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Assistant superintendent: 'Mother's Day is a time to celebrate motherhood'

DuBOIS — Wendy Benton is known to most people in the community as the assistant superintendent of the DuBois Area School District.

But to her husband, Josh, her 4-year-old son, Hank, and her 22-month-old daughter, Julia, her most important roles are those of wife and mother.

To Benton, Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate motherhood.

“It’s the toughest, most important job that will fill your heart in a way you never knew existed,” she said.

What she likes most about motherhood is the bond she shares with her children.

“It’s a love greater than any other. My heart melts regularly when Hank refers to me as his ‘precious lady’,” Benton said. “No matter how stressful of a day I have had, there is nothing better than Hank and Julia running to the door to greet me when I pick them up.”

Benton, 37, said she always knew she wanted to be a mother but only if she found a great father for her children.

“It took me a while to find Josh but while I was waiting for him, I was happy to focus on graduate coursework to further my career,” Benton said. The couple married on Dec. 28, 2012.

Prior to coming to DuBois, Benton was an elementary teacher for five years, a high school assistant principal and athletic director for two years and a high school principal for three years in the Clarion-Limestone School District. As she progressed through her career, she realized that she could make a greater impact on educating children in a leadership position. It was also apparent to her that she needed to have a vast range of K-12 experiences to prepare her for a district level position.

Benton became the DuBois Area Middle School principal on July 1, 2013. In July 2016, she became the assistant superintendent.

“My mother always encouraged me to focus on my education first because the time commitment would be much more difficult to balance with children,” Benton said. “Thankfully, I completed seven years of college coursework prior to having children. The eighth year of coursework, with a 1 year old, was well worth it but definitely a challenge. My mother was right.”

Just prior to becoming the assistant superintendent in July 2016, the board underwent a transitional period and was searching for a new superintendent and Benton, pregnant with Julia, stepped in to serve as the acting superintendent.

She gave birth to Julia during this time and returned to work seven days later. Benton admits that presented challenges but she and Josh made the best of it.

“My husband assisted me in creating a make-shift nursery in my office so that Julia and I could be together and be as comfortable as possible,” Benton said. “Julia spent a lot of time in a baby carrier strapped to my chest and my colleagues were incredibly supportive working with a newborn in the office. Fortunately, newborns sleep a lot so it was manageable. Julia rarely cried and was a pleasant baby. Her brother, Hank, to this day calls her ‘Sweetieheart.’”

At the six-week mark, Julia was not quite as comfortable and the balance between career and motherhood was taking a toll on Benton as well.

“I knew it would be best for Julia to start to build a bond with her babysitter as well,” Benton said.

Balancing a demanding career and motherhood is not always easy but Benton said she has been blessed with an incredibly supportive husband, family, friends, colleagues and school board.

“My husband is my number one. I waited 32 years for him and he is a selfless, compassionate, dedicated husband and father,” Benton said. “He steps up every time I need him. Our family and friends also provide support and balance in life. Our mothers are especially gracious with their time and love for our children. Our friend, neighbor and babysitter, Missy Wayne, is like a second mother to our children. She loves our children as if they were her own and she provides phenomenal care and nurturing.”

Benton said she also receives tremendous support from the school board.

“They are always conscientious of family time and encourage me to keep a balance between work and home,” Benton said.

One important component to juggling a career and motherhood is that Benton never procrastinates.

“I begin shopping for Christmas for the next year on Dec. 26,” she said.

She also tries to exercise every day but has learned to listen to her body and realizes that sometimes it is best to just take the night off.

Sometimes Benton has to remind herself to slow down and not to stress over the things she cannot control.

“It’s important to spend time with your children but it’s also important to make time to take care of yourself,” she said. “The most difficult part of being a mother is finding a balance in life. Motherhood is not a competition. You don’t have to be perfect to be a great mother. I tell my children, ‘You don’t have to be the smartest, the best athlete, or the most popular but I expect that you will be the nicest.’”


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A STRIKING IMPACT: Waterfalls provide visual highlight at entrance of Heindl Field

DuBOIS — The first thing people see when entering the new Rose and Dennis Heindl Memorial Field from Parkway Drive is the magnificent cascading waterfalls made up of more than 200 natural glacial boulders.

Though it’s just one of the many special features at the brand new ball field — built in the DuBois City Park to provide specialized athletic opportunities for those with special physical and mental needs — its impact is striking. Softball and baseball enthusiasts suddenly realize that they are about to experience what a true “field of dreams” feels like right here in DuBois.

The waterfall project was a collaboration between the City of DuBois, general contractor Dave Roman of Reynoldsville, and Landscape One Inc., of DuBois.

“We’ve gotten a lot of compliments from a lot of people in the community and I think people are surprised by the impact that it can have on the field and just the scale to size of it,” said Beau Caldwell, owner of Landscape One. “I think scale is very important. When you look at a complex this big, you needed to do something big at the entrance and I think we accomplished that with the size.”

The larger falls that faces Parkway Drive is 50 feet wide and 12 feet tall. The smaller falls that faces the ball field is 30 feet wide and 12 feet tall.

Caldwell said Roman’s team was instrumental in creating the foundation for the waterfall project.

“They did all the dirt work to prepare us the mound that we turned into those waterfalls,” said Caldwell.

Started in 2000, Landscape One primarily works on new design-build projects.

“I was approached by the city to do something different at the entrance to the new state-of-the-art facility,” Caldwell said. “City Manager Herm Suplizio had seen a previous smaller waterfall project that we did for a local customer and asked us to possibly do something here at the park,” Caldwell said. “Chris Nasuti, city engineer, designed the waterfall so that it could be seen from the entrance and from the field. That was important to Herm. It was also important to be able to see the waterfalls from the grandstands in the bleachers.”

Nine tri-axle loads of the glacial boulders were hauled from north of Ridgway to the site, Caldwell said.

“They each weigh an average of probably 2,000 pounds apiece,” he said. “We had to strap them and load hand by hand and plate each one, using a machine, of course. There’s a thick, rubber line in behind the waterfalls and there’s a reservoir in the ground.”

The front waterfall will put 70,000 gallons of water per hour over the falls, but the small falls at the base will put 52 thousand gallons of water per hour over the falls.

“I think they’re going to put timers on it so that it’s running during appropriate times,” Caldwell said. “We also put color changing lights in it so at night it will be lit. The city can pick whatever color they want on the falls.”

The waterfall display took exactly three weeks to assemble from start to finish, said Caldwell, noting that he is very pleased with the finished project.

Caldwell said he is very proud to be part of the new ball park.

“I was just honored to be part of something so important for the future of our community. I just think that this is great,” said Caldwell. “I think that kids are our whole future and, you know, to be a part of this whole project was amazing.”


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IN THE NICK OF TIME: General contractor putting the finishing touches on new Heindl field

DuBOIS — The City of DuBois is ready to host the 2018 USCAA Small College World Series next week for both baseball and softball beginning Monday and continuing through Thursday.

A total of 20 teams — 10 baseball and 10 softball — will come to DuBois for championship week. The baseball tournament will be held at Showers’ Field, while the softball event will take place at the new Rose and Dennis Heindl Memorial Field in the DuBois City Park.

With not a moment to spare, general contractor Dave Roman said work continues this week at the new state-of-the-art facility to ensure that the softball event will be a memorable experience for all involved.

Construction began in mid-July at the new field which is located where the girls softball field had been. It was built to provide specialized athletic opportunities for those with special physical and mental needs, specifically The Challenger League, but other Little League teams will use it as well, as will Penn State DuBois, DuBois Area High School and DuBois Central Catholic. It will be a multi-purpose field but the turf is designed for children who are in wheelchairs or need assistance on the entire field.

“Although I was the general contractor for the project, it would have been impossible for me to do this without the help of all my great subcontractors that worked above and beyond to get this project completed,” Roman said. “We just have a few finishing touch ups.”

Some of the distinguishing characteristics include: In dead center field, there is a platform where people can sit and watch the game. There is a state-of-the-art scoreboard and video board. Movies can be shown from the video board. There is seating on the wall in left field. There are numerous bleacher seatings both on the first base and third base sides. There are grandstands behind home plate where multiple people can sit. There is a press box and numerous landings for viewing. There is an elevator so those with disabilities will be able to get all around the field. There is a concession stand and restrooms on the lower level.

The impressive playground is made specifically for those with disabilities.

“It’s made so that a wheelchair can go right through it and kids can get off the wheelchair and go down the slides,” Roman said.

The waterfall project in right field was a collaboration between the City of DuBois, Roman and Landscape One Inc.

“We had to build a mount of dirt, and then stack the rocks, and put the pumps in. It was quite intense,” said Roman. “And then we put some retaining walls around the outside of the field, and right now we’re currently finishing the sidewalks out in front of retaining wall, make different levels to get in.”

Roman said the biggest challenges for the last two months had been the weather.

Though many people didn’t think they would make the deadline, Roman believed they would.

“We probably had as many as 40 people here working at one time,” he said.

Roman’s favorite part of the project was putting the turf down on the field.

“That’s the main part of what we did, is grading that, to precise perfection, or we would have humps in the turf,” he said.

Roman says he loved working on the project and also the end result.

Attending the DuBois City Classic games on Saturday, Roman said he just sat in the outfield and took it all in for most of the game.


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Economic impact of Small College World Series higher than originally expected

DuBOIS — Teams traveling to DuBois and Clearfield County for the 2018 City of DuBois USCAA Small College World Series are expected to begin arriving to the area this Saturday.

A total of nine traveling small college baseball teams, along with Penn State DuBois, and 10 traveling softball teams will compete at Showers and Heindl fields for their respective national championships this coming week starting on Monday.

Overnight bookings have come in higher than originally estimated, according to Matthew Checchio, president of Magnus Marketing.

When initial planning was under way in the fall, the planning committee estimated approximately 750 room nights with local hotels. However, more parents, fans and school officials are expected to be traveling with the teams as the estimated room count was approaching close to 1,000 room nights at hotels and lodging locations within the county as of Wednesday. The event is expected to bring the largest number of room bookings by a single event in Clearfield County history.

“The event is bringing an incredible amount of new lodging revenue to our county,” said Josiah Jones, executive director for Visit Clearfield County. “Not only do these championships bring people to stay overnight, but the area restaurants and businesses will see a direct impact as well.”

“There’s no way we would have sold out during [next] week,” said Becky Yasick, assistant general manager at Fairfield Inn and Suites in DuBois. “The weekend or two before Memorial Day is typically slow for hotels, so these championships provide a huge impact for us to book new business and not displace any other events.”

The tournaments will bring an estimated 500 student-athletes to DuBois and Clearfield County.

The USCAA will be utilizing multiple hotels, restaurants, and shops throughout the nearly weeklong duration of the championships. The United States Collegiate Athletic Association is a national organization dedicated to providing opportunities for small colleges to compete against like institutions for national-championships and student athlete recognition. The 84-member organization is headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, and has been in existence since 2001.


Photo by Chris Wechtenhiser 

DuBois' Lexi Smith, right, is congratulated by first base coach Justin Bundy after hitting a two-run single in the bottom of the third inning Wednesday against St. Marys. Smith's hit capped a five-run inning.


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BILGER'S ROCKS: Vendors, public invited to enjoy local flea market

Starting during the “Mother’s Day in the Park” event Sunday, Bilger’s Rocks will kick off its first flea market season, offering several vendors in Clearfield County.

Events Coordinator Dennis Biancuzzo said the idea for a local flea market came when he asked for feedback from the community.

The Hazen Flea Market outside of Brookville is a very large and successful flea market, but some people may not always want to make the trip there, he said.

“I had talked to several people and asked if they would be interested in having a local flea market, rather than driving to Hazen,” he said. “It turns out that a flea market was a need for local people.”

A flea market will be held every other Sunday, continuing through October, Biancuzzo said. Initially there will be about 10 vendors, offering everything from food to crafts, including a homemade pickle vendor, jewelry, Avon, antiques, face painting and baby clothes.

As the season continues, Biancuzzo said he is hopeful the flea market’s popularity will grow, since Bilger’s Rocks will be offering many educational events throughout the summer. Sundays will be a great day for families to come shop and undertake educational activities, like going on a guided tour or taking a rock climbing course that is offered monthly.

There are still spaces for vendors, and the price is $10 per spot, Biancuzzo said. If a vendor signs up for the whole flea market season, they are able to have May 13 and 27 free as part of a sign-up special.

It’s not only a fun day for people to visit the park, but it’s also important to support small-town, local vendors and business owners, Biancuzzo said. People are able to shop local and enjoy a scenic day in the park while supporting local crafters and entrepreneurs.

Bilger’s Rocks is located at 1921 Bilger’s Rocks Road in Grampian. For vendor information, call 814-553-5744 or visit www.bilgersrocks.net to sign up.