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June 3, 2013
Lawn & Landscape

Back from Boston

Two L&L readers who ran the Boston Marathon share their stories.

‘This race is for dad.’
Donna Dowell is vice president at DowCo Enterprises, which she operates with her husband, Maurice, and their daughter, Kelly, in Chesterfield, Mo. She ran the race while Maurice waited at the finish line.

Ever since I turned 40, I’ve hoped to qualify for the Boston Marathon. That was 12 years ago, and last year, a friend encouraged me to start training again. There’s a small race in Santa Rosa, Calif., that touts a large percentage of Boston qualifiers. My dad was there at the finish line when I crossed running the fastest marathon of my life.

Donna Dowell ran in the Boston Marathon for her father who has pancreatic cancer.

Little did I know last summer that this year Dad would be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. By the time the doctors found it, the cancer was stage four and had metastasized and spread. I flew to California to be with my folks in March, and we all flew home to St. Louis. Mom, dad and their dog, Louie, all share our St. Louis home now.

My parents have always supported me in the pursuit of my goals. I’ve been blessed to have a husband, a son and daughter who encourage and share my successes. In the weeks before Boston, they all rallied behind me to go run that marathon. My brother Mike came and stayed at our home with my folks, and Saturday Maurice and I flew to Boston.

This race was for Dad. The whole experience was meant to be shared.

Monday morning I woke at 5:30 and was out the door walking to Boston Commons by 6:15. The whole Boston Marathon experience is amazing. There would be about 27,000 runners and 500,000 spectators.

Runners filled the streets, which were lined with metal crowd barriers. The three of us slowly inched to our corrals. The people were squeezed tightly together and I wondered if I would make it to my designated starting place in time. I arrived with a couple minutes to spare and then we were off.

Veteran runners had warned me to go slow. “It’s a downhill start and it will deceive you,” they said. “Take it easy.” What I didn’t realize until around mile four was that you get sucked into a fast pace. This is no ordinary marathon: Everyone is fast. My quads started to send distress signals and I realized that I needed to reassess the situation. I slowed down and concentrated on saving my energy for the big hills that you run into around mile 16. They call it Heartbreak Hill.

Donna’s husband, Maurice, joined her in Boston to root her on to the finish line.

Somewhere around halfway the wind decided to kick up and the clouds rolled in covering up the sun. Hello, headwind! It was sharp, cold air blowing right at me – through me.

In the meantime I stopped and took a few photos. I sent a few text messages. I took some walking breaks. Some say the Boston course is made to humble you. I tried to race smart, tapping into all my prior experience working toward that finish line. I thought about the special people in my life who were tracking my progress. I felt their love and support trudging on as my quads protested. The wind blew and my head hurt. I remembered that my Dad was in pain and suffered every day. I said a prayer and kept moving my feet.

Finally, I saw a sign saying less than one mile to go. I ran for a while and then remembered to take off the sweatband I was wearing. I twisted and wrapped the soggy terry cloth band around my wrist. I didn’t want that band across my forehead during my Boston Marathon finisher’s photo.

I’m almost there. This is the moment I’ve waited for and suddenly everyone stops. Runners in front of me are standing still. We just stop. People are saying they closed the race – they shut down the race. Then someone shouts out make phone calls while you can, soon you won’t be able to. There’s been a bomb at the finish.

Everyone who had a phone starts trying to make calls. A few people around me are crying; a fellow beside me starts throwing up. Sirens scream out and get louder as they seem to be arriving from every direction. Police cars with lights flashing and horns blowing drive through the street as the mass of runners step aside. Nobody knows what is going on and cell phones are not working.

I try to find out if Maurice was at the finish. We wait for a long time and everyone is cold, although no one says a word about that.

People try to tuck their arms into their shirts and then neighbors, people nearby start to bring trash bags out of their homes. Strangers appear with pitchers of water and cups, Gatorades, sandwiches, trail mix – anything they could find to help. A woman gave me a white kitchen size trash bag to keep warm.

Eventually the crowd starts to move and I follow along walking. I could see metal crowd barriers blocking the course as we walked one street over. Looking down the side streets I could see emergency vehicles with their lights flashing.

We ended up being funneled around to the bag check busses where they handed out bags of food, water and Mylar blankets. It was odd because nobody knew where to go. I couldn’t get the map on my phone to work so I kept asking people how to get to the Marriott.

By this time I had found out that Maurice was OK. When I look back on the day I am thankful that God kept us out of harm’s way. Each time I stopped and slowed down during the race moved me back from the explosions. Maurice had been at the hotel retrieving my warm up pants and jacket when the bomb went off. I have never run with a phone, but this time I took a phone and charger so I could keep in touch with the people I love.

That phone was vital when I was trying to find Maurice and find my way back. I had a few frightening moments of uncertainty but the horrible reality is that other people had terrors and losses no one should experience. Innocent people suffered, not because of an accident or a natural disaster, but something planned to do harm. That is what grieves me the most.

What wasn’t planned was the response. Strangers helped me. Everywhere you heard stories of people helping other people. The next day Bostonians would say to us: “Don’t let this keep you from Boston.”

Maurice and I received loving messages of care and concern from family and friends. Tuesday night as I walked through the airport wearing my Boston Marathon jacket a TSA agent gave me a thumbs-up and said “We’re glad you guys are back safe.” Over and over, unplanned goodness was shared by strangers.

Monday night after the race when I settled in at the hotel, I phoned my dad. “Well, Dad, you were going to be the first one I phoned from the finish,” I said.

I could tell the tears were falling as he told me how happy he was to hear my voice, to know I was OK. He told me how special it was to see that I had written “Dad” on my arm. I was able to talk once more to the father that I love.

I had one more occasion to say I love you to the people that matter. That is my biggest take away from this marathon. We have opportunities every day to tell the people we love that we love them.

We have the chance to let our friends know just how much they matter to us; this is what’s really important. People.


The race of my life

Ken Hutcheson, president of U.S. Lawns, ran to help diabetes research, but he ended up receiving support from complete strangers.

For many years the U.S. Lawns family has actively supported the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) as they work towards finding a cure for diabetes. Much of the support has been in traditional ways, such as hosting golf tournaments, participating in annual fundraising drives and sponsoring walks. This year, I chose to be in front of one of these USL/JDRF campaigns in a very personal way – by racing in the Boston Marathon on the JDRF running team.

The JDRF running team, based in Boston, shares a common bond: a personal connection with diabetes, along with a passion to help JDRF support research that will change people’s lives. We at U.S. Lawns used the phrase, “the race of my life” in our fundraising and awareness campaign in the months leading up to the race.

For me, it began as a perfect day. I was feeling great and I was fully prepared to run the race of my life. I met my teammates at the Boston Athletic Club where we boarded a bus, courtesy of JDRF supporters, which was escorted to the starting area by the Boston Police. Now I was feeling special, pumped up and ready to go. It was a perfect day.

The gun went off at 10:40 a.m. and the race of my life was underway. I was cheered on by my wife Arlene, my son Zach and his wife Christine and my two daughters Sarah and Gabriella. The race was tough, but went as planned – six miles, 12 miles, 18 miles and still going strong. Over the hills of Newton, including the infamous Heartbreak Hill at mile 20, and staying right on the race plan.

The cheering spectators carried me through many of the tough spots. At other times, thoughts of my family and my supporters kept me going.

Finally, I’m at mile 25 and I see the famous Citgo sign near Fenway Park that every runner recognizes as the beginning of the end. I’m still strong, the race of my life continues and it’s still a perfect day. I organize myself mentally and physically and start my sprint to the finish line.

Less than 10 minutes left in the race of my life. The sprint continues towards the finish line, which is at the 26.2 mile mark. Less than four minutes left in the race of my life. Then the perfect day ends abruptly.

Spectators are in the street, and there is chaos. I, along with other runners, continue trying to push through the crowd as the finish line is near. Soon we are completely stopped by the spectators in the street. The runners, including myself, have no idea what is happening. Spectators start spreading the news. There has been an explosion at the finish line. Chaos and confusion continues; however, almost immediately, spectators start helping the runners with offers of water or food. It’s an instinctive reaction to the crisis at hand.

Within minutes, I was led into an apartment by a spectator to recover and continue attempts to contact my family by e-mail or text. Having no success, this Good Samaritan and her friends walked me through police barricades, and all the confusion and chaos in an effort to reunite us at our hotel in Copley Square, near the scene of the bombing.

My family heard the first and saw the second, as they were less than 50 yards away. The experience was terrifying. They moved into the street as a group, and immediately ran into a runner in distress – not from the explosions, but from sheer exhaustion. After carrying her to a safe location and reuniting her with her husband who had just crossed the finish line, they attempted to navigate away from the chaos.

That was difficult, as they were steered in different directions by authorities as the situation continued to unfold. Hearing, “more bombs have been found,” added more stress to the environment. With cell phones dying and the ability to communicate with outsiders sporadic, they were assisted by a group of young M.I.T. fraternity members who were helping people who passed by their house. Once again, theirs was an instinctive, humanistic reaction to help people in the time of need.

As the afternoon stretched on, which seemed like a lifetime, my family and I were finally able to connect by text, thus relieving the stress of the unknown, our biggest personal burden. By early evening, my family made it back to Copley Square for our reunion. Later in the evening, many emotional stories were shared among my family, our JDRF teammates and other runners who were still with us in the lockdown area in and around our hotel.

It is difficult to summarize the day. It was life changing, a learning experience, and a renewal of faith in people. Stay close to your family, consider each day to be a perfect day, and take advantage of it. Help people who need help.

Do not be afraid. We live in a great place. We have great people here who are remarkable and humanitarian by nature, and I for one, am grateful for that.

Photos courtesy of the CVNLA and the Pillars

Day of Service

You’ve been served

Landscapers from across the country worked in their communities during PLANET’s Day of Service to make the outdoors more enjoyable.

Every year, PLANET has a Day of Service event to give professionals in the landscape industry across the country an opportunity to plan, organize and carry out volunteer service projects. This year’s theme was Come Alive Outside to illustrate how green spaces make a positive impact on people’s lives. Here are some of the projects companies did, including the L&L staff teaming up with the Ohio Landscape Association and some of its members.

Heads Up

Heads Up Landscape Contractors teamed up with FED EX to perform landscape cleanup and spruce up work at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of New Mexico.

Sixteen Heads Up employees spent three hours removing dead plant material, pruning, checking irrigation, pulling weeds and raking rock. Heads Up’s donation of time, equipment and hauling away landscape debris is estimated to be $2,000.

“They do such good work of their own supporting families with sick children, and we believe that a beautiful landscape goes along with their mission of creating, finding and supporting programs that directly improve the health and well being of children,” said Eddie Padilla, V.P. of business development.

Land Care

Land Care in Las Vegas teamed up with the Southern Nevada Landscape Association (SNLA) to renovate the grounds of the Archie Grant Seniors Community Center.

The Archie Grant Community Center is a local public housing development for seniors in Las Vegas. Within the Community are a series of raised garden beds that are intended to provide a source of nutrition and community pride for the residents.

Volunteers removed weeds, graded the planter beds and layed fabric to prevent Bermuda from returning. Improvements to the irrigation for the beds now make it ready for a drip system after the soil is installed. The Southern Nevada Housing Authority will be providing approximately 35 cubic yards of soil for the raised garden beds.

The group also sprayed to remove Bermuda grass, mulched the area for fruit trees and prepared a flat ground bed for additional food growing area.

“Land Care believes that by serving others in our community, we will help educate others about environmental stewardship while promoting a sense of pride amongst community members,” says Joyanna “Joy” Diaz, co-owner and CMO of Land Care.

Mazelis Landscape

Stephen Mazelis, owner of Mazelis Landscaping in Nesconset, N.Y., has been a member of PLANET for several years, but this is the first time he’s been involved with the Day of Service.

Mazellis merged his company’s Day of Service project with Jim Paluch’s Come Alive Outside event.

The company joined forces with its local “Smithtown Historical Society” and donated a 2,500 sq. ft. “Grow to Give Garden,” which is a fruit tree orchid and berry bushes to them. When harvested later in the season, produce will be donated to the local food pantries.

“By merging with Come Alive Outside, we promoted families and kids to disconnect from technology and reconnect with the great outdoors,” Mazelis said.

“We had upwards of 40 – 50 volunteers and overall we were able to get about 200 people to disconnect from technology for the day and to come join us and reconnect with nature.”

Read about Southern Botanical’s DOS project at lawnandlandscape.com.


What to expect from summer weather

AccuWeather has issued a summer outlook for the U.S. every year, focusing on the major highlights of the season. Most areas from the Mississippi Valley to the mid-Atlantic coast will have more days with rain and near-normal temperatures this summer, while heat and drought build over much of the West.

Many areas in the Eastern states will have good growing conditions with lower cooling bills for the Midwest. Lower temperatures in much of the Mississippi Valley and the east should result in a lower-than-average number of tornadoes for the year. The weather conditions in the West will be ripe for wildfires and a lack of water could become a serious concern for agriculture and some communities.

An atmospheric road block will allow a southward dip in the jet stream centered over the eastern half of the nation and a compensating northward bulge in the jet in the western half during much of the summer – the jet stream is a ribbon of strong winds high in the atmosphere that guides weather systems along. During the summer it often marks the dividing line between hot air and relatively cooler air.

Conditions will change over time in parts of the nation. Visit bit.ly/summer4cast for a breakdown of specific areas across the country.


On the move
A mobile device survey conducted by Sage North America announced today the results showed that laptops (80 percent) and smartphones (81 percent) are the most common devices used remotely by employees to access work-related information when they are not in the office, followed by tablets (57 percent). The company polled 490 small and midsized businesses in the United States.

The survey also found that four out of five respondent decision makers, or 85 percent, whose companies use remote devices feel that it has had a positive effect on their company’s productivity. Only one percent felt it has a negative effect. When asked about how their businesses carry out various business functions, mobile applications are commonly used for keeping business contacts organized (31 percent), scheduling (26 percent) and keeping a task list and/or assigning tasks to specific employees (23 percent).

For more on mobile technology, check out the "Seek out the geek" story.

Tree care goes late night

KENNEWICK, Wash. – When staffers at Senske Services created an ad for tree and shrub pruning services, they had no idea that it would appear on national television. But this week they were stunned to learn that their newspaper insert made a brief appearance on “The Tonight Show.”

A Senske Services ad for tree and shrub pruning services caught the eye of those in Hollywood. On an April episode of the “The Tonight Show,” Jay Leno, during the Headlines segment, poked fun at the factoid section of the insert, which said, “Did you know… that trees are tall plants made of wood?” Leno, who apparently felt this fact was common knowledge, threw up his hands and exclaimed “Wow!” The audience responded with laughter and applause.

Senske management also got a chuckle out of the segment. As Senske’s Marketing Director Patt Mosely explains, “We’re huge fans of ‘The Tonight Show’ and the newspaper insert served its purpose by encouraging homeowners to trim their trees in the early spring, so for us it’s a win-win.”

Arbor-Nomics owner acquires company

NORCROSS, Ga. – Richard Bare, CEO of Capital City Manufacturing, has bought 35-year-old Graham Lawn Equipment upon the retirement of its founders, Max and Judy Graham. The new company is called Graham Spray Equipment, a division of Capital City Mfg.

“To reflect all the products we make, we have changed our name to Graham Spray Equipment,” Bare said.

“For years, Graham has supplied spraying equipment not only for lawns but also for trees, shrubs, orchards, pest and termite control, agricultural applications and almost anything else that requires a vehicle-mounted sprayer.”

Bare said that the same people who have been serving customers will continue to do so.

The company plans to add several new services:

  • Commonly used truck beds will be in stock for immediate delivery
  • Decreased lead time on the production of units
  • An updated website with online parts ordering
  • Improved parts inventory to reduce backorders
  • Expanded service hours: Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. ET
  • A new branch in Norcross, Ga., for parts, service and repairs

In addition, the company will change other services:

  • Special financing on Isuzu trucks equipped with Graham spray units
  • Truck delivery
  • Unit refurbishing to keep equipment looking new

New rigs, parts and repair will continue to be available at Graham Spray Equipment’s original location in Douglasville, Ga. Parts and repair will be available also at the new Norcross facility.


DHS and DOL publishing Interim Final Rule for H-2B program

According to Tom Delany of PLANET, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Labor (DOL) are jointly published the Interim Final Rule, Wage Methodology for the Temporary Non-Agricultural Employment H-2B Program, Part 2 in the Federal Register. Upon publication, the rule is effective immediately. Comments on the rule are due within 45 days of publication in the Federal Register.

The rule is similar to what the DOL attempted to impose in its 2011 Wage Rule that is currently blocked through congressional appropriations. It will establish wage rates for H-2B workers at the mean of Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) wage survey data for occupations.

It appears the DOL intends to retroactively impose new inflated wage rates on employers with H-2B workers that have already received approved prevailing wage rages under the old methodology, Delany said. Employers who have previously applied for H-2B workers but have not yet received them will have to obtain a new prevailing wage determination under the new methodology before their applications will be processed.

Delany said PLANET is speaking with congressional members and consulting with their attorneys involved in the Florida litigation to determine how to best challenge this rule.

Irrigation Association sets details for future shows

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – The Irrigation Association has released the dates and locations for the Irrigation Show and Education Conference in both 2014 and 2015. The 2014 Irrigation Show will be held in Phoenix, Nov. 17 – 21, 2014 while the 2015 Irrigation Show will be held in Long Beach, Calif., Nov. 9 – 13, 2015.

“We’re thrilled to host the Irrigation Show in both Phoenix and Long Beach,” said IA Executive Director Deborah Hamlin. “Each city brings different strengths and each provides a rich base of local attendees. These cities will serve as compelling backdrops as our industry comes together to explore new technologies and best practices that help drive solutions.”

Each Irrigation Show will continue to offer a concurrent education conference, offering irrigation seminars, certification exams and more, giving certified irrigation professionals many opportunities to earn CEUs in person.

The 2013 Irrigation Show will be held in Austin, Texas, Nov. 4 – 8, and will include co-located events from the International Professional Pond Companies Association and the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association, in addition to traditional Irrigation Show events and presentations. To learn more, visit www.irrigationshow.org.