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Northwoods Spotlight - State-bound youth basketball teams - Mar 19Submitted: 03/19/2014
Story By Joe Dufek

Northwoods Spotlight - State-bound youth basketball teams - Mar 19
RHINELANDER - You don't have to be in college to be part of March Madness. Young teams from Northland Pines and Rhinelander received invites to their version of the Big Dance.

"Our team has done very well, considering we weren't as good last year," Alex Fortier of Rhinelander's 5th Grade Team explains. "We've changed a lot and now we're going to state."

"All the kids are looking up to the March Madness people, the college players," Northland Pines 6th grade player Ryan Peterson adds. "But now we get to have our own tournament that's this big too."


More than 700 boys and girls teams from 5th through 8th grade will play in the Wisconsin State Invitational Championship Tournament.

"The jitters of the bigger gymnasiums, the big crowds- it's exciting," Northland Pines head coach Jim Swenson said.

This will be the Eagles second time at state. Several of them got a taste of the high level of competition last year.

"I was kind of happy, kind of nervous because last year we didn't do very good," Northland Pines player Joe Misina admits.

The boys had a scrimmage Monday night. Both squads saw it as an chance to improve.

It's becoming more and more important for young athletes to have opportunities like this. They need experiences on a big stage to prepare them for high school competition.

"The only way we're going to prepare these kids is to start them out now," Rhinelander head coach Todd McEldowney explains. "And not to play against poor competition but to play against the best kids we can. Because that's how they're going to improve."

Other teams taking part include Antigo and Merrill's 5th grade girls teams, Medford and D.C. Everest in 8th grade girls, and Rhinelander and Wittenberg-Birnamwood's 8th grade boys teams.

It runs March 29th through April 13th throughout the state. Appleton, Stevens Point, and Wausau are among several cities hosting the tournament.


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WAUSAU - Every year, firefighters around the country ask their communities to fill up boots with money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Wausau Fire Department kicked off its "Fill the Boot" campaign Tuesday morning.

The fire department will be at local events throughout the summer to collect donations.

The fundraiser helps with research and treatment for neuromuscular diseases for kids and adults.

"It's kind of a rewarding part of the job. Most of what we do is off camera, you don't really get to see all aspects of the fire department. It is a great chance for us to get out there and see all the programs we are involved in to help,"says firefighter Matt Tormohlen.

The fundraiser also gives Wausau-area kids the chance to go to a MDA camp.

15-year-old Roy Thorson lives with spinal muscular atrophy and has gone to the camp for the last ten years.

You can find him collecting "Fill the Bucket" donations right alongside the firefighters this summer.

"It's nice to see the generosity of the public. It's nice to the firefighters willing to put their times towards this. It's just cool to see a group come together for a good cause," says Thorson.

You can also send in "Fill the Boot" donations online.

See link below.

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FOREST COUNTY - Bringing your pet along to watch fireworks might seem like a fun way to spend the Fourth of July, but you could be doing more harm than good.

July 5th is one of the busiest days of the year for most animal shelters.

That's because fearful pets try to escape the bangs and flashes from fireworks and end up lost.

Forest County Humane Society president Jay Schaefer says don't let yourself add to your pet's stress.

Play it down, and make the fireworks a good thing with positive talk and treats.

"They're reading cues from us constantly. So be careful of your body language and the cues you're giving them. If you act like fireworks are a big scary thing they're gonna be like, 'oh my god fireworks are scary,'" says Schaefer.

Exercise can be another way to calm your pet before the big light show.

Burning off the energy earlier in the day may help your pet go to sleep early.

"Take them for a jog on the Fourth of July. I know it's hectic, but do something so they're not all amped up at night when the fireworks go off," says Schaefer.

Like many humans, pets like the smell of lavender.

You can try diffusing the scent around the house to put your pet at ease.

Make sure you have a well-fitting collar and identification tag on your pet.

If flashes are too bright, you might want to close the curtains.

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WAUSAU - We won't see a vote on the new GOP healthcare bill until after July 4.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) postponed the senate vote Tuesday afternoon.

Several Republican senators, including Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), have said they're not ready to
vote.

Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) says he supports Johnson on this.

"We've given Senator Johnson some suggestions," Walker said. "I think he wants to vote for it, he made the promise when he ran in '10 and then last year in 2016 that he would vote to repeal it, he wants to do that, he just wants to make sure that the repeal ultimately ends up serving the people of Wisconsin well."

Both Democratic and Republican senators say they have issues with the bill.

Some Republicans say the bill doesn't get rid of enough of the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats worry about Medicaid cuts.

Walker says he wants Wisconsin to continue to do what it does well in healthcare.

"What I've asked Senator Johnson is help us do the things we've been successful at," Walker said. "We're a top ten state when it comes to access for healthcare for citizens, we're a top ten state with the quality of our healthcare systems. We want to maintain that going forward."

On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office said the new bill would cause 22 million Americans to be uninsured.

Johnson put out a statement Tuesday saying he was glad there won't be a vote this week.

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RHINELANDER - Three decades-old signs greet people coming into Rhinelander from various sides.  But if you drive past them every day, you likely don't even notice them.  Rhinelander wants to make sure those old signs stand out.

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MADISON - Budget talks between Wisconsin state Assembly and Senate Republicans have broken down.

On Tuesday, leaders from both sides called each other's positions on how to pay for road construction projects "laughable." A meeting with Republican leaders abruptly ended after 40 minutes.

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WAUSAU - Many of us try to honor our veterans whenever we can.

Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) added one more way.

The Governor visited several veteran-owned businesses across the state Tuesday for Veteran-Owned Business Day.

Tuesday afternoon he stopped at Prosthetic Orthotic Center in Wausau.

He says veteran-owned businesses are good for other veterans and the economy.

"We found statistically that veterans are about 30 percent more likely to hire fellow veterans as employees," Walker said. "So it's good all the way around."

If you are a veteran-owned business, you can register with the state at WisVets.com

That way you can get a decal that says Wisconsin Veteran-Owned for your business window or door.

You also get listed in a state veteran-owned business directory.

"We're branding it, letting the public know that businesses that are owned by veterans, letting them know whether it's in a sign in their window or whether it's on the website, or other ways that we can draw attention," Walker said.

About 390,000 veterans live in Wisconsin, and about 11 percent of the state's businesses are veteran-owned.

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MERRILL - Six years ago, Merrill promoted the River Bend Trail across the city to try to get people to use it. Now, the trail sees more than 100 people every day and is scheduled for more expansion.

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