Mike Greenberg gets up early.
Just after 4 each morning, he heads to New York. There he hosts “Get Up!”, ESPN’s new TV show.
He’s used to those hours. For years, he traveled an hour in the other direction — to Bristol — for the “Mike & Mike Show.”
But this is not a story about Greenberg’s ESPN gigs.
It’s about how his friendship with a Westport neighbor led to a novel, a children’s book, and hundreds of thousands of dollars raised to fight cancer.
Greenberg and his wife Stacy moved here in 1998. On the first day of pre-school a couple of years later, she met Heidi Armitage Green. Both women had 2-year-olds. Both were pregnant again.
They became close friends. So did Mike and Heidi’s husband Adam, and eventually both families’ kids. They shared ski vacations, dinners, and daily life in Westport.
Heidi’s life ended far too early. She died in 2009 of breast cancer. She touched many lives in town, and her memorial service at the Westport Country Playhouse was packed.
Heidi Armitage Green (2nd from left) with (from left) friends Wendy Gardiner, Jane Green and Stacy Seponate Greenberg, in 2009. Heidi and Jane were not related. (Photo courtesy of ESPN)
Her death made Greenberg “sad and angry,” Greenberg says. And it spurred the ESPN personality to write his first novel.
“All You Could Ask For” had nothing to do with sports. It chronicled the friendship, love, heartbreak and renewal of 3 women.
Greenberg donated 100% of the proceeds to the V Foundation — the cancer research organization founded by legendary basketball coach/ESPN broadcaster Jim Valvano. Since its publication in 2013, Greenberg’s book has raised over $150,000.
Still, he wanted to do more.
As Stacy’s Instagram posts of Phoebe — the family dog — drew attention, the couple thought of collaborating on a children’s book featuring the pet.
Mike and Stacy Seponate Greenberg, with (of course) Phoebe.
Around the same time, Dick Vitale — Valvano’s longtime friend and fellow ESPN broadcaster — asked Greenberg to be an honoree at Vitale’s V Foundation gala. He is deeply involved in pediatric cancer research.
Mike and Stacy Greenberg’s new book — “MVP: Most Valuable Puppy” — was released this month. This one is a children’s picture book.
Again, 100% of the proceeds go to the V Foundation. This time, they’re earmarked for pediatric cancer.
The plot is clever — and based loosely on the Greenberg family. A girl wants to play sports, but is afraid to try. Phoebe knows, though — from watching her master talk about sports on TV. So the dog teaches a group of kids how to play soccer and football.
It’s a perfect, uplifting, “go for it!” children’s tale. The artwork is sensational. And even though it’s pitched at 4-8-year-olds, Greenberg says it can be read to younger ones too.
Writing a kids’ book is a lot different than a novel, the author notes.
He and his wife had to figure out the narrator’s voice. How would a dog talk?
Then they had to choose the perfect story to tell. They went through a dozen or so ideas, before settling on the canine-teaches-kids idea.
“MVP” is a winner. As soon as it was released, it zoomed to #1 on Amazon’s New Kids book list, and #3 among Movers and Shakers.
The Greenbergs have remained close to Heidi’s husband Adam, and their kids Walker and Georgia. At dinner a couple of weeks ago they celebrated publication of the book, and Walker’s upcoming Staples High School graduation.
“The kids are doing great,” Greenberg says. “But it still bothers me that they’ve grown up the last 9 years without their mother.”
Meanwhile, he and Stacy are thinking ahead.
Phoebe the dog has plenty of adventures — in real Westport life, and on the pages of kids’ books. Is a series in the works?
“She could do a million things,” Greenberg says.
“And 100% of the proceeds would go to the V Foundation.”
(To buy “MVP: Most Valuable Puppy,” click here.)