Category Archives: YMCA

Be Part Of Westport’s Photographic History!

In 1981, Max Kaplan had already owned his art supply store for 24 years.

Shirley Mellor had worked there for over a decade. She and Max had been married for 5.

That July, Westport photographer Nancy Wayman assembled Max, Shirley, the staff at Max’s Art Supplies, and 100 or so artists who made the store their own personal hangout.

The result was a photo that captured Westport: its arts colony sensibility, its mom-and-pop shops, its downtown funkitude.

The famous 1981 photo. Max Kaplan and Shirley Mellor are in the center of the front row.

The famous 1981 photo. Max wears a tie in the front row; Shirley Mellor is next to him, on the left.

A lot has changed in 34 years. Max and Nancy Wayman died. Max’s closed in August.

In a few days, the sign comes down for the final time.

But before it does, there’s time for one last group photo.

All Westporters — artists, loyal customers, friends, and folks with no artistic talent whatsoever — are invited to gather in front of Max’s this Saturday (May 30), at 5 p.m. There will be one last photo — and Shirley wants as many people as possible to squeeze in. (If you want in, be there by 4:30 — the shutter clicks at 5 sharp, and it will take a while to organize.)

If you don’t know where Max’s was: It stood directly across from the old Y.

And if that sentence doesn’t say something about the changing face of downtown Westport, I don’t know what does.

Nancy Capelle’s Harrowing, Heartfelt Story

Growing up in Greenwich, Nancy Capelle was surrounded by “unspoken expectations about life and careers.” Her father said, “If you can’t put it on your resume, it’s not worth doing.”

After boarding school and Boston University, she climbed the corporate ladder. Nancy rose from paralegal in a Stamford medical malpractice law firm, to compliance roles in larger companies, then associate director at Boehringer Ingelheim.

She’d reached her goal: earn 6 figures before she was 40, and have an expense account. “I thought that meant I was doing something meaningful,” she says.

Nancy Capelle

Nancy Capelle

One Saturday in May 3 years ago, Nancy ran a 5K. It was the first one honoring Sally Kaelin, to benefit Whittingham Cancer Center. Nancy had known Sally, so the event was special.

Back home in Wilton, she felt chest pains. Because she is tall, thin, fit and a non-smoker — and had no family history of heart trouble — Nancy was unconcerned.

But the pain radiated to her sides, back and neck. Then came intense jaw pain.

She googled her symptoms. “I wasted 45 minutes wondering if I had a pulled muscle,” she remembers.

When her husband returned from errands, they called 911.

A paramedic instantly realized she was having a heart attack. Nancy was hustled into an ambulance.

One street from her home, she felt her heart go crazy. “Stay with me!” an EMT shouted.

She couldn’t. She was in cardiac arrest.

The driver pulled over. He and other EMTs sprang into action. They started CPR, and secured defibrillator pads.

Thankfully — because she’s young — Nancy came out of it without being shocked.

heart arrhythmiaBut once again, her heart went into arrhythmia. To correct it, the medics shocked her — while she was conscious. Nancy compares the experience to “being thrown off a 10-story building, and landing on concrete. Or being kicked in front and back simultaneously by a horse.”

It was the right call. Her chest pain subsided. There were no broken ribs.

She’d suffered a spontaneous coronary artery dissection. That tearing of the artery wall is rare — and very dangerous. It disproportionately strikes young women . Most die.

Nancy lived.

After a long leave of absence, she went back to work. She lasted 2 days.

“I couldn’t do it — physically or emotionally,” she says. “I couldn’t sit in meetings, and pretend they matter.” During her months away, only one thing had changed: “Me.”

EMTShe thought about what she really wanted to do. Then it came to her: Become an EMT. “The paramedic was there for me,” she says. “Well, I wanted to be in that seat for someone else.”

Norwalk Community College was a new experience for Nancy. She met a broad range of people she’d never had contact with. “It was fantastic,” she says. “I saw what real life is.”

Nancy passed some very tough tests. In April of 2013 — 11 months after she almost died — she was certified as an EMT. She joined the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps — the same group that saved her life.

In the months since, she has become a CPR instructor for the American Heart Association; created a business — Cardiac Companion — to provide services for cardiac survivors after their rehabilitation ends; earned certification as an EKG technician and will soon be certified as an EMS instructor, and is about to begin work as a Milford Hospital emergency room technician.

So what does all this mean to you?

This Sunday (May 3, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Westport Family YMCA), the Westport Weston Wilton Medical Reserve Corps is sponsoring “Hands For Life.” The goal is to train 2,000 community members in hands-only CPR, and the use of AEDs (automatic external defibrillators).

Training takes just 15 minutes. People of all ages are welcome.

Sponsors and participants prepare for Sunday's "Hands of Life" CPR and AED training at the Westport Family YMCA.

Sponsors and participants prepare for Sunday’s “Hands of Life” CPR and AED training at the Westport Family YMCA.

“We have to be there for each other,” Nancy says. “We all have to know how to react in an emergency.”

She knows better than anyone the importance of CPR and AEDs. She is proud to pass along what she knows. And she is happy that she is still around to put all her cardiac-related activities on her resume.

(For more information, click here; call 203-216-1509, or email nancy@cardiaccompanion.com)

Downtown Westport Springs To Life

Yesterday was the 1st real day of spring. And talented photographer Lynn U. Miller was there to capture it.

Many folks headed to the beach. But Lynn was intrigued by the number — and variety — of people wandering around, and enjoying, downtown Westport.

She enjoyed shooting a variety of scenes. You’ll enjoy seeing our familiar town with fresh eyes. (Click or hover any of the photos to enlarge!)

This relaxed couple enjoyed the view on a bench behind Oscar's. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

This relaxed couple enjoyed the view on a bench behind Oscar’s. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

University of Bridgeport grad students Neevaj Ram Motaparthy (electrical engineering) and Gopal Dugglna (computer science) snap their own shots. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

University of Bridgeport grad students Neevaj Ram Motaparthy (electrical engineering) and Gopal Dugglna (computer science) snap their own shots. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Ruben Alva of Bridgeport takes a break from work at the Spotted Horse. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Ruben Alva of Bridgeport heads to the river for a break from work at the Spotted Horse. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

From left: Fang Chih Lee, her mother Li Lee, and son/grandson Drake Chen. Drake lives in Westport. His mother and grandmother were visiting for the weekend, from Plymouth, Mass. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Fang Chih Lee, her mother Li Lee, and son/grandson Drake Chen. Drake lives in Westport. His mother and grandmother were visiting for the weekend, from Plymouth, Mass. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

An old-fashioned Church Lane sign. Reflected in the window: the former Max's Art Supplies. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

An old-fashioned Church Lane sign. Reflected in the window: the former Max’s Art Supplies. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

As the former Westport Y is  remade into Bedford Square, a window goes missing. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

As the former Westport Y is remade into Bedford Square, a window goes missing. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Before it was the Y fitness center, there was a firehouse next to the Bedford building. Now, you can see right through it. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Before it was the Y fitness center, there was a firehouse next to the Bedford building. Now you can see right through it. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Everyone out of the water! The deep end of the Y's large pool.

Everyone out of the water! The deep end of the Y’s large pool.

Near SoNo Baking -- across from the construction -- flowers bloom. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Near SoNo Baking — across from the construction — flowers bloom. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Now You See It…

YMCA construction

No, you’re not looking out a Metro-North train window.

This is a view Westporters have not seen in nearly 40 years: the east side of the old YMCA building (and next to it, the former firehouse).

But we won’t see it for long. Construction begins soon on the new Bedford Square.

Going, Going…

With the Westport Family Y firmly entrenched now at Mahackeno, David Waldman is moving ahead to build Bedford Square: the retail/office/ restaurant/residential complex that will substantially redefine our downtown.

Westporters are watching carefully, as work begins on the old Bedford building — the handsome Tudor-style structure that since 1923 has marked the Post Road/Main Street corner.

The 1978 Weeks Pavilion never engendered such love. A stark box with all the warmth of a Russian factory, it was thankfully hidden from view by trees, the Kemper-Gunn House, and the narrow confines of Church Lane.

When the Kemper-Gunn House was moved across Elm Street in November, the Weeks Pavilion was exposed.

Now, it’s being prepared for demolition.

Y demolition

The Weeks Pavilion, as viewed from Elm Street. An old, low-slung wooden medical building that fronted the road has already been removed.

Soon, all that will remain are memories of swim meets, racquetball, a cramped lobby, and newcomers wandering helplessly through a maze of hallways trying to find their way out.

On the other hand, compared to the new Y lockers, those in the Weeks Pavilion were like the Taj Mahal.

 

Giving It Up For St. Baldrick’s

Most kids would do anything to make sure their hair looks cool.

Some would do almost anything.

So when they hear about an important fundraising event that involves sacrificing their hair, they say, “Go for it!”

The Westport Family Y gym buzzed today. That was the sound of clippers, as hundreds of youngsters got shorn.

Taking it all off, in the Y gym.

Taking it all off, in the Y gym.

It was all part of the 11th annual TeamBrent St. Baldrick’s Celebration.

The idea is simple: Participants raise funds to fight childhood cancer. In exchange, they give up their hair.

The Y was behind the effort 1000%. There were opening ceremonies, a DJ, head painting, complimentary T-shirts, hats and photos — and free use of every part of the facility.

A selfie to remember.

A selfie to remember. (Photos/Scott Smith)

Before today, TeamBrent — named for a 6th grader who, after a dozen surgeries, 6 rounds of chemo and 2 stem cell transplants, has survived Stage 4 neuroblastoma — raised $3.4 million for St. Baldrick’s, and $7.3 million overall.

After today, that figure is waaaay higher.

When we tip our cap to these kids, all we see is something beautiful.

Westport Y: Suddenly $40 Million Richer

A capital campaign for a new Westport Weston YMCA  fell short of its goal earlier this decade. So the Mahackeno facility — called the Bedford Family Center — was broken into 2 phases.

Phase I opened last fall, with an airy fitness center, gleaming new pool, well-lit exercise rooms, nice new gym and a much-needed child’s play space. The site was purchased decades ago — with the generous help of Frederick T. Bedford, Ruth’s father.

The new YMCA -- known as the Bedford Family Center -- at Mahackeno.

The new YMCA — known as the Bedford Family Center — at Mahackeno.

But the new Y lacks other amenities, like childcare, gymnastics and racquetball. And the locker rooms are badly cramped. Y officials promised they’d be added some vague time later, during Phase II.

Phase II suddenly seems a lot closer to reality.

The Y announced today that it has received $40 million from the estate of Ruth Bedford. The last surviving granddaughter of Edward T. Bedford — a director of Standard Oil and founder of the Westport Y, among many other philanthropic projects — died last June, at 99.

Norwalk Hospital logoYet this is not Ruth Bedford’s only astonishing gift. She also left $40 million to Norwalk Hospital. She loved that institution too — and volunteered there, logging almost 17,000 hours in the gift shop, over 5 decades. (A previous gift from E.T. Bedford, decades ago, enabled the hospital to double its patient capacity.)

But wait! There’s more! Another $40 million bequest — believed to be the largest ever to an all-girls’ school — went to Foxcroft, a tiny private girls school in Virginia that was Bedford’s alma mater.

The Y’s plans for the fallen-from-the-sky money are not yet set.

Officials say they will use it for “current and future capital development needs” — perhaps including new locker rooms? — and “to endow programs for wellness and youth in a way that honors the tradition of the Bedford family legacy.”

For nearly a century, that legacy has enriched Westport. It continues to do so, even after death.

Weather Cold, Action Hot

It’s friggin’ freezing out. And the wind is blowing like we’re in Siberia.

All the more reason to head to the Y.

The Westport YMCA‘s new Mahackeno facility was filled today — as always. There was basketball, swimming and classes — you name it.

But nothing beats working out in the fitness center. From inside, the view almost makes you want to go outdoors.

Almost.

Y fitness center

Be Careful What You Wish For

While planning for its move to Mahackeno, the Westport YMCA assured the public (and politicians) that there would be plenty of parking. Even during big events, Y leaders said, they could handle the crowds.

They can’t.

Today, a masters swim meet — “not even a major one,” an employee admitted — caused chaos. People parked in snow banks, at odd and dangerous angles, on the narrow entrance road — anywhere they could. Between drivers circling endlessly looking for spots, folks pulling out in very cramped quarters, and families dodging traffic as they trooped over from the Merritt Parkway commuter lot, it was a dangerous scene.

One small part of the giant parking mess today.

One small part of the giant parking mess today.

I don’t mind walking a good distance before I work out. But plenty of Y users are not as mobile.

The move out of downtown has made the Y wildly popular. Officials may be surprised at the number of new members. But they should not be surprised at what happens, now that they can hold swim meets with more teams than before.

A couple of weeks ago, a 16-team youth swim meet caused a similar parking frenzy. The Y sent several teenage employees outside, telling swim team parents to drop their kids off in front and then park in the commuter lot. They were ignored, so today they were nowhere in sight. The result: one big goat rodeo.

Not to mention the even-more-cramped-than-usual locker room. So I won’t.

Y’s Words On Shoveling

The Westport YMCA posts daily health tips on a whiteboard near (of course) the “Wellness Center.”

Today’s suggestions are worth passing along to everyone:

Y's words on shoveling

Be sure to show this to your kids, who will no doubt be very eager to help.