Category Archives: Children

This Morning’s Hit-And-Run

A Bedford Middle School parent forwarded this email, sent today by principal Adam Rosen:

This morning, BMS bus #21 (morning run) was involved in a minor fender bender; the bus was rear-ended by a hit and run driver. This occurred at the intersection of Cross Highway and Weston Road.

Westport Police, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Palmer and Director of Transportation Mrs. Evangelista arrived on the scene to assess the situation. While no injuries were reported at the scene of the fender bender, out of an abundance of caution, upon arrival to BMS at 8:20 AM, all students were individually assessed by our health team and counseling team for physical and/or emotional injuries.

At this time, I can share with you that there were no injuries to our students. We are using all of our tender loving care at Bedford to take excellent care of your children.

The parent was pleased to receive the prompt email. But, he wonders — and so do I — what kind of driver has a hit-and-run with a SCHOOL BUS?!

School bus 1

High School Tutors Expand Scope, Services

Top Hat Tutors could rest on its reputation.

The after-school service — conceived of and created by Staples High student Charlie Jersey, then sold for $1 to Nick Massoud and, after him, Vig Namasavayam — is thriving. Nearly 40 Stapleites help a few dozen clients. The tutors are sharp, and relate well with their tutees.

But this year’s senior owners — president Jay Mudholkar and vice president Evan Feder, who purchased Top Hat for the now-traditional $1 from Vig — are doing more. They’re expanding their business: reaching out to students as young as elementary school; offering more areas (like computer science and music), and moving beyond Westport (to Fairfield, Norwalk, even Greenwich).

Jay and Evan — friends since 6th grade, who spent most of the summer fine-tuning Top Hat — point with pride to a 4th grader who loves sports. He’s now working with a tutor who shares that interest — and is a great role model, for both books and balls.

“It’s not only about getting an A on a test,” Jay says. “We also want younger kids to connect with older ones.”

Eric Feder and Jay Mudholkar take a break from organizing tutors.

Evan Feder and Jay Mudholkar take a break from organizing tutors.

Two elementary school brothers love chess. Top Hat found a chess-playing tutor — and another excellent role model.

“Anything we do at Staples, we can provide a tutor for,” Evan says.

Not everyone can be a Top Hat tutor. Sixty students applied for positions this summer. Only 38 were chosen.

Some clients are tutored weekly. Others call for one session — when, for example, there’s a big test ahead.

Tophat Tutors logoWhatever they need, Top Hat can help — with a special Staples touch.

“We want everyone to feel comfortable,” Jay says. “We don’t want a stressful environment. We think we’re pretty chill.”

Though Top Hat is headed in new directions, one thing has not changed. The standard rate of $40 is the same as when Charlie began several years ago.

And when Jay and Evan sell their expanded company next spring, the price will once again be just $1.

(For more information, click on www.tophattutors.com, or email tophattutors@gmail.com)

Blues, Views, BBQ — And Tattoos

Once a year, white, suburban Westport turns into the blues capital of the world.

Also, the barbecue center of the universe.

Go figure.

It’s great publicity — and branding — for Westport. But it’s not a Westport crowd.

They come from across Connecticut. And Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and beyond.

They come for fantastic music. Great (and decidedly non-vegan) food.

And — for their kids — face painting, bounce houses and the chance to run around and around and around.

And come they do. Crowds formed long before the library parking lot and Levitt Pavilion opened at 11 a.m. They’ll be there today, too — smiling and enjoying the hell out of the day, just like everyone did yesterday.

Here’s what they saw and did:

I got there just as the barbecue contest was ending. This is all that was left.

I got there just as the barbecue contest was ending. This is all that was left.

But I was right on time for Anders Osborne, on the Levitt Pavilion mainstage.

But I was right on time for Anders Osborne, on the Levitt Pavilion mainstage.

This guy went from the BBQ contest to the music...

This guy went from the BBQ contest to the music…

...while this guy was getting all the attention.

…while this guy was getting all the attention.

If you didn't -- or couldn't -- buy a pass for the sold-out Levitt acts, there was plenty more music in the library parking lot tent.

If you didn’t — or couldn’t — buy a pass for the sold-out Levitt acts, there was lots more music in the library parking lot tent.

There was art -- like this from Dante Tilghman (left) -- for the adults...

There was art — like this from Dante Tilghman (left) — for the adults…

...face painting for kids like Zachary O'Dell...

…face painting for kids like Zachary O’Dell…

...while others found a way to hear the music for free. This group probably was from Westport.

…while others found a way to hear the music for free. This group probably WAS from Westport.

School’s Open. Be Careful Out There!

It took exactly one day from the opening of school for the first drivers to race by, totally ignoring a stopped bus and causing an accident.

A Greens Farms Elementary school bus pulled up to the Regents Park curb around 3:40 p.m. this afternoon. The stop sign was extended, yet cars in the opposite (westbound) direction roared past.

The driver honked. One car hit its brakes. But the 2 cars behind were going so fast, they could not stop. The result: a 3-car rear-end collision that sent one person to the hospital.

Police and fire trucks responded quickly. Still, it was quite an experience for at least one kindergartner, whose parents described the scene.

Two of the vehicles in this afternoon's Post Road East crash.

Two of the vehicles in this afternoon’s Post Road East crash.

There are 2 issues here. One is the law: When a school bus is stopped, all drivers must stop too. That’s a no-brainer. The safety of our kids trumps your need to get wherever you are late going.

The second issue is that this section of the Post Road — Regents Park, Balducci’s, and nearby areas — has become increasingly hazardous. Condo residents believe it’s just a matter of time before a tragedy occurs.

There are no stop signs, lights or crosswalks. But there are 2 active driveways and parking lots on opposite sides of the highly trafficked 4-lane street, with cars often exceeding 40 miles an hour.

Interestingly, a police car was parked this morning in the Zaniac parking lot, monitoring this situation during the school bus pickup.

Residents of Regents Park (right) worry constantly about this dangerous stretch of the Post Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Residents of Regents Park (right) worry constantly about this dangerous stretch of the Post Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Traffic will not get better. Last night, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved plans for a 4-story, 94-unit rental property not far away: on Post Road East, opposite Crate & Barrel.

On the other hand, the proposal includes affordable housing units that will help the town earn a 4-year moratorium on complying with the state’s 8-30g statute.

ABC House Sequel Is Really A Circle

Earlier this summer, A Better Chance was on the hunt for host families.

The wonderful program brings students from underserved schools to Westport, to attend Staples and become part of our community.

But it was  having a tough time attracting families to give the ABC scholars a weekend and vacation home away from their new home.

Last year's A Better Chance of Westport scholars.

Last year’s A Better Chance of Westport scholars.

I posted a story/plea. Board member Nancy Yates describes what happened next:

We received many inquiries from interested families after your post. Some decided that hosting might not be for them after all. But many others were enthusiastic about helping out in whatever role we could offer them.

We’re now fully manned with both primary and alternate host families for each of our 8 scholars, as well as a cadre of substitute families eager for an opportunity to fill in as needed.

That’s good news. But this is even better:

Ruben Guardado, speaking at ABC's annual fundraising dinner.

Ruben Guardado, speaking at ABC’s annual fundraising dinner.

The family who will serve as primary hosts for the new freshman whose lack of a host family prompted ABC’s request has a special connection with Ruben Guardado. He’s the former scholar whose photo was featured in the post.

Ruben was a mentor for their older son through a 4th grade book club 5 years ago. It was a very positive experience for Ruben and the young boy.

The son has just entered Staples. He’s now helping the ABC scholar acclimate to Westport.

Nancy says: “This is a perfect illustration of what you remark upon so often in your posts about ABC: The scholars give back to the Westport community, and make the town a better place.

“And now the town — which has shown it does indeed have a heart — is giving a hand up to a scholar who’s destined to repeat the cycle.”

Food Allergies: “Fluffy” Name Masks Real Danger

Lisa Hofmeister’s family had no history of food allergies. She was vaguely aware of concerns about kids and nuts, but never gave a thought to things like birthday party food.

A couple of years ago, Blake — then 3 1/2 — ate a peanut butter M&M. Two hours later, he was covered from head to toe in hives.

His Landmark Preschool teachers reacted calmly, quickly and professionally. EMTs used an EpiPen to control the reaction.

Since then, Lisa worries constantly about brownies and cupcakes. She reads the labels of every food item she buys.

FARE logo

Blake — who is allergic to peanuts, pistachios and cashews — is handling things well. On Halloween, the 5-year-old asks everyone handing out candy if it contains any of those nuts.

Landmark is 100% nut-free. Kings Highway Elementary — Blake’s new school — has a nut-free cafeteria table.

Lisa is realistic. “Parents worry that their kid will get hit crossing the street,” she says. “This is just one more worry.”

She also knows that actions speak louder than words. So she’s gotten involved in Food Allergy Research & Education, an educational, research and advocacy organization.

On Saturday, September 24 (1 to 4 p.m.), FARE sponsors a fundraising, awareness and community-building program at Sherwood Island State Park. Besides a half-mile walk, there will be face painting, relay races, carnival games, arts and crafts, a magician and live reggae music.

Participants run at FARE's 2015 walk.

Participants run at FARE’s 2015 walk.

This is FARE’s only Connecticut event. Because it’s in our back yard — and free — Lisa hopes many Westporters will participate.

As a woman who never cared about food allergies until they struck home, Lisa knows that raising awareness is key.

It’s also hard.

“It’s scary that doctors don’t know what causes this, or why it’s increasing so rapidly,” Lisa says.

“It’s also too bad that this doesn’t have a scarier name. ‘Food allergy’ is fluffy. Maybe if it was called something different, more people would be more aware.”

(For more information — or to register for the September 24 event, or volunteer — click here.)

 


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Westport Arts Center Offers A Bully Pulpit

Whether you’ve got a school-age kid or not, these days it’s tough to avoid hearing about bullying. Its causes, its effects, how to change it (or whether we’re overreacting) — bullying everywhere, from our schools and the media to the presidential campaign.

Soon, even the Westport Arts Center will tackle the topic.

WAC - More than WordsAn exhibition called “MORE Than Words” opens September 9. Utilizing artists, speakers, panels and films, it examines bullying within a broad cultural context. The exhibit focuses on courage, resilience and empowerment in the face of bullying, and considers how imbalances of social, physical and political power can marginalize others.

The WAC show includes artistic expressions of gender, racial, religious, geopolitical and age inequality, and includes cyber-bullying. The goal is to inspire dialogue and change.

Recognizing that the best responses to bullying are community-wide, the WAC has enlisted the help of important local organizations. They include the Westport Country Playhouse, Westport Library, SKATE/K2BK, Neighborhood Studios of Bridgeport, Anti-Defamation League and Norwalk’s LGBT Triangle Community Center.

Also involved: Athlete Ally and the National Charity League.

WAC exhibition - Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer’s piece in the “MORE Than Words” exhibition.

The exhibit was conceived by board member — and father of 2 young girls — Derek Goodman.

“We’ve all dealt with bullies,” he says. “At the same time, a number of well-known, influential artists have used their work to address it. We hope we’ve put together a platform to open dialogue, so that people in Westport feel comfortable discussing it.”

As the WAC partners with a variety of local organizations, he says, the town has an opportunity to take a leadership role in the battle against bullying.

“We’re not the experts,” he notes of the Westport Arts Center. “But we’re honored to put together a show for experts to help lead the conversation.”

(An opening reception is set for September 9, from 6-8 p.m. The exhibit runs through October 29. For more information on “MORE Than Words,” click here.)

Backpacks For A Cause

Back-to-school shopping is seldom the grinning, hand-holding experience portrayed in TV and print ads.

backpacksKids worry they’ll have the “wrong” notebooks or pens.  Parents fear they’ll forget something important, and their kid’s teacher will think they’re idiots.

Other Westporters have a deeper, more realistic fear:  They can’t pay for everything their kids need.

Fortunately, Westport’s Human Services Department is on the case.

Its annual Back to School program, offering supplies to eligible families, begins Monday (August 8).

The program provides gift cards to income-eligible families with children in the Westport schools. Families can then buy new backpacks and school supplies together.

Last year, 152 kids from 102 families received assistance. That’s almost 8 full classrooms of kids.

The program depends entirely on the generosity of individuals and organizations.  Tax-deductible monetary donations — of any amount — made payable to “Town of Westport/DHS Family Programs” (memo:  “Back to School”) can be sent to, or dropped off at, Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave. (Town Hall), Westport CT 06880.

Gift cards of any amount to stores like Target, Walmart, Old Navy, Staples, etc. are appreciated too. They can be dropped off at Room 200 of Town Hall weekdays, from 8:30 a.m. to 4;30 p.m.

To find out if you qualify for assistance, call Elaine Daignault: 341-1050.

Rummaging Through A New Sports Attic

If you’re like many Westport families, your house is filled with things your kids have grown out of, moved on from or otherwise discarded: Clothes. Toys. Sports equipment.

Greg DiLenge can’t unclutter your home of clothes or toys. But those too-small skates, extra lacrosse sticks and unused skis?

Take ’em from the basement to the attic. The Sports Attic.

Sports AtticThat’s the name of his new business, across from the train station at 26 Railroad Place.

He’s still buying “quality secondhand sporting equipment.” He’s in the midst of a soft opening — but he offers cash on the spot.

Or you can check out the amply stocked shelves, and buy gear — inexpensively — for your kid who may (or may not) end up loving a sport.

Growing up, Greg did. “To me, sports have always evoked a sense of responsibility,” the Philadelphia native says.

“They taught me the value of working with others. Sports encouraged a sense of self. I love the camaraderie of playing sports, and am in awe of the discipline required to be an elite athlete.”

But he knows not everyone will reach that goal, or wants to.

He knows too that not everyone can afford sports equipment.

As a kid, Greg loved hockey. But there was not enough money for both him and his brother to play. So they flipped a coin. Greg lost, and got basketball. His brother went on to play hockey at Penn State.

Greg cheered him on. But he always wondered, “What if…?”

For many years, Greg worked traded commodities in New York — while looking for a lifestyle change. His uncle started a new and quality pre-owned sporting goods store in Westchester over 15 years ago. The business model attracted Greg.

Now — with his 1st child due later this month —  Greg is ready to make that leap. It’s the perfect time to launch a new business aimed at helping kids.

Greg DiLenge, in his Sports Attic.

Greg DiLenge, in his Sports Attic.

“We want to be more than a store,” Greg says. “We want to connect with families, schools, camps and local sports organizations, to collaborate and help each other.”

His goal is to provide “an interesting alternative for acquiring sports equipment.”

Though Greg loves all sports, he has a soft spot for hockey and lacrosse. Both are expensive — and can be daunting for parents who don’t know if their children will follow through.

Greg has reached out to major vendors, amassing “starter” kits to help soften the sting on wallets.

His narrow shop is rapidly filling with sports gear. His goal is to turn it over rapidly — buying good-quality equipment from parents whose kids have outgrown or discarded it, then selling it to others whose kids are just starting out.

And when those youngsters move up or on — well, Sports Attic will be there for them too.

 

Where Tess’ Love Begins

How do you define forever?

That’s a question Suzanne Tanner faces every day.

Tess Tanner (Photo/Suzanne Tanner)

Tess Tanner (Photo/Suzanne Tanner)

She’s the mother of Tess Tanner, a 12-year-old Coleytown Middle School musician, actor, environmentalist and fun-loving girl who died 5 summers ago in a motor vehicle accident, while attending summer camp in Maine.

For Suzanne, “forever” means never letting go of her daughter’s poetry, passions and determination to make a difference.

It also means honoring Tess with a musical theater production that Suzanne herself has written.

“Where the Love Begins” is a musical memoir — “a mother’s love story,” she says — titled after Tess’ 1st poem, written when she was 5.

Suzanne performs a world premiere reading of the musical on Wednesday, August 17 — the 5th anniversary of her daughter’s death — at Saugatuck Congregational Church (7:30 p.m.).

The free event includes a special dance tribute by Staples High School junior Katherine Flug.

where the love beginsThere’s special poignancy to the show. Many of Tess’ classmates leave soon, entering college and pursuing passions of their own.

Suzanne — an award-winning musician while at Harvard — calls her multimedia composition “a musical monument” for her daughter, and “a thank-you gift to the universe for the profound privilege of parenthood.”

The show has received Broadway interest. It will workshop next year, fulfilling Suzanne’s mission to immortalize her daughter’s essence, and continue Tess’ emphasis on family, friendship and faith in forever love.

(For more information, click here or email PoeTessProductions@gmail.com)