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- Pic Of The Day #1262
- Unsung Heroes #160
- Roundup: Politics, Jogging, More
- Jaime Bairaktaris: “I Saw Hatred Today”
- Pic Of The Day #1261
- Roundup: Mental Illness, Senior Center, Namaste,
- Awards Highlight Westport Aces
- An Air Hug For Dad, And A Final Farewell? The Sequel.
- Pic Of The Day #1260
- Roundup: Dogs, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, More
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DISCLAIMERThis blog is personal opinion, and is not representative of the views of the Westport School District or Board of Education.
Author Archives: Dan Woog
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink is its symbol — and the color of roses. What better way, Diana Kuen thought, to commemorate all of the warriors, past and present, who have been impacted by breast cancer than to turn the Saugatuck River pink?
And at the same time, raise money for charity.
That was not an idle notion. Diana is the director and head coach of the Survive-OARS — Saugatuck Rowing Club’s breast cancer survivor rowing program.
So last year, right before sunset, anyone who purchased rose petals was invited to scatter them. High tide carried them — biodegradable and freeze-dried — out to the Sound.
Proceeds benefited the Saugatuck Survive-OARS program, in partnership with the Smilow Family Breast Health Center at Norwalk Hospital.
Diana wanted an encore this year. The COVID pandemic made planning a tad tougher.
But — as breast cancer survivors know — perseverance pays off.
So this Saturday (October 3, 1 to 4 p.m.), the 2nd annual River of Roses will rock the town.
There’s live music. Chef Paul’s famous clam chowder, lobster bisque and butternut squash soup, charcuterie, hummus and apple strudel.
And more. Read on.
Around 2:30 p.m. — as rowers read names of breast cancer warriors past and present — they’ll scatter rose petals again.
The event will be livestreamed on the Saugatuck Rowing Club website.
There are plenty of opportunities to help. Tickets are $75 each (with assigned seating). Rose petals are $25.
Saugatuck Survive-OARS has teamed up with a fierce group of young female entrepreneurs — the #SewSisters in Norwalk — to create and sell pink face masks.
Click here for tickets, rose petals and/or masks.
All of that would make Diana Kuen and the Survive-OARS our Unsung Heroes of the Week.
But there are more.
In addition to the food and drink mentioned above, Donut Crazy — which did the same thing last year — said they’d donate a couple of hundred pink frosted donuts.
This has been a very tough year for the shop at the eastbound side of the train station.
They closed for a few months during the heart of the pandemic. Now rail traffic — their bread and butter — is non-existent. Donut Crazy is absolutely an Unsung Hero.
So is Copps Island. They’re contributing 300 oysters, with joy.
When Diane realized she needed a shucker, she asked Rachel Precious — the deliciously named owner of Precious Oysters — if she was available for hire.
Rachel replied quickly — volunteering her services. She’s a Staples High School graduate, a rower — and her cousin was just diagnosed with breast cancer. Rachel is an Unsung Hero too.
And how about a shout-out to Moët Hennessy USA. They’re sponsoring the River of Roses, and providing complimentary Chandon Rosé (of course).
Our list of Unsung Heroes would not be complete without including all the women everywhere, who fight their own battles with breast cancer, while reaching out to help others.
This month is for you. And Saturday is your special day.
Jaime Bairaktaris is a multi-talented, community-minded Westporter. On Monday the 2016 Staples High School graduate, current Sacred Heart University student and 2020 Connecticut Paraeducator of the Year witnessed something disturbing downtown. He writes:
I’ve heard about hatred in our community. I’ve heard stories from friends, neighbors, social media and news sources. But I had not seen it myself.
This week, I think I saw it. It was ugly and deliberate, in the form of 3 middle school boys with their opinion to display, or partially formed frontal lobes to blame, or a sense of common respect to try to gain.
But there it was, plain as day.
I paused while tutoring another middle schooler. We watched the boys pull up a sign for a national political candidate from Jesup Green. They broke it into pieces, threw it in a trash bin, then took turns spitting on it before walking away, screaming to each other.
Spitting on it!
We were confused. So were the many other kids and adults sharing Jesup Green and Riverwalk tables. My student and I talked about respect, hatred, and why — regardless of opinion — we respect all things, and all people.
We talked about better ways to share our own opinions, and how everyone’s opinion matters in one way or another.
Then we talked about how we never spit. Not during a pandemic, not on a sign, not at another person. Not ever.
As we talked, a group of middle school girls retrieved the sign from the trash. They placed it back on the lawn.
My student and I talked about how there are helpers everywhere. We talked about why we need to restore the good that is sometimes taken from a community, and how sometimes it is taken by people who may not realize they’re doing it — or may not care.
I wish I could have thanked those girls. Not just for putting back the sign, but for caring. For teaching us a positive lesson. And for reminding us that the majority of kids who hang out downtown do care.
But then the boys returned. They ripped the sign from the ground again, threw it onto Jesup Road, and took turns jumping on it. Then they flung it onto the middle of Jesup Green, before finally leaving.
Those boys did not care.
I wish I could have said something to my student, to everyone around us, to the girls who tried to help — something that could have made the situation better.
But I was at a loss. So I went back to our social studies. The hum of conversation and COVID-era working returned to the green.
I reported the incident to the police, so it’s on record. But I don’t know who those 3 boys are. I only know they don’t care. I don’t know their names, their families, their hobbies, their strengths, who they’ve helped in their lives, or who looks up to them.
I don’t know any good things about them. I only know that they destroyed a sign on Jesup Green.
Is this bigotry? Impulsivity? Stress? Lack of education? Too much media? Am I a snowflake? Or a Karen? Do I care too much? Did I not care enough to stop them? Is this a non-issue? Or is this a real probme.
This is not a case of “kids being kids.” The majority of those I see on their skateboards, scooters or bikes, in the deli or on the green, are energetic, loud, and — most importantly — respectful.
They’re doing what they should be doing: having fun, while learning how to make their own choices.
These boys made their choices. They chose hatred.
So I can’t help but wonder: How do we fix this?
Margie Friedman’s mother Steffi was a well-known Westport sculptor. Her works grace Temple Israel, Earthplace and the library’s children’s section.
Margie — a 1972 Staples High School graduate — is quite accomplished too. Her recently completed documentary, “Orchestrating Change,” tells the inspiring story of the only orchestra in the world created by and for people living with mental illness, and those who support them. The mission of Me2/Orchestra — “me, too” — is to erase stigma, one exhilarating concert at a time.
With compelling characters, striking animation, beautiful music, even humor, “Orchestrating Change” shows what living with a mental illness is really like. The film challenges audiences to reconsider preconceived notions, and empowers those living with a diagnosis.
The Senior Center’s next quarter begins Thursday (October 1).
Over 40 programs are offered by Zoom: yoga, essentrics, Pilates, tai chi, cardio workout, strength training and dance, and others including history, ukulele, support groups, concerts and more.
Click here for a list of fall classes. To register, click here, then follow the prompts — or call 203-341-5099 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For scholarships and othrd questions, call 203-341-5099, or email email@example.com.
This past weekend was a productive one, for Westport’s National Charity League chapter. Members collected 1,640 pounds of food, for the Person-to-Person program.
Yoga instructor Paula Schooler has some very cool “Namastay @ Om” t-shirts for sale.
They’re available in men’s and women’s sizes, small through extra large, in black and gray for $20. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Connecticut Nurses Foundation COVID-19 Heroes Fund.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 203-226-6465.
And finally … a little something to get you ready for tonight’s presidential debate.
The 2020 ACE Awards will have a distinctly Westport-Weston look.
The event — the acronym is for Arts & Culture Empowerment, and it’s sponsored by the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County — is set for October 22 (5:30 p.m., online). Registration is free.
Westporter Miggs Burroughs earns the Artist honors. Local residents Harold Bailey and Bernicestine McLeod receive the Citizen award.
Burroughs — a native Westporter and Staples High School graduate — has designed hundreds of logos, ads, brochures and websites for commercial and non-profit clients since 1972. His lenticular photos that explore change and transition are displayed at shows and galleries, and in tunnels like Parker Harding Plaza and the Wesetport train station.
A founding member of the Artists Collective of Westport and the first artist-in-residence at the Westport Library, Burroughs actually designed the actual ACE award — which was 3D-printed in the library’s MakerSpace.
Bailey and McLeod — both Brown University graduates and trustees — are committed to civic work and philanthropy. Bailey is a former IBM vice president, who chairs TEAM Westport — the town’s multicultural commission. McLeod — president of an IT consulting firm — serves as treasurer.
Bailey is also a board member of the Westport Country Playhouse, and a founder of Stamford’s 100 Black Men organization.McLeod has served on many boards, including the Westport Library and Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.
Weston’s Jim Naughton hosts the event. Tony Award winner Joanna Gleason — who works often with Staples Players — will talk about the essential role of music and arts education.
Videos for the virtual event are produced by Westporter Doug Tirola, president of 4th Row Films, and the guiding light behind the Remarkable Theater.
To register for the free event, click here. For more information, including sponsorships, email email@example.com.
On March 16 — just 4 days after COVID closed Westport schools, as the reality of the pandemic swept across America — I posted an astonishing story.
Tampa Bay Times reporter Leonora LaPeter Anton had written a heart-wrenching story about the coronavirus’ effect on her life. She had just moved her 93-year-old father into a memory care unit. He was also in the late stages of Parkinson’s. Now she could not even visit him.
Her father was Bob Bohen. He raised her as a single parent in Westport, in the late 1970s and ’80s. He worked 2 jobs, but was always there when she got home after school. She graduated from Staples High in 1982.
“He let me have huge sleepovers and was beloved among my friends,” Leonora wrote. “He took me out to eat. Every night.”
Click here to read her moving account of what she feared might be the last time she ever saw him.
More than half a year has passed. Once again Leonora — who shared a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting, as part of a Tampa Bay Times/Sarasota Herald-Tribune team exploring violence and neglect in Florida mental hospitals — has written about her dad.
Father and daughter were separated for months. In July, he got COVID. His battle with the disease forms the basis of her most recent story.
I won’t tell you what happened. You need to read it yourself; just click here.
It’s an astonishing story, told beautifully and with love by a talented Staples High School grad.
It’s also just one of millions such tales, in our America today.
(Hat tip: Suzanne Braley)
It’s that time of year again. Dogs can return to Compo Beach.
Starting Thursday (October 1) through March 31, canines are prohibited from the Compo Beach pavilion, playground and boardwalk.
They must be leashed everywhere else — except south of the pavilion (including South Beach). Regulations are posted at the entrance to the off-leash areas.
from October 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021 the following regulations will be in effect for Compo Beach.
Of course, you are required to pick up your pooch’s poop everywhere.
Violations of any dog regulations are subject to a $77 fine.
The backdrop was gorgeous, but the news was grim yesterday as Dr. Scott Gottlieb was interviewed on “Face the Nation.”
Speaking from outside his Westport home, President Trump’s former FDA commissioner warned that the country is heading toward a “very dangerous” phase of the COVID pandemic.
Click below for the full interview. (Hat tip: Hedi Lieberman)
And finally … Miles Davis died 29 years ago today. The legendary jazz trumpeter, bandleader and composer was 65.