2017: Our Top 10 Stories of the Year


Sweetwater County, you are why we are here.

We’ve had the distinct pleasure of getting to report on those stories that matter most to you this past year.

From us at SweetwaterNOW, this is our ode to you and some of our favorite stories from 2017. We are proud to live here with you.

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Rain or Shine: Meals on Wheels Delivers to Homebound in Green River

(Jan. 12, 2017)

Rain or shine, the elderly and homebound residents in Green River get Meals on Wheels delivered to their homes.

They delivered in the heavy snowfall last Thursday that left many people unable to leave their neighborhood. They delivered last Friday in the subzero temperatures that made many vehicles fail to start.

“As long as my drivers are coming in and our center is open, we will deliver because people depend on those meals,” said Meals on Wheels Home Delivery Coordinator Melynda Lenling.

Read more here.

Paying it Forward: Off-Roading Enthusiasts Help Those Stuck in the Snow

(Jan 29, 2017)

A group of off-road enthusiasts in Rock Springs make it their hobby to help people get unstuck—whether it’s in town or high in the hills.

Tyler Mullen, Chris Kendall, and Kyle Ogden are administrators for a Facebook group called Stuck! RS-GR.

When the first of the big snowstorms hit, the guys decided to open it up to anyone who gets stuck and needs help.

Read more here.

Rock Springs Native Donates Kidney to a Stranger in Rawlins

(May 29, 2017)

Would you donate a kidney if someone you loved needed it? What about to a complete stranger?

Toni Van Valkenburg would and, in fact, she did. She went through surgery, giving up one of her healthy kidneys, as an anonymous donation.

“It was kinda on my bucket list,” she said with a laugh, drawing a check mark in the air. “Check!”

Read more here.

Local Attorney Trains to Race Semi-Wild Horses in Mongolia

(June 27, 2017)

If a 1000+ km race where you ride semi-wild horses across the Mongolian steppe sounds like a good time, then you might be Sweetwater County Public Defender Rick Helson.

Helson, a 59-year-old attorney by day, devotes himself to horsemanship in his free time and is training hard for a rugged overland race known as the Mongol Derby.

Read more here.

Tiny House Comes to Sweetwater County

(Aug. 13, 2017)

Adventure and travel photographer Andy Austin has been living the dream. Traveling between stunning outdoor meccas, taking photos of his adventures, and curling up each night in a beautiful tiny home on wheels.

Austin was the winner of the Wyoming Office of Tourism’s “Call of the WY” with a landing page on HGTV.com.

Read more here.

Rock Springs Couple Flees Bullets at Las Vegas Concert, Thankful of Strangers

(Oct. 3, 2017)

Rock Springs residents JJ Hadley and his wife Jennie had no idea the harrowing, terrifying experience they would have during a weekend getaway in Las Vegas last weekend.

They had purchased tickets to the Route 91 Music Festival six months ago because they love county music.

Added to that was the wonderful moment Saturday night at the Venetian Hotel when JJ’s sister, Laura Hadley, was proposed to by her now fiance, Dan Davis.

They were all in the crowd at the concert when a gunman opened fire from a Mandalay Bay hotel room, leaving 59 dead and 500+ injured.

Read more here.

Green River Woman Travels to Texas for Hurricane Relief

(Oct. 26, 2017)

When Green River resident Laurissa Lee started checking into the Houston area after Hurricane Harvey hit, she felt the need to offer her help and support to those affected.

Lee volunteered to go to Port Arthur and Orange, Texas to provide hurricane relief by cleaning up disaster areas.

“It was hard. It was emotionally and physically draining,” Lee said of the experience. “And for me to be able to go and help was probably one of the best experiences I could have hoped for.”

Read more here.

Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming: Preventing Suicide in the Cowboy Up State

(Nov. 19, 2017)

Wyoming is a state known for stunning scenery, a tough cowboy mentality, and good hard work.

Unfortunately, Wyoming is usually also number one in per capita completed suicides—quite reliably in the top 4 at any given time.

The Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming has stepped forward to fill the void left for suicide prevention funding in the state—to the tune of $100,000—after state legislature cut the $2.1 million in programs completely in 2017.

Read more here.

Rock Springs Couple Introduces Escape Rooms to Community

(Nov. 30, 2017)

A Rock Springs couple is bringing escape rooms to the area with their new business, Escape307.

Casey and Amanda Bruder have owned the building on Pilot Butte Avenue for a while, and a friend suggested they use it to build some escape rooms.

Casey has built one of the most technologically advanced rooms around, creating a main circuit board that automates everything in the room.

Read more here.

Western Wyoming Beverages Packs Over 31,000 Meals for Local Food Banks

(Dec. 10, 2017)

On Saturday, December 9, Western Wyoming Beverages pulled together over 130 employees, family, friends and community volunteers to pack meals to be delivered to the local food banks.

Partnering with The Pack Shack to fight hunger, they packed over 31,000 meals in a little over one hour!

“From the time my Grandfather founded the company in 1970, one of his big things was ‘give back to the community ten-fold’ and that’s always been a pillar of what we’ve done at Western Wyoming Beverages. Through donations or anything we can do to give back to the community, I think it’s huge and that’s one of the things we want to continue as we go into the 3rd generation of our company in Rock Springs.”

– Sean Valentine, Director of Sales & Marketing for WWB

Read more here.