Category Archives: Children

Passing The Olympic Torch To Bill Krumm

When Kevin Strong was a Westport YMCA Water Rat swimmer, coach Bill Krumm asked him to mentor a new team member. Both boys were 11 years old.

They forged a great friendship. Strong — a very talented swimmer — quickly brought his teammate to the Water Rats’ high athletic and personal standards.

Both swam at high level college programs. They were in each other’s weddings. Today, Strong — a Staples High School Class of 1988 graduate, now a pediatrician in northern Maine — calls Krumm’s request to help another boy “an opportunity I’ll never forget.”

Three years later, the Westport Y selected Strong as its representative to run with the Olympic torch on a 1/2-mile Fairfield County leg, from the East Coast to the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. He was chosen not only for his swim team accomplishments, but because of the way he lived the Y’s values.

Strong’s run came at night, in the pouring rain. The electric torch was lit. More than 3 decades later, he recalls how thrilling it all was.

Runners kept their torches. Each was also given a gorgeous mahogany case, inscribed with their name and date of the run.

For years, Strong kept his in the basement.

Bill Krumm

He told both stories last week at Christ & Holy Trinity Church, to an audience of 200 Water Rat alumni, Y friends and admirers of Krumm. They came from as far as Singapore to honor his memory. The longtime coach died suddenly in March, of a heart attack. He was 61 years old.

“Bill was a great technical coach,” Strong recalls. “But he was just as talented in helping kids get through that awkward 9- to 14-year-old stage.”

So — at the end of his 5-minute eulogy — Strong tied his 2 stories together. In a surprise, stunning move, he lifted up the Olympic torch he’d brought from Maine — and announced he was donating it to the Westport Y.

Then he asked everyone who knew Krumm to help choose an appropriate inscription.

Kevin Strong with his Olympic torch, at Christ & Holy Trinity Church.

Strong is not sure where the gift will be displayed. He hopes it’s somewhere near the trophy case, at the pool.

But he knows what it will do.

“I want that torch to inspire some 8-year-old kid to be the best swimmer and person he can be — just the way Bill inspired me, and helped me grow,” Strong says.

“I learned so much from him. Now I can give back to others, just like he did.”

Besides, he says, “That Olympic torch does a lot more good at the Westport Y than sitting in my basement.”

Westport Needs Allyson Maida

Years ago — when her daughter was in middle school — Allyson Maida heard about a girl who spotted a classmate wearing a sweater the first girl owned.

Her mother had donated it to a charity, which then gave it to needy families.

When she learned that the needy girl lived in Westport, the mother told her daughter not to hang out with her. The girl told classmates too that they shouldn’t be friends with a poor girl.

That story was a defining moment in Maida’s life.

Allyson Maida

Another one came when Maida — a longtime Westport psychotherapist — heard of a mother here who faced an agonizing decision: If she invited a few of her daughter’s friends over for a small birthday celebration, the family would have to skimp on food all week.

“Stories like that rocked my world,” Maida says.

When she became president of the local chapter of Business Networking International, she asked the organization to help.

“There are homeless kids in Westport,” she told the members. “They deserve your best.”

“People were astounded,” she says, recalling the reaction. “The perception is that there’s little to no need. But there are parents here work really hard to make ends meet. They just can’t.”

Maida knew that federal, state and town programs help. She was familiar with foundations, grants, and organizations like Homes With Hope. All do great work.

But they can’t cover everything. Maida’s goal was to provide discretionary funds for things no one else did. Like a cake for a birthday party. A fidget toy. Lessons or tutors, the same as wealthy kids get.

“All we want is for every kid to feel part of the community. They should enjoy childhood,” Maida says. “And hopefully we can lessen their parents’ stress too.”

Tomorrow (Saturday, July 15, 2 p.m.), BNI hosts a “Chill Out, Grill Out and Give” event at Greens Farms Elementary School. Everyone brings their own balls, frisbees, food and drinks (grills are provided). The $10 per person entry fee will help fund Maida’s project, aiding children served through Homes With Hope.

Response from organizations like the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Clubs and Westport Woman’s Club has been excellent.

“This is about more than asking for money,” Maida says. “We want people to show up. We need to raise awareness.”

But Maida has asked for money too. She went door to door, seeking funds from local businesses.

The reaction stunned her.

The first place — Earth Animal — opened the cash register, and gave her $20.

So did UPS next door.

Party Harty and Colonial Druggists did the same, without batting an eye.

Then she tried Fresh Market. That’s a national store — not a mom-and-pop, or locally owned franchise.

The manager heard her pitch. He handed her a water. Then he gave her $20 too.

“That’s Westport,” Maida says gratefully.

So — unfortunately — is real need. Most of us never see it.

Allyson Maida does. And she’s doing what she can to help.

(Tickets are available on site for tomorrow’s event. Children under 12 are free. For more information, email allyson@allysonmaida.com. The organizing committee includes Ernie Addario of Phillip Bruce Salon; Bill Hall of Kaiser-Battistone/Wind River Environmental; David Katz of Acsia Partners; Brian Gmelin of Paychex; Mark Moeller of The Recipe of Success, and John Clapps of Brand24.)

 

 

Farmers’ Market Photo Contest Draws “Young Shoots”

Two of our town’s most creative institutions — the Westport Farmers’ Market and Westport Arts Center — have teamed up to showcase the creativity of one of our town’s most important assets: our kids.

The Young Shoots Digital Photography Competition highlights images taken all summer long at the Farmers’ Market.

It’s a great place for budding (ho ho) photographers to shoot. Every Thursday (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), the Farmers’ Market pulses with life. Fruits, vegetables, flowers, people — they’re all there, showing off the vitality of the market in colorful, imaginative ways. All photos must be taken somewhere on the Imperial Avenue premises.

“Towhead Tomatoes” — last year’s Fan Favorite winner, and 2nd place in 15-18 age group. (Photo/Margaret Kraus)

There are 3 age groups: 8-10, 11-14, 15-18. Submissions are due by August 14.

First-place winners in each category receive a $100 cash prize, and the chance to lead a food photo shoot with Bill Taibe (chef/owner of The Whelk, Ka Wa Ni and Jesup Hall). Second-place winners get $50.

Winners will also have their work shown in a gallery-like setting at Sugar & Olives (a favorite Farmers’ Market vendor).

Anastasia Davis won 1st place last year in the 11-14 age group for this shot.

Beginning August 20, the community will have a chance to vote online for their favorite images. “Fan favorites” get a 1-year membership to the Westport Arts Center, and a Farmers’ Market t-shirt.

Click here for photo guidelines and submission info.

“Starstem” by Calista Finkelstein placed 1st last summer in the 8-10 category.

Pic Of The Day #81

Earthplace campers enjoy today’s downpour. (Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

Pic Of The Day #80

It could be any kids, anywhere, in any town. But these ones are ours, at Saugatuck Sweets. (Photo/Ken Wirfel)

Holiday Bonus Pics Of The Day

Paige Lorenz and Sabrina Wiese jump for Independence Day joy … (Photo/Richard Wiese)

… while Palm Beach gets a new addition: a mermaid. (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

Stew Leonard, Dave Jones Bring Water Safety To All

A few months ago, “06880” reported on an intriguing Staples High School alum, and his water safety project.

More than 45 years after graduating, Dave Jones is now president and CEO of the Capital Wealth Foundation. A key board member is fellow 1971 classmate Mike Perlis — president and executive chairman of Forbes Media.

The foundation hands out 100% of its funds — “well into 6 figures” already, Jones says — to help people  in personal, non-traditional ways: building a roof for an animal shelter, say, or providing computers to autistic kids.

His most recent project is one of his favorites. Growing up in Westport, he knew Stew Leonard Jr. Like Jones, Leonard has achieved quite a bit of success.

Like Jones too, he’s known tough times. In 1989 Leonard’s 21-month-old son, Stew III, drowned. The Stew Leonard III Children’s Charity now promotes water safety and awareness.

Jones’ son Jack follows in his footsteps: He’s a lifeguard. Unlike relatively tame Compo though, he works on the Narragansett surf. Jack often sees city kids rush into the waves. They can’t swim, and get caught in the very strong undertow.

So Jones and Leonard have planned Capital Wealth Foundation’s next project: providing swim lessons for inner-city kids.

Everyone in Westport knows Stew Leonard Jr. And everyone here knows the importance of lifeguards. The ones we have at Compo are fantastic.

Jones hopes to present a check to Leonard in late August — in the middle of the Compo lifeguards’ annual reunion. But he needs helps.

Donations in any amount can be sent to: Capital Wealth Foundation, 1300 Divison St., Suite 203, West Warwick, RI 02893. Put “water safety” in the memo line. For more information, call Jones: 401-500-5632.

Tuesdays @ The Train

One of the enduring images of postwar Westport was Mom rounding up the kids, tossing them in the back of the station wagon, and driving down to Saugatuck to pick up Dad as he stumbled off the bar car — I mean, got off the train — after a hard day of work.

Times have changed. Mom now commutes; Dad works from home. One-car families gave way to 2 (or 3, or 4); the “station car” is now likely to be a BMW or Tesla. The bar car went the way of the 59-minute train ride (it’s now 68 — at least).

But the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce pays homage to those days. Starting this Tuesday, June 27 — and continuing July 18 and August 8 — they’re sponsoring a new event.

“Tuesdays @ the Train” are family-friendly (and free). From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., you can meet Mom (or Dad) at the train, then cross under the tracks to Luciano Park (for 25 years the home of Festival Italiano).

There will be live music; food for purchase from Dunville’s, Tarry Lodge and Viva’s, plus Phil and Tom’s ice cream; a beer-and-wine garden, and games like bocce, bean bag target toss and badminton.

Chamber of Commerce executive director Matt Mandell built 2 giant Jengas and a Giant Kerplunk.

There’s a playground right in the park too, with a basketball hoop.

NOTE: You don’t need to be a commuter — or have a family — to enjoy “Tuesdays @ the Train.” Local workers, those who drive to work or work from home, retirees — and singles, divorced, flown-nest and childless couples — are warmly welcome too.

(For more information on Tuesdays @ the Train, click here.)

Pic Of The Day #66

School is almost out — and these Greens Farms Elementary graduates Matthew Bukzin and Aiden Schachter could not be happier. (Photo/Seth Schachter)

Photo Challenge #129

It’s a medium-size playground for little kids, with a big name.

Last week’s photo challenge showed wooden climbing structures, in a wooded clearing. (Click here for the image.)

Ten alert readers knew this hidden gem is on Weston Road, just north of Ford Road (next to Bridgewater Associates’ headquarters).

Called the Leonard Schine Preserve and Children’s Natural Playground, it’s part of the Aspetuck Land Trust’s vast, wonderful holdings. To find out more, click here(But sssshhhh! It’s our little secret!)

Congratulations to Joan Tricarico, Evan Stein, Fran White, Julie Fatherley, Stan Skowronski, Bob Fatherley, Rachel Polin, Grady Flinn (just 9 years old!), Alexandra Wiberg and David Brant.

This week’s photo challenge has 2 parts:

  • What is this, and
  • Where in Westport can you find it?

If you know, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)