Derrick Campana: A Dog’s Best Friend

Derrick Campana shaping a leg mold at his Sterling, Va., facility.

I spent yesterday in Sterling, Va., not far from Dulles airport, immersed in the world of Derrick Campana, a 2001 Penn State kinesiology grad who has an unusual occupation: He makes braces and prosthetics for animals.

We first heard about Campana when a reader sent us a newspaper clipping about his work some months back. We did a little Googling, wondered, How have we not heard about this guy before?, and knew right away it would be a great story for the Penn Stater. The only question was deciding on a writer to assign it to. Then on Oct. 1 I stepped out of the editor role and Ryan Jones stepped in, and I became “editor-at-large,” with an assortment of responsibilities that includes finding and writing stories for the magazine. So I volunteered myself for the Derrick Campana piece, Ryan agreed, and I emailed Campana to schedule a visit to his company, Animal OrthoCare.

Campana is one of only a handful of people in the world who do what he does—and in fact he does his work all over the world. Animal Planet devoted a one-hour documentary last June to his efforts to fit a leg brace to a six-ton elephant in Botswana named Jabu, and when I visited him yesterday, he was freshly back from England, where he constructed prosthetic front legs for a cow named Nipper Jackson at the Hugletts Wood Farm Animal Sanctuary. He has also developed braces and prosthetics for goats, camels, turtles, and birds.

But the majority of his work is with pets—dogs, mostly—and during yesterday’s visit I had a chance to meet three different people who had brought their dogs to Campana for help with arthritis and other problems. I also was able to watch Campana and his staff in their workshop, a large, warehouse-like space where they work with molds of animals’ legs to create the custom-fitted devices. And I chatted with Campana about his undergraduate experience at Penn State, his unusual career path, and the satisfaction he gets from helping alleviate a pet’s pain, save it from costly surgery, and in some cases save its life.

Below are a few photos from yesterday’s visit. Click on any of them to see a larger version. First, here’s one of the workspace, complete with Campana’s dog, Henry:

Next, Campana and an assistant test the fit of a leg brace on an arthritic 10-year-old boxer named Frank.

Frank may not look too pleased in the photo above, but he was plenty happy to give Campana some kisses afterward:

And here’s one of several walls of the office space at Animal OrthoCare that have photos of the animals Campana has helped:

Look for a story about Derrick Campana in the magazine in an upcoming issue.

Tina Hay, editor-at-large

 

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December 13, 2018 at 1:43 pm Leave a comment

Every Day a Struggle, Every Day A Gift

Our November/December 2018 Cover Story

Caring for twin sons with autism has dominated Curt and Ana Warner’s lives for two decades. In a “blisteringly honest” new book, they tell their family’s story in a way that they hope will help other families—and, in the telling, themselves.

By Lori Shontz  ’91 Lib, ’13 MEd Edu WC // Photographs by Michael Lewis

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When the invitation appeared in his inbox, Curt Warner ignored it. The National Autism Conference was holding its 2013 annual event at University Park, and the organizers wanted Warner ’83 Lib to speak about his family. He loved his boys so much—but how could he talk about them? For a lot of reasons, that just wasn’t the kind of thing Warner or his wife, Ana, had ever done.

At first, especially, they didn’t know what to say. As toddlers, their twin sons Austin and Christian were nonverbal and energetic and aggressive, far more difficult to handle than their older son, Jonathan. Doctors couldn’t explain why the boys would eat books or string or fabric, or why they’d cry and hit and slap and bite. Shoppers and passersby were judgmental when the Warners took the boys out and a meltdown ensued—whether through words or nasty looks, it was clear they blamed bad parenting.

The boys weren’t diagnosed as severely autistic until they were 5. The Warners then tried a variety of therapies and treatments; eventually Ana began cooking every meal they consumed—gluten-free, dairy-free, no preservatives, organic everything—because it consistently seemed to help the boys’ behavior. Still, they were a challenge. At one point, Curt and Ana had to sleep in shifts to monitor the boys, and for a while Ana homeschooled them.

As a three-time Pro Bowl running back with the Seattle Seahawks from 1983–89, Curt would have been a regular attendee at team events after retirement. But he rarely showed. He couldn’t. He didn’t leave his family except to work at the car dealership he owned in the suburbs of Portland, Ore.

When the boys’ behavior calmed after puberty, Curt didn’t want to relive what they’d been through. It’s never been a 24/7 job to take care of the boys. Says Curt: “It’s 25/7.” He and Ana had automatic locks and alarms installed on every door and window to make sure the boys didn’t leave, because they would have no idea how to get back. Curt learned to hang drywall, because the twins so frequently kicked and punched holes in walls. He rushed home in a panic one day when Austin, then 12, thought he was Pinocchio inside the whale, and he had to light a fire to get out—and he somehow found matches and ended up burning the house down. Everyone got out safe, but the Warners lost everything.

And so, when that invitation hit his inbox back in 2013, Curt at first didn’t respond. He couldn’t envision speaking about those days; he feared doing so would result in one of two things. First, that perhaps people would think he was complaining; he couldn’t abide that. He loves his boys, and in many ways, he believes he has been blessed. And second, the biggie: Curt didn’t think he could make it through a talk without being overcome by emotion. He didn’t want to cry. (more…)

December 10, 2018 at 2:14 pm 1 comment

MEMORIA: Commemorating the Armistice Through Words and Music

There have been many conflicts, large and small, in the century following the end of World War I, and today, battles still rage in different parts of the world. Yet the devastation that was the Great War remains unparalleled in history, and for students in the Penn State Concert Choir, its magnitude took on a new meaning yesterday with MEMORIA, a choral cantata performed for the centenary of the Armistice.

Christopher Kiver, director of choral activities, commissioned the piece from composer Scott Eggert, professor emeritus of music at Lebanon Valley College, who set his music—scored for 11 instruments in 11 sections—to poems written during and after the war, each one carefully chosen to reflect its length and breadth, from start to finish and beyond.

“The students have been touched in a very deep way by this,” says Kiver, who believes strongly that music should be taught, felt, and performed beyond the notes and the rhythm. In preparing MEMORIA, he says, choir students had many discussions on the war—why and how it began: They watched documentaries, discussed visual art and poetry, looked at how the media reported the war, and the role played by women.

choir

For the Concert Choir, preparing and performing MEMORIA was a moving experience.

“The process of learning this piece was very different from pieces that I have performed in the past because we did so much outside research so that we understand the context of what we’re singing about,” says sophomore Ellie Farber, a history major. “Although WWI was 100 years ago, I have been able to understand the emotions of the various people involved in the war, from soldiers to families and friends, through the poetry and the music itself, and I have been able to use this new understanding to perform the piece to the best of my ability.”

For senior Alex Cooper—who, like many young people his age, did not know much about World War I—preparing and performing MEMORIA was a particularly moving experience, not least because “many of the young people who served were my age,” he says, “and were forced to endure unspeakable atrocities.”

Around 15 million people died in World War I, and many, many more were wounded. Soldiers from across Europe—many of them below the age of 18—fought, as did soldiers from countries under colonial rule such as India and Nigeria. The conflict claimed the lives of numerous Americans, including Penn Staters like Levi Lamb (the subject of our September/October cover story), a star athlete who was killed in July 1918, on the first day of the offensive stage of the Second Battle of the Marne.

SO_Cover copy

Star athlete Levi Lamb was one of the many young soldiers who never came home from the Great War.

Although the guns were silenced on the western front on November 11, 1918, the effects of the Great War continued to impact the world for many years to come.

“Many societies had been mobilized to fight this war, they had been pushed to their limits not to lose the war,” says associate professor of history Sophie de Schaepdrivjer, a World War I specialist. “Economies were in tatters, there were huge casualty rates, there were refugees and displaced people everywhere, so the war cast a really long shadow, and the dislocations it created—economic, cultural, social, psychological—would last for a long time.”

Historians will discuss the aftermath of the Great War and its effects on society today and tomorrow at Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, during a colloquium entitled “Dislocation: November 1918 and the Unfinished Business of the First World War.” It is sponsored by the Rock Ethics Institute and the Institute for the Humanities.

MEMORIA was performed in the new recital hall of the School of Music, where audience members also got to browse a lobby exhibit of pictures and posters from World War I, supplied by the Palmer Museum of Art and the Eberly Family Special Collections Library. Keith Forrest ’69 EMS lent a uniform belonging to his maternal grandfather, Roy Clarke, a captain in the U.S. Army, who was stationed in France during World War I.

Savita Iyer, senior editor

 

 

 

 

 

November 12, 2018 at 4:43 pm 1 comment

Inside our November/December Issue

Our November/December issue reunites us with Nittany Lion legend Curt Warner ’83 and previews his forthcoming book—written with his wife, Ana—which shares their story of raising a family that includes twin sons diagnosed with severe autism. Their collaborator calls it a “blisteringly honest” look at the challenges they’ve faced, but also one that’s very much a love story. The Warner Boys: Our Family’s Story of Autism and Hope is due out December 1, but available for pre-order now; you can read our feature on the Warner family starting on p. 40.

We’ll also take you into the School of Music’s brand new recital hall, with a look at how the building, and the school, have evolved to offer opportunities in both music performance and pedagogy, and how its new director hopes to expand the curriculum. The music starts on p. 48. Plus, we asked for memories of your favorite classes, and gathered some of the best tales of life-changing—and in some cases energy-sapping—courses and professors. Those stories kick off our features, starting on p. 32.

You’ll also meet a Smeal senior who uses a 3D printer to create customized shoes (p. 16); get to know the alum in the viral photo running with the bulls in Pamplona in a Saquon Barkley jersey (p. 61); and meet the newlywed Nittany Lion couple already with multiple NCAA titles: women’s soccer captain Maddie Elliston and wrestler Jason Nolf (p. 28).

It’s all in our November/December issue, arriving in mailboxes soon.

—B.J. Reyes, associate editor

October 22, 2018 at 5:04 pm 1 comment

Inside our Sept./Oct. Issue

If you’ve been in Rec Hall, you’ve probably seen the plaque honoring the first Penn State athletes to die in combat in World War I—Levi Lamb ‘1915 and James “Red” Bebout ‘1914. Lamb, the first to fall, was killed in the French countryside in the second Battle of the Marne; he was further honored as the namesake of the annual fund that supports athletic scholarships at Penn State. For our September/October cover story, Ken Hickman ’98, director of the Penn State All-Sports Museum, takes you into Lamb’s life and how the talented athlete arrived at Penn State and became the school’s first three-sport letterman before fulfilling a sense of duty to fight on the front lines. Lamb’s story begins on p. 30.

Also in this issue, Schreyer Honors College Dean Peggy Johnson reflects on her first year on the job, the Scholar experience on campus, how the college competes with the Ivy League, and her plans for leading the college into the future. On the heels of the Honors College’s 20th anniversary, Johnson sits down for an up-close Q&A, which begins on p. 38. And former U.S. defense secretary William Perry ’57g is on a mission to educate millennials—and anyone else who will listen—on the perils of the nuclear threat. That story starts on p. 46.

Plus, get a few tips on learning a new language, meet State College’s pinball hobbyist (don’t call him a collector), and find out how junior running back Miles Sanders is ready to become the new focal point of the Nittany Lion ground game—and filling some very big shoes.

It’s all in out Sept./Oct. issue, arriving in mailboxes soon.

—B.J. Reyes, associate editor

 

 

 

August 27, 2018 at 10:51 am Leave a comment

A Community of Film Makers

It started out in 2009 as a class in community-based film making, but close to a decade later, associate professor Kevin Boon’s Mont Alto Project has three movies under its belt. The first two, Two Days Back and Ghosting, each won awards, and the third, a crime thriller entitled A Host of Sparrows, will premiere on July 7 at the Capitol Theatre in Chambersburg, Pa. It is Boon’s biggest project to date, he says, but like his other films, what’s most important about A Host of Sparrows is the “glory of the community feel” that is at its heart, and the way in which it has brought a dedicated group of people together.

“Everyone made huge sacrifices to come back and work on the film,” says Boon, an associate professor at Penn State Mont Alto who teaches creative writing and film making, among others.

kevinboon

Kevin Boon’s Mont Alto project has resulted in three feature films. A Host of Sparrows premieres on July 7. 

 

Those involved include alums Edwin Koester ’09 Com (cinematographer), Gillian Colley ’17 LAS MtAlt (producer) and crew member Allen Cramm ’15 Com. “Many people who were involved in the first film have graduated and moved on,” Boon says, “but they came back to work on A Host of Sparrows.  We filmed in many counties in Pennsylvania, Maryland, where people let us use their property—they are a part of this, too.”

When Boon first offered the Mont Alto Project as a four-semester course in 2009, 15 students signed up. The 11 remaining at the end learned every aspect of film making, from pre- to post-production—and became hooked to the craft.

“My original vision was that we should make a movie the way movies are actually made,” Boon says, “and that meant keeping only the strong ideas, getting rid of the weaker ones. It meant putting people in roles where they had the greatest strength. But even though these movies are made on the kind of budget that most films spend on doughnuts, the important thing is that everyone gets a say, everyone has an input, and everyone is important.”

Among others, Two Days Back won the Best Feature award at the 2011 Bare Bones International Film Festival, which showcases movies made with budgets of less than $1 million, while Ghosting won for Best Feature at the 2015 Philadelphia Independent Film Festival, and bagged the Best Director award at the 2015 World Music & Independent Film Festival in Washington, D.C. The movie was also nominated for Best Horror Feature at the 2015 I Filmmaker International Film Festival in Marbella, Spain, and was shown at the Golden Door Film Festival in New Jersey, which is run by the Sorvino family.

A Host of Sparrows is currently in post-production and Boon will soon put it on the festival circuit. But what’s most important to him is the unique nature of the Mont Alto Project, and the effect it has had on those who participate in the film making process.

“I remember one moment during a screening of our first film when a mother and grandmother came up to me and said the project had turned their son and grandson around,” he says. “He is now working now as an associate producer in Hollywood. I love seeing people who were shy at first in class come out of their shell, people who by the end, are dancing and having a great time. I really love that part.” —Savita Iyer

 

 

 

 

July 6, 2018 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

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