Following a resolution from the City Council last week, MainStreet of Fremont is now closer to providing a more festive atmosphere during the Christmas season for years to come.
The Fremont City Council approved a request by MainStreet for $15,000 from the Hotel Occupation Tax Fund to assist with the purchase of Christmas decorations to be displayed in downtown Fremont.
The resolution was passed unanimously, by a vote of 8-0.
The effort to purchase new Christmas decorations for downtown Fremont has been undertaken by the Business Improvement District (BID) board along with MainStreet of Fremont.
“This is actually the part of the initiative that they (BID) had within their budget and that group has a five year plan and each year they have allocated funding towards Christmas decorations,” Shannon Mullen, executive director of MainStreet of Fremont, said.
In February, the Business Improvement District Board approved a bid from Holidynamics for the purchase of wreaths and bows to be placed on light poles throughout the Downtown District.
“Holidynamics came in with the least expensive bid right around $45,149 so we would ask the Business Improvement District for $12,000 of that to go ahead and order these decorations,” Mullen said at the BID meeting in February.
The Holidynamics bid, and the allocation of $12,000 to MainStreet to purchase the décor was unanimously approved by the Business Improvement District Board at that time.
The $45,149 price tag from Holidynamics will cover the purchase of wreaths and bows that will be placed on 150 light poles throughout the Downtown District, according to Mullen.
The wreaths are 48 inch mixed noble wreaths that are pre-lit with white lights and there will be two on each 150 light poles. There will also be a red bow attached to each light pole as well.
“We wanted decorations that had appeal during the day and the evening,” Mullen said. “We have a lot of people that work and live downtown, and we wanted to bring more people downtown throughout the Christmas season, so we think these decorations are a good first step.”
The 150 poles that the new wreaths and bows will be placed on are located throughout the Business Improvement district, which generally encompasses areas between H and D Streets and Military Avenue and 1st Street in downtown Fremont.
“The BID wanted to make sure that everyone in the district has coverage,” Mullen said. “We are going to have coverage out on Military and Broad because we definitely want to people to know that they are getting close to downtown.”
According to Mullen, MainStreet has applied for grants, including one from the Fremont & Dodge County Convention and Visitor Bureau, to cover the remaining cost of the Christmas decorations.
Recently, Brian Tillman was asked to tell local Boy Scouts what it was like to have a disability.
The Fremont man did more than that.
He gave them a lesson on perseverance.
“You can do anything in life that you want to do; It’s your decision to make it what it is,” said Tillman, who’s right leg was amputated below the knee.
Tillman, a construction worker, spoke with youth in Boy Scout Troop 109 who were working on their Disability Awareness badge. That same evening, Val Hruska, a Braillist for Fremont Public Schools volunteered to help the boys understand tools used by people with a visual impairment.
Troop 109 consists of 23 boys, said Paul Hegemann, whose son Phoenix is a member.
To earn the badge, the boys needed to meet with someone who has a disability and learn how that person adapts, and also a professional who helps people with disabilities.
Boys were divided into two groups. Each group spent time with one of the speakers. The boys then traded places to learn from the second presenter.
Tillman told how he was injured in 2002 after he fell 11 feet off a single-story house while cleaning out gutters. His ankle shattered into 13 pieces.
At the time, he was just 33 years old and was caring for a young daughter and nephew.
“I had so many rods, pins and screws and nine surgeries trying to save it,” Tillman said. “I spent two years bedridden before the doctors would amputate it, because it was a living part.”
Life changed after the surgery.
“They amputated it in 2004 and within 30 days I was right back on the ladder and back to work,” he said. “I do construction. Every day, I get up and do roofs, siding, gutters, drywall — whatever it takes — it’s just another phase of life.”
During his presentation, Tillman showed the boys two of his prostheses.
“Over time, I’ve had six to seven legs,” he said. “They say the expectancy of them is usually only three years, but I’ve made them last quite a lot longer — just because each one of these legs is $22,000. Granted, with insurance and everything else, it’s only going to cost $3,000, but you’ve got to think that every three years you’re going to have a $3,000 bill just to walk.”
He showed them differences in the prostheses.
“Each one of your legs is a spring-loaded system. This (prosthesis) actually has a shock built into it. It would actually suppress so when you walk, it had the same movement as your leg,” he said.
He showed a rubber sleeve which helped keep that prosthesis on the stump of his leg.
Tillman displayed a second prosthesis that was lighter than the first and said he even has prosthetic leg that can go underwater.
The boys asked various questions like: “Do you wear a sock (on the leg with the prosthesis?)”
He does — to make it look good. And he can leave that sock on the prosthesis for quite a while.
“Could you kick a wall and you wouldn’t feel anything?”
“Absolutely, dude,” Tillman said. “But you do have feeling. Every once in a while, my foot would fall asleep.”
Sometimes, he’s thought he had an ingrown toenail and would start to limp.
How does that happen?
Tillman said after someone comes out of surgery, his brain still thinks the limb is in place.
“I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night and forgotten to put a leg on,” he said.
Tillman has learned to adapt.
“It’s mind over matter,” he said. “Don’t let a little thing like this put you down. Pick yourself up. Get going. It’s another phase of life.”
He knows this isn’t always easy to do.
“Sometimes, it’s hard. This was the hardest thing for me to do, but I was only 33 years old — too young to lie down and call it, ‘done,’” he said.
Tillman told how the prosthetic leg brought back his independence.
“If they would have saved my ankle, I would have never been doing construction to this day,” he said.
And in the tone of someone who’ve overcome adversity, Tillman seasoned his talk with a little good-natured humor, pointing out what he sees as benefits.
“I go home, take my leg off. I don’t even take that shoe off. I’ve got only one shoe to untie. You get a pair of socks. That lasts you forever, because you only use one,” he said.
Tillman told how he went to a store to get a pair of shoes. He found a pair, but one shoe was size 101/2 and the other was size 11.
In his situation, the mismatched shoes weren’t an issue and he was charged only $5.35 cents for the pair, because of the size difference.
Tillman also said he was a volunteer at Howard Elementary School, showing youngsters the prosthesis and how it works so they wouldn’t be frightened of one.
“It’s just another way of walking, another part of life,” he said. “Everybody’s a little different.”
Tillman said he had a prosthetic leg while serving the former Pack 236 of the Salvation Army. He took part in camping and other activities.
“Everybody stood behind me and helped me,” Tillman said. “The only thing I can’t do is go tubing, because the leg falls off. There is one out at Fremont Lakes right now.”
As might be expected, Scouts at the presentation offered to go search for the leg, but Tillman assured them that they probably wouldn’t find it.
Tillman’s talk continued and he left the scouts with some other advice:
“Take pride in your life,” he said, adding, “It’s good to see that Scouting is still around, because that makes kids grow.”
Toward the end of the program, Scout Mason Filter talked about what he’d learned:
“If you’ve lost a body part, you should keep going and not give up,” Filter said. “You have to keep pushing for your friends and family, because you need them and they need you.”
It wasn’t a typical Boy Scout meeting.
Instead, boys from Troop 109 gathered around a table while Val Hruska showed them how a Braillewriter works.
The boys were working on their Disability Awareness badge. Hruska, a Braillist for Fremont Public Schools for 17 years, volunteered her time to teach the boys about tools used by people with a visual impairment.
Troop 109 consists of 23 boys, said Paul Hegemann, whose son Phoenix is a member.
To earn the badge, the boys needed to meet with a professional who helps people with disabilities and also someone who has a disability to learn how that person adapts. In addition, they will do eight hours of volunteer work at a charity that assists people with disabilities.
Recently, the boys were divided into two groups to hear from the presenters. One group learned from Hruska, while the other listened to Brian Tillman, whose right leg was amputated below the knee after a fall from a roof. The groups then traded places so the boys could hear from both speakers.
Hruska began her presentation by telling the boys about a man named Louis Braille.
“A guy from the video game?” one boy asked.
“No,” she said. “He (Braille) was born in Paris, France, in 1809.”
Braille’s father was a shoemaker. When the boy was 3, he was in his dad’s workshop playing with a tool and lost an eye.
Back then, people didn’t have the medication available today, Hruska explained. The boy’s other eye became infected and he lost sight in both of his eyes.
Braille went to a school for the blind in Paris to learn to read by using raised letters — a time-consuming process.
A soldier came into the school with a system of using raised dots in the middle of the night to pass notes. Braille came up with an idea of using raised dots to represent the letters. At first, teachers didn’t want to accept a new way of reading.
“So the kids then started learning it in secret,” Hruska said. “Soon, the teachers realized how much faster it would be.”
Hruska explained how Braille is a series of different dots that have different meanings.
“The different ways they put the dots together is how they come up with letters,” she said.
Hruska explained how capital letters are differentiated from lowercase.
She showed the boys how a Braillewriter and other tools are used. She also showed them a magnifying bar and ball, used to enlarge text for people with a visual impairment.
The boys later wore special glasses and canes to help them understand what it would be like to be blind.
Hegemann was pleased with the evening.
“I thought it was very educational,” he said. “I think it helps give the boys a different perspective on people with disabilities and the challenges they face.”