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In May, 800-plus top students from 26 nations will converge on Iowa State University for the world championships of Odyssey of the Mind.

Four 9-year-old Santa Rosa girls undeterred by setbacks inflicted on them by the October fires hope to be there in Ames and ready, once again, to rock.

Twins Quinne and Sloane Crocker and Cassidy Cornelius, all of Sequoia School, and Strawberry School’s Ali Bey won their division at the state meet after coming out on top in the regionals in Santa Rosa.

Odyssey of the Mind demands rapid problem-solving and the demonstration of knowledge, thought and creativity through a presentation.

At the state finals in Riverside, the Santa Rosa girls aced a challenge to quickly assemble items such as wood blocks, marbles, paper clips and pipe cleaners into structures that would not fall apart when tossed. Their prepared presentation put a modern spin on “Alice in Wonderland” and addressed the mystery, “Who stole the principal’s tart?”

The kids’ current challenge: to quickly raise $10,000 for the trip to the world finals.

Donations payable to Sequoia Parents Club can be mailed to Sequoia Elementary School c/o Sequoia Parents Club, 5305 Dupont Drive, Santa Rosa 95409.

OUR OPINIONS are requested by Sonoma County Rises, a new organization that’s out to determine what is most important to us as we rebuild and reconsider our community following the fires.

An online survey that closes Monday night seeks our input on a host of issues, among them housing availability and costs, the environment, government infrastructure, social justice and education.

King Brown Partners, the Novato research firm conducting the community outreach survey, is impressed by how many people have answered the questions at www.socorises.org.

The more responses, the better.

ALMOST 6 MONTHS have passed since Michelle and Dan Welch quickly gathered up their four large dogs and two regular-sized cats and escaped the flames that devoured their home off Porter Creek Road.

The small rental they found allows cats but not dogs. So Smokey, Bailey, Tank and Titan went to Paradise Pet Resorts in Rohnert Park, which soon after the fires resembled the Ark.

Owner Mike Campbell and his crew and legions of devoted volunteers took in about 500 displaced animals. Nearly all have since returned to their people.

But Dan and Michelle don’t yet have a place for their dogs. So Mike Campbell keeps them.

At no cost. Campbell said that in the wake of the disaster many do whatever they can to help and “this is my niche.”

AS EASTER NEARED, artist Gina Williams dressed the sanctuary at Santa Rosa’s classic First Congregational Church in a dark, Lenten scene evocative of our fires.

Gina placed on the wall behind the altar black cut-outs of hills. Atop and in front of them she set charred branches from the yard of church members Earl and Dot Holtz, who are renowned for their leadership in the dairy industry and whose home burned in October.

Mimicking what’s happening on the Holtz property and all around, Gina returned to the church Saturday and, in advance of Easter service, adorned the art installation and the altar cross with green shoots of renewal.

Sonoma County Wine Auction Totals:

2018 $5.7 million

2017 $5.2 million

2016 $4.7 million

2015 $4.5 million

2014 $4 million

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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