FAIRBANKS - Donna Baum checked off a big item on her bucket list last weekend.

She helped Sound Reinforcement Specialists set up for Saturday’s CityFest concert at the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds.

She has always wanted to learn about how to set up sound professionally. 

What is remarkable is that she does it, despite suffering from multiple sclerosis.

“I watch and I learn,” the retired math and science teacher said.

In advance of this “gig,” she studied sound systems online and prepared herself for lots of heavy lifting. 

She said owner Josh Bennett graciously invited her to help where she could. This is the fourth event she has helped set up.

Baum dives right in. 

That’s pretty good for someone who was told she would never walk again.

One of the crew members whispered to me, “I didn’t even know she has multiple sclerosis. She is amazing.”

Indeed, doctors told her she would never walk again. She spent a very long time in that wheelchair — long enough to discover there are plenty of places in Fairbanks that are not handicapped-accessible.

Then, she worked hard and proved the doctors wrong. Today, she walks 10,000 steps every day, she told me.

“MS is a fatigue disease,” she said.

Her first “episode” occurred at age 21, when she suddenly lost her hearing and her equilibrium.

She is 55 now and has learned to live with the disease.

It’s always others who “put the brakes on you,” she said, adding, “That just makes me work harder.”

She managed to raise five daughters, earn two college degrees, work as a teacher and put on small shows for youth she mentors.

As she points out cheerfully, “I’ve had MS the whole time.”

Her goal now is to bring Fairbanks youths to the Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics, an academic and enrichment youth program spearheaded by the NAACP.

She attended the event once.

“To see the best of my heritage in one place was so awe-inspiring,” she said.

Our paths first crossed years ago when she served as the sign language interpreter for Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival’s Gospel Choir outreach to Healy.

How fitting that we reconnected at yet another performance, but this time, one where she played a totally different role.

Good Deed

A big community thank you to Jason Theis and his children Elise, 6, and Wesley, 10.

A friend spotted them collecting errant shopping carts and returning them to the stores where they belong.

“No reward, no money,” said the friend who told me about it. “Just a good deed. Being a good neighbor.

“I was so taken, I jumped out of my car and took their picture,” she added.

So we tracked down the good Samaritan trio.

Theis is director of finance and accounting at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and this was not the call he was expecting from the Daily News-Miner.

He said he noticed a batch of carts abandoned a couple weeks after the big community cleanup.

“They were just piled up near the roundabout,” he said. “All those things still sitting there. 

“Nobody picked them up. It was just a matter of time until all this trash gets scattered all over the place.”

So, with the help of his two able assistants, his children, he loaded the carts onto their trailer, and delivered them — some to the stores, some to the transfer site.

It was a good lesson for his kids, he said.

“It’s fun once in awhile, to know stuff you are doing, that people appreciate it,” he said.

Calling All Men

Here’s your chance to join an opera cast onstage, and you don’t have to sing.

Opera Fairbanks is looking for men, young and old, to pose as soldiers and bandits in an upcoming performance.

There’s no singing involved, just standing on stage and filling the crowd.

Between eight and 12 men are needed for the upcoming opera The Italian Girl in Algeria, according to Tom Grose.

The commitment is a couple nights, starting in mid-June, and then the week before the July 3 and July 5 performances, every evening.

“It’s just being on stage,” he said.

These men are called “super numerates.”

Did I mention there is a small stipend involved as well?

Call Tom at 451-8335 or 322-7093.

Contact community editor and columnist Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com and at 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.