Category Archives: Organizations

Arm In Arm For ALS

Last Sunday, Sherwood Island State Park hosted an ALS Walk. Among the thousands of participants, 70 formed a special team.

Dottie Kyle’s husband Bob is a 1964 graduate of Staples High School. She has ALS — Lou Gehrig’s Disease — and the “Go Dottie Go!” team came from around the country to support her.

David Knapp is a longtime friend of the Kyle family, who lives near them in North Carolina. On his way from to Westport, he realized  he had forgotten to raise any money for the event.

He quickly emailed some close friends. He promised that if he could raise $1,000 within the next 24 hours, he’d wear a tutu at the Walk.

He did, and he did. Here he is, with Dottie:

David Knapp and Dottie Kyle

Dottie is no slouch either. Since August of last year, her ALS has progressed from her chest and throat muscles to her legs.

But she wanted to be involved with her support group, so on Sunday Bobby pushed her in a wheelchair.

Twenty feet from the finish line she raised herself out of her chair, grabbed the arms of her daughter Krissy and son Brian, and walked over the finish line.

Dottie Krissy and Brian Kyle

They don’t call it the ALS “Walk” for nothing.

 

 

Tooling Around The Farm

Today was fantastic for anything outdoors related. If a realtor couldn’t sell a house with today’s spectacular weather and fall foliage, she should find another line of work.

Meanwhile, down on the (Wakeman Town) Farm, volunteers were out in force. They helped harvest fall vegetables, and prepare for the arrival of sheep and alpacas (!).

The crew was helped by the Tauck family’s “Trip’n trailer.” It hauls tools to national, state and local parks, to help with events like this.

Tauck tools 1

In the spirit of volunteerism, Robin Tauck says that if you’ve got a group project and need shovels, rakes, trowels and wheelbarrows, just call 203-227-0677.

The tools are free. The experience is priceless.

TEA Talk Time

You’ve heard of TED Talks. The 18-minute, internet-addictive presentations cover a broad range of topics. Originally, TED stood for Technology, Entertainment and Design.

Get ready for Westport’s version: TEA Talk. This Sunday (October 26, 2 p.m., Town Hall auditorium) the Westport Arts Advisory Committee is sponsoring 3 20-minute conversations. Because this is Westport, the focus is on Thinkers, Educators and Artists.

Gina Rattan

Gina Rattan

And because this is Westport, the TEA Talk features a combination of rising young talent, and well-established thinkers, educators and artists.

Gina Rattan — a Staples grad who’s working now on the live broadcast of NBC’s “Peter Pan,” and is the resident director of the Broadway musical “Matilda The Musical” — will discuss the impact of technology on Broadway with Carole Schweid.

She directs the “Play With Your Food” series, and was an original Broadway cast member of “A Chorus Line.” This segment will include video clips of some wizardry behind Broadway shows.

Nick DeBerardino — another Staples grad and Rhodes Scholar pursuing a master’s in music at Yale, and the co-founder of Princeton’s Undergraduate Composers Collective — will explore the integration of recent technology into music composition and performance.

Nick DeBerardino

Nick DeBerardino

He’ll chat with Richard Epstein, professional bassoonist and host for 38 years of WPKN’s “Sometimes Classical.”

The program kicks off with Bill Derry — head of innovation at the Westport Library — discussing and demonstrating 3D printing’s application to the visual arts. Joining him is Thomas Bernstein, a photographer and sculptor best known for his “Dancing Leaves” series.

Both Gina and Nick will be presented with “Horizon Awards,” as up-and-coming artists (and movers and shakers).

The TEA Talk is followed by a reception, across the street at the Westport Historical Society. They’ll serve hors d’oeuvres — and tea.

(Both events are free, and open to the public. For more information, click on www.westportarts.org)

 

Bikers, Drivers, Rodney King And Robert Frost

Last week, Westport’s board of selectmen — aka the town’s traffic authority — unanimously accepted three “3 Feet Please” signs, donated by the Sound Cyclists Bicycle Club.

The signs publicize Connecticut’s little-known and even-less-followed 3-foot law, requiring drivers to allow at least 3 feet of separation when overtaking and passing cyclists.

The signs will be placed on 3 heavily traveled, hairy-for-cyclists spots heading to the beach, on South Compo, Greens Farms and Hillspoint Roads.

Bicyclists

A typical scene near the beach.

The selectmen highlighted other state laws that bikers and drivers should be aware of. For example:

  • Bicyclists traveling on roadways have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists.
  • Bicyclists must stop at red lights, and make a full stop at stop signs.
  • Bicyclists cannot ride into oncoming traffic.
  • Bicyclists must use hand or mechanical signals to communicate with other travelers.
  • Bicyclists may not ride more than 2 abreast.
  • Children under the age of 16 must wear a helmet.

Westport is well known for its lunatic drivers. Cyclists are often terrified on town roads.

But, as the list above shows, there are plenty of laws they ignore too.

In the words of Rodney King: “Can’t we all just get along?”

Probably not. Unless, that is, we follow the words of Robert Frost, and take the road less traveled.

 

Lynsey Addario Honors International Day Of The Girl

Today is the International Day of the Girl Child. In honor of the UN-sponsored event, NPR asked 5 photographers — all renowned for documenting the lives of global girls — to share photos with special significance.

Though known as a public radio network, NPR’s website is robust and thought-provoking.

Lynsey Addario — the MacArthur “Genius Grant”-winning/world famous photographer/Staples graduate — does not disappoint. Her photos include a 13-year-old Syrian girl at her engagement party, and another young teenager from Sierra Leone who died delivering twins.

Check out Lynsey’s haunting photos — and many others — at the NPR website.

Lynsey says of this 13-year-old girl, photographed at her engagement party at a camp in Jordan: "Syrian refugees typically marry young. It's been exacerbated by the war. Families are scared something might happen to their daughter. They prefer to marry them earlier so they're under the protection of a husband." (Photo/Lynsey Addario for NPR)

Lynsey says of this 13-year-old girl, photographed at her engagement party at a camp in Jordan: “Syrian refugees typically marry young. It’s been exacerbated by the war. Families are scared something might happen to their daughter. They prefer to marry them earlier so they’re under the protection of a husband.” (Photo/Lynsey Addario for NPR)

Lynsey Addario photographed this young girl, who died delivering twins. The Sierra Leonean wanted to earn a degree, but at 14 was forced into marriage. (Photo/Lynsey Addario for NPR)

Lynsey Addario photographed this young girl, who died delivering twins. The Sierra Leonean wanted to earn a degree, but at 14 was forced into marriage. (Photo/Lynsey Addario for NPR)

(Hat tip to Siobhan Crise)

 

John Dodig Lauded By Lambda

Fifteen years ago, Fairfield High School principal John Dodig made a life-changing decision.

“I decided I’d no longer hide who I am,” he says. “At the same time, I knew I wanted to be known not as ‘the gay principal,’ but as a principal who cares about all kids, and happens to be gay.”

That decision, he says, allowed him to create a school environment in which he hopes every student feels comfortable in his or her own skin. “Many — if not most — people carry scars from high school or middle school forever,” Dodig says. “I don’t think that has to be the case.”

John Dodig

John Dodig

Dodig retired from Fairfield High in 2003. Soon, he was named interim principal of Staples. He liked the staff, students, parents and Westport community so much, he applied for the permanent position. The Board of Education did not interview anyone else.

In 11 years at the helm, Dodig has directed much of his attention to what he calls “the affective domain.” Staples has always had high academic standards. Concentrating on the social and emotional aspects components of the school, he says, allows everyone to create an environment in which all teenagers feel welcome. And that, he notes, helps them perform at their best academically.

Dodig’s work has drawn praise from fellow administrators, staff members, students and parents. Now it’s gotten the attention of Lambda Legal. On Sunday, October 26 (12 p.m., Mitchells of Westport), the human rights organization’s Connecticut chapter will honor the principal for his impact on thousands of students, over his 45-year career as an educator.

“John leads by example and strength of character,” says Staples graduate Adam Stolpen, who nominated Dodig for the award.

At Staples, Dodig has created a warm, supportive environment in many ways. At nearly every faculty meeting, he stresses the importance that teaching “chemistry, US history or whatever” is not all that matters. “Each of us has to support, care and love everyone else,” he says.

John Dodig -- principal and proud Staples supporter.

John Dodig — principal and proud Staples supporter.

He is a ubiquitous presence, standing in the front hallway as students begin the day and in the cafeteria during the 3 lunch waves. He knows most students by name. He congratulates them on their athletic, artistic, academic or extracurricular achievements. They, in turn, approach him to mention an interesting class discussion, suggest a possible improvement in school life, or congratulate him on his recent marriage.

For a school of 1900 students, the incidence of name-calling is low. Many students “have bought into the message that in this high school, you should be free to be who you are,” Dodig says.

Not all do, of course. But those who don’t “know that it’s socially inappropriate to put someone down for who they are.

“Our culture  is visible every moment school is in session,” Dodig says. “It starts at the top. If a principal is mean or nasty, that trickles down to everyone. If the message is to help kids navigate high school with as few scars as possible, that trickles down too.”

At graduation, many students ask to pose for photos with their principal. In 2013, John Dodig stood with departing senior August Laska.

At graduation, many students ask to pose for photos with their principal. In 2013, John Dodig stood with departing senior August Laska.

Dodig is proud of the many small ways his message trickles down. On the 1st day of school this year, for example, he addressed all 4 classes separately about Staples’ culture. He followed with an email to parents, suggesting they talk with their kids to see how that message was received.

One parent responded with a story about her sophomore son. He didn’t think he could make it to the end of his cross country run, but an upperclassman stopped, asked what was wrong, and finished the course with him.

The next day, the mother said, her son saw a freshman in the same situation. This time the sophomore was the one who stopped, talked, and ran with his teammate to the end.

Dodig is proud too of the many emails he’s received from parents, saying that at Staples their child felt empowered to come out as gay.

Lambda LegalThat makes his Lambda Legal award particularly important. The decision he made 15 years ago has paid off in countless ways, for thousands of students. Dodig has impacted them, and they in turn have impacted many others.

Even those who — unlike everyone at Staples — have no idea who John Dodig is, and what he stands for.

(Click on the Lambda Legal website for tickets to Dodig’s award ceremony.)

A Beautiful Bridge — If You Can See It

Every day, alert “06880” reader Jane Sherman drives over the small North Avenue bridge that crosses the Saugatuck River.

And every day she is dismayed to see the weeds and grasses that have grown up along it, since its reconstruction last year.

The North Avenue bridge. (Photo/Jane Sherman)

The North Avenue bridge. (Photo/Jane Sherman)

She called Public Works. They told her there is no money available for maintenance. They’re busy trimming trees on Easton Road, and doing other jobs to protect public safety.

Jane says, “I’m distressed. I feel like stopping and weeding the area myself.”

But she knows they’ll just grow back. Weeding is not a one-time job.

“This bridge is beautiful and new,” Jane says. “What a shame that Westport intends to let the site deteriorate.”

Shirley Land Memorial Service Set For October 18

A memorial service for Shirley Land — Westport’s uber-arts-and-history volunteer who died in July — will be held on Saturday, October 18, at the Westport Library (1:30 p.m.).  That’s a fitting site, as the library was one of her greatest passions. Shirley served it well for many decades, in countless capacities.

Immediately following the service, the family will gather at the nearby Westport Senior Center (21 Imperial Avenue).

Contributions in Shirley’s name can be made to the Westport Library, 20 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880.

Shirley Land. Among her many accomplishments, she founded the Westport Library Book Sale in 1993.

Shirley Land. Among her many accomplishments, she founded the Westport Library Book Sale in 1993.

 

Poop Plea

Haskins Preserve is an astonishing site on Green Acre Lane (off South Compo Road) administered by Aspetuck Land Trust. Its 16 acres are filled with woods, meadows, ponds, dams, and a spectacular assortment of rare trees.

Many Westporters have never heard of it. Those who have, treasure it as an oasis of beauty and solitude.

Most do, anyway.

Dog waste is a mounting problem at the Haskins Preserve. And it’s not just droppings on trails and paths. Some owners actually take the time to wrap waste in plastic bags — then leave them lying around.

Some sleazeballs “hide” the poop behind rocks and trees. Others are more brazen. They dump the dumps within sight of a sign saying, “Please remove dog waste.”

Steward Jamie Walsh has posted a video documenting this spectacularly rude and seriously obnoxious behavior.

Why don’t the stewards just put garbage cans at Haskins Preserve?

“We’re a volunteer organization, with a limited budget and resources,” Jamie explains. “It’s not practical for someone to empty them on a regular basis.

“And it would attract wildlife that would feast on the remaining garbage, which would then be strewn all over the parking lot.”

Haskins is a preserve — not a park. Is it too much to ask that if you bring your dog with you, then you take your dog’s business out?

For some Westporters, the answer is apparently: yes.

Haskins Preserve: no place for dog poop.

Haskins Preserve: no place for dog poop.

 

Get Your Fixe At Restaurant Week

Positano’s and Splash are rumored to be on the doomed list. Westporters will hate to see them go.

Yet — in this dog eat dog(ho ho)  world — restaurants open and close all the time. Our dining scene is alive and well.

To show off what’s out there, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring “Restaurant Week.”

It runs from this Sunday (October 5) through October 19. Alert “06880” readers will notice that is actually 2 weeks, not 1, but there’s nothing wrong with under-promising and over-delivering.

Arezzo -- one of Westport's most popular restaurants -- is among the many spots offering special Restaurant Week menus.

Arezzo — one of Westport’s most popular restaurants — is among the many spots offering special Restaurant Week menus.

Each of the 27 participating restaurants offers a prix fixe meal. Lunches are $15, $20 or $25; dinners, $25, $30 or $35. Brunch starts at $20.

Restaurant Week participants include 323 Main; Acqua, Arezzo; Artisan at the Delamar; Blue Lemon; Boathouse; DaPietro’s; Geronimo; Gray Goose; Little Barn; Mario’s; Matsu Sushi; Mumbai Times; Pane e Bene; Pink Sumo; Post 154; Rive Bistro; Rizzuto’s; Sakura; Spotted Horse; Tarantino; Tarry Lodge; Tavern on Main; Terrain; Tierra; Tutti’s, and Via Sforza.

Two specialty cocktail venues — Luxe and Neat — serve pre-dinner drinks and nightcaps.

It’s a good thing Restaurant Week is really 2 weeks. With a little planning (and figuring in brunch and drinks), you can try every spot.

(For more information — including menus — click on the Chamber’s website.)