Category Archives: Organizations

We Remember …

In the years following the Civil War, Americans began a springtime ritual of decorating the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers and flags.

That was the start of Decoration Day. Today we call it Memorial Day.

On Saturday, Boy Scouts with Troop 39 — and Troop 139, Westport’s first female Scout troop — continued the tradition.

They decorated the headstones and markers of scores of military members at 5 cemeteries: Greens Farms Congregational Church upper and lower; Assumption; Christ & Holy Trinity, and Willowbrook.

I saw them, as they finished at Christ & Holy Trinity cemetery on Kings Highway North. After they left, I visited those graves.

Some honored men killed in action, as far back as the Civil War.

Others led long lives, after service in the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam.

The Boy Scouts remember them.

All of Westport should too.

(Cemetery photos/Dan Woog)

Thank you, Troops 39 and 139!

(Photo/Laurie Cizek Brannigan)

 

“06880” Honored By Journalists

I don’t care much for writing awards*. So I’ve never submitted “06880” for any.

But Fred Cantor and Neil Brickley — longtime readers, and much-longertime friends and former Staples High School classmates — did.

Without my knowledge, they sent 3 stories to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Connecticut chapter Excellence in Journalism contest. All told, there were 842 entries, in 39 categories.

Last night — at the annual meeting in Berlin — one of those stories earned a 1st-place award. It was for “Reporting Series.”

The story — “This is ABC” — was a photo essay done with my sister, Susan Woog Wagner. It explored Westport’s great A Better Chance program, through the eyes of scholars, host families, resident directors, drivers, founders, tutors and others. (Click here for the first story in the series.)

Study time at Glendarcy House — the A Better Chance of Westport residence on North Avenue. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

I’m proud and honored that Fred and Neil did that on my behalf. And excited to have won, for sure.

The one award is nothing compared to WestportNow. The local news site enters the contest every year, and picks up passels of honors. Last night founder/editor Gordon Joseloff, writer James Lomuscio and photographers Dave Matlow, Helen Klisser During and Anna-Liisa Nixon shared 6 first-place, 4 second-place and 4 third-place awards.

Other local winners included Justin Papp (1st place) and Sophie Vaughn (3rd place), both of the Westport News.

Local journalism is alive and well. The awards are nice — but serving Westporters is even better.

*Though the Pulitzer Prize is very impressive.

(For a full list of winners, and more information, click here.)

Dinnertime! (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

Headstand For WestPAC

Westporters know Larry Silver for his iconic images of “The Jogger” and “Beach Showers” — photographs taken at Longshore and Compo Beach, respectively.

But to the rest of the world, his most iconic image is “Headstand.”

Silver — a longtime resident whose works have been shown around the globe — took that shot in 1954 as part of a series in Muscle Beach, California.

Years later, the International Center for Photography featured those photos. The rest is history.

“Headstand” hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the RISD Museum, and the Getty Museum, among many others. It’s been shown around the globe.

“Headstand” (Photo/Larry Silver)

History will be made again on Wednesday, June 12.

Friends of WestPAC — the Westport Public Art Collections — holds its annual fundraiser at Rive Bistro (7 p.m.). “Headstand” is one of the world-class pieces in the auction. It’s the first time Silver has donated the photo anywhere.

He’s been urged for years to show the piece here. He was reluctant, claiming it’s not an image of Westport. Finally — thanks to WestPAC — he feels comfortable doing so.

You can bid on many wonderful works at the WestPAC event (and enjoy great food and more, too).

But only “Headstand” will have you doing backflips.

(For tickets and more information about the June 12 WestPAC fundraiser, click here.)

Emma Borys Speaks Up — And Out — About Epilepsy

Last October, “06880” honored the work Emma Borys was doing with epilepsy. The Staples High School junior — diagnosed with the disease in 6th grade — is an outspoken advocate for research and education.

This spring, she was chosen as the Epilepsy Foundation of Connecticut‘s representative for a lobbying effort in Washington, DC.

Emma had been helped by trainers who spoke to her teachers about the myths and realities of epilepsy.

But many students don’t have that opportunity. The DC program brought teenagers to the Capitol, to urge their representatives to approve CDC funding for that educational program.

Emma joined one student from each state. They gathered in a large room, and shared personal stories. The goal was to help them become comfortable speaking the next day with legislators.

“I’d never really talked to another teenager about epilepsy,” Emma says. “It’s great to realize we have similar experiences and hardships.”

The next day, Emma met with her congressman, Jim Himes, as well as 2 other Connecticut representatives: Rosa DeLauro and John Larson. She also spoke with staffers from DeLauro and Joe Courtney’s offices.

Congressman Jim Himes and Emma Borys.

All were very receptive. The mother of a Himes staffer has epilepsy, Emma says, so he seemed particularly interested.

Emma felt empowered and energized by the lobbying day. But her advocacy is not over.

Last weekend, she participated in a fundraising march in Stamford. She was proud of her efforts — and wants “o6880” readers to know that donations can still be made through May 25. Just click here to help.

Push (Up) Against Cancer — And For Kids

In 2010, Andy Berman was opening a new gym in Westport. He wanted to give back to the community.

When he heard about the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp — the amazing experience for youngsters with serious illnesses — and then learned it was founded by Westport’s own Paul Newman, he knew he’d found his cause.

Berman’s first fundraising effort was a Push Against Cancer. Twenty participants did push-ups in his Fitness Factory gym. They raised $9,900.

Each year, the event grew. Last year, 334 men, women and children collected over $150,000. That brought Berman’s 9-year total to nearly $500,000.

Hundreds of participants had a great time last year, at Levitt Pavilion.

This year’s Push Against Cancer is bigger than ever. He and his team expect over 400 participants. The goal is $200,000.

That would send 80 boys and girls to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp — at no cost to them or their families.

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas (right) joins Andy Berman in promoting the June 9 Push Against Cancer.

The event is set for Sunday, June 9, at Staples High School’s Jinny Parker Field. The venue should draw plenty of students (and their teams).

Many Stapleites are getting into the act. The Orphenians will sing the national anthem.

Of course, anyone — of any age, or athletic ability — can sign up for push-ups.

Do them for Andy Berman. Do them for Paul Newman. Most of all, do them for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp kids.

(To register as an individual or a team on Sunday, June 9 at Staples High School’s field hockey field — or to donate — click here. To become a corporate sponsor or for more information, email PushAgainstCancer@gmail.com.) 

The Westport Fire Department will be out in force June 9, for the Push Against Cancer.

A Bedroom For Bryant

The National Charity League is a great organization. With over 250 chapters nationwide, it offers mothers and daughters a chance to work together on community service projects.

The Westport chapter is thriving. Its members include 18 Staples seniors. Many have worked together for 6 years.

They’re about to graduate — from high school, and NCL. They wanted their final project to be especially meaningful.

It was.

They heard about Circle of Care. Since 2005, its Art from the Heart program has transformed over 120 bedrooms and play areas in the homes of young cancer patients into lively, joyful wonderlands.

The girls spent weeks designing an amazing makeover for a teenager named Bryant. He lives in Beacon Falls, and is undergoing leukemia treatment at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Bryant’s bedroom, before the makeover.

They spent this past weekend turning their plans into reality. It was hard work.

Amanda Samuels and Juliette Schwebel measure fabric …

… while Kaya Leitner, Maddie Phelps and Cece Adams cut …

… and Mia Kobylinski, Lili Romann and Juliette Schwebel finish the job.

But then came the reveal.

The bedroom …

… and the bed.

Soon, the 18 National Charity League girls will graduate. They will receive many nice gifts.

But none can ever compare to the gift they all gave Bryant.

Bryant, with the Westport National Charity League girls. (Photos/Susan Kobylinski)

Our Town’s Players

David Roth has acted in 3 productions of “Our Town.”

In 1980 — the summer he moved to Westport, as a rising Staples High School freshman — his introduction to his new town’s drama community came via Thornton Wilder’s classic play.

A few years later in college, he was cast in it again. The third time was as an adult, with the Wilton Playshop.

Kerry Long was introduced to “Our Town” as a Staples student. English teacher Karl Decker traditionally read it to his senior class.

Roth and Long now co-direct Staples Players. But in over 60 years, the nationally recognized organization has produced the play only once.

That was in 1962. Craig Matheson directed, 4 years after founding Players.

This Thursday through Sunday (May 23 through 26), Roth and Long will stage “Our Town” again.

Both love it.

“It’s brilliant,” Roth says. “It so well captures the human experiences we all go through.”

Much has changed in 57 years. Besides the auditorium, there’s now a smaller Black Box theater.

That’s where Players will stage “Our Town,” from Thursday through Sunday (May 23 through 26).

But much has not changed.

The set is spare. Props are minimal. Very little separates the audience from the actors, or both from life’s experiences.

Emily (Sophie Rossman) and George (Nick Rossi) at the soda shop. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Players’ 2019 cast wears contemporary clothing. Though the play is set in 1938 — and the “play within a play” covers the years 1901 to 1913  — Roth and Long want their audience to focus on the timelessness of the message, not its time frame.

The directors make good use of the Black Box’s intimacy and versatility. The audience sits on stage. They flank the actors, so the action happens both in front and behind.

Roth and Long have loved “Our Town” for years. They are excited to introduce a new generation of performers — and theater-goers — to it.

Mrs. Gibbs (Camille Foisie) and Doc Gibbs (Tobey Patton). (Photo/Kerry Long)

Most of the teenage actors knew of of the play, Roth says. But few of them actually “knew” it.

Now they appreciate it as much as their directors do.

That’s the magic of theater. Of “Our Town.”

And of Staples Players.

(“Our Town” will be performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 23, 24 and 25 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, May 26 at 3 p.m. Online tickets are sold out, but a limited number will be available half an hour before curtain, at the door.)

Well, It Sure Didn’t Take Long For The Duck To Face Plant Itself This Year

“Sunny” — the enormous yellow duck that serves as great PR for the Sunrise Rotary Club’s annual Great Duck Race — was inflated yesterday on Jesup Green.

Usually it takes a few days — after it’s been moved to the Saugatuck River — for it to topple over.

This year: less than 24 hours.

(Photo/Richard Hyman)

(Photo/Aya Camp)

If you’re wondering: This year’s race is Saturday, June 1 (11 a.m., Parker Harding Plaza). Click here for tickets, and more information.

Farmers’ Market Sprouts Thursday

The Westport Farmers’ Market did not exactly have humble beginnings.

Fourteen years ago Paul Newman and his sidekick, Michel Nischan — the chef and co-ownwer of Newman’s Dressing Room restaurant —  opened the market in the Westport Country Playhouse parking lot.

Newman’s name, Nischan’s passion — and the growing popularity of farmers’ markets — ensured a variety of vendors, and good crowds, from the start.

But now the Westport Farmers’ Market is really cooking.

It quickly outgrew its Playhouse home. The market moved to the Imperial Avenue commuter parking lot, just below the Westport Woman’s Club. There’s plenty of room, plenty of parking — and plenty to see, do and buy.

The Westport Farmers’ Market appeals to all ages. (Photo/Margaret Kraus)

When the new season opens this Thursday (May 23, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), longtime market goers and eager newcomers will enjoy nearly 50 vendors, food trucks, chef demonstrations, children’s activities, music and more.

Offerings range far beyond fresh fruits and vegetables, to organic meat, seafood, bread, baked goods, coffee and tea (and kombucha), ice cream, honey and empanadas.

The most popular lunch trucks — pizza and Mexican food — are back too.

This year’s highlights include the Chef at the Market competition; Get Growing, the kids’ activity program, and more lunch seating than ever.

The Westport Farmers’ Market is not just a place to stock up on great, healthy food.

It’s a destination.

Somewhere, Paul Newman is smiling.

(For more information on the Westport Farmers’ Market, click here.)

Quite An Experience!

Experience Camp — the life-changing summer program for youngsters who have lost a parent or sibling, based in Westport and directed by our neighbor Sara Deren — held its 2nd annual Day of Champions yesterday, at Camp Mahackeno.

Over 450 kids and volunteers had an amazing time. And, amazingly, they raised over $183,000 for this great cause.

Here’s how they did it.

(Photos/Stephen Dodd)