Tom Faubion is a practicing attorney and senior partner of a law firm in Lakewood when he isn't riding and working the trails. (Jim Bryant/Senior Scene)
Tom Faubion is a practicing attorney and senior partner of a law firm in Lakewood when he isn’t riding and working the trails. (Jim Bryant/Senior Scene)

Almost every weekend, Tom Faubion leaves his Lakewood law office, saddles up and heads into the hills of eastern Pierce County for volunteer duty. That makes him a hero to state officials and fellow wilderness horse riders.

Faubion’s 25-year commitment to developing the horse trails in Elbe Hills State Forest near Mount Rainier has earned undying appreciation and recognition from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which recently presented him with one of its Volunteer Hero awards.

The honor was presented by state Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, who heads DNR, during a recreation leadership meeting Dec. 6 in Seattle. Faubion, who lives in Kapowsin, and Bob Langley of Everett were the lone volunteers statewide who received the annual award for what Goldmark called their “sustained service, superior performance, leadership and commitment” to DNR’s volunteer program.

“These Volunteer Heroes inspire the best in all of us. Not only do their actions directly influence the success of the program, but their dedication and sense of service inspire those who have the opportunity to work with them,” Goldmark said.

From Faubion’s perspective, “DNR has been very supportive of all the volunteers and the work we do,” he said.

A member of the Backcountry Horsemen since the 1970s, Faubion and other club members have developed and maintained a horse trail system at Elbe Hills. During thousands of volunteer hours, they have produced “the finest trailhead and trail system in Washington,” he said. “It’s a showplace for anyone wanting to see what can be done through the cooperation of volunteers and the state.”

DNR officials said Faubion is often one of the first to help clear trails of downed trees and debris after storms. On one of his most recent regular visits to the trails, he packed in material for an interpretive center that volunteers are helping build.

Faubion is senior partner in the Lakewood law firm of Faubion, Reeder, Fraley and Cook. He said he always looks forward to his regular weekend forays at Elbe Hills.

DNR picked Langley as a Volunteer Hero for his work on trails in Capitol State Forest, Tahuya State Forest, and Walker Valley. His efforts have included rerouting trails to protect streams and reopening them after storms.

In the first nine months of 2012, volunteers donatd more than 49,000 hours of labor statewide, according to DNR. Goldmark said their effort enhances environmental protection, public safety and overall quality of life for fellow Washingtonians and users of state recreation land.

DNR manages about 3 million acres of state-owned trust lands for revenue to trust beneficiaries, including public schools and universities, as well as public services in several counties. The agency also manages approximately 2.6 million acres of aquatic area, including parts of Puget Sound. Goldmark is the elected head of the department.

Back Country Horsemen of Washington  is a non-profit organization with 35 chapters across the state dedicated to keeping trails open for all users. The group educates horse users in “leave no traces” for trail use, and is an advocate of volunteer service to government agencies.

The group is networked with Backcountry Horsemen of America, which has members in 25 other states.

Seventy-year-old Margie Fredrickson has always been an active person, but in 1986 she found herself unable to get out of bed.

“I could barely move,” said Fredrickson, whose doctors took a long seven months to finally make a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.

A class at Tacoma Community College given by the Arthritis Foundation led her to water aerobics.

“I started to feel better every day,” she said, adding that fibromyalgia made her muscles feel extremely tight. She said the warm water soothed and relaxed those tight muscles and she began to feel more like herself.

“The Arthritis Foundation was such a lifeline for me, giving me something I could do,” said Fredrickson.

Soon she was teaching the water aerobics class, having been certified as an instructor, and her life began to return to normal.  She joined Weight Watchers, lost 61 pounds and joined a jazzercise class led by Kimberly DeMile of Federal Way Jazzercise.

DeMile said that she has many seniors in her class.

“It certainly helps them with their balance, because one of the main things that we’re told to do as we age is to be sure to do weight-bearing exercises,” she said.

Her classes include using weights, exercise balls, strengthening core muscles and lots of dancing.

“When you are dancing you are constantly moving your upper body, so your core strength is continually challenged and worked,” said DeMile, adding that it isn’t necessary to overdo things in order to work out and maintain good health.

“We aren’t becoming professional body builders, just staying healthy and keeping our weight down and making sure your heart is working in a non-competitive environment,” she said.

Every movement is tailored, and there is hopping, skipping and jumping with clients always having the option to revert to a low impact workout at any time during the classes.

The workout starts out slowly with a warmup, and after a short time, people start to peel off their extra sweatshirts and get into the swing of things. Weights, exercise bands and balls are at their feet, waiting to be pulled into action as the class moves forward.

While some may feel that they aren’t coordinated enough to do some of the dance moves, DeMile says, “We are not talking about ‘Dancing with the Stars.’”

DeMile encourages men and women of all ages to give Jazzercise five to seven classes to see how it goes. Some of the classes focus on body-sculpting, while others are dance-based. Each week offers a variety of opportunities to exercise and have fun doing it.

“The bottom line is if you don’t use it, you lose it,” said DeMile.Jazzercise2-color-web

The goal for this year’s Pierce County Toys for Tots drive is 70,000 toys. This is George Hight’s third year as coordinator for the Pierce County Toys for Tots, and he thinks they will make it.

Toys for Tots got its start in 1947 in Los Angeles, Calif. and has now spread to over 700 campaigns.

Hight said Marine Corps Reserve conducts the program wherever there is a reserve unit, and if there isn’t a unit, a voluntary organization can take it on.

“In Pierce County we have a Marine Corps league, and I’m the coordinator,” said Hight, who added he has a wonderful staff that handles what he considers to be 98 percent of the work.

“They are all veterans, Marines, soldiers, Navy and civilians,” he said.

Saying the average age of his volunteers is about 65, Hight estimates that most of the volunteers had a professional life and retired and are now available to donate their time and energy.

“When I find people like that who want to be involved and provide for the children, I latch on to them, give them a position and leave them alone,” he said, adding that the volunteers come with enormous management skills and ability and are very capable.

Chuck Warden started volunteering four years ago as a forklift driver and is now the transportation director for the local Toys for Tots organization.

“I may be financially retired, but I’m not mentally retired,” said Warden, who added he just doesn’t want to be what he refers to as a “couch potato.”

“When I walk out of that place every day, I know I contributed something back to the children of the community who are economically disadvantaged. It is a form of giving back to the community,” he said.

Some of the volunteers include prisoners from the Pierce County Jail system. Warden said they try hard to serve as an esteem builder for everyone.

In order to receive toys from the program, children must be eligible for any of the state Department of Health and Social Services (DSHS) programs, said Hight, adding that donations can be made at a number of local businesses.

“Edward Jones Investment is a great partner with us, and we have collection boxes at any Tacoma Fire station that is open,” said Hight.

There are approximately 140 Toys for Tots collection boxes scattered throughout the county, including Peninsula Metro Parks in Gig Harbor.

Toys for Tots is an IRS-recognized 501(c) (3) not-for-profit charity and operates in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Hight said they collect toys all year long, and the big push takes place from mid-October through the end of December, when volunteers work hard to collect as many new, unwrapped toys for the children in their local community as is humanly possible.  The goal is for each child to receive two toys.

Many hours are spent sorting the toys by age and gender to be sure that all the children have something new and appropriate to open on Christmas morning.

Saying that they receive hundreds of thank you notes and photos from grateful children and their families, Hight noted that it is rewarding to know that there will be a smile on each child’s face on Christmas morning.

For more information about Toys for Tots, visit

George Hight, coordinator of Toys for Tots in Pierce County, is seen with “Mrs. Claus” and Ed Troyer, a Pierce County Sheriff Department official and a Toys for Tots volunteer, at a toy drive at the Walmart store in South Hill last year.

Goodyear tire demo at the Tacoma Dome in September 2012.

In September, I received a phone call from a Goodyear representative who wanted to know if I were interested in attending a demonstration about tires.  If you’ve been reading the “Senior Scene” for any length of time, you know the paper doesn’t have an automobile section.  So I nearly told the rep that I wasn’t interested except that I’d received several phone calls recently and it got me to thinking.

After about the age of 16, we take the act of driving for granted.  Gone are the days when only the man in the family drives.  Most families financially support multiple vehicles and their various insurances and expensive-to-fill gas tanks.  All that changes if a health crisis occurs.  One of my callers had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  She was still early in the life of the disease, but as soon as she received the diagnosis, she discovered she needed to take a driver’s test.  The second caller had had a stroke.  She needed to take a test to be able to drive again.  Both callers began to see just how much narrower their lives might become based on a test many of us will usually have only a handful of times.  Transportation options are extremely limited, especially for folks who may have not been limited since the days when their folks told them they had to be back by night fall.  And with limited transportation comes limited opportunities to go out just for fun or to meet up with friends or family.  Your big world can just that quickly become limited to how far you can walk or whether or not you’re on an active bus line.  See how your driving stacks up here.

So I went.  A whole passel of Goodyear folks showed up to take a BMW 321i for a test drive and experience the difference between the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season and Michelin’s similar high performance tire.  And then there was me.  In all honesty, there are little old ladies that probably complain that I drive like a little old lady.  I don’t like paying for the privilege of getting to the next location a few minutes sooner so I drive speed limit and follow all traffic laws.  This makes me a good driver (maybe) but not a gutsy driver.

The Goodyear employees were all men and they blew through the course as if it were a life-time personal dream of theirs to recklessly drive someone else’s vehicle.  Driving at my much more sedate speed meant there wasn’t really much difference between one tire and the next.
At the break between driving a dry course and a wet course, a Goodyear rep talked about how Texas just changed their highway speed to 85 miles per hour and how other states are thinking about following suit and suddenly high performance tires made a whole lot more sense, especially if I was thinking about doing any traveling.

This leads me to a second reason to write about driving in the “Senior Scene.”  Despite Perry Como’s song about our skies, on this side of the mountain you’re more likely to see rain than sun.  Dry weather isn’t necessarily the best thing either, since the first real rain we get after a dry spell turns our streets into oil slicks.  The most frequent noise on the hills around Tacoma after a rain is the scream of tires trying to get traction.  Stopping half-way up a hill because a traffic light turned red can turn you into a believer in good tires.  Regardless of what tire you have on your car, replacing tires when the tread becomes worn, keeping your tires properly inflated and driving at a slower pace will increase your traction.  See here for more tips.

The Goodyear course was set up at the Tacoma Dome.  It was nice and flat with sprinkler systems arranged to simulate an easy rainfall.  Driving at or just above highway speeds and changing lanes on wet pavement to avoid the knucklehead who just pulled in front of you pretty closely resembles what driving the track was like.  I’d like to say that all on my own, I ratcheted up my driving but it honestly took a professional driver sitting in the suicide seat and giving me pointers to get me flying through the wet course.

This is point number three that I wanted to make.  It’s been decades since I took a driving test.  Even at my usual speed, the professional beside me had some tips to improve my driving.  Once I achieved a faster speed, he very patiently provided even more guidelines.  Most of us believe that if our passengers can ride without clinging to the suicide strap or pumping their feet through the floor and we mostly avoid traffic tickets that we’re safe drivers.  We drive but we don’t spend time analyzing our driving.  It was educational to sit next to someone whose work life is dedicated to driving.  I was excited when I walked off that track which made me wonder, “Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could experience that.”  They ought to have classes or something that allowed you to drive around at breakneck speed and build your confidence level.  Well, of course my trademarked idea was already being used.  Check out the driving school sidebar.

So, did I see a difference in performance between Goodyear’s tires and Michelin’s.  Yes.  I don’t know if that’s because the track was stacked with a bias for Goodyear or not as I honestly still don’t know much about tires but I definitely believe you should buy the best tire you can afford.  If you can afford it that might be the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season.  But, I also believe that you’re always happiest with a product when the team responsible for helping you make the decision listens to you, works within your limitations and genuinely wants your experience to be the best it can be and maybe that’s the real reason I walked off that track with the world’s biggest smile.