Wednesday June 13, 2012

If a hiker goes missing on Mount Greylock or anywhere else in the Berkshire region, who're you gonna call? If you're the state police or another public safety agency, the first call -- for anyone missing under any circumstances -- usually goes to the Berkshire Mountain Search and Rescue Team (BMSAR).

The group has 18 volunteers on call 24-7 to respond to emergencies. Funding comes from membership annual dues, grants and donations.

The American Kennel Club is contributing $3,800 to the search team -- its third grant to BMSAR -- for continuing support of the five K9s that are also on alert to track down missing persons at a moment's notice.

Previous grants have funded GPS tracking units and a K9 mobile support trailer plus equipment, said Michael Comeau, the team leader. The new funding will enable BMSAR to add an advanced communications system to its K9 support trailer to assist K9s responding to a disaster or hazardous incident, Comeau stated.

BMSAR will accept the AKC award tonight at 7:30 at the West Stock bridge Grange Hall, 5 Swamp Road. The team's K9 director, retired state trooper Neil Raymond, who was a Massachusetts State Police K9 trainer and handler, will demonstrate for AKC reps how their previous grants have helped BMSAR achieve state-of-the-art dog-tracking expertise.

"Having Neil on the team is a huge plus for us," Comeau told County Fare.


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"Our K9s and their handlers get the best, most up-to-date training. We have built up a very good, long-standing relationship with the state police here in Western Massachusetts."

Taconic High School recently held a fundraiser for one of its students, Matt Driscoll, who lost his leg in a car accident earlier this year. The May 25 fundraiser was a relay in honor of Driscoll's membership on the Taconic Track Team. He plans to run again one day, so the theme of the event was "Keeping the Dream Alive."

Business teacher Heather McNeice wrote to The Eagle and said, "I have been a part of many events at Taconic, but this one took my breath away."

She said that one of the many "feel good" individual stories that came to life that day included that of freshman Chris Maffuccio. Due to physical limitations, the young man regularly relies on a teaching aide, as he walks with braces on his legs and has a walker.

McNeice said that Maffuccio, using his braces and walker, walked in the relay for Driscoll. Maffuccio went around the track six times and raised more than $150. In total, the school raised more than $7,500 in honor of their injured classmate. Go Braves!

American painter Barbara Ernst Prey's work hangs in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Brooklyn Museum and at the White House, and is in the private collection of former presidents and celebrities like Tom Hanks.

But this Williams College alumna, who has studios in New York and the Berkshires, recently reached out to the fifth graders at Brayton Elementary School in North Adams, to teach the class a lesson in watercolor.

"I've been painting since I was your age and was fortunate to have a mother who was head of the Design department at Pratt Art Institute in New York City. I always drew and had a sketchbook," she told the students.

Prey was invited as a part of a Williams College democratic expression class project. She said the project is based on the principle that "exposure to art is proven to open doors and leads to more creative and innovative students. It helps you think outside the box."

Prey showed the students how to make a watercolor wash with a single color and water. The students then created their own background washes with Prey's help. One of the students, Laura Thompson, 11, was impressed by the lesson and said, "I think it's cool that even though she's traveled all over the world, she came here to work with us."