Category Archives: Children

Roundup: Town Budget, Basketball Finals, Startup Westport …

Westport’s 2 budgets — $136,287,710 for the Board of Education (plus $7.7 million in debt service), and $81,932,340 for other town operations — were approved unanimously last night by the Board of Finance.

They now head to the Representative Town Meeting for final approval.

For a detailed look at the 2023-24 budget numbers approved by the Board of Finance on Thursday, click here and here.

Where our money goes …

… and the town operations (non-education) portion of it.


One team’s fans will drive 2 miles. The other will drive 80.

But Staples High School’s boys basketball supporters will be out in force Sunday, when the Wreckers take on St. Bernard’s-Uncasville at the Mohegan Sun arena, in the state Division II basketball championship game.

Tipoff is 6:15 p.m. (March 19). The game can be heard on WWPT-FM (90.3) and You can watch it on the proprietary Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) website, but must subscribe ($11.99 a month; cancel anytime) — click here for details.

Staples is going for their first Connecticut boys hoops crown since 1937. No wonder plenty of Westporters will make the trip to the casino/arena.

And … if you missed Wednesday night’s astonishing comeback — down by 18 points in the 4th quarter, they beat Fairfield Warde in overtime — no problem. Click below for the entire, did-they-just-do-that?! game.


Last night marked the official launch for Startup Westport.

Tech and other entrepreneurs gathered at the Westport Library, to discuss ways of making Westport a “special, suburban center of an ecosystem of tech people and investors.”

Click here for details of this public/private partnership.

Leading the way at last night’s Startup Westport kickoff (from left): Matt Gorin, Sam Hendel, Jay Norris, 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, Stefano Pacifico, Peter Propp.

Staples High School junior Tucker Peters (right) was at the Startup Westport event, to soak up ideas. He met Jay Norris, a co-founder and Westport Library trustee.


Also last night:

The actual porch at The Porch at Christie’s rocked, as owners Bill and Andrea Pecoriello hosted over 100 Club 203 members for a St. Patrick’s Day Eve bash.

The event included Irish dancing, bagpiping, green-themed food and desserts, a “lucky rock project” from MoCA Westport, and boundless energy from many volunteers.

Club 203 is the local organization for adults with disabilities. Click here for their website.

Club 203’s St. Patrick’s Day party, at The Porch. (Photo courtesy of Stacie Curran)


And one more from last night. Doris Ghitelman writes:

Yesterday around 6:18 p.m., a SpaceX Falcon 9 streaked across Westport. The mission was Stronger Together, for Capella Space. They sent 2 satellites into low earth orbit (Leo).

She sent this photo …

(Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

… and says: “The white streak is the contrail. If you expand the image you will actually see the black SpaceX rocket.”


The Westport Weston Family YMCA has long championed inclusivity for people with disabilities and other differences.

This spring, they’ll run 4 great programs: Adaptive Gymnastics, Adaptive Yoga, Soccer Shots Empower and Adaptive Swim.

The goal is for youth of all abilities to learn new skills, enjoy different experiences, make friends, and have fun in a safe, welcoming environment.

Click here for more information, or contact Kathy Giglio:; 203-571-6040.


Westport has seen several excellent restaurants open recently.

But occasionally restaurants close.

The latest: Parker Mansion.

It’s been shut for a week. A phone call last night was not answered.

Parker Mansion opened in 2016. It replaced Mansion Clam House, a mainstay on Riverside Avenue by the William F. Cribari Bridge for decades.

Parker Mansion (Photo and hat tip/JD Dworkow)


Did you miss Wednesday’s State Legislature hearing on HB 6890 — the “Live Work Ride: An Act Concerning Qualifying Transit-Oriented Communities” bill that proposes withholding, withdrawing, and possibly clawing back discretionary state infrastructure funding from communities that fail to adopt regulations permitting greater density, with limited parking and a prescribed affordability component, around transit?

No problem! Just click below.

Be sure to allow some time, though. The hearing was 6 hours long.


Kids love the Grinch, Horton, Cat-in-the-Hat. Dr. Seuss had it right: Let kids be kids.

Which is one reason Bedford Acting Group director Ryan Smith chose “Seussical Jr.” as this spring’s 6th grade production.

He’s created a safe, inclusive environment, helping young performers find  and nurture skills.

It’s a BMS community effort. Parents are designing fish, while each ensemble member crafts their own props, to suit their personality.

The set was designed by Joe DeTullio — who does that stuff professionally for “Saturday Night Live.”

“Seussical Jr.” will be performed March 24 (7 p.m.), March 25 (3 and 7 p.m.), and March 26 (3 p.m.).

Families with young kids can purchase an add-on ticket to enjoy a Saturday matinee pre-show soirée (March 25, 2 p.m.), with a character meet-and-greet, crafts, sweets and more.

For tickets and more information, click here.

The cast — and set — of “Seussical Jr.”


Yesterday was an important one for caregivers — and the kids they care for.

Cultural Care au pairs visited Westport Fire Department headquarters. The fire marshal’s office taught them how to keep their host children safe — and gave them fire safety takeaways, to bring home and share with their families.

Westport Fire Department officials, with au pairs and their children.


There’s nothing better for a sweet tooth than Rice Krispies treats.

Unless they’re topped with candy.

Westport moms Melissa Rutstein and Rachel Dymond combined their passions for food, entertainment and fun. The result is SugarKrisp: a “sushi-themed candy company.”

SugarKrisp treats

Both women moved to Westport in 2020. A mutual friend got them together. The rest is confectionary history.

SugarKrisp has quickly become a local favorite. They’ve also partnered with a number of non-profits and schools, offering auction items to raise money. Sweet! 

Follow them on Instagram @SugarKrispco.

SugarKrisp founders Melissa Rutstein and Rachel Dymond.


Weston EMS celebrates their 60th anniversary on March 25, at Rolling Hills Country Club. The event includes 2 auctions: silent and live.

And the silent auction is already, well, live.

There are items from Don Memo, Earth Animal, NEST, Gabriele’s Italian Steakhouse, Nômade, Bridgewater Chocolate, Bartlett Tree Experts and Karen Callan Jewelry, along with golf at top-ranked clubs and more.

Over 70 prizes Fairfield County artists, rounds of golf at top-ranked golf clubs, local Fairfield County retail favorites and many great lifestyle items.

Click here to bid on silent auction items (and buy raffle tickets). Both are open through March 25.

Click here for tickets to the gala. Questions? Email


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Westport Animal Control officer Peter Reid joined Westport Animal Control “guest” Parker in matching green plaid sweatshirts on a day when everyone – including canines– is Irish.

Parker is just one of several dogs available for adoption. Click here to learn more.


One more St. Paddy’s Day item:

It’s not a holiday unless Jolantha gets dressed up. Here’s Weston’s favorite pig, wearin’ the green:

(Photo/Hans Wilhelm)


Turning to another animal, today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature highlights this guy, on Rayfield Road:

(Photo/Jerry Kuyper)


And finally … Irish or not, let’s all St. Patrick’s Day, with this beautiful rendition of “my” song:

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Roundup: Daylight Saving Sleep Tips, Rach’s Hope, Jessica Gelman ….

Andrea Wilson is a certified pediatric sleep consultant — and a Westport mom of 2 daughters, 9 and 6. She just launched a new business: Sleep on Cue (@sleeponcue_consulting).

While she focuses mainly on babies and children under 5, she’s sent along tips for anyone struggling yesterday’s change to Daylight Saving Time. They apply to adults too!

“The main reason people find Daylight Saving a challenge is because it throws off the body’s circadian rhythms (the natural 24-hour fluctuations our bodies follow).

“Digestion, hormones, body temperature, mood, metabolic rate and sleep are all influenced by this internal clock, which runs just slightly over 24 hours. The sun, along with other cues such as meals, play time and temperature changes, help ‘reset’ them every day.

“What can you do to help get sleep back on track after DST?

Be consistent. This is my Number 1 sleep tip for everyone! Bedtime, wake up and naps (if relevant) should all happen every day at the same time. This helps regulate our body’s circadian rhythms. Babies and small children also benefit from a consistent bedtime, nap routine and sleep environment. A warm bath/shower, gentle massage, reading and meditation are all great to wind us down for bedtime.

Blackout shades. These are a must for children who go to bed before it gets dark outside when Daylight Saving Time begins. Darkness helps release the hormone melatonin, which helps us sleep. Start dimming the lights around dinnertime for kids. If a night light is needed, make sure it’s amber colored (not white). Adults should also be sleeping in a pitch black room.

Let the light in. Make sure to let the sunlight in when you wake up. Especially if you’re using blackout shades, open the blinds to help let in natural light.  Sunlight and darkness help reset our circadian rhythms, so it’s important for children to get outside and enjoy lots of sunlight during the day, especially in the morning. It’s great for adults too — but if not possible, try and work by a window where you can benefit from the natural light.

No screen time before bed. Screens should not be used for at least an hour before bedtime for children, and a half hour for adults. Put the phones away, ideally in another room. If you have a digital bedside clock, turn it away from your face.

White noise and keep cool. White noise helps block out other household sounds, and can mimic the sound of the womb for babies and children.Many adults can also benefit from white noise, especially if their partner snores. And keep the room cool at night. I recommend 68 degrees as the optimal temperature.

For more information, email

Andrea Wilson


Saturday night’s 4th annual Rach’s Hope PJ Gala at FTC was a spectacular success.

Hundreds of former classmates, family friends, and even a few who did not know her celebrated the life of Rachel Doran.

The Staples High School Class of 2015 graduate was a rising senior at Cornell University when she suffered a rare reaction to common medications.

The chain of unimaginable events leading to Rachel’s loss brought the Doran family’s friends together to support them when they needed it the most. That became the healing mission for Rach’s Hope: ensuring no family goes through the illness of a child alone.

Proceeds from the music/auction/fun event will benefit families navigating the critical illness of a child. Rach’s Hope provides nutritious food, lodging, transportation and encouragement, so family members can focus on being present for their children.

And there were proceeds a-plenty. An anonymous matching donor pledged $10,000, if that amount could be raised in 30 minutes. They did it in under 4.

The evening brought in more than $100,000. The number of lives that will be impacted in countless.

To learn more about Rach’s Hope, click here.

AMG catered Saturday’s Rach’s Hope gala — and, like many guests, wore pajama bottoms. They honored Rachel Doran, who created a pajama design business before her death in 2018. (Photo/Videler Photography)


Jessica Gelman was a Staples High School (Class of 1996), Harvard University and European professional basketball star. She’s in the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.

Now she’s a professional sports team owner.

In soccer.

Gelman is part of a 5-person group that bought the Utah Royals. They’ll return to the National Women’s Soccer League — the top rung in the US — next year.

Also in Gelman’s group: Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith.

The Royals played 3 seasons in the NWSL, ranking 2nd in attendance in 2018 and ’19. They folded after reports of ongoing racist behavior by the then-owner.

Investors include 42 Futbol Group, which consists of five business leaders, three of whom are women. They include Jessica Gelman, who will serve on the NWSL’s board of governors for the Royals. She is the CEO of the Kraft Analytics Group and co-founder of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

Gelman is CEO of the Kraft Analytics Group, and co-founder of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. In 2014, Sports Business Journal named her to their “Forty Under 40” team.

Jessica Gelman, at work. (Photo/Sports Business Journal)


Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows a Carolina wren, at the Long Lots Preserve by the Westport Community Gardens.

Gardens director Lou Weinberg says: “The Long Lots Preserve team is looking for donations of birdhouses, butterfly houses, mason bee houses and a bat house.

“If anyone has these lying around unused, we will take them. They will be strategically placed in the Long Lots Preserve. Email:

Carolina wren


And finally … today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo (above) reminds us of:

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Roundup: Class Of ’72, ABC Dream Event, Garden Club Poetry …

Fifty years after graduation, the Staples High School Class of 1972 has not forgotten their alma mater.

For last summer’s half-century (!) reunion, classmates contributed extra funds to help anyone who wanted to attend but could not afford the expense.

When money remained, reunion committee member Mike Elliot had an idea: purchase a Class of ’72 bench for the Staples courtyard. It could be placed it next to a sculpture of dancers by Steffi Freidman — mother of classmate Margie Friedman.

Mike elicited the help of several Staples grads, including ’72 alums Buck Iannacone and Jim Deegan, plus John Rizzi of Rizzi Design Studio (Class of ’74),

Westport Public Schools director of facilities Ted Hunyadi did a great job installing the finished product in the courtyard.

It’s there now, ready for use. And it bears a plaque: “Sit, relax and enjoy! A gift from the Staples Class of 1972.”

Enjoying the bench, clockwise from upper left: Mike Elliot, Joan Wright, Prill Plantinga Boyle and Ann Becker Moore. Missing: John Friedson,


Tickets are going fast for A Better Chance of Westport’s 20th anniversary Dream Event.

The April 1 gala — one of Westport’s best fundraisers of the year, for the program that offers a Staples education, housing and support to 8 boys from underserved communities — brings together current and alumni scholars.

In addition to strong, insightful speeches from the scholars, the evening includes  cocktails, dinner, entertainment, bowling — the event is at Pinstripes, in the SoNo Collection — and a silent auction.

Among the featured items: 2 nights at Gurney’s in Montauk; VIP tickets to a Yankees game; a Wakeman Town Farm dinner for 2, and a “Broadway your way” experience (with transportation, dinner for 2 and a New York hotel stay).

Tickets are available for cocktail/dinner only, or cocktails/dinner and bowling. Click here to purchase.


Three young poets have won the Westport Garden Club’s youth contest — and placed first in their grade at the state level. They move on to the New England competition.

Congratulations to Owen Cloherty (1st grade), Maya Cloherty (4th grade) and Kassia Stedman (5th grade).

This year’s theme — “Seeds, Trees, and Bees…Oh My – Celebrating the Diversity of Nature” — drew entries from every grade level, kindergarten through 9th.

The winners will receive their awards — and read from their works — at the Westport Library on April 2 (2 p.m).

It’s part of National Poetry Month. The event also includes a poetry workshop with town poet laureate Jessica Noyes McEntee. Attendees can write their own poems, inspired by natural materials provided by the Westport Garden Club.  For more information, click here.


Westporter John Richers put the pandemic to good use: He learned 80 acoustic rock songs on his guitar.

On Friday night, he played at Fairfield’ Social, the Post Road bar. He had plenty of support from Westport friends.

John was invited back for a May gig.

After cutting his teeth there, and in Black Rock and Bethel, he hopes to find a Westport venue soon.

John Richers (Photo/Valerie Ann Leff)


Staples High School celebrated Civic Learning Week with 3 events, featuring local government leaders in celebration of Civics Learning Week.  these events provided opportunities for students to meet and learn from local officials.

Last Monday, selectwomen Jen TookerAndrea Moore and Candice Savin  answered questions about the budget, affordable housing, environmental sustainability and more.

On Thursday, Board of Education chair Lee Goldstein and vice chair Liz Heyer discussed education policy, and the BOE’s role in the community. Students asked questions about curriculum, funding, testing and school schedules.

The final event on Friday featured registrars of voters Deborah Greenberg and Maria Signore. They answered questions about election integrity and access, the voter registration process, and the new early voting proposals.

The 3 sessions were organized by Spencer Yim, a member of Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society and leader of Your Vote Matters, a civic engagement club at Staples,

This week: a “town hall” with Congressman Jim Himes for next week

Civic Learning Week organizer Spencer Yim (center) with (from left) registrars of voters Deborah Greenberg and Maria Signore.


Eileen Diana Blau died Thursday in her longtime Westport home. She was 92.

She was born Eileen Lefkowitz in Brooklyn, to Ukrainian parents who had immigrated less than a decade earlier.

Eileen graduated from Brooklyn College with a BS in mathematics. She met fellow student Barry Blau at a Socialist Youth League gathering. They married in 1948, and enjoyed 69 years together until Barry’s death in 2017.

A passionate reader, artist and collector, Eileen filled her mid-century modern home with thousands of books and an eclectic art collection ranging from Flemish tapestries to Indonesian Buddhas, ancient Chinese mirrors and sculptures of her own creation.

In the basement she helped her husband launch his business, Barry Blau & Partners. It grew over 20 years into a global advertising agency.

Once her children were grown, Eileen pursued a life of many interests. She was an avid golfer and tennis player at Birchwood Country Club. Her Manhattan apartment, also art-filled, was a launching pad for attending classes at the China Institute and Asia Society, and frequent visits to museums, galleries and auction houses.

For many years Eileen and Barry also maintained a vacation home on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was a winter gathering spot for their extended family.

In addition to her husband, Eileen was predeceased by her elder sister Rita Kannel. She is survived by her younger sister, Anita Metz; her children Shawn Blau and Emily Blau (Robert Cohen) both of Westport, Peter Blau (Barbara) of Belmont, North Carolina and Juliet Jenkins (Bruce) of Belmont, Massachusetts; grandchildren Lucy Thomas (Kyle), James Blau, Michael Blau (Julie), Lucas Jenkins, Maddie Jenkins, Tess Jenkins, Benjamin Cohen and Veronica Blau, and great-grandchildren Claire and Charles Thomas.

Funeral services will be held tomorrow (Monday March 13, 11 a.m., Abraham L. Green & Son Funeral Home, Fairfield). Shiva will be observed at the Blau home in Westport the same day from 1 to 6 p.m. For more information and to share a condolence message, click here.

Eileen Blau


They haven’t all come up yet, and they’re not in full bloom.

But trust us on today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo: These crocuses, planted by Janet Wolgast in front of her Sturges Commons home, spell “JOY.”

(Photo/Molly Alger)


And finally … speaking of joy:

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Roundup: Patriot Front, Church Lane, Kids’ Tutors …

“Patriot Front” stickers — advertising what the ADL calls “a white supremacist group whose members maintain that their ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it to them, and no one else” — were found on signs in Saugatuck Wednesday.

They were small, and in some cases old and tattered. The Westport Police Department contacted the Connecticut State Police Hate Crimes Unit.

According to the ADL, Patriot Front “justifies its ideology of hate and intolerance under the guise of preserving the ethnic and cultural origins of its members’ European ancestors.”

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker said, “I am grateful to the police for managing the issue with expediency and professionalism. This does not represent Westport and is unacceptable. Nor does it diminish the qualities of our community that focus on volunteerism, neighborly engagement, and civil discourse. We are proud of our residents and business and civic leaders who work tirelessly to make Westport a better place.”

Tooker asked community members to report any suspicious activity to Westport Police. Anyone with information or evidence of those responsible for placing the stickers in Saugatuck should call the Detective Bureau: 203-341-6080.

Patriot Front stickers.


The closure of Church Lane — begun during COVID, and continued in following years thanks to the popularity of outdoor dining and leisurely strolling — has been approved for 2023.

The Board of Selectwomen gave their consent this week. The short stretch of road between Elm Street and Post Road East will be closed to traffic beginning April 1, through November 6.

Evening on Church Lane (Photo/Ed Simek)


Kids helping kids:

Staples High School students are on hand at the Westport Library now through April 27 for drop-in tutoring in a range of subjects, for children in grades 2-8.

Sessions take place in the Children’s Library. The schedule:

  • Mondays: History and math (4- to 6 p.m.); Language arts (6 to 8 p.m., beginning March 20)
  • Tuesdays: Language arts (4 to 5 p.m.,), math (5 to 6 p.m.)
  • Thursdays: Language arts and math (4 to 6 p.m.).

The tutors are all Library volunteers, looking for more ways to give back.

Youngsters should bring homework and workbooks for which they need help. Adults with students under age 12 must stay in the Children’s Library while their children are being tutored.

Westport Library children’s section. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)


Tickets went on sale today for CLASP Homes’ 17th annual Taste of Westport benefit.

This year’s event (May 10, 6 p.m., the Inn at Longshore) features over 2 dozen restaurants and beverage suppliers, live music by the Bar Car Band, and a very cool silent auction.

Food and drink — as much as you want! — comes from:

  • Artisan
  • Bridgewater Chocolate
  • Fifth State Distillery
  • Grumpy Dumpling
  • Little Pub
  • Mrs. London’s Bakery
  • Nordic Fish
  • Rizzuto’s
  • Tablao
  • Black Bear Wine & Spirits
  • Cold Fusion Gelato
  • Gabriele’s of Westport
  • Isla & Co.
  • Mionetto
  • NewSylum Brewing
  • Post Oak Barbecue
  • Romanacci
  • Tarantino
  • Boathouse at Saugatuck
  • Gruel Britannia
  • La Plage
  • Magic 5 Pie Co.
  • Nômade
  • Rive Bistro
  • SoNo 1420
  • Walrus Alley.

Click here for tickets, and more information.


Speaking of food (and Taste of Westport’s Walrus Alley):

The downtown Southern-inspired restaurant is now open for lunch on Fridays.

On the menu, in addition to their fried chicken sandwich: lighter options like salads, vegetarian jackfruit tacos, tofu stir-fry, and an Impossible McWalrus Burger.

Walrus Alley serves Friday lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Happy Hour is available Wednesday through Friday (3 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Dinner starts at 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, while brunch is available Saturday and Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Marinated beet salad, at Walrus Alley.


Still speaking of food:

In January, Spiga — a popular New Canaan Italian restaurant — announced they’d add a second location. They would replace Tarry Lodge on Charles Street. The target for opening was late March.

Not so fast.

A sign in Mario Batali’s former restaurant identifies the new place as Zucca Gastrobar, opening in April.

(Photo/Dinkin Fotografix)

The website says that it is currently hiring, for front and back of the house. (Hat tip: Les Dinkin)


Middle school students identify with Percy Jackson. That makes “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” a great choice for Coleytown Middle School’s next musical.

The curtain rises March 31 (7 p.m.), April 1 (1 and 7 p.m.), and April 2 (1 p.m.).

Based on a best-selling book series by Rick Riordan, “Percy Jackson” explores themes of friendship, betrayal, self-discovery and parent-child relationships (complicated by parents who are immortal and have superpowers).

Coleytown Company vocal director Clay Zambo calls the show “a great choice for middle school students, because it’s about the issues kids this age are facing. The ‘magical powers’ and family issues are a metaphor for what they may be discovering in their own lives.”

Click here for tickets, and more information.


In a town filled with volunteer opportunities, myTeamTriumph stands out.

The program pairs children, teens and adults with disabilities (“captains”) with volunteers (“angels”) who help them participate in triathlons and road races. In those events, everyone truly is a winner.

The next big event is the Westport Young Woman’s League’s Minute Man 10K and 5K Runs, and 5K Walk, on April 23.

MyTeamTriumph always looks for more captains (special needs athletes). They’re also short of angels (volunteer runners). This is their first time participating in the Minute Man.

They’re excited to provide an opportunity for people with special needs (and their families) to have increased visibility, and be involved in a great community event.

There is no cost. Angels can be any ability of runner or jogger.

Captains and angels can click here to sign up. MyTeamTriumph will take care of race registration.

Questions? Email For more information on myTeamTriumph, click here.

Sami Leskin, racing with myTeamTriumph in the 2018 Westport Triathlon.


Longtime friends and Staples High School classmates Mark Mollica, Dan Asher and Joe Izzo join Mark’s college roommate Dylan Connor — the headliner — tomorrow (Saturday, March 11) at Fairfield Theatre Company.

Doors open at 7 p.m.; the show begins at 7:45. Click here for tickets, and more information.


William (Bill) Barron — a Weston resident since 1954 — died last week.  He was 77.

The Detroit native earned a BA degree from Yale University in 1967, and a JD from Cornell University Law School in 1970.

Barron worked with several law firms before joining Alston and Bird in 1977 as a partner. He later became a partner at Franzino and Schur.

He was a member of the Art Law Committee of the International Bar Association, the Yale Russian Chorus Alumni, Kiwanis International, and a longtime member of Norfield Church in Weston.

Barron joined the Y’s Men of Westport/Weston in 2017. He participated in the Book Club, bridge, the Classical Music Society and the Global Issues discussion group.

He is survived by his wife Jennifer, sons David and Will, 6 grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, March 18, 11 a.m. at Norfield Congregational Church in Weston.

Bill Barron


Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows what Molly Alger calls “1/3 of the Whitney Street” deer herd.

They blend in well with their surroundings.

(Photo/Molly Alger)


And finally … Topol, the Israeli actor who took played Tevye on stage and screen all over the world for decades, died yesterday at his home in Tel Aviv. He was 87, and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Click here for a full obituary.

(From local politics to restaurant and arts news to obituaries, “06880” is your source for whatever is happening in Westport [and Weston]. Please click here to support this hyper-local blog. Thank you!)

Edward T. Bedford’s Legacy: Westport Y Turns 100

In 1864, Edward T. Bedford was 15 years old. He stood outside the Westport Hotel — a wooden building on the corner of State Street (the Post Road) and Main Street — watching men play pool. He could not go inside, “on account of the saloon.”

Edward T. Bedford.

Decades later, Bedford was a wealthy man. He had become a broker of lubricating oils for railroads, and helped chemist Robert Chesebrough sell his new product, Vaseline. He was a director of Standard Oil, and associated with many other very successful companies.

He still lived in Greens Farms, where he was born. Recalling his years outside the Westport Hotel — and knowing the town needed “some place for boys and young men to congregate” — he announced in 1919 plans for a Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).

He had a perfect place, too: The Westport Hotel. It was the same spot, in the heart of town, where half a century earlier he’d been denied entrance.

Bedford spent $150,000 on the Tudor-style building. It would be a place to exercise one’s body, and mind. It included reading and writing rooms, bowling alleys, a gymnasium — and of course, pool tables. (Bedford also financed a new firehouse next door on Church Lane, designed in the same Tudor style.)

The Westport YMCA.

The Westporter-Herald called the YMCA dedication on September 5, 1923 “second to none in the history of the town. Not since the day of the official opening of Westport’s new bridge over the Saugatuck River has there been anywhere near as great a gathering as notables, both local and out of town.”

The Bedford building lobby.

Connecticut Governor Charles E. Templeton was there. He pointed to Bedford, noting that while he did not have “the opportunities the young men of today … he didn’t smoke or wile his hours away; he didn’t stay up until midnight, not at all, but instead went to bed early and then was fresh for the tasks of the day to follow.”

Much has happened in the 100 years since. Several years after it opened, Bedford donated a pool. During World War II, boys walked the short distance from Staples High School on Riverside Avenue (now Saugatuck Elementary School) to learn how to jump off flaming ships into the sea.

An early YMCA youth basketball team.

In 1944, Y leaders searching for space for a day camp for boys found 30 acres of woods and fields along the Saugatuck River, near the new Merritt Parkway’s Exit 41.

Frederick T. Bedford — Edward’s son — said that his Bedford Fund would pay half the purchase price, if the town raised the other half. Within a few weeks Y leaders had collected $10,000. The Bedford Fund matched it.

Camp Bedford opened. At Frederick Bedford’s request in 1946, the name was changed to Mahackeno.

In 1953, Westport artist Stevan Dohanos used Camp Mahackeno for this Saturday Evening Post cover.

As Westport grew in the post-war years, so did the YMCA. The downtown building became an unofficial teen center, hosting everything from the Downshifters hot rod club to Mrs. Comer’s ballroom dance classes. (Y membership was eventually open to girls, too — as well as families, and senior citizens.)

In the 1970s and ’80s the Y added a new pool. Lucie Bedford Cunningham Warren and Ruth Bedford — granddaughters of the founder — provided $200,000 through the Bedford Fund to acquire the fire station, and convert it into a 2-story fitness center. (The brass pole stayed.)

There were squash courts, and other games upstairs. (Paul Newman was an avid badminton player.)

But the downtown quarters grew cramped. Y directors looked for new space, in places like the Baron’s South property. A protracted battle — legal, political, even involving the character of downtown and the Y’s responsibility to it — eventually ended.

The YMCA built a 54,000-square foot full-service facility — “The Bedford Family Center” — on a portion of its Mahackeno property. It opened in 2014, thanks in part to financial support from Lucie McKinney and Briggs Cunningham III — Edward T. Bedford’s great-grandchildren.

The Bedford Family Center, 2014.

Helping guide the construction process as members of the Y’s governing boards were 2 of Lucie’s children, John McKinney and Libby McKinney Tritschler. They’re the 5th generation Bedford’s involved with the organization.

Since then, the Y has added a gymnastics center, and more fitness rooms. They’ve upgraded nearby Camp Mahackeno. And they were stunned to receive a $40 million endowment from the estate of Ruth Bedford.

The Westport Weston Family YMCA — today’s official name — used a portion of the bequest to establish the Bedford Family Social Responsibility Fund, to continue developing youth, promoting healthy living and fostering social responsibility.

All of which is a long way of saying: Happy 100th anniversary, Westport Y!

Officials have planned a year of celebrations. Highlights include:

Share Your Stories: Members and the community are invited to share Y stories, memories and photos. They’ll be featured on the anniversary web page.

100 Faces of My Y”: a project for youth to create self-portraits in the medium of their choice, for display in and around the facilities.

Healthy Kids Day (April 29): a free initiative celebrated at Ys across the country. with fun activities, healthy snack demos, food trucks, sports lessons, games, art, and free t-shirts for the first 200 children.

The 7th Annual Golf Tournament (May 22, Aspetuck Valley Country Club, Weston): A fundraiser for the Y’s financial assistance program.

100-Year Anniversary Gala (“Sneaker Ball,” October 6, Mahackeno Outdoor Center): Donations and sponsors will fund financial assistance to under-resourced families and those in need. In 2022, $746,000 was awarded to over 400 families.

The Westport Weston Family YMCA is no longer limited to young Christian men.

The world has changed since Edward T. Bedford stood outside a hotel — and then bought it, to build both a building and a legacy.

If the next 100 years are anything like the last, our Y will continue to grow, evolve — and impact countless lives.

A relic from the Y’s downtown days. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Roundup: Driscolls, Beach Fees, Wildlife …

Chuck Haberstroh writes:

“If you lived in Westport between 1990 and 2010 and had kids, you knew the Driscolls.

“Frank coached football at the youth and high school levels. Pam raised their 3 kids: Tara (Staples High School Class of 1998), Brienne (SHS ’00) and Frisk (’05).

“Pam’s house was open not just to her kids’ close friends, but the entire community. She always treated each guest like they were family.

“Tara, Brienne and Frisk were all stellar athletes. They also volunteered their time coaching and working in the community.

“Tara worked at Staples High School as a teacher (she is now at Stamford High School). Brie mentored dozens of young men and women through some of their toughest times. Frisk coached the Staples swim team to some of their most successful season.

“They’ve given so much to our community. They were, are, and always will be what makes Westport, Westport.

“Like so many others, I would not be who I am without the care and guidance of the entire Driscoll family.

“Now it’s our turn to support them.

“Tara (last name now Karlson) lives in Redding with her husband Scott and children, Brien (11) and Kelly (9).

“In the middle of the night on Valentine’s Day, a fire ripped through their home as they slept. All 4 were hospitalized.

“Brien — the strong-willed fighter of the family, a lover of people and animals — suffered life-threatening injuries. After giving all he had, he died February 15.

“Tara and Scott are now experiencing every parent’s worst nightmare. Kelly lost a best friend and only sibling.

“While they work to recover from this unimaginable tragedy, they will need our help.

“We ask everyone to lift them in thoughts and prayers. We also hope people consider donating to the family’s recovery fund. Please click here for the GoFundMe link.

“For questions, or donations of larger physical items, email”

Brien Karlson


Westporters and Westonites will pay slightly more for summer-long access to Westport beaches — and residents outside of those towns substantially less — if a decision by the Parks & Recreation Commission is approved by the Board of Selectwomen.

On Wednesday night, the board voted 4-0 to:

  • Raise the fee for an annual beach sticker for Westport residents from $50 to $60 ($30 for seniors and disabled residents, up from $25).
  • Raise the fee for Weston residents to $415 from $375 ($220 for Weston seniors, up from $200).
  • Lower the fee for “non-residents” to $545, from $775. The number of those stickers sold will rise to 450, from the current limit of 350.

Debate over the new fee structure did not include any references to a proposal in the Connecticut General Assembly to limit the fees any municipality can charge for town-owned beach parking to not more than twice the fees charged to residents.

Parks & Rec director Jennifer Fava said this would be the first change to the fee structure in 6 years.

Beach stickers are cheaper for Westporters than non-residents. (Photo/Mark Marcus)


Peter Reid plays 2 important roles: Westport animal control officer, and intake director for Weston’s Wildlife in Crisis.

On Monday — in his WIC role — he freed a buck from climbing netting draped between trees in a Weston back yard.

On Wednesday, wearing his Westport animal control cap, he was called by a Long Lots area resident about a vulture ensnared in soccer netting.

With a vulture clan circled overhead, Reid cut him free and brought him to Wildlife in Crisis. The raptor suffered severe talon abrasions, but will be okay.   He is resting with skilled caretakers, and will be released when fully recovered.

These are the most recent incidents demonstrating the hazards that netting-type structures in yards and around town present to wildlife.

Julie Loparo — president of Westport Animal Shelter Advocates, who passed along these stories — says, “residents should be aware of such hazards and, whenever possible, remove them or flatten them when not in use.”

Vulture trapped in soccer netting.


School buses — and drivers attempting to pass them — are a long-running Westport issue. “06880” posts frequent items about it.

On Wednesday, Bob Weingarten was driving in the Old Hill neighborhood. He saw one bus driver’s creative solution.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

It was not a mistake. The driver made the same maneuver later.

A smart safety move? Or a bit too smart-ass? Click “Comments” below.


February 23 is Fairfield County Giving Day.

Friends of Sherwood Island State Park seek donations to buy beach grass, native plants and trees. They will:

  • Build and stabilize dunes by trapping wind-blown sand
  • Help the beach resist erosion during coastal storms and full moon high tides
  • Provide habitat for migrating birds, butterflies and dragonflies
  • Offer meeting places to resident birds like killdeer and mockingbirds
  • Provide visitors with shaded picnic areas along the beach,

Click here for the link for Giving Day on February 23.

Sherwood Island State Park dune. (Photo/Neal Radding)


Presented without any commentary, political or otherwise: a photo of a balloon, floating yesterday in Long Island Sound off Compo Beach.

(Photo/Sunil Hirani)


Bruce Salvo died last fall. But there was no obituary for the longtime Westport resident, noted architect and avid Westport Weston Family YMCA member.

Vanessa Costanzo offers this remembrance:

Bruce Salvo was a longtime family friend.

He was so kind to my kids and animals. Bruce often dog sat or cat sat for me. and for friends as well. He always sent pictures to us to let us know how they were.

Bruce spent several holidays with our family. He was always gracious and kind. He valued those close friendships, and went out of his way to help in any way.

A few times a year, Bruce dropped off flowers from his beautiful garden in a bud vase. He was an incredible gardener, and took great pride in his garden (which was absolute perfection).

As an architect, Bruce helped us with work we were doing on our house any time we asked. He would come by, and we would talk at length about the highs and lows of life.

The last time I saw him he was struggling with illness, but he always inspired me by his strength, sensitivity and value of life. I am a better person, and my family and friends are better people for having him in our lives.

Bruce and his life here should be honored now and forever.

Bruce Salvo


Every day, we’re seeing fresh signs of a “Westport … Naturally” spring.

Johanna Keyser Rossi spotted these flowers along the Library Riverwalk yesterday morning. She didn’t see any others — but we all will, soon.

(Photo/Johanna Keyser Rossi)


And finally … speaking of that balloon in Long Island Sound (and others around North America):


(From the woods to the beaches, “06880” covers the entire Zip Code. Please click here to support your hyper-local blog. Thank you!)

Roundup: Dream Event, Women’s History, Fashionably Westport …

Westporters have plenty of fundraising galas to choose from.

All are worthy. Nearly all are well-organized, and fun.

But for inspiration and impact, few compare with A Better Chance of Westport’s Dream Event.

ABC — the program that provides both a home and an educational opportunity for up to 8 outstanding and academically-gifted young men of color each year — celebrates its 20th year on April 1 (7 p.m., Pinstripes at the SoNo Collection, Norwalk).

There are cocktails, dinner, entertainment, a silent auction — all important elements at many fundraisers — plus bowling at Pinstripes’ 12 lanes.

But what sets the Dream Event apart from many other galas are the speeches. Hearing about A Better Chance’s life-changing power — directly from those involved — is well worth the ticket price.

Funds are used for housing, tutoring, transportation and other expenses that getting the ABC scholars through Staples High School, and on to college.

Tickets available for cocktail/dinner only or cocktails/dinner and bowling. Click here for details.



The Westport Police Department made 2 custodial arrests between February 9 and 15.

One — for 3rd-degree larceny — stemmed from the theft of tools from a van.

The other was for 2nd-degree larceny threatening. It was related to text messages in a long-standing feud between 2 families.

The WPD’s new reporting system does not yet allow for reporting citation arrests.

Unwanted text messages resulted in an arrest.


Are you ready for Women’s History Month?

The Weston History & Culture Center (aka Weston Historical Society) celebrates by co-hosting a lecture. “Powerful Voices: Connecticut Women Changing Democracy,” with Sarah Lubarsky, director of the Connecticut Women’s Hall of  Fame.

The free event is is set for March 15 (7 p.m., Weston Public Library).

Among Connecticut’s most powerful women: suffrage advocates Alice Paul and Isabella Beecher Hooker, prominent firsts like Ella Grasso and Denise Nappier, and social activists like Helen Keller, Anne Stanback and Estelle Griswold.

Helen Keller lived for many years on the Westport/Easton border.


A celebration of life service honoring Peter Nathan is set for March 12 (11 a.m., Fairfield County Hunt Club). The former Representative Town Meeting member and longtime civic volunteer died last month.

Peter’s friends and family will share memories, and celebrate his impact on everyone he met. Attendees should wear bright colors, to contribute to the spirit.

Contributions in Peter’s honor can be made to the Westport LibrarySenior Center or Westport Country Playhouse.

Peter Nathan


Fashionably Westport is nearly sold out.

The raised runway event — held in the Westport Library’s Trefz Forum on March 4 (7 p.m.) —  showcases the town’s fashion and beauty merchants. The Westport Downtown Association-sponsored event also raises important funds for Homes with Hope.

Click here for more information. VIP tickets include light bites, DJ and gifts.


Carl Addison Swanson reports that the electronic speed limit sign on North Avenue opposite Bedford Middle School is once again operational.

He also notes that at least one speeding driver was pulled over.

Solar-powered speed monitor on North Avenue. (Photo/Carl Addison Swanson)


Westport Country Playhouse’s Family Festivities continue Sunday, February 26 (1 and 4 p.m.) with “Pete’s Big Hollywood Adventure.”

The hour-long show is appropriate for grades pre-K through 3. For tickets and more information, click here.

Gabbie Pisapia and Dan Zimberg in “Pete’s Big Hollywood Adventure.” (Photo/Jeremy Daniel)


Though smack in the middle of our town beaches, Sherwood Island State Park is quite different.

Today’s “Westport … Naturally” image shows a scene you won’t find at Compo, Old Mill or Burying Hill.

(Photo/Susan Leone)


And finally … in honor of the A Better Chance (ABC) Dream Event coming soon (story above):

(Supporting “06880” is as easy as 1-2-3. Just click here — and thank you!)

Evan Stein’s Autism Plea

Evan Stein has read, commented on and contributed stories to “06880” since our founding in 2009.

Today, he shares a family story. It’s deeply personal and truly compelling. Evan writes:

2023 is the 50th anniversary of my parents’ move from the Bronx to Westport with 3 kids. My sister and I were born after the move.

In 1992 I graduated from Staples High School as a captain of both the wrestling and math teams, president of the UN Club and a student manager of the Staples TV Studio.

Now I’m a doctor living in Manhattan with my wonderful wife Jen and 2 boys. But I come back to visit regularly. Just a couple years ago, Dan told my story of accidentally stealing a car at Compo Beach. Best PSA ever!

After losing my first son, Daniel, to complications of premature birth, Jen and I were blessed with 2 more sons: Josh and Sam.

At 2 1/2 years old, Josh seemed to be a bright boy who knew the English and Hebrew alphabets, and loved singing songs and reciting “Sesame Street” episodes.

But after just 2 weeks in pre-school, we were told he needed to be tested. He wasn’t acting like the other kids.

In December 2010 Josh was diagnosed with autism. He started private therapy, and we sent him to a school for children with special needs. At 4 we were lucky to find a school in Queens. The New York Child Learning Institute, for children with autism, is publicly funded. It specializes in cutting-edge applied behavioral analysis therapy.

But while director Susan Vener and her staff are out of this world, incorporate parent training into the curriculum, and make amazing strides with personalized curricula for every child, public funding is just another word for “underfunded.”

I organized fundraisers every year to supplement the needs of the school. I looked for grants, met with philanthropists, and gave whatever I could.

The pandemic made funding needs even more pronounced.

Regardless, over the years Josh and his peers made incredible progress. But even so, Josh had issues. One cold winter night 4 years ago, he kicked out a giant plate glass bedroom window in frustration.

The school was aware of his growing issues. They adjusted his therapy to help him find new ways of coping with difficult situations.

In the last few years, despite the challenges of the pandemic, Josh has made enormous progress. This was important, because he wasn’t just a cute little boy anymore. He has grown into a 14-year-old young man. He’s over 6 feet tall, and can be an imposing presence even when he’s joyful.

Evan, Sam, Jen and Josh Stein.

This year, for the annual fundraiser, Dr. Vener asked Josh to make a speech about his experience over the last 10 years.

He sat down 2 weeks ago with his teachers to brainstorm ideas. He found a theme he wanted to explore. Together, they created a 5-minute speech.

Only his teacher knew what was coming. No one could be sure what the delivery would be like.

But last Thursday night, 200 people listened attentively. They laughed, they cried, and I think they were inspired.

I hope you are inspired too.

Today it is my goal to help NYCLI find an angel philanthropist who can help it survive and thrive beyond the graduation of any one or two students with parents who can help supplement its funding. I’m looking for a philanthropist who can see the value of NYCLI, and wants to help it for reasons beyond those of the personal gains of their own child.

I know Westport has those kinds of angels — people, companies and foundations. I would love to show them the school, and introduce them to the leaders who make incredible progress in children with autism year after year.

Click here for more information on the New York Child Learning Institute. Click below for a video from last year’s Winter Spectacular. To contact Evan Stein directly, email

Josh Stein with his Westport grandparents, Linda and Steve Stein.


Roundup: Oka Mural, Ukraine Coats, Joggers Club Jr.,

The other day, alert reader Peter Gold noticed that the mural of long-ago Westporters that once hung behind the Banana Republic register — and before that, Klein’s Department store and, way earlier, the Townly restaurant — is gone.

I guessed that Oka — the British furniture and home accessories retailer that moved in right before Christmas — had no idea of its provenance. I also guessed that an email to their headquarters would yield no response.

Surprise! I got this quick reply:

Thanks for reaching out! The beautiful, historic mural has been well-preserved behind a purposely constructed wall that is papered in grasscloth. If you ever stop by the showroom, the manager, Susan Benedetti, would be happy to show you where it is. Hope this helps!

I emailed back, wondering why it no longer hangs where the public can see it.

So far: crickets.

Judging from the video below, there’s no room amid the “timeless” décor for this perhaps time-worn artifact of history.


For the past 2 week, the Westport Winter Farmers’ Market has collected coats, mittens and more for Ukrainian relief.

Shoppers donated generously. In fact, co-organizer Mark Yurkiw says, “Thanks to everyone, we need a bigger truck!”

With donations at the Westport Farmers’ Market, at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center (from left): Farmers’ Market director Lori Cochran-Dougall, organizer Mark Yurkiw, 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Wynne Vaast, who brought many bags from L.L. Bean and his employer, Ring’s End.


Sure, it was chilly at Compo Beach yesterday.

But more than 160 employees of Synchrony, the Stamford financial services company — including CEO Brian Doubles — plunged into the 39-degree water.

It was a charity event, for the benefit of Westport-based global community of 30 camps and programs for children living with serious illnesses, and their families. Synchrony employees raised and matched more than $180,000 to the non-profit.

Synchrony says: Everyone into (and out of) the water!


The Joggers Club Jr. returns this spring.

Once again, kindergarteners through 8th graders will learn the basics of running from experts — and have fun, with friends.

Instructors include Coach Alex, who just ran his personal record marathon (2:55). He’s a founding coach at Central Park Running Club, the fastest-growing run club in New York.

Coach Brenn is a collegiate cross country and track athlete.  His post-college PRs include a 4:49 mile, 1:22 half marathon and 3:08 marathon.  He previously trained with the elite Central Park Track Club.

Coach Dave has competed in 13 Half Ironmans,12 Olympic triathlons, 4 marathons and 1 Ironman. He is a cycle instructor at Equinox Fitness in New York, and runs competitively for Central Park Running Club.

Coach Skye is a graduate of The Joggers Club Jr. She placed second in her age group in the 2022 Minute Man 10k, and has competed in every Turkey Trot since she was 9.

The camp takes places Sundays from 2 to 3:15 p.m., from April 23 to June 11 at the Staples High School track. It is limited to 40 runners.

Before March 1, the fee is $49 for Joggers Club members, $99 for non-members. Venmo @CPRCandTJC (include name, age and shirt size of participant). Then go to, and complete the waiver under the “Members” tab.


Laurie Sorensen got her ducks in a row recently at Compo Beach’s South Beach, for today’s “Westport … Naturally” image.

(Photo/Laurie Sorensen)


And finally … the legendary Burt Bacharach died Wednesday, in Los Angeles. He was 94.

The New York Times calls him “the debonair pop composer, arranger, conductor, record producer and occasional singer whose hit songs in the 1960s distilled that decade’s mood of romantic optimism….

“A die-hard romantic whose mature style might be described as Wagnerian lounge music, Mr. Bacharach fused the chromatic harmonies and long, angular melodies of late-19th-century symphonic music with modern, bubbly pop orchestration, and embellished the resulting mixture with a staccato rhythmic drive. His effervescent compositions epitomized sophisticated hedonism to a generation of young adults only a few years older than the Beatles.

“Because of the high gloss and apolitical stance of the songs Mr. Bacharach wrote with his most frequent collaborator, the lyricist Hal David, during an era of confrontation and social upheaval, they were often dismissed as little more than background music by listeners who preferred the hard edge of rock or the intimacy of the singer-songwriter genre. But in hindsight, the Bacharach-David team ranks high in the pantheon of pop songwriting.” (Click here for a full obituary.)

His most famous songs may be “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and “That’s What Friends Are For.”

Here are a few of my favorites. What are yours? Click “Comments” below.

(Speaking of “That’s What Friends Are For”: Please consider a donation to “06880,” your hyper-local blog. Click here — and thank you!)

Academy Camps Competes In Youth Sports Niche

Once upon a time, summer sleepaway camps were the only thing. Boys and girls played a variety of sports, did arts and crafts, had campfires and color wars — all for 8 weeks in the woods.

Then came sports camps. They offered specialization in one thing — basketball say, or soccer — led by noted college coaches, and their athletes.

It’s hard to find a “sports camp” anymore. They’ve morphed into “ID camps,” marketing themselves as the best way to get onto a college program’s radar — early.

They’re all about competing for coaches’ attention. There’s little instruction. But there is plenty of down time, away from the court or field. Sometimes, athletes are not even on campus. They’re holed up in a hotel, playing video games during down time.

“ID camps” and their cousin, “college showcases,” are now so prevalent that many youngsters feel the need to attend several each summer. Even those who enjoyed a traditional summer camp decide, reluctantly, that they can’t go back. They “have to” travel the country, hoping to shine for at least one college coach.

Jem Sollinger, Jon Deren and Josh Hahn know that landscape well. Owners and directors of 3 highly regarded traditional summer camps — Laurel, Manitou and Somerset respectively, all in Maine (the first 2 with winter offices in the same Brooks Corner building in Westport) — they have seen first hand the demise of “all-sports” camps, and their replacement by “ID” camps.

Academy Camps founders.

Laurel, Manitou and Somerset continue to thrive, with long wait lists. But as Sollinger, Deren and Hahn — longtime colleagues and friends, all of whom grew up playing multiple sports — talked, they wondered if they could create something that combined a traditional summer camp experience with a specialized emphasis on one sport.

They could — and they did.

Academy Camps opens this summer. With an emphasis on 4 sports — soccer, basketball, lacrosse and tennis — at Suffield Academy, using state-of-the-art athletic facilities on a 368-acre campus (but far from the Maine woods), it promises short sessions, excellent coaching, innovative leadership and more.

In other words: “a modern approach to the summer sports camp.”

Besides Sollinger and Deren, Academy Camps has a heavy Westport imprint. This is fertile territory for young athletes who have gone to summer camps, yet felt pressured to travel the “ID camp” circuit.

Mike Maurillo

The executive director is well known here too. Mike Maurillo — a former Fairfield University lacrosse captain, with more than 2 decades experience in advertising, and health and wellness — has spent 12 years in Westport as a volunteer coach in lacrosse, soccer, flag football and rec basketball.

When Academy Camps opens in June, much will be familiar to traditional summer campers. But much will be much different.

There are 3 sessions, for boys and girls ages 10 to 15. Each is 1 or 2 weeks — that’s up to the camper. The first begins June 25; the last ends on August 4.

There are morning and afternoon blocks for the sport of specialization. (With plenty of room: Suffield boasts 2 turf and 7 grass fields, 10 tennis courts and a 30,000-square foot fieldhouse).

Some of the facilities at Suffield Academy.

But athletes need more than just skills training. Academy Camps emphasizes leadership training and wellness too.

The schedule also includes an outdoor ropes course and balance bar, and work on mindfulness, breathwork, visualization, flexibility and mobility.

Former pro athletes and current college coaches will be invited to speak to campers too.

“We’re teaching the ‘character’ skills we as coaches don’t always have time for, or believe happen by osmosis,” Maurillo says. That includes goal-setting, communication, conflict resolution and appropriate reactions to pressure.

Many youth sports experts — and high-level athletes — decry the increasing emphasis on early specialization. Academy Camps provides opportunities for everyone to play flag football, pickup basketball, frisbee golf, floor hockey — the types of games kids enjoy at traditional camps (and whenever they get the chance to be kids at home too).

Another summer camp ritual that Academy Camps continues: color war. Contested each night, in everything from floor hockey to trivia contests, a scavenger hunt and a rope burning game, it’s a way to bring campers of all ages and both genders together.

Academy Camps will incorporate many elements of a traditional summer camp.

Like many summer camps — yet unlike most ID sports camps — this one is “tech-free.” Electronic devices are prohibited — the better to enhance teamwork, teach interpersonal skills, and reduce social pressures (and dependence on parents).

Maurillo ticks off other reasons he’s excited about Academy Camps’ launch: Much of the staff (including nurses, dining hall, maintenance and security) comes from Suffield Academy, so they know the facilities and have a vested interest in its success.

(One non-Suffield name: basketball director Mike Evans. Well known in this area, the former Weston High star founded Full Court Peace, a non-profit that brings diverse teens together to repair courts in low-income neighborhoods from Norwalk and New York to Havana.)

The Suffield academy location is another plus. Two hours from JFK and Logan airports — and just 10 minutes from Bradley — it’s more accessible than most summer camps.

And Academy has the whole school to themselves. There will be no other program during the summer.

Academy Camps will offer a higher level of the sports instruction already offered at many traditional summer camps.

Is there a concern Academy Camps will cannibalize the directors’ existing traditional camps?

No, Maurillo says.

Some youngsters who have enrolled in the sports program will also do a half-session at Laurel, Manitou or Somerset. Others were already ready to move on.

The involvement of Sollinger, Deren and Hahn gives Academy Camps legitimacy and prestige. “This is an ‘and,’ not an ‘or,'” Maurillo says.

And — most emphatically — not an “ID.”

(“06880” covers youth — and youth issues — all over town. Please click here to support your hyper-local blog. Thank you!)