‘Humboldt Is a Wonderful Place,’ Says Mom of Boy With Down Syndrome Whose iPad Was Stolen

Kym Kemp / Wednesday, July 16 @ 1:11 p.m. / Good News

When 15-year-old Henry Stratman, who has Down Syndrome, found out that his house had been broken into and his beloved iPad taken, he was devastated. He had been banking his paychecks for over a year in order to save up the money for the coveted item. He’d only had it for a short time.

In the interview below his mom describes how hard he worked to save the money.


After the theft, he asked his mom why “the bad people stole my iPad?”

His mom, Wendy Kerr, answered as best she could: “Someone thought that they needed your iPad more than you do.” Then she held him while he cried. 

When Henry’s story went up on the Lost Coast Outpost this morning, there was an outpouring of offers to help. One woman contacted Simeon Tauber, owner Simply Macintosh in Arcata. He offered to donate $100 on an iPad and facilitate its purchase. He was quickly paired with another group of Facebook members (mostly local folk but including a man from Oklahoma) who had gathered enough money to replace Henry’s iPad. “It is all taken care of. [A new iPad] is coming into Simply Macintosh today,” explained one of the group of community members.

The group wants to be anonymous and Tauber downplayed his contribution, “I have a kid with disability. He loves his iPad….I will sleep better at night having done this.”

The community’s response doesn’t really surprise Kerr. She says that Humboldt is a wonderful place and the people are very generous—”more than any other community I’ve ever known.” Listen to her talk nice about our community here:


But she is delighted with the help for her son. “Talk about turning an absolute negative into a positive,” she exclaimed. “It makes it so it isn’t such a bad thing after all.”


Did you want to help Henry but someone beat you to it? There are many, many kids who could use an iPad. Kerr said that iPad’s are “such a good tool” for kids without speech or other learning disabilities. She recommends a local group, Families Advocating Autism Now, that would be glad to purchase iPads for local kids. Your donation could go a long way towards helping a child with disabilities. You can donate by Paypal or by check. The details on how to do this can be found here.

Thanks, LoCO readers for helping Henry. You made our day!

The audio pieces above came from a touching interview with Henry’s mom, Wendy Kerr, on KHUM with Mike Dronkers and Andrew Goff. Listen to the entire piece below.




Be On the Lookout: iPad Stolen From Boy With Down Syndrome

Kym Kemp / Wednesday, July 16 @ 9:40 a.m. /

Here’s the latest post in our “Be On the Lookout” series, where we highlight stolen items and ask you to help by reporting any sighting to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

UPDATE 1:15 p.m.: A new iPad is already on the way to Henry thanks to a bunch of good people. Check out the heartwarming story here.


Original Post below:

(Okay, we know iPads are small and hard to identify but when we heard this story, we wanted to do something. If nothing else we wanted to vent.)

Early on July 14, Wendy Kerr and her son, 15 year old Henry Stratman left their home in Eureka. At 8:50 a.m. someone broke into the home through the back door and stole several items.

“It was a snatch and grab,” said Kerr. “I have an alarm and I have a dog but someone got by.” Lucky that she did have an alarm though because, as Kerr explained, when it went off, “[the thief] only had four minutes, not all day.” 

The alarm alerted her security company who called both her and the Eureka Police Department. Two patrol cars and two motorcycle officers immediately responded. But the perpetrator had already fled when the officers arrived. Nonetheless, Kerr marveled at the officers’ speed in getting there, “Their response time was fast,” Kerr said.

“Not a whole lot was taken,” said Kerr, “An iPod, a laptop, some jewelry (nothing super valuable.)”  

What really matters to her though is her son’s iPad. “Henry has Down’s Syndrome,” she explained. He saved up for a long time to be able to purchase the coveted item, she said. “He finally got enough money, went to the store and was so proud of himself.” He used the iPad for his music as well as spelling and math games. He loved having it.

Henry proudly holding the box with the iPod he had just purchased. [Photo provided by Wendy Kerr.]

“I don’t care about the other stuff,” Kerr said, “but this makes me mad.” Luckily, Henry liked the box that the iPad came in and saved it so they still have the serial number—DYTMD68NDKPH.  If anyone sees the item, please contact the Eureka Police Department at (707) 441-4060.

Previous BOLO:

Bicyclist Struck by Car in Eureka Yesterday Afternoon

Kym Kemp / Wednesday, July 16 @ 8:54 a.m. / News

 Emergency crews respond to a bicyclist and car collision [Caitlin Twyla Pettit]

On Tuesday about 4 p.m., a bicyclist was struck by a vehicle on West Henderson Street near the Eureka Mall. According to Brittany Kesterson, spokesperson for the Eureka Police Department,

A male bicyclist was riding against traffic eastbound on Henderson in the middle of the left lane.  The driver was north on Central Avenue attempting to turn left onto Henderson.  The driver did not see the bicyclist approaching and collided in the intersection.  The bicyclist was transported to the hospital with a complaint of pain but left before being seen by medical staff.

Bike pulled out of the road and onto the sidewalk next to EPD motorcycle officer.[Photo provided by Jolene Evans]

Memorial Planned for Missing Woman’s Birthday

Kym Kemp / Tuesday, July 15 @ 7:27 p.m. / Missing

On July 19, Melisa Walstrom will be releasing balloons with people across the country in honor of her missing sister’s birthday. Sheila Franks, Walstrom’s sister, disappeared in Humboldt County on February 2. No one has heard from her since. [Another woman, Danielle Bertolini, disappeared close to the same time. See information about her here.]

Skeletal remains found Saturday in the Little Van Duzen River waterway out Hwy 36 have brought up a lot of conflicting emotions for Walstrom. She wonders if the remains could be her missing sister. She hopes it is but feels terrible for saying so. “It may sound horrible,” Walstrom said, “but to be able to lay her to rest… .” She paused then continued her voice thick with tears, “She deserves that as a human. Nobody deserves to be thrown in the creek.” 

Walstrom said she is praying that the body is her sister’s. Quietly, she said, “I know that she’s gone. I think if we had her then we could start to move forward. Not knowing anything… that is the worst part.”

Walstrom knows that the wheels of justice move slowly. It is harder, she says, for her sister’s sons. The young men, she said, feel no one is stepping forward to help find their mother—no one cares. She would like to show them differently. She’s asking people to release a balloon on her sister’s birthday, take a photo and send it to her along with the place. She hopes to collect these in an album to present to her nephews.

“[Sheila’s] youngest is Jordan and he is twenty. Her oldest is Michael, 23,” Walstom explained. “I want to show the boys that people do care. Jordan’s grandma (who was like a grandma to Michael also) died in January, their Mom disappeared in February,  my mom, grandma to both of the boys, died in May. It’s been hard on them.”

Walstrom doesn’t mention her own obvious pain. Instead she returns to her plans for her sister’s birthday, “I have people that responded from all over the United States,” Walstrom said proudly. “I got like a hundred and something people say they are doing it.” She believes some will release their balloons at the Fortuna rodeo.

“When Sheila’s birthday comes on Saturday,” Walstrom said, “she can look down and see we still love her and we’re trying our hardest.”


For those that want to participate in Sheila Franks’ memorial:


Coffee With a Candidate: Natalie Arroyo Running for Eureka City Council

Ryan Burns / Tuesday, July 15 @ 4:07 p.m. / Elections

People come to Humboldt County for a lot of different reasons. Natalie Arroyo came here because of Hurricane Katrina. Or at least that’s what pushed her out of New Orleans, where she had planned on settling in. Instead, Katrina blasted the Gulf Coast on what would have been her first day of grad school school at Tulane University.

Like several hundred thousand others, Arroyo evacuated, returning days later to a different city altogether. Tulane had closed. Job opportunities were limited. She tended bar for a while in the French Quarter, serving “Army dudes, cops and construction workers,” but she didn’t care for the district’s party atmosphere.

“I really wanted to do something pretty serious — work or more education,” Arroyo said recently over an iced coffee in Old Town Eureka. 

So she joined AmeriCorps and chose to serve in Humboldt County, attracted by the natural beauty. Plus, she was planning to pursue a career in fisheries management.

She’s been here for eight years now — the longest she’s ever lived anywhere. (Born in Miami, Arroyo was raised as a “military brat,” she said, moving every couple of years or so.) 

Arroyo works for the nonprofit Redwood Community Action Agency and is currently two years into an eight-year contract with the U.S. Coast Guard, where she serves as a marine science technician. She’s also a volunteer board member on both the Humboldt Trails Council and the statewide Salmonid Restoration Federation. Last year she bought a house in Eureka’s Fifth District. Eureka, she’s decided, is where she’d like to put down roots. “I never got to do that before,” she said.

Beyond merely settling down in the county seat, Arroyo wants to help shape Eureka’s future, which she feels is full of opportunities. “I really do feel like I sniffed out that sense of possibility as soon as I moved here,” she said. “It’s a cool city. There’s a lot of potential. Not everything interesting has already been done.”

Last month Arroyo announced that she’s running for the Fifth District seat on the Eureka City Council, challenging Chester “Chet” Albin, who late last year was appointed to serve out the remainder of Lance Madsen’s term.

What sorts of changes would Arroyo like to see in Eureka? For one thing, she thinks the city could benefit from stronger, more cohesive neighborhood groups, organizations like the Westside Community Improvement Association, which banded together a few years ago to purchase and transform the defunct campus of Jefferson Elementary School.

“I think there’s potential to go beyond neighborhood watch [groups] and make really cohesive neighborhoods,” Arroyo said. “I think that will help with public safety, a sense of happiness, all kinds of things.”

She would also like to reach out to residents who aren’t typically involved in civic issues, whether it’s low-income folks who feel disenfranchised or Latinos who are intimidated by the language barrier. “I feel like I’m poised to do that,” Arroyo said. “Those people are out there and have a lot of meaningful, good ideas and a lot of good energy to work hard on those ideas.”

Not surprisingly, given her involvement with the Humboldt Trails Council, Arroyo said she’d like to see the Eureka Waterfront Trail completed, as well as the Bay Trail connecting Arcata and Eureka. She’d also like to see safety improvements and beautification on Broadway. “That’s our gateway into town, and everyone knows that it’s not the best reflection of Eureka,” Arroyo said.

Earlier on the day of our interview, Arroyo sat down with new Eureka Police Chief Andy Mills to discuss various issues facing his department, including budget cuts and difficult community challenges such as the city’s homeless population. Arroyo said she was motivated by their conversation and is heartened that Mills has already reprogrammed city funds to bring mental health resources to the homeless. She is in favor of establishing a campground for those who fall through the cracks.

“I’d like to see a place for homeless residents who don’t have other options, who can’t get into the rapid rehousing program the city is doing, who can’t get on their feet any other way through mental health resources,” she said. “I’d like to see somewhere for people to go and live without fear of harassment and fear of other criminal activity against them.”

As for job creation, the perennial rallying cry for any aspiring politician, Arroyo said, “I’d like to see us reexamine our land use and zoning and lay the groundwork for more industrial and light-industrial businesses that are currently moving away from Eureka.” 

She also recommended focusing on the areas of job growth identified in the Prosperity 2012 economic development strategy, such as niche manufacturing, specialty food production and scientific/technical consulting. Or perhaps an industrial park, a place for specialty woodworking or a woolen mill. “But I don’t think more commercial retail is the answer,” she said, “and I’ve definitely felt that way for a long time.”

Arroyo said she’s in favor of Measure R, the “Eureka Fair Wage Act,” which would raise the city’s minimum wage to $12 per hour, with an exemption for businesses with fewer than 25 employees. 

Her support stems from personal experience, trying to live off of $2.15 an hour plus tips while working in the Deep South. “Sometimes you get great tips delivering pizza or waitressing, but sometimes you get nothing,” she said. “That was pretty difficult, to say the least, and often left me eating ramen for weeks on end or just feeling stressed out and desperate. I don’t want anyone to have to feel that way.”

The benefits can extend beyond the individual level, too, she said. “I also think making a living wage helps stave off that cycle of dependence on aid that people feel so strongly about. It also gives people increased buying power. I haven’t seen an example of a community that’s increased the minimum wage to a living wage and their economy has gone way downhill. It seems like it stimulates growth and buying.”

Arroyo has not been impressed by the current council members. She feels that they haven’t made a enough effort to seek out diverse opinions and feedback from constituents. “I don’t see a lot of enthusiasm for Eureka or a lot of targeted movement forward from our current city council,” Arroyo said. “It seems like sort of a reactive council, and sometimes downright disrespectful to people who come to speak at meetings. I see body language that I think is not very respectful, especially [toward] residents who come to speak at meetings. I’d like to see that improved.”

While she doesn’t know Albin personally, Arroyo said she’s been taken aback by some of the things he has said on the record, like his skepticism about sea-level rise. And she’s not convinced that Albin’s push for more cruise ships is quite the panacea implied by his enthusiasm on the topic.

“I have a lot to say about that as a Coastie who knows the infrastructure of our bay,” Arroyo said. “I know that Mr. Albin is a retired Navy guy, but I don’t think he is, possibly, as familiar with some of the current federal regulations that [govern] all of the facilities that receive cruise ships.” Those regulations have tightened a lot in the past 20 years, and particularly since the Costa Concordia wrecked off the Italian coast in January 2012. With new requirements for oil and waste facilities, handicap access and more, updating the bay’s infrastructure and dock facilities might not be the most simple or cost-effective means to stimulate economic growth, Arroyo said. 

“I’m not opposed to having cruise ships in Humboldt Bay — I want that to be really clear — but I think there are a lot of considerations.”

Now, by some old-timer standards, eight years in Humboldt still makes you a newcomer. And, at age 30, Arroyo would be the youngest member of the council if elected. But she feels that both of those things — her relative newcomer status and youth — can be assets.

“I understand why people think I don’t have as much wealth of experience in Humboldt, and I would say in a way it’s not holding me down or burdening me,” she said. “I don’t have these old connections that keep me from talking to someone I need to talk to or cause me to have judgments about specific groups or people or organizations. I don’t have any of that baggage, so I think that’s a plus. I’m not jaded about Humboldt. And I think there’s something to be said for that.”

A fundraiser for Arroyo’s campaign will be held this Friday at The Siren’s Song Tavern, starting at 8 p.m. Her own band, a synth-fueled drone-pop outfit called Blood Gnome, will perform, with a suggested donation of $5. For more on Arroyo’s city council bid visit her campaign website

HUMBOLDT APPROVED: Who Makes Humboldt’s Best French Fries?

Andrew Goff / Tuesday, July 15 @ 1:32 p.m. / Humboldt Approved

You want fries with that, Humboldt? Yes you do. 

How is is that your Lost Coast Outpost has subjected y’all to Humboldt Approved categories as lame “Best Neighboring County” and “Best Swimming Pool” but has never allowed you to weigh in on greasy taters? That is sinful. 

This week we pay penance. So tell us, of all of Humboldt’s fry providers, who most deftly makes you not mind the extra burpies? We’re looking for two winners this week. Remind yourself how to ensure your vote counts below:

To vote, look through the comments of this Humboldt Approved poll. If someone has already nominated the answer you would give for that week’s category, click the upvote arrow. If you don’t see your desired Humboldt Approved answer nominate it in a comment for others to upvote. (Please be careful to not duplicate answers; redundant answers will be deleted and potential associated upvotes will be lost.) Feel free to make your case by replying to/cheering on the answer you love most, but again the number by the arrows is what counts.

Of course, you can vote for as many nominees as you deem worthy, but of course the more you do that the more watered down your initial vote becomes. That’s math.

We reserve the right to delete superfluous comments that make the voting/comment section hard to sift through. Please try not to get offended when your comment battle reply is deleted. We’re trying to do something here.

We are looking for two winners — one winner from the metropolises of Eureka and Arcata, and one from Humboldt’s smaller communities. Voting closes next Friday at noon and soon after a winner will be declared. (Tip: Sort comments by “BEST” to get a better grasp of how voting is trending.)

OK, go.

Fire at Sequoia Gas Storage Building in Fortuna Squelched This Evening

Kym Kemp / Monday, July 14 @ 9:16 p.m. / Fire!

Readers are reporting there was a fire at a Sequoia Gas Company building on Pond Street in Fortuna about 8 p.m. A spokesperson at Fortuna Fire was able to confirm that the fire was out but did not have details about the incident.

According to scanner traffic, a single story metal storage building with tanks inside had smoke coming from the roof. 

Scanner talk indicated that traffic was temporarily blocked on Newburg Road at Randolph Way and for northbound traffic at the 12th Street offramp from Hwy 101. The overpass at 12th Street was temporarily shut down also.