at C&C Frozen Treats, and they had a plan to move it down here. So, we executed their plan today, and we’re going to hang up some information on Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne’s particularly, and remind people how somebody with a disability could really go way and beyond and make a creation like the one with over 10,000 pieces here.”
As some “docking” logistics were being ironed out and Glenn’s K’nector of the Seas already began drawing attention from passing East Main Street foot traffic and perhaps a passing motorists horn honk, we asked Huck about the genesis of the Glennship relocation born of conversations with a C&C Frozen Treats customer, Glenn’s sister Robin.
“She asked me if we could do it, and I was like ‘most certainly’ and (wife) Nina was like, ‘YES, we’d LOVE to!’. There are love and magic in the ice cream shop, connectors, connections all over. And K’nector, connections – it all just fits. It truly is about the connections and it’s an honor to host this in the ice cream shop so the magic can continue to live. This truly represents our community coming together and that’s the most important thing,” Huck observed of Glenn’s K’nector of the Seas sailing C&C Frozen Treats way.
“To have this young man’s legacy live on in our building is a little overwhelming because I never met the man, didn’t know him, wasn’t in Front Royal at the time. But I can see his passion for life. And the ship that he’s done – I’m about love and magic, and this is his love shining to the world to see the magic that he’s created,” Huck said.
“The research behind what he has done with this ship says that it’s passion. And that’s what he lived with. Even to his end, he lived with passion and wanted to touch people. And we’re about memories and about celebrating – and the adventure, there’s always an adventure. And … we can all load on and take an adventure anywhere we want to go, anywhere we want to be.
“Glenn’s adventure continues, and he’s going to continue to touch people even in his passing. And to be a part of his legacy is an honor here at C&C Frozen Treats,” Huck concluded, locking in on the importance of the example Glenn Mikulak gave us all during his 18 years with us. As a footnote to this story, Glenda reminded us that Glenn’s First Mate, his dad Robert Mikulak, aka “The Ratchetman”, rejoined his son’s crew on that far, shining shore in November 2012.
“Interesting in the 10 years since Glenn has been sailing away, they have come up with some really good treatments, and they’ve got some good trials going for Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy. So, we’re hoping that something really good will evolve from 2020, maybe. In my lifetime I want to see a successful treatment/cure for Duchenne’s,” Glenda said of the deteriorative muscle disease that took aspiring engineer Glenn’s life.
In addition to its stops at various Warren County Public Schools, Glenda noted a year’s port of call in Winchester’s Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum; and she asked for a shoutout for the Glennship’s massive protective glass enclosure case, made courtesy of Mark Dick’s MD Construction. And not one to miss perhaps cosmic irony, Glenda pointed to the company owner’s connecting initials to the disease Glenn battled throughout his life.
“At his funeral, we carried it down the street here, 350 people went to the Gazebo where we had a little ceremony. And as we were driving up in the truck today, it reminded me of the emotions as we were bringing it down, and we came in that same direction,” Glenda said, also recalling a certain camera-toting reporter jogging to the front of the procession as the K’nector sailed into this downtown neighborhood the first time.
In 2010 this reporter covered Glenn’s ship being brought into his high school for display under his watchful eye his senior year; and just months later of his passing in a story titled “An Improbable Tale of the High Seas: A captain among men, Glenn Mikulak sails toward a brighter shore”. In reporting on his creation’s latest port of call at C&C Frozen Treats, I will include passages from that latter story, including references to the earlier story:*
Ten years gone
For most people, me included, memories of a nice trip, whether it be on a ship or by another mode of transportation, are generally recorded in our sometimes flawed memory banks or on photographs soon to be curled and yellowing in some forgotten scrapbook.
But for Warren County High senior Glenn Mikulak, the memories of a 2006 trip with his late grandmother, Linda Hogoboom, on a Caribbean cruise were translated into an astonishing reconstruction of a cruise ship. On April 28th Glenn’s ship christened “K’nector of the Seas … was brought for display in the Warren County High lobby. The reactions of classmates, teachers and even Principal Ernestine Jordan mirrored my own.
“Glenn, that’s incredible – did you draw a picture of it first?” “No, I just started building it,” Glenn replied.
“I couldn’t do that if I had my whole life to finish it,” one student exclaimed.
The fact Glenn oversaw the event from his wheelchair underscores perhaps the added awe with which his classmates viewed his achievement. Glenn suffers from a form of Muscular Dystrophy known as Duchenne, an irreversible deterioration of the muscular system. As a consequence of his condition, Glenn has a reduced life expectancy and must face that fact each day …
Glenn’s outlook is an inspiration to all. We asked him how he does it.
“Designing and building is my passion,” he told us. “I try to use all that I have and make the best of it. I anticipate a cure in the future and while it’s getting harder and harder for me every day physically, I am doing all I can. It’s discouraging at times, but I am still creating and building. I hope I’m an inspiration to other people. This ship will be my legacy.”
But Glenn was wrong, at least in part. It isn’t just his ship that is his legacy. Rather, as repeatedly commented on by emotional friends, family, and classmates at his Oct. 24 (2010) Memorial Service, it is Glenn’s spirit that is his most enduring legacy … Glenn’s legacy to all of us is the example of achievement under duress; of hope where hopelessness might seem the answer; of life lived to the fullest under the constant shadow of death.
Glenn was dealt a lousy hand physically – but spiritually he carried a full deck.
His hand played out on his mother’s birthday, Oct. 19, 2010. Captain, permission to leave the bridge of the “Royal K’nibbean Line’s K’nector of the Seas” is granted. Please take your next duty station on the bridge of another ship of dreams, a ship without unwanted anchors, a ship sailing into a port of call on a distant and shining shore.
Back to the present
As the 10th anniversary of his passing approaches, Glenn’s ship has sailed a familiar route into a new port of call his mother called, if not a shining shore, a “shining store” in downtown Front Royal. And in coming months for those of us willing to really look into that perhaps magical C&C Frozen Treats complex storefront window, we will be reminded, not only of who Glenn Mikulak was but of who we can be with a little more focus, a little more effort and a little less complaining about the hand we are dealt in this world.
Check-in with Glenn’s Ship on Facebook where you can share thoughts, photos, and a dream or two can mingle with others touching those afloat in the wake of a visit to the K’nector of the Seas.
Footnote*: Excerpts from stories first published in 2010 in the Warren County Report.
Facts about Glenn’s ship:
- Length: 8 feet 6 inches
- Width: 1 foot
- Height: 2-feet-5-inches
- Build Time: 6 weeks in 2006
- Upgrading Time: 3 weeks in 2010
- Estimated K’NEX pieces used: 10,000
Citizens Voice Frustration at Special School Board Meeting
The Warren County School Board convened a unique session on October 3, 2023, featuring an elongated time for public feedback.
Several parents raised concerns about safety issues, with bathrooms identified as a particular problem. One mother said her son was assaulted in a bathroom at Skyline Middle School, but administrators did not properly address it. She asserted the school has a bullying problem tied to the principal.
Other parents lamented increased fear-mongering and social media attacks against the schools, arguing issues are not unique to the county. A few speakers vouched for Superintendent Chris Ballinger’s leadership, with one teacher saying most staff support him despite a looming no-confidence vote from the board.
Tensions escalated when board member Melanie Salins was directly called out for previous “prison-like schools” comments. A teacher said Salins has not been supportive, and her words set staff back.
The public comment section displayed intense emotions around problems in the schools, proper solutions, and accountability. Speakers on all sides urged more open communication and collaboration between officials, educators, and parents to address challenges.
Several commenters referenced political agendas and national groups they felt were inappropriately influencing school policies. Others asked the board to focus on students’ health and safety first and foremost.
The session spotlighted just how deeply issues in Warren County schools are impacting families and dividing the community. As one speaker noted, cooperative solutions require stakeholders to work together instead of attacking each other.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Woodland Box Turtle
Can a turtle get an ear infection?
Although the weather is cooling, we are continuing to get many turtles in for care. On Saturday alone, we received and performed surgery on FIVE new turtle patients!
One of those patients was this woodland box turtle who came into care with a severe aural abscess (an ear infection that causes internal swelling). These abscesses can sometimes be caused by trauma, but many are associated with vitamin A deficiency, which changes the tissues that make up the ear lining and predisposes these turtles to develop abscesses.
In captive turtles with abscesses, this is often due to a lack of dietary vitamin A. In the wild, some pesticides are known to alter the metabolism of vitamin A and have been linked to these abscesses.
While ear infections in mammals often travel from the mouth to the ear canal via the eustachian tube, turtles lack an open, external ear canal. When an infection reaches their ear, it can’t escape, leading to the accumulation of pus with a firm, cheese-like consistency.
This unusual characteristic means that pus doesn’t readily drain back into their mouth, resulting in the formation of a substantial pocket within the ear. Without treatment, these abscesses and will often cause turtles to stop eating, which could lead to death.
This patient is healing well and will be spending the winter at our Center, and we expect him to be ready for release on May 1st!
Where do turtles go in the winter?
Woodland box turtles undergo a period of dormancy called brumation during the winter months, characterized by reduced activity and metabolic slowdown in response to colder temperatures and reduced daylight.
They seek shelter in burrows or natural cavities, becoming lethargic and unresponsive to stimuli, conserving energy and not eating or drinking. While they continue to breathe, it’s at a much slower rate, and they can absorb oxygen through their skin.
As the weather warms in spring, they gradually emerge, becoming more active and resuming their usual activities.
In our area, wild turtles brumate in the fall and winter months which is why the law in Virginia does not allow rehabilitators to release reptile patients between October 1 – April 30. Luckily, we were able to release nine turtles on September 30!
Any turtle we can’t release before October, or who came to us within that time, overwinters with us at the Center. We keep them in a warm and humid room so they don’t fall into brumation and can continue to be rehabbed.
Looking for an easy way to help native wildlife? Become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.
Valley Health Touches the Future with 5,000 Robotic-Assisted Surgeries
Pioneering Progress: The Evolution of Robotic Surgery in Winchester.
In a major stride towards medical excellence, Valley Health recently celebrated its 5,000th robotic-assisted surgery using the acclaimed da Vinci Xi robot. This accomplishment underscores the institution’s commitment to delivering top-tier medical services in the Winchester region.
Jorge Posadas, MD, a distinguished board-certified general surgeon with Valley Health Surgical Partners, highlighted the significance of this achievement. “The advantage of having this capability is that surgeries like robotic cancer surgery, or complex ventral hernia surgeries can be done in town. Otherwise, people would be traveling to Northern Virginia, at least, for the same surgeries. Now they have the same care they get in larger places right here in Winchester,” Dr. Posadas said.
The da Vinci Xi robot is a groundbreaking surgical apparatus that enhances the dexterity and precision of a surgeon’s hands. It equips surgeons with high-definition 3D visuals, magnifying the operation site to unprecedented degrees. “We have more range of motion in a patient, compared to laparoscopic surgery, and we see a lot more detail. We are now able to perform superior surgery, and as a plus, it is ergonomically better for the surgeon,” stated Dr. Posadas.
The advantages of robotic surgery are multifold: reduced incision size, accelerated recovery, diminished pain, and minimized risk of complications. Notably, this technology has transformed the landscape of surgeries, allowing complex operations, like colon and hernia surgeries, to be less invasive than they were years ago.
Valley Health’s pioneering journey with robotics began in 2016 when they welcomed their first robot. Their inaugural robotic surgery was a gynecologic oncology procedure. “It was really great to be on the crest of the [robotics] wave as it was coming in,” remarked Devin Flaherty, DO, a fellowship-trained surgical oncologist. Today, Winchester Medical Center proudly houses five da Vinci robots, making it a standout facility in the state. With around 20 surgeons skilled in robotic surgeries, the institution has solidified its reputation in various specialties.
The commitment to this technology extends beyond regular hours. Valley Health ensures round-the-clock patient access to robotic surgery. “This milestone shows the work the surgeons, staff, and administration have put into making this possible. It’s impressive how quickly it happened. I think where it goes from here, it will be twice as fast to the next 5,000 cases,” observed Nicole Rogers, Valley Health’s robotics coordinator.
Concluding on a forward-looking note, Dr. Flaherty emphasized the broader implications of this milestone, “Five thousand is a good number, but more importantly, we need to look at the growth rate of the program, which is just exponentially increasing. We may hit 10,000 cases within the next two years. Valley Health has really bought into the program, and we’ll continue to strive to offer patients the most advanced, top-level care.”
Valley Health is a nonprofit health system serving a population of more than 500,000 in the Northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the Eastern Panhandle and Potomac Highlands of West Virginia, and western Maryland. As a healthcare provider, employer, and community partner, Valley Health is committed to improving the health of the region. The system includes six hospitals, more than 70 medical practices and Urgent Care centers, outpatient rehabilitation and fitness, medical transport, long-term care, and home health. www.valleyhealthlink.com
Virginia DMV Rolls Out Permanent Farm Use Placards
Seeking Safer Roads and Clearer Use of Farm Tags.
Farmers across Virginia have something new to be thankful for. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has announced that permanent placards for unregistered farm vehicles are now available. These placards come as a response to a legislative decision aiming for safer roads and better regulation of farm vehicle identification.
Virginia’s DMV now offers permanent farm use placards for unregistered farm vehicles at all customer service centers. Applications for the permanent farm use placard are available on our newly redesigned website, dmv.virginia.gov.
This move has been met with support and encouragement from key officials. DMV Commissioner Gerald Lackey expressed his optimism about the new system, stating, “It is our hope that these placards will help ensure the proper use of farm use tags and, most importantly, make Virginia’s roads safer.” Farmers can avoid lines and long waits by mailing their applications in advance, which Lackey highly recommends.
Beginning July 1, 2024, these DMV-issued placards will be mandatory for unregistered farm-use panel trucks, pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles. This new requirement emerges from legislation the 2023 General Assembly passed, aiming to replace unofficial farm use tags often bought at local stores. Unlike the informal tags of the past, these placards are priced at $15 and last for the vehicle’s entire lifespan. However, it’s essential to note that they can’t be passed between vehicles. In cases where the vehicle’s title isn’t already with the owner, an extra $15 charge will apply.<br><br>
For those considering this service, the application will ask for several details, including:
- Vehicle owner’s name and a corresponding FEIN, SSN, or DMV customer number.
- Specific vehicle details such as the year, make, model, and vehicle identification number (VIN).
- Detailed information about the farm’s location, its size, and the agricultural products it produces.
- A promise, through signatures, that the vehicle will strictly serve the purposes covered under the farm use exemption and that the vehicle is properly insured.
However, this new convenience doesn’t extend to online transactions for placards. Applicants are advised to either mail their forms with enough time for processing or set an appointment at the DMV to handle the matter in person. Further information about the right plates or placards for farm vehicles is available on the DMV website.
With the introduction of these placards, Virginia takes a step forward in ensuring safety on its roads and clarity in farm vehicle identification. As the 2024 enforcement date approaches, the state’s farmers are equipped with the information and tools they need for a smooth transition.
Honoring Old Glory: A Flag Retirement Ceremony in Middletown, Virginia
SAR Chapter Conducts Reverent Farewell to Worn U.S. Flags at Historical Inn.
On a memorable day at the historic Wayside Inn in Middletown, Virginia, the air was thick with nostalgia and reverence. The Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) convened to perform a solemn duty: retiring U.S. flags that had served their time with honor.
Dating back to 1797, the Wayside Inn holds the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating inn in the nation. Its foundations, laid in the 1740s, resonate with tales from America’s history. In such a place, what could be more fitting than paying homage to the flag that embodies the nation’s spirit and pride? When a flag becomes worn out, the United States Code mandates its respectful destruction, preferably by fire.
Chaplain Tom Reed’s invocation heralded the ceremony’s commencement, paving the way for a vibrant display of colors by a combined Virginia State Color Guard, marshaled by Commander Sean Carrigan. With the stage set, Emcee Dale Corey led the gathering in the Pledge of Allegiance. A weighty silence descended as attendees prepared for the ritual’s crux: the flag’s formal retirement.
The audience listened, spellbound, as a tribute penned in 1933 by Master Sergeant Percy Webb of the United States Marine Corps echoed through the space. Titled “I Am Old Glory,” the piece captures the flag’s journey through America’s evolution, its significance during times of war and peace, and its enduring representation of national unity and freedom. Its words reminded everyone of the timeless values the flag stands for and the sacrifices made to preserve them.
I Am Old Glory
I am old Glory; for more than ten score years, I have been the banner of hope and freedom for generation after generation of Americans. Born amid the first flames of America’s fight for freedom, I am the symbol of a country that has grown from a little group of 13 colonies to a united nation of 50 sovereign states. Planted firmly on the high pinnacle of American Faith, my gently fluttering folds have proved an inspiration to untold millions. Men have followed me into battle with unwavering courage. They have looked upon me as a symbol of national unity. They have prayed that they and their fellow citizens might continue to enjoy the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness which have been granted to every American as the heritage of free men. So long as men love liberty more than life itself, so long as they treasure the priceless privileges bought with the blood of our forefathers, so long as the principles of truth, justice, and charity for all remain deeply rooted in human hearts, I shall continue to be the enduring banner of the United States of America. (Originally written by Master Sergeant Percy Webb, USMC.)
In a poignant moment, sergeant-at-arms Richard Tyler presented a flag to Corey for inspection. Deeming it no longer fit for service, the presiding officer oversaw its respectful and dignified disposal. As flames consumed the flag, a three-round salute rang out, punctuated by the somber notes of Taps, played by Tyler.
The ceremony became interactive as attendees, which included members from SAR, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Girl Scouts, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars, stepped forward to retire their flags. It was an eclectic group of representatives, from Virginia State SAR President Ernie Coggins to DAR representatives Anita Bonner and Anne Simmons, reflecting the wide-reaching impact of the flag on diverse groups.
As the flames of the ceremony died down, they left behind not just ashes but a renewed sense of unity and appreciation for the flag’s enduring symbolism. Through ceremonies like these, we are reminded of the importance of traditions, the sacrifices made for our freedoms, and the perpetual flame of patriotism that burns in American hearts.
Virginia’s Attorney General Opposes Planned Dulles Greenway Toll Hike
A Hefty Price for Daily Commuters: Proposed $2.00 Increase During Peak Hours.
If you’re one of the many Virginians traveling the Dulles Greenway, be prepared: your commute may get a tad costlier. The Toll Road Investors Partnership II (TRIP II) has put forward a proposal to jack up the tolls on this vital 14-mile stretch northwest of Washington, D.C. But not everyone’s on board with this increase, especially Attorney General Jason Miyares.
In a move signaling support for daily commuters, Attorney General Miyares has lodged a formal notice with the State Corporation Commission (SCC), indicating his intention to participate in TRIP II’s application process for the toll increase. His engagement in this case illustrates the office’s commitment to standing shoulder to shoulder with Virginia ratepayers, Northern Virginia’s denizens, and regular commuters who would be directly impacted by such a hike. A complete objection will be presented at a fitting moment down the line.
To break down the numbers, right now, Virginians are shelling out $5.80 during those bustling peak traffic hours and $5.25 during the more tranquil off-peak hours for a standard 2-axle vehicle. With TRIP II’s proposal, these tolls would jump to $8.10 and $6.40, respectively. That’s a sizeable leap for folks using the toll road, especially considering the cumulative cost over weeks, months, and years.
Speaking out on the matter, Attorney General Miyares voiced the struggles of the everyday commuter: “Traffic in Northern Virginia is a daily challenge, and rising inflation only adds to the costs of commuting to work.” He emphasized his office’s position of standing beside Virginia’s commuters, understanding their daily grind, and promoting fairness by pushing back against toll hikes. For Miyares, every penny earned by Virginians holds immense value, and his goal is to shield them from unwarranted financial strains.
The Dulles Greenway toll increase, while seemingly a matter of a few dollars, has a broader implication for the countless individuals using the road daily. As inflation continues to press down on households, any additional financial burdens can be distressing. Thankfully, with Attorney General Miyares stepping into the ring, Virginia’s commuters have a vocal advocate in their corner. It remains to be seen how this toll tug-of-war unfolds, but one thing’s certain: the fight for fair tolls has indeed heated up.