Category Archives: Sports

Graduation Ceremony, Summer Camp Help For Kids In Need

Westport is a town with plenty.

And a town that never hesitates to help those who don’t have as much.

Right now, our wonderful Department of Human Services is running two programs that touch lives we may not always see.

One is “Ceremonies and Celebrations.” For the 14th year, the fund helps students purchase special event clothing for graduations from middle and high school.

It doesn’t sound like much. But to a teenager, looking like everyone else on a big day means the world.

Last year, 34 youngsters smiled with pride, alongside all their friends.

Everyone wants to look as good as these girls did, after Staples’ 2013 graduation. The Department of Human Services helps those who need it.

Human Services director Elaine Daignault suggests that (tax-deductible) donations can be made in honor of a special teacher or person in a student’s life. A letter of acknowledgment will be sent to the honored individual.

Checks payable to “DHS Family Programs” (memo line: “Ceremonies”) can be sent to Department of Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport, CT 06880.

Gift cards of any amount (American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Trumbull Mall/Westfield Shopping Center) to purchase clothes are also welcome.

For further information on this program, contact Patty Haberstroh (hsyouth@westportct.gov; 203-341-1069).

The 2nd program is a fund to send children to summer camp. Like new clothes for a special occasion, this project is not frivolous. It’s a godsend for working parents — and a life-changer for kids.

Summer Camp has been part of growing up for decades. In 1953, Westport artist Stevan Dohanos used Camp Mahackeno for this Saturday Evening Post cover.

Every year, thanks pour in. One woman noted the importance of swim lessons for her autistic daughter. Another said that her child “came home with a new story, friend or art project every day — and a huge smile.”

In addition to covering costs for ever-popular Camp Compo, the fund has helped a boy play American Legion baseball, and a girl participate in Staples Players’ summer program.

The other day, Westport PAL donated $1,200 to the Campership Fund. If you’d like to join them, checks payable to “DHS Family Programs” (memo line: “Campership”) can be sent to Department of Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport, CT 06880.

To apply for campership help, click here.

“Catch A Lift” Catches Westport’s Spirit

“06880” is a little late to this story.

But it’s never too late to celebrate our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Or the people who help them.

Catch a Lift is a national non-profit dedicated to the physical and mental recovery of post-9/11 combat-wounded military personnel. The organization provides gym memberships and home equipment, fitness programs and motivational peer support.

Last weekend — thanks to the tireless efforts of Mental Grit Fitness owner/trainer Andy Berman; Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas and his entire department; Westporter and CAL board member Adam Vengrow, and the support of Joyride, Crossfit Revel and Achieve Fitness — 16 veterans came to town.

And then they went to town, with workouts, training and plenty of camaraderie.

A special shoutout goes to Daniel Slow. The Weston High School basketball player raised over $5,000 for Catch a Lift, thanks to pledges for every point he scored.

Photographer Matthew Paskert captured much of the action from last weekend’s “Westport for Warriors” weekend. If his images inspire you to learn more about Catch a Lift, click here.

(Photos/Matthew Paskert)

Pic Of The Day #29

The Saugatuck River, as seen from Saugatuck Rowing Club. (Photo/Tom Cook)

12 Hrs 4 12K

Ten years ago, David and Gwen Baker’s oldest daughter was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. The incurable illness — and related inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis — cause abdominal pain, persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fever and weight loss. They may also attack the joints, skin, bones, kidneys, liver and eyes.

Needless to say, IBD affects not only the 5 million people worldwide who suffer from it, but their entire families.

Baker knew what was ahead for his child. His family has a history of Crohn’s. Unfortunately, 2 years later one of their other girls faced the same agonizing diagnosis.

The Bakers are not alone. But David banded together with Westport friends whose children also have Crohn’s. They’re fighting the battle with fitness.

Last year group member Peter Bassler rode his bike for 24 hours straight — and raised over $24,000 for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

This year, the 4 friends — including David Kaplan and David Popkin — will all ride for 12 hours. They’ve set individual goals of $12,000 each — nearly $50,000 total. They call the event “12 Hours 4 12K.”

The quartet knows they’re not superheroes. So they’re asking others to help out. You can take an hour on the bike to relieve them — or clip in your own bike and cycle alongside (adding your own fundraising to theirs).

It happens on Saturday, May 20 (6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Total Training and Endurance, across from New Country Toyota). There will be plenty of activities all day (and food!).

The date is significant: May 19 is World IBD Day.

TT Bassler will be riding for his older brother Carter.

“It’s frustrating and heartbreaking to see your child in pain,” Popkin says. “It’s unbearable to have your child subjected to intense medications that might work for only a short time, or have them tethered to IVs for infusions that come with potentially dire side effects.”

He noted that all 4 of the riders’ children have missed school, endured numerous ER visits and hospital stays. Some have had multiple surgeries and invasive tests.

“Battling Crohn’s disease, like my son Carter has for more than 8 years, requires strength, resilience and determination,” Bassler says.

He, the 2 other Davids and Baker are also strong, resilient and determined to help find a cure. They hope many Westport friends — and strangers — will join them.

(To donate, click here. To relieve or ride along with the 4 bikers, email peterbassler89@gmail.com)

Click below for an inspiring video — featuring a young Carter Bassler. He’s now a Staples High School soccer player.

 

 

Radio And Robotics Raves

There are 12 categories in the John Drury High School Radio Awards.

Staples’ WWPT-FM was nominated in 7 of them — sometimes more than once.

Yesterday — at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois — they won 1st place in every category they were nominated for. The teenagers (and advisor Geno Heiter) snagged a total of 12 awards, in news, sports and public affairs.

Including the big one: Best High School Station in the Country.

The winners! WWPT-FM faculty advisor Geno Heiter is in shades and a beard, at right.

Congratulations to these Staples students — the next generation of radio stars:

1st Place
Best Newscast:
Cooper Boardman, Channing Smith (“WWPT News Update”)
Best Public Affairs Program: Jackson Valente, Jarod Ferguson (“A Better Chance ‘Social Justice’)
Best Radio Drama Adaptation: Staples Players and Audio Production classes, with support from WWPT (“Dracula”)
Best Sports Play-by-Play:  Cooper Boardman, Jack Caldwell (Football — Staples vs. Darien)
Best Sportscast: Buster Scher (“Knicks — Past 2 Seasons”)
Best Sportstalk Program:  Cooper Boardman and Jack Caldwell (Staples Field Hockey State Championship Show)
Best High School Station: WWPT-FM

2nd Place
Best Sports Play-by-Play:  Cooper Boardman (Basketball — Staples vs. Danbury)
Best Sportstalk Program:  Jack Caldwell (Interview with NHL announcer Chuck Kaiton)
Best Sportscast:  Luck McManus, Hunter Duffy (NASCAR championship interview)

3rd Place
Best Newscast: Zachary Halperin, Nieve Mahoney, Jack Moses (Politics — Election Reflection)
Best Sportscast:  George Goldstein, Sam Zaritsky (Fulmer Trade)

WWPT-FM faculty advisor Geno Heiter (left) and student broadcasters jump for joy after earning 12 John Drury Awards.

Also yesterday, Staples sophomores Nick Durkin, John McNab and Daniel Westphal, and freshman Nathan Wang won 5 awards — including 1st Place Overall — in the Marine Advanced Technology Education Center’s New England competition, in Sandwich, Massachusetts.

The quartet — competing as Team Curriodyssea, which is not affiliated with the high school — designed, built and programmed underwater remotely operated vehicles.

Team Curiodyssea members (from left) Daniel Westphal, Nathan Wang, John McNab and Nick Durkin.

Team Curriodyssea also won golds for Engineering Evaluation, Highest Score on the Underwater Challenges, Technical Report and Poster Display.

They advance to the international competition next month in Long Beach, California, where they’ll face 27 other teams from North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Sounds like a great story for WWPT!

“The Sports Reporters” Ends; Westport’s ESPN Link Stays Strong

This  morning marked the final broadcast of “The Sports Reporters.” ESPN ended the provocative roundtable discussion show after 29 years.

Joe Valerio

Westport has many connections to the Bristol-based broadcast. For the past 27 years the producer was Joe Valerio, a longtime resident whose son Brian graduated from Staples in 2003.

Former Westporter Dick Schaap was the 2nd host. On September 16, 2001 the show expanded to an hour, to explore (from a sports perspective) the terrorist attacks of 5 days earlier.

Schaap delayed hip replacement surgery in order to host that show. It was his last, as he died from complications 3 months later.

Another former Westporter — New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer  Selena Roberts — was a regular panelist.

Jeremy Schaap

“The Sports Reporters” will be replaced by a morning edition of “E:60,” ESPN’s news magazine. Co-hosts are Bob Ley — and Jeremy Schaap.

The 1988 Staples High School graduate has returned to his hometown.

The other day, Schaap wrote about growing up with “The Sports Reporters.” He began with a tribute to Valerio:

When I think of The Sports Reporters, and I do, often, I think of the big brown paper bags filled with dozens and dozens of H & H Bagels that producer Joe Valerio brought to the set every Sunday morning—when the show was still in New York and before H & H went out of business. (By the way, how exactly does the best bagel bakery in New York go out of business, ever? A pox on Atkins.)

I think of those early mornings, still kind-of-warm bagels — the obvious but still true New York analog of the Proustian Madeleine — and, as they were being consumed, the pre-taping banter among the panelists. In the tradition of producers of talk shows everywhere, Valerio, who’s been producing the show since 1989, would tell everybody to save their best material for the set, not to leave it in the makeup room, but there was never more than semi-compliance.

Click here to read the rest of Schaap’s thoughts on “The Sports Reporters,” as he brings the Westport/ESPN Sunday morning connection full circle. And click here, to see some of the top reporters in the sports world give the show — and Joe Valerio — some love.

(Hat tip: Tom Haberstroh)

Raise Funds — And Upper-Body Strength — For Kids

Westporters know that every day is different at the Levitt Pavilion.

One night there’s a rock group. The next night, a military band. Then comes a comedian, followed by Klezmer musicians. It’s Ed Sullivan on steroids.

But on Sunday morning, June 4 (10:30 to 11:30), the Levitt stage will be taken over by regular people of all ages.

Doing push-ups.

It’s the 8th annual Push Against Cancer for Kids. Individually and in teams, everyone is invited to bang out as many push-ups as possible.

Last year’s Push Against Cancer drew a wide variety of ages and sizes …

The only catch: You have to be sponsored. Friends, family members, colleagues — all pledge money, based on how many push-ups you can do.

All proceeds go to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, the program for children facing severe medical challenges.

An anonymous donor will match all funds raised by everyone under 23 years old (up to $25,000).

… and both genders.

Paul Newman founded the Hole in the Wall Gang camp nearly 30 years ago. This year, Westport-based Newman’s Own Foundation is helping out.

The Westport and Danbury Police Departments are all in too.

Opening ceremonies begin at 10 a.m. A Hole in the Wall Gang camper, now in remission from cancer, will deliver an inspiring speech.

DJ Sean McKee — aka Big Daddy — will motivate the push-up participants. He has a great reason to help: He’s a 2-time cancer survivor.

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas (5th from left) and his entire force are strong supporters of the Push Against Cancer.

Last year’s event drew over 400 people. They raised $79,000 for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Organizer Andy Berman’s goal this year is $100,000. The cost of a week at the camp is $2,500 — though all services are free to campers and their families. So Berman hopes to raise enough money for 40 kids.

How many push-ups will you contribute to the cause?

To register, or for more information, click here. Questions? Email andy@mentalgritfitness.com 

Ethan Walmark Nails The National Anthem — And Life

Singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” is tough under any circumstances.

It’s even harder in front of a crowd of 25,000. In a stadium, with background noise, delay from the sound system, and god knows what else as you stand all alone on the field.

It’s particularly difficult when you’re only 11 years old.

But Westport’s own Ethan Walmark aced it on Saturday. He brought a sellout Major League Soccer crowd to its feet at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey, powering through our national anthem like a pro.

Which he is.

Ethan’s band Clueless — formed by fellow School of Rock musicians — has opened 3 times for the all-female cover band Lez Zeppelin.

He’s been a Broadway “School of Rock” finalist. A lead performer in numerous theatrical productions.

In 2012 — when he was only 6 — a video of him playing and singing “Piano Man” went viral. It was viewed nearly 2 million times. Billy Joel himself said, “I like his intro better than mine. Maybe he could teach me a few things.”

Ethan is a hometown hero.

But he’s an international hero too. Every day, he demonstrates how much someone on the autism spectrum can accomplish.

Ethan began playing piano by ear when he was just 15 months old.

However, a preschool educator advised his parents, Michael and Allison, to take away his music. “You want him in your world, not his,” they were told.

Instead, they fostered his talents. They exposed him to as many musical experiences as they could. More than any other therapy, music positively transformed every aspect of Ethan’s existence.

In his young life, Ethan has been a 2-time (and youngest) recipient of the McCarron Foundation’s “Genius of Autism” Award.

He was named Autism Speaks’ 2012-13 “Volunteer of the Year.” On World Autism Awareness Day, he helped Yoko Ono light the Empire State Building.

Ethan Walmark and Yoko Ono. Channeling John Lennon, he told, her, “Imagine a world without autism.”

Ethan thrives in his Westport public school classroom. In the summer, he attends French Woods Festival for the Arts sleepaway camp.

Those are remarkable achievements. But I still don’t think anything can compare to nailing the world’s most difficult national anthem, in a stadium full of people who usually hear it mangled and maimed by professional musicians 5 times his age.

(Click here for a collection of YouTube videos starring Ethan Walmark. Click here for “06880”‘s story on Ethan’s “Piano Man” video. Hat tip: Westport 2nd selectman and Red Bulls season ticket holder Avi Kaner.)

Pic Of The Day #7

Little Leaguers practicing this morning. (Photo/Leslie Flinn)

Staples Snags An Emmy

Over the years, Westport has been known for many things: Artists and writers. Advertising and marketing executives. Hedge fund titans.

Add another: Sports broadcasters.

From the 1950s through today, this town has been home to national names like Win Elliot, Jim McKay, Jim Nantz, Sal Marchiano, Mike Greenberg, Chris McKendry and Rebecca Lowe.

Staples’ WWPT-FM has produced its share of stars too, like David Lloyd, Jon Stashower, Evan Makovsky, DJ Sixsmith and Eric Gallanty.

Add in Kyle Martino and Jeremy Schaap — Staples grads who did not work for the school’s radio or TV station, but are now doing great things on NBC and ESPN, respectively — and we’ve got enough folks here for our own 24/7 network.

The list gets longer. Cooper Boardman and Jack Caldwell have just led a Staples Television Network crew that won a National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences regional award for Best Student Production.

In other words: An Emmy.

Cooper Boardman (left) and Jack Caldwell, with trophies won earlier at the IBS National Broadcast Awards ceremony.

The honor — presented by the Boston/New England chapter for best high school TV sportscast — was for a live Staples boys basketball broadcast this winter.

In addition to Boardman and Caldwell — a senior and junior, who serve as co-directors of sports for the TV and radio stations and have won multiple awards previously — other contributors included Ben Klau, Buster Scher, Jackson Valente, Alex Massoud and Aaron Leopold.

Remember those names. A few years from now, you can say you knew — and heard — them when.

(Hat tip: Mark Lassoff)