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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Nat'l Night Out Tells Freemansburg Residents They Matter

Councilman George Wilson will give you a burger today!
What is National Night Out? Held on the first Tuesday of August, it's a chance for police and other first responders to let us know they are one of us. It's a chance for us to let them know we're one of them. It's an opportunity for a community, young and old, rich and poor, to get to know each other. Freemansburg has never had this kind of celebration, but thanks to Chief Todd Pantuso and a host of borough volunteers and generous sponsors, this is certain to become an annual tradition. At least 400 people were treated to free hot dogs and burgers served up by Mayor Gerald Yob and Council member George Wilson, as well as pastelillos from Miriam Castellano of Miriam's Take Out. But it was more than the food that attracted people. A tiny borough was telling its residents they matter. And before long, everyone was smiling.

DA John Morganelli remembers officer Robert Lasso
The evening started out with a memorial service for Robert Lasso, a Freemansburg police officer killed in the line of duty two years ago, responding to what should have been a minor neighborhood squabble.

"I remember that night very well," said District Attorney John Morganelli, who paid tribute to the fallen but not forgotten officer. He noted that we tend to take for granted the work that police officers do, but "their lives are always on the line. They never know if they're going to come home." Calling Lasso's widow and his two young children "salt of the earth," Morganelli stated that Lasso "will be remembered, will be in our hearts and thoughts. When he finished his tribute, Jim McAteer of the Somerset County Police Pipes and Drums played Amazing Grace.

Jim McAteer, from the Somerset County Police Pipes and Drums, performs "Amazing Grace"
After this somber reminder of the ultimate sacrifice first responders make, the fun began.

Borough Councilman Jim "Lightning" Smith doesn't think you'll dare take him down.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to dunk an elected official? Borough Council member Jim Smith was giving everyone a chance to take him down. Mayor Yob tried, but was unable to hit the target. But he had a ringer. Benjamin Casellas, after getting some pitching advice from his dad, took the Councilman down in three pitches.

In three pitches, Benjamin Casellas turned  Lightning into Thunder
Smith, who graduated with Morganelli from Liberty High School, was a track star. "We used to call him 'Lightning', said the DA. He was more like thunder as he would crash into the dunk tank time and again until, waterlogged, he called it a day.

With the thunder, comes a tidal wave
In addition to food and drinks, there was also a raffle. Every person who came got a ticket, and 16 prizes were awarded that included gift certificates to Ocean, Apollo's, Sicily Pizza and other local merchants.

Of course, police cars and fire trucks were on display. Every officer volunteered to be there, as well as numerous volunteer firefighters.

Alexandria (Alex) , a 6 yo Belgian Malinois K-9, with trainer Don Wilcox 
Devin Shellhammer delighted to meet Alex
But the star of the night was a Belgian girl named Alexandria (Alex). She's a 6 year-old Beligian Malinois raised by K-9 specialist Don Wilcox. Though a two word command will prompt her to launch into an attack, Wilcox uses her for search and rescue missions. She's participated in 100 cases over the past five years, including water rescues and collapsed building searches.

Despite the fearsome reputation of her breed, Wilcox called her a "lover." She basked in the attention as child after child petted her, and wanted to play with a Shiatsu named Butchy, about 1/10th her size. but when it was time to work, she worked. Her mission was to find a "lost" child, also named Alex, who was hiding in the bed of a pick up truck several hundred yards away. Through a process known as air scent searching, in which her sensitive nose can pick up the 40,000 skin rafts that humans shed every minute, she was able to find the girl in about a minute. She barked her discovery, and then returned to Wilcox and led him to the girl.

The idea for this National Night Out originated with Chief Pantuso, who was involved in the program as an officer in new jersey since 1997. He expressed his deep appreciation for the numerous sponsors who participated in making the 1st Annual Freemanburg National Night Out a night to remember for those who came. They left knowing that they matter. Next year, there will certainly be more.

Butchy, a spunky Shiatsu, tells Alex that size doesn't matter
Alexandria and Alexus, the "lost" girl found in the bed of a pickup truck.
Would you like a burger cooked by Mayor Gerald Yob?
Officers Bob Wieder, Rich Weichand and Jonathan Itterly
Laila Williams tests her strength
Miriam Castellano (L) of Miriam's Take Out, with Jennifer Rodriguez, offer Spanish fare
Borough Manager Judy Danko is the rose between two thorns, Chief Todd Pantuso (L) and DA John Morganelli (R)


Anonymous said...

Looks like a lot of fun, Bernie. Your booking photo is priceless. What your little insane stalker friend wouldn't give for it to be real.

Gee, in the portfolio of pictures at this event for all ages, there are pictures of adults, dogs, and... children. Asbestos for brains will certainly crank this around in her mind to indicate you have a fascination with children. Not because it has an iota of truth, but because she likes to attempt to assassinate your character. One has her legs spread. One is holding what some might call a phallic symbol. My heavens, can we send you back across the border? We don't want our citizens to see children having fun. It's obscene!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I took a lot of pics of the dog, too. I'm sure something must be wrong with that.

Anonymous said...

The new Police Chief in Freemansburg is a class act and has done wonders for that Department in his short tenure.

Anonymous said...

Noble efforts but the hoodys and low riding pant wearers were just getting out of bed and plotting their next crime to feed their heroin fix and were not in attendance, even for the free food...