Twenty-six years ago — after working in group homes for adults with special needs — Deborah Gallon heard about an opening in the Westport Public Schools.
She’s been a special education paraprofessional here ever since.
Deb has impacted countless lives: students she’s worked with one-on-one, and in student skills and mainstream classes. Colleagues in special ed and other departments. And every student, from all walks of life, with whom she has worked as Best Buddies advisor, for so many years.
That club — part of an international organization founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver — pairs students who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, and those without.
The Staples chapter is particularly active. Members go dancing, bowling and ice skating, and to dinner and movies. Deb takes officers to annual meetings in Indiana, where they meet other Best Buddies members from around the world.
“I’m really, really going to miss those kids. I love them!” Deb says. “They’ve been a big part of me.”
Inspired by her enthusiasm and organizational skills, every principal and townwide special ed director has been very supportive of Best Buddies. Parents help tremendously too.
On January 1, Deb Gallon reluctantly leaves Best Buddies, and the rest of her Staples family, behind. She and her husband put their house on the market. They’ll head to Charlotte, where much of her family lives. Her husband — a chef — is having a food truck built there.
The Stratford native also leaves behind her Cornerstone Christian Church in Milford, and the Storehouse Pantry there that she directs.
“So many people need so many things. There are so many homeless and hungry people in Connecticut,” she notes. “It’s been eye-opening.
“I just pray God sends me where I can connect with kids, and people in need. I wouldn’t be me without that.”
For over a quarter century, Deborah Gallon has inspired and uplifted Staples High School. She’s done the same in her church and community.
She’s asked for nothing in return. And we probably have not thanked her enough for all she has given us.
Which is why Deborah Gallon is this week’s Unsung Hero. Best wishes to you in retirement — although there’s no doubt you’ll be as active in North Carolina as you are here.
(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email firstname.lastname@example.org)