It is difficult to convey the intensity with which Bryanna Pettera uttered these words:
“Daddy, I did it! It was awesome!”
Dripping wet from the Rock River in Traxler Park, the 9-year-old had just finished water skiing for the first time.
She was one of 42 people with disabilities who skied on a special rig pulled by those powerful boats that pull water skiers during local show ski tournaments.
Bryanna, who has Down syndrome, was frightened before taking to the water. She covered her eyes with her hands, said her father, Alic Mattingly.
But not afterward.
“Awe-some!” the diminutive Edgerton girl repeated several times, the word seeming to emanate from the core of her being.
An organization called Graceful Wakes provided the equipment and 50-plus volunteers to get 42 skiers with disabilities on the water. Many were skiing for the first time, strapped into a chair mounted on a single ski about 12 inches wide.
Two “side skiers” skied alongside, providing encouragement and stability. The side-skiers spent most of their time doubled over so they could keep their hands on the novices and give guidance.
More volunteers—many from the local Rock Aqua Jays ski team—helped the skiers in and out of their rigs in the shallows in front of the grandstand.
Tony Sanchez, 20, of West Allis, also returned from the river with a smile. Tony has autism and epilepsy and doesn’t speak.
Tony’s mother, Hani, said she signed up after seeing a notice of the event on Facebook.
“I figured it would be a great experience for him because he’s going into surgery next week,” she said.
The surgery will implant a device that sends electrical impulses to stop or at least help with epilepsy attacks, Hani said.
It worked out well. Tony ascended from the shoreline smiling and got a kiss from his mother
“I’ve never seen anything like this before. What an opportunity for my son,” Hani said. “I never thought he’d be water skiing. It didn’t seem possible.”
Bethany Austin, 30, has a learning disability and was “terrified” before she was towed up and down the river, said her mother, Robin Austin of Janesville.
“She was crying before we came,” Robin said. “I was really excited for her because she needs to do things she has never done before, and this will push her. She stays home most of the time.”
“I was really shaking,” Bethany said.
But before the boat reached the nearby Veterans Memorial Bridge, she was having fun.
Bethany returned to the shore with a huge grin on her face, as did many others.
The 42 who signed up to ski Friday was a record for the organization. Many stayed around for a second or third trip up and down the river with water spraying and wind in their faces.
“We usually let them go as many times as they want,” said Grace Petzold, the 20-year-old from Mequon who started the organization five years ago.
“No one gets too scared. We take it slow,” said Petzold, who skis with the Aqua Jays.
The skiers reach speeds of about 20 mph, which can seem a lot faster than it is.
Petzold was 15 when her mother, who uses a wheelchair, skied for the first at an adaptive water skiing event in Florida with her husband and daughter.
Wendy Petzold, recalled what came next: “Grace said, ‘Mom, Dad, I want to do this for others.’”
Grace, now a pre-medical student at the University of Pennsylvania, learned about nonprofit status, fundraising and business sponsorships in order to buy the equipment and a trailer to haul it and to keep the free service going.
“I work on it year-round,” she said.
Except for last year, when a planned event in Janesville was one of many that had to be canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I get paid in smiles. Our clinics are the highlights of my summers,” Grace said.
Wendy worked the registration table Friday while her husband, Andrew, drove one of the boats. The events are highlights for the whole family, Wendy said.
Their rewards were apparent when first-timers stepped out of the water, triumphant and glowing.
And if they wanted to see those smiles again, all they had to do was ask if the novice skiers wanted to do it again.
The ear-to-ear grins would reappear, and as Bethany Austin put it:
Janesville resident Sarah Zeimet gave birth to her second child at Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center, Janesville, on March 19, 2019. A perfectly healthy baby boy.
While still pregnant but not knowing the sex of her unborn child, Zeimet did some preliminary research on circumcision in the event she gave birth to a boy. She said she was still unsure whether she would circumcise a son should she have one, when she came across an anti-circumcision post on Facebook. For her, that post sowed the first seed of doubt in the the procedure.
Zeimet discussed the matter with her husband. She said he shared her belief that circumcision, despite being a common practice, was not necessary for a child of theirs.
“It was like a relief,” she said she felt upon hearing him agree with her.
So when Zeimet’s gynecologist asked during a prenatal appointment if she was going to get her child circumcised if it was a boy, Zeimet replied she was not and the conversation ended there.
At the hospital, she welcomed her newborn son. Soon after delivery, nurses started asking if she was going to go ahead with a circumcision. A resolute Zeimet said no. She said three nurses, stopping by her recovery room on separate occasions, asked, only to be met with the same response.
Finally, a fourth nurse came in to prep the infant to be circumcised, Zeimet said, before she shouted “No.”
“I was horrified that if he was taken out of the room that they were going to circumcise him,” she said.
Mercyhealth Hospital officials said patient confidentiality prevents them from discussing particular cases. But in a statement, Dr. Mark Goelzer, Mercyhealth’s medical director, said the “risks and benefits” of circumcision are discussed between parents and a pediatrician.
“We find that most parents have made the decision to circumcise their baby before arriving at the hospital for delivery,” he said. “Ultimately the parents decide.”
Goelzer said the procedure is often done at the hospital by a pediatrician or a pediatric urologist either soon after birth or at a later date, depending on the wishes of the baby’s parents.
In the weeks after the birth of her son, Zeimet said several friends and family members asked if she had had her son circumcised. After sharing the fact that she and her husband opted not to have their boy circumcised, she said she felt some backlash that made her feel anxious about her decision.
“Did I make the right choice? Did I do the right thing? All these people are angry with me for it,” she said.
Zeimet’s experience is not unique, as the topic of circumcision has long been taboo. Only recently has opposition to the procedure grown.
The history of circumcision is deeply rooted in religious traditions, as the practice dates back 3,000 years in Jewish culture and among Muslims and Christians for nearly as long.
Adoption of the practice in the U.S. was largely based on perceived hygienic benefits. During World War II, soldiers had very limited access to hygiene facilities and males were encouraged to get circumcised to avoid infection and disease.
Since then the operation became a cultural norm, evidenced by the fact that between 76% and 92% of males in the U.S. are circumcised, according to the World Health Organization. However, there has been a downward trend among new parents who have decided to have their sons circumcised. Between 1979 and 2010, the rate at which male babies were circumcised dropped by nearly 10%.
Outside of religion, the arguments for circumcision are that they are performed to help lower the risk of urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated these benefits are not sufficient enough to convince the medical community to recommend the routine practice of circumcision.
Goelzer said studies have shown a slight increase in kidney infections among uncircumcised male infants as well as a higher risk for contracting HIV later in life.
“The flip side of that is that there are small percentages in both aspects,” he said. “So you have to weigh the pros and cons of what people’s desires are versus what the science would say.”
Reasons vary as to why people opt to not have their children undergo the surgery. Some parents worry that the operation can result in injury, are concerned that sexual sensitivity will decrease or that a child’s general long-term psychological well-being could be harmed.
There is disagreement that these concerns are valid, especially the latter. There are conflicting studies about the prevalence of psychological effects due to circumcision. Additionally, there have been multiple studies showing no link between circumcision and sexual sensitivity.
Ramping up the debate is a movement by those vehemently opposed to what they consider “genital mutilation.” Self-proclaimed “intactivists”—those who protest the routine removal or alteration of the foreskin of the penis of a child. They argue that children are unable to consent to the procedure.
“Body modifications are inappropriate for anybody under the age of 18 that cannot make a sound and reasonable, rational decision regarding something as extreme as sex part removal,” Zeimet said.
When she isn’t busy caring for her children, Zeimet said she shares her experience via social media and with friends or acquaintances. Online she found the group Intact America, which she now helps disseminate anti-circumcision information with people across the country.
Intact America’s mission is to bring about a world “where children are free from medically unnecessary surgeries carried out on them without their consent in the name of culture, religion, profit, parental preference or false benefit.”
The group posts testimonials, including that of Zeimet, to raise awareness and eliminate the stigma parents who leave their boys “intact” experience.
Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America, said what Zeimet said she went through is all-too common.
“The fact that she was pressured multiple times shows how common the practice is, how cavalier people are about it,” Chapin said.
Zeimet says she knows firsthand how difficult it can be to go against societal norms.
“But trends show children of millennials are growing up in an intact generation,” she said.
Bruce C. Carlson
Theodore W. “Ted” Caucutt
Sherrie E. Duoss
William R. Hein
John Scott Henning
James A. “Jim” Kienbaum
Marilyn Jean (Simonson) Klassy
Barbara J. Kronquist
Marian E. Longman
John A. Orland
Mark E. Veum
Matthew Koch Williams
Deloris R. Write
As the city of Milton considers taking on more of the cost of fire protection as provided by the city of Janesville, officials want to know if they have other options.
One alternative could be Milton joining the Edgerton Fire Protection District, but Milton City Administrator Al Hulick has said that hasn’t been discussed.
Apparently, that’s about to change.
The Milton City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 15, at Milton City Hall to listen to a presentation by Edgerton Fire Chief Randall Pickering.
Several Milton officials on Wednesday met with town supervisors from Harmony, Johns-town and Lima. One of three options presented then by Pickering included the city of Milton joining the Edgerton Fire Protection District.
Thursday’s meeting will allow the city and chief to ask questions of one another.
Hulick said the main question continues to be what level of service do residents expect. It’s a question the towns are trying to answer, too.
Town officials have a draft of a membership petition crafted by attorney Michael Oellerich and Milton Town Chairman Bryan Meyer that asks the Edgerton Fire Protection District Board to allow the towns to join the district.
Pickering said the board would like to see the municipalities join as a group. The towns also would need an intergovernmental agreement that outlines how to pay for a new satellite fire station.
“This will undoubtedly be one of, if not the biggest, decision you make as an elected official for your citizens probably in your government service career,” Pickering told the town leaders
He said he and Deputy Chief Jason Russ have been acting as informed advisers, adding that the Edgerton fire district doesn’t have a sign out front saying it is looking for towns or cities to join it.
The Edgerton fire district protects 100 square miles and $1.2 billion in assets. Its members include the city of Edgerton and the towns of Fulton, Porter, Albion and Sumner. The latter two are in Dane and Jefferson counties, respectively.
Pickering talked about three options for the towns gathered Wednesday:
Included in the models is the town of Koshkonong in Jefferson County, which Pickering said is looking for coverage for about 27 houses.
The service provided by Edgerton would be paramedic level. Staffing would be a combination of full-time, paid-on-premise and paid-on-call staff and interns. A minimum of three career firefighters would be at each station at all times, Pickering said. In the combination staffing model, he said all members are certified and trained to the same standards and costs are lower than the costs for a career fire department.
The Janesville Fire Department, owned and operated by the city of Janesville, employs career firefighters.
The Edgerton fire district is not owned by the city of Edgerton. It is an independent district with a board of commissioners, which includes one commissioner and alternate per municipality in the district except for the city of Edgerton, which has two commissioners.
Another thing that would differentiate the Edgerton fire district from the Janesville Fire Department for Milton would be the depth of response, Pickering said.
In Janesville, he said if one station is busy, another station takes the call.
Using paid-on-call firefighters gives Edgerton the ability to backfill a station, he said.
“You have to have enough paid-on-call volunteers that are willing to come in,” he said. “If you can make that model work, it is a better depth of response because every incident is getting a truck out of the same station instead of coming from someplace else (depending on the number of incidents).”
Another difference would be the geographic dispersion of resources, he said. One of the scenarios he presented (option No. 2 listed above) would have four stations, including in Edgerton and Newville, providing a better chance of being within a four- or five-minute emergency response window across a larger geographic area.
If the towns are interested in being part of the Edgerton district and the district approves their membership, the current municipalities in the district would have a separate budget from the newly joining municipalities for at least the first several years.
Pickering said that is because the Edgerton fire district’s revenue is 50% tax levy and 50% revenue from services delivered, while the Milton Joint Fire Commission’s budget is made up of 80% from a tax levy and 20% revenue from services.
Projected costs are based on equalized property values and how much of the municipality is covered by the department.
Combining operating expenses and facility needs, including a new station and a replacement ambulance, Pickering said in the Edgerton fire district model with five municipalities, the projected first-year cost increase would be about $1.071 million.
Pickering said the numbers could come down if they had to and added that he was trying to provide numbers that would be all-inclusive.
Meyer, the Milton Town Board chairman, said the Janesville estimate with a projected first-year increase of $1.066 million doesn’t include a new facility or new equipment.
And, in the Janesville model, Harmony Town Chairman Jeff Klenz said, “We have no say.”
Costs were broken down by town. Comparisons are made using the 2021 levy and first year of the new model (potentially 2023). Increases for option No. 3 with five municipalities and one new fire station are estimated at $447,369 (133%) for the town of Milton, $430,495 (191%) for Harmony, $127,939 (214.8%) for Johnstown, $98,549 (243.3%) for Lima and $26,352 (133%) for Koshkonong.
Bringing in the city of Milton in option No. 2 and building two stations, the increases are lower. The increase for the city of Milton is listed at $499,644 (119.9%).