Blake Draeger was released Thursday from the burn unit of the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison.
Happy Fourth. We celebrated Independence Day this week with a day off on Thursday that meant a four-day weekend for some lucky locals. And in the hot, sunny weather, local pools were full, folks were streaming through the Jaycees' Fourth of July celebration at Wausau's Marathon Park and local fireworks displays delighted families who spread out blankets or sat on lawn chairs below twilight skies.
We hope everyone took the time to reflect on the nation's history, what the freedoms we fought for mean to us today and how we can, continually, keep working to become "a more perfect union." And to spend a little time with family, friends and the barbecue, as well.
In a week that saw upheaval in Egypt and celebration at home, a few other items that stood out to us from the week's local news:
We use "struck by lightning" to mean something that is so remote as to be utterly improbable. We have a feeling the Draeger family won't use the phrase that way ever again.
In the very best news of the week, we learned Thursday that Blake Draeger, 8, of Weston had been released from the hospital after a long stay to deal with the after-effects of being struck by lightning June 26 at his family's farm in Rib Falls.
Blake was struck while riding his dirt bike through a field. His father, Chris, saw him thrown to the ground. He rushed to his son while family members called 911.
The strike not only burned Blake's skin and hair, it also ruptured his eardrums, scratched the lenses of his eyes and left a wound where the bolt of electricity exited his body through his back.
The sheer power of a strike like this is almost impossible to conceive of. The strike contained hundreds of millions of volts of electricity and superheated Draeger's body to nearly 60,000 degrees Fahrenheit in an instant.
And he is going to be OK.
He still has a long road of recovery ahead of him. And what he went through was something no child should have to experience. And the family is faced with huge medical bills and is uncertain how many of them his insurance will cover. (To donate to the Blake Draeger Recovery Fund, visit www.gofundme.com/3fk0bw.) But he survived the strike, and now he's back home. That's a pretty big deal.
Reed Hall, chief executive of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., seemed to downplay the importance of that agency's rule violations and lack of oversight, calling the issues raised by a Legislative Audit Bureau report "technicalities" in an interview with Gannett Central Wisconsin Media this week.
Perhaps Hall, who was not heading WEDC during the period studied, felt it was his duty to defend the agency. But the reality is that that the lack of proper administration of grant, loan and tax credit programs very likely did hinder job growth in Wisconsin - and at a minimum, they pretty clearly did not ensure smart use of taxpayer dollars.
Luckily, legislators of both parties do not agree with the notion that WEDC needs only minor tweaks. A bill passed unanimously in the Senate last month would require more and better reporting of the agency, and make its financial audit annual rather than every two years. Getting WEDC's house in order will not by itself supercharge Wisconsin's economy - but it can't hurt, and it might help.
A new event had a successful launch on Saturday, as dozens of new and veteran cyclists gathered at Nine Mile County Forest Recreation Area for the first-ever Bikes 'n' Brats celebration , sponsored by two local cycling groups, the Wausau Wheelers and the Central Wisconsin Offroad Cycling Coalition, as well as several local bike shops. We love bikes, we love brats - what's not to love about the two in combination? Organizers say the goal, besides bringing folks together, was to help promote the sport for both road and mountain bikers. That's a good mission, well accomplished.