SAY GOODBYE TO FEAR, HELLO TO OLYMPICS

January 11, 2002 12:00 am

Got cabin fever? Got a hankering for a short winter trip? How about visiting Salt Lake City in February and taking in the Winter Olympics?

An Associated Press story this week reported that event tickets and hotel accommodations are available in the Salt Lake City area with the Olympics only a month away.

That availability should come as no surprise. The slumping economy and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have taken their toll on tourism. Some travelers have been concerned about the possibility of terrorist activities at the Winter Olympics. In spite of plans for beefed-up security throughout the staging area, some individuals have let their fears get the best of them and have opted not to travel to Utah next month.

That has left some travel agencies with a surplus of Olympics packages available including event tickets and hotel rooms. Theyd dearly love to sell these packages, and could offer some attractive discounts.

Northeast Oregon residents, who had dismissed the idea of attending the Olympics, should reconsider. When is the next time that an event of this magnitude will be staged only a days drive away on the interstate? (Think of it this way: The number of miles to Salt Lake City is approximately the same as the trip on the freeways from La Grande to Southern Oregon.)

People of Northeast Oregon can watch the Olympics on their 19-to-35-inch television sets in the privacy of their homes, or they can witness some of the action in grand fashion in a part of the West that is not far from their backyard. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those who make the effort.

INVEST AN HOUR

Its a no-brainer. Children who are read to when they are tiny do better in school. The fact is many parents are so busy or uninvolved that they fail to read to their preschool youngsters.

Thats where the Reading Buddy program at Willow Elementary School and the new SMART (Start Making a Reader Today) program at other schools in the La Grande School District come into play.

In both programs, adults pledge to become buddies of children in kindergarten through grade three. Volunteers read an hour a week to the children, asking questions about the story and inviting the child to predict the outcome.

Early next month, SMART will begin operating in La Grande, Joseph and Enterprise schools. Volunteers are being recruited in the school districts. Those interested in signing up to help a child are invited to call area coordinator Janet Nedry at 663-3204.

There is hardly a better thing for a grownup to do than invest some time each week helping a boy or girl improve their reading skills so they can be happier and more successful in school.