Category Archives: Staples HS

Hannah Bukzin Has Some Chops

Hannah  Bukzin is a busy girl.

When she’s not volunteering as an EMT or interning with a catering company, the rising Staples sophomore can be found cooking. Her style is “classic dishes with a modern twist.” Her favorite creation is hanger steak marinated with chimichurri sauce, and a side of roasted potatoes.

But in April, Hannah found time to head to the Food Network studios in New York. There, she spent a full day filming a segment for “Chopped Teen Tournament.” The show airs Tuesday, July 29 (10 p.m.).

What makes her story particularly noteworthy — besides the fact that she is a local girl who may or may not make good (Hannah is sworn to secrecy) — is that she’s completely self-taught.

Hannah Bukzin, on the "Chopped" set)

Hannah Bukzin, on the “Chopped” set)

Hannah has been interested in cooking ever since age 6, when she saw her first – surprise! — Food Network show. The mystery and variety of ingredients drew her in.

Almost a decade later, she applied to the “Chopped” teen show. After interviews, a camera crew came to film her at EMS headquarters — and watch her cook. (That dish was pan-roasted bronzino with quinoa salad.)

She made the cut, and joined 15 other teenagers. They competed in 3 30-minute rounds, creating dishes with 4 ingredients that (a press release says) “could stump even top professionals.”

Did I mention that Hannah was the only one of the 16 who does not attend a culinary program in a specialized high school? In fact, she has not even taken one of Staples’ highly regarded culinary classes yet.

“Everything I know is in my head,” she says.

food network logoBut like any well-trained cook, Hannah knew she had to prepare. A chef friend of her parents trained her, using his own “mystery ingredients.” She is “not much of a baker,” Hannah says, so she practiced a few desserts just in case.

Filming took an entire, long day. As in any kitchen, there were surprises — and not just at the stove.

“I was amazed that the judges judged us like we were adults,” Hannah reports. “They told us the truth as if we were 30 or 40 years old, not 14 to 17.”

But in some ways, Hannah is closer to 30 or 40 than 15.

As soon as our interview was over, she was out the door.

Work beckoned. The catering company she’s interning with had a wedding.

On the Vineyard.

Andrew’s Army Marches On — To Mini-Golf

Seven years ago, Andrew Accardi had a dream. The 13-year-old wanted to create a foundation to raise money for neuroblastoma.

Andrew had a very personal dog in that fight. He’d been living with the pediatric cancer — for which there is no known cure — for 8 years already.

Andrew Accardi, doing what he loved.

Andrew Accardi, doing what he loved.

He battled it for 7 more, before succumbing last October. Before he died, though, he and his many friends raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the cause. Much of it came from golf-related events. Andrew was a 4-year member of the Staples team.

Andrew is gone, but his friends — “Andrew’s Army” — still raise money. Andrew’s legacy lives on.

The 1st annual Andrew’s Army Miniature Golf Classic is set for this Sunday (July 27, 4-7 p., Norwalk Cove Marina). The admission price of $20 — payable there — includes a round of mini-golf, food, soft drinks, a raffle and more.

“And more” includes the “36 Challenge.” Two years ago, Andrew shot a fantastic 36 on the course. If you think you can match that, put your money on the line. Pledge to donate an amount of your choice for every stroke over 36. The lowest score by anyone undertaking the challenge can win 2 NY Ranger tickets for next season.

But wait! There’s more! Everyone participating in the “36 Challenge” will also receive a special raffle ticket for each hole-in-one. They’re part of the grand prize item, from Saugatuck Sweets: a basket of candy, plus a coupon for 1 free double-scoop ice cream every week for a year.

How great is Andrew’s Army? Well, this Miniature Golf Classic should vault their fundraising over the $1 million mark.

 

Rick Eason Flies Under The Radar

Rick Eason graduated from Bedford Middle School in June. But the teenager knows aircraft technology, FAA regulations — and Westport skies — like a pro.

Rick has always been interested in electronics. Not long ago, the rising Staples freshman got a drone. His DJI Phantom FC40 Quadcopter is amazing. Equipped with a GoPro camera providing very high quality 2.6K resolution still photographs and video at 30 fps, plus 4 rotors, it tilts, spins and zooms its way over beaches, homes and fields.

Rick Eason and his drone.

Rick Eason and his drone.

Thanks to GPS it holds its position in wind, moves around a center point, and can even return to the exact spot it was launched if contact is lost.

“It’s so much fun to fly,” he says. “It’s so easy and intuitive to control.

“You can get views no one has ever seen before,” Rick adds with pride. “This is not like Google Earth. You can see your house from 20 feet above.”

Or the Westport Library. Here’s a view from Rick’s website that I’m pretty sure is the 1st of its kind:

Library - Rick Eason's drone

Rick’s dad, Tony Eason, installs solar panels. Rick’s drone helps him inspect roofs.

Drones are still pretty new. Rick saw another Phantom at Winslow Park. “06880″ has posted amazing videos, taken by another owner, of Compo Beach and Sherwood Mill Pond. But right now they’re rare, and Rick gets plenty of admiring stares — and questions — when he launches his.

Drones are so new, in fact, that federal regulations can’t keep up. Though drones can rise 2000 feet high, the FAA classifies them as “remote controlled aircraft,” with a limit of 400 feet.

Technically, they can’t fly beyond the owner’s “line of sight.” But, Rick says, he can watch and control his drone through the GoPro camera, using goggles or a laptop.

Rick Eason's drone hovers over his front lawn.

Rick Eason’s drone hovers over his front lawn.

Owners need a license to make money off drones. So legally, Rick can’t charge for his photographs and videos. (That hasn’t stopped others from doing so.)

Rick has learned about privacy laws too. “When you’re 30 feet up with a fisheye lens, you might catch someone’s private home,” he says. “If they ask me, I’ll delete it.” But, he notes, “it’s really no different from taking a photograph of someone’s house from the beach with an iPhone.”

Drones are here to stay. Just a couple of years ago, they cost thousands of dollars each — and did not fly particularly well. Now, Rick says, “you can buy one for $300 at Barnes & Noble.”

Rick's drone, inspecting a roof.

Rick’s drone, inspecting a roof.

Rick loves his drone — but he’s already looking ahead. He’s saving up for a gyroscopic gimbal, to keep the camera even steadier than it is now.

Meanwhile, he’s thinking up clever new uses for his drone. At Staples, he might contribute aerial photograph to Inklings, the school newspaper.

And last Thursday Rick was at Compo, for the 2nd annual “06880″ party. While the rest of us were eating, drinking and chatting, he was hard at work.

So here’s the “06880″ community — 2014-style:

 

Come To The Cabaret — Again!

Life is a cabaret, old chum.

And every decade or so, “Cabaret” comes to Westport.

Staples Players — the legendary high school acting troupe — first performed the darkly decadent show in 1984. Directed by Al Pia, it starred David Roth as the MC. It’s a difficult role for anyone, but the senior nailed it.

Pia reprised the show in 1992.

In 2004, Players produced “Cabaret” again. David Roth was once again involved — this time as director.

He’s still at the Staples helm, and once again he’s staging the show. “Cabaret” runs next weekend — July 24 through 26 — as Players’ Summer Theatre Production.

Jack Bowman (emcee) and the Kit Kat Girls. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Jack Bowman as the emcee, and the Kit Kat Girls. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Just as every Broadway and London production and revival has been different, so too have the Staples versions.

But, Roth says, while previous Players incarnations have stuck closely to the original Joel Grey interpretation, the current production combines that version with the one now in its 2nd revival in New York. This one is “much more theatrical,” Roth says. Everything seems to take place inside the Kit Kat Club — even the scenes in Cliff’s rooming house.

And, the director adds, “the master of ceremonies is very much present throughout every scene of the play. In the other versions, the 2 worlds are very separate.” Jack Bowman plays Roth’s old role.

Still, next weekend’s “Cabaret” retains ties to the past. Besides Roth, choreographers Kat and Jess Eggart both danced in Pia’s 1992 production.

Sally Bowles (Claire Smith) and Cliff (Jack Baylis) share a moment in "Cabaret." (Photo/Kerry Long)

Sally Bowles (Claire Smith) and Cliff (Jack Baylis) share a moment in “Cabaret.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

“The show has always meant a lot to me, and I’m excited to share that with the kids,” Roth says.

“Kerry and I also want to share the message with students and audiences about people being sucked into an attractive world that turns out to be far uglier than they ever imagined. That’s very important too.

“The idea of people living in a great, dreamlike world that becomes a nightmare is as valid today as it has ever been. The image of dreaming or sleepwalking runs through the entire play. And it’s very present in our production.”

Emcee (Jack Bowman) and the Kit Kat girls perform "Willkommen." (Photo/Kerry  Long)

Emcee (Jack Bowman) and the Kit Kat girls perform “Willkommen.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

“Cabaret” resonates with Staples principal John Dodig too. As interim principal, he attended the 2004 production. Leaving the auditorium, he recalls thinking, “This can’t possibly be a public high school.”

He was awed by the professionalism of the voices and dancing. And, he says, “I was amazed that a suburban community would support a high school doing a show with such a dark and risqué theme.”

Dodig calls “Cabaret” the moment he first thought of applying for the permanent principal’s position.

Ten years later, Dodig is still principal. Roth still directs Players.

And another fantastic production of “Cabaret” is about to begin.

(“Cabaret” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 24, 25 and 26, and at 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 26. Tickets are available at www.StaplesPlayers.com

Andrew Liporace Knows When To Hold ‘Em

Last Friday — at the end of Day 3 of the World Series of Poker — just over 1/3 of the original 1,864 players remained.

And at the top of those 746 was Andrew Liporace. Yes, the same Andrew Liporace who, 10 years ago, had just graduated from Staples High School.

If he could just keep going, he had a shot at $10 million.

Andrew Liporace

Andrew Liporace at work.

The 45th annual event ended yesterday. Unfortunately, Andrew was no longer #1.

In fact, he was far down the list: #159.

I would say, “you win some, you lose some.”

But Andrew walked away with a cool $52,141.

He sounds like a winner to me.

(Hat tip to Louis Pietig)

And The Results Are (Almost) In

What do you get when you combine 2 “Downtown Visioning” workshops with several surveys?

I have no clue. But you and I can find out a week from Monday (July 21, 7:30 pm, Town Hall).

That’s when downtown consultants The RBA Group present a summary of ideas from those “Your Downtown” events. Over 2,900 residents completed surveys (“an unprecedented, large response rate for a survey of this nature,” a Downtown Steering Committee press release says). 170 people attended the workshops.

 

Westport residents are sharing many opinions about downtown -- including how to tie both sides of the river together.

Westport residents are sharing many opinions about downtown — including how to tie both sides of the river together.

After RBA’s presentation, the Downtown Merchants Association and Youth Commission will share the results of their own, separate surveys. The WDMA asked over 100 merchants about employees’ commuting and parking practices, while the Youth Commission asked Staples students about their ideas for downtown. (Hmmmm…..)

“Charrette” planning sessions will take place in September. Then comes a final downtown master plan. And more meetings.

Whatever the outcome, you can’t say you weren’t asked to be involved.

(For more information, click on www.downtownwestportct.com.)

 

You Can Help Save This Child’s Life…

… or you can turn the page.

Okay, that’s over-dramatic. It’s not a life-or-death situation. And you don’t turn a blog page; you click the “x.”

But here’s the deal. Westport Rotary is all set to host a 17-year-old exchange student. Martin arrives from the Czech Republic on August 17.

Yet until the 1st host family steps up — for a 3 1/2-month period — Martin can’t get a visa.

He seems like a great kid. He likes skiing, tennis, volleyball, golf and hockey. He plays guitar, and is social and adventurous. He looks forward to Westport.

If he can get here.

Anyone can host: families with kids, people without children, empty nesters, you name it.

Rotary ClubMany Stapleites have enjoyed Rotary exchanges abroad. Many Westporters have hosted exchange students. As of yet though, no one has stepped up for Martin.

Host families provide room and board for 3 1/2 months. The student does not need his own bedroom. Major expenses are covered by the student’s natural family, and Rotary provides health insurance plus a small stipend.

You can click the “x” at the top of this page. Or you can contact Fides Østbye (203-858-6694, fidesmo@aol.com), to give Martin his 1st Westport home.

 

CT Challenge Is A Ride For Life

When Staples grad Susan Lloyd lost first her leg, and then her life, to bone cancer, her family could have wallowed in self-pity.

When Fairfield native Jeff Keith lost a leg to cancer at age 12, he could have limped along and watched life from the sidelines.

They did not.

And countless area cancer patients and their families have benefited as a result.

Susan Lloyd

Susan Lloyd

Since 1982, the Susan Fund has awarded hundreds of college scholarships to young people suffering with cancer. Since 2005, Jeff’s CT Challenge has helped cancer survivors live healthier, happier lives through fitness, nutrition, health and support programs. Fittingly, Jeff was one of the first Susan Fund recipients.

The 2 organizations work closely together. For example, the CT Challenge’s Center for Survivorship in Southport hosts the Susan Fund awards ceremony.

And on Saturday, July 26 there are 25, 50, 75 and 100-mile bike rides, all starting at the Fairfield County Hunt Club. A 2-day ride starts the day before in Lakeville, Connecticut, and ends at the Hunt Club.

Over 1,000 riders — all of whom raise money to participate — are expected for this year’s 10th annual event. Last summer, they raised a record $1.65 million.

CT Challenge - 1Part of the funds raised by the bike ride support the Susan Fund. The bulk goes to the CT Challenge Center for Survivorship. It’s the only standalone center of its kind in the country not affiliated with a hospital.

Other money goes to CT Challenge’s yoga program, camp and college scholarships for young cancer survivors, adventure outings for young adult survivors, support for women in lower socioeconomic areas, research projects, outreach services, a speaker series and more.

Last year, nearly 54,000 cancer survivors benefited from CT Challenge programs.

Among the riders this year is Jessica Ellison. A Staples grad and Susan Fund recipient, she’s majoring in molecular biology at Georgetown University. Jessica spent several years at Camp Rising Sun, inspiring youngsters with cancer. She’s now a counselor there, and will join the camp team at the CT Challenge.

Jessica Ellison

Jessica Ellison

Last year, Jessica and her parents rode with the Susan Fund team. This year, there are 2 Susan Fund teams entered in the ride.

Of course, you don’t have to be part of any team to participate. All you have to do is support a cyclist – or get on a bike yourself.

It’s a beautiful ride. Plus, the Lloyd family and Jeff Keith have already shown you the way.

(Click for more information on the CT Challenge bike rides.)

 

Todd Coleman: “Volunteering Makes You A Better Person”

One day in the mid-1980s, Stuart McCarthy — a former Staples star now coaching a Westport Soccer Association girls team – told Todd Coleman, “It’s time you gave something back to the program.” McCarthy named him coach of the WSA’s Under-17 girls squad.

Coleman was all of 19 years old.

He coached girls for 3 seasons. And McCarthy’s words have resonated ever since.

Todd Coleman

Todd Coleman

Coleman is in his 3rd decade of giving back. Now — as the new Westport Soccer Association co-president — he’s in a unique position. A former WSA player who has seen the program and sport evolve, he’s trying to balance the fun, play-with-your-buddies aspect he remembers with the realities of youth sports, 2014-style.

Coleman’s introduction to soccer came in 4th grade, at Hillspoint Elementary School. New to Westport, he had no idea what it meant when Rob Sweetnam asked at recess, “Want to kick?”

But he quickly learned. He played WSA recreation soccer, and made his 1st travel team at 13. Each year, his teammates’ bonds tightened.

Coleman went on to captain the Staples soccer and wrestling squads. He earned the Block “S” MVP award and Loeffler Scholarship, and won a state championship as a junior. At Bates College he was a 4-year starter and captain. He won another state title with Westport’s Under-23 Kixx team.

“Real life” followed. He worked in financial services in Europe and San Francisco. His brothers Scott (a soccer player) and Keith (a wrestler) were killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11. But soccer kept him connected. When his buddies formed a Westport Over-30 team to honor Scott, Coleman played whenever he could. That team too won a state title.

Todd Coleman (top row, 3rd from left) with the Westport Over-30 team, on a tour of England. To his left his Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal CEO, who played with Westport when he was assistant commissioner of MLS. To Coleman's right is Mark Noonan, a former Staples teammate who won a national championship at Duke. Other former WSA and Staples players were on the Over-30 team too.

Todd Coleman (top row, 3rd from left) with the Westport Over-30 team, on a tour of England. To his left is Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal CEO, who played with Westport when he was assistant commissioner of MLS. To Coleman’s right is Mark Noonan, a former Staples teammate who won a national championship at Duke. Other former WSA and Staples players include Dr. Jonathan Sollinger, Guy Claveloux, Brian Sullivan, Dan Donovan and Mike Brown.

Seven years ago — now back in Westport — Coleman volunteered at the WSA’s indoor tournament. (A portion of the profits go to the organization’s Coleman Brothers Foundation.) He liked what he saw. He got more involved. And he always remembered McCarthy’s words.

“Volunteering makes you a better person,” Coleman says. “Giving back helps you get a little bit outside yourself.”

The WSA has expanded greatly since Coleman’s playing days, when there was 1 travel team per age group, and parental involvement was limited to coaching and driving. There are now 1,500 players; 29 travel teams; a robust recreational program, and professional coaches.

But though the organization has grown, its core mission remains the same. “The WSA should be as inclusive as possible,” he says. “I want it to be fun for the kids. I want them to have the same love for soccer I had when I was young. When I was 10, I didn’t feel pressured to make travel or think about college.”

WSA logoParents are involved, he says, “almost more than the kids now.” But Coleman has nothing but praise for the WSA’s 165 volunteers. “They’re enthusiastic about soccer, and they’re focused on the benefits for everyone. There are board members whose kids did not make a travel team. No one complained.”

Youth soccer — all youth sports — are different today than when Coleman was first invited to “have a kick.” (It was a red playground ball, he laughs — not even a real soccer ball.) Travel teams begin at younger ages. Parents drive further distances. Children are “showcased” for colleges.

Coleman can’t change that. But he will do everything he can to make sure that the organization he now heads holds true to the same principle — “soccer is fun” — that powered it when he was young.

And that impelled him to give back to it, starting at the ripe old age of 19.

Cal Neff: When Giants Fall, The Earth Shakes

Cal Neff — a legendary Staples athlete from the 1960s — died last week. His friend Myles MacVane sent along a special tribute. They have been edited for length. A full version can be found on Facebook; search for “Myles Angus MacVane,” and scroll down.

A giant fell last week, and all who knew him well were shaken by his passing.

In 1964 I donated over 300 pounds of equipment and a pair of squat stands to Staples’ weight room. Football coach Paul Lane let me use the room whenever it was open.

I was fairly strong. But one evening I noticed a strongly built 15-year-old do 10 deep, full squats with over 300 pounds on his back. I was thunderstruck. That young man was Calvin Neff.

Within 2 years Cal and I became fast friends. Though his great strength was always present, I came to appreciate his many other qualities.

Cal Neff (Photo courtesy of Myles MacVane)

Cal Neff (Photo courtesy of Myles MacVane)

He was intelligent, well-educated, liked to read, played a strong game of chess, had a quick wit and a vivacious personality. He was open, unaffected, direct, and, almost childlike in his sincere enquiries. Above all, he was loyal to his friends.

Though he was just 5-9, he was a powerhouse. Once, a young man fled into a telephone booth to escape Cal’s wrath. Cal simply picked up the whole telephone booth and flung it 6 or 7 feet. Then he walked away.

Cal believed wholeheartedly in William Blake’s adage that “The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom.” Cal was certainly on that road. Without ever joining the Armed Services, Cal was “special forces,” and a special force of personality is what he had in spades.

As he matured, he specialized in powerlifting. Cal bulked up to over 250 pounds, bench pressed 525, and earned a master’s rating in powerlifting. Yet his weight, and the methods he used to gain it, hurt him. In his late 30s or early 40s he could barely walk, and needed a cane to support himself.

In later years, he ran a marathon — in Vietnam. That’s the kind of drive and willpower that he exemplified.

Near the end of Cal’s time of excessive mass, his life took a totally unexpected and fortuitous turn toward the East. It turned out to be the keystone of his existence. He, who would have laid down his life for a friend, was saved from a life of working as a guard at Bridgeport’s North End jail, in Bridgeport, working the door at the Black Duck, and tooling around in an over-sized, over-powered, totally unnecessary, red pickup truck by a childhood friend who grew up a few houses away from Cal.

Cal Neff, Terry O'Grady and Gerry Manning. (Photo courtesy of Myles MacVane)

Cal Neff, Terry O’Grady and Gerry Manning. (Photo courtesy of Myles MacVane)

Gerry Manning opened a door for Cal to walk through, so that he might become the person he was always meant to be. Cal, as with everything he ever did, saw the opportunity, and barreled through that doorway.

Gerry was a few years older than Cal. An artist by nature, he eventually returned to Westport to enter the business that his father had built dealing semi-precious gemstones.

Cal Neff and his wife Surat. (Photo courtesy of Myles MacVane)

Cal Neff and his wife Surat. (Photo courtesy of Myles MacVane)

I guess that in Cal, his friend and childhood neighbor, Gerry found the perfect protégé to learn the overseas trade. Cal gave up the red pickup, the door at the Black Duck, and the concrete corridors of the North End Jail, and moved to Lantau Island, off the coast of Hong Kong. After several years of daily travel to Hong Kong by ferry, Cal’s business interests shifted to Sri Lanka, where he lived before settling down for good in Thailand. There he found a wife, with whom he had a son, Colter M. Neff, now 17. After a divorce, Cal found his last wife, a younger woman who practices Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing).

Cal Neff loved his son more intensely than he had ever loved anyone. Their bond was breakable only by the Grim Reaper. Cal’s life in Thailand was the adventure that most of us can only experience vicariously, as if in a dream, during a vacation. His training blossomed into a practice of Strong Man events.

At times, when the behemoth participants in those events would come to Thailand to train, compete, or vacation, Cal would train with them. He had his own commercial gym for a while. He was invited to Scandinavia to design a strong man event gym there.

Cal Neff and his son Colter. (Photo courtesy of Myles MacVane)

Cal Neff and his son Colter. (Photo courtesy of Myles MacVane)

He kept up his own practice of those events in Thailand, even staging competitions for up and coming Thais interested in the culture of strength. At his son’s school he taught the proper methods of strength and health, using his vast knowledge of those subjects to help the children find a wholesome path — one which, at times, he had strayed from in his own youth. In that field, I can think of no better a role model than Cal.

Cal Neff was a unique force of nature. In the end, the youthful excesses of the road that led to his own, personal palace of wisdom, marshaled an insidious attack upon the organs that supported that still muscular, still strong body, and finally cupped the bright light in Cal’s eyes. But we will always remember his childlike wonder, his strong personality, the man who would have given his own life unhesitatingly to protect a friend. And to the end of our days, we shall revere him not as a legend, but as our true friend, the one friend who loved life so much, that life created legends to wrap ‘round him.