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Local high school graduate shares experience with the Penn State Blue Band

UNIVERSITY PARK — Kylee Reeder could not resist the temptation to look toward the stands while marching onto the grass at Beaver Stadium.

Wearing white gloves, a sharp blue and white uniform and matching spats, adrenaline rushed through the 18-year-old freshman trumpeter as she played “Lion Fanfare and Downfield,” the fight song medley of Penn State University.

Clapping and chanting along with the Blue Band that afternoon back in September were 105,524 football fans, 68 times the population of Reeder’s home town of Catawissa, a community along the banks of the Susquehanna River two hours east of the second largest stadium in the Western Hemisphere.

“It felt so surreal. To think that there were over 100,000 people within that stadium as we performed the shows we had worked so hard on is insane,” remarked Reeder, a graduate of Southern Columbia Area High School in Columbia County. “I came from a small school where we had about 30 to 35 people in the marching band, so marching alongside about 300 others in front of an audience that big was unbelievable and such an amazing experience I will never forget.

“The satisfaction afterward was so worth the hours we put into our performances and the crowd was so excited and supportive of our work, which was also so rewarding,” Reeder, a daughter of Lindsay Leighow and Kyle Reeder, added.

Built on a foundation of pride, tradition and excellence, for more than 100 years the Blue Band has exemplified the spirit of Penn State through its trademark drills and soaring instrumentals.

Led by current director Dr. Gregory Drane, the Blue Band practices every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4 to 5:45 p.m., and every Tuesday from 7:30 to 10 p.m. to achieve its reliable precision and unmistakable sound.

“I personally have a calendar with all my assignments and objectives listed, where I schedule what I have to do and when, so that I can accordingly plan when to complete those assignments in a timely manner,” Reeder, a music major, said of balancing schoolwork and the Blue Band. “Sometimes it’s hard, but focusing on priorities and just motivating myself to get things done allows me to balance my busy schedule with the Blue Band.”

On game days, members report six hours before kickoff, and head to Holuba Hall for a few hours to run through and tie up loose ends. The band then heads to the O. Richard Bundy Blue Band Building to sing the alma mater and break into sections to carry out respective game-day traditions.

The Blue Band then enters into parade formation and marches to Beaver Stadium, where it performs pre-game, halftime and post-game shows. The Blue Band also entertains from the stands with a variety of music.

“‘Swag Surfin’ is definitely my favorite song that we play,” Reeder said of music played from the stands. “Everyone enjoys playing it and it just brings so much joy, especially when we get to dance and sing along. Even the directors get involved. It’s just one of those songs that brings everyone together and reminds us of why we’re doing this and where one feels the satisfaction and reward after many long days of practice.”

Once the game is concluded and the alma mater is played, the Blue Band heads onto the field for a post-game performance, then marches back to the O. Richard Bundy Blue Band Building.

Reeder has experienced many memorable moments with the Blue Band, but the trip to Auburn, Alabama, the Nittany Lions’ second away game of the season, struck a chord with the freshman.

“Although some members may disagree with me, since we were all trapped in a bus with each other for many hours, I’ve never had so much fun, during the hours I wasn’t asleep, that is! It was such a great experience getting to travel and having all the time in the world to just have fun and forget about any stress. I enjoyed talking to other band members and getting to know them better, as well,” Reeder said. “I became so much closer to a lot of people in the band because of that trip and I got to have so many fun experiences and make amazing memories with people I never thought I would.”

What Reeder enjoys the most about the Blue Band is the sense of family and how members are genuinely appreciative to be there to create an amazing show each and every day, regardless of life outside the band.

Reeder remarked, “Everyone is so hardworking, optimistic and just friendly who want to do what they love with the people they love.”

The Blue Band’s regular season finale occurs Saturday afternoon as the Spartans of Michigan State take on the 11th ranked Nittany Lions.

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Man jailed following disturbance at Walmart

COAL TOWNSHIP — A Coal Township man was committed to Northumberland County Jail after causing a disturbance Tuesday afternoon at Walmart Supercenter involving drugs, a razor blade and theft.

Kevineric Eltringham, 39, of 1327 W. Mulberry St., was arraigned by video Wednesday morning by Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III on a felony of retail theft, misdemeanors of possessing heroin/fentanyl, possessing drug paraphernalia and disorderly conduct, and a summary of public drunkenness.

The charges were filed by Patrolman Cody Rebuck.

He was committed to jail in lieu of $2,500 cash bail.

Rebuck and Coal Township K-9 Officer Nathan Foust responded to Walmart at about 2 p.m. Tuesday after receiving a report from assistant manager/asset protection employee Tanya Bourassa that a male later identified as Eltringham was stealing from the store and possessed weapons. It was also reported that Eltringham may have ingested drugs in the store’s bathroom.

The Coal Township officers then summoned assistance from Shamokin Police Chief Raymond II and Patrolman Tyler Bischof due to weapons possibly being involved.

Bourassa told police Eltringham comes to the store nearly every day and spends extended periods of time wandering through the aisles and often steals merchandise.

On Tuesday, she said Eltringham was in the bathroom for approximately 50 minutes. A male employee was then requested to go in the bathroom to check on Eltringham, who could be heard making “monkey noises” before the employee entered the bathroom.

Eltringham told the male employee who checked on him that he was suffering from stomach ulcers and proceeded to walk through the store while gathering items in his cart and on his possession.

After leaving the tool aisle, Eltringham showed the male employee a razor blade in his hand and advised him that he wasn’t sure why he was being followed because he didn’t do anything.

Officers were informed that Eltringham had made his way to the garden area of the store, which is fenced in. Upon seeing police, Eltringham, who had been sitting, stood up and pushed his cart into the store away from the officers before being apprehended.

Police handcuffed Eltringham and advised him that he was under arrest for public intoxication.

Upon searching him, police found five packs of unopened baseball cards and a glass vial of clear liquid in the front pocket of his hoodie.

Eltringham initially denied having any razor blades, but later admitted to having three razor blades in his possession.

Police also located a capped syringe, multiple packets of heroin/fentanyl, empty wrappers, another syringe and $7 in cash on Eltringham.

Narcotics detection K9 Pax then detected drugs in Eltringham’s backpack, which contained multiple types of drug paraphernalia including a loaded syringe containing blood, five additional empty syringes and cotton swabs. A Suboxone pill also was found.

Police said Eltringham, who was concealing merchandise from the store valued at $283.78, has been convicted of at least two prior retail thefts.

Eltringham was detained at the county jail overnight on an arrest warrant before being arraigned on the charges.

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Elysburg native launches podcast about Shamokin, AOAA

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Elysburg native Tony Pipa, a senior fellow in the Center for Sustainable Development at the Brookings Institution, launched a podcast Tuesday called Reimagine Rural, with its first episode profiling Shamokin.

The podcast is part of an initiative Pipa leads at Brookings Institution that is focused on improving federal policy to more effectively support rural communities.

The first episode profiles Shamokin through interviews with Mayor Rick Ulrich, former Mayor John Brown, local businesswoman, community leader and events organizer Kathy Vetovich, real estate investor Andy Twiggar, Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area Authority (AOAA) Chairman Jim Backes, AOAA Director of Operations Dave Porzi, SEDA-COG Revitalization Coordinator Betsy Kramer and SEDA-COG Executive Director Kim Wheeler.

The podcast tells the story of the AOAA and the ordinance to link it to downtown revitalization.

Pipa said the podcast uses a story-telling approach — a sort of NPR/“This American Life” meets rural renewal with a dash of policy wonkery added in. Future episodes will be about other rural towns across the United States.

The landing page for episode one is You can subscribe to listen on any platform (Apple, Spotify, Google, etc) at

The Brookings Institution is a think tank in Washington, D.C., that focuses on conducting research that can lead to better public policy at the local, national and global level.

Pipa said, “I developed and lead an initiative to improve federal rural policy, providing research and ideas to Congressional members and officials working in the executive branch so that investments of public funds do a better job supporting places like Shamokin as they face economic and social shifts and help them to prosper.”

Pipa, who is a son of Mary Rea Pipa, of Davie, Florida, and the late Attorney Andrew Pipa, also launched and leads the Local Leadership on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) initiative, which explores the approach cities and local institutions are taking to solve local problems while driving progress on global policy and transnational issues.

Other research interests include city diplomacy and its influence on national foreign policy and multilateral institutions, the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance and advancement of the SDGs in the U.S.

Pipa has three decades of executive leadership experience in the philanthropic and public sectors addressing poverty and advancing inclusive economic development in the U.S. and globally. He served as chief strategy officer at the U.S. Agency for International Development and held multiple senior policy positions at the agency. He also led the U.S. delegation at the U.N. to negotiate and adopt the SDGs, serving as U.S. special coordinator for the Post-2015 Agenda at the U.S. Department of State.

His work on the international stage is built upon a legacy of philanthropic leadership to advance community and economic development. While at the Triangle Community Foundation, he created one of the first programs nationwide focused on helping donor advisers maximize their philanthropic impact. He served as founding CEO of the Warner Foundation in Durham, North Carolina, focused on improving race relations and economic opportunity in the state, and subsequently helped launch the Foundation for Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. He has played a principal role in the start-up of multiple philanthropic ventures focused on addressing poverty and improving distressed communities.

Pipa serves as treasurer of StriveTogether, as a senior associate research fellow in the Global Cities program at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, and as a member of several task forces and advisory committees. He grew up in rural Elysburg in the heart of anthracite coal country and attended Stanford University, graduated from Duke University, and earned a Master of Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School.

He is a 1982 graduate of Southern Columbia Area High School. He earned multiple honors as a tennis player in high school, including winning a District IV title, and later played professional tennis all over the world.

He and his wife, Terry Seery, have two children, Emmet, 15, and Frances, 14. They reside in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Judges in Pa. can now dismiss charges against people ‘incompetent’ to stand trial, but flaws remain

This story is a collaboration between Spotlight PA and the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, published as part of a Pittsburgh Media Partnership project. Sign up for Spotlight PA’s free newsletters.

HARRISBURG — The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has corrected a decades-old flaw in state law that left severely mentally ill people behind bars indefinitely, and highlighted lingering problems for the man at the center of the case, and others like him.

The court’s September ruling in Commonwealth v. Jquan Humphrey cleared the way for judges to dismiss charges against defendants who would never be deemed competent to participate in their own trial, a longstanding point of confusion in state law.

Humphrey has been in prison in Pennsylvania since 2009 when, at age 16, he shot and seriously injured two people.

About five years into his sentence, he allegedly threw a bag of urine that hit a guard at a state prison in Centre County. Two months later, he allegedly spit on another guard.

A Centre County prosecutor pressed charges, but in 2019, Centre County Court of Common Pleas Judge Brian Marshall found that Humphrey suffered from longstanding and serious mental health issues. He ruled that Humphrey was not competent to stand trial, and in February 2022, he dismissed the charges.

Pennsylvania’s Mental Health Procedures Act of 1976 protects people who may be “incompetent” to stand trial from participating in a legal process that they cannot understand.

It requires the court to determine whether with treatment, those people can regain their competency and resume their case.

But the law, which legislators passed nearly 50 years ago and have not significantly updated, gives ambiguous instructions for what to do when someone is not competent and for varying reasons never will be. That lack of clarity creates special problems for people with intellectual disabilities, brain injuries, or cognitive conditions such as dementia.

Taken together, these issues with the law left people who have severe, incurable mental conditions effectively trapped behind bars, endlessly awaiting a trial they could never participate in.

Asked to solve the problem in 1988, the state Superior Court at the time said that despite the “pointlessness” of reinstating charges against someone who “will most likely never stand trial,” the wording of the law forced them to do so.

In Humphrey’s case, the Centre County prosecutor appealed the judge’s decision to drop the charges to the Superior Court. The court reinstated the charges, citing the 1988 case. Humphrey’s attorneys appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The state Supreme Court’s new decision overruled the 1988 Superior Court. The prior interpretation of the law acknowledged the “unreasonable consequences” and “presumes that the Legislature intended such result,” Chief Justice Max Baer wrote in his majority opinion for the court.

“We respectfully disagree,” he wrote.

Justices Kevin Dougherty and Sallie Updyke Mundy dissented.

The opinion gives trial courts the authority to cut a case short if it’s clear the defendant will never be able to participate in their own defense, said Bradley Bridge, an attorney with the Defender Association of Philadelphia, a firm providing no-cost defense to people who cannot afford counsel.

“All we wanted was for the trial court judge, who had observed the client for possibly years, to have the discretion to dismiss the charges while considering the length of time involved and why it would be unjust to continue the prosecution,” said Bridge, whose firm filed an amicus brief in the Humphrey case. “It was plainly unfair for the district attorney, the one bringing the charges, to exclusively have that authority.”

The state Supreme Court sent Humphrey’s case back to a lower court for further resolution.

But the September ruling still leaves a significant roadblock for people who are already in state prison, mentally deteriorating behind bars, and facing new charges. It’s unclear how many people are in that situation because the state does not track these cases.

Torrance and Norristown state hospitals — both run by the Department of Human Services — are the only state facilities that provide competency restoration treatment, but they don’t accept people already serving sentences in state prison.

While the Mental Health Procedures Act gives the department the authority to admit patients to state hospitals involuntarily, including those charged with a crime, the law does not specify a procedure for individuals already serving time in a prison, DHS spokesperson Brandon Cwalina said in an email.

“The act does not provide a process for mental health involuntary commitment of those, like Mr. [Humphrey], who are convicted of criminal offenses and sentenced to jail or prison term,” Cwalina wrote.

In his majority opinion, Baer repeatedly noted the lack of treatment options available to Humphrey.

“Any changes to laws and regulations for state hospital admissions would require legislative action or regulatory amendments,” Cwalina said.

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Victor Nestico fastens a Christmas star  to a utility pole in Kulpmont Wednesday afternoon. Nestico and the Kulpmont100 group put up the star, with the help of a Mount Carmel Township bucket truck.