Category Archives: Children

Since Parkland

Yesterday was the 1st anniversary of the Marjory Douglas Stoneman massacre. Across the country, we remembered the 17 students and staff members murdered in their Florida high school.

Survivors — and countless others with no connection to the school — believed that finally, something would change. At rallies, online and in legislatures, calls for new gun regulations grew stronger.

Yet in the year that followed, 1,200 children and teenagers have been killed.

Far fewer people know their names, or where they lived, than know the Parkland students. Their stories have never been told.

Until now.

Since Parkland” is a powerful media project. With the help of the Miami Herald, McClatchy publishing company and The Trace — an independent, non-profit news organization — 200 journalists set out to profile all 1,200 people 18 and under killed by guns. Since Parkland.

The Since Parkland home page.

Sophie Driscoll is a proud participant in this important effort.

Like many Staples High students, she’s busy. She’s an editor-in-chief of Inklings, the school’s award-winning newspaper. She’s president of the Young Democrats.

But she made time for “Since Parkland.” And she helped make it a stunning piece of journalism.

A year ago, Sophie published a story in Ms. Magazine. It started as a piece about Reshaping Reality — the Staples club that helps middle schoolers and their parents deal with body image, eating disorders and social pressures. But it soon became much more.

Sophie’s piece highlighted teenage feminists who started clubs at their high schools. She interviewed students in all over the US. It was “interesting and exciting,” she says. She worked with an actual editor, Katina Paron.

Sophie Driscoll

Last summer, Sophie joined 83 other rising seniors for a 5-week journalism program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. While she was there, Katina called. She was looking for students with “good research skills,” for a project she described only vaguely.

In early August, Sophie and dozens of others participated in a video conference. They learned a bit more about “Since Parkland.”

Sophie was assigned 6 stories. There was Nicholas Glasco, 18 of Stone Mountain Georgia, shot accidentally by a friend a month before his high school graduation.

Christopher Jake Stone, 17, was one of 10 killed and 13 injured at Santa Fe (Texas) High School, 3 months after Parkland. He was trying to block the door to his classroom to prevent the gunman’s entry.

Tahji McGill, 17, was shot outside an Illinois club.

Chavelle Tramon Thompson, 17, was murdered while walking with friends to a store in Union City, Georgia.

In Virginia, a 2-year-old died when his 4-year-old brother accidentally shot him in the head. The very same day — also in Virginia — another 2-year-old was killed. He shot himself with a handgun he’d found.

The story that resonated the most with Sophie was Xantavian Pierce’s. She wrote:

The Brunswick High School athlete played basketball and football. The numbers on his jerseys were 15 and 28, respectively. Throughout his athletic career, the 17-year-old worked to make his mother proud. She said he succeeded.

“He was amazing,” his mother said. “He was wonderful. He was a loving, God-fearing child. He  was just a wonderful person. He was my heartbeat.”

Xantavian “Tae” Pierce was helping someone move when a gun went off inside a box he was carrying, accidentally shooting him in the stomach at the Eagles Pointe Apartments in Brunswick, Georgia, on March 25, 2018.

“He was a straight arrow, close with his family,” Sophie says. “He was just like someone I’d know at Staples.”

Xantavian Pierce

The process was wrenching. Sophie tracked down news reports, and scrutinized Facebook pages. She read what family members, friends and teachers said.

“They seem like such vibrant, alive, regular kids,” she notes.

Each profile is 3 paragraphs long. The first 2 give life to each young person. The 3rd describes his or her death.

That was hard. “I had to take a step back, and write as if he was alive,” Sophie says. But they were not.

The research itself was arduous. Sophie was stunned to discover there is no national database to track gun deaths. State records might list a date — but no name. Sometimes, there was not even a local news report.

It was a truly collaborative process. The 200 young writers — from across the nation — used the Slack app and Zoom video conferencing to work together. They helped find information, and supported each other through tough times.

Still, they did not realize the scope of the project — or how it would appear online — until nearly the end.

And “the end” was, literally, 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, February 13. Just as they had every day — Since Parkland — young people were killed that night.

The project drew immediate attention. The New York Times highlighted it. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy — a staunch gun regulation advocate — tweeted about it.

Sophie — who hopes to pursue journalism in college, and beyond — notes, “this was journalism, not activism.” But — like all good journalism — she hopes it will force people to think about an issue in deep, different ways.

Her goal — and that of every student journalist — was to humanize all 1,200 young people lost to gun violence Since Parkland.

“The statistics are staggering,” Sophie says. “But each statistic is a human being.

“These kids are not statistics. They’re athletes, artists. A lot were college bound. It’s so hard to think about the people they were, and could have become.”

It is hard. But — thanks to Sophie Driscoll, and scores of other determined high school students across America — right now we are doing just that.

(Click here for the 6 stories written by Sophie Driscoll. Click here for the “Since Parkland” home page.)

Just Alyson’s Luck: One River Art + Design Comes To Town

Growing up in Westport, Alyson Luck was surrounded by art.

Her mother enrolled her in kids’ and adult classes. She studied with Carol Young in that gifted instructor’s garage, then with Roe Halper in her noted studio.

“I was always part of an after-school group,” the 2000 Staples High School graduate recalls. “My art friends and I always had a place to go, and be together.”

At the University of Michigan she majored in art history, and discovered museum education. She earned a master’s in the field from Bank Street, then spent over a decade at New York’s Jewish Museum and Guggenheim. She managed teaching artists, worked with educators and directed family and teacher programs.

Alyson Luck (right) at work.

Along the way, she and her husband started a family. They moved to the suburbs — in fact, into the house she’d grown up in.

“Most people get stuck living in their parents’ home,” she says. “But I love this little cape. This was my dream.”

However, raising 2 small children meant she left her great job behind. She never thought she’d find anything like it here.

Not long ago though, she spotted a listing on Indeed for the One River School in Westport. You haven’t heard of it yet. But you will.

Founded in 2012 in Englewood, New Jersey — “one river” west of New York City — by former School of Rock CEO Matt Ross, One River School of Art + Design aims to transform art education in the US.

Alyson Luck

Drawing students of all ages — with classes less structured than traditional “art schools,” and featuring a contemporary focus — One River offers year-round programs, a flexible curriculum, and instruction in a variety of art forms.

Its 11th school opens soon in part of the former Bertucci’s restaurant, on the Post Road near the Sherwood Island connector. Its director: Alyson Luck.

She’s excited by Ross’ vision, and invigorated by the chance to bring One River to the newly refurbished, easily accessible and airy space. (“I realized I always studied art in a basement,” Alyson laughs.)

For younger artists, One River will provide project-based classes, taught by a contemporary artist. Adult classes are less structured.

The school will run year-round, not the traditional “semester” model.

The Bertucci’s space will include 3 classrooms, and a digital design lab. There’s a gallery too, for emerging artists to show their work. The target for opening is early May.

“We’re modernizing art education for everyone’s busy lives. This is not just for retirees!” Alyson says.

One River Art + Design will occupy part of the former Bertucci’s building.

Alyson envisions One River to be an integral part of the town’s art scene. She’s encouraged that although it’s not yet open, it’s already making waves.

She’s heard from a number of artists — and organizations like the Artists Collective of Westport — welcoming One River to town. “They tell me about the importance of arts to the community,” she says. “They don’t know I grew up here! I totally get it.”

Art has been Alyson Luck’s life. Now she’s getting ready to bring art to her former and current hometown — in a space everyone knows, re-purposed for the future.

(For more information on One River Westport, click here.)

All Invited To Senior Center Super Bowl Party

As anyone who has been to the Westport Senior Center knows, it’s not a place where zombies sit around all day, watching TV. (In fact, there are no TVs at all.)

Our Senior Center hums with activity and life. There are talks and discussions about every topic imaginable. There are classes in art, computers, cooking and dozens of other subjects. There’s yoga, Zumba, a fitness center and 8 TRX stations.

Trouble is, not enough non-seniors get to the Senior Center.

Tomorrow, you get your chance.

Westporters of all ages are invited to a Super Bowl party. From 1 to 4 p.m. you can eat and drink; play games and win prizes; enter a guess-the-final-score contest, and meet the Staples High School state champion field hockey team, plus Staples and PAL cheerleaders.

Tomorrow is a day for football — and meeting the state champion Staples High School field hockey team.

There will be tours of the new addition to the facility. Lynn Goldberg — who helped lead the project — will be honored too.

It’s an inter-generational event. Seniors — especially those with grandchildren far away — love seeing young Westporters. Kids without local grandparents can enjoy a family gathering.

And who doesn’t like free hot dogs, chips, dips and cake?

No one knows who will win tomorrow’s Super Bowl. But it’s clear: Westport’s Senior Center attracts champions of all ages.

Mark And Tanya’s Excellent Caribbean Adventure

Both Mark LaClair and his wife Tanya grew up in Rowayton. He started sailing at age 8. They water skied, camped and played on Sheffield Island, fished, lobstered, and drove their boats as far as they were allowed.

They got married, and vacationed by chartering sailboats with friends. The couple tried living in Weston and New Canaan. But, he laughs, those towns were too far from the water.

In 1998 they moved into a little cottage on Compo Beach’s Fairfield Avenue. Instantly, Mark says, “it felt right.”

They asked their landlord to eventually sell to them, but he was reluctant. So the couple — he’s a builder, she’s in real estate — decided to throw most of their savings into buying a boat. They planned to spend 2 years sailing around the world.

Five months after their purchase — while preparing for their great adventures — their landlord said he would sell the house to them, after all.

Mark and Tanya changed course. They put their journey on hold, and placed their newly acquired sailboat in a St. Lucia charter fleet.

Now — years later — Mark and Tanya own a catamaran. Named Pack ‘N’ Play, they call it their “Winnebago on the water.”

Mark and Tanya LaClair’s Pack ‘N’ Play.

He says, “We feel a boat offers the best perspective to any place we visit. Waking up at first light, sipping coffee, looking from the water onto an island we have only read about and knowing our family will soon be exploring — that’s priceless.”

That family now includes Tessa (age 12) and Bode (8). They’ve spent most of the last few summers exploring Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Cape Cod.

Mark and Tanya still fantasize about taking a year or two to explore the world. First though, they want to see how they feel after a few months of Caribbean cruising.

Which is how the family headed south from Westport during Christmas vacation They’ll be gone through February break. Already they’ve visited Tortola, St. John, St. Bart’s, Saba, Nevis, Guadeloupe, Îsle de Saints, Martinique and St. Lucia.

Bode, Tanya, Mark and Tessa LaClair.

The adventure involves sailing, exploring — and home schooling. That latter piece is a challenge — and an excellent experience.

Most days go smoothly. “The amazing people the kids meet, and the places they’re learning about, has been a great education,” Mark says.

Having the children read about each island they visit, then write about and post what they learned on Instagram, is also part of their schooling. (You can follow them: Packnplay4).

But, the parents agree, teaching their own kids is not easy. If they do another trip longer than 2 months, they’ll recruit a teacher as crew to come along.

After studying a destination — including its history, geography and more — the family plans their day. Sometimes they visit museums or ruins. They use their dinghy and paddle boards to search for secluded snorkeling spots.

Snorkeling in the Caribbean.

They hike to rainforests and waterfalls, and trek a few miles into town for provisions from local markets (plus a taste of local restaurants).

But Mark and Tanya most enjoy the time with their kids. They connect as a family — and disconnect from electronics.

That’s how magical moments occur. One day, as they all sat on the bow on a passage from Guadeloupe, they sighted their first whale. It was just 20 yards away.

Tessa and Bode say they like meeting new people and seeing new places. They do miss their friends and teachers.

Meanwhile, the adventures continue. In Saba, they were the only cruising boat. The winds blew more than 30 knots, for 3 days. At night, winds screeched through the rigging while Pack ‘N’ Play rose up and down in a 16-foot swell.

But reaching the beach — then climbing the 800-step “ladder” hand-carved into rocks, so they could hike into town — was absolutely worth it.

Bode and Tessa on top of the Saba “ladder.” The LaClairs’ catamaran is moored in the distance.

Tessa and Bode’s independence has “blossomed” since Christmas, Mark says.

And they’ve taken over some responsibilities, like driving the dinghy, setting and hauling the anchor, and beginning to understand navigation.

“Hopefully, they’re getting an understanding of how a lot of people live and survive in different regions,” Mark adds.

In Martinique and Guadeloupe, the family stayed in fishing villages. They saw men running nets at first light 50 feet from the boat, fishing for their day’s pay; then pulling traps, prepping and selling their catch. Local fish, fruit and vegetable markets have helped the youngsters gain a feel for an island, and its residents.

It’s not a bit like Westport.

But Tessa and Bode will be back after February break. Their teachers better plan extra time for Show and Tell.

VanGo Paints A Pretty Transportation Picture

Once upon a time, parents (aka “mothers”) hauled their kids all across town, to all their different activities, all the time.

Then came Uber. It’s a great, easy-to-use driving service. The downside is: You’re never really sure who is driving your kids.

Enter VanGo.

The app is — well, an uber-Uber. Aimed specifically at the pre-teen and teenage market, it addresses the sketchy-driver question head-on.

Drivers are nannies, teachers, babysitters — and especially mothers. In fact, 85% of all drivers are moms.

Each is carefully vetted. They must have at least 3 years of childcare experience. They’re fingerprinted, and their driving records checked. They must supply references. Their vehicles are inspected too.

VanGo is the brainchild of Marta Jamrozik. (The app’s great name was her husband’s idea.)

Marta Jamrozik

Marta lives in Norwalk; her parents are Westporters. A former management consultant with a Fortune 500 company and a Forbes “30 Under 30” honoree, she’s intimately familiar with the pressures of suburban parenting — including how to get your kid from Point A to Points B, C, D, E and F, then home for dinner.

While dads do their share of driving, Marta knows the burden falls disproportionately on women. By easing it for them — and hiring so many women as drivers — she calls VanGo “a feminist company.”

Since the June launch, the app has been downloaded over 1,000 times. Many of those users are Westporters.

“There are so many working parents” here, Marta notes. They use VanGo not just to manage their schedules — to stay later at work, for example — but to manage their personal lives too. A parent who is not chauffeuring can squeeze in a yoga or fitness workout, she notes.

VanGo is not just an after school service, Marta says. Parents also use it during those stressful mornings, when driving a child to school may clash with an early train or meeting.

A VanGo screenshot.

More features: Parents can schedule “recurring rides” (say, ballet every Wednesday from 4 to 5 p.m.) with ease. They can book in advance. And they can track each ride from start to finish, via GPS.

Feedback has been strong. A single mother of a pre-teen son was frustrated with Uber. “They often get our address wrong, do not wait, and are really not geared toward younger riders,” she says.

VanGo’s drivers wait. Her son often has the same drivers. And when she speaks with them, “they’re parents themselves — so they get it.”

It is a little more expensive than Uber. But, this mother says, “the peace of mind is worth it to me.”

Slide over, Uber. There’s a new driver in town.

Special Resources, For Special Kids

For many Westport parents, kids’ activities — sports, arts, organizations, lessons, you name it — are easy to access. And there are gazillions of them.

For parents with special needs children, it’s not as easy. There are many excellent programs, but they can be hard to find.

And even though the PTAs’ SpED (Special Education) committee spreads the word through an info-filled weekly email — including options outside of school, and resources for parents too — plenty of Westporters don’t even know they can join that list.

Some of the programs — here and in nearby towns — are inclusive. Others are adapted, making them attainable to those who did not think they could participate.

So how can parents learn what’s out there?

Westporter Johanna Kiev has compiled a massive database of material. She’s shared it with “06880” — which is honored to offer it to our readers.

(Johanna has also developed a Facebook resource page — click here to see it).

Thanks, Johanna. And everyone: Feel free to forward this far and wide!

About the Westport SpED Committee

Westport SpED PTA committee representatives work closely with each school’s administration, and the district’s assistant superintendent of pupil services. They meet monthly. Co-chairs are Julie McMahon and Kate Grijns.

Members are parents of children who receive special education services. The committee hosts social events and shares information, such as:

  • Sip ’N Chat – informal parent coffees held monthly at Panera Bread
  • Community Fun Day each November
  • Teen Nights at the Westport Weston Family Y
  • Parent education seminars on topics like “Navigating Your IEP” and “Assistive Technology”
  • Weekly emails with information about local events and activities, plus summer opportunities and post-high school transition options

The committee also works with local agencies like the Parks & Recreation Department and Westport Library, for advocacy and programming.

To be added to the PTA SpED mailing list — or if you would like to add information about a program not listed below, or are a business that can help — email westportspedpta@gmail.com.

Programming Options for Children with Special Needs:

The Westport Weston Family Y sponsors:

Swim Team: The program includes participation in Connecticut Special Olympics summer games. Fee: $100 (September-June)

Basketball: Junior Team (8 -12 years): Saturdays 8:45 to 9:30 p.m.
Senior Team (13+ years): Saturdays 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.
This program includes participation in the CT Unified Sports tournament. Fee: $65 (September-February)

Track & Field: This program includes participation in the Connecticut Special Olympics summer games. Fee: $45 (March-June)

Floor Hockey: This began for the first time last month. Fee: $45 (December-March)

Smiles all around on the Y’s Special Olympics swim team.

Special Needs Swim Lessons: The Y offers private and semi-private swim lessons at a greatly reduced rate for children with special needs. Lessons can be booked at any time, but because the pool can get noisy and distracting, instructors are also available during quieter hours (evenings, Fridays, early Saturday and Sunday morning). Rates: Private 30-minute lesson, $25; 2-person 30-minute lesson, $15 each.

Long Distance Running: This program is for children who are interested in completing a 5k (combination of walking and running). Practice times: Tuesdays, 4-4:45 p.m.; Saturdays, 10:45 to 11:30 a.m.

SPED Teen Fun Nights: Offered on various dates.

For more information or to register for any Westport Weston YMCA special needs activity, click here or call 203-226-8981

Earthplace

Earthplace provides necessary resources to allow children to access and enjoy all programming. For more information or to register, click here or call 203-557-4400.

MusicWorks! Individual Music Therapy Sessions for Children with Special Needs

MusicWorks! (Westport School of Music, 18 Woods Grove Road) sessions employ structured and improvised musical activities including singing, instrument playing, rhythm and movement, songwriting, listening, imaging and relaxation to meet individual needs. Activities are specifically designed for cognitive, emotional, psychological, physical and social concerns. They are facilitated by board-certified music therapist Patricia Ashford, who encourages children and adults to express themselves without judgment and to grow in creativity and self-confidence.

For more information or to register, call director Sarah Miller: 203-227-4931.

Music Works! is specially designed for children with special needs.

“Break an Egg – The Social Kitchen”: 

Break an Egg – The Social Kitchen” builds the communication skills of people with special needs through the motivating element of food. Each participant in the cooking class prepares a new recipe each week. The fall/winter program includes pumpkin muffins, apple berry salsa with cinnamon chips, garlic and lemon butternut squash noodles, and apple stir fry with whipped cream. Dietary needs can be accommodated.

Classes are taught by licensed speech and language pathologist Shari Goldstein, and Penney Parkes, a food technologist and mom of a special needs young adult.

Classes are held in Fairfield on Tuesdays and Saturdays. They can be held at home kitchens if parents form a group of youngsters to cook together. There are classes for elementary, middle and high school students. A preschool class could be organized too.

For more information or to sign up, email Shari@breakaneggsocialkitchen.com or Penney@breakaneggsocialkitchen.com

The Drew Friedman Foundation: New Arts Program for Kids

The Foundation introduces a pilot youth arts program for children with special needs this month in Westport. The hands-on program, conducted by local artists, includes 10 to 15 children around ages 8 to 16 to work on a mosaic-type project.

For more information, email michellevitulich@gmail.com or call 203-349-0455.

Inclusive Ice Skating : Ages 5 – 13

Saturdays, 11am to 11:45am (through February 9) at the Westport PAL Rink at Longshore.

Individual and group instruction in basic skills is offered at the Westport PAL Rink at Longshore. Parents are encouraged to skate with their children. The program runs Saturdays through February 9 (11 to 11:45 a.m.). To register, click here.

Little League Baseball – Challenger Program

This program pairs young volunteers with children with special needs. Details on the spring season will be available soon; click here.

Hillary Lipper shares a laugh with Coach Scott, during the 2013 Challenger season.

Circle of Friends

Norwalk-based Circle of Friends includes many Westporters. The organization matches special needs children with teenage volunteers for play dates. The group also organizes monthly gatherings for youngsters with special needs. For more information, click here.

The Jewish Community Center of Stamford

The JCC  offers winter programs designed to improve children’s social skills and build positive peer interactions:

  • Music, Movement & Yoga – fun and interactive for all ability levels.
  • Music Mania – provides opportunities for children to explore their creativity, using music to improve skills.
  • Zumba Kids Jr – kid-friendly routines based on original Zumba choreography.
  • Ready, Set, Move – enables children to engage their muscles by moving through an obstacle course and yoga positions.

(Have we missed any programs? Click “Comments” below!)

Guerilla Marketing, Private School Style

There’s a law against posting advertising on school property.

But a recent sign planted on Bedford Middle School turf was not offering yard work, computer repairs or even a sports camp.

It was put there by a private school, apparently to poach kids from public school.

(Photo/Naree Viner)

Not cool. And just wrong — on so many levels.

New England Patriots Make Sara Deren A Winner

Whether you love the New England Patriots or loathe them, you gotta like this story.

Last Sunday, during halftime of the regular season finale versus the New York Jets, the team honored volunteers who make a difference in the world.

During every home game this year, they recognized a “Patriots Difference Maker of the Week.” On Sunday, each received a $5,000 grant to support the nonprofits for which they volunteer.

And guess who got a special $20,000 grant — sort of a Super Bowl championship for all Difference Makers?

Sara Deren of Westport.

Jon and Sara Deren, and their children, at the Gillette Stadium halftime ceremony last Sunday.

She and her husband Jon founded Experience Camps. Headquartered right here in town, the organization runs summer camps for children grieving the death of a parent or sibling.

In just 10 years Experience Camps has grown from one site and 27 youngsters, to a network of 5 camps nationwide. Last summer, 200 volunteers served 600 boys and girls ages 8 to 18.

Doing all the typical camp activities — and, guided by clinicians, remembering the loved one who died while developing the tools they need to work through grief — Experience Camp campers enjoy life-affirming, life-changing opportunities.

The New England Patriots Foundation receives hundreds of nominations for Difference Makers each year.

When the Foundation — along with Pats chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, and Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett — honored Sara on Sunday, it was a moment when, for once, Patriots and Jets fans could stand and cheer together.

Sara Deren is definitely a winner.

PS: So were the Patriots. They beat the Jets 38-3.

First Light Shines On Westport

Outside, it’s chilly and rainy.

But inside the Westport Historical Society and TD Bank, it’s warm and inviting.

The town’s first First Light — organized by the WHS, after First Night ended its 24-year run — drew many families with young kids.

First Light activities included face painting …

They enjoyed face and henna painting, Disney and Pixar movie shorts, popcorn  and more.

and coloring.

The rain did not stop the outdoor activities either: horse-drawn carriage rides, and a bonfire on Veterans Green.

A bonfire on Veterans Green illuminates both the Doughboy statue and the Town Hall Christmas tree.

First Light continues through 9 p.m.

It may be the start of a new tradition.

But it’s definitely the only time we’ll ever ring in 2019.

First Night Dims — But First Light Shines On New Year’s Eve

Last month, First Night organizers announced the cancellation of this year’s New Year’s Eve festivities. Economics, changing entertainment options and an aging board all contributed to the demise of the 20+-year tradition.

But not everyone got the word.

On Saturday, December 15, the  Westport Historical Society held its final “Holly Day” celebration. As kids lined up for horse-drawn carriage rides and Santa’s lap, parents asked if they could buy First Night buttons. For years, the WHS had sold them there.

Horse-drawn sleighs were a feature of First Night. They’ll be back at First Light.

Giving the news that First Night was over saddened WHS executive director Ramin Ganeshram and her staff. “It was a beloved event,” she says. “Organizers made sure there was something for everything.”

That night, she asked WHS employees whether the Avery Place institution should offer a New Year’s Eve celebration for the town.

“NO! ” replied the staff, exhausted after weeks of their own holiday events.

But on Monday morning, director of operations Alicia D’Anna told Ganeshram she had a change of heart. She and her husband had talked. They wanted the WHS to do something after all.

In a local version of a Christmas miracle, the Historical Society took just a few days to develop Westport’s newest tradition: First Light.

It includes many favorite First Night activities, including performances, horse-drawn carriage rides, face painting, a digital caricaturist, a henna artist, and food trucks.

Plus a big bonfire right next door to WHS, on Veterans Green.

The WHS crew worked like Santa’s elves to get everything in place. They had help from many folks at Town Hall. Ganeshram singled out First Selectman Jim Marpe, for going “above and beyond” to make things happen.

TD Bank stepped up big time too, offering a venue for events that don’t fit in the cute but cramped WHS Wheeler House headquarters.

So First Night is gone. But First Light — at first just a flicker — has now grown into a full New Year’s Eve flame.

(First Light is set for 4 to 9 p.m. on Monday, December 31. Buttons are $10 online, $15 at the door; children under 2 go free. Click here to purchase buttons, and for more information.)