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Gaining back mobility

This time last year, one Alexandria man thought a diagnosis would mean drastic changes to his independence and mobility, but thanks to a lot of prayer, support from the community and the J.C. Blair Therapy and Wellness Center, this man has made a recovery that some could describe as miraculous.

Harry Snyder, who lives in Hartslog Valley, Porter Township, has been in a wheelchair for 18 years for other nervous system issues, but a bout of food poisoning in August 2017 set him on a course to ultimately change his life for the better.

After his illness, Snyder said he started to experience other symptoms, like blurry vision and pain in his arms, so he went to the emergency room, and then to UPMC Altoona for further observation.

“They initially thought I had a stroke, but the test didn’t show anything,” he said. “I ended up in Altoona, where I had no clue what happened to me. Three weeks later, I realized I was in the intensive care unit and was on a feeding tube.”

While at UPMC Altoona, Snyder was diagnosed with Guillian-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves. It’s often diagnosed after an infectious illness, such as a respiratory infection or stomach virus.

After his time at UPMC Altoona, Snyder was transferred to a facility in Johnstown where he had to have a feeding tube and a tracheostomy so he could eat and breathe properly. He also was unable to move any extremity and could not speak. Snyder was then moved to a facility in Ebensburg, and didn’t come home until February 2018.

When he came home, he still had a feeding tube, and he first went to the J.C. Blair Therapy and Wellness Center to find ways to eventually remove the feeding tube.

“They sent me to a dietician, then to Dr. Michael Gaugler so I could have the feeding tube removed,” he said. “I know when I first came home, I couldn’t bend my hands, and it took two people to help me take a shower.”

It was during this time his wife, Cindy, heard of a family member who had benefitted from aquatic therapy at J.C. Blair Therapy and Wellness Center.

In June 2018, Snyder started aquatic therapy three times a week, and he noticed a remarkable difference. It was during this time he was able to take his first steps in 17 years.

Since then, Snyder has been graduated to “land” therapy two days a week, and still does aquatic therapy once a week.

“I’m still in my wheelchair at least 75 percent of the time, but now I can walk,” he said. “(The staff has) all been wonderful here. This is something where you can’t even imagine how it feels. My grandkids never have seen me walk.”

His wife said he’s never been able to just take a trip to a store and walk inside, and with the help of the therapists and aquatic therapy at the J.C. Blair Therapy and Wellness Center, he’s now able to do just that.

“He’s never been able to just walk into Walmart, and now he can,” she said.

The Snyders, however, are also grateful to the community for their endless support through Harry’s health issues.

“The community has been fantastic,” said Cindy. “I know the (Stone Valley) Lions Club had a hootennanny for us, and the Juniata Valley High School Sustainability Club has done things for us. We’ve been on prayer chains at churches all along the East Coast. Though we don’t have a church home ourselves, we never have discounted the power of prayer.”

Now with the help of the community and the resources available at J.C. Blair Therapy and Wellness Center, Snyder said he was able to get back to selling an item he is known for at Hartslog Day this year — his customized walking canes.

“He was able to get there this year with the inventory he has,” said Cindy.

Cindy also said through this journey, it was important not to focus on why this was happening to him, but Harry said he would much rather go through this himself than to see anyone in his family go through his health issues.

However, Cindy and Harry both agree by telling their story, they hope to be a voice for others who may be suffering from similar issues in silence.

“Maybe this is something that happened so we can advocate for others,” said Cindy.

“It’s been a heck of a ride,” said Harry.

Area will receive 2-3 inches of snow

The first official snowstorm of this winter will greet county residents tonight into Sunday, but folks shouldn’t expect much in the way of major accumulations as a result.

Craig Evanego, meteorologist with the National Weather Service State College bureau, said the area, as predicted earlier in the week, is on the northern fringes of a storm that will bring more accumulations to the county’s south.

“Right now, for Huntingdon County, we’re expecting 2-3 inches of snow,” he said. “Amounts will be a little bit higher as you head toward the Maryland border, and lighter amounts are expected the farther north you travel.”

Evanego said areas like the Blue Ridge Mountains in western Virginia are looking like they will see the most accumulation of snow from this storm.

“They are looking at something on the order of 6-8 inches of snow, with maybe even higher amounts locally,” he said.

After the storm passes through Sunday, the latter half of the weekend will be quiet with cooler temperatures.

“We may have some light snow early in the day Sunday with some clearing in the afternoon,” said Evanego. “It looks like temperatures will stay chilly with high temperatures in the low 30s. Any snow that may fall, however, will stick to the ground.”

The beginning of the work week will be quiet.

“Monday and Tuesday will both be mostly sunny with highs Monday in the low 30s and partly sunny with highs in the mid-30s Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Evanego. “It looks like it will get above freezing Tuesday and Wednesday and we may chip away at some of the snow.”

Going into Wednesday night into Thursday, there may be a reinforcing shot of cold air, said Evanego, but that shot of cold air won’t bring much in the way of precipitation.

The next opportunity for any sort of precipitation will be next Friday, he said.

But, Evanego said any chance for mild temperatures like people saw to start the year will be slim.

“We’re probably back closer to where we should be for this time of year,” he said. “At least we’re not seeing any big rainfall events. For the second half of 2018, it seemed like we were getting steady rainfall every few days, so at least we’ve broken that pattern.”

Trail club members introduce 'Sweet Sixteen' challenge

Hiking and history have combined to challenge outdoor enthusiasts on the 84-mile Standing Stone Trail.

Standing Stone Trail Club members welcomed the new year by introducing the Sweet Sixteen Trail Challenge to highlight the trail’s beautiful vistas and valleys, as well as the region’s history.

“We purposely highlighted nature and history when our committee sat down to pick the 16 challenges,” said club secretary Genny Volgstadt. “We picked a variety of features so it wasn’t all geology or vistas.”

The challenge idea came from programs club members saw in other parts of the country.

“The idea came to fruition last spring after we heard about challenges in other places, like trails in New York state,” said Volgstadt.

She said hikers can complete the 16 challenge goals sprinkled throughout the trail’s 84 miles that span Huntingdon, Mifflin and Fulton counties.

“People can do it at their own leisure. There’s no time limit, so hikers can take one week or 10 years to complete the challenge,” said Volgstadt. “Hikers who reach all 16 challenges will receive a commemorative certificate and patch.”

To get started, Volgstadt said hikers can visit the club’s website at and download the maps and challenge form under the events tab.

“You’ll also find the list of challenges, which includes a trivia quiz about the challenges,” she said. “Once completed, the form can be sent to our P.O. box, which is listed on the form, with $1 to cover the cost of the patch and shipping.”

Challengers will enjoy the region’s natural beauty, but also the history behind the towns and landmarks.

“There are a number of challenges at the vistas, like the Thousand Steps and the dinkey shed at the top of the steps,” said Volgstadt. “We also feature two trail towns, Three Springs and Mapleton, and some of the history of both, such as the three creeks found in Three Springs and the date of the founding of the town.”

She said other challenges center around the Greenwood Fire Tower, which was built in 1921 to monitor forest fires, and Vanderbilt’s Folly, the remains of the South Penn Railroad bed built by William Vanderbilt in the 1880s.

While no one has completed the challenge yet, club members are hopeful folks will take advantage of the unique opportunity.

“We hope to get a few folks complete it this year,” said Volgstadt.

For those who might not feel comfortable hiking on their own, Volgstadt said the club offers a guided hike once a month.

“This month, we’ll hike a section starting at 10 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 27. It’s a short hike, just 3.5 miles, and goes through some game lands,” she said, adding that additional details are listed on the website.

The Standing Stone Trail was built in the 1980s entirely by volunteers to connect the Tuscarora Trail with the Mid-State Trail. It reaches from Cowans Gap State Park in the south to the Mid-State Trail in the north.

“The trail has a lot of access points, so it makes it easy to hike,” said Volgstadt. “You don’t have to hike 20 miles. There is some amazing stonework and stone steps and the trail is very well marked with orange blazes.”

For more information on the challenge, the club or the trail itself, visit

Becky can be reached at

Lunar eclipse to occur Jan. 20

On the night of Sunday, Jan. 20, interested stargazers will notice the moon go a little dark, as a full lunar eclipse will take place.

The eclipse will start at around 10:30 p.m. and reach full eclipse at a little before 11:45 p.m. Full eclipse will end at around 12:45 a.m. and partial eclipse will end at 1:50 a.m.

When it starts, it will look like someone took a bite out of it,” said Bill Crownover, founder of the Mount Union Astronomy Club. “Where the bite is (the moon turns) a bit of a reddish color, and that keeps expanding until (it covers) the total. It still has the red color, and that’s the earthshine.”

Tom Hanlon, another member of the astronomy club, explained the reddish tint comes from the dust in the earth’s atmosphere.

“As the earth moves between the sun and the moon, the dust in the earth’s atmosphere is seen against the moon as a reddish-orange color,” Hanlon told The Daily News. “It has been speculated that if you stood on the moon and looked back at the earth during this eclipse, the earth would have a reddish ring around it.”

The reddish color has earned lunar eclipses the title “blood moon,” but this eclipse also adds a “super” to the beginning of the title. It earns this additional title because the moon is at the part of its orbit closest to the earth.

“It appears larger and brighter than normal,” said Hanlon.

While the moon will be easily visible with the naked eye, Crownover recommends using a pair of binoculars.

“You can get a real good look at the craters,” he said.

“Anywhere the moon is visible will be a good viewing spot,” Hanlon said.

This will be the third eclipse in the last 12 months and the last full lunar eclipse until May 2021.

This spacing is not that unusual, Hanlon explained.

“The average number (of eclipses) per year is two, but there can be zero, one or three,” he said. “It all depends on orbits and the angles of the earth and moon.”

Hanlon said he’s been interested in astronomy from a young age.

“I am of the age when space exploration was beginning in the 1950s and 60s and I’ve had an interest since,” he said. “Several years ago, there was a space launch from Wallops Island, Virginia, that was visible to the naked eye from my backyard outside of Huntingdon. It appeared as a bright reddish spot in the sky, but I could observe it as it went through its stages for approximately a minute. I was lucky that evening, as I have not been able to watch any since, due to weather or time of day.”

Crownover explained his interest came from his father.

“My father liked (astronomy), so from the time I was born I’ve been out there watching astronomical events,” Crownover said. He explained his interest led him to start the astronomy club at the Mount Union Library. He tried to donate his telescope to the library, and they said they would accept it if he started an astronomy club.

The club meets at 5 p.m. the second Tuesday of every month in the Mount Union Community Library.

“We have discussions about what is going on in the skies, current activities with space exploring, setting up sky watches and other interesting topics,” Hanlon said. “We have one member of our group who is assembling a telescope … It is turning into quite a large project and will be interesting to see how it turns out.”

Crownover encouraged those interested in astronomy to join the club.

“Astronomy is available to anyone,” Hanlon said. “All you have to do is look to the skies and wonder.”

Jesse can be reached at

Commissioner seeks second term

Proudly serving his first term as a Huntingdon County Commissioner, Scott Walls has announced his plans to seek re-election to continue his strong commitment to economic development and job growth in the county.

“Over the past three years, I have demonstrated my willingness to work with others, partnering with other counties and agencies to put us on the path of opportunity and growth for our residents,” said Walls. “Under my leadership, businesses are looking to expand and relocate here in Huntingdon County and have shown significant growth. By continuing my full-time commitment, and with a united front from our current board of commissioners, serving you is my number one priority.”

Upon entering office in 2016, Walls was presented with many challenges that required tough decisions to bring the county back to financial stability. In 2014 and 2015, the previous board of commissioners borrowed $700,000 and $1,750,000, respectively, in unfunded debt without including the $276,000 annual payment in the budget to pay back these two loans. While, at the same time, overestimating the property tax income resulting in a $160,000 budget shortfall for the year of 2016.

“In 2017, we not only had to account for these shortcomings, we also had to fund the continuing carryover from the previous unfunded budget increases,” said Walls. “Moving forward, I have consistently made choices to manage our county government in a way that keeps the taxpayers in mind, always looking to reduce costs and find efficiencies to run government more like a business.”

Walls said public safety is a part of my job he doesn’t take lightly.

“In my first term I personally took responsibility for the county 911 emergency responders communication infrastructure and worked with my colleagues by restoring functionality to this vital system,” he said. “Our dedicated fire and ambulance crews, mostly volunteers, were working with a deteriorated, 30-year-old system prone to failure and in some areas of the county not functional at all.”

Another heartbreaking area of public safety that encompasses the largest percentage of the county budget is the county’s Children’s and Youth Services agency. The opioid epidemic not only affects those addicted, but leads to the abuse and neglect of children. This coupled with new child abuse prevention laws have skyrocketed the children and youth budget.

“Leadership was needed to bring foster care placement back into the county instead of using outside contractors,” said Walls. “We are now in that process and hope to see significant cost savings.{p class=”p1”}He pointed out that the county commissioners are the governing body for the Area Agency on Aging.{p class=”p1”}”Caring for our senior population is something I take very seriously. I was very happy when the commissioners were able to restore funding for senior center meals,” said Walls. “I urge all of our county senior citizens to visit their area senior centers. They are a great place to fellowship and support your communities.”

Just as folks do with their own homes and cars, building and vehicle maintenance is always an area of concern to ensure neglect doesn’t cause a budget catastrophe.

“The county has lacked a long-term plan to keep ahead of the continued deterioration of county-owned assets,” said Walls. “By working with concerned departments and our maintenance staff, we are developing a long-term strategy for building and vehicle maintenance and efficiency.

Agriculture is our number one industry in Huntingdon County, and as commissioner, Walls continues to be very supportive of all aspects, from youth in 4-H by serving on the county agriculture Extension board and on the state-wide County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) Agriculture Committee for all 67 counties.

“I will continue to defend the rights of agriculture and will continue to fight against limits and restrictions to these operations,” said Walls. “I have also been fortunate to be appointed to serve on a second statewide committee for energy, environment and land use. This gives Huntingdon County a voice on many diverse issues such as storm water management, Chesapeake Bay regulations, solid waste and recycling and Marcellus Shale/fossil fuel regulation.”

Working through this committee, Walls was able to bring at no cost, electronics recycling back to Huntingdon County with four collection dates resulting in over 100,000 pounds of electronics collected in 2018. This program has also been approved to be repeated in 2019.

“I am committed to serve as your commissioner in a professional manner with ‘common sense leadership for all of Huntingdon County,’” said Walls. “I look forward to hearing your suggestions as we continue to efficiently and effectively build a better future for our great County. I humbly ask for your support in my bid for re-election as your commissioner.”