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It seems a lot of people have discovered how wonderful Wilsonville is - close to I-5 bisected by the Willamette River, with acres of parks and recreation facilities, horse stables and country farms, a variety of stores and the best schools in the state.

According to the 2014 United States Census Bureau, the average person will move nearly 12 times in their lifetime. With this in mind, I guess I am pretty lucky to have lived in Wilsonville on the same street — no longer a dead end — same house — sans some large willow trees outside my window — and in the same bedroom — now going on its third color scheme — for my entire life, which will be 18 years in February. Jack Roche

In the hallway outside my room, there's a framed black and white photo of me as a little 3- or 4-year-old, featuring a tight buzz cut. I'm squinting beneath a City of Wilsonville population sign on Boeckman Road with the old Frog Pond church in the background. Back then the population sign read just under 15,000. Fast forward to 2018 and our town now boasts over 24,000 residents.

It seems a lot of people have discovered how wonderful Wilsonville is — close to I-5 bisected by the Willamette River, with acres of parks and recreation facilities, horse stables and country farms, a variety of stores and the best schools in the state. What's not to love?

Next fall I'll be headed to college someplace outside of Wilsonville. While I'm eager to begin that next adventure, as Christmas and New Year's approach, I think this might be the perfect time to express my gratitude for having grown up in such an awesome place.

I love the tree-lined streets around our town and how during the holiday season, the City takes the time to hang thousands of white lights along Wilsonville Road. While there are many folks who are fixtures in our community, a few stand out to me.

First, there is John Ludlow, a former Wilsonville mayor and announcer for all the Wildcat boys basketball games for more than two decades and who always shares bags of his famous peanut brittle around the holidays. There's Doris Wehler, who maybe has attended more Wilsonville basketball games than any resident in our town's history. Bicycle Bill and his dog bring a smile to my face and Terri Wortman at the Wilsonville Public Library is a person who introduced me to sports authors Mike Lupica and Dan Gutman, among others, when I was younger. Last but not least, the incomparable Coach Tommy Haaga, who not only coaches at Wilsonville High School, but also brings holiday cheer truly like no other.

There are also photos dispersed around my house, some with my dogs. One of those dogs is now buried in the backyard under a cherry tree. Other photos show me with family, cousins, teammates and friends. In one, I'm sitting on one of the Memorial Park picnic tables with a gob of friends, all of us have our feet dangling down but not quite touching the ground, baseball hats on, and nothing but green grass, blue sky and smiles all around. The summers in Wilsonville are beautiful.

Photos with teammates and friends line my bedroom walls and in nearly all of them there is a universal theme: We are enjoying our time together. Often, our arms are draped around one another, and we are smiling and/or laughing. Good times. Living in the 97070 has been a blessing.

Looking back at my time in Wilsonville, several fond memories come to mind. The Kiwanis Annual Kids Fun Run where everyone is given a T-shirt and a gigantic medal; Fun in the Park, with the cartoon caricatures and so much more; Movies in the Park under the stars on summer nights; dodging in and out of the squirting water fountains at Murase Plaza (I was 5 when this park opened in 2006); the summer reading program at the library; basketball camps; trick-or-treating the Arbor and Meadows neighborhoods where maximum candy could be extracted; riding bikes in the neighborhood; and eventually venturing the 1.2 miles down Wilsonville Road to get a Jamba or Subway once I was old enough.

Growing up in a community like Wilsonville, it's easy to take safety for granted. There is something about people that have known you your entire life, people like your neighbors (hey Bob!) and friends. There is a fellowship in this town that is special. As Harrison Steiger and Tyler Hieb, WHS graduates who are both former teammates of mine, have said, "Wilsonville Basketball is a brotherhood." We all really believe that. And I feel

like the Wilsonville community is a

family.

So, thank you Wilsonville! I am proud to call you my hometown, and you have been a truly great place to grow up.

Jack Roche is a senior at Wilsonville High School.

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